Viewing anything in this theater makes you feel regal, even if the performance is limp and you're in sneakers. The sea-green exterior encloses a five-tiered theater draped, embroidered, and gilded in blue and gold. Top-floor seats have a dimmer view of the performers but a close-up view of the ceiling frescoes that draw you right into their pillowy clouds and floating angels. The snack bar offers champagne and small, cheap, open-faced sandwiches topped with caviar or smoked salmon. The reason visitors come, however, is to see the renowned and rigorous Mariinsky (formerly Kirov) Ballet. Director Valery Gergiev still prefers the classics, such as Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadere, but the repertoire includes the occasional anthology or less well-known Russian ballets. Their opera repertoire includes international favorites such as The Marriage of Figaro and Carmen performed in their original languages, as well as Russian favorites Sadko (a colorful and whimsical interpretation of a Russian fairy tale) and Mussorgsky's historical opera Boris Godunov, about the family dramas and tumultuous politics of 16th- and 17th-century Russia. The higher balconies can get stuffy in summer, and the restrooms are well below the standards of the rest of the building. The theater closes in August and early September, though visiting troupes occasionally perform during this period. Tickets purchased at the box office are cheaper than those bought through your hotel, but availability is often limited, since travel agencies buy up huge blocks of tickets in advance. Ticket office open 11am to 7pm.