The White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia is an international cultural festival which is held every year. There are classical ballet, opera and music events. Many famous Russian dancers, singers, musicians and actors, take part, as well as famous international guest stars. The Scarlet Sails celebration is the big climax of the White Nights season, the largest public event anywhere in Russia. About a million people visit the festival.
The middle of summer in St Petersburg is known as the "White Nights" because, as it is so far north, the sky does not get completely dark during the short night.
The festival begins in May with the "Stars of the White Nights" at Mariinsky Theatre and ends in July. However, there are some performances that take place before and after the official dates.
The "Stars of the White Nights" is a series of classical ballet, opera and orchestral performances at the Mariinsky Theatre and the Mariinsky Concert Hall. The artistic director of the festival is Valery Gergiev.
The "Stars of the White Nights" festival was originally started by the first mayor of St. Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak, and has been held every year since 1993. Some of the stars who performed here include Plácido Domingo, Olga Borodina, Alfred Brendel, Anna Netrebko, Carlo Maria Giulini, Yuri Temirkanov, Gidon Kremer, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Alexander Toradze, Deborah Voigt, James Conlon and many other classical performers.
A series of carnivals take place during the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg. In one of the carnivals the actors dress in period costumes from the times of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. Old carriages are ridden around the Peterhof park.
Every summer in St. Petersburg the Palace Square becomes a stage for international stars of popular music. This wide square has been used for official military parades and massive demonstrations, as well as for political events and large-scale shows and other entertainment. Recent performers have been Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Scorpions and other stars.