What's in a name? Quite a lot if the subject is the opera and ballet in St. Petersburg.

For many years before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, both were known as the Maryinski (or Mariinski), for the theater in which both performed and still perform. The theater, opened in 1860, was named for Czarina Maria Alexandrova, wife of Alexander II, who reigned at the time. In Russian, Maryinski is an adjectival form of the name Maria.

Like all reminders of the czarist era, the Maryinski name disappeared when the Communists took control of the country. In an expression of their poetic nature, they renamed it the State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet. The Russian acronym for the new name was GATOB, by which it came to be known.

After the 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov, mayor of Leningrad, and a putative rival to Stalin whom the dictator ordered murdered (a fact only confirmed in modern times), the theater was renamed the Kirov. With this moniker it became famous throughout Europe and America -- so famous that the Kennedy Center and other venues where its artists appear today still use the Kirov name in marketing campaigns.

But in St. Petersburg that unpopular label was dropped in 1989, when Soviet life was loosening up under Mikhail Gorbachev. As a symbol of the unhappy Soviet past, no one in St. Petersburg seems to miss it.

The ornate, six-tiered Maryinski Theatre opened in 1860.Students take their places on one of the world's hallowed stages.