The Mariinsky Theatre, the new opera house in historic St. Petersburg being designed by Canadian architect Jack Diamond, is the first new Russian home for opera built since the age of the czars.

For Toronto-based Diamond + Schmitt architects, the challenge is to create a contemporary building that fits into one of Russia’s most historic cities and to please some of the world’s most discerning opera goers.

Diamond himself considers the project the "crown in my career."

Just across the river from the existing Mariinsky Theatre, the new opera house will have large bay windows that provide panoramic views of its historic predecessor. The new Mariinsky includes a 2000-seat opera and ballet house with six stages and six rehearsal rooms as well as dressing rooms and other support facilities. Currently under construction, it is scheduled to be finished next spring.

Valery Gergiev, general and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre, said he selected Diamond + Schmitt for the project after visiting the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto, designed by the same architect. Diamond + Schmitt also designed Montreal's Maison Symphonique.

The CBC's Jean François Bélanger got an inside view of the now under-construction Mariinsky Theatre guided by its Canadian architect.