Paris Opera's Emeralds was more satisfying than Royal's in the cinemacast or NYCB when I saw them three years ago, where Ashley Bouder almost turned the ballet into Swan Lake. I do disagree with Balanchinette on Pujol. While, yes, she was a bit mannered for my taste, she had luscious port de bras--her hands particularly gorgeous--and she and Ganio were wonderfully responsive to one another. She integrated her upper body into the iconic hand movements of the Violette solo to an extent that I had not seen before, and overall I found her performance more rich and detailed here than in the DVD version. Ould-Braham was in stark contrast to Pujol, very stately and reserved. The solo which can sometimes go on for ages was masterfully controlled in her hands, with Braham almost letting the music push her. She had a slight problem during the running bourrees toward the end but otherwise gorgeous. Ganio is the epitome of a cavalier with fantastic presence and line; my only quibble is that he should've traveled the diagonal lifts more. Pas de trois was fine, not sensational. Marc Moreau replaced Francois Alu and was a bit underwhelming though certainly far from the worst I have seen. The diagonal of jumps was played at such a brisk tempo that he struggled to keep up, finishing the double tour with his weight back. Of the pas de trois, I appreciated Sae Eun Park most for her serene presence, though Hannah O'Neill was lovely.
Rubies was the same cast I saw of NYCB in 2014. I have seen Reichlen's stage devouring Tall Girl about five times and I am constantly reminded that she has no equal in the role. Especially after watching Melissa Hamilton in the ROH cinemacast who danced like a corps girl that just happened to be center stage, Reichlen's dancing actually overshadows the principal couple whenever she is onstage. This is perhaps a rare cast where the Tall Girl is far more interesting and memorable than the principal ballerina, but with Reichlen's presence (and legs!) it would be almost impossible for anyone to match her. It's not that Fairchild's Rubies is substandard, but I did see a stronger effort from her in 2014 and overall she is not that interesting a dancer. Very competent and musical, but not unique. Joaquin De Luz at 41(!) is still pretty hard to beat in the Villella role. His Rubies is decidedly unballetic with audible stomping, turned in plie, a sort of Devil-may-care attitude, but in doing so brings out the very intention of the work with the technical chomps to match. Those traveling jumps going from stage left the right practically accelerated into a tornado. One of the corps girls slipped and nearly fell with both hands on the ground during the two lines of diagonals when Tall Girl is with the men. Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky were front row center shouting and waving during the curtain calls when Fairchild and De Luz came out.
Diamonds: Olga was majestic and I think it will take a second time of seeing her (I go again Saturday) to fully comprehend and articulate her presence. For 10 minutes during the pas de deux I could have sworn I was not in the Koch, but rather the Palace of the Czars, feasting in the decadence of The Ballerina. It should be said that she was not perfect: she got very luxuriant in the bourrees at the end, so the pirouette ended late and Semyon had to scramble to kiss her hand in time. Her solo in the scherzo was majestic, but she suffered a hiccup in the first of the supported pirouettes at the very end of the finale. She does struggle to maintain her turnout in particular during developpe a la seconde. But such quibbles were inconsequential in what was a masterful performance. She began as a ballerina of Imperial Russia before slowly melting into a woman who was both vulnerable and regal. She perfectly modulated the transition between her mysterious, cool aura in the pas de deux and the growing, triumphant jubilation she achieved by the finale, creating an arc even within a plotless ballet. Make no mistake that this was not Diamonds, but rather a Russian Diamonds, where Smirnova transported you through every step.
Semyon Chudin was very fine technically and should be commended for performing so well after a recent injury. As always, he has wonderful elevation and extension in the manege as well as a squeaky clean set of a la seconde turns pulling for a quadruple. I sensed he was a touch cautious in the solos and will gain more confidence on Saturday. He partnered Olga well, but more importantly the two created a relationship onstage that was more complex than just Danseur escorting Ballerina. The Russian Soul from both was certainly evident.
Dancers from all three gems (including the corps) came out for bows after Diamonds. This was followed by the three directors--Dupont, Martins, and Vaziev--coming out for a bow and turning to applaud the dancers. Kevin McKenzie, Skylar Brandt, Paul Boos, Katrina Killian, Vanessa Zahorian, Davit Karapetyan, along with Irina and Max were among numerous luminaries in attendance for what was a sold out house. Certainly this was one of the most satisfying performances I've seen in some time, and I look forward to seeing casts of all three gems in the upcoming shows (I attend Saturday where NYCB Rubies/Bolshoi Diamonds will repeat, and Sunday matinee where this cast of Paris Opera repeats).