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Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet in town


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8 replies to this topic

#1 Ed McPherson

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Posted 06 June 2003 - 01:41 AM

I dont know if this is the correct place for this post, if there is a better place please move it there.

I dont know if anyone has had a chance to see The Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet's version of Swan Lake playing here in town, its playing at the Orpheus through the 11th.

If you havent seen it I would recommend it, its a good production with what looks to be an incredable coffer behind it.

If anyone has seen it, what did you think? I personaly loved it, the russian classicism tickled me pink. Its enough hearing about russian idyosincracies, but to see a whole company in good stature is pretty neat!

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 06 June 2003 - 02:50 AM

The Bench is not familiar with the term "koffer", Ed. Do you mean it looked expensive (coffer)? Or was the stage manager backstage audibly hacking from too many Russian cigarettes (cougher)? Or was there an immigrant to South Africa in the production (kaffir)? What?

The world outside Russia always seems surprised when the Stanislavsky makes one of its occasional tours. They have an excellent reputation, and the Bourmeister production of Swan Lake has been hailed for years.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 06 June 2003 - 06:02 AM

Thanks for posting this, Ed (I moved it into Recent Performances from the San Francisco Ballet forum).

I must say I didn't like the production -- all the Petipa has been vacuumed out and I don't think what replaces it is as good -- but I did admire the company. I thought it was one of the most well-coached and directed (I'd like to say "well-balletmastered") company I've seen in ages, in the sense that the ballet was very well cast (the prince was a prince and the jester a jester) and well-rehearsed. They didn't do tricks; they danced. They did a contemporary program here -- contemporary classical program -- that was interesting as well.

#4 dirac

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Posted 06 June 2003 - 09:32 AM

Thanks for your thoughts, Ed I haven't seen the company yet, but hope to catch it next week. Will follow up if I do.

#5 Ed McPherson

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Posted 07 June 2003 - 10:24 AM

my apologies, coffer was the intended word!

#6 Paul Parish

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Posted 08 June 2003 - 11:20 PM

I saw the Stanislavsky last night, and my response is very mixed...... though on the whole I found it very engaging.

The company is really fine -- young, good-looking, strong, especially the men... the jester was too much in evidence, though he WAS adorable.... Beautiful legs, marvelous double saut de Basques in double passe, beautiful grands jetes in second and 4th, beautifully centered pirouettes, but too many of them....
They don't turn out much...

I did not see the first cast, but would have to complain that the leads I saw were not strong enough as dancers for their roles, and didn't have enough going on as actors (which is odd for this company, which is famous for its acting) t make me care. I DID like them, personally -- and I must say, they both really looked the part, esp the ballerina, who resembles the great model Verushka.

But she did not dance well unsupported. The white adage was very beautiful, the petites serres were an almost imperceptible shimmer, it was exquisitely sensitive dancing -- but in Odette's variation, I found myself holding my breath, trying to HELP her through it..... Her sissonnes were labored, and the releve ciseaux were quite strained..., especially since in their version the back leg goes to a very high penchee on a fondue -- the fondu did NOT melt, the leg went to a very high place indeed, but it looked like way too much of a struggle, which ruined the effect....

Similarly, her fouettes were among the ugliest I've ever seen, and i found myself really afraid early on that she would not finish them -- the working foot looked somehow like a fist.... she did all 32, but it did not cast any spell, and it broke through the atmospheric effects Bourmeister was trying to develop.... which were REMARKABLE, though I think they'd be too lurid even if the principals were having a great night.

But it certainly is a engaging treatment of the ballet -- I can see why the Paris Opera Ballet made it their version.... it IS theatrically convincing. In SF, they're playing a Broadway-style house -- the stage is just barely big enough for it, and the pit can only house a very small orchestra -- but the music was beautifully played, and the stage looked marvelous. The production makes great use of height -- von Rothbart has a whole cliff, not just a rock, and menaces us from a prodigious altitude. The action in act 1 takes place in a sunken garden -- the queen makes her entrance , after an impressive parade of ladies in waiting, down a flight of stairs at the back -- this all kept opening up the small space, and also reinforcing the hierarchies that make this story so charged with consequence -- a wrong decision by the prince will not only doom the swans, it will doom his own people.

For those who've only heard about this production- -which dates from the 50's and is deservedly famous -- you should know that Bourmeister went back to the original score for many of his ideas -- and used music that Petipa cut or transposed (esp the Black Swan music, which Tchaikovsky intended for the first act).

The first act was marvelous -- a lively court scene, with a hint of Giselle to it -- a group of pretty peasant girls, with baskets of strawberries, are courting the young men in quite innocent dalliance when the Queen and her ladies arrive, and the queen does NOT approve -- which had the interesting effect of making me wonder if I approved. After the queen rebukes the prince, her ladies are persuaded to remain, and the rest of the dancing -- which includes a lovely adage for 2 couples, really beautiful -- transpires between the prince's gallants and these ladies. so it makes a social scene that's rather deeply imagined.

If Act 3 weren't so lurid, I'd have to say I admire it..... even though Alexandra is right, Bourmeister's character dances and grand pas are not as beautiful nor as rhythmically exciting as Petipa's. But the staging is remarkable -- the potential brides receive each their own presentation -- in big poses, linked with pas de bourrees -- that show them more distinctly than we're used to, without making any of them "interesting" or any threat to the ballerina. The arrival of Rothbart changes a stale quarrel at court into an EVENT -- too lurid, but dramatically intriguing. All the character dances are his work, and they may all be illusions -- the lighting goes all twilight-zone, and the men's retinue flap huge red capes during the Spanish dancer's number -- and out from behind those capes periodically steps not the lady in the mantilla, but Odile. Spanish is the one great dance in this act --- esp since her arms wreathing overhead are very reminiscent of swan arms. The other character dances are less distinctive -- what's wonderful about them is that they are all played TO THE PRINCE and not to us: we see them of course, but we see them very much as an enticement to him. The black swan when it comes, is danced to a medley of A) the music Balanchine used for Tchaikovsky Pas de deux, B) that oboe tune Nureyev used for Odile's variation in his Swan Lake, and C) the coda Ashton used in his Swan Lake pas de QUatre....

The sticking point in this act for me was the luridness of it all -- the lighting, the capes, but most of all the unmitigated gloating of Rothbart, and the shameless brazenness of Odile, who was indeed magnificent in the adage but could not keep that up throughout the act. The evil pair are too sure of their quarry -- you can't see how he could be fooled by this claptrap -- especially since Odile was not at all fascinating in her variation.

In Act 4 the choral dances for the swans were surprisingly moving, as was a pas for Siegfried and Odette; at the end the stage floor-cloth started heaving in big waves, it caught us all by surprise and brought your heart into your throat -- "he's drowning!" (It's exactly the same effect Nureyev would use later in his version for Vienna -- except that in Bourmeister's version, Siegfried's willingness to die for love breaks the spell, her feathers disappear, she becomes her old self again, and they're united forever.)

The corps were very fine -- especially in the way they adapted to the tight floor space -- there were many near collisions, some actual bumping into each other, but they did not let on to us how frustrating this must be --though they complained about it under their breath to each other. What they must not have known was that we could HEAR anything they said, and there was a lot of joke-cracking going on.... The 4 little swans were wonderful.

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 04:33 AM

Wow! Even more gorgeous than usual, Paul -- thank you!

I agree with you on turnout -- what is it about Moscow dancers? The Bolshoi doesn't turn out either (I remember Croce once writing that the Bolshoi was "the greatest non-turned-out dance company in the world" which makes me think it is a style, not a fault. Is it old-fashioned? Is this the way dancing was 100 years ago, when things that we consider de rigeur stylistic niceties weren't necessary? Or am I wrong and this *is* a fault?

#8 Natalia

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 01:53 PM

This is somewhat off-topic, but this thread made me think about this (in case nobody mentioned it elsewhere):

The home-base of this ballet troupe -- Moscow's Opera & Ballet Theater of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Company -- burned last week. Not totally, but severely; the upper levels of the amphitheater and the attic above the stage were destroyed. Major loss of settings, costumes, props. Luckily, no people were hurt or killed, as the theater has been closed for renovations since February. Still, the damage is huge, according to newspapers.

#9 Paul Parish

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Posted 27 June 2003 - 07:55 PM

Thanks for posting that, Jeannie -- this is terrible news, not off-topic at all, not in the largest sense.

I've had the Stanislavsky on my mind a lot since -- the production lives very well in the mind, it actually grows, because it is so coherent and intelligent...... especially compared to ABT's version, which I just saw in a flying trip to New York. ABT’s is extremely expensive-looking and seems to get all its IDEAS from the Stanislavsky, but to second-guess those ideas right away and make a good-looking but incoherent entertainment out of them.... To wit, act I has got the same super-shy peasant girls, the court-lady who kind of throws herself at the prince, but leaves OUT the queen’s ladies in waiting!!! The queen enters ALONE, which is just ersatz…. It’s like a vampire that can see himself in the mirror.

McKenzie DID use the sunken garden, high levels of cliff and wall, and a very active, over-the-top evil Rothbart, complete with a staging of the prologue in which Odette in her nightie gets enticed into his power and zapped.... and Rothbart doing totally implausible egregiously gloatingly evil things at court......


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