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Kirov in Boston


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#16 Blondie

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Posted 12 November 2003 - 03:24 PM

I go to opera and to ballet. Ballet is my first love, but I'm also a big opera fan - particularly the Paris Opera. There was an interesting exhibition this summer here at Harvard at the Busch Reisinger Museum on Natalia Goncharova's designs for Le Coq d'Or. I was most intrigued to discover that it was originally staged (1913, 1914?) as a ballet/opera. The set design featured two huge bleachers on either side of the proscenium with 80 singers stacked on on top of the other! Apparently, when it was revived after the war, the Rimsky-Korsakov family (I hope I'm getting this right) objected to the combination of ballet and opera, so it was performed only as a ballet. I was told, though, that it is not a particularly interesting ballet. Is that true? My source of information was uniquely qualified to judge.

#17 millamant

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Posted 13 November 2003 - 10:01 PM

You can listen to a 10 minute backstage interview on Kirov preparations for the Boston performances at public radio station WBUR.

#18 dido

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Posted 15 November 2003 - 09:17 PM

Just got back from tonights performance, and I wanted to report before I forget what little I still remember (how do you others do it?). Oh, and this is the first time I've seen any of these ballets, just so you know.

Chopiniana: This was even better than I'd imagined. I really am not a big crier, especially at ballet, but this had me welling up a few times. It was just perfect. Mostly I noticed the arms and how the corps looked, so unified and together with each other and the music, but not at all precise (if you know what I mean). Then, the arms in general, but especially here. I was trying to thing of a Paul Parish-worthy description, and finally decided that it looks like their arms are moving either a) of their own volition or B) as if they aren't really attached to the dancer at all. Now I know both of those descriptions could be very bad things, but I think I was responding to how effortless everything seemed.

OK. Sheherazade. Maybe it's my unformed artistic vision, but I have to say I thought it was really boring, for the most part. Interestingly it was the ensemble stuff that I really liked, and I've always been a die-hard ballerina watcher. In this case (Irma Nioradze was Zobeide) I'm not sure if it was the choreography or the role or what, but she didn't catch my eye, and I found her eroticism unconvincing. Danila Korsuntsev did those pirouettes with dash, balance and ease.

Firebird: I'm sorry to say that I almost wish I'd missed this for some reason. I think I've seen too many pictures of Karsavina, and thought about the story too much. Again, I liked the ensemble much better than any of the soloists. I thought the princesses ball game with the apples was really lovely (and admired the calm aplomb with which they danced around all those apples on the floor), and the monsters were nifty. Tatiana Amosova was the Firebird, and again, I was not disappointed, but somehow unconvinced.

Finally, I was in practically the last row of the balcony (Marc, thanks for the shove to go, didn't really miss a thing, I think!) and I could hear the shoes when ONE person boureed. In fact, everything was incredibly loud. This itty bitty woman would jete and land with an audible crash. I really don't think it's the dancers....

Oh yeah. And people who pay $45 and up for tickets should either get to their seat on time or wait in the lobby, and definitely not agonizingly block my view for what seemed like hours. (Sorry. Had to vent just a bit.)

I'm sure I've left a ton of things out, but hopefully the more experienced will supplement. I'd like a better educated view of what I saw.

#19 bbfan

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Posted 16 November 2003 - 01:16 PM

I wouldn't claim this is a better educated view, but it is a different view:

Last night we saw the Kirov perform their Fokine program in Boston. The first piece was “Chopiniana”. I am more familiar with the revision we see here as “Les Sylphides”. I’ve never seen “Les Sylphides” danced to a tempo as slow as that of “Chopiniana”last night and am sorry to admit that instead of being enthralled at times I had trouble keeping my eyes open. Nevertheless I was impressed by the Corps. Aside from the precision of their dancing they are similar in appearance to an extent that makes our American companies seem more diverse than they perhaps are.

After a long intermission the next piece was “Scheherazade.” The rich sets and costumes offered a welcome relief to the somewhat dull backdrop for “Chopiniana” and the scrim displayed during the loooong overture. My first reaction was one of disappointment though, there was not a lot of dancing. However, I began to think of this as a period piece, and to think of how an audience in 1910 might have reacted, and came to appreciate it more. I could almost imagine Nijiinsky whirling around the stage as the Golden Slave…. My favorite scene was the slaughter at the end. I’m not a bloodthirsty person, but there was a gracefulness to the appearance and dispatch of the harem and slaves.

Another long intermission, another loooong overture, and on to “Firebird.” Of the three pieces this is the one I would enjoy seeing again. The costumes looked familiar. Several years ago the National Dance Museum in Saratoga had a special display on “Firebird”, and I think these costume designs were illustrated there. Tatiana Amosova was a convincing firebird, and there were dancing friends, threatening monsters, etc. to enjoy. Again, the precision of the Corps was impressive. I found some of the dancing by the captives and monsters reminiscent of the tavern scene in Balanchine’s “Prodigal Son.” Perhaps this was an example of Fokine’s influence on him?

“Firebird” is in two scenes, the first one comprising about 90% of the piece, and the second one quite short. Unfortunately the first scene ends dramatically with the destruction of Kastchel’s soul, thunder and lightening, and an opaque black scrim falling. Unfortunately because some in the audience thought that was the end of the performance, applauded, and got up to leave!

I was not impressed by the orchestra. It is a good orchestra but not a great one. During “Scheherazade” the violins sounded too screechy at one point, and during “Firebird” the brass sounded tinny. Overall the tone of the orchestra seemed thin. I have been spoiled by ballet accompanied by excellent orchestras. We also found the overtures for all three pieces to be very long. I began to wonder if something had gone wrong back stage so they were not ready to dance after all, but now assume it is a stylistic difference in how they present ballet.

What is the company called in Russia? The ads, tickets, and program call it the Kirov, but inside the program it is called the Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra. I’m wondering if they use Kirov when touring, because it is a more familiar name from the recent past?

We have friends who were planning to see every performance. I’m glad to have seen what we saw, but would not want to see the same program again. It would be interesting to see if the Kirov would have the speed for a Balanchine program, and it could be wonderful to see them do “Swan Lake.” As it is, it was useful to see these versions of Fokine’s ballets for their historical context and the pleasure of some of the dance moments.

#20 carbro

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Posted 16 November 2003 - 01:39 PM

I was not impressed by the orchestra.  It is a good orchestra but not a great one.

Perhaps not, but when they brought Sleeping Beauty to New York a few years ago, the violin soloist got a huge ovation for the "panorama" music between the Vision and the Awakening. It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever heard (twice), widely agreed to have been The Highlight of the evening (twice).

It would be interesting to see if the Kirov would have the speed for a Balanchine program.


They do not. They take the tempos down a notch or three. Or four. :yawn: Still, it is worth seeing for the changes that happen to both the dancers and the dance.

You modestly introduce the post as "[perhaps not] a better educated view," but you wrote a perceptive review that was clearer than many that I read in major metro newspapers. Thanks for the good work, BBfan. :wink:

#21 djb

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Posted 16 November 2003 - 02:03 PM

One of my greatest pleasures in seeing the Kirov in San Francisco was sitting through those loooong overtures - wonderful music, wonderfully performed.

#22 Alexandra

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Posted 16 November 2003 - 02:26 PM

Thanks for these reviews! I hope there will be more.

BBfan, the company was the ballet company of the Mariinsky Theater. During the Soviet era, it was renamed the Kirov Ballet, after a Party hero, and this was the name by which it became known in the West. After the political changes in Russia, the company reverted to its Mariinsky name -- but the "brand name" was Kirov, and people were confused. In Russia, it's the Mariinsky. Here, it's the Kirov, or Mariinsky-Kirov.

Here's a link to the company's own page, with its history (in English):

http://www.mariinsky.ru/en/ballet

#23 dido

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Posted 16 November 2003 - 03:37 PM

I'm glad bbfan mentioned the overtures (though we'll have different things to say). I appreciate an overture without "business" going on, because as I understand it, the overture frequently introduces musical themes that will recur during the peice, and as someone with absolutely no musical memory whatsoever, I appreciate all the help I can get.

I must be in a minority, because I noticed that many around me seemed to think of it as an equivalent to the previews and credits in a movie... it's not a great idea, but still okay to talk and move around and stretch...

Is this a cultural thing? Most of the more recently choreographed things I've seen lately all have things going on during the overture: people walking through the streets in Nutcracker, etc. Not dancing usually, just setting the scene.

I also had moments of feeling as if I were looking at Nijinksy, and the monsters also reminded me of those creepy things in Prodigal.

#24 jbtlse

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Posted 16 November 2003 - 05:04 PM

I also went Saturday night.

The winner for me was "Firebird" It was an enchanting story. The friends of the princess dance with their golden apples was charming. I thought the men's costumes in the second scene were magnificent. And I loved the music--can anyone recommend a good recording? I have seen a version of "Firebird" before, but I don't recall it making such a sweet impression.

"Chopiniana" was wonderfully old-fashioned--right down the "sepia" lighting. I was most struck by the physical uniformity of the corps--long-limbed and beautiful backs. My (tall) daughter thought they looked tall--perhaps they just appeared tall. And their feet were gorgeous--even from way up in the balcony!

As for "Scheherazade" (not sure of spelling--can't possibly move to get program)--I found the corps work really exciting. I did not find Irma Noiradze particularly appealing--and actually thought the odeliscks (again with the spelling) out shone her in slinkiness.

I thought the "Scheherazade" overture was way too long.

Show appeared to be soldout--a good sign I thought--hopefully they'll return--and others will decide to visit!

#25 flygirl

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Posted 16 November 2003 - 07:27 PM

We just returned home after seeing the Sunday performance of Kirov.I am a parent of a DD and we both enjoyed the program. I have no brilliant insights to report other than my DD (age 12) was enthralled with the technical brilliance of it all! Of course I get caught up with her enthusiasm! But...she and I discussed what it would be like if our "home team" Boston Ballet had been presenting the program instead of Kirov. Does anybody out there have a real prejudice in favor of their own company? She and I agreed that Kirov was more talented than BB...but there is something about seeing your hometown stars ....!!! I'm kinda embarrassed about this..... :wink: Any thoughts?

#26 Juliet

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Posted 16 November 2003 - 07:44 PM

I don't think it is a question of more talented vs. less talented, but a difference in focus and schooling. The Kirov school has been training dancers in a particular style, and their repertory is also different than American companies. The company is a custodian of a long tradition and although they do more contemporary works, still the schooling and style are evident in everything they do. It is very different from Boston Ballet, whose dancers come from all over the world with very diverse training.

Thanks to all who have reported on the performances!

#27 bbfan

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Posted 17 November 2003 - 06:34 AM

Alexandra, Thanks for the compliment! Also for the link to the Mariinsky site.

As for enjoying the home town company (in my case Boston Ballet), I don't think there is anything to be embarrassed about! I find pleasure in watching dancers who are familiar, I can appreciate the differences in their various performances, their growth, compare them to others, etc. And it is always fun to have some newcomer to root for. It helps that in Boston the company skill level has increased so very much over the last 10 years or so, so it is not a case of liking a middling company better than a good company. I guess it is a more subjective experience though.

I also agree with the comment that it can be hard to compare companies that have very different styles and types of training.... it becomes a matter of taste as to which style is preferred. Finally, I think enjoying a performance by another company, Kirov or NYCB or Royal Danish (to pick three very different ones) and appreciating their skill doesn't detract from enjoying Boston or whatever other company is more familiar. We are so lucky to be able to see them all!

#28 Blondie

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Posted 17 November 2003 - 11:41 AM

I also saw the Saturday night performance. I was seated in Left Center Row K, and it was hard to see some of the action that was based on the floor. It was a bit of a culture shock to see the languid movements in Chopiniana. For me, it was a little sugary, although well danced. When the Kirov dancers move, they move as one - unlike Boston Ballet dancers, who are less synchronous. I liked the staging of Scherazade, but I agree that the Zobeide dancer wasn't particularly appealing. Slinky, but somehow not right. The Golden Slave, on the other hand, was terrific. Does anyone remember who played the Golden Slave? It was announced over the loudspeaker at the beginning, but I didn't catch it. He was very sexy - bold and powerful in his leaps. I loved how he leaped over the scimitar in the murder scene. He was a big man, but I could see Nijinsky and Nureyev in the role through his dancing. The Kirov does well in the big scenes - the orgy scene in Scherazade and the devil scene in Firebird. The choreography and the costumes were magnificent. The Firebird started off awkwardly, I thought. The Firebird was played by a very tall woman, and the Ivan character by a rather short, squat man. He seemed to have a little trouble stretching high enough to turn the Firebird, but he did better next to the petite Princess. All in all, a very passionate, vibrant evening. Well worth seeing.

#29 Helene

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Posted 17 November 2003 - 12:31 PM

I must be in a minority, because I noticed that many around me seemed to think of it as an equivalent to the previews and credits in a movie... it's not a great idea, but still okay to talk and move around and stretch...

Is this a cultural thing? Most of the more recently choreographed things I've seen lately all have things going on during the overture: people walking through the streets in Nutcracker, etc.  Not dancing usually, just setting the scene.

I think those two things are related. It's been my experience that unless the curtain is up and there's both music and stage action, too many audience members at the ballet and opera think that it's perfectly fine to talk over the overtures and musical interludes. The "action" over the overture may be to pre-empt the chatting. Unfortunately, nothing stops the "How about those Mets?" discussions between the two parts of Liebeslieder Walzer.

#30 koshka

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Posted 17 November 2003 - 12:59 PM

About the loud shoes: probably the Kirov dancers are provided with Grishko or other Russian-produced shoes, and I know that Grishkos are notorious for their loudness. I vaguely recall noticing this at a Kirov performance either in DC or in St Petersburg.

Oh, and another little tidbit about "Mariinsky"--the theater itself is often referred to as the "Mariinka".

What is with the apparent trend toward seating latecomers during the performance? BAH! A few years ago I arrived late to BB and I was seated in the boxes at the rear of the theater until the end of the first act. Since then I have referred to the boxes as "the penalty boxes". :-)


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