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Crisis at the Kirov Ballet?


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#1 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 12:59 PM

In the culture and arts sections of the Russian press there recently was a lot of talk about a crisis of the Kirov Ballet management. Not much of a surprise to anyone who has been following the Kirov in the last decade more or less closely, yet the fact remains that this time Valery Gergiev, the big chief of the Mariinsky, publicly stated his dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs in the ballet company, and more precisely with its management. It is now deemed essential to find a choreographer to run the company which would imply that Makhar Vaziev (who is only company manager since 1995) is about to be replaced. Yet just as in previous instances they find it rather difficult to come up with somebody to replace him. Several people have been named in the Russian articles, the one more absurd than the other, varying from Asylmuratova to Vikharev, and from Zelensky to Lopatkina. There is also serious regret that Alexei Ratmansky, one of Russia's most esteemed choreographers, is now lost to the Bolshoi.

At least one article justly emphasizes the improbable position the Kirov Ballet has been in within the Mariinsky Theatre since 1995 when artistic director Oleg Vinogradov was ousted: no proper artistic director or choreographer, the unequal and unreal position of the ballet company related to the opera and the orchestra, and last but not least the total subordination to somebody who doesnít understand a thing about ballet. Also stressed is the change in the general attitude toward Makhar Vaziev, who keeps the company going since 1995. Until recently he was even over-generously credited with the achievements of his predecessor, like the so-called discovery of a brilliant new generation of ballerinas or the expansion of the repertory with Western choreographers, now he is blamed for all whatís going wrong with the company: unsuccessful premieres and questionable choice of repertory, unequal level of the performances, even on tours, troubled relationships with invited choreographers and local stars, stressful situations inside the company, etc.

Some articles (in Russian language):
http://www.gorod-spb...ory.php?st=3086

http://www.kommersan...

http://www.izvestia....re/article41809

In any case something to be followed. I hope that our Russian posters (Inga, Mikhail, Ö) will join in and give more information about this case.

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 02:22 PM

Very interesting, Marc -- thanks for the report. The company will be here for the rest of the month (the opera opens next Tuesday, the ballet company follows the following week) so maybe something will surface in the American press.

#3 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 07:37 PM

This situation is highly unfortunate. Gergiev wrote knowingly about and performed brilliantly the ballet music which had, perhaps, become a bit stale, but when it comes to running the ballet company itself, he seems to have all of the words, and none of the music. :wub:

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 07:55 PM

Nice line, Mel :wub: It seems that the European companies' management thinks that a ballet company can be run like an opera or theater company, or an orchestra (choose the repertory, hire a few people, then rehearse). Well, yes, but...... Gergiev doesn't have to teach each instrumentalist his part and THEN make them sound like something. And the American companies' (nonartistic) management often think they can be run like Wal-Mart.

#5 Paul Parish

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 10:23 PM

. Gergiev wrote knowingly about and performed brilliantly the ballet music

Where did you read Gergiev's remarks, Mel? (Can you read Russian?) I'd be VERY interested t read more.... The Kirov's performances here were not as problemmatic as those in London (where I have it on excellent authority they were dancing works they really did not KNOW), but still, the Fokine was beautifully played by the orchestra but quite upsetting to look at, especially if you saw it more than once.

#6 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 December 2003 - 03:31 AM

Schwann "Artist" catalogue. Year 1999, if I recall correctly. Fortunately for me, it came out while I was writing the pages on the Tchaikovsky ballets for the main site here.

The article wasn't an interview, but instead, an appreciation, with many of Gergiev's writings on Tchaikovsky excerpted from their Russian originals. I can read Cyrillic, but I can't read Russian.

#7 Inga

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Posted 13 December 2003 - 07:55 AM

Itís really looks as if in the last years Kirov management lost itís grip. I remember in 1998 or something there was much talking in the press about great Kirov ballet and ďbaby ballerinasĒ Lopatkina, Vishneva and Zakharova who at the time was new for many people, there was articles in many newspapers, programs on TV. Now there is not so much attention to the Kirov, and there is no new ballerinas who have such a reputation. Critics in Moscow have not much raving about Kirov when it danced here last time. May be Kirov have no new good dancers, may be they just donít want to advertise their new ballerinas. This time Kirov ever nominated no ballerinas for the Golden Mask Award, they nominated boys only, Sarafanov and Fadeev, for their parts in Etudes.

The press write that Kirov suffered from the endless touring that is hard to bear, and it give to the dancers no time to prepare their roles and even premieres is not well prepared. Also the tough style of the management donít give to the dancers to refuse the roles they donít like and so on. One critic think itís the reasons why Zakharova leaved the Kirov for the Bolshoi. May be Zakharovaís departure also was considered as a sign that Kirov have problems.

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 13 December 2003 - 08:14 AM

Good points -- thank you, Inga. A colleague of mine also pointed out that this most recent American tour was not a sell out in all cities (Detroit, for example, not a city accustomed to seeing a lot of ballet, did not sell out all performances, I'm told.)

#9 Thalictum

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Posted 13 December 2003 - 10:43 AM

These are all valid points, but
1) Moscow critics have a long history of trashing the Kirov.
2) I was in Detroit, and the performances were on the whole fabulous.

#10 Alexandra

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Posted 13 December 2003 - 11:44 AM

Re Detroit, no one has questioned the quality of the performances. Good, bad or fantastic, some performances did not sell well.

#11 Inga

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 10:31 AM

Thalictum, Moscow critics trash Moscow ballet as well, itís their style :devil: . When there was Lopatkina, they praised her, when there was Sologub, the reception was colder. And last time there was not so many interviews. Vishneva and Zakharova have success but there was not such a rave about the company as before.

#12 Thalictum

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 12:06 PM

There is a long-standing cultural antipathy between the two cities -- and the two ballet companies.

#13 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 12:47 PM

"Antipathy" is much too strong a word, Thalictum. Rivalry is more appropriate. :devil:

Besides, Inga's point is that the Kirov Ballet generates a lot less of attention and praise than it used to, take in the mid-nineties. And for reasons described above. It is also the case in London, where the critics really cannot be accused of an anti-Kirov tradition: the embarrassingly unprepared new productions, the absence of many of the established stars, some really poor performances during last's summer season in Covent Garden raised more than a few eyebrows. As Jane Simpson summed it up in her review for Dance View: "It won't take much more of this sort of thing to have us thinking that the Kirov is taking us for a ride."
Nothing of this is really new, but it has become a bit too obvious in the last years. Finally, nobody will question the quality of the dancers (indeed, given the circumstances in which they perform, only for that they would deserve our admiration), it's the way they are treated which has to be reconsidered.

#14 Thalictum

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 05:23 PM

Perhaps somewhere between "rivalry," and "antipathy," given the comments about the two companies I've heard made by their respective counterparts. And the Soviet government was overt in its favoritism towards Moscow institutions, in terms of funding, etc.

There is no point in arguing, but as I said before, when the Kirov was in Detroit artistically they were near the top of their game. Not every soloist was equally good, but the overall standard was extraordinarily high.

Marc, if you had to sit through the performances we see in America by native companies, you would appreciate the difference all the more!

I wasn't in London so I can't comment on what went on there. Most of the reviews suggested that they were in disarray and they well might have been. Certainly the touring schedule is grueling.

#15 Dale

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 08:03 PM

I think the Kirov made a few serious miscalculations for its London stay. The first of which was to bring new ballets that had not been properly rehearsed, such as Les Noces, Sacre, and Etudes. And even bringing a strongly performed Les Noces to London is risky. The English have a very strong relationship with this ballet. They were primed to pick it apart (not as good as the home team they sniffed, it is understandable considering the lineage of their own version0. They are much more likely to find fault in that than the Kirov doing Balanchine (although there might be as much of an arguement as to how they do Balanchine, the Etudes and Sacre as the Nijinska).

At the same time, it looks or is really bad when the dancer a company has been pushing for seven years leaves for the rival company.


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