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Kirov Ballet in D.C. - Nutcracker


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#16 Alexandra

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Posted 28 December 2003 - 09:07 PM

I wonder if this Nutcracker will be back :wub:

#17 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 29 December 2003 - 12:07 AM

That's right, koshka, since a few years Elena Vorontosova is working with the corps de ballet. In fact as a prominent member of the corps she appears in almost every video of the Kirov. In the "Sleeping Beauty" video with Kolpakova and Berezhnoi she dances Coulante in the Prologue.

One should never despair Alexandra :wub:

#18 Alexandra

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Posted 29 December 2003 - 07:24 AM

Well, the Kennedy Center has been trying to get a Nutcracker for some years now. ABT's wasn't a success. The Bolshoi's wasn't a success. And, although I was a bit disappointed that I didn't hear any shrieks from the toddlers at the matinee Saturday, I don't think this one is a keeper either.

Question -- you, out there, artistic directors, choreographers -- do you know who your audience is? Have you ever gone to a Nutcracker and stood in the lobby and watched who goes in? You've got your balletomanes who want to see CLASSICAL DANCING. And you've got your kids, in their best Christmas clothes bringing their favorite toys to share in this joyful experience. They do not want to see a new, improved Nutcracker that probes the depth and depravity of the rat-infested human spirit. There is an audience for depravity and psychological realism that would undoubtedly be fascinated by yet another "discovery" that the Nutcracker libretto and the ETA Hoffman story (upon which it is NOT based) are different. Go find it.

I feel much better now.

#19 Guest_Alan Lamb_*

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Posted 29 December 2003 - 10:43 AM

Reading all of the posts on this Nutcracker has been a fascinating experience for me. What astonishes me is the repeated use of such adjectives as "dark", "grotesque", "depraved", "sinister" etc in describing what I essentially found to be an entertaining and visually stunning theatrical production that I don't consider as representative of any of the above adjectives. (If it is insisted that the term "grotesque" be used to describe this ballet then it must be used in the same spirit as the romantic writers of the 18th C used it: i.e. a way of blurring of the lines between the animal and human worlds. This is pretty standard fare in most 18th C. fairy tales so I don't think Chemiakin has somehow not quite gotten Hoffmann right). On the whole I think the epithets are a bit extreme. And then we whould ask whether :) angels are really that much more fun to watch than :devil: -ish creatures?

While the choreography may not be the most sophisticated, then again the Nutcracker is not exactly the best vehicle to showcase sophisticated new dancing. The children I spoke with at the Kennedy Center who participated in the production and those who came as an audience seemed to have had lots of fun with the costumes and the characters of the story. The Chemiakin/Simonov production is, remember, an adaptation, of an old fairy tale. The Hoffmann/Dumas story certainly has elements of fright and magical thinking in it but is this motif atypical for fairytales from Hoffmann to Brothers Grimm? I think not. I don’t find the story to be muddled because Drosselmeyer has ambiguous magical powers. He is the essence of intrigue and secrets. I think the kids get it.

I also don't quite believe that this production lacks as much "ballet" air time as has been suggested. If one compared, measure for measure, this production with other full-length productions I think there might be a few surprises; namely that this Nutcracker has just as much dancing as any other. On the other hand it may be true that the sheer abundance of visual activities in this production distract one from single-minded concentration on the dancing. We are definitely not looking at a bare stage with dancers simply outfitted in tights! Then again I suppose I simply don’t believe that a spare stage with two dancers jumping as high as they can is the essential experience of ballet (gymnastics maybe!).

When it comes to the question of the "classics", I am also surprised that the Mariinsky has been taken to task in so many posts for violating it's trust as a "museum" for classical repertory. (Whether or not that is the right mission for the Mariinsky is another story altogether). As many have pointed out in their posts or reviews, the dancing that Simonov has choreographed is not revolutionary or "brilliant" in any way: rather the dancing seems to nicely fit this adaptation of Petipa's work. The Chemiakin/Simonov variation has pantomime and exaggeration and theatrics and color and the bustle of life and after almost fifty years of only having the option to watch the Balanchine ballet here in the US, I think Chemiakin/Simonov have done well in tackling this "sacred" text while remaining “true” to the music and the story line. The inventiveness of the production should certainly be able to both capture and hold the attention of children and balletomanes alike.

I hope this ballet will enjoy a long and interesting life!

PS: the performance on the evening of December 27 featured Irina Golub who danced beautifully and did not have a single shocking red hair on her head! :D

#20 Alexandra

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Posted 29 December 2003 - 12:26 PM

Welcome, Alan. I'm glad to hear from someone who liked it. The wigs/hair style differed from dancer to dancer. Nadezda Gonchar, at the Saturday matinee, had dark auburn hair and a more subdued hairstyle. She also wore a turquoise dress -- the kind of dress one might have worn to a dance in the 1950s. A rebel. I liked her. (She's also one of the strongest turners I've ever seen, and had beautiful feet.)

I think the designer was trying to be grotesque -- hence the stout adults and outsized Fritz, the rat dressed as a cardinal, the boar's head that would not be approved by the Boar Hunters Association -- and the plates of picked over bones after the party, etc. etc. etc. As for the lack of dancing -- literally everyone I've talked to has said something along the lines of "I feel cheated" or "I'm so disappointed," "You'd never know it was the Kirov," "It must have cost a fortume; what a waste of money," etc.

The comments about the lack of dancing are probably because this site was established to discuss classical ballet, and that's the interest of the members. I agree that there are a lot of productions of the ballet that have little classical dancing in them, but that's not what one expects from the Kirov, and there are "adult" or "sophisticated" productions that do have sophisticated dancing. Not new dancing, or modern dancing, but there we get into what one expects from a Nutcracker or a ballet performance, especially by the Kirov.

#21 Alexandra

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Posted 29 December 2003 - 04:07 PM

Someone just sent me an email saying s/he didn't understand my posts, that it seemed at first I said it was good, and later posts indicate that I didn't like it. I thought I'd clarify (and this would have been perfectly ok to post!)

I did like the designs, as design -- not as appropriate to a Nutcracker. And I'm sympathetic to the choreographer for having to create dance that suited a design and a concept that wasn't his, and was interested in what he did.

So for what they did, I think they did it well. But don't think it's a good production of "Nutcracker." It would have been fine in another ballet -- that didn't have a score with a totally different tone. Sorry to have been ambiguous!

(I really liked the big shoe.)

#22 kfw

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Posted 29 December 2003 - 05:32 PM

I feel much better now.


I'd been waiting for someone to let it all out. ;) Who commissioned this thing anyhow? Gergiev? He obviously at least OK'ed it. How does a conductor, of all musical people, commission a production so at odds with its music base??

#23 koshka

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Posted 29 December 2003 - 07:11 PM

Another couple of notes:

The Prince in Sunday's matinee, Leonid Sarafonov, was terrific and looked to be about 17 years old. (Of course, so does Anton Korsakov, and he's 23, so...)

Another thing: The Nutcracker does not hold the same place in the ballet world in Russia _at all_. It is not really considered a holiday ballet (is performed year-round) or even a ballet especially suitable for children, although it does often seem to be performed around holiday time by students of the Vaganova School. So perhaps a really different Nutcracker is not really as much of a big deal there.

#24 Alexandra

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Posted 29 December 2003 - 07:13 PM

Regarding Nutcracker not being a holiday ballet in Russia -- yes! That's partly what I meant by posting earlier that this was perhaps not for export.

#25 Alexandra

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Posted 31 December 2003 - 09:28 AM

A review by Jean Battey Lewis in The Washington Times:

Beautiful Swan

(Although it's headlined "Beautiful Swan," it's a brief preview of Swan Lake and a review of Nutcracker.)

This well-known Christmas ballet — which ended a five-day engagement Sunday at the Kennedy Center's Opera House — was given a massive and quite ugly staging by the designer Mikhail Chemiakin, who also created the sets and costumes and rewrote the libretto, making it murkier and sardonic in tone.
    This was a "Nutcracker" in which the designer was king, and the choreographer, a young and inexperienced Kirill Simonov, was faced with the daunting task of trying to make a meaningful contribution through dance. Not surprisingly, he seldom succeeded.




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