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Kirov/Mariinsky 'Raymonda' - 2 March 2002


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#1 Natalia

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Posted 04 March 2002 - 01:26 PM

March 2 '02, St. Petersburg -

Tonight's performance at the Mariinsky Theater offered my first 'live' viewing of the ca-1948 staging of Petipa's 'Raymonda' by the late-great danseur noble & artistic director of the Kirov Ballet, Konstantin Sergeev. It is quite different from the POB-Nureyev and Bolshoi-Grigorovich versions that are better known in the west. Despite some Soviet-style acrobatic pas de deux, this K. Sergeev version remains the closest to the Petipa original, which premiered in this very theater in 1899. It is replete with gorgeous, prolonged passages of ultra-classical dance. A total joy.

The obvious difference with the western versions is that this version is much longer, retaining almost all of composer Alexander Glazunov's 3-plus hours of music. This includes LOTS of pure-character dance in 'street shoes,' a-la-1890 'Sleeping Beauty,' especially among the friends of Raymonda, Henriette/Clemence/Bernard/Beranger. Too, there is the element of a tapestry-portrait of the knight Jean de Brienne, which is presented to Raymonda on her birthday (scene one of the ballet). In scenes 2 & 3, Raymonda dreams that the knight in the tapestry has come to life. Raymonda literally steps into the tapestry & the real-life-guy carries her off to Never-Never Land. Suddenly, that dopey Dream Scene of the Bolshoi Grigorovich production makes bloody sense!

What a dream cast! A truly stunning Yulia Makhalina - who was sadly omitted from the recent Wash, DC tour - was in her element as the snooty-but-gorgeous Hungarian princess. Picture-perfect classical positions with - surprise! - minimal hyperextension. Here is one ballet where Makhalina's majestic persona works beautifully! Furthermore, here she has plenty of opportunities to show off her special talent of slow, unfolding developes into ravishing poses. She is a supreme adagio dancer.

Makhalina was lovingly partnered by one of the few true danseur-nobles in Petersburg, Yevgeni Ivanchenko who, again, was omitted from the DC tour...perhaps because he is Makhalina's regular partner? Heaven knows why...but he, too, is in his element here. Tall, handsome & with a nice high jump & beautiful pointed feet.

Alexander Kurkov was a menacing Abderakhman & my 'beloved' Vladimir Ponomariev was his usual hammy self in yet another kingly role, Hungarian count Rene de Brienne (father of Jean).

Best of all, this ballet affords plenty of opportunities to view up-and-coming soloists and all were a delight. The undisputed winner of the soloists tonight was redheaded Elvira Tarassova in brisk the second 'Dream Variation' during the Dream Scene (act I-sc. iii); Tarassova personifies the phrase 'Classical Dancing' - restrained, pure, elegant. We must save Elvira Tarassova in a time-capsule of some sort, so that this pre-1980s style of elegant dancing never disappear! Dark-haired Tatiana Tkachenko was also quite impressive in that scene, displaying feathery bourees in the first variation to celeste music.

The roles of Raymonda's two 'best friends' - Henriette & Clemence - are traditionally assigned to up-and-coming ballerinas; they are a good gague of who may be a future Raymonda. Judging by their prominent casting in the recent DC season, both Ekaterina Osmolkina (Clemence) and swan-necked blonde dazzler Xenia Ostreikovskaya (Henriette) are ladies on the Kirov Fast Track...and deservedly so. Ruben Bobobnikov & Vasily Scherbakov were their capable partners, Bernard & Beranger.

Act II includes a number of colorful character dances. The most electrifying pair of soloists in the divertissement of character dances consisted of Ti-Eun Ryu (a Korean beauty who graduated from the Vaganova Acad in '95, class of Vishneva & many other greats) and Nikolai Zubkovsky (grandson of the late Inna Zubkovskaya) as the Saracen Pair, dancing up a storm in hot-pink-and-orange-toned outfits. Zubkovsky, in particular, is one heck of a DANCER. New Yorkers may remember his Tartar Dance in 'Bakh-Fontan,' in 1999. Too bad that, in DC, we just saw him as the Big Bad Wolf in 'Beauty' - Nikolai Zubkovsky is not only a very handsome guy wink.gif but a real firecracker on the stage. The Saracen Dance received the biggest burst of applause tonight, except for the Grand Pas Classique in Act III. [Did I mention that I have become a Nikolai Zubkovsky fanatic?]

Speaking of the Act III Grand Pas...the female solo variation was performed with adorable lightness & charm by the petite Yelena Shishova, while, yet again, the Kirov-Mariinsky has found four amazing gentlemen to pull-off a perfectly synchronized male quartet - Dmitry Peixachov, Vasily Scherbakov, Anton Pimonov, and Alexei Krasnov.

And Makhalina's 'clapping variation' in that final scene? Well, it simply doesn't get any better than this...certainly the most effective Ice Queen since Sylvie Guillem, in this role. Brrrrrrr...shivers! (That is meant as a compliment.)

- Jeannie Szoradi
St. Petersburg, Rossiya

[ March 05, 2002, 08:40 AM: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

#2 Estelle

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Posted 04 March 2002 - 06:35 PM

Thanks for your review, Jeannie. It's great to be able to know about the Kirov performances "at home" thanks to you- and they do seem to have a long list of talented young dancers...

#3 Dale

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 01:38 AM

Thank you for the review. It brings me a little closer to St. Petersburg smile.gif

#4 doug

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 01:53 AM

Jeannie, I'm so glad you were able to see the K. Sergeev RAYMONDA. I've worked with the Raymonda notations (circa 1903 and written by Nikolai Sergeev) extensively - RAYMONDA is one of my favorite ballets. However, I have found that Girgorovich's version contains choreography closer to the notations than does the K. Sergeev staging for the Kirov. This is true only for the variations, however, because most of the corps choreography in Acts I and II of both productions does not at all resemble the corps choreography as notated. Grigorovich's Act II pas d'action adagio (for three couples) is quite close to the notated version (except for Abderrakhman's leaps), while I believe the K. Sergeev pas d'action is a pas de deux.

Unfortunately, neither production, so far as I know, includes the student "bugs" in the Act I, Scene 2, vision scene, which remind me of Balanchine's MIDSUMMER bugs, at least in the choregraphic floor patterns. I don't think either prodcution includes the "Danse des Enfants" in Act III either.

Absolutely amazing music, and the Kirov version does indeed includes more of it than any other version that I know. The NAXOS recording is, in my opinion, the best available (and cheap!) - also the most complete.

#5 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 07:31 AM

Doug, Sergeyev's pas d'action in Act II is also for three couples (Raymonda-Abderakhman; 4 friends), but quite different from Grigorovich's.

As for CD recordings I prefer Svetlanov with the Bolshoi Orchestra.

#6 vrsfanatic

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 07:52 AM

Jeannie thank you so much for your lovely and vivid review. It seems as if I was sitting there with you. You are so fortunate to be there!

It is a pleasure to read that Ti-eun and Kolya (Nikolai)are doing so well. They both were lovely in school. Ti-eun Ru did Masha from Nutcracker, quite a fete for a foreigner who went to Vaganova School at age 14. Kolya Zubkovsky is quite a firecracker in character roles. I have never seen him work classically. In school he did the slave dance in Bayadere and I hear he still is dancing it in the company. He is a very personable young man, speaking some English and Italian. He does seem to have his grandmother's mysterious looks.

Thank you again. Keep the reviews coming. Enjoy the snow! Tread through the streets carefully. Remember to shuffle! One is less likely to fall then.

[ March 05, 2002, 09:20 PM: Message edited by: vrsfanatic ]

#7 Natalia

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 08:37 AM

vrsfanatic - Thank you for the insights on Ti-Eun & 'Kolya'! I just corrected a horrendous 'typo' re. Kolya - he is indeed VERY handsome. I meant to write 'not ONLY very handsome...etc.' He was still in school -- about age 15/16 when I met him with his mom & grandmom on a tram, of all places, & he was just the perfect gentleman & stood up to give his seat to my own mother, who was standing. Anyway, I remember how much he favored his grandmother in looks.

Yes, I am walking carefully. Today it is the slush, due to a sudden thaw. The weather has been wacky.

Doug - Thanks for your insights, too. The courtly dances at the start of Sergeyev's Act I/sc i, including the 'four friends' of Raymonda - Henriette, etc. - are found only in this version. Also, the Act I/sc iii 'Dream Scene' in this version is much more a-la Petipa, with both male & female corps dancers and an obvious hierarchy within the corps. Nureyev's POB version takes many elements from this version; makes sense, as this is the version that Nuruyev would have recalled from his Kirov days. Sorry but I find the Bolshoi Grigorovich version to be much more 'moderne' and stylized...lots of the 'fat' is eliminated...but it's the courtly 'fat' that makes for the fun in the K. Sergeyev version! The Kirov-Mariinsky was dancing the Grigorovich version during 1994/95 (when I lived in St Petes). Most locals are delighted that the Grigorovich is gone & Sergeyev is back.

Believe it or not, most 'regulars' in the audience &are wishing that the K. Sergeyev version of 'Sleeping Beauty' would return permanently to the repertoire. They don't seem to care as much for the 1890 reconstruction as do we history-conscious westerners. Amazing but true! [I happen to like both versions of 'Beauty' - it doesn't have to be an either/or situation.]

Now...as for 'Cinderella'/'Zolushka' which premiered tonight in the Ratmansky version...I saw parts of the dress rehearsal and, well, I bet that some folks will be praying yet again for the K. Sergeev version. I'll do a review after tonight's big premiere. Vishneva as Cinders, Mercuriev as the Prince and Yulia Makhalina as Stepmother. Should be interesting....

[ March 05, 2002, 08:45 AM: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

#8 Juliet

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 03:28 PM

Thank you, Jeannie! I'm really enjoying reading these reviews (and very happy to hear that Makhalina is dancing well--she has always remained a favourite of mine. I can just imagine her in that clapping variation in Raymonda.... smile.gif

Looking forward to hearing your impressions of Cinderella......

#9 doug

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 06:12 PM

Thanks, everyone, for the clarifications. I gotta get my tapes out and watch again! Jeannie, looking forward to your CINDERELLA review.

#10 Alexandra

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 07:06 PM

Thank you, Jeannie, not only for the reviews, but for the "ambience" reports, too. We had one day here, but now the cherry blossoms are threatening to bloom, so quite a contrast smile.gif

Looking forward to reading about "Cinderella" -- if you think it will spark discussion, you might want to start a new thread. (I don't know how many others are over there yet.)

Doug, if you're checking tapes, and if Jeannie is on the scene, maybe Raymonda would make a good Ballet in Detail -- I'll move the Sleeping Beauty stuff out and Raymonda in tonight. See you all there, too smile.gif

#11 vrsfanatic

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Posted 05 March 2002 - 09:17 PM

Jeannie thank you for the information about the Sergeev version of Raymonda vs Grigorovich! Too bad we did not meet in St. Petersburg in 1994-1995. I did not know other Americans in St. Petersburg then. I would have enjoyed it.

Back to Sergeev vs Grigorovich...I remember the Russians being utterly distraught over the what "Vinogradov" had done to Raymonda and I could never get a straight answer that I understood what it was that they disliked so intensely. For me it all was so much better than anything I had ever seen that I was just living in amazement for two entire years. I had seen the best ballet companies of the world, but nothing compared to what I saw in Russia and I remember Raymonda in particular. So now it is Grigorovich( maybe that is why I could never get the direct answer I was seeking) that I was seeing. I remember J. Makhalina very well in the role! I asked my colleague from Kirov about that Raymonda of 1993-1995 and she seemed to think it had been the same one she had danced when she was in the company with Sergeev as director. I thank both you and Doug for clarifying the differences. Now I just need to get myself back to St. Petersburg so I may see once again the ballet I remember so well.

By the way, I am glad you got to see Kolya up close for he is indeed a very beautiful young man. I had emailed Kevin telling him he needed to get you closer to Kolya so you could see a little better.

Eat some fabulous food for me!

[ March 06, 2002, 06:56 AM: Message edited by: vrsfanatic ]

#12 Natalia

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Posted 06 March 2002 - 11:15 AM

Hi, vrsfan - Thanks. Actually, we met...at the Vaganova Academy Museum when I working with Ms. Vivien on photographing some documents for my book. I'll explain privately. I keep a lot of this stuff to myself. wink.gif

I remember your Bayadere Shade fondly, by the way (if you are who I think you are). Sorry to be so cryptic. I'll e-mail you privately after I return to US (mid to late March??? I'm working in other parts of Russia until about March 20th). Blessings. - J.

[ March 06, 2002, 11:16 AM: Message edited by: Jeannie ]


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