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Bolshoi N.Am. - Poklitaru Romeo & Juliet reviews


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#16 Natalia

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 08:42 AM

Are Raymonda and Don Q the ballets or is this physical theater too?

Giannina

Not at all, Giannina. Both are magnificent classical ballets!

#17 Giannina

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 09:58 AM

Thanks one and all for your help. Invaluable.

Raymonda it is at the Sunday matinee. Unfortunately it's the most popular date of the series and we're up in the boondocks. That's why God made binoculars.

Giannina

#18 Natalia

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 12:37 PM

Minneapolis is "honored" with the first North American performances of this new Romeo & Juliet. Performances begin on Friday, Oct. 22. Here is the Minneapolis Star Tribune's preview piece (Oct 17):

http://www.startribu...55/5032921.html

You may have to register to see the whole thing.

Bits from the article:

"I always ignore tradition in my work with Shakespeare," Declan Donnellan wrote in an e-mail from London about his contemporary, controversial version of "Romeo and Juliet" for the Bolshoi Ballet......"I don't want to destroy tradition," Donnellan continued. "I just want to do my work as well as possible, and that means keeping a mind that is open rather than trying either to conform to the past or trying to destroy it. Both are reactionary positions."......."The Russian critics who love the Bolshoi know that the institution must change," Donnellan wrote. "Romeo and Juliet" is "now considered the symbol of youthful change of the company." .......Donnellan and Poklitaru's "Romeo and Juliet" has yet to garner accolades off its home turf, however. London critics crossed lances over the ballet. Some called the production a "misconceived mess" and "gibberish," inspiring an outpouring of newspaper coverage back in Russia.......For audiences yearning after the traditional ballet experience, there's still the lavish charmer "Don Quixote" during this Bolshoi engagement. ***end of article quotes***

#19 Helene

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Posted 27 October 2004 - 11:45 PM

I just saw Romeo and Juliet at the Paramount Theater. I have to put my comments in context: 1. I don't like musical theater in general. For me this production was rather perfect, because it was like musical theater, without the singing and without the dialogue (although there was the occasional shriek). While as a ballet choreographer, Poklitaru might be third rate, as a musical theater choreographer, he's not half bad, particularly in the hands of a strong director. 2. I think that Prokofiev's score is gorgeous, but not a good ballet score, because the drama tempts too many choreographers into excess, which I don't like much in classical ballet. These are probably why, despite moments and passages of extreme silliness, I had such a smashingly good time.

Donnellan's Romeo and Juliet is completely twisted. It is over-the-top, reflecting much of the score, but is performed with not a wink or "Get It?" or aside in sight--it's done completely straight. While I half expected the men and women of the Greek Corps to start snapping their fingers in the opening tableau, instead they started to sway slowly in tiers. Much of the soloists' movement was more jerky and stylized and reminded me of comics, particularly "I Spy" in Mad Magazine, along with early, primitive Japanese animation, like "Colonel Bleep." By contrast, there was an occasional classical outburst, and almost lyrical short passages for Juliet. I remembered Natalia's description of Alexandrova: "You'll be seeing Alexandrova at her best for, to me, she is better in this sort of work than in the classics, where she tends to eschew pure lines." There were several times, particularly in the bedroom scene, where she had such beautiful line in her legs, that I wondered whether she expended it on modern works only. On the other hand, although the sets themselves were austere, my sense of the piece was that somehow it transmitted the creepiness of the second act of Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker.

The characterizations were wild, and there was little character development throughout the piece. This was not a Juliet who matures in the face of marriage and responsibility: she was the same crazed, willful child-woman who jumped on Lady and Lord Capulet at the opening party, and, until she took the sleeping potion, a portrait of hormonal distress and adolescent reactions to the people surrounding her. Maria Alexandrova was scarily convincing. To my eyes her face resembled Gelsey Kirkland, and Alexandrova's portrayal of Juliet at its most distressed reminded me of Kirkland's descriptions of herself in the throes of addiction.

Natalia described Denis Medvedev's Tybalt as "sickningly slimy," to which I would add "unctuous," and "lounge lizard." One of the more convincing theatrical conceits was having Mercutio, danced tonight by Yuri Klevtsov, crash the ball by showing up in drag. (Indicative of the approach was that he was in drag, but not a drag queen.) However attractive he was as a man, as a woman he was plain, a little awkward, and pretty butch. Tybalt makes a beeline straight to him, and only after Romeo is un-masked, and Tybalt has planted a huge kiss on Mercutio, is Mercutio revealed as a man, which makes Tybalt a temporary laughing stock among the party goers. It was really too bad, because he had found his match.

Maria Isplatovskaya portrayed Lady Capulet. She was more "society" than imperious. Oleg Orlov was Lord Capulet, and he was a striking figure, dramatically and literally, with his sculpted face. Rosalind doesn't have a big role, but she does get to wear a wonderful red dress, and Ksenia Pchelkina is a stunning beauty.

Denis Savin was Romeo, and his role was about the straightest in the piece. He had his moments, but, on the whole, he was young, he was ardent, and he wasn't quite as warped as the the other characters. Georgy Geraskin's Paris was simply weird, so weird that he wouldn't be wished on someone one hated. He was even creepier than Tybalt. (I suspect a diaper fetishist.) The sensibilty of the piece was very British. It was kind of like Ashton's Facade on some very strong drugs.

The heart of the ballet was the corps. The set for Act I consisted of several six-eight foot high rectangular solids, that moved around a bit from scene to scene, but nothing distracting, with some small Rorschach-like patterns projected against the backdrop. The set for Act II was an upside down red T extending up to the flies upstage, with a white rectangular day bed in front of the T. The corps, portraying the Capulets and Montagues together and the Capulets and the Montagues alternately, remained in the background for much of the piece. Sometimes they were observing, other times they were in the middle of the fray, but at their most inventive, they were a collective force. One of the most memorable examples of the latter, was when Juliet was sitting along on the bed in Act II, the corps surrounded her on three sides, and the two lines on either side of the bed moved in: the claustrophobia and pressure were palpable.

Another fine moment for the corps was at the end of the second Act, when Romeo searches for Juliet and Juliet for Romeo, the corps, dressed in mourning dress, makes an interlocking parabola around the stage by holding hands. Alternately Romeo and Juliet run through the formation on both sides of the stage, and it is a reflection of the second act of Swan Lake, as Prince Siegfried searches among the swans to find Odette. Some other signature resemblances: the corps uses the second position plie similar to the troglodytes in Prodigal Son and a similar way of locomoting by shifting side to side, as well as breaking the corps into two to have each group carry a standing Romeo and Juliet towards each other. The first time the corps comes onstage in band-like uniforms, and the way the women move reminds me of the four women in the center of the "Sanguinic" movement of Four Temperaments. I don't know if these were deliberate quotes, but they looked very familiar.

There was one prop that was used to great effect: a sheet. When the curtain rises on Act II, Juliet stands in front of Romeo on the bed, but slightly to his side, and they are wrapped in a sheet. With the corps on either side on the floor in mourning black, they looked like they came out of a classic Greek tragedy, perhaps as Electra and Orestes. It is a very powerful opening. When Romeo leaves, and Juliet is left only with the sheet, she slowly gathers it together and holds the bundle to her face like a baby. And when Romeo finds Juliet in the crypt (using the bed), she is covered with the sheet. When he first lifts her so that she is "sitting up," her outline is visible through the sheet, and the sheet is like a death mask. When he grabs her face in a gesture he used in several earlier scenes, he ends up holding only the sheet -- she's slipped away from him, and he is devastated.

For me the star of the show was the orchestra. I sat in the first row, just in front of the brass, which have their finest moment when the music that was stolen for the theme song from "Dallas" blasts from the orchestra. There was not a sour note all night from four feet away. The playing was seamless, and the blend of the strings was sublime. Pavel Klinichev was the conductor.

First row was a great vantage point to see all of the drama, and particularly the patterns of the corps, since the set used so much of the stage, and the corps filled much of the rest. But in some ways it was too much of a good thing, as it was Too Many Men, Not Enough Eyes wink1.gif



#20 Lynette H

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Posted 28 October 2004 - 04:14 AM

"The sensibilty of the piece was very British. It was kind of like Ashton's Facade on some very strong drugs."

I saw this production in London in summer. Er, speaking as someone who is British, I didn't find the sensibility of the piece very British at all. Not remotely. I thought the choreography and mannerisms of the work (like the shouting) were very heavily derived from European models. A "tribute" if you like to Mats Ek. Ashton would be the very, very last choreographer which came to my mind in this context.....

#21 Natalia

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Posted 28 October 2004 - 06:29 AM

Thank you for the thorough & insightful review, Helene. I agree with you that it makes for splendid theater. The biggest negative, to me, was the total absence of romance...and what is a 'Romeo & Juliet' without romance? [Maybe it was there & I missed it? Saw it just once, in Moscow. Cast pretty much the same as you saw, except that Ilze Liepa was Lady C.]



#22 Helene

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Posted 28 October 2004 - 12:23 PM

The biggest negative, to me, was the total absence of romance...and what is a 'Romeo & Juliet' without romance?  [Maybe it was there & I missed it? ...]

No, you didn't miss a thing. Every time there was a snippet of anything leading to romance, Juliet would regress or slap him.

It's too bad Kent Stowell's version to patchwork score of about a dozen Tchaikovsky works hasn't toured. It's about the most romantic version I've ever seen, and it focuses on the relationship more than the greater society at large.

#23 sandik

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Posted 28 October 2004 - 10:47 PM

I saw this tonight as well, but had to stop at the store on the way home, so Helene got here first and did all the heavy lifting describing the show.

I'd read all the terrible press, and was prepared to think it was pretty grim, but came away impressed with big chunks of it. I agree that the score is very tough, it's bombastic and inexorable -- you have to do what it tells you to do most of the time, and it's difficult to create any kind of tender or intimate moment in that environment. I think one of the reasons that this production works as well as it does is that it doesn't have much tenderness, so that it isn't fighting the score so much.

You can really tell that there was a theatrical director involved as well as a choreographer -- there are places where the effects are created through movement and places where the physicality is more along the lines of stage blocking than dancing. As Helene points out, this works really well with the chorus -- I would have liked to see more rhythmic inventiveness for them, but as massed groups they were very effective. The fight scene was also very cleanly staged, keeping our focus throughout.

Putting Mercutio in drag gives that whole tension between him and Tybalt a single, continuous thread, and since the Mercutio tonight was quite tall, and Tybalt smaller (I'd add "rat-like" to the other descriptions) the dynamic was easy to read.

I didn't really think of the production as feeling "British" per se, though there were some real music hall spots, but to me it felt more akin to German expressionism, in part because of the "movement choir" aspects of the chorus, but also in the archtypeal qualities of the main characters.



#24 Helene

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Posted 29 October 2004 - 07:47 AM

I'd read all the terrible press, and was prepared to think it was pretty grim.

One passage from the review in today's Links from The Seattle Times made me laugh:

Many of the by-now-tired conventions of contemporary and experimental dance were offered vocalization, spasmodic trembling, shadow-puppet gestures with the fingers, semaphoric side-to-side waving of arms and body, crotchy crouches and buttocks-up crab-crawls but all with stolid predictability of pacing and little sense of joyous inventiveness.

If I got all of the "by-now-tired" conventions" in one work, it saved me a lot of time and money :)

I didn't really think of the production as feeling "British" per se, though there were some real music hall spots, but to me it felt more akin to German expressionism, in part because of the "movement choir" aspects of the chorus, but also in the archtypeal qualities of the main characters.

I couldn't figure out what it was that struck me as British beyond the characterizations of Tybalt and Paris, but your description of "some real music hall spots" hit it on the head. That's what reminded me of Facade.

#25 Helene

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Posted 31 October 2004 - 10:41 PM

Today's Links section had an interesting preview by Mary Ellen Hunt in The Contra Costa Times, in which she quoted San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancer Yuri Possokhov extensively. He danced with the Bolshoi from 82-92, and returned to the company to set his ballet Magrittomania on the Bolshoi dancers. His comments about the challenges Ratmansky faces are a very interesting read, as are comments by Nikolai Kabaniaev, formerly of the Kirov.

One thing I didn't realize until I read the article was that the Donnellan/Poklitaru Romeo and Juliet was an inherited project from Boris Akimov, not Ratmansky's idea.

#26 wanderer1

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Posted 04 November 2004 - 12:09 AM

I saw the R&J this opening night at Zellerbach. Even though I think it is a fantastic performance, looks to me it is kind of waste of talents for the group members. It might be a showoff for the choreographer. corps de ballet seems to be kind of organic prop to me..

I was sitting at left tier 1 row, which was by the side of Orchastra, it was so close to the stage and you can even have the eye contact with dancers. Even though a small portion of the stage was blocked, I was glad that most of the major events occurred at my side of the stage.

Maria is a great dramatic actress, I felt her facial expression so in tune with the music, she is very into the role. Even the last scene when she is senseless dragged by Romeo on the floor, her arms are so lifeless and helpless. Compare to her, Denis is just a cute boy...

Could anyone tell me what is the funny music when all the girls dressed in green police uniform? Is it from the original music? The music sounds like recording since it came from the speaker.

I am looking forward to the Raymonda this Sunday...


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