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Kirov's new 'Cinderella' - Mar. 5 '02, The Milkman Danceth

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#1 Natalia


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Posted 06 March 2002 - 12:01 PM

A Prince at the ball dressed as a milkman, complete with white shoes and white bow-tie over a long-sleeved leotard & white trousers. That is The Milkman of the Kirov. Kudos to Andrei Merkuriev, who had to dance in this get-up and maintain a straight face. He survived, sort-of. Oh yeah - he got to break the monotony by wearing a burgundy backpack (containing the glass slipper) during his Act III travels around the world in search of the girl who lost her slipper.

I've attended perhaps about 50 ballets at the Mariinsky Theater in my lifetime, plus many on tours in various cities around the world. Until last night I could boast not one dud. Dud #1 is here, in the form of Alexei Ratmansky's new 'Cinderella' to the Prokofiev score. Minimalistic sets by Ilia Utkin & Yevgeny Monakhov. Mish-mash of costumes by Elena Markovskay. Conductor: Mikhail Agrest (NOT the pre-announced Gergiev!)

My summary for the major aspects of the show:

Choreography: C-minus
Sets: D
Costumes: C-minus, except for corps ladies gowns in Act II, which get B-plus
Dancing/performances: A-minus (against all odds)
Orchestra/musical performance: A (they couldn't see what was on stage)

CHOREOGRAPHY - Ratmanky delivers an uneven work. Nice adagios for Cinderella & the Prince and fine solos for Cincers/Vishneva. A very cute 'boxing scene' in Act III as the stepsisters fight for who-will-try-the-shoe-on-first. Nice 'tango lesson' for the Dance Teachers in Act I. Then again, the corps work was so goofy; it didn't go with the sophisticated costumes. A LOT of the problem with the choreography was that it did not go along with the designs. (Did Ratmansky meet the designers, one wonders?)

DESIGN CONCEPT - The problem, in a nutshell, is that there was NO concept. It starts promisingly: the usual Mariinsky curtain is replaced by a black-and-white one depicting New York City skyscrapers. Curtain up & we are in (I think) the garment district, as I see four mannequin-like figures placed on two narrow-and-steep metallic staircases on either side of the stage (leading into the wings). Stepmother & stepsisters are being coiffed by three male hairdressers. Cinderella is off to one side polishing one of the metal staircases. OK - so this is supposed to be an apartment in NY...uh, in the garment district? This motif was NEVER carried beyond this scene. Later, we are in a typical European ballroom in a palace & the [pas de deux takes place in a garden with Italian pines. Huh??? Sorry, you get the picture. Oh, and there is a big metallic wheel in the back of the 'NY Apartment' which pivots at the end of Act I to become the chandelier for the Act II ballroom. Whoopee-doo.

COSTUMES - Besides the horrendous Milkman get-up, we have a little off-white silk chemise for Cinders, goofy black-with-hot pink for stepsisters, a Chinese silk robe for Stepmother, loud primary-color pants & tops for the four season fairies (all males), aqua-colored jeans for a male arabic dancer in the Act III travels scene...audience laughed at that outfit! Then we had elegant corps outfits for the ball -- sleek 1930s-style fashion model gowns in tones of burgundy/maroon & black plummed hats for the ladies and traditional tuxedos for the men...but they had goofy dance steps that didn't go with their look. Ugh!

FINALLY, THE DANCERS (saving grace of the night): Most of the dancers were quite magnificent despite the paltry material.

Diana Vishneva was delightful in the fluidity of her dancing (boneless limbs, seemingly) and keen musicality. Vishneva has the "it" factor & the audience rose at the end of the performance to acknowledge her greatness. Too, she benefitted from the more interesting choreography of the night; it's as if Ratmansky spent ten-times longer crafting her solos than he did on all else.

As the Prince, Andrei Merkuriev soared in his entrance at the ball. He is a tall-ish dancer with a lovely technique, although I find his acting monotonish. And that gawd-awful Milkman outfit was too distracting on him!

Yulia Makhalina, in carrot-top wig, was hilarious as a Stepford Wife of a Stepmother. Kudos, too, to company vet Margarita Kullik as the short & rolly-polly stepsister & dazzling newcomer Viktoria Tereshkina as the more svelte stepsister. [Remember how much I admired Tereshkina's Gold Fairy in Wash, DC?]

The Queen from 'Sleeping Beauty' in DC was Elena Bazhenova...and you should see her as a bag lady/fairy godmother here! Quite a difference.

Roman Skripkin was touching as Cinder's alcoholic father.

The four male fairies were: Spring - Anton Lukhovkin; Summer - Dmitri Pikhachov (magnificent tours en l'air!); Fall - Maxim Zyizin; and Winter - Sergei Popov. Each fairy was accompanied by female corps dancers in assorted tutus...including platter skirts with little snowballs on the edge for winter.

Special accolades to the two Dance Teachers, who appeared not only during the tango dance scene but also in Act II, leading the corps de ballet at the ball. They were a knowing sophisticate Ti-Eun Ryu and greasy-haired gigolo Alexei Semionov. Both are fantastic actors, as well a great dancers. [And it was good to see Ti-Eun on pointe again, as she usually dances only character-shoe roles in the classics.]

The final act includes the 'travel scene' in which the Prince/Milkman looks for Cinders. This affords a couple of dance scenes & solo opportunities for a Spanish Female Dancer (Sofia Gumerova, looking very sleek and sexy) and an Arabic Male Dancer (the normally-wonderful Islom Baimuratov, here ill-served by that horrendous outfit with the aqua jeans...accompanied by 8 corps men in the same outfit...laughter in the audience).

I can't believe that I typed all of this. Time for a shot of vodka & a plunge in the banya. I rather be beaten by birch branches than endure this 'Cinderella' ever again.

-Jeannie Szoradi
St. Petersburg, Russia

[ March 06, 2002, 12:22 PM: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

#2 Natalia


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Posted 06 March 2002 - 12:26 PM

p.s. - I hope that others, who attend Saturday's performance with a different cast -- which will be the official opening of the Mariinsky Festival -- will post comments. Perhaps I am being too harsh? Perhaps changes will be made (sure hope so)? I'll pass Saturday's opening & attend the Maly 'Esmeralda' instead. Back to the Mariinsky for Sunday night's Diaghilev mixed bill with my Bolshoi hero, Tsiskaridze, guesting as the Golden Slave. Da svidanya!

p.s.s. - I've had NO trouble whatsoever in obtaining Russian-priced tickets and making it through the door. I go by myself & (am told) have a decent local accent & wear the fur hat & all else. Maybe that's why. I know of other non-Russians who have had problems. I pay about 450 rubles for my tix (about $15 max) for great orchestra seats, row 7, or bel-etage front row. Nyet katastrofa.

[ March 06, 2002, 12:30 PM: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

#3 Juliet


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Posted 06 March 2002 - 12:29 PM

Oh my.

This sounds as if it would immediately qualify for a Balletalertnik field trip....although perhaps not for the reasons we usually like to attend performances. wink.gif

I feel really badly for the dancers. All that beauty, all that work, all that love for the art, and such a mess.

Perhaps I would feel differently were I to actually see it.....however....

#4 vrsfanatic


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Posted 06 March 2002 - 09:27 PM

Jeannie, what a evening it must have been. I guess it is one to see it is to believe it! Please keep the reviews coming good, bad or indifferent! Loving every word you write.

#5 Andrei


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Posted 06 March 2002 - 11:47 PM

Thank you, Jeannie. On Mariinsky website I read very short, but positive comments about this performance. Did you see previous version by Sergeev?

#6 Kevin Ng

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Posted 07 March 2002 - 05:44 AM

Jeannie, thanks for your review of the new Cinderella. I guess that I probably won't enjoy it much either when I see the second cast - Sologub and Matvienko - on Saturday. What a pity that the Kirov is to open the Maryinsky Festival on Sat. with this production.

[ March 10, 2002, 06:54 AM: Message edited by: Kevin Ng ]

#7 Natalia


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Posted 10 March 2002 - 07:14 AM

Andrei - I have seen the Sergeyev version on the video starring Komleva. It is superior to the new Ratmansky; even the 1995 Vinogradov version is superior in the designs/glamor factor, at least, and I was not a very big fan of the Vinogradov version with Cinderalla dancing in wooder clogs. But at least the Sergeyev & Vinogradov versions had a cohesiveness & 'basic vision' that is lacking in this mish-mash.

I definitely praise the performance of Vishneva on opening night, as well as Makhalina's stepmother & the two stepsisters. Unfortunately, they can only do so much to save this pedestrian choreography & CHEAP-TACKY sets & costumes. Worst of all is the lack of cohesive vision in every aspect of the creative powers, e.g., choreography, sets & costumes. It seems very much thrown together at the last minute. Really pathetic, IMO, for a highly-touted Mariinsky Festival opener.

#8 Kevin Ng

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Posted 10 March 2002 - 07:17 AM

This new production is certainly uneven in terms of choreography. The choreography for the corps de ballet is pedestrian. Unusual features of this production include casting the four seasons for male soloists, and having two dancing teachers instead of one. The fairy godmother is replaced by a fairy tramp. In the last act, in the Prince's journey round the world in search of Cinderella, there are two solos - the first beautifully danced with allure by Irina Golub leading a group of women who seem to be lesbians, and the second by the promising soloist Ivan Popov.

The best part of Alexei Ratmansky's new production are the pas de deux. Last night's cast - Natalia Sologub, and Denis Matvienko - was superlative. Sologub wasn't particularly convincing as the bullied sister in the first act, but she really blossomed in the ballroom act. Her initial solo before she met the Prince was beautifully danced. She was moving in the two pas de deux full of soaring lifts. In the pas de deux in the last act, Sologub danced the classical choreography with aplomb, the climax of which was a develope a la seconde which she did perfectly.

Her Prince was Denis Matvienko whom I had never seen before. This young charming blond dancer was a noble prince. His solo was impeccably danced - big grands jetes and double assembles en tournant.

In the audience I spotted the Bolshoi star Nikolai Tsiskaridze who is to dance in Scheherazade tonight, and the two Paris Opera stars Aurelie Dupont and Manuel Legris.

Kevin Ng,
Hotel Astoria,
St. Petersburg.

#9 Gloria


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Posted 06 April 2002 - 04:19 AM

All I can say is I hope this production is not for export .
Makes me wonder in what direction is the Kirov Ballet going?
I saw the Kirov dance it on tour to the USA in 1964 with
Alla Sizova and Yuri Soloviev with Gabriella Komleva and Natalia Makarova as the two sisters. It was pure magic.

#10 Alexandra


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Posted 06 April 2002 - 08:02 AM

Hi Gloria! Welcome to Ballet Alert! I hope you'll post often and tell us what you're seeing.

I think the Kirov is entering its Globalization phase, the down side of glasnost :cool:

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