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GWTW

Spartacus at the Mann Center/Philadelphia

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The Bolshoi will be dancing Spartacus in Philadelphia on August 2 and 3. Does any one know the casting for this? The Mann Center's website just lists two dancers for each role.

It would be nice to know who I'm going to see in return for the arm and the leg I had to pay... :dry:

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THEY ARE expensive--

Good luck with hte star casting --

but the thing to remember is how amazingly good the orchestra is, just BLAZINGLY good, and the incredible quality of the corps.....

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The main casting last night was:

Spartacus: Yury Klevtsov

Crassus: Vladimir Neporozny

Phrygia: Anna Antonicheva

Aegina: Maria Allash (tonight's Aegina is Maria Alexandrova)

If I had to describe the performance in one word, it would be overwhelming. Everything is huge - the story, the steps, the score, the dancers, the length. "More is more" certainly was the motto behind this ballet - which is strange, considering that it's a protest against the excesses of the capitalist... oops Roman world.

Another aspect which I found interesting - and not what I'd expected - is the very stylised dancing and acting. For instance, the fight scenes are very stylised and unrealistic compared to say MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet, which dates from about same time.

The dancers were excellent - from high-up in the balcony where I was sitting, there were no problems with the one-handed lifts or any of the other pyrotechnics. Neporozny could have done with more elevation, some of his leaps seemed quite low. Actually, the dancers seemed to be quite restrained - Spartacus can obviously become a Vegas show and it wasn't like that at all. The courtesans were courtesans, not hookers. The ballet itself could do with editing, it is very long and some scenes, mainly the 'crowd scenes' in the second act, really dragged.

My enjoyment was definitely dampened (pun intended) though by the physical experience of sitting in the Mann Center in over 90 degrees heat with 80% humidity and no cooling system whatsoever. Open-air theatres that I've been to in the past have been ones left behind by "the military machine of Imperial Rome" after they were done "waging a cruel campaign of conquest" and then forcing those "doomed to slavery" (to quote from the program notes) to build them amphitheatres. Roman amphitheatres are made of stone, not wood, so they don't retain heat and they don't have roofs, so you can feel the evening breeze and enjoy yourself at night even if day-time temperatures are 110 degrees. The Mann Center is completely covered - is this usual for an 'open air' venue in the US? - and there weren't even some ceiling fans to get the air moving. At least, the dancers didn't have to worry about warming-up... :devil:

Fun cross-cultural fact: I haven't heard or seen so many Russians since the last time I was in Israel. It's funny to feel at home hearing a foreign language!!

Fun historical fact (c/o my husband): the failed communist revolution in Post-WW1 Germany was called the Spartacus Revolution.

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The Mann Center is completely covered - is this usual for an 'open air' venue in the US?

Both Wolf Trap's Filene Center in Virginia and the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail, Colorado have roofs over the seats, but not over the lawns.

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Responding in accord with GWTW's experience--not about the dancing but the physical space in which it occured. Last night was my first visit to the Mann. Good for them for presenting the Bolshoi and its excellent orchestra! Yet many people who live in Philly have never been there and don't know much about it--the Mann has a curiously low profile in the city's cultural life. I was surprised at how large it was (it must seat almost 5K) and what a spectacular urban setting it occupies. Like soooooo much in Philly, however, there's a lot of *unrealized* potential here. It's a very user-unfriendly place--poor signage, untrained ushers--very confusing for newcomers. There's a very "thrown together" feeling to the facility, unlike the other great outdoor venues like Ravinia, Wolftrap, etc. And it sits in its neighborhood like a gated fortress, even though it's in a public park. I get the sense that they focus on repeat attendees rather than developing new audieces.

And the heat: I'm not sure if fans would've helped last night's heat--the roof covering the seats is so high (the facility has an unroofed lawn too, btw). The dancers were drenched! Also, the stage must've been very dirty--bottoms of shoes were black by evening's end. Made me wonder, as I often do in Philly performances, how concerend the presenter is with keeping the dancing spaces clean (this was even a problem when the Kimmel Center opened--the stage was visibly filthy during an early Mark Morris performance).

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