Bolshoi at ROH London 8-01-06 to 8-10-06reviews
Posted 02 August 2006 - 04:33 AM
Aspicia Svetlana Lunkina
Lord Wilson/ Taor Ruslan Skvortsov
John Bull/Passiphonte Denis Medvedev
Ramze Anastasia Yatsenko
Fisherman Yuri Baronov
His Wife Ekaterina Shipulina
1st Var. Pas d’action Daria Gurevich
2nd Var. Nina Kaptsova
1st male Var. Yan Godovsky
2nd male Var. Viacheslav Lopatin
River Guadalquivir Ekaterina Krysanova
River Congo Anna Nikulina
River Neva Elena Andrienko
The Pharaoh Alexei Loparevich
Ruler of the Nile Georgy Geraskin
Caryatids Viktoria Osipova
A Monkey Alexander Pshenitsyn
Black Slave Alexander Petukhov
The second night performance of the Pharaoh’s Daughter in London was a most enjoyable evening, with, in my view,
a wonderful, well-balanced cast.
Lunkina and Skvortsov are well-matched physically; artistically they don’t seem the types to spell out high-intensity emotional ardor in dance and mime. That is fine by me.
I viewed the entire cast as sharing an ideal of classicism as artistic pursuit; which is to say, that all the principals and soloists and corps comprised a finely-tuned ensemble expressing ideals of classical dance.
In the first dancing scene, hunting the lion, the hunting female and male ensembles spell over and over again the notion of synchronicity as art.
It works too.
Yatsenko as Ramze has an energy and precision that makes her every movement interesting. (I just wish Ramze’s wig was more becoming. It is so….expansive).
Lacotte’s choreography has considerable petit batterie for the principals and soloists, some of it, moreover, with arms in bras bas position.
They recollect Bournonville combinations. Lunkina and Skvortsov looked charming in these sections. Both the principals shone for me as classicists by heeding one of the earliest classical dictums, ‘Nothing in excess’.
The Act II pdd was beautifully rendered, save for loss of Lunkina’s verticality at the end of spinning multiple supported pirouettes. It happened twice. The luminosity of Lunkina’s arabesques, supported or not, is outstanding. So spontaneous and evanescent.
Lunkina’s unsupported pirouettes were faultless. In one act she started a series of fouettes and added doubles and a flawless triple in the middle. (Once is enough!)
My companion thought that Skvortsov’s variation could have used more of the ‘bombastic’. I found it expressive by its measured and contained force.
The fishing village scene was led by the incomparable Ekaterina Shipulina and Yuri Baranov (whose biography was not listed in the ‘big’ program; anyone [Inga?] have information about him?) as the hosts. Their ‘Bournonville look’ dancing, as well as that of the ensemble’s echoing their steps, on the clearing by their hut, creates a delicate scale that contrasts with the gigantism of the pharaonic living quarters.
Denis Medvedev was excellent in his demi-caractere variation at the fishing village.
In this section, too, Lunkina and Skvortsov had brilliant little steps ending in the academic fifth position
(5th position as origin and destination); neat and harking back to an earlier mode of academic dance.
The underwater river Nile scene is altogether a well-conceived dance interlude. The three river variations are showpieces. (All Lacotte? Some Petipa?) Ekaterina Krysanova (still listed as corps de ballet) filled the stage during her Guadalquivir variation with her joy in dancing. What a rare talent she has! Anna Nikulina (also not listed in the ‘big’ program) was elegant as the river Congo. Elena Andrienko was delightful in the river Neva variation.
The variation of Lunkina was a poem of melancholy as she longed to return on land to Taor. The supported adage with the four male waterbeings was beautifully coordinated and seemed flowingly at one with the acqueous element.
The final adage in the palace, of Aspicia in long white gown and Taor was filled with seemless dancing.
The last large ensemble piece, with hand cymbals, had complex design and was performed by the Bolshoi company with whirlwind intensity. Very striking.
In sum, an elegant performance by a brilliant cast.
Pavel Klinichev made the Pugni score sound rich and refined.
Posted 02 August 2006 - 11:34 AM
.Lunkina and Skvortsov are well-matched physically; artistically they don’t seem the types to spell out high-intensity emotional ardor in dance and mime. That is fine by me.
I viewed the entire cast as sharing an ideal of classicism as artistic pursuit; which is to say, that all the principals and soloists and corps comprised a finely-tuned ensemble expressing ideals of classical dance.
Hi, chiapuris. Thanks for another excellent review. I'm very glad to hear that you are 'enjoying' the performances. This could be ultimately what it's all about.
I saw Svetlana Lunkina's Pharoah's Daughter in NYC and I felt somewhat the same way. I also saw her Swan Lake in England and interestingly, for me, she had very 'intense expression', both for Odette and Odillle. Ive seen her four times and I can't quite figure it out. It could be personal choice, coaching...? Her dancing by the way in the last two adagios, as you mentioned, is some of the finest dancing that I have ever seen!
You also call attention to the intricate dance steps, etc. I read an interesting discussion once, reminding us, that Marius Petipa had just arrived from France when he choreographed this ballet. Pierre Lacotte may well be reflecting this. Also from what I've read there is very little of Marius Petipa's actual choreography in this ballet. This is openly acknowledged by Lacotte. Ramze's toe tapping sequence is one of the very few original step sequences used.
I'm glad that you liked Elena Andrienko. She is a totally 'personal' favorite of mine in this ballet because of her "delightful" fairy-like lighter than air dancing. A lot of what you have described can be seen on the Pharoah's Daughter DVD featuring Svetlana Zakhavova and Segei Filin.
I am very interested in Natalia Osipova's version this afternoon. If I can find anything quotable here I will try and pass it on.
Posted 03 August 2006 - 11:17 AM
Lunkina was actually the most emotional and moving of the three ladies who danced Aspicia. Her mime was very human and specific. For example in the grand pas in the second act in the palace throne room after being affianced to the King of Nubia: Aspicia is being partnered by Ta-Hor and Lunkina projected an intense sadness that Zakharova and Alexandrova didn't bother with. You suddenly realized that Aspicia was realizing that this was her last moment of contact with Ta-Hor and that fate would separate them. She realized she would be unhappy without him and that motivated her flight with him at the end of the act.
Little touches like that separate the artist from the talented dancer. Luckily after a "Bright Stream" performance in that same run, Ratmansky came onstage at the curtain call to announce her promotion to First Principal. It was richly deserved and quite overdue.
Posted 07 August 2006 - 03:29 AM
Odette/Odile Maria Alexandrova
Siegfried Sergei Filin
The Evil Genius Dmitri Belogolovtsev
The Princess Mother Maria Volodina
The Tutor Alexei Loparevich
The Fool Yan Godovsky
The Prince’s Friends Elena Andrienko
Master of Ceremonies Alexander Fadeyechev
Hungarian Princess Nelly Kobakhidze
Russian Anna Rebetskaya
Spanish Natalia Osipova
Neapolitan Nina Kaptsova
Polish Ekaterina Shipulina
Maria Alexandrova created an exceptional, unique Odette/Odile. Intensely musical, she makes transparent the phrases, and sentences, and paragraphs of the Ivanov choreography by focusing on clean dancing. As a musically intense dancer, she keeps the viewer interested in every second of her allocated time on stage by the way she incorporates the space around her as part of the dance design. I found it a deeply moving performance.
As Odette, she was expressive by strength of conviction, using no mime to fill the elements of the story (a Grigorovich emendation). Employing only the movements of the classical vocabulary, without resource to body language, ‘me’ ‘you’ ‘afraid’, or 19th c. ballet conventions ‘I’ ‘heart’ ‘you’, the meaning of the dance was communicated.
Her face as Odette remained a mirror reflecting the textures and tensions of the dance, without once falling into the ‘trap’ of acting. This I found unique about her Odette portrait.
As Odile, the eyes flirted, the lips invited, the mouth smiled, and the body beckoned.
There was no mistaking this for anything but a dance of seduction. The language of classicism found a true adherent in her coda of fouettes; she started out with three fouettes, then a pirouette en dehors attitude en avant, repeated the pattern four times, then fouettes en suite at an increasingly faster tempo until the end which signalled- not a technical bravura passage- but a declaration of unstinted love. Astonishing.
I felt it a privilege to view this performance.
Sergei Filin was a worthy partner with his virtues of princely demeanor, handsome looks, and energy in bravura. (Although in his first variation he had trouble with his two, single-pirouette en dehors en premiere arabesque).
He didn’t seem to me to respond in any way, large or subtle, after meeting Odette
that looked different from his behaviour towards the women who were presented to him as potential brides. (They seemed to lead him into a state of melancholy). His zest in dancing and his comely appearance give him authenticity, but I didn’t ‘get’ his reaction to finding his ideal love. Perhaps I missed his reactions, since I was really concentrating on Alexandrova.
Belogolovtsev as Rothbart (renamed The Evil Genius by Grigorovich) was a convincing anti-hero, with his own face visible for a change (instead of a mask or heavy makeup). More about the part when I write on Grigorovich’s choreography.
The pas de trois –in the 1st act- is danced by Siegfried and ‘two friends’, Andrienko and Krysanova. This is a delightful divertissement (if I recall correctly not usually danced by Siegfried).
The elegant Andrienko and the joyous Krysanova showed the strength of the Bolshoi company in the soloist ranks. Krysanova, to me an exceptional dancer, covered the ROH stage with her fast-as-light pas de courus and her joie de vivre.
In the second act (Grig.: 1st act, 2nd scene) the Three (large) Swans, Kobakhidze, Grebenshchikova, and V. Osipova, as well as the Four (little) Swans, Pavlova, Kurkova, Stashkevich, and Alizade confirmed the strength of the demi-soloist ranks of the company. Particularly outstanding is Chinara Alizade with her clean line.
In the third act (Grig.: 2nd act, 1st scene) the national dances have been transformed into variations for the foreign brides-to-be.
All of them are in white gowns, each with her own ensemble dressed in ethnically flavoured costumes, but all in pointe shoes. (Grigorovic emendation: no mime, no character or demi-caractere dancing).
Kobakhidze as the Hungarian princess showed her elegant and attenuated line. The choreography seemed repetitive. Rebetskaya of the beautiful smile, was a bright performer but again the transliteration of the group dances into solos (even with background ensembles) doesn’t work very well. N. Osipova dazzled with her initial grands sauts, but the musical time usually allocated to two couples, wasn’t well-filled for the solo, even with the ensemble sections.
The choreography of all the ensembles behind the princesses did not create enough interest as pure dance.
Kaptsova as the Neapolitan princess was absolutely captivating as a performer, although her allocated choreography was not, in my view, top notch. Shipulina as the Polish princess brought the magic of her dancing to the mazurka, which is usually reserved for large-scale group. Her cabrioles were nevertheless dashing. What riches of talent! What gorgeous dancing!
The Grigorovich ending of the work seems incomprehensible.
(More on the choreography in a later post).
Posted 07 August 2006 - 08:16 AM
Grigorovich’s concept of Swan Lake is a puzzle. The present version premiered in March 2001. In the London program Grigorovich writes, in a choreographer’s note,:
“My version of Swan lake was first produced….during the 1969-70 season…The basic principles of my approach have remained as originally conceived”. He further adds that his new scenario moves the ballet…”from the genre of fairy-tale to that of a romantic novella”.
Essentially this means that the good-evil dichotomy of the original story is thrown out–where maidens are turned into swans by an evil sorcerer- and instead, we have an Evil Genius who represents (directs?) the inner psychological life of the prince. The evil genius is also the destiny of the Prince.
What we’re left with, then, is that the prince is the only real character in the ballet; all the other protagonists are figments of his imagination fired by his evil genius (read destiny). It is destiny, in Grigorovich’s words, …”imperiously luring Siegfried.. to the world of ideal love”.
My problem is this: how can an evil destiny lead to ideal love? In a fairy-tale we have the yin and yang of good and evil: good maidens turned into swans by evil sorcerer.
In Grigorovich’s words we have the Evil Genius suggesting (introducing) pure, ideal love. Are we ahead of the fairy-tale game of constant struggle between opposing forces? Can pure come out of evil?
Analyzing the premise further, who then is Odette? Who are the swans of Ivanov?
Phantoms of …nothing? The premise seems to be a path to nihilism.
Grigorovich writes further in the London program: …”I retained Tchaikovsky’s structure but divided my ballet into two acts with only one interval. [The one interval idea is good] Each of the acts is made up of scenes that alternate between real life and an ideal fantasy world. There are virtually no time barriers between these two worlds; they interchange and flow into each other, mirroring not only a general state of human consciousness but, more specifically, that of the ballet’s hero, Prince Siegfried”.
No wonder you have the mirror-dancing of Siegfried in white and the Evil Genius in black (before the lake scene). It’s the hero and his consciousness. But why is the genius evil? Can any good ever come out of evil?
No wonder, at the end of the 4th act, Siegfried stands helpless downstage and the genius, upstage, picks up Odette and drops her—end of story.
As a conceptual basis for a ballet scenario this makes no sense.
As a basis for an apologia for a life lived, it makes some sense: ‘The devil made me do it’.
Posted 07 August 2006 - 10:44 PM
Her face as Odette remained a mirror reflecting the textures and tensions of the dance
This might be the same thing that I saw in Daria Pavlenko's Giselle in DC. (What a wonderful performance that was in retrospect.) Also this might be what Ulyana Lopatkina is doing with her Swan Lake. In addition when I watch Galina Ulanova's Swan Lake pdd video performance with Konstantin Sergeyev, she seems to be in her own wonderful universe. They may all be expressing the music, or the world of dance itself, or... This all refers to dancers possibly transcending the actual story and reaching for something beyond.
Very fine review by the way.
As I mentioned in my April review, I found Maria Alexandrova to be the Most Loveable "Odile" that I could imagine.
Clement Crisp seems to agree with you about Chinara Alizade. I guess that this is another new name to keep our eyes on, along with Natalia Osipova, who got some very favorable comments on the internet for her Odette/Odile.
Here is some of Clement Crisp's very nice review of the Swan Lake performance with Svetlana Zakharova. (I've also watched her new Giselle video several times. What an incredibly beautiful dancer she is!----Wow!)
"This eighth wonder of the world first saw the light of day in Moscow in 1877...The impeccable ranks of swans move as one, and are marvellous. The soloists invest their choreography with an unfailing authority – Natalia Osipova a shining example as the Spanish Princess in the ballroom scene; a cygnet (Chinara Alizade) with ravishing feet. Its focus was the Siegfried of Ruslan Skvortsov, handsome, presenting the role and the dance through broad, weighted brushstrokes, and obsessed by Svetlana Zakharova’s Odette/Odile. Here is a ballerina of exceptional gifts. The rituals of the choreography are shown as fine-boned, exquisitely linear, drawn with an unerring and Ingres-like skill. I found her Odette wonderful in technical exposition...Her Odile...Beautiful, smiling, serene..."
[Added later by Buddy. Natalia Osipova danced Aspicia in The Pharoah's Daughter and not Odette/Odile.]
Posted 08 August 2006 - 02:43 AM
I would not have the same ultimate praise.
Alexandrova is a great pure dancer. It was wonderful to watch her Odette, but I have often been more moved by dancers who are, perhaps, technically less perfect. The way I saw it (we were in the 6th row from the stage) her face was practically immobile throughout the entire first white scene. (Grigorovich' Swan Lake is a two-act ballet.) I think it is both a personal choice and a matter of Grigorovich' scenario (Odette is supposed to be a figment of Siegfried's fantasy) that there was so little dramatic expression, but this did make for a rather sterile first half, entirely focused on exquisite dancing.
A real problem was however the total lack of dramatic chemistry between Alexandrova and Filin. Filin is just a dancer who loves to dance and enchant the audience. Period. He was really most expressive during the curtain calls. There was never any sense during the very slow white PDD that he was a despondent prince awestruck by this otherworldly being. He was just partnering a great dancer. I'm not complaining at this level of dancing, but in the best performances there is great imagination added to wonderful, musical dancing, and this didn't happen in the first half of this Swan Lake.
Without Odette's constipated look Alexandrova's Odile was much more expansive. The audience went crazy during the fouettees, though I couldn't help but notice there was quite a bit of travelling, and of course there are some infelicitous Grigorovich cuts and changes in the Black Swan PDD.
What's really good about Grigorovich's Swan Lake is the suite of dances by the various bride-to-be princesses. Instead of filling the stage with a couple dozen corps members stomping away at the mazurka, etc, each national dance is dedicated to a princess and her retinue introducing herself to the prince and the queen. There's a lot of Raymonda in the wonderful Hungarian (hand behind the head) and Russian variations (real hand claps), and they were blissfully danced by Nelly Kobakhidze and Anna Rebetskaya. The last, Polish variation was by Ekaterina Shipulina.
This suite of dances really is a ray, no, a huge beam of light in this otherwise rather murky conception of Swan Lake, with the Evil Genius following Siegfried around and all the gloomy blacks and browns.
The funny thing is when you say Bolshoi you think of extraverted dramatic dancing, and apart from the brides-to-be and part of the Black Swan PDD what I saw was a very introverted type of dancing. At no point was I ever reminded Swan Lake is a ballet about life and death, desire and betrayal. It was mostly about exquisite dancing.
The corps was great. I don't think I have ever sat through an entire Swan Lake without seeing the slightest inperfection whatsoever. These girls really have got their act together. The orchestra was great, conducted by Pavel Sorokin, (and they'd played the exact same music in the afternoon, too, and the previous nights). There were a couple of moments when I did like Balanchine said, just closing my eyes enjoying the music.
Posted 08 August 2006 - 05:00 AM
The Storyteller Viktor Barykin
Cinderella Svetlana Zakharova
The Prince Sergei Filin
Stepmother Maria Volodina
Stepsisters Anastasia Vinokur
Dancing Master Gennady Yanin
Spring Elena Andrienko
Summer Anastasia Kurkova
Autumn Natalia Osipova
Winter Nelly Kobakhidze
Ravens Arsen Karakozov, Alexei Matrakhov, Sergei Minakov,
Blue Angel Anna Rebetskaya
Opera Diva Daria Vorokhobko
This performance was my only chance to see Svetlana Zakharova in London. I had stood in line for 4 hours one afternoon in case of return tickets for her Swan Lake, to no avail.
Possokhov’s Cinderella premiered in February 2006. It is a fairly new role for Zakharova. What it revealed to me was the breadth of her range. She looked radiant, of course, but she looked like she does in no other role.
Modest, with a curiosity about her world around her, and moving from the very center of her being, she moved as if she were inventing the means for impetus right on the very spot. Every gesture belonged appropriately to Cinderella, not to a ballerina showing off her wares. I found it a very convincing portrait of a fairy-tale innocent.
She is a dazzling talent and artist.
Possokhov can be credited for providing choreography for adequately fueling the protagonist’s performance. The overall assessment of the choreographic design, in my first view, is that it leaves an impression of blandness. (I reserve the right to change my mind).
The variations of the seasons in the first act are quirky, fresh, and seemed at one with the music. Outstanding were N. Osipova with her buoyant leaps and her impressive ballon, and Andrienko with her concise line and energy.
The ensemble dances of the ballroom scene had all the steps you would expect to see in them, and, yet, there is something in the ballroom music of Prokofiev that so far choreographers have failed to capture.
I also thought that Sandra Woodall’s 1930’s ballroom dresses were bland.
Zakharova makes all frocks glamorous.
The third act had for me the least successful integration of choreography to the musical platform. The Marlene Dietrich and Maria Callas ‘skits’ seemed pointless.
And I just didn’t ‘get’ the five ponies. (Seemed OK for Broadway).
I am grateful to Possokhov for creating a vehicle for an evening with Zakharova.
Posted 08 August 2006 - 11:19 AM
The way I saw it (we were in the 6th row from the stage) her face was practically immobile throughout the entire first white scene. (
What a small world Herman. We were sitting in the 4th row center from the stage.
We saw the same immobility in Alexandrova's face. I just happened to like it a lot, because her dancing became and remained so expressive throughout the lake scene. Chacun a son gout.
Posted 08 August 2006 - 11:47 AM
We met a Ballet Talk friend in the interval. So that makes three...
Aren't those stalls just to die for? It's such an intimate theatre, really.
I think some kind of eye contact is really desirable. But in a way I have no problem with M.A.'s Odette. These were her intentions (surely she thought longer about them than I did) and she fullfilled them to the max. I just think Filin fell short of complementing them and making it a truly great show.
Posted 08 August 2006 - 02:33 PM
Posted 08 August 2006 - 05:41 PM
A slight mega-error on my part. Natalia Osipova danced Aspicia in The Pharoah's Daughter and not Odette-Odile.
Posted 08 August 2006 - 11:26 PM
Eh, Buddy? Fifty years ago was at the height of the Cold War when great artists and troupes rarely ever ventured out of the USSR.
These days, with the theatres under reconstruction both the Bolshoi and the K-Mariinsky are essentially touring companies. As it happens both the Bolshoi and the K-M are in London now.
So if you miss a show, you can be pretty sure you'll have another opportunity next year.
Posted 09 August 2006 - 11:46 AM
I have no disagreement at all with you about the Prince of the performance. And wrote about it too.
Especially since for Grigorovich he is the only real protagonist of the ballet.
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