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Kirov-Mariinksy Romeo & Juliet

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Well, did anyone go? What did you think of Fadayev & Obratzsova?

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I went last night. Yevgenia Obraztsova & Andrian Fadeev were the most perfect dancers I've ever seen essaying the roles of Juliet & Romeo. I loved Obraztsova's Juliet in London two years ago, opposite Kolb...but last night's pairing takes the cake. Two gorgeous young, blonde, totally-convincing "lovers"! The standing ovation at the end of the night said it all. Everyone in my group on the 2nd Tier was mesmerized. In fact, most of the soloists & the overall ensemble deserved a huge "WOW!!!"

There is so much to admire & absorb in this production. The Lavrovsky version is "total theater" replete with interesting little roles, from street urchins to tavern girls to, yes, five jesters. The Kirov ensemble brought these characters to life. My hat's off to each artist for taking us so convincingly to Renaissance Verona for three hours.

Negatives? It's a shame that (a) the orchestra had so many mishaps and (b) two significant sections of the ballet were excised, so that the curtain could ring down before 11 pm (thus avoiding overtime union pay, perhaps?). Missing were (1) a chunk of the 'crowd scene' in Act II, just after the entrance of the jesters (their little dance begins the moment that they appear on the scene) and (2) the delectable 'Dance of Juliet's Six Friends' in Act III, just before the discovery of Juliet's death (instead, we go straight to the little pdd for Juliet's Best Friend and the Troubador - the lovely Xenia Ostreikovskaya & gallant Mikhail Lobukhin last night). Those excised scenes were shown in London in '05, at the Met in '91 and whenever the ballet is performed at the Mariinsky, of course. Too bad that DC was denied a full Romeo & Juliet but...hey, what we saw was fantastic!

Now on to more mundane news: According to the playbill, there is even more shuffling in the principals casting for the rest of the run. Obraztsova now dances on Saturday afternoon (with Fadeev), in addition to the recently-added Sunday matinee, so she dances a total of three performances here in DC. Novikova now dances only twice (including tonight's debut) and Dumchenko twice. The Romeos have also been "shuffled" a bit. In sum:

Today (Wed, 17th) - Novikova (debut)/Kolb

Thur, 18th - Novikova/Schklyarov (debut)

Fri, 19th - Dumchenko/Lobukhin

Sat, 20th mat - Obraztsova/Fadeev

Sat, 20th eve - Dumchenko/Korsakov

Sun, 21st mat - Obraztsova/Kolb

Edited to add: A word about Yevgenia Obraztsova - She gets my vote for Kirov Ballerina of the New Generation -- the next Vishneva or Lopatkina, if you will. Not because she looks like those two great dancers at all; she is more petite and a bit 'perky.' Simply because Obraztsova has Star Power to the max -- the beauty of her plastique, coupled with a million-dollar smile that brings sunshine to the highest row of the Balcony, when warranted... or a countenance that causes tears when the action is sad. We the audience adore her & embrace her. The word "loveable" definitely comes to mind...just as it did decades ago when Mother Russia 'adopted' a ballerina named Galina Ulanova. Yevgenia Obraztsova -- the antidote to the unmusical leg-stretchers sans acting ability who appear on the Kirov stage more and more often. None of that here. :)

How lucky that we in DC are seeing the two new female sensations of Russian ballet within the span of one month -- the Kirov's Obraztsova now, followed by Natalia Osipova of the Bolshoi in February. Delicious comparisons should ensue.

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I went last night. Yevgenia Obraztsova & Andrian Fadeev were the most perfect dancers I've ever seen essaying the roles of Juliet & Romeo. ....Two gorgeous young, blonde, totally-convincing "lovers"!

Hello, I want to echo Natalia's post. I just LOVED it (I travelled from NYC to see them both). it was my first performance of Yevgenia, and I had seen Andrian several times.

THEY were so LOVABLE and great.

I can compare it (my personal opinion only) with the ABT's version with Diana Vishneva. and I prefer the KIROV's version. More teatrical, more gesture, more difficult (to my view) dancing...

in my mind, it will also be an Arabesk ballet... I am astounded by how many and how well Yevgenia performed them all (so naturally, so easily... trying to do amateur ballet classes, I know - how difficult they are!!!).

The only nuance (comparing to ABT Romeo & Juliet) it was a bit easier to distinguish who's Capulet and who's Montague in ABT (they just used two collors in the costumes)... but it's the only nuance (not a criticism).

Negatives? It's a shame that (a) the orchestra had so many mishaps and ..

Thank you Natalia, I thought there were noticible glitches (but then thought, who am I to judge... however, since it's not only me.... Another interesting thing about the orchestra, a girl from the audience pointed out that the scores the orchestra used, were signed in Russian on the cover - interesting... sorry it's off-topic.

There is so much to admire & absorb in this production. The Lavrovsky version is "total theater" replete with interesting little roles, from street urchins to tavern girls to, yes, five jesters. The Kirov ensemble brought these characters to life. My hat's off to each artist for taking us so convincingly to Renaissance Verona for three hours.

I loved it (and coming again on Friday and Saturday morning)

PS: I tried to reach Kennedy to figure out the discrepancy between their web-site and the brochure, and they confirmed that the latter is most accurate - well, I will miss Novikova but will see Ostrovskaya again ;-))

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I was there on opening night (Tuesday) as well to catch Fadeyev and Obraztsova – two lovely dancers who, through a single performance, have redefined for me the principal roles in this ballet.

This was my first viewing of the Lavrovsky version of “Romeo and Juliet” and although I must say that I still prefer the MacMillan (but perhaps that is simply thanks to force of habit), I think it (Lavrovsky’s) provides for an overall more complete theatrical experience. The sets and scenery are lavish and grand (I love that gold-and-maroon theme), the costumes are beautiful and quite detailed, and the action never stops (the set changes are accompanied by small vignettes downstage, in front of the drawn curtains).

The choreography was quite good as well, although the ballet drags in some of the ensemble scenes/dances (I’m surprised to learn from Natalia’s post that this production even has some significant cuts – perhaps I just have a short attention span, but three and a half hours already seems like quite a long running time for a ballet). The plot and character development is also muddled in some places; I suppose every one is familiar with the story, but it would have been helpful to introduce Paris and his importance (he simply appears at the Capulets’ ball – after he is shown to be one of the guests on his way – and starts to dance with Juliet for no apparent reason other than that she is pretty and a girl of some significance). It also took me some time to figure out who the troubadour and Juliet’s companion were and why they were included in the ballet at all, other than to give more dancers a chance to be featured.

Nonetheless, I think I agree with Natalia that Fadeyev and Obraztsova were the best Romeo and Juliet that I have ever seen (although my experience is mainly limited to ABT’s performances of the MacMillan choreography). Maybe it’s unfair to base this partly on the fact that they look incredibly believable as fourteen-year-olds in love (they are young and pretty and light-haired), but I must say that it helps! However, it is more important to note that both are very musical actor-dancers, with a deep understanding of their characters. Both are technically very accomplished, of course, but the emphasis of their dancing was always on maintaining and projecting the way in which their characters feel, not on cranking out virtuosos performances. I loved Fadeyev in the balcony pas de deux; his leaps were beautiful, light, and airy, but I never got the sense that he was showing off through them – they were simply the manifestation of the euphoria he felt at being with Juliet. Obraztsova was tender and passionate; the way in which she caressed Fadeyev’s hair as he knelt before her at the end of the first act revealed everything the audience needed to know about her feelings. Such a simple, simple act – yet so beautifully done!

I though the music was fine, but then again, I have some unpleasant memories from a year ago of the orchestra almost completely botching the same score when ABT performed the ballet here.

I have yet to buy tickets to any other performance, but as silly as this seems, I really don’t want to ruin my memories of the perfection that was Fadeyev and Obraztsova by seeing other dancers! And their next performance (Sat. matinee, I believe) is sold out…

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I have yet to buy tickets to any other performance, but as silly as this seems, I really don’t want to ruin my memories of the perfection that was Fadeyev and Obraztsova by seeing other dancers! And their next performance (Sat. matinee, I believe) is sold out…
I understand completely, but reading this, I thought immediately of Klavier's post on getting tickets to a sold-out performance. This was for NYCB, but I can't imagine it wouldn't work in most cities, and if you have the afternoon to spare, and back-up plans if you can't get a ticket, it may be worth a try.

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I understand completely, but reading this, I thought immediately of Klavier's post on getting tickets to a sold-out performance. This was for NYCB, but I can't imagine it wouldn't work in most cities, and if you have the afternoon to spare, and back-up plans if you can't get a ticket, it may be worth a try.

Probably not so easy at Kennedy Center, based on my experience there in reverse. I once tried to resell an extra, unused ticket there, and security chased me off -- and I mean OFF -- the entire landmass that surrounds the complex. Because most people arrive by vehicle, there was hardly any foot traffic, except those few folks who were grabbing a bite on the other side of F Street where, feeling somewhat out of context but unrealistically hopeful, I vainly held up my extra ticket for about 15 minutes.

You can find a map --> here and try to figure it out for yourself.

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I might have a chance with tickets that are returned at the last minute (I should really write “ticket,” since I don’t intend to get one for any one but myself) – I have had good luck with this on occasion at the KC. There is also the option of standing room, which the KC only sells if the performance is sold out. I’ve never done this (at the KC or anywhere else) – does any one know if I would be able to see anything at all? The ballet is long, but even seeing the balcony pas de deux again would be worth it…

Friends who’ve worked at the KC tell me it is illegal for people to buy or sell tickets on the premises because it is a federal building (there may be more to it, but I don’t remember the details). In any case, it doesn’t happen!

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What about the other dancers, who danced Tybalt, Mercutio and Paris and how did they do?

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What about the other dancers, who danced Tybalt, Mercutio and Paris and how did they do?

Mireille, those roles are danced by the same dancer at each performance:

Paris - Sergei Popov - tall & lanky elegant dancer; played the narcissistic twit subtly; partnered well

Tybalt - Dmitri Pukhachev - subtle approach compared to the Kirov's reigning master in this role, Ilya Kuznetsov....but still melodramatic enough. Fine dancer.

Mercutio - Alexander Sergeev - for me, the 'weakest link' among principal roles but not bad. Cast against type - tall & lanky dancer, not at all in the petite, demi-caractere mold of the Kirov's best (Leonid Sarafanov, who brings houses down in this role) or other great Mercutios of the past. Lacking the zip, dash & wit of a Mercutio. After a promising start to his career a couple of years ago -- fine Espada in Don Q at the '05 Mariinsky Festival, for ex -- I've seen Sergeev become weaker, technically. But not bad, overall. I hope that he goes back to form of his graduation & first year in corps.

***

I hope that someone can write about the Novikova performances (yesterday & today), as I won't attend any of these. My 2nd and final ticket is to Friday's performance (Dumchenko/Lobukhin, unless they change).

***

The KennCen website has now changed the casting to reflect what's in the playbills (what I wrote above, yesterday). No changes since I saw the playbill on opening night! :) Also, I see that all three weekend performances are now sold out.

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Now that tonight's performance is close to selling out (a few seats in back-Orch & row D of 2nd tier remain) & the Sat/Sun ones are sold out, here is a reminder of the KennCen's standing room procedures:

Standing Room tickets for presentations in the Opera House, Eisenhower Theater and Terrace Theater will be sold at the Kennedy Center Box Office and by phone (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324 when a performance sells out, but only if it is sold out. There is a limit of two tickets per order.

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Due to my ardent desire to see Obraztsova and Fadeyev again, I bought a standing room ticket this morning to the Saturday matinee. It cost me $25 plus handling fee, which is more than standing room at the Met (at least for operas)! I’ve never done this before and don’t know anyone who has, but I’m going to give it a try… The ballet is long, but I’m young and my legs can handle it, right? Good training for trying to get myself back into ballet class, maybe.

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Good for you, ZB1! If I weren't working I'd do the same. Do let us know about your experiences. :lol:

***

I went to last night's (Friday) performance with Maya Dumchenko as Juliet and Mikhail Lobukhin as Romeo. While the overall level of performance was several notches below that of the incredible Tuesday opener with Obraztsova/Fadeev, it still afforded many special moments.

Let me preface that it has long been my wish to see the much-heralded (in Russia) Juliet of Ms Dumchenko, who is the very last Juliet to have been personally coached by Galina Ulanova, who created role in 1940! Portions of the ca-1996 session in which Ulanova coached Dumchenko & (I think) Andrian Fadeev in their Act I 'meeting scene' appeared on the Russia Kultura network at the time & remains vividly in my mind. At that time, Maya Dumchenko was considered practically the 'equal' of a fellow graduate of the Vaganova Class of 1995, Diana Vishneva. It was Dumchenko -- with Fadeev, another '95 grad -- who had taken top honors at the 1995 Vaganova Prix competition. She was considered the epitome of classicism with her perfect proportions (short torso to long legs), eloquent ribbon-like arms and tappering fingers, tiny round head atop swanlike neck, and an angelic 'light' face & sparkling clear eyes that somewhat resembled those of Bolshoi ballerina Lyudmilla Semenyaka. A jury-panel that included (if memory serves...I was there) Irina Kolpakova, Natalia Makarova, Marina Semyonova, Galina Ulanova & Natalia Dudinskaya -- the who's who of Kirov ballerinas of the 20th Century, all sitting right beneath my box as I drooled in admiration! -- they all agreed that top prize at the competition would go to Maya Dumchenko. We the audience stood up & cheered. The world was her oyster.

Since then, Maya Dumchenko's career has been uneven. She became an honored soloist...not quite principal. She has danced most great roles in the ballerina repertoire....yet is rarely taken on tours. Odd. One memorable exception was the 1999 tour to NYC when Dumchenko got to shine as Giselle. Dumchenko was announced for the 2003 Tchaikovsky Festival in DC (Chemyakin Nutcracker) but performances were shuffled & I missed what was to have been her lone performance. [Does anyone know if she actually danced in DC that season?] The 'rara avis' was allowed to fly once again in the April 2005 Kirov tour of 'Romeo & Juliet' to Cardiff, Wales...only to be kept home during the far more prestigious tour to London a couple of months later, when other ballerinas essayed the role of Juliet.

So you can imagine my expectation at seeing Dumchenko last night -- and in her most celebrated role! So what of it? I was not disappointed, even though her interpretation is so different than the dramatic realism & technical perfection of Obraztsova. Dumchenko's is, rather, a beautiful 'painterly' approach. She is low on realistic dramatic wattage -- her bedroom monologue before taking the poison displayed soft hand movements rather than the bold sweeps of arms of Obraztsova -- but Dumchenko gets her point across with glances and subtle moves. Her ribbonlike arms and tapering fingers enchant us.

Dumchenko improved, technically, from act to act, until her Act III became one of the finest interpretations I've seen. Her back is not particularly strong so she does not hold 90-degree arabesques as does Obraztsova...but it hardly matters in a painterly performance. I am only sorry that I will not attend her 2nd performance of the role tonight. She is scheduled to have a stronger, more experienced Romeo (Anton Korsakov), so it should be a better performance overall. I hope that others can report on it.

In a few respects, last night's performance was better than Tuesday's:

Troubador Couple - Yana Selina is technical perfection as Juliet's Best Friend, making one wish to see her essay the leading role some day! Likewise, young Maxim Zyuzin, with his baby-like face and elegant long lines, was a charmer of a Troubador.

Alexander Sergeev's Mercutio was much improved, compared to the opening night. Last night, Sergeev displayed a far more appropriate jovial-yet-menacing character of Mercutio...and he danced his big Act I Ballroom scene solo cleanly.

The corps, as always, is a delight. Special kudos to Galina Rakhmanova as the central Tavern Girl, who always demands our attention with classically-perfect character dancing. She is one of the Kirov's golden treasures.

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Thanks for the review, Natalia. Great that you had a chance to see Maya Dumchenko in the role again. When I saw her back in 1997 she was already a stunningly good Juliet and had more to say in it than many others. At that point she was for my money one of the most interesting newcomers in the company, also remembering her ravishing performances as Giselle and Aurora. Shame, and odd indeed, she got sidelined so early.

She danced the role first with Andris Liepa (not Fadeyev) and it's those pieces of film you saw, when Galina Ulanova was around to assist them. To say that she was Dumchenko's coach for the role would be pushing it a bit, since she rehearsed it with her regular teacher Olga Chenchikova. But of course the mere presence of Ulanova was a very special moment for the budding dancer.

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Thanks for the reminders about the 1996 sessions with Ulanova. I remembered that it was a blonde guy partnering Dumchenko! I also remember the wonderful moment when Ulanova asked Dumchenko to step aside so that she (Ulanova) could demonstrate the famous moment when Romeo first lifts Juliet onto his shoulders, his back to audience while Juliet faces us. Yes, the 85- (or so) year-old grande dame of Soviet ballet was lifted high by Liepa, beautifully demonstating the movements of Juliet, for Dumchenko to learn. Imagine!

I consider myself so fortunate to have seen Dumchenko's performance last night. I hope that we don't have to wait forever to see her again on these shores!

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I went to the Sat night performance with Dumchenko/Korsakov and the Sunday matinee with Obraztsova and Kolb.

The production as a whole was very different from the MacMillan version I grew up with. For starters the music sounded very different - gentler, more episodic than the way I’m used to hearing it. I thought the staging followed suit - a gentler view of the story, perhaps seen through a wider lens. Though MacMillan's focuses more on the gritty side of Verona it’s focus is clearly on Romeo & Juliet and once they meet we’re all swept up in a vortex that leads inexorably to the inevitable tragedy - there can be no other path. Lavrovsky’s is more pastoral, it meanders more, brings out the country life of Verona where the story of R&J could have been just one of many tales until it takes it’s tragic turn. It’s also much more of a dance -drama than I’m used to, and the story is told within a somewhat formal ritualistic structure rather than the naturalistic structure I’m used to. For example, the motif of Old Capulet shaking his fist in the air encapsulates the image of power in a symbolic gesture, and shows us his state of mind without actually making us feel it. The use of this type of pantomime throughout undercut the drama a little for me, and I found the performance dragging a bit here and there. Also - what’s a balcony scene without a balcony? As beautiful as the scene was, there was something missing (literally).

Dumchenko was lovely, a really beautiful dancer. She looked to be perfectly proportioned, every movement performed with delicacy and her character built with great subtlety, very much within the representative structure of this production. I hope to see more of her in the future. Korsakov is a dancer I’ve liked very much in soloist roles, and I liked him again here. He has a baby face, and was a very ardent, love struck Romeo who was in way over his head. His solo dancing was superb but I think he was not quite tall enough to partner Dumchenko in this. Although I didn’t see any obvious mishaps some of the overhead lifts looked strained, and they certainly didn’t have the ease and flow that I saw in the second performance. And I have to admit that while I loved watching Dumchenko, Korsakov and the whole company in this, the performance didn’t really move me.

Obraztsova & Kolb were a completely different story. While I regret missing the Obraztsova/Fadeev cast, and take the word of the posters here that they were phenomenal, I really can’t imagine anyone being more perfect together than Obraztsova & Kolb were on Sunday afternoon. Kolb is a dancer I didn’t warm to immediately. Always a beautiful and elegant dancer I have found his acting a bit lacking in the past. Not here. He WAS Romeo. His line was beautiful & evocative, his leaps high and clean and his acting utterly convincing. He was a very passionate Romeo, and his devastation when he heard of Juliet’s death was shattering. He leapt into the graveyard with the most startlingly beautiful jetes I’ve ever seen, and could barely bring himself to look at her “corpse”.

And Obraztsova - what can I say? She was perfect. Sara Kaufman’s review in the Washington Post says it all “Leaps and turns flew out of her, yet she didn’t fudge a step”. It really did look like the music, the emotion just poured out of her. What phrasing & musicality, a perfect blend of dancing & acting that all looked completely spontaneous and was totally convincing. The arabesque was Juliet’s signature move, and hers were breathtaking. I know that there is no comparison between the two but somehow, in my mind knowing that there is this great new Juliet out there will make it just a little easier for me to say goodbye to Ferri’s Juliet later this year.

The whole company looked wonderful, and while I’m sorry to have missed Sarafanov & Kuznetsov I thought the dancers we saw as Mercutio & Tybalt were very good. Loved Selina/Lobukhin and also Ostreikovskaya/Zyuzin. The Kirov is so deep in female dancers and for me, Elena Bazhenova is one of their unsung heroines. I think I’ve seen her in every production I’ve seen from them in the past few years - as the queen mother in Swan Lake, the queen in Sleeping Beauty, Bathilde in Giselle and now as Lady Capulet. She is incomparable in this type of role.

I'm glad I got the chance to see this production, and hope to see these wonderful dancers again soon!

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Thank you so much Natalya for your reviews and insights :) ! I too have often wondered why Maya has been sidelined. And now it's 12 years since her graduation. I for one am ecstatic that she was included on this tour! I wish I were there! Bravos to both Zhenya Obratzova and Maya Dumchenko :):lol::)!

As far as I can remember, Maya last set foot on American soil during the July 1999 Met engagement. I also recall that she was flawless as Fairy Coulante in the 1890 "Beauty," featured at that time. The fact that we're trying to figure out when she was last showcased here or anywhere outside St. P. is incredible in itself. I truly wish she had been one of the featured Auroras during the Fall 2005 U.S. tour when they brought the Sergeyev "Beauty." That tour needed her Aurora :mellow:. One thing truly puzzles me. You recalled that Dumchenko was considered, "practically the 'equal' " of Vishneva? Practically? IMHO Dumchenko is more than Vishneva's equal; she's superior, particulary in the academic technique department. That's a debate for another thread.

This may be politically incorrect, but I'm going to say it. The fact that Maya still labors in the soloist rank, while younger rhythm-less gymnasts are promoted at the Maryinsky, is mindboggling to me. The fact that the illustrious panel, whose names you listed, were floored by Maya speaks volumes, and amplifies this discrepancy. Not that competition medals or prizes are the be-all or end-all of a successful career; it certainly helps puts one on the radar-screen. But I think that Dumchenko's career chronicle could have, should have been very different than the hand she's been dealt. For better or worse the evaluation panel, past and present is the box office; cash is king. And it's this altar at which the Vazievs worship. And if that means fielding expressionless youngsters that favor 6 o'clock extensions over true St. Petersburg classicism and artistry, so be it.

IMO this 'policy' is probably one of, if not, the primary reason why certain "name" dancers with elastic-girl capabilities, have been promoted over dancers like Maya - and dancers such as Tarasova and Zhelonkina, (both of whom are still soloists). Even Pavlenko, (who is employed as little as possible - even as the youngest female Principal Dancer), has to wait for long intervals, in some cases years to revisit a role. An example of this, would be her most recent St. Petersburg "Giselle" in September 2006: Only her second performance of this role at home on the Maryinsky stage on Sept. 22, and her sixth in her 11 year career). Six performances in 11 years; two at home - the first being her debut in 2001, and the second - 5 years later. That's inexplicable.

There are a few others of like gifts and temperament, who like the above, are fighting like generals without an army just for one opportunity to take center stage at home and on prestigious tours. Opportunities that rarely come, if ever. Apparently, in the Maryinsky Ballet of 2007 if one doesn't have the support of Management, while certain trendy "aesthetic" values are promoted over traditional values, your career will be stifled. The $1 Billion Question is what is now considered traditional in the Maryinsky - and what does this mean for it's future? That's a topic for another thread too.

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As far as I can remember, Maya last set foot on American soil during the July 1999 Met engagement.

She danced Fee Fleur de Farine (Wheat Flour) in Sleeping Beauty at the Kennedy Center in February 2002. I remember seeing her dance the final performance of the run, but according to the program she was scheduled to dance all five performances.

Thanks, Cygnet, for your heartfelt written appreciation of Dumchenko, and thanks everyone else for your raves and reviews. I attended the Saturday matinee, and I've never seen dancing lovelier than Obraztsova's.

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