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8th International Ballet Festival, Mariinsky Theatre, Mar 13-23performance reviews


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#1 chiapuris

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 11:03 PM

Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg
8th International Ballet Festival
13 March 2008

The festival opened with The Glass Heart, a world premiere of a two-act ballet with music of Alexander von Zemlinsky and choreography by Kirill Simonov.

Zemlinsky was a composer of romantic music in the post-romantic era of Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, for whom time has not been kind as it has for the other two. If I've understood this right, Zemlinsky wrote this work as a two-act ballet.

The work has some kind of story line and I also heard it is based on a literary work of 1902.

Unfortunately, the festival printed no programs in English for opening night.

Since I'll be seeing the same work the second evening I may have more on program notes later.

The cast of dancers was exceptional. The lead role of Alma was danced by Yekaterina Kondaurova with astounding technical fluency, an energetic intensity, and a vibrant personality.

Her partners in a love triangle, mavbe better said, a love-hate triangle, were the authoritative Maxim Zyuzin and the multi-faceted Islom Baimuradov.

There is much misogynistic physical battering of Alma in the first act, a choice the choreographer presents to us for his own reasons, that I find off-putting and artistically crude.

Another leading pair, perhaps embodying 'pure love', were Yana Selina and Anton Pimonov, an exceptional partner in double work. The two made a radiant pair, their movements clean and soaring.

A soloist in divertissements of the second act, was Svetlana Ivanova, an elegant and pure dancer, who deserves to be seen more.

I'll comment on the second act divertissements after tomorrow's performance.

The choreography of Kyrill Simonov belongs, in my view, to the 'Frenetic School of Dancing' (with thanks to Tobi Tobias for the expression).

Glass Heart is Frenetic School of Dancing meets Romantic Music.
There are no winners.

The only other choreography of Simonov I've seen was the 2003 Nutcracker, a production V. Gergiev promoted for the designs provided by the comtemporary
Russian-French-American sculptor and artist, Mikhail Chemiakin. While Chemiakin's designs and costumes were interesting, Simonov's Nutcracker choreography seemed wrong-headed.

His Glass Heart appears to me to be derivative, convoluted, and for all that, rather bare of image accumulation, and bare of even hints of meaning, or structure, or anything else. But frenetic.

The less said about the costumes, and the sets, and the lighting, the better.

At least until tomorrow,

Michail Agrest conducted.

#2 chiapuris

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 12:50 AM

St. Petersburg March 14

The second night repeated the 1 hr and 35 min. ballet The Glass Heart.

All announcements as well as the souvenir program promised a different cast for the second night. Instead, the first night cast repeated their parts, except for the couple (the one I referred to as the 'pure love' couple) which was danced by Nadezhda Gonchar and Alexei Nedviga, as listed in the programs.

The lead part of Alma had been listed (even in the March 14 program) as Alina Somova. Instead, Kondaurova danced without any cast change announcement.
Ms. Kondaurova was indeed very good in the part, and her strong performance made the whole thing watchable.
But I found this omission of announcing the cast change curious and inconsiderate of the audience on the management's part.
[Weird thought: does this mean Somova has a Swan Lake coming up?]

Buying the souvenir program cleared up some facts:

---Zemlinsky's music for the ballet is (basically) his Symphony in B Flat for the first act, and his Three Ballet Pieces for Orchestra for the second act -(not a composed ballet in two acts as I wrote yesterday).

---the libretto for the ballet is Kirill Simonov's own based on some motifs from Hugo von Hoffmanstahl's The Triumph of Time of 1901.
This seems to involve Gustav Mahler and his wife Alma, and the composer Alexander Zemlinsky in some kind of amatory triangle. Since the acts of the ballet are presented as dreams of Alexander, there is no conflict with historical facts, since we all know that dreams are surreal….etc.

Still, it's worth noting the characters in the cast are presented as
Gustav, a rich and powerful nobleman
Alma, his wife
Alexander, a poor poet in love with Alma
The Duke's gardener (Triton)
The gardener's wife (Nymph)
Hours

Corps de ballet: Courtiers, heart fragments, roses

Everything clear now?

---the costume designs are by Stefanija von Grawock [who seems to have an inordinate fondness for sequins and long satin, crayon-colored gloves]

---the light design is by Ryan Schmidt [with all the latest in trend setting]

---set design is by Emil Kapilyush [with a fondness for Giacometti sculptures]

One interesting fact I failed to mention about the choreography is that the first act, which is essentially a number of scenes that set up and tell the story, has all the women on pointe.

The second act, which seems more like a set of divertissements, perhaps dictated by the nature of the music, is danced by everyone in bare feet.
The stage is covered by some kind of fibrous carpet for the second act;
the carpet is fairly colorless save for three large white asymmetrical spots.

Perhaps further reading of program note would clarify WHERE the second act
takes place, and account for the bare feet. Otherwise, the need for bare feet remains unclear. The steps of the choreography are not notably different in style or kind between the two acts. The conceptual reason for the shift remains, at least to me, mysterious.

My impression of Simonov's choreography remains unchanged after second viewing.


(Edited to delete one sentence that misidentified cast character 3/16/08)

#3 bhammatt

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 03:37 AM

Thanks for keeping us posted. I'll be watching for your insight and veiws of the Swan Lake performances.

#4 chiapuris

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 01:47 AM

March 15, 2008
Swan Lake
Ballet in three acts, four scenes.
Odette-Odile Diana Vishneva
Siegfried Igor Kolb
Rothbart Ilya Kuznetsov
Jester Grigory Popov

Tonight began the series of six Swan Lakes, a rather novel arrangement for a festival, which generally presents a concentration of acclaimed ballets and performers and perhaps some world premieres in a limited time frame.

The Swan Lake sextet will uniformly show the version current in the Mariinsky company: Konstantin Sergeyev's 1950 version of the Marius Petipa/Lev Ivanov 1895 version via Agrippina Vaganova's 1933 amendments (in which Konstantin Sergeyev starred). Whether the K. Sergeyev version is the most authentic of the current versions of Swan Lake seen internationally can be argued. It is, at least for me, the most finely tuned, the most satisfactory and complete in terms of full production values. Its downside is that it keeps the happy ending originating in and dictated by the Soviet era of Russian history.

The only novelty will be found in the performance/interpretation of the principals. Three are dancers of the Mariinsky (in order of appearance): Diana Vishneva, Victoria Tereshkina, and Uliana Lopatkina. Three are invited guests: Gillian Murphy (of ABT), Maria Alexandrova (of the Bolshoi) andTamara Rojo (of the Royal Ballet).

Tonight's Swan Lake featured Diana Vishneva (phonetically vishnyova) and Igor Kolb. Earlier cast announcements had Herve Moreau in the role of Siegfried.
Ms Vishneva triumphed in the double role.

But let me start with the first scene, first act. Never have I enjoyed as much the Swan Lake first scene as this evening. I have seen the K. Sergeyev version twice before. This time the costumes seemed fresher, the décor more harmonious, and the dancers of the ensemble so pleasing and radiant; their performance left nothing to be desired. (This makes me look forward to the five repeats).

Mr Kolb delineated the character of Siegfried clearly and danced handsomely.

The cast of the pas de trois was outstanding. Vasily Shcherbakov showed extraordinary ballon in his aerial work and impeccable landings. He partnered Nadezhda Gonchar and Elisaveta Cheprasova gallantly. I was particularly taken with Cheprasova's beats and her charming demeanor and winning smile throughout the dance.

The second scene of the first act, the lake scene, introduced Ms Vishneva's magic.

Her magic is, in my view, the unfurling of the choreographic patterns and steps, not as a sequence of preparation and motion and pose, but as a continuous ribbon of dance, flowing on the musical pulse, animated by breath,
and propelled forward by the inevitability of purpose.

This unfurling ribbon, all of one piece, began with her entrance and continued through the pas de deux and variation, until the last pose.

Mr Kolb was a noble partner in demeanor and double work.

The second act is enriched by the Spanish, Neapolitan, Hungarian and Mazurka character dances adding textures and rhythms to the court proceedings before the main event of the presentation of Odile. The K. Sergeyev version, it seems to me, has preserved particularly elegant versions of these dances- which are significant parts of 19th c. three-act ballets.

Ms Vishneva's Odile seemed a creature totally different from the driven Odette.
Odile, though a magical creature in the story, is very much goal-oriented, out there to accomplish a task: pique the interest of Siegfried. From the showy, 'look what I can do' fouettes (two singles, a double, until the last eight singles nicely finished), to the come-hither glances and the 'not so fast, mister' arm gestures, she accomplished her goal neatly and efficiently.

Vishneva was received with thunderous applause and had mounds of flower bouquets and literally endless curtain calls. Vishneva fans were out in droves. An enjoyable evening.

#5 chiapuris

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Posted 17 March 2008 - 01:02 AM

16 March 2008
Mariinsky Theatre
Swan Lake
Odette / Odile Gillian Murphy
Siegfried Andrian Fadeyev
Rothbart Ilya Kuznetsov
Jester Grigory Popov

Gillian Murphy made a dazzling debut at the Mariinsky.

As Odette, she danced with an impeccable technical purity. From her entrance, she commanded the stage by virtue of the clarity of the path she traced in the execution of the choreography. Blessed with a supple back, she seemed to honor the plastique of the Ivanov choreography in its own home, the Mariinsky.

Looking stunningly beautiful in her ABT tutu (recognizable by the red stones set vertically in the midriff), she quickly established a mood of queenly concern for her subject swan-women with the little mime scene with Siegfried, when she asks him not to harm them.

The partnership with Andrian Fadeyev was altogether felicitous. They made a handsome couple. The supported pirouettes were so cleanly done that they became emotional expressions of passion rather than mere physical feats of coordination. The tempo of the second scene, conducted tonight by Pavel Bubelnikov, seemed somewhat slower than the previous evening's Mikhail
Sinkevich reading. The dancers met the challenge, or perhaps choice, in grand style. Fadeyev's double work was solicitous and altogether exemplary.

There was a moment of great tenderness spelled out gently, when Odette lowering Siegfried's arm raised in pledging a vow of eternal love, brings it down and places her head on his shoulder in physical intimacy.

In Odette's variation, the fast series of retires passes releve and batterie could have used an accelerated and accelerating tempo for more effectiveness. One assumes this was conductor's choice.

Ms Murphy has a great sense of balance. Toward the end of the lake scene she stood poised on her pointes, queenly, without a quiver, a second or two extending into eternity. A great moment.

The characterization of Odile presented by Ms Murphy relies, it seems to me, not on acting out the ways of seduction, but on dancing out what she feels attracts Siegfried to Odette. Thus, she dances, not coquettishly, but with the best style in her power.

Her variation was well nigh perfect. The triple pirouettes followed by double attitude turns en dehors, then repeated, were breathtaking. The double a la seconde turns en dedans were models of classical purity.

Fadeyev, in his variation and throughout, was a model Siegfried, impetuous, spontaneous, youthful. His jumps were eloquent with the qualities mentioned, which is to say, a joy to watch.

The Mariinsky production has a dramatic lighting change in the midst of the Odile sequence, when the lights are extinguished from all but the couple. The lights return for the coda and finale.

The coda again gave a chance for Siegfried to show his prowess and for Odile
to highlight her capabilities. Her fouettes showed her in carefree style doing single, single, double with the arms en couronne every other double, and finishing with eight singles.

A debut at the Mariinsky is a great honor. Congratulations to Gillian Murphy for her wonderful performance!

The audience seemed to receive Ms Murphy with rapt attention, and rewarded her with thunderous applause and many curtain calls.

#6 Natalia

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Posted 17 March 2008 - 12:54 PM

I see that the Murphy/Fadeev performance highlights are already on YouTube! Search with the two words Mariinsky Murphy and it should appear. Great job on those 32 fouettes 'though the port de bras is somewhat iffy.

#7 Ostrich

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Posted 18 March 2008 - 11:50 AM

Very interesting, thank you! Actually I love the way she brings her arms up into fifth on her fouettes.

#8 chiapuris

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Posted 19 March 2008 - 01:46 AM

Mariinsky Theatre
18 March 2008
Swan Lake

Odette/Odile Maria Alexandrova
Siegfried Danila Korsuntsev
Rothbart Ilya Kuznetsov
Jester Grigory Popov

Maria Alexandrova is a dancer capable of revelatory moments, when the stage proceedings are illumined with meaning expressed through movement and dance. I have highly enjoyed her dancing in other works -including Grigorovitch's version of Swan Lake- where I found her spontaneity in movement and her intensity of movement rewarding.

She had revelatory moments tonight, two such being, the first arabesque she took after her initial appearance as Odette, a dazzling arabesque, and another the fouette sequence of the coda in the Odile Grand Pas.

In between there were sequences that appeared, at least to me, understated.

As Odette, in the lake scene, the partnership with Danila Korsuntsev worked out well in terms of physical appearance and double work. Story-wise, there didn't seem to be much of an emotional connection between them.

Korsuntsev, a noble partner, has a gestural language suggesting rhetorical sources, as his first act demonstrates, rather than a deep well of emotional needs to fulfill.

The pas de deux was beautifully clean but lacking an urgency of gesture and, on Odette's part, a fuller expression of plasticity of movement.

Her variation ran into some trouble in a sequence of pirouettes that could have had something to do with spacing rather than execution.

There was vibrancy and sparkle in the retire passés, entre-chat quatre series, which the conductor Pavel Bubelnikov directed at a faster tempo than the previous evening.

The Odile variation, it seems to me, needs to be, as a requirement of the story, a bravura display. Ms Alexandrova's variation was somewhat underpowered to give that effect. The double pirouette-single attitude turn sequence followed by renverses that, in my view, appeared sketched rather than fully danced out, were lovely, but lacked passion.

Ms Alexandrova came into her own with the fouette series, where, in a care-free and confident mood, she started with a sequence, repeated four times, of two singles followed by an attitude-en-avant turn with arms in 5th open (3rd Vag) and a sequence of 16 singles with a clean finish.

As an extra, in the finale diagonal of developpe-into-arabesque series she added after each arabesque a pas de chat(?) with first leg stretched out -a crowd pleasing sequence.

In other casting, the character dances of the 2nd act, and the pas de trois of the 1st act, 1st scene, have been performed by the same dancers all three Swan Lakes (with one dancer changing in the pas de trois). Tonight, the glamorous Ekaterina Kondaurova replaced a dancer in the Big Swan quartet.

So far I have failed to mention the Jester. The role has been danced all three nights by the very talented Grigory Popov. Gifted with buoyant ballon, he is a natural turner in the air and on the ground, has a sure sense of mime, and a wonderfully expressive face. His dancing etches the most delightful designs on stage.

#9 Rosa

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Posted 19 March 2008 - 03:56 AM

chiapuris, thank you so much for your lengthy, thoughtful reviews. They have been a pleasure to read. :thumbsup:

Thanks for the heads up, Natalia, about the highlights on YouTube. I saw there are also videos of the Kolb/Vishneva Swan Lake.

#10 Ostrich

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Posted 19 March 2008 - 07:44 AM

Is it usual for the supporting cast to be largely the same night after night? Surely someone else would deserve a turn and I can't imagine that the Mariinsky has only one cast worthy of dancing in the Festival...

BTW Alexandrova and Korsuntsev have also made it onto YouTube by now.

#11 chiapuris

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Posted 19 March 2008 - 11:39 PM

It's a good question, Ostrich.

It seems there's a few changes, such as the male in the pas de trois change after three performances (in this case Fillip Stepin (Styopin).
Or a big or little swan substitute.
I noticed in the Spanish Dance last night there were two debuts. I'll try to report any changes.

#12 chiapuris

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Posted 20 March 2008 - 05:41 AM

19 March 2008
Mariinsky Ballet Festival
Swan Lake
Odette/Odile Victoria Tereshkina
Siegfried Angel Corella
Rothbart Ilya Kuznetsov
Jester Grigory Popov

Tonight, Victoria Tereshkina danced, in my view, the most completely realized
choreographic portraits of Odette and Odile that have been seen at this festival.
Ms Tereshkina accomplished this with an economy of means, the fulfillment of every demand of Ivanov's choreographic design, and a finely pitched musical sensitivity.

Angel Corella's portrait of Siegfried personified youth- a thirst for life, energy,
impetuosity, a search for love, and to boot, top-rate dancing.

Together, the pair created a synergy, which seemed to extend its effects to the performance of the whole company.

In the lake scene, there were moments in the pas de deux when time seemed to slow down- so clear and articulate were the partnered poses and movements of Tereshkina and Corella. This exemplifies what I mean by 'economy of means' when the dancer exhibits the choreographic design and shows everything given to perform in the completest sense of the word, within the frame of the musical platform.

Tereshkina's 'plastique' was completely at the service of the Ivanov choreography. All her poses carried the design of the fully arched back to its fullest realization in her attitudes and arabesques, both in the solo and the supported work.

The quality of her dancing is diamantine, needing no embellishments.

My companion and I both noticed a nicety of phrasing seldom seen. In the second sequence of Odette's variation, there is a short phrase of a sissone en avant, pas de couru ending in 4th front en fondu, followed by a developpe en arriere ending in arabesque with the back fully arched and the arms thrown back;
most dancers try to stretch out this moment with rubato phrasing. Ms Tereshkina had the leg back in 5th position, the point of origin, on the 4th count.
Classic purity creating transcendence.

Her Odile followed this same path, that is, of trusting the choreography to tell the story. Her smiles throughout the scene were directed at Siegfried, never the audience. The pas de deux and the two variations maintained a very high standard of dancing. Corella's running on stage was notable for its attack and uninhibited abandonment- creating by itself a portrait of an impetuous youth.
Tereshkina's fouette sequence was almost impeccable.
This was an evening of great classical dancing.

I have not so far mentioned the Rothbart of Ilya Kuznetsov, who has appeared in all four Swan Lakes so far. He makes a menacing figure as the ballet's villain; most of his choreography consists of split-in-the-air leaps rather than high-arching grand jetes en avant, all of it executed in excellent style.

The pas de trois of the 1st scene had a new member tonight, Filipp Stepin (Styopin). I believe he is in the corps de ballet, a young man bursting with potential. Wonderful demi-plie, great beats, handsome figure.

Grigor Popov gave the best of his performances tonight. But then, it seemed to me, so did everyone else in the company.

Tereshkina and Corella received a very warm reception from the audience.
Mikhail Sinkevich conducted with verve and distinction.

#13 carbro

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Posted 20 March 2008 - 11:22 AM

I want to add my thanks to those who already expressed theirs.

Little details like these:

  • In the lake scene, there were moments in the pas de deux when time seemed to slow down- so clear and articulate were the partnered poses and movements of Tereshkina and Corella. This exemplifies what I mean by 'economy of means' when the dancer exhibits the choreographic design and shows everything given to perform in the completest sense of the word, within the frame of the musical platform.
  • Ms Tereshkina had the leg back in 5th position, the point of origin, on the 4th count. Classic purity creating transcendence.

put us in your seat.

#14 Rosa

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Posted 20 March 2008 - 05:43 PM

I never realized before how different, unique each performance of the the same ballet production can be. Watching the clips of the International Ballet Festival's Swan Lakes the last two days, I've been amazed how each cast has left their own touch on the ballet, no one performance exactly the same; not regarding changes in choreography, per se, but style, little details, reacting to one's partner, etc. It has been especially fascinating comparing the clips of the Black Swan coda and the Act III finale.

#15 chiapuris

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 12:51 AM

20 March 2008
8th Mariinsky Festival
Swan Lake
Odette/Odile Tamara Rojo
Siegfried Igor Kolb
Rothbart Ilya Kuznetsov
Jester Grigory Popov

Ms Rojo, the fifth of the festival Swan Queens, harkens as a physical type to an earlier balletic era, when, a woman of five feet eight inches would have been considered too tall to dance in a classical company. In the contemporary era of balletic 'basketball squads', Ms Rojo, like another principal at the Royal Ballet -Alina Cojocaru, broaden the physical aesthetics of the classical dancer to include the woman of small stature. Such dancers also remind us that physical stature has little to say of artistic accomplishment.

In this, my first view of Ms Rojo in any role, I found her to be a dancer of greatly focused intensity.

Odette, in the lake scene, proceeded with sequences of mesmerizing interest. Particularly notable are her arabesque lines and her exquisite extended balances.

The pas de deux with Igor Kolb, who repeated his role first performed at the festival on the 15th, seemed to me a very successful match. His strong protective presence complemented her character's vulnerability, at once soft, fragile and precise.

Her variation unfolded slowly, but with sequences of compelling urgency.

In the Odile sequences, Ms Rojo looked simply beautiful, of face and of demeanor.
Her enchantment of Siegfried proceeded as planned strategems. In the pas de deux, Kolb's portrayal of Siegfried's fascination with Odile was clearly drawn.
Her variation created phrases of increasing complexity, like a spider's web, with which to draw in the victim.

But then came the coda with its fouette sequence. The beautiful Odile revealed herself, in another strategem, as a whirlwind of passion. Rojo unleashed a series of two singles followed by a triple fouette, over and over again until the whole series of thirty-two were completed with a secure finish. A truly exciting technical display.

When I asked my companion what she thought of the performance, she said:
“Her slow work was spectacular, her fast work was spectacular, her pirouettes were spectacular”.

The only new casting in tonight's performance, that I noted, was
Alexei TImofeyev in the pas de trois of the first scene.

Pavel Bubelnikov conducted.


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