Natalia

Flames of Paris

29 posts in this topic

I'm opening this up for latest-news and reviews of the highly-anticipated premiere of Ratmansky's version of Vainonen/Asafiev's The Flames of Paris.

The Bolshoi website has announced detailed casting for the initial run, although we still do not know who will dance the big opener on July 3. Hmmmm, let me guess...Osipova/Vasiliev? Special Surprise: Ludmilla Semenyaka as Marie-Antoinette!

http://www.bolshoi.ru/en/season/ballet/pre...nact26=role#dyn

The above link also takes one to a synopsis of the 2008 version, which appears to be condensed, all in two acts. The Vainonen original had at least three -- maybe four -- acts. Also, some of the names of the characters are different. Judging by the successes of Corsaire and Bright Stream, I would tend to trust Ratmansky & Company's decisions on tightening the synopsis and eliminating/rethinking a character or two. :lol:

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Natalia, I'm surprised that Zakarova doesn't seem to be participating in this new production.

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I don't really see Zakharova being able to pull off a role, characteristically, like Jeanne.

Alexandrova and Osipova are probably a more natural Jeanne.

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Vladislav Lantratov is a new name to me, do you have any information about him Natalia?

I'm surprised Yan Godovsky isn't cast as Philippe, I saw him dance the F of P pas de deux with Osipova in Nottingham and on the basis of how well he danced then, I would have thought him a dead cert for the role in the new production.

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All I know about Lantratov is that he is a corps de ballet member who graduated just a year or two ago. He is another hot-shot like Ivan Vasiliev.

Godovsky is now in the slightly-older-than-Vasiliev/Lantratov category!

After posting yesterday's intro, I went home to read my Russian books about the original Flames in 1932. I read the original scenario (FOUR acts) compared to Ratmansky-Burlaka's 2008 version with two acts. LOTS has changed in an effort to tighten the story for 2008 audiences:

(a) I am a bit saddened that the great female-character role of Therese (debuted by the incomparable Nina Anissimova) no longer exists. This is the main 'angry woman' in the famous Danse Basque; it would have been a tour de force for the current Bolshoi 'character prima,' Yuliana Malkhasiants...this was the single moment to which I was looking forward in this revival - to see Malkhasiants doing the Basque Dance. According to the new scenario the 'main characters' Jeanne/Jerome/Phillippe (the youngters) will perform the Basque Dance...which is a huge let-down and change in the historical tone of that dance. At least 'Therese' and the original Basque Dance will live on in the 1950s condensed film of the original ballet!

(b) Ratmansky-Burlaka have, in turn, invented a 2nd 'young pretty girl' role (Adeline) for a soubrette-ballerina (Kaptsova, Goriacheva, etc. in this role), to create a 'partner' for Jeanne's brother, Jerome, who did not have a girlfriend in the original ballet. So the new ballet has, in essence, THREE roles for top-ballerinas: Jeanne (virtuoso ballerinas Osipova, Alexandrova, etc. - dancing the most famous pdd); Mireille the actress (sr ballerinas Gracheva, Stepanenko, etc. dancing the somewhat-famous pdd in white-powdered wigs); and this new girl Adeline (shortish soubrettes Goriacheva, Kaptsova, etc. - perhaps a newly-invented pdd to give 'pdd opportunity' to the character Jerome, danced by Merkuriev, Godovsky, etc.)?

Let's see what transpires.

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After posting yesterday's intro, I went home to read my Russian books about the original Flames in 1932. I read the original scenario (FOUR acts) compared to Ratmansky-Burlaka's 2008 version with two acts.

I'm not surprised they're doing this. A true, full-length ballet is an expensive thing to do (Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty is pushing the limits of a long, classical ballet), and I'm not surprised the Bolshoi is redoing The Flames of Paris to cut down on production costs. After all, Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet's "authentic" version (the 1900 Marius Petipa version) of La Bayadere with all its acts restored is very expensive to perform and I believe they rarely do it nowadays. Mind you, I'd love to see an "authentic" version of Flames of Paris done in the future, though. :dry:

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I'm interested in the political aspects of this ballet, especially the way it portrayed the lower classes of Paris and a glimpse, at least, of violent revolution. I haven't seen the entire ballet, but the isolated bits of video I've seen seem to focus on "character" elements or big dance numbers and to ignore the politicala context. On the other hand, I'ver read that the storming of the Tuileries created a great sensation when the ballet was premiered in 1932.

Most of the works of art about the French Revolution that survive on the big stages of the world -- Andrea Chernier, Dialogues des Carmelites -- convey a deeply anti-revolutionary message. I wonder how the Stalin regime responded to Flame of Paris' positive presentation of an popular, irresistible and violent (thought good-natured) uprising? How will contemporary Russia -- a country in which billionaires and law-and-order types have great influence -- respond? Will the new version tone down the political events? According to Natalia's report, it certainly seems to be multiplying the love interest.

This 1953 film of "character dances" (mentioned by Natalia) contains a fascinating contrast between a free and joyful Farandole danced in the strees and a constrained and elegant Sarabande danced at court.

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I don't think Ratmansky/Burlaka are condensing their Flames of Paris purely for economical reasons. Their main concern is to present a ballet which is dramatically digestible for a 2008 audience and can be covered by the company they have. That's why their Flames of Paris is not an "authentic reconstruction" but a revival of an old ballet including those elements that they think will make sense to a public of today. In this respect last year's Corsaire (which wasn't a reconstruction either, but nonetheless ran in its premiere version over 3 hours 45) has been a lesson: all one could hear was that the ballet was "too long".

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The "Character dances" on youtube are just fabulous--I wish they COULD revive that!

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I don't think Ratmansky/Burlaka are condensing their Flames of Paris purely for economical reasons. Their main concern is to present a ballet which is dramatically digestible for a 2008 audience and can be covered by the company they have. That's why their Flames of Paris is not an "authentic reconstruction" but a revival of an old ballet including those elements that they think will make sense to a public of today. In this respect last year's Corsaire (which wasn't a reconstruction either, but nonetheless ran in its premiere version over 3 hours 45) has been a lesson: all one could hear was that the ballet was "too long".

Thanks for this, marc. However, it still does not explain why Therese was excised and her very famous Basque Dance ( a foot-stomping character dance) is being re-done for the classical principals!!! Not that Osipova & co. aren't capable of doing it but...if ever Yuliana Malkhasiants was born to dance a specific dance, it's the old Basque Danse!

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In my Glory of the Bolshoi DVD, the clip ofMusa Gottlieb and Vajtang Chaboukiani from Flames is SO fast that i could almost suspect the soviets of speeding it up!

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In my Glory of the Bolshoi DVD, the clip ofMusa Gottlieb and Vajtang Chaboukiani from Flames is SO fast that i could almost suspect the soviets of speeding it up!

I suspect this, and many other Soviet ballet clips from before 1980s, look very fast because the original material was probably shot at 24 frames per second (which is the film standard) and then, much later (during 1980s or 1990s) transferred to the 25-frame-per-second video (25 frames per second is used, I believe, in PAL and SECAM video standards). If this is indeed the case, one would expect each second of the original material to flash by in only 0.96 seconds in the videos---a speedup of 4%. The pitch of the sound would be correspondingly higher, as well: by slightly less than one half-tone---a small but quite noticeable difference.

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I see that YouTube already has the 'new-old' Basques Dance online! Just search with the words Flames Paris Basques to see a 7-minute segment of Ratmansky and dancers presenting this portion of the ballet on the stage of the New Bolshoi Theater two days ago (Thurs, June 26). Ratmansky has retained parts of Vainonen's dance for the old 'Therese' character (now danced by Jeanne-Osipova) and mixed it with all-new steps for the new 'young couple' Jerome/Adeleide (the latter danced by Nina Kaptsova in this rehearsal). It begins fine, then goes 'lite.' It is terrible to see light-classical dancers mimicking folk-characters...especially tiny Osipova trying to stomp around as if she were Yuliana Malkhasiants. Weak tea, compared to true character dancing!!!

Osipova's slight presence, especially when dancing between her two male partners, totally changes the spirit of Vainonen's original dance. Osipova tries hard...but it's simply not true Russian character dancing.

Edited to add: I would bet that the taller, 'weightier' presence of Maria Alexandrova -- another Jeanne in the run, not seen in this rehearsal -- may be able to tackle the essence of the Basque Dance better than Osipova.

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Ilya, most people on this board are in NTSC countries where film is converted to video by slowing it down the teensiest bit, then doing on it a 2:3 pulldown. So for them at least the 4% pal speedup is not an issue. Also, Chabukiani is doing his manege about 20% faster than what would be considered normal today.

A few years ago I asked the same question here at BT, and the final concensus then was that yes, they were really that fast (or at least faster in some respects than most dancers of today)

A shame about the Basque dance... that was my favorite part of the old film

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It has to be a real speed. If taking a look, let's say, at the Dudinskaya/Sergueiev "Black Swan PDD" from the Glory of Kirov, one can see that everything goes at a normal tempo-(Adagio and variations)-until Dudinskaya stumps in her surrealistic fast series of pique turns at the coda, which are way faster than those we're accustomed to see nowadays.

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Natalia, don't take so hard on dancers yet, it's still just rehearsal.

Interesting was Ratmansky's explanation that he gave this dance to principals because is so powerful choreography and he is looking for the ultimate dancer who has to be good in every style of dance. Ratmansky didn't change anything in the first and the last part, he said he brought famous Kirov's character dancer Irina Gensler to stage it. Unfortunately, the second part, which he changed, looks like a piece from another ballet.

Ilya, this difficult to belive, but yes, they danced so fast. My teacher was Bregvadze( slightly younger then Dudinskaya and Chabukiani) and occasionally he showed how men should do chainee turns. We were ashamed :wub:

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Casting for specific performances is now up. Alexandrova/Vochkov get Thursday's opening night, July 3. Osipova/Vasiliev for the 2nd & 5th/final performances. Schipulina/Vochkov get Saturday's matinee (3rd perf.), while Meskova & 'mystery man' Lantratov get Sat. night (4th perf).

Semenyaka performs Marie Antoinette in the 1st, 2nd & 5th performances.

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Mark, but how was the performance?!

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Merci Marc! I hope they bring this production abroad very soon! We're all eager to see it.

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Thanks for the wonderful photos.

Like Andrei, I would enjoy hearing about the performances, too!

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In a nutshell, the main virtue of Alexei Ratmansky's production of "Flames of Paris" is that he allows us to see another of these old, mostly forgotten ballets, which form an essential part of the Russian and Soviet legacy, with 21st-century eyes. Ratmansky himself calls it a dialogue with Vainonen's original production, and that's basically what he brings us : it shows a definite admiration for the original work, its surviving choreography, mise-en-scène, and music, but also a questioning and reinterpreting by somebody living today. In this respect Ratmansky's work from the last four or five years at the Bolshoi (thinking of "Bright Stream", "Bolt", "Le Corsaire" etc) is comparable to Valery Gergiev's at the Mariinsky ten or fifteen years ago when he brought new life to all these forgotten Russian opera's by Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev, etc.

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Bits of the premiere with Maria Alexandrova have appeared on Youtube. I'll give the links for the Danse Basque (the well-known pas de deux is also online):

, and
. Nina Kaptsova is Adeline.

I actually think she did quite well here, but then I know absolutely nothing about Russian character dance.. :unsure:

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Bits of the premiere with Maria Alexandrova have appeared on Youtube. I'll give the links for the Danse Basque (the well-known pas de deux is also online):
, and
. Nina Kaptsova is Adeline.

That was fast to be posted online. :) They must have used a modern tapeless digital camcorder--very good sound quality.

It will be interesting to see when will it premiere on a Bolshoi tour of the West.

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