Can anyone explain to me who saw the performance, what Alistair MaCaulay meant in his review when he wrote, " In Act II the Cleopatra-like Ekaterina Kondaurova (Queen of the Dryads) was, as an artist, more nearly stale than I have ever seen her. " Is it a typo? If not what does he mean?
Kondaurova is an exotic beauty, "Cleopatra-like" with red hair and a cat-like, mysterious, sensual face, but sometimes she does not exude the strongest overall presence/personality with her dancing. I found her to be more mysterious and beautiful to look at, than commanding on stage this past season at City Center, except when she became a fun, sassy, bold, sensuously sexy woman in Rubies.
As to why the Mariinsky would put Somova into a part like Kitri... although it is most definitely not her natural role?.... Well, Balanchine often put dancers into parts, and created parts for dancers he wanted to improve by the choreography. Classes and rehearsals aren't often enough, and certainly not as much fun as dancing, and gaining performance strengths, while on stage.
Kitri is one of the most difficult female roles (in the full-length version), technically. It's all powerhouse stuff with a bold personality required on top. Kitri should make Somova stonger in her jumps, and turns, if she dances enough of them. Personality is another story... needing lots of coaching for sure.... I'm reminded of Mimi Paul who was a poor jumper until Balanchine created Valse Fantasie for her.