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Maryinsky's Vainonen "Nutcracker" in L.A.


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#1 Cygnet

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 09:51 AM

The Maryinsky opened a six performance "Nutcracker" run last night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, at the Los Angeles Music Center. This "Nutcracker" engagement is the Maryinsky's first here in 13 years, since the Vainonen production's last showing, and 16 years since their Los Angeles debut of this production. Significantly, in 1992 the Maryinsky gave that debut engagement as a gift to the city, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ballet's premiere. At that time, dancers such as Larissa Lezhnina, Victor Baranov, Irina Zhelonkina, Elvira Tarasova and Zhanna Ayupova were on roster. Yesterday evening, Yevgenya Obratzova and Vladimir Shyklyarov danced the premiere to a sold out house.

Obratzova was a diamond of technical brilliance. That said, her acting was full of nuance and minute detail. But even this is an oversimplification. Masha is one of her signature roles at this stage of her young career. It poses no challenges for her, yet happily for the audience, she doesn't finesse anything and leaves nothing to chance. She dances, as Preobrazhenska said, " . . . for the balconies." Obratzova has that rare gift that the great interpreters of this role, such as Maximova, Kirkland, Lezhnina et.al had, over and above brilliant technique: Plausible, childlike vulnerability. In Act 1 Scene 1 Yevgenya was truly a child; truly believable. In Act 2 in the midst of her dream she was as diaphanous as the moon itself. In Act 3 she was the princess of the fairy tale, full of dignity, taste, delicacy, grace and majesty.

In contrast, In Act 2 Shklyarov was surprising last night; he was very tentative after his transformation. The pas de deux was well executed, the lifts and grand jetes were wonderful. But Yevgenya seemed to be the only one of the two who was "on." When he completed the high demands of the opening pas de deux before the Snowflakes, at the very end he overbalanced while kneeling, before he kissed Yevgenya's hand. He saved himself before he went forward and recovered well enough, but the "moment" was (a little) marred. I have to note that immediately before this, he had held Yevgenya aloft in an extended one arm lift, upon the final bars of Tchaikovsky's Snowflake intro, which was greatly appreciated by the audience with cries of "brava." He woke up in Act 3, with a daring rendition of his variation, and presented his ballerina with the utmost care and enthusiasm.

The Maryinsky corps of 24 snowflakes were wonderful. However, Shklyarov's slight mishap, lead to another slight mishap: At the beginning of the waltz, in the first circle of the pattern series, one of the ladies slipped and nearly went down. Not only did she stay on her feet, but neither she nor her colleagues broke rhythm, formation or line. This can happen at anytime, on any stage, anywhere to anyone. The whole is as great as the sum of its parts: This is a testament to the training and professionalism of this great corps de ballet. Well done for a good save to the anonymous corps member - otherwise there might've been a chain reaction. The Two Snowflakes, Lilia Lishuk and Svetlana Siplatova were quite good terre a terre and airborn, but their landings were very audible.

Young children from local ballet schools were employed for the opening segment and the battle scene. They were well rehearsed and truly joyful to be apart of the performance. Pyotr Stasyunas (Drosselmeyer to Lezhnina's 1992 Los Angeles appearance), and Elena Bazhenova were the doting Stahlbaums. Stasyunas also doubled as a malevolent Mouse King. "Luisa" was uncredited in the booklet, but this little girl really projected. Vera Garbuz' "Franz" was the typical bad little brother. Olga Balinskaya and Andrei Ushakov's grandparents were stiffer than required for their segment. Yulia Kasenkova's Doll was adorable, and Denis Firsov's Clown and Raphael Musin's Blackmoor were very energetic. The Spanish Dance of Yuliya Slivkina and Sergei Kononenko was well executed. Bazhenova's Eastern Dance was one of the highlights of Act 3: She cast a spell over the audience in a dance which IMO is probably the least imaginative of Vainonen's production. Kasenkova and Mikhail Berdichevsky were outstanding in the Chinese Dance. Lira Khuslamova, Natalya Dzevulskaya and Ilya Petrov danced the Trepak with the requisite passion and fire.

The Pas de Trois (Flutes) saw the welcome return of Maya Dumchenko. It was wonderful to see her onstage here, and she danced beautifully! Yet she seemed (to me), like a "stranger in the wrong paradise." Dumchenko is a high caliber ballerina: This extremely minor assignment simply doesn't do her any justice; she's wasted in it. It would have been wonderful for her have been assigned one performance as Masha during this run. I'm simply grateful that she was onstage at all, and allowed to make this tour. Elena Evseeva and Vasily Tkachenko were her exceptional counterparts. The Flower Waltz was well executed, graceful and stately. Obratzova, Shklyarov and ensemble received a 5 minute standing ovation :clapping: :flowers:. Thursday and Saturday's matinees will be lead by Irina Golub and Alexander Sergeev. Friday evening will be lead again by Obratzova and Shklyarov, and Thursday and Saturday evening will be lead by Ekaterina Osmolkina and Igor Kolb. The supporting casts remain unchanged.


The Music Corner: Pavel Bubelnikov lead the Maryinsky Orchestra, and conducted the score with style, attention to detail, lyricism and passion. Once again, Bubelnikov was attired in his favorite black silk pyjamas, only this time he also donned matching cowboy boots ( :angel_not: ).

Other Trivia: Before the Act 3 divertissement began, one of the male Flowers had a loud conversation with another colleague just as they put down the pink block stools for the ladies to sit on. That's a no no during a performance. There should be absolute silence onstage, in the wings and backstage. The stage craft was rather poor in the darkened segments: You could actually see the scene changes, as well as dancers and stagehands moving props. One could also see Obratzova run back to her bed and lay down just before the end of the performance. This wasn't the case in 1992.

#2 Natalia

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 11:37 AM

Thank you, Cygnet! Three cheers for Yevgenia Obraztsova, Prima Ballerina in the hearts and minds of her many, MANY admirers, worldwide.

#3 Hans

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 12:07 PM

Thank you for this review! It's so pleasant to hear that the performance was such a success. I'm also glad to hear they brought along Maya Dumchenko, but I, too, am puzzled as to why she was in the Act 3 Pas de Trois, as that is usually danced by Vaganova Academy students. (I understand why it was performed by adults here, but why not corps members or soloists?)

#4 bart

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 05:53 PM

You describe everything so vividly, Cygnet. Thank you very, very much. It's wonderful that the LA audience was so enthusiastic about a version which must have seemed puzzling to many who grew up on the common versions done by ballet schools and local companies here in the U.S.

Obratzova, Shklyarov and ensemble received a 5 minute standing ovation :angel_not: :flowers:.

Now THAT's an achievement. :clapping: for the Mariinsky and :flowers: for the LA audience.

#5 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 10:49 PM

Maya Dumchenko in the pas de trois.... ? Unbelievable. But yeah like you say, she's lucky to be on tour once again. Maybe someone will get ill and she can jump in.

Thanks for the review.

#6 Sacto1654

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Posted 20 December 2008 - 03:08 PM

Thank you, Cygnet! Three cheers for Yevgenia Obraztsova, Prima Ballerina in the hearts and minds of her many, MANY admirers, worldwide.


Having just seen again the Philips DVD of the Vainonen version of the Nutcracker from 1994, I can definitely imagine Obraztsova looking totally wonderful as Masha in this ballet. :yahoo: She's definitely winning over balletomanes doing "romantic" female leads, that's to be sure. :cool:

(A little aside--aren't you glad that the 2001 and 2002 Vaganova Academy graduating classes have produced such awesome female ballet dancers--Ekaterina Kondaurova, Olesya Novikova, Evgenia Obraztsova and Viktoria Tereshkina? :( )

#7 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 21 December 2008 - 03:38 AM

(A little aside--aren't you glad that the 2001 and 2002 Vaganova Academy graduating classes have produced such awesome female ballet dancers--Ekaterina Kondaurova, Olesya Novikova, Evgenia Obraztsova and Viktoria Tereshkina? :thumbsup: )


That's what they said about somebody like Maya Dumchenko as well.

Talented artists, no doubt. Yet it will be some time before they reach the level of personalities like Zhanna Ayupova, Uliana Lopatkina, Diana Vishneva, Daria Pavlenko, not to mention Altynai Asylmuratova, Larissa Lezhnina, Tatiana Terekhova, Yulia Makhalina, Irina Shapchits etc. Hopefully they will be given the time to prove they are indeed that "awesome" :dry:

#8 Sacto1654

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Posted 21 December 2008 - 06:33 AM

Talented artists, no doubt. Yet it will be some time before they reach the level of personalities like Zhanna Ayupova, Uliana Lopatkina, Diana Vishneva, Daria Pavlenko, not to mention Altynai Asylmuratova, Larissa Lezhnina, Tatiana Terekhova, Yulia Makhalina, Irina Shapchits etc. Hopefully they will be given the time to prove they are indeed that "awesome" :dry:


Actually, I see Kondaurova and Obraztsova reaching the "great" level within a few years--Kondaurova has been dancing a lot of roles that Ulyana Lopatkina is well-known for (her very recent debut as O/O in Swan Lake got RAVE reviews from Russian balletomanes) and Obraztsova has both a Gold medal win at the Moscow International Ballet Competition AND a prestiguous Golden Mask award, not to mention being a huge favorite among balletomanes both East and West (everybody lauded her current performance as Masha in The Nutcracker).

I've seen online a number of Obraztsova's performances in "romantic" roles and she is excellent in these roles. :thumbsup:

#9 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 22 December 2008 - 09:40 AM

Talented artists, no doubt. Yet it will be some time before they reach the level of personalities like Zhanna Ayupova, Uliana Lopatkina, Diana Vishneva, Daria Pavlenko, not to mention Altynai Asylmuratova, Larissa Lezhnina, Tatiana Terekhova, Yulia Makhalina, Irina Shapchits etc. Hopefully they will be given the time to prove they are indeed that "awesome" :dry:


Actually, I see Kondaurova and Obraztsova reaching the "great" level within a few years--Kondaurova has been dancing a lot of roles that Ulyana Lopatkina is well-known for (her very recent debut as O/O in Swan Lake got RAVE reviews from Russian balletomanes) and Obraztsova has both a Gold medal win at the Moscow International Ballet Competition AND a prestiguous Golden Mask award, not to mention being a huge favorite among balletomanes both East and West (everybody lauded her current performance as Masha in The Nutcracker).

I've seen online a number of Obraztsova's performances in "romantic" roles and she is excellent in these roles. :thumbsup:


With "level" I meant artistic maturity, character, individuality - all things that make a dancer unique, not the fact that they are nominated principal. Not to refer again to recent examples, principal status doesn't necessarily imply we have to do with unique skills or personality.


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