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New-old COPPELIA at Bolshoi, 3/15Osipova rules!


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#1 Natalia

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 12:39 AM

I took a very quick flying trip to Moscow this past Sunday -- 6am Rossiya Airlines plane out of Pulkovo Airport, landing back in Peter at 6pm...photo-finish dash to Mariinsky for LHH2 -- to catch the 12 noon performance of Sergei Vikharev's new-old Coppelia, staged from the Harvard notes of the Petipa-Ceccheti version of the 1890s. WOW, it was SO worth the crazy traveling and afforded welcome relief from the minimalism at the Mariinsky, as this extraordinarily luxurious production recreates the realistic and colorful designs of the 1890s. Best of all was the delightful comic acting and spot-on technique of stars Natalia Osipova as Swanilda and Vyacheslav Lopatin as Frantz...with special kudos to the adorable Anastasia Stashkevich as Dawn in the Act III divertissements. An afternoon that was truly "Fit for a Tsar" and fit for big Western or Japanese tours, you can count on that!

In a recent preview-show on Kultura TV, Vikharev said that the next Bolshoi season should see the reconstruction of the complete 1890s Petipa version of Esmeralda. Hoorah!!!!! So the Bolshoi forges on with new-old reconstructions while the Mariinsky replaces the reconstructions with Soviet-era productions or new minimalism? Hmm.

I hope to write a full report when I return to DC and finish the Mariinsky Madness Festival Week. So far, my one visit to the Bolshoi has topped everything that I've seen in Peter.

More anon...

#2 Mireille

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 09:58 AM

Cannot wait to read about it and am sure it was worth the extreme traveling experience!!!

#3 Waelsung

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 09:32 AM

In a recent preview-show on Kultura TV, Vikharev said that the next Bolshoi season should see the reconstruction of the complete 1890s Petipa version of Esmeralda. Hoorah!!!!!


Esmeralda being of course a perfect part for Osipova, this is great, great news for all her fans around the world :o

#4 leonid

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 10:11 AM

In a recent preview-show on Kultura TV, Vikharev said that the next Bolshoi season should see the reconstruction of the complete 1890s Petipa version of Esmeralda. Hoorah!!!!!


Esmeralda being of course a perfect part for Osipova, this is great, great news for all her fans around the world :o


With respect, at the Imperial Maryinsky Theatre from where the new production of Esmeralda will originate, the leading role was historically always the perogative of a distinguished premier danseuse.

Osipova is a charming, exhuberant, talented demi-caractere soloist dancer who acquitted herself well as Kitri in London without generally effacing the memory of great performers of this role. I would think that there are at least three dancers ahead of her in artistic stature for casting in this difficult role.
If you can watch either Komleva, Yevteyeva or Asylmuratova in the pas de deux from "Esmeralda" you will know it requires a dancer of great stature to pull off even this brief extract.

#5 canbelto

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 10:47 AM

With respect, at the Imperial Maryinsky Theatre from where the new production of Esmeralda will originate, the leading role was historically always the perogative of a distinguished premier danseuse.

Osipova is a charming, exhuberant, talented demi-caractere soloist dancer who acquitted herself well as Kitri in London without generally effacing the memory of great performers of this role. I would think that there are at least three dancers ahead of her in artistic stature for casting in this difficult role.


"At least three dancers"? And at the Bolshoi, who might they be? A couple years ago I might have agreed but since then Osipova has expanded her repertoire and range. Also, historically, this role was hogged by Mathilde Kschessinskaya, who considered it hers and hers alone. It wasn't until she fled Russia that any other ballerina even had a shot at Esmeralda. Kschessinskaya, I might add, was criticized throughout her life for being rather limited in her emotional range, despite her technical brilliance.
That being said, I think the Bolshoi is so loaded with talented ballerinas that many of them might succeed in the revival.

#6 Waelsung

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 11:34 AM

I also wonder who the three ballerinas ahead of Osipova might be. Even if we consider the seniority of Zakharova and Alexandrova who is the third one? Not Stepanenko I hope.

I am familiar with the Esmeralda part and with all respect firmly believe that N.O. has matured enough to offer at least a credible interpretation of it.

Just to see what she was capable of while still a student please take a couple of minute to view her Esmeralda variation performed at the tender age of 17.

#7 leonid

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 11:59 AM

With respect, at the Imperial Maryinsky Theatre from where the new production of Esmeralda will originate, the leading role was historically always the perogative of a distinguished premier danseuse.

Osipova is a charming, exhuberant, talented demi-caractere soloist dancer who acquitted herself well as Kitri in London without generally effacing the memory of great performers of this role. I would think that there are at least three dancers ahead of her in artistic stature for casting in this difficult role.


"At least three dancers"? And at the Bolshoi, who might they be? A couple years ago I might have agreed but since then Osipova has expanded her repertoire and range. Also, historically, this role was hogged by Mathilde Kschessinskaya, who considered it hers and hers alone. It wasn't until she fled Russia that any other ballerina even had a shot at Esmeralda. Kschessinskaya, I might add, was criticized throughout her life for being rather limited in her emotional range, despite her technical brilliance.
That being said, I think the Bolshoi is so loaded with talented ballerinas that many of them might succeed in the revival.


Of course you are quite right about Kschessinskaya hogging the role of "La Esmeralda" but she was noted for her performance in this role. After all there is no point in being Prima Ballerina Assoluta without respect for the status and exhibition of that status. Ksessinskaya made envious enemies from within the ballet world and among those critics whom she neither deigned to talk to or entertain, the Imperial courtiers because of her earlier relationships with the Tsar and her ability to use influence to get what she wanted. The Maryinsky administration who were little above curs snapping at her heel and of course the noble balletomanes to whose parties she did not go.
Such behaviour was experience under the soviet regime although of course, they did not use the decadent description of Prima Ballerina Assoluta although both Ulanova and Plisetskaya have been described as such in print as I believe was Natalia Dudinskaya who undoubtedly did assume a status wherin she was able to control the performance of certain roles whilst her husband was director of the Kirov to the detriment of the careers of certain dancers.
I concur with your opinion, " That being said, I think the Bolshoi is so loaded with talented ballerinas that many of them might succeed in the revival.

#8 canbelto

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 12:21 PM

Of course you are quite right about Kschessinskaya hogging the role of "La Esmeralda" but she was noted for her performance in this role. After all there is no point in being Prima Ballerina Assoluta without respect for the status and exhibition of that status. Ksessinskaya made envious enemies from within the ballet world and among those critics whom she neither deigned to talk to or entertain, the Imperial courtiers because of her earlier relationships with the Tsar and her ability to use influence to get what she wanted.


She was "noted" and such but there's no saying that many other Mariinsky ballerinas could not have had success with Esmeralda had they not been given the opportunities. Also, the opinion that Kschessinskaya was technically brilliant but limited in her emotional palette was not limited to ballet critics, but also to the ballet master Marius Petipa himself, Serge Diaghilev, and critics abroad when she went on the Ballet Russes tours. So your conjecture that Osipova would not be a success in the role because traditionally the role had always been given to a "premier danseuse" is IMO a somewhat moot point as we have no idea if anyone at the Mariinsky could have had success with the role during her reign. After she left Olga Spessivtseva, a very different dancer, had the most success as Esmeralda.

#9 leonid

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 01:14 PM

I also wonder who the three ballerinas ahead of Osipova might be. Even if we consider the seniority of Zakharova and Alexandrova who is the third one? Not Stepanenko I hope.

I am familiar with the Esmeralda part and with all respect firmly believe that N.O. has matured enough to offer at least a credible interpretation of it.

Just to see what she was capable of while still a student please take a couple of minute to view her Esmeralda variation performed at the tender age of 17.


I would suggest that Alexandrova, Lunkina and Antonicheva are likely to prove to be superior interpretative artists and if allowed so might Gracheva. I would not include Zakharova as she does in my opinion turn a performance far too much to her personal approach and far to far away from the aesthetics of a role.

You say, "Just to see what she was capable of while still a student please take a couple of minute to view her Esmeralda variation performed at the tender age of 17." It is a long time since I have seen such vulgarity of execution in one so young and it very sad to think that she was encouraged to perform the variations at such speed and over emphasis of the choreography to show physical rather than artistic prowess. As such it became a cabaret act with poor line, untidy finishing to enchainements etc. all at the expense of trying to jump higher, turn more and throw her leg into positions that should not exist in 19th century choreography even when performed in the 21st century. At 21 Osipova was a much better dancer but still the obsession to push the technique beyond good taste was at times in evidence. Did I enjoy her Kitri? Yes! Did I admire it? Not really.

#10 Waelsung

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 04:24 PM

You say, "Just to see what she was capable of while still a student please take a couple of minute to view her Esmeralda variation performed at the tender age of 17." It is a long time since I have seen such vulgarity of execution in one so young and it very sad to think that she was encouraged to perform the variations at such speed and over emphasis of the choreography to show physical rather than artistic prowess. As such it became a cabaret act with poor line, untidy finishing to enchainements etc. all at the expense of trying to jump higher, turn more and throw her leg into positions that should not exist in 19th century choreography even when performed in the 21st century. At 21 Osipova was a much better dancer but still the obsession to push the technique beyond good taste was at times in evidence. Did I enjoy her Kitri? Yes! Did I admire it? Not really.


Not a big fan of Osipova's, are you now? That's OK. Chacun a son gout, as they say. Hopefully, when the Bolshoi does revive Esmeralda all the deserving ballerinas will be given a chance to perform in it.

#11 Hans

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 04:36 PM

One doesn't have to dislike Osipova to dislike that clip. I think she is a very nice dancer, but I find that particular video extremely unpleasant to watch for the same reasons Leonid has given above.

#12 Helene

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 04:48 PM

Not a big fan of Osipova's, are you now?

That's absolutely OK, since we're a discussion board, not a fan board, and well-reasoned criticism is always welcome here.

#13 leonid

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Posted 04 April 2009 - 06:32 PM

You say, "Just to see what she was capable of while still a student please take a couple of minute to view her Esmeralda variation performed at the tender age of 17." It is a long time since I have seen such vulgarity of execution in one so young and it very sad to think that she was encouraged to perform the variations at such speed and over emphasis of the choreography to show physical rather than artistic prowess. As such it became a cabaret act with poor line, untidy finishing to enchainements etc. all at the expense of trying to jump higher, turn more and throw her leg into positions that should not exist in 19th century choreography even when performed in the 21st century. At 21 Osipova was a much better dancer but still the obsession to push the technique beyond good taste was at times in evidence. Did I enjoy her Kitri? Yes! Did I admire it? Not really.


Not a big fan of Osipova's, are you now? That's OK. Chacun a son gout, as they say. Hopefully, when the Bolshoi does revive Esmeralda all the deserving ballerinas will be given a chance to perform in it.

It is obvious Osipova has been extremely dedicated to achieving the level of execution of ballet steps that she has and can forcefully express joy.
What I personally feel is lacking in her stage work is an understanding that controlled perfection of execution is to be aimed for as it reveals a dancer as more of an artist if they perform two perfect pirouettes than if they attempt four or six and in the process lose the line and a clean finish. Even at speed multiple pirouettes extend the musical phrase which is not an aesthetic pleasure. In the end blame should go either to the dancer, their coach or the company director. Someone has to take the blame when I am spending £80 or £90 for a seat and I am not really enjoying what I am watching. Academic classical ballet is an art form and the whole process of training is to achieve a smooth execution of the choreography in which either dramatic or musical portrayal is achieved without technical execution spoiling either the line of the music, the choreographic line, the correct steps or the dramatic portrayal. Technique is always the means to an end and not just the end result to be displayed to the public for cheap applause. Academic classical ballet is a sophisticated genre which at its best is a high-art form and that is why it is generally performed in an Opera House and not a stadium. I have never been a fan (short for fanatic) of any dancer, but I have been an devotee of the genre and an admirer of those that excel in their calling. I was probably less serious in my approach to ballet when I was younger but then I studied the technique and continue almost daily to learn more of the history because it is knowledge of the history that has fully enabled me to really see and begin to understand the art form.
You were right I am "not a big fan..." of anyone.
I especially liked the sentiment expressed when you said, " Hopefully, when the Bolshoi does revive Esmeralda all the deserving ballerinas will be given a chance to perform in it." and on that I entirely agree with you.

#14 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 05 April 2009 - 04:10 AM

Maybe it’s time for you to renew your experience with Osipova, Leonid. Indeed she has moved on. When one doesn’t focus solely on this appalling youthful Esmeralda variation or a performance of Kitri a couple of years ago, but instead takes into account more recent roles she tackled, there are a few qualities popping up which shouldn’t be overlooked. There is an undeniable emotional intensity in all her performances, an enormous amount of feelings underpinning her every step and moment on stage – I personally find this fascinating and always had the impression she explodes on stage – or as a friend once said about her Giselle: “You can act, it’s really not necessary to die for real on stage every time at the end of the 1st Act.“ And lest we should forget, she has tremendous stage presence and magnetism. It’s great to dream about academic classical ballet as a sophisticated art, yet when it’s served without any soul (as it is for most of the time), it’s about as attractive as football on a rainy day. And the great examples of the past won’t come back either. As the octogenarian Russian dance writer Vadim Gaevsky wrote Osipova is the Kitri of the 21st century, with all that implies.

Osipova is a young artist, her dancing is far from flawless, and the biggest hurdle precisely might be that she needs to learn to control herself, but in spite of that I can't think of anybody else of her age (or indeed of any age) who has given me such pleasure for spending those £ 80 or £ 90, as you call it Leonid, as Osipova did over the last years, whether it was her Frivolity in Massine's Les Présages, her Kitri, In The Upper Room, Giselle, the Sylph, the Ballerina in The Bright Stream, Jeanne in Flames of Paris, and now recently Swanilda… she was worth every ruble of it. And one doesn’t really need to be a fan (damn the word!) to appreciate that.

#15 leonid

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Posted 05 April 2009 - 04:51 AM

Maybe it’s time for you to renew your experience with Osipova, Leonid. Indeed she has moved on. When one doesn’t focus solely on this appalling youthful Esmeralda variation or a performance of Kitri a couple of years ago, but instead takes into account more recent roles she tackled, there are a few qualities popping up which shouldn’t be overlooked. There is an undeniable emotional intensity in all her performances, an enormous amount of feelings underpinning her every step and moment on stage – I personally find this fascinating and always had the impression she explodes on stage – or as a friend once said about her Giselle: “You can act, it’s really not necessary to die for real on stage every time at the end of the 1st Act.“ And lest we should forget, she has tremendous stage presence and magnetism. It’s great to dream about academic classical ballet as a sophisticated art, yet when it’s served without any soul (as it is for most of the time), it’s about as attractive as football on a rainy day. And the great examples of the past won’t come back either. As the octogenarian Russian dance writer Vadim Gaevsky wrote Osipova is the Kitri of the 21st century, with all that implies.

Osipova is a young artist, her dancing is far from flawless, and the biggest hurdle precisely might be that she needs to learn to control herself, but in spite of that I can't think of anybody else of her age (or indeed of any age) who has given me such pleasure for spending those £ 80 or £ 90, as you call it Leonid, as Osipova did over the last years, whether it was her Frivolity in Massine's Les Présages, her Kitri, In The Upper Room, Giselle, the Sylph, the Ballerina in The Bright Stream, Jeanne in Flames of Paris, and now recently Swanilda… she was worth every ruble of it. And one doesn’t really need to be a fan (damn the word!) to appreciate that.


As ever, I respect your informed opinion and am glad to read your more up to date appreciation of Osipova's performances than mine of two years ago.


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