Hans

Le Corsaire at The Kennedy Center

164 posts in this topic

Thanks so much BTers! The reports have the effect of consoling me on my absence :) and the opposite of making me even sorrier that I wasn't there. :( .

:)

I especially enjoyed Helene's appreciation that beautifully evoked all the qualities that made Alexandrova a major favorite of mine.

All in all, a net positive.

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Zakharova and Gracheva danced Nikiya in Berkeley two weeks ago, before Chapel Hill.

They're not in the DC-KennedyCenter tour roster; I was referring to that, not the US tour in general. Glad that other parts of the country got more principals than did DC! :)

Lunkina is on maternity leave. Surely you are not complaining about the level of the Bolshoi "soloists", Natalia. Several of them could be principal in any company ;-)

Thanks for the reports.

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The Washington Post's Sarah Kaufman's review is out. She liked it a lot and praises Alexandrova/Tsiskaridze...but seems to make a big deal about the "3 hours!" length. Little does she know that the ballet is really supposed to run "3.5 hours!!" in length and that one of the most beautiful set-pieces from the 2007 premiere -- Pas d'Eventails of Act III -- was eliminated for Washington audiences.

Link to article, though I'm sure that dirac will also post in the Links thread later:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte...9061703654.html

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The Washington Post's Sarah Kaufman's review is out. She liked it a lot and praises Alexandrova/Tsiskaridze...but seems to make a big deal about the "3 hours!" length. Little does she know that the ballet is really supposed to run "3.5 hours!!" in length and that one of the most beautiful set-pieces from the 2007 premiere -- Pas d'Eventails of Act III -- was eliminated for Washington audiences.

Link to article, though I'm sure that dirac will also post in the Links thread later:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte...9061703654.html

The "big deal" this reviewer is making, is summarized in these two sentences: "It's rare even at the upper reaches of the field to find an entire ballet company that can transfer such unmuzzled electricity to its audience, but that is the Bolshoi's distinction. We've seen the same deeply held investment in what it's been doing on earlier tours here."

No company could have wished for a more positive review.

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Marc, read the review and my comment again. The point is the length. As far as I am concerned, the ballet -- as presented in the Kennedy Center -- was not long enough. Perhaps 3 hrs is enough for Americans? We should be grateful and shut up? Phooey! Those of us who truly love classical ballet AND have traveled the globe to see these productions in full lament the fact that the Kennedy Center likes to "lighten" major classical ballets. It is a shame that the reviewer does not acknowledge the fact that the ballet was severely cut and, in fact, intimates that the ballet may be long by underscoring "3 hours!"

I wonder what will be cut from the upcoming Mariinsky Sleeping Beauty next January? Something is always cut for these Kennedy Center tours. I do not appreciate our local audience being treated like restless bumpkins who somehow may not be able to handle more than 3 hours at the ballet. It's an underlying patina of disrespect, IMO. We deserve to see these ballets in full. And we deserve more than three principals during the course of one week, with one of them appearing only once.

But we should be grateful and shut up.

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I want to thank Marc for his beautiful photographs of this gorgeous production and Helene for reposting the links to them (Post #32). The promise of those still photos was kept on stage in the richness and fullness of the way those performers moved, all of them, all the time.

If some of us are expressing our disappointment about the missing dances, that's not to knock the production but also, I think, by implication, further to praise its quality, which is so high we wanted all we could get of it. (Otherwise there would be little feeling of deprivation.)

But as Natalia points out, more costs more, and that is part of our current problem.

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Marc, read the review and my comment again. The point is the length. As far as I am concerned, the ballet -- as presented in the Kennedy Center -- was not long enough. Perhaps 3 hrs is enough for Americans? We should be grateful and shut up? Phooey! Those of us who truly love classical ballet AND have traveled the globe to see these productions in full lament the fact that the Kennedy Center likes to "lighten" major classical ballets. It is a shame that the reviewer does not acknowledge the fact that the ballet was severely cut and, in fact, intimates that the ballet may be long by underscoring "3 hours!"

I wonder what will be cut from the upcoming Mariinsky Sleeping Beauty next January? Something is always cut for these Kennedy Center tours. I do not appreciate our local audience being treated like restless bumpkins who somehow may not be able to handle more than 3 hours at the ballet. It's an underlying patina of disrespect, IMO. We deserve to see these ballets in full. And we deserve more than three principals during the course of one week, with one of them appearing only once.

But we should be grateful and shut up.

Especially for those of us who have to travel to see such a performance--I would happily sit in any theater all day and all night if it meant I could get my fill of world class ballet, and I know that there are many that feel the same way. Coming from a town where the nearest million+ pop. city is 3+ hours away, I would give an arm and a leg to see such productions. Thank you EVERYONE , for providing detailed reports, anecdotes, opinions, discussions--I feel as though I am there! :D

My one question about Corsaire (and maybe even Bayadere and SB) is about the cutting. When the ballets are cut, are the transitions from the scenes still seamless, or is there a bit of a jarring disconnect? I'd imagine that going from A-->B-->C, and then losing B would be quite significant, even if someone had no knowledge of the cuts.

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ngitanjali, as someone who never saw any version of Corsaire before the afternoon of the 16th, when I saw the open rehearsal of the second cast, I can say to your question, It depends!

Act III of this Corsaire looked strange to me, because of the shortage of, let me call it, large-formation dancing (including several related numbers, with corps or soloists or both, etc.) when the acts that had gone before had shown us a rich variety of such little "inner ballets" in various flavors (folk-like, or more purely classical, for instance), which, as some have suggested earlier in the discussion, might even stand alone, as we imagine for the missing Pas d'Eventails in hopes that we could see it that way at least. And so that cut was jarring, even to this newcomer to this ballet.

On the other hand, in the earlier acts, some dances simply had a variation or something omitted while the others were included; a neophyte like I am might think it a little odd or less enjoyable than it might have been, but not jarring, possibly owing to the skillful way the decisions were made, the evident taste.

At the risk of repetition, one of the impressive virtues of this whole production for me was not merely the scale -- large number of dancers, quality of costuming, elaborate scenery, besides the actual length -- but the excellent taste within which the variety of all this was presented. So the few lapses sometimes made you wonder for a moment or (as in Act III) they had you thinking, Whoops! There's something wrong here that really needs attention, a gap that wants filling!

Incidentally, there's an account here on BT by Mikhail which refers to two shipwrecks in the ABT and Mariinsky stagings of this ballet, one at the beginning. I suppose maybe some one thought that would be a harbinger of the final one? I didn't see it, but trying to imagine it I think it's a bad idea, likely reducing the effect of the later one, a lapse from taste of a different kind, an insertion instead of a cut. Here's the link again, to the page with that long synopsis:

http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.p...mp;#entry208346

I'm glad you feel benefitted from our discussion -- I also do feel that way, from discussions here even of performances I haven't seen and won't see. Even though I do live in a large city, there's not a lot to see which appeals to my own taste as it's developed, and so I travel when I can and make do with some video otherwise.

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Incidentally, there's an account here on BT by Mikhail which refers to two shipwrecks in the ABT and Mariinsky stagings of this ballet, one at the beginning. I suppose maybe some one thought that would be a harbinger of the final one? I didn't see it, but trying to imagine it I think it's a bad idea, likely reducing the effect of the later one, a lapse from taste of a different kind, an insertion instead of a cut. Here's the link again, to the page with that long synopsis:

There is only one shipwreck in the ABT production, at the end. At the beginning we see Conrad and crew in their ship (boat, really) encountering a storm on their way into port. They do not wreck. They arrive safely for Act I proper.

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Kaufman's only reference to the length of the ballet was this sentence:

At two hours, and then three, into the ballet, she was still stretching those legs and feet like rapiers.

It sounds to me as if she meant this as a compliment to Alexandrova rather than a complaint about the length of the ballet. I don't think she said a single negative thing about it, in fact. I would assume she's used to seeing three-hour ballets--that is, after all, how long many productions of Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty last.

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I'm glad to have zerbinetta's clarification about the ABT production. That seems to me like a good introduction to the sea as a theme, and makes the catastrophic return to it at the end a sharply pointed contrast. And it makes a better introduction of the pirates into the scenario than we saw (unless I missed something) when they simply turn up in the bazaar along with nearly everybody else under the sun.

I agree with Hans that Kaufman's reference to the length of the ballet is part of her (justified) praise for Alexandrova. I found another reference to it in her third paragraph, though:

In short, this production, which opened Tuesday and runs through Sunday afternoon, fairly bursts with dazzling ingredients. But most exciting of all, for its entire three (!) hours it runs on a current of extraordinary energy.

Here she praises the whole production. And she's right! It never flags. Some lapses in it there were that even this neophyte noticed, but, that said, it maintained his interest throughout. "Never a dull moment", that's for sure.

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Kaufman's only reference to the length of the ballet was this sentence:
At two hours, and then three, into the ballet, she was still stretching those legs and feet like rapiers.

...

Earlier, Kaufman wrote:

"...for its entire three (!) hours it runs on a current of extraordinary energy."

And this, too, was definitely a compliment. My peeve is that, even in a positive manner, the mere fact that one has to place an exclamation point in front of the "three" is as if to say "Gee -- this is long!!!" With something so beautiful, length should not be a problem. Bring it on, Burlaka! The more the merrier, I say! :D

Jack Reed is absolutely correct -- Because the first two acts were replete with delicious classical dancing, one misses 'The Full Monty.' At least Londoners got to see the Pas d'Eventails on tour, minus the solo for the male.

This Corsaire is a landmark production for the Bolshoi, just as Vikharev's Sleeping Beauty -1890 was for the Mariinsky. How ironic that the Mariinsky now prefers the simpler Soviet version of SB, while the Bolshoi is planning the 1899 Gorsky-after-Petipa version, which was very, very similar to Petipa's 1890. So Moscow -- not Petersburg - will be (is already?) the place to go for beautiful, languid ballets of the Tsarist Era, e.g., this Corsaire, Petipa/Ceccheti's Coppelia, Petipa's Paquita Grand Pas and soon Petipa's Esmeralda. Who'd have thunk? [According to the programme, Burlaka has even restored portions of Petipa's last production, The Magic Mirror, for a choreographer's workshop. How I'd love to see that!]

OK - I just cannot get enough of this Corsaire. I'll be there tonight for 'my' Schipulina and Volchkov, after all. One more for the road! Bring it on, Burlaka! I'm only sorry that I'll be out of town for the Osipova/Vasilievs during the weekend.

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Regarding the length -- I went to opening night with a friend who is relatively knowledgeable about ballet, and she left at the second intermission. She said the ballet felt long, and that the story wasn't engaging enough to make her want to stay for the last act, the way Swan Lake does for example. And she likes Wagner, so I wouldn't generally classify her as an impatient person.

I found Alexandrova surprisingly cold -- but maybe that was just in comparison to Kaptsova, who was so bright and charming. The cramped stage was also unfortunate, since Alexandrova and Tsiskaridze in particular have a very expansive quality to their dancing, and the scenery kept cutting them off.

And a question for our Russian speakers, what is the word shouted at the end of the Petite Corsaire? I assume it means something like "Let's drink"?

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It really seemed to me that what she meant was that most ballets would drag in even less time, but we could go back and forth for weeks. :D It was definitely a positive review of a beautiful performance, and I know we are all happy about that!

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Regarding the length -- I went to opening night with a friend who is relatively knowledgeable about ballet, and she left at the second intermission. She said the ballet felt long, and that the story wasn't engaging enough to make her want to stay for the last act, the way Swan Lake does for example. And she likes Wagner, so I wouldn't generally classify her as an impatient person.

I found Alexandrova surprisingly cold -- but maybe that was just in comparison to Kaptsova, who was so bright and charming. The cramped stage was also unfortunate, since Alexandrova and Tsiskaridze in particular have a very expansive quality to their dancing, and the scenery kept cutting them off.

And a question for our Russian speakers, what is the word shouted at the end of the Petite Corsaire? I assume it means something like "Let's drink"?

It was not "let's drink" it was "NA ABORDAZH" (На Абордаж), which is from the dictionary - "a way to attack a hostile sail boat, by means of closely approaching, docking at and boarding the hostile ship. The attacking crew jumps over/board the other ship"

About your friend (no offense), but may be she was off that night. I personally can watch the classical Petipa (or a-la Petipa) steps over & over, especially so perfectly & musically executed. where every musical tone & beat has a step or movement to it. Bravo Burlaka!!

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regarding the shout-out uttered by the Petite Corsaire, BT has had an entire thread on just what the original French 'cry' should be in English-speaking countries.

Mel had much background on the phrase and its alternative(s) in languages other than French.

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The word from the company via the press people is that the phrase, in this production at least, is "All aboard."

Regarding audience reaction/length, etc., I went both Tuesday and Wednesday, and Wednesday night, the left side mid-orchestra was not happy. Several people left after the second act, one man YAWNED loudly -- really, as though he hoped they would hear him and stop -- at every mime scene, they didn't clap for the character dances, and one heard, "Don't worry. These things are always over by 10." Part of it could be that the weeknights here are usually triple bills, and the subscribers could be of the I Hate Full-Lengths persuasion, and part of it, I think, is that our audience here is simply not used to full-length productions and especially mime scenes. We seem to hate character dance here -- not sure why (back in the bad old days of the Cold War, when the Eastern Bloc national companies appeared here regularly, they danced to full houses in the Concert Hall, but perhaps those people don't like ballet.) Tuesday night's audience seemed happier -- I was closer to the front, right side.

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I just want to second ngitanjali's an carbro's comments: for those of us who cannot get to performances like this, your posts -- the production critiques, the responses to individual dancers, the reports on audience behavior and company news, EVERYTHING -- are fascinating and somehow consoling. Thank you. :D

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I attended Thursday night's performance with Alexandrova and Volchkov.

I have mixed emotions. In the summer of 2005 I saw the Bolshoi at the Met when they did Don Quixote and I was blown away. Thursday night I kept telling myself - THIS IS THE BOLSHOI!!!, but I wasn't really that blown away by them. To be totally honest, I saw Le Corsaire a few weeks ago at ABT and I liked that just as much. This was not better by leaps and bounds. The one part of the ballet that I thought the Bolshoi did superbly was the Act II Garden ballet. Now - that was spectacular.

Maria Alexandrova got better as the night went along. I felt that she was a little wobbly in Act I. She was radiant in Act II ad she was the only one who really danced in Act III. In the Pas de deux, she did the 32 fouettes, but then Aleksandr Volchkov had a bad wobble going into his turns and lost his momentum.

Nina Kaptsova was delightful as Gulnare and (I'm sorry I don't have my program with me) the Slave pas de duex was well done.

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I went to this afternoon's performance. It was is my first time seeing Le Corsaire and altogether I enjoyed it although I did not leave saying WOW as I have with other ballets. A few thoughts:

Natalia Osipova was 90% as good as I had hoped she would be from reviews I have read and videos I've seen. She is a very effective actress and able to convey humor without approaching a slapstick feeling.

Vasiliev did swaggering very well. It had the right blend of elegance and machismo.

I have mixed feelings about corps scenes in most ballets. The visuals are so impressive, and then so often the shoes are *so* noisy! The garden scene was beautiful but very noisy. It was noticable even when only one or two were dancing and made a startling contrast with Osipova whose shoes I could hear on only two or three occasions.

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Quick thoughts on Friday night's performance, starring soloist Ekaterina Schipulina and principal Alexander Volchkov. Schipulina has some lovely moments (her poses and arabesques, in particular) but I could not help but notice that she was merely competent compared to the Medoras who I've seen in this production from performances in either London or Moscow. It's too bad that Washington, DC, got more of her (3 performances...make that FOUR performances after Sunday's substitution of Osipova!) than of the other two Medoras here, Alexandrova and Osipova. What's more -- as a neighbor pointed out -- Schipulina's overly-heavy make-up bordered on the grotesque.

I had not seen Volchkov in a starring classical role before and was pleasantly surprised by his liveliness -- a real man and not just actor -- if not his technique, which included many substitutions for the usual steps in the famous pdd of scene ii. Then again, as Tsiskaridze did on opening night, it's best to water the steps than to leave a bad impression by dancing the more traditional steps.

The best soloist of the night, as far as I am concerned, was again Nina Kaptsova as Gulnare (substituting for indisposed Krysanova...apparently Kaptsova has danced every Gulnare on this tour so far?). The Pas d'Esclave was nicely rendered by (again) Stashkevich (sub for Kaptsova, now Gulnare) and the wonderful 'whiz' Vyacheslav Lopatin. The three Odalisques were fine if not extraordinary -- in order, Stebletsova, Tikhomirova (what a lively face!) and Alizade.

The production still packs a punch even on a slightly off night -- particularly the Act II Jardin Anime and the final storm/ship-sinking scene -- garnering an instant standing-o from the Orchestra seats audience at the end...and not a pocket of departed folks could be seen as I gazed down at the Orchestra seats, Alexandra. Wednesday night's yawning gang must have been an oddity. And not a soul left from my area of 2nd Tier until the final curtain call had ended...amazing for the DC crowd. (Well, it was Friday night and few people had to run to work the following morning.)

Still, compared to three London and one Moscow performances of this production that I have seen in my travels...and compared to Tuesday's KennCen opener, this was the more mediocre performance that I've seen. This is due to the Medora; the ballerina can carry the show or keep it from rising above the merely good. Which is not to say that this was a bad night at all. It was, overall, still very, very good.

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Krysanova must have danced at least one Gulnare. -- George Jackson reviewed her in danceviewtimes, in a cast with Shipulina and Skvortsov. He also mentioned an exodus, particularly after Act II. Some audience members must have thought that they were in for another one-hour act. Little did they know they'd be up almost as soon as they hit their chairs, Act III felt so short.

Lopatin was a wonderful Golden Idol in Berkeley. Thank you for your review of him. Staskevitch is getting a lot of substitutions on the US tour and a lot of good exposure. I look forward to seeing her this afternoon and on the next tour.

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The big news today, much to the chagrin of almost everyone I spoke to before the performance, was that Osipova and Vasiliev did not dance today. Shipulina and Skvortsov, who are at least listed in the printed program for last night's performance, too, danced Medora and Conrad. Nina Kaptsova replaced Ekaterina Krysanova as Gulnare, and Anastasia Goryacheva, who was replaced by Anastasia Stashkevich on Opening Night, danced "Pas d'esclaves" in place of Kaptsova with Denis Medvedev. I was hoping for a pair of up-and-comers in the lead, but it was not to be.

George Jackson's description of our Conrad, "Ruslan Skvortsov looked plausible as Conrad, the pirate hero, and danced smoothly but tended to fade from view when not active" is entirely on the money: I forgot Skvortsov existed unless he was making an entrance or dancing a variation, although he was more engaged in the escape scene in the third act. Shipulina has long, long legs, and when she uses them smoothly, they can be mesmerizing, but her upper and lower bodies seem detached, and her upper body does not have the same impact as her lower. I also didn't see much unity in her character; it was like a montage of characters from a gala of greatest hits, depending on the scene. Although her dance en travestie was wonderfully spirited, I wouldn't have followed Shipulina; earlier in the week I would have followed Alexandrova anywhere. Nina Kaptsova did steal "Jardin Anime" from her.

I finally did get to see the Odalisques from a really great seat in the first tier. I thought that Anna Leonova's third Odalisque was a bit harsh. Olga Stebletsova's First was finely danced, but it was Anna Tikhomirova's Second that was a standout of musicality and expansiveness. She spun the variation, despite a quick slip in the opening diagonal. (At least according to the program it was: another Ballet Talker at the performance questioned whether it was she who danced.)

I was glad to have seen Goryacheva's "Pas d'eclaves"; she gave a joyful interpretation, and it was a privilege to see Denis Medvedev again, with his soft, catlike jumps out of deep plie, and the way he almost seem to go into slow motion on the corkscrew turning jumps, which seemed to nudge higher after the initial leaps.

Andrey Merkuriev and Anna Antropova lit up the house in "Danse des forbans", beautifully supported by Anna Nakhapetova, Ksenia Sorokina, Evgeny Golovin, and Alexander Vodopetov.

:lol: to Gennady Yanin, Alexei Loparevich, and Alexander Petukhov for the beautiful characterizations and mime as Lanquedem, Pasha, and Eunuch.

Part of it could be that the weeknights here are usually triple bills, and the subscribers could be of the I Hate Full-Lengths persuasion, and part of it, I think, is that our audience here is simply not used to full-length productions and especially mime scenes. We seem to hate character dance here -- not sure why (back in the bad old days of the Cold War, when the Eastern Bloc national companies appeared here regularly, they danced to full houses in the Concert Hall, but perhaps those people don't like ballet.)

Today's audience tried to prove you wrong, by giving quite loud ovations to all of the pirate dancing and the "Danse des forbans", enough so that the orchestra started to play before the clapping ended. The first scene of the first act flew by. Even the character actors seemed to be appreciated, with all of their mime. The kids around me loved the Pasha and the head eunuch, in blue, who I don't remember getting a bow, and the young twenty-somethings to my right seemed mesmerized and clapped enthusiastically.

The distinction you made about weeknight audiences may be key to this.

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When the announcement regarding the replacement of Osipova/Vasiliev was announced, there was an audible groan from the audience. I was very taken by the opulent sets, costumes, and shipwreck. Shipulina didn't quite do it for me; arms flailing about, very forced acting, and as my neighbor said "well, isnt she full of herself". She is very striking when posed but looked very unsteady during turns and many transitions.

I'm a new fan of Nina Kaptsova! She was most adorable and really did steal the show.

Other highlights for me: The Odalisque pas, the Pasha, Eunachs, and the Jardin. I really felt for the girls going around the "grass" fairly blindly due to the width of their tutus.

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It sounded like a number of people in my section had seen other Shipulina performances and commented that weren't happy to see a repeat of most of the same performers (and could have done XYZ instead). The women behind me left as soon as the announcement was made, but they at least gave their tickets to some other people for Acts II and III.

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