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Le Corsaire at The Kennedy Center


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#46 Helene

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Posted 17 June 2009 - 05:33 AM

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

#47 Jack Reed

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Posted 17 June 2009 - 06:25 AM

(from Washington, DC) Natalia, your post (I mean #42) made me wince again at what we were deprived of, even while explaining the economic basis for it, which helped lessen the trauma (thank you). Maybe I do need to see this once again, when I can see it intact and with leads, at least, the equal of last night. Or better? If there are such! I repeat, I had a good time, until that suddenly-ungainly last act.

I might even have done without the shipwreck, although having gone to the trouble to bring it, they would want to use it, and I must say, it was impressive in its own way, a little too much for comfort, as such a catastrophe should be. I am an open-water swimmer, and I have got into scary heavy waves some times. There were a couple of moments when I started to panic, realizing that we in the Orchestra seats were below the apparent water-level on stage! Of course the musicians in the pit would drown first... But, more seriously, this sort of thing is not why we go, I think.

#48 YID

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Posted 17 June 2009 - 07:05 AM

..... Where are Zakharova, Lunkina, Antonicheva, Gracheva, etc.? Another indicator of today's economic woes, I suspect. [However, Gracheva is listed as a coach on the tour, so she may be around.]

I saw Gracheva but didn't know that it was her (confirmed after checking her photos). I talked with a wonderful Anastasia Goryacheva, who hopes to still dance in DC (there was a minor mishap with a leg (or foot) in NC, but doctors confirmed nothing serious), and she said that Nikulina didn't go due to some ailment/ minor injury ;-((.
I adore Burlaka and his direction for the company, what a blessing for me (a CLASSICAL (Petipa preferred) story ballets with dancers from HARD-core centuries-old-traditions ballet schools)) more later

#49 Helene

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Posted 17 June 2009 - 07:26 AM

I wasn't sure that all of the timing was going to work out for me to see last night's performance, but it did, albeit in a seat that was as much of a tease as the abbreviated Act III, which was like going to dinner and being sent home after the soup course. I've learned my Kennedy Center lesson, which is to call if they don't allow individual seat selection on the website, and now I know what to avoid. The head of the man in front of me took out about one-third of the stage, and I gave up on seeing anything close to the full stage picture or the Odalisques. (I noticed that the extras who played slave women who sat on the floor next to Pasha, had the same issues :)) Nonetheless, it was well worth the stop on my way to see the ABT "Sylphide"s.

I thought Maria Alexandrova was spectacular, so majestic and strong, like the steel cables in suspension bridges: flexible but with a core of strength. I love, love, love her energy and presence, which was front and center in the scene en travestie and the Act III solo with the pistol and dagger, but was behind her character from her first entrance in a short, tightly curled red wig. It was almost a surprise when she dropped the pistol and didn't shoot the Pasha. Her solos were strong and vibrantly danced. Although some of the Jardin Anime scene was obscured from my seat, in the context of the geometry of the work, the flip side of her squarish upper body, her extraordinary upright posture, was as effective as a more perfumed approach. Nina Kaptsova's smaller, more delicate Gulnare, worked for me as a contrast of type with Alexandrova, and her dancing was the distillation of her character, too.

Alexandrova was no wimpy girl: if there was ever a female version of Spartacus, she is it. Not because there is anything masculine about her, but there is something fearless and heroic. She could lead the pirates, and I suspect that without the shipwreck, she would have had to, because Conrad is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier: a band of horny pirates in their cave is going to be just thrilled with their leader when he sends all of the girls away, but keeps one for himself. (Right.) Nikolay Tsiskaridze acted Conrad with an endearing, goofball quality, and scruffy, dark good looks. His dancing was smooth as silk, and I could not believe the ease with which he lifted Alexandrova and walked across the stage: from the fourth row, there wasn't the slightest evidence of strain.

I recognized Denis Medvedev from the Pas d'esclaves from the drum dance in Berkeley, and he was terrific here as well, partnering the lovely Anastasia Staskevitch (an announced change); Staskevitch and Chinara Alizade were superb as a feature duo in Jardin Anime. Unfortunately, I could see little of the Odalisques, which was very disappointing, since Krysanova is scheduled for Gulnare on Sunday, and I won't get a second chance to see her Odalisque from a seat with good sightlines.

Was it Anna Antropova who danced with Birbanto in the blue and white vertical striped costume? (I don't remember her being blond.) After Alexandrova's, hers was my favorite performance, full of brio and character, with her upper body and arms proud and still during those tricky small steps on the diagonal. Andrey Merkuriev's dancing was smooth yet crystal clear as Birbanto, a fair foil for Tsikaridze's Conrad, and he danced with great spirit. In a profession of beautiful people, Merkuriev stands out for being one of the most drop-dead gorgeous men on stage or screen, a bit like Liepa's Crassus to Vasiliev's Spartacus. (If I were decades younger, I'd be besotted.)

Merkuriev stalked and plotted and sulked, but the "How many ways can I pout and wheedle" award goes to Irina Zibrova, the Zulmea. She did not stop working it for a second. Alexey Loparevich, such an excellent rajah in "La Bayadere", showed his range as a character actor as the butt of the joke as Pasha, and Gennady Yanin was note perfect as Lanquedem.

The corps was splendid, even in the cramped confines of the Kennedy Center stage. The women had an underlying energy that linked the beautiful patterns they were making on stage, and the men were a convincing set of pirates. How can the Bolshoi identify that a boy of 8 or 10 is going to grow so tall? The Bolshoi has a seemingly limitless supply of tall men. In a recent Q&A, Peter Boal said that the average height for a woman in the PNB corps is 5'8", and that the average height for a man in the PNB corps is 5'8". We need a little bit of whatever is in the water in Moscow in the Pacific Northwest.

The costumes and sets were fantastic. I'd never seen the full-length before, and didn't know where any of the set pieces fit into the story, and I was shocked when the famous music came on for the Medora/Conrad Pas de Deux, because Conrad was fully clothed. I loved these costumes, designed by Yelena Zaitseva after the 1899 Ponomarev sketches, and I much prefer them to the half naked versions. The designs were catnip for the eye.

I can't wait to see this a second time.

#50 Natalia

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Posted 17 June 2009 - 07:28 AM

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! :)

#51 carbro

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Posted 17 June 2009 - 08:14 PM

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.

#52 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 17 June 2009 - 10:14 PM

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.

#53 Natalia

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 04:10 AM

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.washingto...9061703654.html

#54 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 09:39 AM

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.washingto...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.

#55 Natalia

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 11:35 AM

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.

#56 Jack Reed

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 11:52 AM

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.

#57 ngitanjali

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 05:10 PM

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.

#58 Jack Reed

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 06:08 PM

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.in...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.

#59 zerbinetta

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 06:45 PM

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.

#60 Hans

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 06:46 PM

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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