The Firebird is a fierce folk tale, with a brilliant ballerina role at its heart. At first, Ekaterina Kondaurova makes a fashion plate Firebird, her eyelashes black underneath and crimson on top. She dances with growing command and at her best when driving the villain's minions to dance. Every gesture is imperious and grand: of course they obey. Andri Emrakov is a confident Ivan Tsarevich, taking a world of monsters and enchanted princesses in his stride.
Diana Vishneva and Igor Zelensky are completely compelling as Zobeide and the Golden Slave. Initially, the silky, mannered eroticism of their dancing appears exaggerated to the point of narcissism. Yet they're portraying two beautiful creatures, reared in captivity for decoration and sex. Zobeide only knows how to move like a concubine, the Slave like a show animal (at 42, Zelensky dances like a man 10 years his junior). When a glimmer of spontaneous emotion breaks through their love duet, the effect is peculiarly touching.