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La Esmeralda


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#1 Birdsall

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 12:28 PM

I just got back from watching the Bolshoi's Esmeralda live at the movies. I had never seen this ballet, and enjoyed it. The dancing of Esmeralda is very dainty like Raymonda or Sleeping Beauty, yet seems to have an earthiness to it as well, which fits the gypsy character. They had a live baby goat but kept it in people's arms for the most part. I understand why, but it would have been nice if it could have wandered around for a minute! LOL The sets and costumes were wonderful.

Maria Alexandrova was very good. Such good balance! Yekaterina Krysanova was also outstanding as Fleur de Lys. So was Ruslan Skvortsov. I don't know who danced Acteon in the "Diane and Acteon" pas de deux in Act 2, but he knocked your socks off with his dancing and looks.

What did others think? Did anyone else see it?

#2 PeggyR

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 02:07 PM

I enjoyed it too. Mostly beautiful costumes, with the exception of the poor (and very good) Acteon, who was gotten up like a '60s go-go dancer, complete with mini-skirt and white boots. What on earth were they thinking with that one??? The Diana was good too, although her index fingers continually stuck straight up at 90 degrees -- drove me nuts.

Agree that Krysanova a very good and here I have to make a confession: like even minimally knowledgeable ballet lovers, I try hard not to be impressed with fouettes, which I prefer to think of as nothing but a parlor trick. But Krysanova's -- holy cow. Alternate single/double, very, very fast, then a quad which looked like it would be the scratch spin, but no, she kept right on going. They nearly fell apart at the end, though she managed to hold on; pretty spectacular. But really, not impressed -- honestly.

Also loved Alexandrova and liked Skvortsov, although he seemed a little underpowered at times. My favorite, though, had to be Denis Savin as Gringoire. I don't know how the character is usually played, but it must be easy to make him into the village idiot. In Savin's hands, he was unworldly but certainly not dumb; just a dreamy, good-hearted fellow in a weird situation.

Speaking of weird situations: did I miss the explanation for Phoebus' miraculous return to life, complete with glam new costume?

Only real problem for me was the music, which was no more than serviceable, if that. Made me appreciate Delibes, Tchaikovsky, et al, even more.

They had a live baby goat but kept it in people's arms for the most part. I understand why, but it would have been nice if it could have wandered around for a minute! LOL

Did you see the backstage shots before the ballet began? The lamb was running around loose - rampaging lamb chased by protein-hungry ballet dancers! Poor little guy probably thought he was dinner.

#3 macnellie

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 04:28 PM

I saw it too. Happy the whole time I was there. Wondered what happened to Esmeralda's ubiquitous 'kick the tambourine' variation. Is it from another ballet? or another production? I didn't miss it but I was expecting it. I thought Maria Alexandrovna was wonderful and a wonderful and natural actress --the scenes with Denis Savin were so touching and real. And the sets!! especially the third act with the tapestry coming to life... I want to go to Moscow.

#4 Marga

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 04:47 PM

Anastassia Stashkevitch and Vyacheslav Lopatin danced Diana and Actaeon. They were superb, especially Stashkevitch! She danced like a sharpened dagger with precise rhythm and attack.

Stashkevitch looked dangerously beautiful, wearing a bright red short gauzy dress embellished with gold as a complement to Lopatin's gold-embellished white 'boots' and micro-mini-skirted gauzy over-the-left-shoulder drape.

Her variation was spot on and exciting. His, ditto. I was very impressed with both dancers and consider their PDD a - or, maybe, the - highlight of the whole ballet.

Re: Esmeralda's "kick the tambourine" variation, here is some info from rg (Robert Greskovic, author of Ballet 101 and member of BT and BT4D) posted a few years ago on our sister forum, Ballet Talk for Dancers:

Esmeralda tambourine variation

[size="1"]for those of you who are my FB friends, I've posted some pictures of the production on my wall[/size]

#5 canbelto

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 05:25 PM

I saw the HD and was overall kind of disappointed in the ballet. Act One I found very tedious, and there was a mass exodus of people at the first intermission. I say a third of the theater left. Too bad because Act Two had much more substantial choreography. Alexandrova was very disappointing though -- not at all lyrical. The pas de six was a letdown.

#6 Helene

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 05:34 PM

I'm not sure if they cut it off in your theater, Bart, but the multi-lingual host, Katerina Novakova (?), who switched back and forth between English and French with aplomb, announced Stashkevitch and Lopatin just before the Act II curtain, and then before the Act III curtain, Alexei Loparevich as Claude Frollo and another dancer/character I couldn't hear as people around me returned to their seats. I assume it was Igor Tsvirko as Quasimodo, unless there was a substitution. Tsvirko was very moving in the role. Loparevich was again cast in another humorless, dyspeptic character role, and he's so good at it.

Happily, the Bolshoi site lists a complete cast list for today's performance, which had "Live" text in the corner of the screen a few times, although it was after midnight when the performance started in Pacific Time:

http://www.bolshoi.r...ynid26=2676#dyn

I was especially impressed with Maria Vinogradova, Beranger, who was the slightly taller and slightly more muscular of Krysanova's/Fleur de Lis' two demi-soloist friends, and their partners, Artem Ovcharenko and Vladislav Lantratov. And it was Yuliana Malkhasyants as the gypsy Mergera. She had way too little to do.

PeggyR, I didn't miss the explanation of how Phoebus recovers. There's no mime that explains this, as far as I could see.

Maria Alexandrova was stupendous; seamless technique without appearing technical, and her characterization was fantastic. I would love to see her Nikiya again now. :flowers: :flowers:

Savin was sweet and endearing, with a pinch of Alain. I didn't know the story, and was hoping that he'd come forward to die with her, then she'd be saved, and then she'd fall for him. However, marriage to a poet, a hapless one at that, would have ended badly.

I loved Svortsov's dancing; it was pure and strong. I thought he was very virile in his first entrance, oh, that walk!. In Act II, at the court, he looked deflated, not in his dancing, but in his characterization: he had a polite smile on his face, as if his mind was elsewhere and he was going through the motions, which is quite in character.

The orchestra sounded great.

And :bow:, while it retained the Vaganova addition of the "Diana and Acteon" scene, there was no holding tambourines overhead and kicking them with a toe shoe.

:beg: for a DVD of this.

#7 Birdsall

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 05:44 PM

Marga, thanks for the info on the dancers' names (they were not identified on the program that the movie theater gave out, although all the other dancers were listed. Also, I liked Acteon's outfit too! I know Peggy did not like it! I think that young guy is simply stunning physically, facially, and in dancing ability that the outfit should be skimpy when you have someone of such rare beauty! LOL His costume did not bother me one bit, although it is obvious someone (either the costume designer or the wardrobe person) decided his toga should be ultra short! LOL

I have seen a clip of the tambourine kick too and kept waiting for that dance. I am still new to ballet, and I know that many variations were scrapped or replaced or switched at premieres or when re-choreographed. So it is interesting that the "famous" tambourine kick" variation is actually composed by Drigo, instead of Pugni according to the link you provided. That must be why they decided not to include it. It must have been an interpolation at some point.

Peggy, I did not see when the goat or lamb was running around backstage. Not sure how I missed it. I did run to the bathroom before it started and during intermissions though. That must have been cute, and, yes, he/she probably thought they wanted dinner! LOL

I have watched the Pharaoh's Daughter and thought Pugni was a mediocre composer b/c of that, and so today I expected mediocre music as well, but I quite enjoyed a lot of the music. It surprised me. I guess it all depends on expectations. I went in with low expectations of the music, so I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it. You are right that it isn't Tchaikovsky or Delibes though. I went in with high expectations of the dancing and was quite satisfied!!! It is a shame this ballet is not done more often in the U.S. The story is familiar to people here: Victor Hugo's book, many movie versions, etc. so I wonder why it is not really done here except for excerpted variations.

It has been YEARS since I read the book. I think Phoebus survives and actually thinks that Esmeralda stabbed him in the book. Maybe someone else remembers more clearly. Since the book is so long it had to be glossed over. I guess, in the ballet, we are just supposed to understand that he healed up quickly and came back to save her! LOL LOL I did think it was funny how you described it.....new outfit and everything! LOL

I was surprised that Fleur de Lys did 32 fouettes (or however many she actually did do) by the way. I am surprised how many ballets include that. I thought it was mainly a Swan Lake tradition, but I have seen it in Don Quichotte, Paquita, etc. I do think it does give a circus-like atmosphere to the finales and I do not mean that as a derogatory comment.

#8 PeggyR

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 05:50 PM

PeggyR, I didn't miss the explanation of how Phoebus recovers. There's no mime that explains this, as far as I could see.


Brings up something I forgot to mention: how much I enjoyed the entensive mime scenes, even though I didn't always understand what was being said. It occurs to me that well-done mime can be as enjoyable as good dancing.


The orchestra sounded great.

Especially the extended violin solo, which sounded beautiful.

:beg: for a DVD of this.

DITTO!!!

I think that young guy is simply stunning physically, facially, and in dancing ability that the outfit should be skimpy when you have someone of such rare beauty!

Totally agree about the dancer, but that costume just brought back too many bad memories of the worst excesses of '60-early '70s fashion. :)

#9 Birdsall

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 05:58 PM

Helene, I caught parts of the intermissions but not all. I had had a big latte and then a large coke, so I was running to the bathroom whenever the ballet was not going on! LOL

I felt sorry for Novakova/Novikova doing all that translating and having to often rush at the end. I lived in Germany and Austria for a year each, and so I would sometimes have a friend visiting and had to translate back and forth to different people, and it drove me nuts!!! At the very beginning I think she greeted people in Russian, French, English, and German, but for some reason she continued with just English and French. It is one thing to do announcing like this, but then she actually conducted interviews and had to translate them in two languages (French and English) after conducting them in Russian! Poor woman! LOL She probably loves it though. Some people do.

Thanks for the full cast list from the Bolshoi.

I wonder if they will release this as a dvd as you are praying. It seems like a shame to do these in theaters and tape them for encore presentations but then not release them on dvd, so I hope, like you, that they will. The Metropolitan Opera has released some of their HD presentations but not all. I think it is an issue of getting all the artists to sign off on release or something. Still waiting desperately for a dvd of Boris Godunov with Rene Pape from last season!

#10 Birdsall

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 06:08 PM

Can't wait for the Bolshoi's Sleeping Beauty now! Also, really looking forward to Le Corsaire, b/c judging from YouTube clips the Bolshoi's Le jar din anime in Corsaire is a more intricate and spectacular version than what is normally performed.

#11 Helene

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 06:15 PM

We didn't even get the entire "Corsaire" on the US tour a few years ago: the fan dance was cut, and Act III felt like it was five minutes long. All to avoid overtime at the Kennedy Center.

I can't wait to see the whole thing.

"Jardin Anime" as a stand-alone would be worth the price of the ticket.

This version does not have the slave Ali, and the hero is fully clothed in the big Pas de Deux.

(I'm really hoping Andrei Merkuriev, the Birbanto in DC, reprises the role for the HD. I have a massive crush on his Birbanto, even if he is the villain of the piece.)

#12 Helene

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 06:31 PM

I just did a search to try to find the plot of Esmeralda, and every version I could find ends unhappily for at least Esmeralda and/or Quasimodo. The ballet plot is a lot happier at the end.

#13 Birdsall

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 06:48 PM

I just did a search to try to find the plot of Esmeralda, and every version I could find ends unhappily for at least Esmeralda and/or Quasimodo. The ballet plot is a lot happier at the end.



Victor Hugo's book is much darker than the ballet. I remember it being super descriptive of each scene. It described every place in such detail that you felt you were there, and there were descriptions of how the poor lived, etc. I think the irony was that Quasimodo was so ugly and physically gross, so people were scared of him. Meanwhile, Frollo was so evil on the inside despite being in such a "pure" position. Frollo was the one to be scared of, not Quasimodo.

I imagine a ballet that is as dark as the book would probably turn a lot of people off. It is a great book, but it has been so long since I read it. It took me FOREVER to read it (had to read it for a class in college). It is not really pleasure reading, b/c it is so deep, intricate, and dark, but once you are done with the book you are amazed at how Victor Hugo made you feel like you were there. However, his descriptions were so long winded that I sometimes got so bored as ignorant as that sounds. Like I said, hard reading, but once I was done I was very impressed with the book. I think the cathedral itself becomes like a character in the book b/c all the characters are somehow connected to it. But I remember it being such a hard read that I never read it again. Maybe I will put it on my list to reread, since I have forgotten so much. The ballet is much more light hearted and fun! LOL I don't want to dissuade anyone from reading the book though. It really is a masterpiece!

#14 bart

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 06:40 AM

Alistair Macaulay reviews the film in the NY Times today:
http://www.nytimes.c...?_r=1&ref=dance

Macaulay admire's Maria Alexandrova's "panache" in the title role, but complains about the way she performs in the Pas de Six in the final act.

Petipa famously refused to cast the ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska as Esmeralda until she had suffered from love. Ms. Alexandrova’s feet are always expressive, but as an actress above the waist, she tends to turn both love and (especially) suffering into conventional and unconvincing effects. Here she lacks the freshness and originality to carry “Esmeralda”; she makes the final act the hammiest.


I have never seen the complete work , at least as far as I remember. I have seen bits and pieces, often intended to highlight the star ballerina's bravura qualities. The Pas de Six is actually like an opera scena in that it has its own beginning and conclusion and is capable of standing alone. These 12 or so minutes consist mostly of an alternation of a dramatic pas de deux with conventional ensemble work by 4 anonymous women.

Reading the review, I got curious as to how this actually looks on stage nowadays. YouTube has a full version of the Pas de Six from the Mikhailovsky Theatre, with Tatiana Fasenko in the title role. The big surprise to me was how moving this piece is, as a piece of dance story-telling. Fasenko is in no sense a bravura technician, something most evident in the coda. But she can use her face, port de bras, and the line in arabesque from fingertip to foot to make you believe completely in the character and care about what she is feeling. This is no simple feat. The choreography calls on Esmeralda to alternate deep sadness with her conventional job as an entertainer. The "mood swings" are fast and frequent. But the music supports them, and Fasenko made me love her Esmeralda. It helped to have such a wonderful Gringoire. I wish I knew his name. (Macaulay singles out the Bolshoi's Gringoire, Denis Savin, for praise. It's a role with no actual "dancing," but it must be hard to convey that you care so much for a loved one who loves some else, without looking like a sap.)

In case others reading this thread don't know this work, here are the links to the Mikhailovsky Pas de Six:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8YMQnINaQQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTovbGZVY8U&feature=related

#15 Helene

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 08:36 AM

Denis Savin was pitch-perfect as Gringoire. Watching him, I was thinking how the last time I saw him, he was in his skivvies as Maria Alexandrova let out a shriek and bit him. (It was the Donnelan/Poklitaru version of "Romeo and Juliet".)


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