Eileen

A New Yorker at the Bolshoi Ballet

61 posts in this topic

There I was at 10 a.m. on a Sunday, dragging myself to a Times Square megaplex to view the Bolshoi Ballet and David Hallberg in Sleeping Beauty. It was a first for me - my first time seeing the Bolshoi, and all happening in actual time! In the half hour before curtain, we were able to get a backstage view of company members, including Halberg, stretching, half-costumed, practicing pirouettes in leg warmers. Svetlana Zacharova was in sweats with a lace shawl tied around her waist. Hallberg was pacing nobly, detached from the goings on around him. Coaches gave last minute pointers and presumably, encouragement.

Then there was the Bolshoi as a building. A long shot of the outside of the building. There was no explanation, so I thought - naive me! - that it must be a Potemkin village, created for a movie scene. It was the actual Bolshoi as I soon realized, amazed. To this provincial New Yorker, I always thought the Metropolitan Opera the grandest theater imaginable. Well, readers, I was wrong. The interior was as imperial as the entrance - red carpets, chandeliers, along the lines of the Met, but much more ornate, much more theatrical.

It was some time before we got past the unnecessary narrator in English and French, and finally, the ballet commenced. I was surprised at the level of costuming - it seemed every member of the cast was bewigged and elaborately hatted, as well as decorated jackets for men and trailing gowns for women courtiers. As we know, Sleeping Beauty takes a while to get going, and the Bolshoi took every passage, no cuts, danced it all, and after awhile I began to miss the Peter Martins streamlined version! When will this be over, I thought. I preferred Merrill Ashley's Carabosse to the Russian man who mugged the role at the Bolshoi - too grotesque. Ashley played her as an evil beauty, and I loved the long fingernails which the Russians dispensed with.

I realized as I absorbed the "style royale" of the Bolshoi that they act as well as dance. They are emotionally present, they do not withhold their feelings. Also, every member of the corps de ballet was chosen for beauty as well as dancing, and that is certainly not the case at New York City Ballet. The female corps in the Bolshoi are uniformly rows of very pretty girls. That is their tradition. Also, they don't need their corps de ballet to be as skllled as Balanchine's corps needs to be. The technique for every member of the New York City Ballet is very demanding, and it's impossible to choose an entire corps de ballet of beautiful girls who also can do Balanchine choreography, where every dancer has to be top notch and ready for solos. Yet on the NYCB stage all give the illusion of beauty. (I just passed the Theater Formerly Known as State, and I saw the NYCB dancers sans make up, hanging out, eating lunch - I would never realize they were dancers if I weren't so familiar with every member of the company. I could have named each one. And they were far from conventionally "pretty". They were accomplished Balanchine dancers.

So I was impressed with the ornateness of the Bolshoi theater, the production values, the beauty of all involved.

At first I thought Svetlana Zacharova was too mature for the 16 year old Aurora. You see these things on film which are not apparent in the theater. She was technically perfect and smiling, always radiant. David Hallberg I had only seen in Ratmansky's Nutcracker last year at BAM and there I sat very close to the stage and noticed his look of wonder as he accomplished a feat with his ballerina. It was as if he was amazed they did it! His entrance on the Bolshoi stage was I can only call thrilling. His leaps, his command of the huge stage. You'd never know what suppressed power he possessed as you earlier observed him pacing slowly before the performance.

In the wedding scene, I felt that Svetlana Z was more suitable for the part as she had matured with the role. I noticed Hallberg's concentration as he centered her in her pirouettes, ending in a noble pose for both.

I could have criticized the fairy tale characters, the cat without a tale and without catlike motions, Puss in Boots who never captures her, the wolf who lacked menace. But it's late and after all, it's only a fairy tale, isn't it?

If anyone saw this performance in Moscow today or the live film, I'd love to hear your responses.

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I, too, dragged myself into the city at 10:00 a.m. because I simply couldn't imagine missing David Hallberg dancing on the Bolshoi stage in real time. He was, as always, the incarnation of perfection in male classical dancing. No other male dancer has his purity of "line"--and then some.

Sleeping Beauty is not my favorite ballet, in part because of its length, but also because the drama of the story is muted compared with that of R&J, Giselle, or Swan Lake. I totally agree that the production was too long and there were many moments when I was just treading water waiting for the next real thing, i.e., dancing. In particular, the role of Carabosse was too long as well as plain silly (silly like Green Rothbart in ABT's Swan Lake). I much prefer the feminine evil fairy that is used at ABT. (I haven't seen NYCB's version.)

The surprise for me was Svetlana Zakharova. The only time I'd seen her before was on the DVD of Giselle with Robert Bolle and the ballet company of La Scala (I think), and I her acting didn't move me at all. In this Sleeping Beauty, I didn't care for her in Act 1, and I can't really explain why, except to say again that I wasn't moved by her acting. She wasn't especially expressive, didn't make me believe in her. Maybe she was terrified of that Rose Adagio, which didn't even include the balances of the ABT version. But in Act Il, which didn't require great acting, simply great classical dancing, she simply shone. She was exquisite, her technique thoroughly in service to the choreography, her "line" beautiful at every moment. I wonder whether perhaps she isn't a great actress but is, indeed, an exquisite classical ballerina.

The other surprise was the interview with David Hallberg BEFORE the ballet. The fact that he had the presence of mind, knowing that he would be making ballet history, to answer questions so graciously is a testament to his modesty. He is quoted in one of his online videos saying that for him, ballet is a "calling," and that is evident in his manner, his earnestness, his dedication.

It was definitely worth it to me to get up at 6:30 a.m., but I can count on the fingers of one hand (maybe half of one hand) the number of dancers I would do that for. I'm curious to see whether David's work with the Bolshoi will change his dancing in any way. What an exciting time to be a balletomane!

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I enjoyed it too. It is so amazing that we can watch a performance at the Bolshoi live as it is happening in our own city. I thought Zakharova took a little time warming up both physically and in character, but overall I liked her. I think you are right, Eileen, that she got better as the ballet progressed. She seems so tall and lanky for Aurora. I thought most Auroras were more petite. Or am I wrong? Hallberg created excitement, since it is such a high profile debut. The audience loved him. He is not only athletic but very artistic in his movements. I wanted a bit more force in the Violante fairy also, although I thought the dancer was good.

I felt like the production, although lavish looking, was disappointing b/c it was practically the same set throughout the entire ballet. The set was very similar to the Paris Opera Ballet, but I think the POB version (by same design team) had more set changes or the illusion of more changes. I could be wrong. I will have to go back and re-watch the Paris Sleeping Beauty. Also, I thought the mime especially when the Lilac Fairy says, "No, she won't die, rather she will fall asleep..." was too subtle. Most productions make the mime much more clear, although I guess Sleeping Beauty is so well known that we really don't need the mime to be so clear. I am surprised that I wanted more mime. The other part I hated about the set was that the Lilac Fairy came to pick up Hallberg in a boat after the Vision Scene just like in most productions, but Aurora's palace was right there staring us in the face and there was no water. The boat was floating on land. Rolling out mist did not help me think of it as water. It was the most jarring boat scene I have seen in a Sleeping Beauty. I wonder why the set designers and director did not think up something better.

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I also enjoyed it very much. It's really exciting to be able to see these broadcasts! Like others, I found Zakharova not entirely convincing as an actress, but the beauty of her line, her feet, and her dancing more than made up for it. I thought she was amazing. I've seen Hallberg many times at the Met, but he seemed better than ever. The longest and most beautiful line, all flexibility, lightness, and radiance. I really hope he succeeds at the Bolshoi (the evidence so far is good!) The challenge should propel him to new heights.

As someone new to the Bolshoi (except for the Don Q broadcast), I found the overall level of dancing impressive. I try to avoid the game of "corps-spotting," but I can't help but notice the prince who was wearing a gold crown topped with a profusion of green feathers. Have no idea who he was. But I thought he had great presence.

p.s. I think previously the discussion of the moviecasts has been in the "Ballet Films" forum. Putting it in the forum for the particular company makes more sense to me and maybe will spark more discussion of the movies.

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Saw and enjoyed this too here in California, as much as you can enjoy anything but a cup of coffee at 7:00 am (which could account for there being all of 10 in the audience).

Loved the sets and costumes: big, sumptuous and kind of overwhelming, which is OK: I don’t expect to be underwhelmed by the Bolshoi. That floor has to go, though. It wasn’t bad looking straight on, but I feel sorry for the audience in the upper reaches. Those overhead shots seemed to be devoid of dancers; all you could see was the pattern.

Very divided feelings about Zakarova: a lot to like, but those much-discussed extensions made me cringe. And there was one jete early on that was awful: legs flung apart, no actual elevation, no forward movement, no lightness, just a mid-air 180+ split and a clunky landing; “Uh oh,” I thought. But later, I think it was during the vision scene, she did a series of what looked like deliberately low jetes that were everything they should be: arced and traveling with good ballon. Her upper body and arms were lovely, but I did think she lacked delicacy and freshness in her petit allegro. On the other hand, it was a nice change seeing a Rose Adagio that didn't insist on excessive balances with the attendant wobbles; she looked relaxed and confident - no need to show off. I’d really like to see her in something else; I wonder if she’s shown at her best as Aurora.

Aside from some crummy YouTube videos, this was my first view of Halberg, and he’s a stunner. Even my inexpert eye could see the difference in his style from the Bolshoi men and it’ll be interesting to see who ends up influencing whom the most. There were a couple of times when he seemed to need more space than the stage could provide. Very impressive.

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I watched it here in Ottawa Ontario Canada. Normally, Sleeping Beauty is not my favorite. Last time I watched it on DVD I lost my pateince and skipped through everything to see the Wedding PPD instead. Today, I made damn sure that I was not going to miss one minute of it, because 1. it is my first live Bolshoi production; 2. it is my first time seeing Mr. Hallberg dancing live; and 3. it is my first time seeing Ms. Zakarova dancing live. My boyfriend thought I was crazy spending money to see ballet at a movie theatre. I said "you have no idea the significance of this performance".

Needless for me to point out that Mr. Hallberg was as fine as he could be. I couldn't help thinking as he made his entrance in Act II, that I was watching one of the finest dancers of our time live on the very grand Bolshoi stage.

For me personally, Ms. Zakarova did not disappoint and I noticed too that Mr. Hallberg was paying close attention to her while they were dancing their PPD, making sure she was the one shining throughout the entire coda.

I must admit that I did not like the close-up camera work whenever there was an solo. The camera literally followed the dancer/actor from one end to the next. One could lose track of the directions (in the audience) easily, and you didn't get to see what was happening on the other end of the stage if other dancers were also doing mime at the same time. I prefer to see the big picture since it's not a small stage.

Overall, I like the sets and the costumes. It was long but I enjoyed it so much I didn't even notice the time.

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I was also part of the "up at 6:30am for David Hallberg" club. Walked into Big Cinemas just behind Alistair Macaulay. This was my first time seeing ballet on a big screen and I have mixed feelings about it. Of course any chance to see David dance is worth it but I don't usually sit so close as the cinema view afforded and I found it a little disconcerting. I don't care to see the inevitable effort involved in some of the positions and lifts but one couldn't avoid noticing it. Being so close to the action I felt took me emotionally out of the story. I found myself accepting it for what it was and watching technique rather than interpretation. I found Ms Zakharova to be lovely with beautifully articulated feet. David was perfectly princely with gorgeous line and soft landings. I never warmed to Maria Allash as the Lilac Fairy, finding her unimposing with no emotion on her face. A standout was Nina Kaptsova as Princess Florine - her personality shone through and she was equally matched with the impressive Artem Ovcharenko as Bluebird. Other thoughts: I missed the series of fish dives in the Grand Pas de Deux - is this always the case in the Bolshoi SB? As others have noted, I also disliked the "busy" blue and gold floor design. I found myself wishing for a wide screen so as not to miss any of the action. At one point the camera was following Lilac Fairy and missed the beginning of Aurora and her Prince dancing. Still all in all I am grateful to have the opportunity to see the Bolshoi relatively close to home and especially with our New Yorker.

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I was very impressed by the performance. I offer a few observations below.

1. I am a fan of Svetlana, but I never imagined her as Aurora. I was very pleasantly surprised. I appreciated her in both acts. Her dancing appeared effortless. I came away feeling, more than ever, that she is a princess and a star. This version of the ballet certainly sought to showcase that.

2. I didn't know that "Sleeping Beauty" involved a chicken fairy. innocent.gif The yellow feathered fairy was a joy to watch.

3. The fourth prince, who wore a crown with feathers in a circle, pointing outward, was beautiful physically and in his dance. Did he perform the role of the prince in "Cinderella" in Act II, as well? What is his name?

4. I loved the fairy tale characters. They were humorous and dramatic, if a bit campy. The birds really danced like flying birds. The wolf chasing Red Riding Hood continued in character even after taking his bow, to the audience's delight. The Puss and Boots characters captured the essence of playfulness and kitty confidence.

5. Lilac lacked the presence, grace, and power with which I associate the character. I wondered if she held herself back in some manner. She hardly ever even smiled.

6. David Hallberg dances beautifully, with grace and elegance. I expected longer solos, having seen other versions of this ballet. I had some trepidations during the lifts, but this ballet does not contain many lifts. A few times he landed too far to the side of the stage, outside of the lighting. Also, the cameraman did not show his entrance on two occasions, and did not show the curtain call, to my dismay. Unfortunately, I did not see his interview, and I hope it ends up on youtube.

7. The children in Act I were wonderful. Their smiles were genuine, and their dancing was beautiful.

8. I don't like Carabosse in any incarnation. I never have understood the characterization. I do not find the character scary or innately evil, just ugly.

9. The scenery disappointed, surprisingly. The painted backdrop did not convey anything important, and was not spectacular or interesting.

10. I appreciated the forest scene. It explained the vision of Aurora in a way that I have not seen before, and really provided context that was missing for me. It helped tie the two acts together.

11. David was a bit too deferential in his kiss. That peck would not have awoken me after one hundred years of sleep.

12, The theatre contained maybe ten people. Why doesn't the distributor market this series? I can't imagine who would not have enjoyed this performance.

Bravo!

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Other thoughts: I missed the series of fish dives in the Grand Pas de Deux - is this always the case in the Bolshoi SB?

It's the case with any Russian production. Fish dives are a Western European addition.

I caught the delay. I was only able to stay for the Prologue and Act I as I had somewhere to be (but I wanted to show up to increase the attendance numbers to encourage the new theater to keep adding the ballet productions)--I was hoping to be able to stay for at least Act II (which is usually my favorite) but the screen flashed that there would be a 30 minute (!!!!) intermission and so that would have only let me see about 15 min of Act II. I thought the Carbosse was too camp and limited in mime to be more effective. Zakharova I did not warm to--the extensions, the angularity....it's not for me. I had hoped pregnancy would soften her but it does not appear to be the case. I can imagine, though, she would be more effective in Act II, so I am disappointed I could not stay for it. I would have preferred to see Alexandrova as Lilac (though I would prefer to see her in most anything given the option), but I understand they probably have to spread the wealth to Allash. I thought she did a lovely job, though, quite secure.

I did like the patterned floors when we had a straight on shot, but whenever they did anything from a overhead angle it seemed like too much.

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Just a couple more thoughts based on the comments of others above. I, too, was totally disappointed in the Lilac Fairy. Some years ago we had tickets to see Vishneva in Sleeping Beauty at the Met. We arrived to find that Ms. Vishneva had taken ill and had been replaced by ballerina X. I almost went home, but I'm so glad I decided to stay because....the minute the Lilac Fairy started dancing that evening I knew I was in the presence of a real ballerina. Her name, which I didn't know before then, was Stella Abrera. During intermission I bought a pair of her autographed pointe shoes and said to my husband, "She's going to be a Principal next year." Sure enough, she was given that Wednesday matinee Giselle--which she had to withdraw from because of an injury that kept her sidelined for almost two years. The rest is history--Princess Aurora with Royal Ballet of New Zealand, but not getting top billing at ABT. Which is all by way of saying that Ms. Allash was thoroughly bland compared to Ms. Abrera and in and of herself.

The children were beautifully trained, much better than our American children, even from SAB or JKO School.

Also, I'm glad I wasn't sitting in one of those balcony seats. I agree--the viewing was impossible with the floor design.

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Interestingly, I too noticed the fourth cavalier with the feather headdress! He was the most princely of all. I'm so glad so many of you felt it was important to see David Halberg's debut at the Bolshoi. So Alastair Macaulay was there. I look forward to his comments. I missed the video with Halberg - too bad, I walked out during the half hour pre-ballet longeurs, and didn't realize there would be an interview. I also noticed the girl in yellow (chicken?) who glistened. It's tough to stand out when the general standard is so high and the dancers sometimes seem interchangeable.

This production makes me realize once again the genius of Balanchine, to peel away all this frou-frou and have his company class practice tendus. Stripping away all the ornateness to display the choreography and immaculate technique. He was a true original; he came from this Russian imperial tradition, he drew from it but discarded it. In changing the name of his Ballet Imperial to Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2, he famously remarked, "Nothing is imperial anymore, except - except the Empire Hotel!" (referring to the hotel across the street from the theater).

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I was at BAM this morning where there was an excellent turnout - as many as for a typical weekend evening film presentation. I was as anxious to see the renovated Bolshoi Theater as the ballet and the filming did not disappoint. This was my first HD presentation and I think the opportunity to see the theater and the artists backstage including interviews is a major advantage.

After being subjected to ABT's current production, this production seems like a paragon of virtue. Sets and costumes are lavish and architecturally and period correct.

I too was disappointed by the Lilac Fairy's lack of authority and yearned for Sara Mearns but enjoyed Carabosse.

Zakharova may not be a natural Aurora but she took control after the intermission and for those of accustomed to American dancers there is so much to enjoy in the use of the upper body. Hallberg was never anything but acomplete classicist even in his interivew.

All in all a wonderful sunday morning. I can hardly wait for Le Corsaire.

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The Bolshoi site is not back up yet in English after the re-design, and this is my attempt to transliterate the Russian cast list for the 20 November performance. I apologize for butchering the names. (Corrections are very welcome.) The site doesn't distinguish among the Princess, and they might be in alphabetical order in Cyrillic, but one of the Princes, Karim Abdullin, was also cast in "Cinderella", and I'm sure you're right that it was the dark-haired Prince with 360-degree feathered crown who did more partnering than the rest.

King Florestan: Andrei Sitnikov

Queen: Kristina Karaseva

Princess Aurora: Svetlana Zakharova

Prince Desire: David Hallberg

Catalabutte: Vitaly Biktimirov

Four Princes Who Come Courting: Karim Abdullin, Yuri Baranov, Pavel Dmitrichenko, Vladislav Lantratov

Фрейлины, which Google is translating into "Maids of honor". I assume the Lilac Fairy's entourage: Angelina Vlashinets, Yulia Grebenshikova, Elizaveta Kruteleva, Yulia Lunkina, Svetlana Pavlova, Maria Prorbich, Olga Smirnova, Anna Turazashvili

Fairies' Cavaliers: Batr (?) Annadurdiev, Artemi Beliakov, Klim Efimov, Dmitri Efremov, Maksim Ollengeim, Denis Rodkin

Dutchess: Olga Suvorova

Галифрон, наставник принца, "Galifron" -- I think the man in the second act who's Desire's handler: Igor Simachev.

Leads in the Peasant Dance: Anna Antrolova, Aleksander Vodopetov

Carabosse: Alexei Loparevich

Lilac Fairy: Maria Allash

Fairy of Tenderness (Candid): Daria Khokhlova

Fairy of (translating as) Carlessness (A type of flower). Maybe free-spirit?: Chinara Alizade

Fairy of Generosity (Spreader of bread crumbs): Ksenia Kern

Fairy of Playfulness (Twittering canary): Anastasia Stashkevich

Fairy of Audacity (Violent): Elena Andrienko

Diamond Fairy: Anna Leonova

Sapphire Fairy: Viktoria Litvinova

Gold Fairy: Maria Vinogradova

Silver Fairy: Anna Tikhomirova

White Cat: Yulia Lunkina

Puss in Boots: Igor Tsvirko

Princess Florine: Nina Kaptsova

Bluebird: Artem Ovcharenko

Little Red Riding Hood: Anastasia Stashkevich

Wolf: Alexei Koryagin

Cinderella: Daria Khoklova

Prince of Fortune: Karim Abdullin

Conductor: Vasily Sinaiski

By the "yellow" one, do people mean the Fairy of Playfulness from the Prologue or the Gold Fairy from Act III.

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I thought the ballet had two acts, not three. (I was basing this on the written text on the screen. I thought one act each occurred before and after intermission.) Based on the above definition, I was talking about the first act.

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This production makes me realize once again the genius of Balanchine, to peel away all this frou-frou...

I had the same thought. I enjoyed the performance thoroughly, but when I thought about bringing friends, I couldn't help but feel that ballet -- this ballet, anyway -- is an acquired taste. I kept thinking about the Mariinsky Jewels. It strikes me as more immediately appealing to the modern eye, and if I were bringing non-ballet friends, it would be Balanchine all the way.

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New Rule: Only Italians are allowed to design costumes and headpieces for tutu and story ballets. (Except Mr. Lacroix, who is grandfathered in.) I couldn't believe how beautiful the costumes were. I don't like getting dressed up, but I'd even wear the wig if I could have the Queen's costume for Act I, sans the golden capey thing.

Very divided feelings about Zakarova: a lot to like, but those much-discussed extensions made me cringe. And there was one jete early on that was awful: legs flung apart, no actual elevation, no forward movement, no lightness, just a mid-air 180+ split and a clunky landing; “Uh oh,” I thought. But later, I think it was during the vision scene, she did a series of what looked like deliberately low jetes that were everything they should be: arced and traveling with good ballon.

That the impossible extensions -- which only showed up in the jumps when I saw her in Berkeley a few years ago as Nikiya, and I was hoping she had hidden in the attic -- were back in full force, and the most frustrating thing is that they are clearly a choice and a bad one. She has such incredible control, and even when she doing the crazy extensions, everything else is in place. I don't know how she manages to hold her back so straight while doing the arabesques: it's as if she's built like a pen knife. She has all of the gifts and the rest of her performance is purely classical. She's not making a point with the extensions by stretching everything neoclassically to push the envelope, and she's got the technical control to leave them out.

In Vancouver, although it says "live" everywhere, they show it at 1pm on tape delay. The good news is that there is a tape, and it works. Because there weren't many more than 50 at "Esmeralda", I showed up just before the intro, only to find that it was sold out, and the only seats left for ticket holders were in the first two rows. (I also missed the interview with Hallberg, for which I would have come earlier had I know it would play before the broadcast.) I'm sure some of this was because of where I was sitting, even though the illusion was being a little above stage level, but I think I spent more time looking under Zakharova's tutu than over it.

What was missing from the Prologue was a Fairy of Modesty. Modesty was missing from her performance. She was very glamorous from the beginning, and I don't mean in-your-face glamor, but natural, irrepressible glamour. That worked well in Act II when she was apart from Prince Desire, but not so effective when he partnered her, because she represented, at best, a desire, rather than an ideal. In one of the article posted in the last couple of days, Hallberg wondered at how Zakharova took over the rehearsal, and in close-up, it looked like she very much took charge of the dancing in Act III.

There were lots of lovely things in her performance, but, temperamentally, I would rather have seen her in "Raymonda". (Isn't her coach Ludmila Semenyaka, who was in one of the Bolshoi "Raymonda" DVD's?)

Sometime before 2008 there was an internet stream of "Raymonda" from the Bolshoi, I think a TV broadcast which ran several times, in which I was enthralled with Maria Allash. Since then I'd seen her once before this performance and was disappointed, because she seemed so wooden, and while I was hopeful initially, I thought she was missing the graciousness for the role. She did have a single expression, as if it she was in pain and was trying to mask it.

Another vote for the Prince with the feathered crown: he had great presence and elegance. The one in the teal or green pants -- from India? from Arabia? from Persia? -- got a lot of screen time during Zakharova's solo, and he made the most of it.

Dramatically, I think this production is a dud. In Russian classical ballet, do they use pointing to the floor to indicate death instead of the crossed arms? Having Carabosse point to the floor at the end of her curse was anti-climatic. If this was supposed to be a battle between good and evil, as multi-lingual Bolshoi spokesperson Novikova said during the intro -- it's amazing how she keeps going back and forth between French and English -- they might have cut half of Carabosse's unfocused prancing after the curse and given equal time to the Lilac Fairy, whose curse mitigation was easy to miss if you blinked.

There was almost no mime in this production wallbash.gif There was 10 seconds at the beginning when Catalabutte reviews the list and indicates that there's something wrong, but he can't put his finger on it -- a great set-up -- 2x10 seconds of Carabosse getting angry and cursing Aurora, and 10 seconds for the King to threaten to hang the four girls with knitting needles and the Queen to convince him otherwise by putting her head on his shoulder affectionately. There's not much more than another 30 seconds in the rest of the ballet. For the life of me I don't understand why directors are wiling to have characters walk around aimlessly to avoid "boring" mime than to have them do the simple gestures that further the story and get on with it. It doesn't take that long.[/soapbox]

I wanted to slap down Kaptsova's leg the one time she did a big extension, but it was over quickly, and then she danced Florine beautifully and with great charm. The Fairy Tale figures seemed to be the hybrid of masks with clothes for the men, as if they could be aristocrats dressing up and performing, while the women wore tutus, which only the fairies wore, so it was neither one nor the other. For example, the Wolf was a man pretending to be a Wolf, not a man in a Wolf suit, and his performance was tempered accordingly. The Red Riding Hood and White Cat were neither here nor there, dramatically, but they gave it a good shot nonetheless.

Again it may have been because I was seeing a close up, but Anna Leonova's Diamond Fairy looked muscular and hard. Of the four Act III fairies, I was most impressed with Maria Vinogradova's Gold Fairy; she danced with grace.

The orchestra sounded fantastic at the Scotiabank Theatre in Vancouver. If the acoustics in the new theater are questionable, they miked it beautifully.

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I thought the ballet had two acts, not three. (I was basing this on the written text on the screen. I thought one act each occurred before and after intermission.) Based on the above definition, I was talking about the first act.

"Sleeping Beauty" has a Prologue and Three Acts in its original version. Different companies present it in different ways. Here are the ones I've seen for which I can find programs and today's Bolshoi:

  • NYCB: In the printed program from 2004 I have for NYCB's version, there are two acts and one intermission: Act I is "The Christening", "The Spell", "The Vision" . Act II is "The Awakening" and "The Wedding" (The split is an act later than the others with one intermission.)
  • Mariinsky (1952 version on tour in Berkeley) and Pacific Northwest Ballet: Three intermissions
  • Royal Ballet (2008): There were two intermissions, between the Prologue and Act I, and the second between Act I and Acts II&III
  • ABT (2011) and today's Bolshoi performance: Prologue and Act I, intermission, Act II and Act III

I could have sworn they left out the Act III description from the written version, but it was described by Novikova just before the beginning of Act II.

I liked the way they transitioned between Acts II and III with the courtiers coming in. I know it's actually a dance, but it also looked like they could have been entering the castle. With such big music, the audience doesn't have to hear the stagehands banging the scenery around. I would have preferred if the scene had transitioned before the entrance of the "Fairy Tale" heroes.

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I saw the production on time delay at 1:30pm this afternoon. I have many thoughts, and will try to boil them down in this review. Fortunately many of you have already mentioned details, so I can just second your opinions. tiphat.gif Regarding the theater itself, of course the American theaters will have bold architecture appropriate to the New World (same for Sydney, etc). Yes, the Bolshoi is grand (after all, the word translates into "big" or "grand" in English), but so are the Palais Garnier, the Vienna State Opera House, Teatro La Scala, Czech State Opera House, among so many others. I think an important part of visiting other countries that value classical art is to visit their theaters!

I arrived after David Hallberg's interview. I plan to attend a second viewing on Tuesday evening, so I hope to see it then. I enjoyed the presenter very much. Behind her, as they practiced and stretched, the cinema audience laughed at the dancers' warm up boots. It is funny to see them dancing in character and manner, while wearing imitation ugg boots and a hoodie. flowers.gif I sat next to an extended family speaking Russian, who sadly, did not practice good behavior and chatted throughout the show. I moved seats...and sat below a young girl who kept kicking my chair. Fortunately the ballet drew me in, so I didn't mind too much, and switched the seat next to me for peace. There were about 15 people in total. There was also an evening show today, perhaps it drew in more people.

Personally I thought the sets were finely detailed and very Italianate French looking. The French imperial court has been designed so many times that I don't think it's possible to do much new anymore. But the costumes did take my breath away. The colors, detail, cut of fabrics, movement to the dance - it was all there. The designers also clearly are on trend with the British royal family - feathers on practically every head! In 20 years, the feathers may date the production to 2011. I didn't mind the wigs at all, more on that later.

In the prologue and christening, the Catalabutte character was humorous but not over the top hammy. I mulled over the effete interpretation and how it is becoming less and less acceptable in the US to play gay for gags. But it's still ok in ballet. Certainly it was ok back in Petipa's time. The opening scene took some time to draw me in, it was a little sluggish, I can see why other productions cut down on this section. But I thought the use of the gates was very effective.

I'm neither here nor there as to the male / female role of Carabosse. As long as it's clearly portrayed, it works for me. In this case, the role was a complete ham, but I did enjoy the minions. I want their costumes for next halloween. And the Lilac Fairy (well all the fairies) danced for ever, but then Lilac changed the curse lickety split, and the kids around me needed parents to explain it.

The camera work was by in large well done, with nearly all shots framing the stage or the dancers' full bodies. The few times they went to the facial close ups I cringed. We all still enjoy the illusion, and such close shots harm that illusion. I only enjoyed the close ups of the acting - and agree the King and Queen were very effective (and subtle). The character dancing was a lot of fun, and I kept thinking "no one does this like the Russians!" I really enjoyed the Garland dance and the student dancers.

Once the Rose Adagio began, the energy definitely spiked, and the audience was drawn fully in. I thought Zhakarova was elegant and light on her feet. But I didn't think she seemed like a fluttery, exuberant 16 year old. I didn't enjoy her extreme extensions, but at this point, I don't think she can change them, the muscle habits are too strong. The balances were very nice, the princes' costumes impressed me for their variety, how close they were to the body, and their detail. The final balance made me very happy because instead of dipping into a low bow, she held the balance and slowly, in control, floated out of attitude, unsupported. Another tall girl, Cynthia Gregory, would be proud! Zveta is something of a beanpole, and I think her arms are too thin.

After pricking her finger, I felt the switch to sleep for the entire court was handled too quickly and not very clear. All that advance dancing by the fairies, and then they didn't do much when they were supposed to be sprinkling fairy magic sleeping dust. The 30 minute intermission dragged forever, but at least I got a Starbucks coffee from next door without stress about racing back. Just my luck, I had 2 people ahead of me, each ordering 4 extra drinks for coworkers at the mall.

In Act 2, once Hallberg entered, the difference in his line, technique and grace jumped out at you. I was surprised at the audience fan reaction, it was immediate and enthusiastic. He is a perfect specimen of a danseur noble in the flesh. the POB training is very obvious. The only drawback is the lack of subtle acting ability. But I think this is why he came to Bolshoi - to learn the acting. I felt his facial expressions did not show a wide spectrum of emotions, though he is acting for the theatre, not for the cinematic camera. In interviews on youtube, his face lacks a range of expression, perhaps this will be his biggest challenge. But in height and ability, he was a wonderful match to this Aurora. I only saw a bit of hesitation on one lift, and a few graspy moments when Sveta balanced on his arm.

The vision scene was beautiful, the corps in their minty green tutus with Busby Berkley hats looked wonderful. I agree Sveta's acting matched the needs of the ballet here, she does dreamy elegance quite brilliantly. I would have liked a little more mist to nail down the point that this is a "vision" sequence. I didn't mind the boat, or the portrayal of the Lilac Fairy. Honestly her character isn't nearly as defined as the others in SB, so Ms. Allash did what she could with the role, and technically was lovely. I wasn't thinking of the boat in literal terms as sailing down a French river. I saw it as a metaphorical vehicle to guide Prince Desire to the castle hidden in vines (except not so much in this production).

Once the kiss awakens Aurora, I expected more of a "oh, it's *you*, and you're in the *flesh*, and you're wonderful, oh, let's dance and show the audience we're falling in love!" type of expression. We got some lovely dancing, with elegant, placid expressions from David and Sveta. Then we have the entertainment, which drags on and on. The kids in the cinema took a while to figure out who Puss was - she really needed that tail! Boots needed more dramatic boots on his feet. They loved Little Red Riding Hood, I had no problem with the wolf, my feeling was Grigorovich wanted that facial expression and portrayal. He wasn't as nasty as others, or as murderous, this was more for laughs. Cinderella's prince had a hard time getting her shoe on, the rest of the dance was a little "off". Florine and Bluebird blew my socks off, and I hope they have bright futures. I just hated the featured hat on Bluebird. It was just strange and not very 18th century to me. The remaining fairies and other entertainment went on far too long. No wonder other productions curtail this part.

In the wedding pas de deux, Aurora supplants before Desire low on the ground, he takes her hand and raises her all the way up to point in attitude, then takes her for a final 720' walk in balance and the crowd went wild. Even in my cinema. That was a great technical feat. Kudos to Sveta. I expected more fishdives, but enjoyed the choreography. I know it is fashionable to rip into Yuri Grigorovich, but overall I think this was a success. Yes, it's quite long, but I suppose you can look at it like you get your money's worth with all the dancing, and there are many roles for soloists. It's not just spear carrying and posing.

As with the reopening, the concertmaster's violin solos were exquisite. I noticed the orchestra wears black tie, it was not just for the reopening. I will write a secondary post after I see it again Tuesday night.

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Reposting from Hallberg-at-Bolshoi thread, as most comments on yesterday's Live-in-Cinemas show seem to be here:

I went to this yesterday at the SOLD-OUT AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, MD; the lady in front of me in line at the box office, who had not pre-purchased tix ahead of time like most of us, was asked to 'come back tomorrow' for the non-live repeat. The energy in the audience, even at this early hour on a Sunday morning, was palpable.

As for the show, I have mixed feelings...some rather negative.

First, the positives:

-
David Hallberg! The perfect Prince Desire
- line, technique, graciousness of manner, engagement with partner, etc. Just look at him and understand why princes' roles should go to princely-looking dancers. Harrumph!

-
Top female soloists: Chinara Alizade and Anastasia Stashkevich's
fairy variations...esp. Alizade, who, for me, was THE standout female dancer of the day, period.

-
Good Bluebird pdd by veteran Nina Kaptsova & relative newcomer Artyom Ovcharenko
, although I'm sorry that the male solo was the shortened version

-
Karim Abdullin
, the ultra-handsome 4th Cavalier and, later, Cinderella's Prince Fortune; how this guy is still stuck in the corps after 9-10 yrs is beyond me. [He & Lopatin were the amazing male leads in the Dec 2002 student
'Magic Flute Ballet'
that I saw at the old-old Bolshoi when I lived in Moscow....Osipova and Stashkevich were the leading ladies at that memorable 'children's' production.]

-
Alexei Koryagin
as the Wolf in A3 - the crowd in our theater went gah-gah for his antics...so into character!

-
beautiful costumes
(despite odd rococco set)

-
restoration of the gentler Vision scene so
lo for Aurora, instead of the 'Fairy Gold' music that Grigorovich used in his 1973 version. This seems to be Grigorovich's main creation for this version...although he was busy handling the many cuts in the music that have occurred between 1973 and 2011.

-
mostly nice corps
, if lacking softness and 'poetry' of the Mariinsky...and my eye kept going to
Olga Smirnova
as one of the 'maidens' in the background, audience-right cluster of 4 girls, during the Rose Adagio

-
Biggest Positive of All: That this event happened
& people around the globe could 'be at the Bolshoi' without having to fly to Moscow!

The not-so-positives:

-
AWFUL MUSICAL CUTS
...to be able to fit the stage action into 2 hrs, maximum (+ one 30-min intermission); the '73 Grigorovich version was also done with one intermission...but the cuts were not so prevalent or jarring as in 2011, e.g., all of the prologue music was used in '73 but not here. Worst of all: The Panorama music lasted for about 8 measures in 2011, if that.
Le Style Rapide is hardly 'Le Style Royale'!!!!

-
Sub-par Zakharova
, mostly...but lovely in the pdd adagio; she came off pointe at one key diagonal in her A1 solo, for example (
this was the forward-traveling diagonal on-pointe that precedes the backward-traveling diagonal with the pirouettes
). She seemed nervous and rushed; brittle at times.

-
Anna Leonova a mediocre (at best) Diamond Fairy
; surely the Bolshoi can do better than this? Any one of the other three jewel fairies (left to rt: Tikhomirova, Litvinova, Vinogradova) would have fared better in the key diamond solo.

-
Veteran Maria Allash a less-than-magical Lilac
(Oh, the lucky people in Moscow who will see Olga Smirnova in this role in a couple of days!)

-
SCENIC DESIGN: horrendous one-rococco-set-fits-al
l for the entire ballet...Frigerio should have changed his motif after designing the POB version; the 'modified Bolshoi edition' featured a garish painted floor, which remains in all acts + a darkish gated backdrop for the smaller scenes. As there was virtually no Panorama music, there was no need for a 'Panorama' (as the 1973 earlier Grigorovich-Virsaladze version had).

All in all, a delightful experience, despite the negatives. I look forward to the next Bolshoi live-in-cinemas screening - Dec 18th
Nutcracker
starring our lovely Bluebird couple - Nina Kaptsova and Artyom Ovcharenko!

If Bel-Air Media issues this on DVD, I will buy a copy, if anything, to capture the magnificence of Hallberg. It would be far from the favorite
Beauty
DVD in my collection, though. IMO, nothing beats the languid elegance of the Vikharev reconstruction of Petipa's 1890 original, at the Mariinsky -
the TRUE 'style royale'!;
alas, that one is not fully available on commercial DVD and probably never will be.

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The negatives:

Zakharova's first Act tutu. Hers was a full blown crotch exposure situation. Her tutu was too short, too high on the waist, so her undies were fully exposed. That plus her over the top extensions, well, do the math. During the Rose Adagio every time she passed a suitor in the diagonal of arabesque penchees , the one left behind had her butt right on his nose.

The Lilac Fairy should have been renamed "The Grey Fairy". Completely flavorless, as if she didn't wanted to be there.

The absence of mime. Did Lilac's counter-spelling ever ocurred..? If so, I missed it.

The Panorama and scenery changes during the boat trip. The Bolshoi just opened with some state of the arts machinery, right...? Why then such a poor scene here...? No moving backdrops-(that was aware off)-thru forests or anything. The musical cuts here were a crime.

The White Cat was nowhere to be found. At one point I even assumed that this was another dancer thrown at the very last second to substitute the chosen one, and then there was no time for the cat makeup and tail. Only her male companion was dressed as a cat. She was just another dancer in a gray tutu with a boat-shaped hat I think.

The final tableaux-(actually all of them)-was-(were)- quickly cut down with descending curtains right at the second Lilac was in her lifted position.

The unchanging flooring design. The forests never really became forests.

The awakening scene. Too confusing with all this people around. Too busy-(and this is a very quick scene, musically speaking, so that should be addressed in the choice of choreography for the fast seconds.

Zakharova never never announced she was to become Queen with the signature gestures of arms in couronne during the Rose Adagio. I can understand she's probably not that strong in balances and didn't have the luxury of time to do so, but the miss was too evident.

The Procession of characters at the marriage act. Totally ineffective. The background was dark, Aurora and Desire were nowhere to be found, and the whole thing happened in a blur. Actually the scene didn't even happened INSIDE the castle.

The positive

That the Bolshoi opened and Sleeping Beauty keeps to be staged, danced, admired and criticized by the world, hence alive, strong and well. Again, Petipa lives!

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When the Bolshoi brought its Corsaire to the Kennedy Center ca 2009, then-AD Yuri Burlaka mentioned, during his 'backstage chat' event, that his future plans included the reconstruction of the original ca-1899 Bolshoi version of Sleeping Beauty (Gorsky-after-Petipa), for the reopening of the new Bolshoi Theater. Somewhere between 2009 and today, Beauty was taken out of Burlaka's hands and given to Grigorovich. I sigh to think of what might have been, had Burlaka been allowed to carry-on with his plans.

YID and (I think) nysusan also attended that chat. I remember how thrilled YID and I were at the prospect of this Tsarist-era production being revived...then we got 'Grigorovich Rehashed and Cut' instead.

My Golden Apple of 2011 Award for most perfect production of a Tsarist Era ballet goes to La Scala for Raymonda. This Bolshoi Beauty Lite 'rehash' doesn't come anywhere close to that.

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Reposting from Hallberg-at-Bolshoi thread, as most comments on yesterday's Live-in-Cinemas show seem to be here:

- SCENIC DESIGN: horrendous one-rococco-set-fits-all for the entire ballet...Frigerio should have changed his motif after designing the POB version; the 'modified Bolshoi edition' featured a garish painted floor, which remains in all acts + a darkish gated backdrop for the smaller scenes

All in all, a delightful experience, despite the negatives. I look forward to the next Bolshoi live-in-cinemas screening - Dec 18th
Nutcracker
starring our lovely Bluebird couple - Nina Kaptsova and Artyom Ovcharenko!

I agree about the sets, or should I say "set," b/c it was basically the same set throughout. A disappointment. First time the Lilac Fairy's boat did not work for me, b/c it felt like it was just gliding on land right in front of Aurora's palace which didn't make sense!

You are so lucky to see the Bolshoi's Nutcracker coming up. For some reason the only place that is playing in Florida is Key West, and I don't want to drive down there!!! I looked at the pics on the Ballet in Cinema site, and the Bolshoi Nutcracker looks totally different from the Nutcrackers in the U.S. or at the Royal Ballet in London!

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I looked at the pics on the Ballet in Cinema site, and the Bolshoi Nutcracker looks totally different from the Nutcrackers in the U.S. or at the Royal Ballet in London!

But let's be carefull. This could be Gigorovitch's infamous production with all that bizarre candelabra business during the Grand Pas de deux and the praying-like poses. If so, I won't even try to see it.

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It is the Candelabra Nut, cubanmiamiboy. And did you notice the darn candelabri in this Sleeping Beauty? They were there during the Cinderella episode of A3. Yuri continues to peddle his tall poles, even in this new Beauty. Oh...and the six Lilac Fairy Guys in the Prologue held-up tall potes with clusters of lilacs at the end!

I cannot stand the Bolshoi Candelabra Nut but will go to check-out the dancers.

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It is the Candelabra Nut, cubanmiamiboy. And did you notice the darn candelabri in this Sleeping Beauty? They were there during the Cinderella episode of A3. Yuri continues to peddle his candelabri on tall poles!

I cannot stand the Bolshoi Candelabra Nut but will go to check-out the dancers.

That's true, Natasha...! The darn candelabri was there...right during Cinderella/Fortune's sequence..!!

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