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.
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.
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 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.