Aurra's "death" scene is very strange. The way they carried her was awkward, only by her legs and upper body. There was no support on the middle, so even if she was trying to keep still and straight, her body tended to bend. Then...what happened to grieving parents in front of such tragedy...? The royal couple seemed very calm during the whole affair. Not good.
Bolshoi: London 2013 (29 July-17 Aug) @ Royal Opera House
Posted 09 August 2013 - 02:06 AM
My review of the August 8th Sleeping Beauty:
Having not seen the Bolshoi perform live since I was little, I was greatly anticipating this performance of the Sleeping Beauty, particularly after viewing the DVD of the production with Zakharova/Hallberg. The Yuri Grigorovich production itself is impeccably dressed—the massive, adorning columns make for a decadent, imposing set, and the costumes are every bit as ornate. Unfortunately, the visual splendor of the production cannot in any make up for its weaknesses: mashed up music arrangements, the absence of any real mime, and the frequently abbreviated or eliminated parts of the ballet. Even the dividing up of the acts with one intermission is awkward: the audience is supposed to adjust to Aurora maturing 16 years of age in the blink of an eye. I’m not asking for a four-hour long Mariinsky reconstruction here, just a nice, coherent, complete production, but Grigorovich’s new Sleeping Beauty is far from that.
Unfortunately, the choppiness of the production starts almost right away with the pas de six for faeries, where two parts of the score are cut. The mime at the beginning of Act I is likewise shaved to its bare minimum, and the mime of the King telling off Catalabutte look rather like a game of cat-and-mouse. In the second act, the Lilac Fairy seems almost in a world apart from Prince and Aurora, executing arabesque promenades on one side of the stage by herself while Aurora and the Prince dance on stage right. The third act is perhaps the most complete act, but even here the Bluebird solo is shortened, the opening absolutely truncated, and the apotheosis gone. Cutting some parts of the score could be forgivable, but all of these instances make for a muddled, fill-in-the-blanks production which resembles more the “Best of Sleeping Beauty” than “The Sleeping Beauty” itself.
The production needs an excellent cast of dancers to make up for its wishy washy nature, and here we had an admirable, if not entirely riveting, cast. Ekaterina Krysanova is a finely assured Aurora, lacking bit of the innate delicacy seen in the great present-day Auroras (Cojocaru, Obraztsova, among others), but nonetheless presents herself as a technically strong and sensitive dancer. This was a performance without flash: no rhythmic gymnast extensions, sky-high jumps, or attempted balances in the Rose Adage (akin to most of the Russian Auroras), but the relative modesty of the performance won me over. Here was an Aurora who seemed very much a young princess—bubbly, effervescent, and enchanted by the prospect of finding a suitor. While Krysanova danced well in Act I, it was her Act II variation where she seemed best suited with finely sustained balances, a beautiful triple step-over pirouette to finish, and an elusive, almost untouchable aura. If anything, her 3rd act, although danced well, is perhaps where she is least interesting: one didn't sense that she had matured from Act I and that she delineated any kind of relationship with her Prince, which seemed more the fault of Semyon Chudin than Krysanova. Although not the most riveting or delicate performer in the role, Krysanova presents the audience with clean, classical dancing with a touch of bravura thrown in. Interested I am to see her Odette/Odile on Saturday, although I sense she is better suited to Aurora.
Krysanova’s prince, Semyon Chudin, is perhaps in terms of technique one of the finest male dancers in ballet today. Here is a dancer with few physical deficiencies to speak of: his feet are divinely shaped, his legs stretched so as to be capable of handling any balance. There are beautiful pirouettes, a gorgeous manege without even a hint of the back leg drooping (as so many dancers do), and not a moment of insecurity in any step. Indeed, his technique seems practically infallible. He simply cannot put a foot wrong, which was much to the delight of a tepid audience that seemed to liven only when Chudin was onstage. However, at the expense of this flawless dancing is a very blank, remote presence: the Prince in Sleeping Beauty is hardly a two-dimensional character, but Chudin doesn’t breathe the necessary life into the role. Even sitting in row F of orchestra stalls, I sensed no sensitivity, no emotion at all. Marcelo Gomes can make a role even as short as this a memorable one; David Hallberg, while certainly not the greatest actor, has innate regality which brings more color to the role than Chudin can muster. This is not to deny that visually Chudin is exceptional, but his performance was often detached from everyone and everything around him.
As the Lilac Fairy, Olga Smirnova reveals much potential. Here is a dancer who at only 21 years of age has a regal authority which belies her years. While some have criticized Smirnova for being too “cool” of a performer, this was not the case in this performance, where she radiated perhaps more warmth than seen in other ballets. A commanding, elegant presence, Smirnova has qualities of greatness, but as is with a dancer of her relative lack of experience, there is fine-tuning to be done. She tends to lean back on her supporting leg during her pirouettes—I noticed this particularly during her pirouettes from fifth-- and at times she oscillates in and out of character. Some shakiness in the pirouettes might be forgiven since the conductor gave her a funeral tempo. Still, there was much to admire about Smirnova: beautiful ports de bras, great epaulement, and luminous in her demeanor. With a few more years of seasoning, Smirnova should deserve a chance at Aurora.
The Bolshoi, obviously a company with tremendous depth, showcases some other standout performers in smaller roles. Anna Tikomirova as the Fairy of Audacity was fabulous: here was a ballerina with complete confidence, technical assurance, and fire. Already said to be an excellent Gamzatti, she could also essay Kitri with great success. Anastasia Stashkevich as Princess Florine is on the opposite spectrum of Tikhomirova—delicate, sunny, a definite Aurora in the making. Artem Ovcharenko as the Bluebird is blessed with an excepetionally lean physique, finely tapered limbs, and an extremely juicy plié. Anna Leonova as the Diamond Fairy is elegant, although she struggled with the ending of step-over turns during her variation, falling out of her double. Maria Vinogradova also deserves praise for her dynamic Carelessness Fairy, featuring strong ballon and a vivacious quality. Sadly, as Carraboose, Alexei Loparevich is unmemorable: his minions actually appear scarier!
Posted 09 August 2013 - 03:36 AM
Sleeping Beauty, August 8
Princess Aurora - Ekaterina Krysanova
Prince Désiré - Semyon Chudin
Lilac Fairy - Olga Smirnova
Carabosse - Alexei Loparevich
King - Alexander Fadeyechev
Queen - Kristina Karasyova
Catalabutte - Vitaly Biktimirov
Candide - Daria Khokhlova
Fleur-de-Farine - Maria Vinogradova
Breadcrumb - Nina Golskaya
Canary - Svetlana Pavlova
Violente - Anna Tikhomirova
Fairies’ Cavaliers - Mikhail Kryuchkov, Mikhail Kochan, Dmitri Efremov, Artem Belyakov, Maxim Oppengeym, Batyr Annadurdyev
Suitors - Karim Abdullin, Yuri Baranov, Ivan Alexeyev, Denis Rodkin
Aurora’s Friends - Angelina Vlashinets, Anna Okuneva, Olga Marchenkova, Yulia Grebenshchikova, Yulia Lunkina, Elizaveta Kruteleva, Margarita Shrainer, Anna Voronkova
Duchess - Maria Zharkova
Gallifron - Sergei Minakov
Peasant Dance - Anna Antropova, Alexander Vodopetov
Diamond - Anna Leonova
Sapphire - Chinara Alizade
Gold - Anna Okuneva
Silver - Yanina Parienko
Princess Florine and Bluebird - Anastasia Stashkevich, Artem Ovcharenko
Red Riding Hood and Wolf - Anna Voronkova, Anton Savichev
White Cat and Puss in Boots - Viktoria Litvinova, Igor Tsvirko
Cinderella and Prince Fortuné - Svetlana Gnedova, Artem Belyakov
conductor - Pavel Klinichev
Ekaterina Krysanova was a lovely, assured Aurora, not quite perfect technically, but very, very strong. Again, I thought she fared best in her second-act variation, where she showed beautiful port de bras and excellent control. Krysanova is an admirable artist. She respects the choreography and the music, and does not indulge in willful rubatos, showboating balances or any other kind of excess.
I thought she deserved a better partner than the somewhat blank and asexual Semyon Chudin. Helene’s posts always include a helpful exhortation to distinguish between taste and merit, and my problem with writing about Chudin is that he is simply “not my kind of dancer.” I find him mannered, not exactly effete, but perhaps a little prissy. What I see is great force--such as the enormous circle of jumps her performed at his entrance--but not ease. Whenever I find myself excessively distracted, for good or ill, by a dancer’s physique--and Chudin makes a big deal of his feet--rather than being captivated by his movement, I am put off by it. He has technical accomplishment, but I don’t see it translated into what I’d call real dancing. The steps are beautifully executed but separate entities. In this he is nothing like Krysanova, who really and truly dances. His attitude toward music is, shall we say, flexible. But he partnered Krysanova well. By the end of this tour I will have seen Chudin dance quite a bit, but in the future I do not see myself seeking out his performances. Still, he obviously had many admirers in the audience, and I hope that he will continue to bring them many years of enjoyment.
Fortunately, Olga Smirnova’s Lilac Fairy was not falling out of pirouettes as she apparently did on Tuesday. There were a couple of fudged finishes, but it was the sort of thing you often see in the Lilac Fairy’s variation. On the other hand, during the coda I was afraid that she would careen out of control during her turns in arabesque, though ultimately she salvaged the sequence with a pirouette on demi-pointe. Her most obvious stumble came after a renversé as she cast her spell over the kingdom at the end of Act 1. Smirnova lacks Ekaterina Shipulina’s munificent manner, but this is obviously a role to which she is suited. How well her style fits into the Bolshoi is more of an open question. Dancing together with five other fairies, all born-and-bred Muscovites, she did look very different.
Alexei Loparevich was a fine Carabosse. He uses his large hands so expressively that I was sorry this production doesn’t retain more of the original mime. I would like to have seen Loparevich perform it. Instead he was often reduced to twirling around with his big cape.
My favorite performance of the night came from Vitaly Biktimirov as Catalabutte. Perhaps he shouldn’t be so conspicuous, but I got a kick out of his florid, energetic and very funny characterization.
This performance was conducted by Pavel Klinichev, and initially I was very optimistic. Despite the odd quack from the winds or brass, I thought the music sounded much better than it had under Pavel Sorokin. But my hopes were short lived. Most of the prologue fairies seemed to have difficulty staying in sync with the orchestra, and initially so did the jewel fairies. In the case of Carabosse’s minions it was a lost cause. When Aurora began her final manège of piqué turns in her Act 1 variation, the orchestra required a couple of bars to get coordinated. On the other hand, when Krysanova and Chudin were at risk of falling behind the music in the vision scene, as Obraztsova and Gudanov had the night before, Klinichev waited for them. Therein probably lies the difference. Sorokin is more of a metronome, while Klinichev follows the dancers, perhaps too much; he tries so hard to be flexible that his tempi become difficult to predict. The biggest beneficiary of his conducting seems to have been Anna Leonova’s Diamond Fairy. On opening night she appeared to have been thrown by a not-quite-on-the-ball triangle player, whereas at this performance she followed the main orchestra and fared much better.
I liked Yanina Parienko’s easy and graceful Silver Fairy. Anastasia Stashkevich and Artem Ovcharenko were admirable as Florine and the Bluebird, though he clearly wanted a much faster tempo and his variation was nearly over by the time he got it. Anton Savichev was a buoyant Wolf. Viktoria Litvinova was an aggressively vampish White Cat to Igor Tsvirko’s Puss in Boots, which is a valid interpretation, though I found it less charming than that of their alternates.
Aurora’s father did not reappear in the second half. The 100-year stasis the Lilac Fairy applied to the kingdom seems to have failed in the case of King Florestan.
When during the final bows Smirnova received a bigger bouquet than Krysanova, she immediately and discreetly put it down behind her. There was a single and rather brief curtain call for Aurora and Désiré.
I was sitting in the front section of the amphitheater next to some Sleeping Beauty neophytes, who quite reasonably wondered why the Bolshoi program lists the prologue fairies about two-thirds of the way down the cast list, underneath all the characters who appear in Acts 1 and 2.
Posted 09 August 2013 - 06:06 AM
my problem with writing about Chudin is that he is simply “not my kind of dancer.”
I also have some problems to appreciate Chudin's "princeliness". But I have to SEE his dancing on stage, then to make sure.
Posted 09 August 2013 - 08:54 AM
I look forward to seeing Kretova live some day.
Posted 10 August 2013 - 09:35 AM
Posted 12 August 2013 - 04:25 AM
Swan Lake, August 10, evening
Odette/Odile: Ekaterina Krysanova
Prince Siegfried: Ruslan Skvortsov
Evil Genius: Vladislav Lantratov
Jester: Denis Medvedev
pas de trois: Daria Khokhlova, Anastasia Stashkevich
Dowager: Kristina Karasyova
Tutor: Alexei Loparevich
Master of Ceremonies: Vitaly Biktimirov
Waltz demi-soloists: Anna Okuneva, Yanina Parienko, Maria Vinogradova, Ana Turazashvili, Karim Abdullin, Denis Rodkin, Mikhail Kryuchkov, Artem Belyakov
Cygnets: Svetlana Pavlova, Margarita Shrainer, Anna Voronkova, Yulia Lunkina
Big Swans: Olga Marchenkova, Angelina Vlashinets, Ana Turazashvili
Hungarian Bride: Yulia Grebenshchikova
Russian Bride: Anna Rebetskaya
Spanish Bride: Anna Tikhomirova
Neapolitan Bride: Maria Vinogradova
Polish Bride: Anna Leonova
conductor: Pavel Sorokin
When it’s danced like this, I can live with all the peculiarities and shortcomings of Yuri Grigorovich’s production. An excellent cast top to bottom, with the leads, dancers suited to each other in their sincerity, seriousness and absence of self-indulgence, producing a lovely, poignant performance.
Ruslan Skvortsov came soaring out of the wings as Prince Siegfried, and even watching overhead from the balcony I was mightily impressed with his elevation. He maintained the big, easy jumps, the port de bras that move in expansive arcs and smooth pirouettes for the duration of the performance.
Likewise Ekaterina Krysanova made an immediate impression as Odette, combining excellent balance with soft and flexible port de bras. But her arms are not excessively birdlike; Krysanova remembers that Siegfried falls in the love with Odette in her human state. Being a good deal smaller than Zakharova, Alexandrova and Shipulina, Krysanova naturally makes a more fragile and vulnerable Odette, and Skvortsov’s Siegfried was accordingly solicitous and protective toward her.
The adagio was taken at a fairly slow, but not lugubrious pace. Helped by the fine playing of the violin soloist (Inna Li?), Krysanova and Skvortsov were pure, sensitive and heartfelt, a picture made that much more eloquent by the knowledge that it this love affair would soon be destroyed. He lifted her as though she weighed little more than tissue paper, and in supported pirouettes she turned so quickly that it was as though she were spinning on a lathe. Unfortunately, right toward the end of the adagio for some reason she slipped off pointe during a finger turn, which broke the spell of what had been a rapt and very moving performance.
In Odette’s variation, Krysanova does not cheat and chooses to do a lot of things the “hard way,” such as performing arabesques where many opt for attitudes, and her final sequence of turns is remarkably smooth and controlled. Of the Bolshoi Odettes I’ve seen so far, Krysanova is the most convincing in showing her transformation back into a swan at the end of Act 2. It’s here that her port de bras become that much larger and more wing-like.
Having comprehensively established her credentials as Odette, Krysanova then reappeared equally convincingly as a fiery and voluptuous Odile, conquering every jump, turn and balance. There is also an interesting detail in the way Skvortsov approaches the “Black Swan” adagio, because it’s when Odile imitates Odette most obviously that he seems most uncertain of her intentions. I also have to mention that the press lift he did while Odile was standing on pointe in arabesque was done with breathtaking speed.
Incidentally, Krysanova reserves high extensions en avant for Odile only. As Odette she deliberately keeps most of these extensions under the 90-degree mark, which is a fitting sort of modesty more Swan Queens should probably adopt.
At the risk of fetishizing a single step, I have to send another valentine to Skvortsov’s tours en l’air. They take off and land from a tight fifth position--or finish in a solid arabesque--they are high, his legs are held very close together with feet pointing straight into the ground, and there is no discernible swing, jerk or twist of the arm in preparation.
Krysanova turned ferociously during her variation, and in the coda she alternated double fouettés and turns with her right leg extended directly in front of her, before switching to single fouettés in the second half of the sequence.
As the Evil Genius Vladislav Lantratov showed no sign of injury.
Daria Khokhlova and Anastasia Stashkevich were both very fine in the pas de trois, as were the demi-soloists in the waltz, especially Yanina Parienko.
Although I object to Siegfried’s would-be fiancées doing the national dances in principle, each was lovelier than the one before. Yulia Grebenshchikova and Anna Rebetskaya demonstrated contrasting schools of charm, while Anna Tikhomirova and Maria Vinogradova took part in a formidable jump-off. Perhaps as a fitting close Anna Leonova showed the best of both worlds, combining big jumps with lovely port de bras.
The corps de ballet was especially fine in the first act and the final scene. Indeed, Grigorovich does some very nice things with floor patterns in the swans’ group dance as the final scene begins.
Of note was that Skvortsov finished the ballet differently on this occasion. If with Alexandrova he was emotionally broken but still standing, here he fell to his knees and stretched his arms forward as the curtain fell.
Krysanova and Skvortsov took their first curtain call by running out in front of the falling curtain--and nearly overshot their mark. After some hesitation, during which the dancers were probably debating whether there was sufficient applause to justify another appearance, there was a second curtain call for Krysanova, Skvortsov and Lantratov.
Posted 12 August 2013 - 05:04 AM
Thank you Volcanohunter for this wonderful review. Although I did not see this performance, you very much made me feel as if I had. Thanks so. I'm so pleased you made the journey to London for the Bolshoi run. I hope you are enjoying your stay here. Please know that your insightful input is hugely appreciated.
Posted 12 August 2013 - 05:55 AM
Thank you. You are very kind to say so. I have indeed been enjoying my stay in London very much. If Londoners resent having their city overrun by tourists, they don't let on. I have found them to be invariably friendly and polite.
I have also been enjoying watching ballet in a sensibly sized opera house, North American venues often being excessively wide and deep. I worry a little now about my endurance, because I've seen seven ballets, six plays and two concerts, and I've still got three plays and up to six ballets to go. Of course this is nothing compared with what the Bolshoi's corps de ballet has to manage over a three-week season.
Posted 12 August 2013 - 06:56 AM
I have also been enjoying watching ballet in a sensibly sized opera house, North American venues often being excessively wide and deep.
What are your seating recommendations for Covent Garden Theatre? I've studied photos of the interior on Google images and am not sure about what would be ideal (assuming available seats and plausible price...big assumptions, I'm sure). Is the orchestra sufficiently raked/sloped that you don't have to worry about tall people with big hair blocking your view? The tiers seem very far back in the center and somewhat obstructed views on the side. My main comparison is the Met Opera House, which has no perfect seats for dance. How does Covent Garden compare?
Posted 12 August 2013 - 08:18 AM
I have sat both at Met Opera House and ROH, and I could say ROH is much smaller scale than the Met. Met is so huge that even the Grand Tier seats seem very far away but ROH is much closer. One of my favorite seats at Covent Garden is in fact the front row of the Amphiteatre, the price is reasonable and offers a very good view of the stage. The orchestra, on the other hand is not raked enough and often your view is obstructed by a tall person. You may have to sit in the middle rows such as L or behind because the rake is better there. I was in the 2nd row of orchestra center block for Mayerling and I couldn't see almost anything. Well I am quite small like 1.6m.
Posted 12 August 2013 - 10:28 AM
At Covent Garden, raking is definitely better row L back in the orchestra ("stalls", they call them). Stalls Circle is usually good.
Anything on the side will have an obstructed view necessarily because it's the side of the horseshoe so you can't see anything upstage on the side that you're sitting.
I like the Coliseum in London (English National and Birmingham Royal perform there). I've never been unhappy with any orchestra seat there. I usually sit in the front row just because I like to be close, and unlike some theatres, it is not sunk below the level of the stage.
Also tickets are way cheaper there than at the ROH.
Posted 12 August 2013 - 11:25 AM
As the Evil Genius Vladislav Lantratov showed no sign of injury.
With only this brief mention, do you mean to imply that Mr. Lantratov's performance was unremarkable?
Posted 12 August 2013 - 02:50 PM
Not reviewing the performance - I'm sure Volcanohunter will do that more than justice ... but I just wanted to mention that at the end of this first performance of Jewels tonight by the Bolshoi in London Sergei Filin was led out on the stage. You could see the affection the dancers hold him in through the mad dash made by both Smirnova and Chudin as soon as he came into their eyesight on the stage right side. Certainly that - in and of itself - succeeded in turning the evening from a performance into an event ... and, at that moment in time, the audience responded in rapturous kind.
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