Dale

Opening of new Mariinsky II Opera House in St. Petersburg

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The recent RT documentary (Ballet, Sweat and Tears) visited the family of Diana Vishneva's coach, Ludmilla Kovaleva, in which viewers saw Kovaleva's daughter, MT corps de ballet artist Alisa Sokolova, with her new baby. So congrats to Alisa Sokolova! (So that's why we have not seen Sokolova on stage for a while.)

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Thanks to all who identified the correct dancers/singers/others. I've now seen the 'replay' on the ARTE web, incuding Skorik and Schklyarov in the Diamonds excerpt that was cut from the live transmission. I must admit a new-found admiration for Oksana Skorik. So gorgeous; Balanchine would have loved her! (Skorik and Askerov are also seen rehearsing a bit of the Diamonds PDD in the recent RT documentary. Also lovely.)

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Congratulations to Alisa Sokolova :flowers:

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Thanks to all who identified the correct dancers/singers/others. I've now seen the 'replay' on the ARTE web, incuding Skorik and Schklyarov in the Diamonds excerpt that was cut from the live transmission. I must admit a new-found admiration for Oksana Skorik. So gorgeous; Balanchine would have loved her! (Skorik and Askerov are also seen rehearsing a bit of the Diamonds PDD in the recent RT documentary. Also lovely.)

That's really interesting about Oksana Skorik. I believe that she has mostly been excoriated in another thread on this list. I have never seen her live, only a few clips on YouTube.

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Thanks to all who identified the correct dancers/singers/others. I've now seen the 'replay' on the ARTE web, incuding Skorik and Schklyarov in the Diamonds excerpt that was cut from the live transmission. I must admit a new-found admiration for Oksana Skorik. So gorgeous; Balanchine would have loved her! (Skorik and Askerov are also seen rehearsing a bit of the Diamonds PDD in the recent RT documentary. Also lovely.)

Have you seen Skorik's Kitri debut recently? She was truely awful with no musicality, no gracefulness, no expressing upper body, no acting skills, etc...

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Of course, a performance of Kitri can be quite different than a performance of "Diamonds."

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My only comment on Oxana Skorik for the moment is that I can't wait until I get a chance to see her again. flowers.gif

Added later:

A few whys.

Based on what I've seen her do live, her Expression, both in her dance and in her facial interpretation, can be mind-boggling.

Her lyrically refined Essence is remarkable. More recently I've noticed a basic perfection of moves that brings Mozart to mind. Like each distinct note of Mozart's music there is Beauty, Refinement and Clarity. (This was most noticeable in her "La Bayadere" at this year's Mariinsky Festival and can be seen in much of her Mariinsky II "Diamonds" performance on the video that many of us are currently watching. I would say that of all the performances on this video that I've been rewatching, I've returned to hers the most.)

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Thanks to all who identified the correct dancers/singers/others. I've now seen the 'replay' on the ARTE web, incuding Skorik and Schklyarov in the Diamonds excerpt that was cut from the live transmission. I must admit a new-found admiration for Oksana Skorik. So gorgeous; Balanchine would have loved her! (Skorik and Askerov are also seen rehearsing a bit of the Diamonds PDD in the recent RT documentary. Also lovely.)

Have you seen Skorik's Kitri debut recently? She was truely awful with no musicality, no gracefulness, no expressing upper body, no acting skills, etc...

Fififi, ITA with you. Skorik (or other tall & hyper-thin adagio dancers) should never have been cast as Kitri. I truly admire Skorik's line, including use of arms and fingers. When she slowly unfolds her limbs in an adagio, she is ravishing. She is not a zippy allegro dancer. I don't know why Mariinsky casts her (or Kampa) in such roles.

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Thanks to all who identified the correct dancers/singers/others. I've now seen the 'replay' on the ARTE web, incuding Skorik and Schklyarov in the Diamonds excerpt that was cut from the live transmission. I must admit a new-found admiration for Oksana Skorik. So gorgeous; Balanchine would have loved her! (Skorik and Askerov are also seen rehearsing a bit of the Diamonds PDD in the recent RT documentary. Also lovely.)

Have you seen Skorik's Kitri debut recently? She was truely awful with no musicality, no gracefulness, no expressing upper body, no acting skills, etc...

Fififi, ITA with you. Skorik (or other tall & hyper-thin adagio dancers) should never have been cast as Kitri. I truly admire Skorik's line, including use of arms and fingers. When she slowly unfolds her limbs in an adagio, she is ravishing. She is not a zippy allegro dancer. I don't know why Mariinsky casts her (or Kampa) in such roles.

Natalia, LOL! I agree with the first part of your post - and Skorik's Kitri was "truely awful with no musicality, no gracefulness, no expressing upper body, no acting skills, etc.." but I am sorry, and I just cannot agree with you that she is ravishing in adagio. Please tell me where you have seen her be ravishing in adagio?! I do find her far too thin, especially those very angular arms, to be beautiful in adagio work. Yes, she can make good lines in isolated poses, but I do not see any wonderful flow of movement. The lines have to be there for a meaning - they have to be part of the expression of a character, or an inner meaning but with Skorik, the movements are just empty. Her lines in poses convey nothing. To me she just goes from position to position, often at the expense of the musical phrase, with little feeling. I do not see her soul in her dancing, and so for me, she can never be ravishing.

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Different criteria. Different strokes.

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Different criteria. Different strokes.

Helene, although, in my mind, Oxana Skorik has *The Big Picture* covered beautifully, I think that you are absolutely right.

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Skorik is the tipe of dancer that conciously exploits the stillness of infinite beautiful poses thru performances, which doesn't necessarily equals movement quality.

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Cristian, I have to say that I think that she has great quality of motion as well.

Also, having seen Oxana Skorik carry things right to the edge and succeed assuredly and magnificently, I'm inclined to give her a lot of leeway and a lot of credit.

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Cristian, I have to say that I think that she has great quality of motion as well.

Also, having seen Oxana Skorik carry things right to the edge and succeed assuredly and magnificently, I'm inclined to give her a lot of leeway and a lot of credit.

And I'm glad she has proper and promptly defenders besides us the detractors. Something that everybody is definitely entitled to...flowers.gif

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Cristian, I tend to take her rather seriously, but I try not to take myself too seriously. All the remarkable artists that we discuss here are entitled to our good will and respect. Good will comments such as yours are always appreciated.

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Since Valery Gergiev is at the center of all we've been discussing this might be a good place for a thought. When I listened to the orchestra without the video I was enchanted.

I'm not that familiar with classical music and when I go to the ballet I generally pay total attention to the dancing. Today I downloaded the music to "Swan Lake" by the Mariinsky Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev (no dance, dated 2007). It's a rearrangement of the music from what we hear at the ballet today. I've read various comments on Valery Gergiev and how he conducts for dance. After listening to the famous lakeside duet music several times I listened to the same music conducted by Valery Gergiev for the Ulyana Lopatkina performance on dvd.

The main difference that I noticed was that the non ballet version is so much more nuanced. It's not only tempo, but also feeling, a highly poetic interaction. When I listen to him conducting for the ballet dvd it is also beautifully felt but contained within a much more uniform context. It definitely has established its own musical identity, but it is one that seems much more at home with the dancing.

I find both interpretations to be extremely beautiful. Based on what we've seen and discussed at this topic, could these two worlds come closer together? Would the dancers ever want to relate more closely to the musical possibilities? And, of course, would Valery Gergiev want to explore the music's potential for expanding the richness of the dance? Maybe some others here would like to comment on this?

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Buddy,

This is my opinion (not necessarily the truth):

Conducting a score, I believe, without the dancing enables a conductor to do exactly what he wants as far as making choices to follow the markings exactly, etc. He can also find things in the score he personally wants to highlight. However, when he is collaborating with dancers, he has to take into consideration that he might have to slow down a passage so that even a good dancer can keep up or he may have to speed up if a dancer can not hold a balance or a singer can not hold a note as long as he wishes. This was probably done since ballet and opera began. Staging an opera or ballet has always been a sort of collaboration. Some singers do exactly what the conductor tells them, but if they have star power, they can at times tell a conductor that it is too fast, they can't sing it like that, etc. and then a compromise (or a collaboration might be how they see it) takes place. Kathleen Battle reportedly stopped John Nelson and tapped out the tempo he should have to accompany her arias. THIS is rarely done and was shocking to the other singers to treat a conductor like nothing more than an accompaniment, especially in the 20th century when conductors usually had more power than singers did. Maybe in the era of the castrati and even bel canto period a singer was more important but not today. It is not normal for a singer to basically set the tempo and the conductor goes along with her wants. More often it is the other way around. I have no idea how it is for ballet dancers, but I suspect the dancers try to do what Gergiev wants, but there might be some amount of give and take since he has no choice since he is working with humans, not machines.

When conducting live theatre with dancers or singers to keep in mind you sort of all have to work together. One person can not have his way completely. But Gergiev conducting a score just for an audio recording can do exactly what he envisions the score to be (whether he is right or wrong about how to conduct). Even then orchestra members can have problems with tempo, etc. and I suspect he can not always get 100% what he hears in his mind. His job is probably to coax them or convince them to do it his way and try to get the sound he wants from them. I would think he would have much more of his way with just an orchestral reading of Swan Lake than a live performance of the ballet.

With a performance with dancers he has no choice but to have some give and take to how he conducts, although Gergiev can be very heavy handed and do what he wants (it seems at least). I thought he ruined his recent recording of Die Walküre! I thought, "Nina Stemme and Jonas Kaufmann!!!! How can I lose buying this new Walküre?" I have not listened to it much despite LOVING Stemme and Kaufmann.

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Thanks very much, Birdsall, for your knowledgeable and thoughtful response. I tend to see the reality of the situation much as you do. What I'm perhaps alluding to, rather than "give and take", is a real interest and desire for all parties to enter 'heartfully' into the world where the others 'lovingly' live.

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I am reminded of the remarks exchanged in "The Red Shoes" (IMO the greatest ballet movie ever made, although it can get "old" when you've seen it more than 50 times), when Victoria Page is arguing with the newly-hired conductor, Julian Craster, about the tempo of a passage in Craster's new score for Grisha's new ballet "The Red Shoes." "It's too fast!"insists Vicki. He replies to the contrary, shouting "Tia, tia!" as he bangs his baton on the conductor's stand, to indicate the tempo he wants. "Oumph," she stomps off. Then later, at the premiere of the new ballet, when everyone is nervous and excited and Vicki says she can't even remember her first entrance, Julian says to her "Vicki, dance it any tempo you like. I'll follow you."

Swoon...........

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Great timing, angelica !

"Swoon..........." flowers.gif

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There have been instances also (in contrast to that Red Shoes scene) in real life where a soprano goes along smiling during rehearsals when the conductor refuses to change his tempo and the soprano goes along with it up until Opening NIght and during performance she puts on the brakes and literally forces him to follow her tempo or ruin the show. This, of course, is very risky and can potentially cause a train wreck with the orchestra, so it is not very professional and not conducive to a great night in the theatre, but it happens. It could backfire on her and ruin her performance or it could make the conductor look bad or make both look bad.

All kinds of things happen. There have been famous singers who failed to fully learn the words and score and have words written on table cloths of the set to get through the performance. You would be very surprised what goes on! LOL

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Alonso said that Balanchine purposely speeded up the tempo in the T&V premiere-(which was, for what I've read, his debut as a conductor). She said they were dancing madly fast and ended up breathless, but the outcome was an exciting, wonderful performance. It takes a great conductor and great performers to challenge each others in order to deliver a good product.

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I attended two performances at the New Mariinsky last week: a mixed opera and ballet gala and a performance of Ratmansky's Cinderella.

I was quite prepared to like the New Mariinsky and indeed when I first saw it from a block or two away thought its bland modern exterior might even be a rather tactful answer to the seemingly impossible question of what to put next to the old theater that would not in some fashion clash with it or even take away from it. Also, I quite like modern amenities: sufficient bathrooms, proper air conditioning and air circulation, comfortable seats etc. I am also not opposed to modern theater styling and I very much like the State Theater. ("Mr. Drew" nearly died of heat exhaustion in one of the crowded, overheated boxes of the 'old' Mariinsky so he was more than prepared to like the new one too.)

Well, we both ended up having a rather negative reaction. Of course I am writing only as an audience member: I assume that the backstage does indeed have technological wonders not available at the old theater and conveniences for the artists as well. So I'm going to talk about some things people may find trivial but to me were surprisingly unattended to by a 21st-century architect (like no. of bathroom stalls).

The positives: Certainly the seats throughout seem to be well banked--much more so than in the old Mariinsky. We sat in the parterre ("Benois") front row and one balcony up ("Belle Etage") but the rows behind us in those balconies were elevated by steps so people behind us should have had no trouble at all seeing. Certainly not the case in key parts of the old theater. There is also more spaciousness all around that added to comfort, in some cases multiple routes in and out of seats. I checked out the orchestra which is also much better banked than the old Mariinsky (with steps between rows) though someone short may always have problems. The seats are also comfortable, considerably more so than the old Mariinsky. I'm not a great judge of acoustics, but they seem to be as good as reported. Air conditioning more than adequate on lower level and adequate as we got higher on the Belle Etage...I'm a little suspicious it may be less adequate way upstairs but did not check. I assume air conditioning is not typically a big issue in St. Petersburg, but the week we were there it was genuinely hot.

The negatives (and some neutrals): I was not looking for 'old fashioned' atmosphere but the theater seems designed to be positively anti-atmosphere. On the mostly bland and monolithic (but not unpleasant) exterior, the entry is marked solely by a rather small sized glass and steel awning that is actually easy to miss. There is no entry foyer to speak of before you give your tickets which seems to me both inconvenient and strangely unwelcoming; the ticket office has another entry but is also rather small.

The large and visually airy foyer that you enter after you give your tickets is, in the heat of June, surprisingly stuffy and was even hot the evening we were there. Presumably not a problem most of the year. The gold toned stone of the walls and the crystal lights, which gleam white, seem rather harsh in tonality and the stair rails to get to the balconies are bare and unadorned (I assume made of steel but don't know). There appear to be bathrooms at different levels unlike the old theater, but only four stalls in ladies room on the Benois level (which was also the level for entry to Orchestra) and on Belle Etage. The bathrooms were also somewhat narrow which, given the long lines, made negotiating them uncomfortable and air circulation was barely adequate (less than adequate on a lower level bathroom I went to before performance). For such a large theater I thought four stalls on two key levels was a poor choice. I did not try to get something to eat or drink.

The interior of the theater itself: In photos I thought the wood looked honey toned and its contrast with lighter blue seats seemed a nice contemporary riff on the old Mariinsky gold and blue and even had the right touch of warmth. In reality I found the color tones much paler and cooler than they had appeared to me in photos and entirely drained of any warmth by the white lighting. (Ironically, in photos I thought the old Mariinsky looked dowdy--something I did not plan to admit on the internet--whereas in reality, I found it to be like the interior of an enchanted jewelry box, possibly the most magical place I have ever been.)

The expanses of wood in the new theater, to cite Mr. Drew, rather recall the wood paneling of a giant high school gym. Do I exaggerate? We saw exposed screws on the balustrades (that is, on the panels of wood enclosing the balconies) on the Belle Etage -- I mean exposed screws in the manner of an Ikea shelf. An intentional modernist touch? A nod to the working man? I don't know. More bare, unadorned metal bars above the balustrades.

At the Cinderella performance we even saw scuff marks already marking up the wood in front of us on the balustrade of the Belle Etage which seems to indicate that nothing has been done to protect the wood from the inevitable scrape of shoes by people in the first row. (I suppose if the old Mariinsky were better lit we might have seen worn out velvet, peeling paint etc....but it has, after all, been open for more than a month.) The very pale blue of the seats adds to the cold professionalism of the atmosphere but what really undoes any kind of atmosphere is the harsh white light throughout the very large space. I do acknowledge that the large size of the theater may be a plus from other points of view--bigger audiences, more revenue etc. The curving back walls were a dark brown--I don't know the materials, but I did not think anything looked particularly compelling. The color and texture seems pretty much like international hotel neutral.

Altogether, at first view, the architecture did not work for me as a modern vision of elegant, spacious geometries, which could certainly have a place in the very geometrically compelling St. Petersburg.

Sight-lines? Well, it's bigger and thus less intimate than the old theater. Sitting in the back of the orchestra in the horse shoe ring of Benois boxes in the Ur-Mariinsky, we felt closer to the stage than, at the gala, sitting halfway down the side at the same level in the new Mariinsky. I think the size may work better for grand opera than ballet or indeed earlier or more intimate operas. It was difficult to judge the "side" sight-lines since for the opera part of the gala all the singers stood in the center of the stage. The second half of the program was the ballet Carmen which has a semi-circle set enclosing the dancers, and we could see only about 75-80% of the semi-circle but all of the main dancers within it. (The ballet does have dancers lining the set so to speak and we could not see all of them.) We were towards the center for Cinderella up in the Belle Etage and could see everything fine--but were definitely further away than in the equivalent seats in the old theater. I certainly am not criticizing Mariinsky II for being bigger and less intimate, but it's yet another plus for ballet going at Mariinsky I.

I assume the goal was a kind of cool modern austerity with grand opera size and I understand the architect is an experienced theater designer. I don't doubt he had problems to solve I can't begin to imagine. But the result, to me, at least on first viewing, is cold and a bit lifeless. More convention/conference center than opera/ballet theater. These are harsh criticisms so I should add some caveats. I am no architecture critic and I believe that sometimes the 'new' is hard to take in--the old Mariinsky was also new to me personally, but of course it's a type of theater I have attended and that makes a more obviously seductive appeal to the eye and to the imagination. (At least if one likes 19th-century theaters--and I do). It also comes with profound, ready-made associations for any ballet fan. As people attend the new theater it will accrue its own loved history and associations. (For me, it's already associated with Lopatkina and Pavlenko as well as Ratmansky.) And good air-conditioning and comfortable seats are by no means to be sneered at. My BACK probably preferred the new theater to the old even if the rest of me did not. The acoustics and backstage improvements must be even more important considerations.

At both performances I attended people were very interested in the theater, looking around sometimes avidly, taking photos etc. I don't think this was just the same "tourist" interest people certainly were taking at the old theater as well. I think many people, including the Russian audience members, were curious about Mariinsky II and excited to be there.

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Thanks for the review of Mariinsky II.....very fascinating to read your comments! These are bits of info we would never read in an article about the new theatre, so it really helps that you took the time.

Also, I loved your description of the historic theatre as an enchanted jewelry box. I think you are absolutely correct about that. It is gorgeous! I actually thought there were little signs here and there of the age of the historic theatre, but overall I was enchanted. Just sitting in that theatre is thrilling.

So I will be interested to see if I feel the same way about Mariinsky II when I finally see it, which might be sooner than I expected, because I got a job after 3 years of being out of work!!!! Hip hip hooray!!! I believe I do not start until August. If I am correct, I might hurry up and bathe myself in enchantment again before I face the challenging work ahead of me!!! It all depends on my start date, but I suspect my start date is when the school year here begins.

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At the Cinderella performance we even saw scuff marks already marking up the wood in front of us on the balustrade of the Belle Etage which seems to indicate that nothing has been done to protect the wood from the inevitable scrape of shoes by people in the first row.

A Russian photo-blogger has documented what he sees as examples of shoddy workmanship on the theater's facade. Some of it looks prematurely damaged, too.

http://www.echo.msk.ru/blog/gratispb/1090034-echo/

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