Natalia

Summer 2014 DC tour: Giselle (Grigorovich)

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There have been changes in casting for Myrtha. According to the Kennedy Center site the performances will now be split between Maria Allash and Angelina Karpova (formerly Vlashinets). The Bolshoi site still lists Ekaterina Shipulina and Allash, but I'm going to assume that information is out of date.

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Am also looking forward to reading reviews!

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True to my name I completely slept on getting a seat before the sell-out so MASSIVE thanks to fellow member volcanohunter for feeling under the weather, I snagged her ticket and went in her place! innocent.gif

My vantage point for the May 22 show was 2nd tier, row A, seat 211 which is dead solid center with a cushion in front the ushers caution against putting anything on.

Cast: Gis - Sveta, Albrecht - David, Myrtha - Maria Allash, Hans - Vitaly Biktimirov.

Giselle gets to me like no other ballet. Pre-performance at one of the Grand Foyer bars I went on and on to anyone who'd listen how proud I was to see David Hallberg yet at the same time with vitriol said I despise Albrecht for how he treats our peasant girl.

In all the Giselles I've seen, this is the first time I 99% felt Albrecht isn't an @ssshole. That title went to Hans tonight. Something clicked that were it not for his buttinsky-ness everything would have turned out alright or at least free of drama. You could TASTE Vitaly's portrayal of the gamekeeper as the lightbulb of screwing things up lit up over his head. This was the first of many outbursts I had.

I say 99% because when Gis pleads with Albrecht and Albrecht ballslessly turns away from her, my disgust with him came back. But he makes up for it in Act II by being convincingly sorry and not just because he'll be danced to death.

Svetlana Zakharova. She's perfect. How old is ballet, like four centuries? In each of her movements I get the elation it's the culmination of all those years. She is astounding and my evening was made watching her dance, even if all else would have gone pear-shaped.

But it didn't! David Hallberg, in addition to making me not hate Albrecht, is superb. I wanted to shout "You earn those American pancakes!" (those of you who follow his Twitter will know what I'm talking about).

Admittedly I'm usually lushed by Act II. I'm emotionally spent after Gis' death so I typically hit the intermission bar with a vengeance but I've got a heavy day of work tomorrow so I took it easy so much so I paid way more attention to the second half. Good lord it's wonderful! The audience gave a huge applause to the corps and from my non-orchestra perch my appreciation ballooned. I'm usually way too close to get the whole picture, literally and figuratively.

Packed house, pretty enthusiastic. The lady sitting next to me told me "You seem knowledgable" to which I responded "No, I'm just addicted." tiphat.gif

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I attended on Tues and Wed evenings. Don't have much time to report. Svetlana still has gorgeous extension and line. However, her jumping ability seems to have diminished since the last time I saw her live about ten years ago. Her jumps are very low to the ground now. In addition, contrary to what the NY Times wrote, I feel she is probably too regal and queenly to play a peasant girl. Hallberg is in fine form, but I've seen him do better work as Albrecht at ABt over the years. I thought Nikulina (Wed night) was a much more believable Giselle because she is petite and young. In addition, her jumps were very high and fast, and elicitied spontanous applause. On the whole, I didn't regret going, but I wasn't blown away either by either of these performances. I left with a new and deeper appreciation of the great performances I have seen in the past at ABt from Ananiashvilli, Ferri, Osipova and Vishneva..

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I attended on Tues and Wed evenings. Don't have much time to report. Svetlana still has gorgeous extension and line. However, her jumping ability seems to have diminished since the last time I saw her live about ten years ago. Her jumps are very low to the ground now. In addition, contrary to what the NY Times wrote, I feel she is probably too regal and queenly to play a peasant girl. Hallberg is in fine form, but I've seen him do better work as Albrecht at ABt over the years. I thought Nikulina (Wed night) was a much more believable Giselle because she is petite and young. In addition, her jumps were very high and fast, and elicitied spontanous applause. On the whole, I didn't regret going, but I wasn't blown away either by either of these performances. I left with a new and deeper appreciation of the great performances I have seen in the past at ABt from Ananiashvilli, Ferri, Osipova and Vishneva..

What were your impressions of the corps and soloists?

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I've been tooting the horn for Krysanova and Skvortsov from the outset, and yesterday they did not let me down. But I will have more to say after their second performance tonight. Perhaps because the impression from yesterday's performance was so strong, the matinee with Nikulina and Ovcharenko seemed a little wan in comparison, but again, more on that later.

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My vantage point for the May 22 show was 2nd tier, row A, seat 211 which is dead solid center with a cushion in front the ushers caution against putting anything on.

This is SOP at all theaters that I've been to. I believe the motive is that they are afraid that something might get knocked off and fall on someone in the orchestra section.

Saturday evening's performance was probably top to bottom the best all-around ballet performance that I've seen.

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Giselle - Ekaterina Krysanova (23, 24e), Anna Nikulina (24m)
Albrecht - Ruslan Skvortsov (23, 24e), Artem Ovcharenko (24m)
Hans/Hilarion - Denis Savin (23, 24e), Vitaly Biktimirov (24m)
Berthe - Anna Antropova
Bathilde - Maria Zharkova (23, 24e), Vera Borisenkova (24m)
Duke of Courland - Alexander Fadeyechev
Wilfried - Dmitry Dorokhov (23, 24e), Ivan Alexeyev (24m)
Giselle’s friends - Yulia Grebenshchikova, Nelli Kobakhidze, Yanina Parienko, Anna Rebetskaya,
Ana Turazashvili, Angelina Karpova (23, 24e), Olga Marchenkova (24m)
peasant pas de deux - Margarita Shrainer (23, 24e), Daria Khokhlova (24m), Denis Medvedev (23, 24e), Igor Tsvirko (24m)
Myrtha - Maria Allash (23, 24e), Angelina Karpova (24m)
(Moyna) - Ana Turazashvili
(Zulme) - Yanina Parienko (23, 24m), Angelina Karpova (24e)

conductor: Pavel Klinichev

Although they have been paired in plenty of other ballets, as far as I can gather, Ekaterina Krysanova and Ruslan Skvortsov had not danced Giselle together previously. This in no way prevented them from producing an entirely cohesive performance. In Act 1 they conveyed an extraordinarily detailed narrative through vivid interplay and gestures that always appeared spontaneous, while Act 2, never excessive or melodramatic, was propelled by their very acute response to the music. If something prevented their ideal synchronization in the first act it was the fact that Skvortsov is very much a right-on-the-beat sort of dancer, while Krysanova allows herself to linger behind the music to convey her infatuated state.

Skvortsov portrays Albrecht, virile and authoritative, as completely besotted with Giselle, if occasionally amused by her naïveté. Obviously possessing experience and wooing techniques no villager could equal, even Berthe appears susceptible to his charms. On the other hand it is clear that he does not like Bathilde one bit. He performs the obeisances owed her through gritted teeth, and that Maria Zharkova’s Bathilde comes across as conspicuously more disdainful than Vera Borisenkova’s helps the audience understand his aversion.

Krysanova emerges on stage all lightness, speed and alacrity, certainly a little shy, but without a cloying faux ingenuousness. In the scène d’amour Skvortsov dispenses with the furtive tearing away of the excess flower petal and instead tears them off so quickly and emphatically that Giselle cannot possibly keep track of the yeas and neas. (Nor does he toss away the flower immediately, perhaps to avoid the all-too-familiar and rather tiresome audience laughter that usually accompanies this moment.) Particularly delightful is Krysanova’s reaction to being lifted onto Albrecht’s shoulder, obviously for the first time.

Denis Savin is a very sincere but slightly desperate Hilarion. He certainly expresses the degree of his regard for Giselle, but does it clumsily, so it’s understandable why Giselle could be wary of him. (Still, on some level I couldn’t help but think that Krysanova’s Giselle was a lucky girl to be pursued by two such splendid men.)

During Giselle’s first fainting spell Skvortsov takes Krysanova’s hands in his own to warm them. This gesture reappears at the end of the mad scene when he drops to his knees next to her lifeless body and tries desperately to revive her.

Krysanova’s variation is very fleet, and her arms are lovely and easy, but not excessively fancy. On the second night in particular she nailed the double turns in attitude, which happens so rarely, and her hops on pointe had amazing speed, lightness and movement across the stage, justifiably prompting loud applause. (But it’s beyond me why audiences applaud piquée turns, unless they’re the New York City Ballet variety, with the ballerina jumping onto a pointe far, far from where she started.)

Her mad scene is riveting, so frenzied that at Saturday’s performance she tore Bathilde’s necklace to shreds as she took it off. Wild-eyed, hair completely disheveled, you could hear a pin drop in the auditorium as she conveyed her fractured narrative. It is illogical for Giselle’s friends to drag Berthe to the side after Giselle dies, but it makes for a very dramatic tableau as the curtain comes down on a disconsolate Albrecht cradling Giselle in his arms.

In the Bolshoi production Myrtha is not portrayed as super-aggressive harridan, and this is to my liking, because in my mind jerky movements and ghosts just don’t go together. For the Bolshoi it’s enough to cast a tall, authoritative dancer who looks stern and implacable. Maria Allash has the footwork, balances and jumps, including excellent entrechats-six. She also has a womanly glamour, but I am unpersuaded by her old-school Bolshoi arms—forearms pressed down and paddle hands, intended to conceal tension, but which are so immobile that they invariably look stiff.

The great dance of the wilis is for the most part performed too slowly, as is often the case, and it saps the music of its momentum, but it speeds up drastically for the “chugs.” The performance on Saturday night was especially good. With Allash tearing through space ferociously, and every wili clearing the ground in the final temps levés, the audience reacted accordingly. However, if there was one place where the corps looked consistently ragged, it was in their sequence of jetés after Hilarion’s death and just before the pas de deux. With their backs turned to the conductor, they just could not seem to anticipate the rate of Pavel Klinichev’s accelerando.

At Giselle’s entrance Krysanova turns incredibly quickly, appearing to be this close to careening out of control, but in reality able to sustain it far longer than most ballerinas (Osipova included), and it is thrilling.

With Skvortsov Albrecht’s appearance is not about watching a pair of beautiful legs walk down the length of the stage, though his are very handsome indeed. It isn’t even about portraying his character’s dejection and remorse. It is an uncanny union of dancer and music, as he and oboe seem to become one being: the melody portraying his inner world, and he in turn becoming the visual manifestation of the music. The entire scene with Giselle that follows is so breathtakingly successful in conveying the ballet’s style and atmosphere because of how profoundly unified and responsive he is to the score: as it rises, swells, then ebbs, so does his dancing, as though the music were permeating his entire body. Krysanova, so strong and secure and yet apparently weightless as she hovers over and around him, makes her long, slender arms appear boneless. Skvortsov’s port de bras are gorgeous as well: expansive, open-chested and open-palmed in the Bolshoi manner but here quintessentially Romantic and fluent. With both dancers there is always a sense of energy and motion extending beyond the body, and their jumping ability is extraordinary in ease, elevation and the softness of landings. On this occasion the lyrical power of Giselle’s seemingly endless offerings of flowers of forgiveness was extremely moving.

For the first time in more than 30 years of watching Giselles I applauded following Hilarion’s death. Normally I can’t bring myself to clap at the poor man’s demise, but Savin’s physical and dramatic commitment was so compelling that I needed to acknowledge it.

Building on what had gone before, the heart of the ballet was, obviously, a ravishing and rapt pas de deux, suffused with poignant longing. Since I’m likely to run out of superlatives, I’ll just mention a few things. For whatever reason, Krysanova does not have a super high à la seconde, and I am glad of it, because I don’t believe Giselle is the place for pointing feet straight up into the sky. The lifts were all seemingly weightless, and the slow pace of the music was admirably sustained. In Giselle’s soubresauts there is an unfortunate tendency among Russian ballerinas in particular to concentrate on arching the back, which gives the jumps an abrupt choppiness, but Krysanova instead focuses on the vertical jump, and as a result she really does seem to be suspended in midair. In his cabrioles derrières Skvortsov’s upper body is remarkably still. (Some Albrechts flap their arms around so much you’d think they were auditioning for the swan corps.) Not surprisingly, the audience applauded Krysanova’s series of entrechats-quatre and retirés sautés and the opening double cabriole sequence of Skvortsov’s variation, though I was even more impressed by his seemingly preparation-less double tours, timed perfectly to catch the wind ornamentation in the score. And finally he manages the neat trick of appearing completely exhausted without actually losing any control, elevation or line, all while suffering gorgeously, but never succumbing to melodrama.

The final encounter is one of extreme tenderness and anguish, as a kneeling Skvortsov places his cheek on Krysanova’s hands and then, remaining in the same position, reaches his arm achingly in her direction as she bourrées away. The fact that he doesn't look directly at her during this scene creates a very powerful sense of her disappearing from his sight. I am so very sorry that New Yorkers will not have the opportunity to see either of them in Swan Lake.

It is difficult for me to speak in great detail about the pairing of Anna Nikulina and Artem Ovcharenko because it is not as dramatic, individual or memorable. Both dance with a great deal of lightness, though to the modern dancer in me this sometimes looks like a lack of centeredness and a want of dynamic variety. Nikulina seems to carry quite a bit of tension where her neck joins her shoulders and where her forearms meet her hands. There are times when she manages to catch very long balances, almost Viengsay Valdés-style, but also occasions when she seems to have difficulty rising onto pointe. Ovcharenko’s dancing could do with a bit more variety. For example, during the pinwheel sequence in the first group dance he adds a cute detail by waving to Giselle at the opposite end rather than performing the usual port de bras. But to repeat it four times in a row looks unnatural.

Ovcharenko and Vitaly Biktimirov are mismatched rivals. Ovcharenko is not short—I would peg him at about 5’11”—but on stage he generally looks smaller than he is, and when going head to head with Biktimirov (6’2”?), it is difficult to believe that this Albrecht could stare down this Hilarion. On the other hand, when Skvortsov lunges at Savin with his sword, you really do believe that his Albrecht is capable of running Hilarion through. After the initial “argument” between Ovcharenko’s Albrecht and Ivan Alexeyev’s Wilfried I realized that I had spent the entire scene watching Alexeyev. And yet during the finale of Act 1, Ovcharenko shows a lot of dramatic drive, so the capacity is there, only more work needs to be done to flesh out his character through the rest of the ballet. For now Nikulina and Ovcharenko tend to engage in generalized balletic acting, but their personalities don’t come through. (It was almost as though I could hear their coaches issuing instructions the entire time; the performances did not seem to spring forth organically from these two.)

Nikulina is blessed with large features, which should project well into the hall, but unfortunately her face is rather immobile. Much of the time her characterization seems to be reduced to a broad-eyed stare. If after Krysanova’s mad scene many members of the audience used adjectives like “mesmerizing,” the conclusion of Nikulina’s first act led some to complain that the performance was “boring.”

Following the last-minute withdrawals of Ekaterina Shipulina and Anna Leonova, Angelina Karpova, who had danced Myrtha on only a couple of occasions, got her big chance to fill in. Her pointe shoes were a little noisy, but she did a fine job, jumping easily and dancing commandingly. Hopefully after this she will be given the part to dance more frequently.

The peasant pas de deux, which comes after Giselle’s solo in this production, received good but not outstanding performances. Margarita Shrainer’s manner was a little too elaborate, and she struggled with her pirouettes, but in her first variation she flitted on pointe as only Russian dancers can. Daria Khokhlova’s simpler manner was more appropriate, though she also had a little less sparkle. When Denis Medvedev smiled broadly he appeared charming and entirely at ease, but quite often he telegraphed his concentration to the audience by exhaling visibly before difficult sequences, as though it were all he could do to get through them. Igor Tsvirko has a wonderfully masculine vitality, but seems a little constrained in his attempts to execute the classical niceties, though I think he is a very fine demi-caractère dancer in the making.

(Where, oh where were the Stashkevich-Lopatins, and why are they also being excluded from the New York tour?!!)

For the most part Giselle’s friends are among the least convincing peasant girls I’ve ever seen, with the likes of Yulia Grebenshchikova, Ana Turazashvili and Nelli Kobakhidze. Just about any of them could fill in for Bathilde if necessary. Only Yanina Parienko dances with a sufficiently simple style, which I’d hope she would take as a compliment, while Anna Rebetskaya dances with such buoyant joy and smiles so delightfully that I could probably forgive her anything. But the otherworldly Kobakhidze looks particularly misplaced. As far as I know the Bolshoi has only given her a single performance as Giselle, back in 2006, just as it has only given her a single Sylph to dance. I hope it isn’t the company’s final word on the matter.

Perhaps there is a difference between evening and matinee audiences, but I’ll note that Skvortsov and Krysanova received entrance applause at both their performances, while Ovcharenko and Nikulina did not at the matinee I attended, nor did they do a front-of-curtain bow. If on Friday evening a relatively small but insistent segment of the audience succeeded in procuring a front-of-curtain call, which was then warmly greeted by everyone else in the hall, on Saturday evening I’d say the majority of the audience was not ready to leave without one.

And for some reason the Giselle DVD on sale in the lobby was the Kirov film with Galina Mezentseva and Konstantin Zaklinsky, and not the Bolshoi’s recent film with Svetlana Lunkina and Dmitry Gudanov, you know, the production that was actually being performed in Washington.

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Thank you for the detailed review.

(About 'forgiving Rebetskaya anything:' some years ago, I saw her in a secondary, character role in Corsaire and remember writing on this website that I thought I had fallen a little in love with her...)

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Giselle - Ekaterina Krysanova (23, 24e), Anna Nikulina (24m)

Albrecht - Ruslan Skvortsov (23, 24e), Artem Ovcharenko (24m)

Hans/Hilarion - Denis Savin (23, 24e), Vitaly Biktimirov (24m)

Thank you for your wonderful report and review!

thanks.GIF

"I've been tooting the horn for Krysanova and Skvortsov" to my friends living in D.C., who are scientists and engineers like me. I pushed them to go to see this ballet and told them:

the best performing team - Krysanova and Skvortsov;

the super star team - Zakharova and Halberg;

the new star team - Nikulina and Ovcharenko.

They doubted: you really know that?

innocent.gif

I am going to send your writing to them and say: I told you so!

yahoo.gif

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They doubted: you really know that?

innocent.gif

Perhaps you can appeal to their scientific mindset: tell them you're making reasonable projections based on first-hand observation. smile.png

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