Saw Vasiliev on Saturday afternoon in the principal role of Rubies at La Scala with the Company of that truly grand theatre's name. The performance of Jewels was a decidedly mixed affair. In many instances the company seemed to lack the precision of exact focus that is demanded. They didn't appear (at least on this one outing) to have that strength in their ranks which - at any particular time - must define a truly great ensemble.
The opening movement of Emeralds held more promise than would otherwise prove to be the case elsewhere. Certainly Vittoria Valerio (in the V. Verdy role) was more at home in that movement - noting that she would later replace Osipova in the principal female assignment in Rubies - than she appeared to be elsewhere. Her sense/strength of 'off balance' was blurred and that would really tell in the latter piece where at no point could she simply relax and enjoy herself. So different from the entrancing Ms. Osipova in the same role. A Shame.
In each instance this was the third performance this particular cast was giving. I was looking forward to this showing because it would at last be something different to see Vasiliev in apart from all those other massive outings such as have been otherwise itemised herein which I, too, have enjoyed seeing him decorate since I first spied him when he was 17. I find it a little hard even now to think that first viewing was some eight full years ago. His slyly forward thrusts at the opening of the Rubies pas were embellished with that delightfully mischievous smile that he is wont to spring but otherwise his overall lack of placement defeated him in Balanchine's challenges I fear (the stamps in the first quarter round were virtually non-extant) and his partnering was more than cavalier shall we say. Indeed there was little sense of a relationship between him and anyone or anything but his own determination to follow through. Those devilish building churns - so redolent in my own memory when delivered, say, by the likes of Damian Woetzel, Robert Fairchild and, most recently, the wonderful Steven MacRae - where here not even completed. In fact mid-way through Vasiliev virtually stopped and ran off stage. He seemed to be in obvious pain when he returned in his one final campaign to complete the ballet. At the very end when he lunged to his knee I could see his left hand clutching his lower back. The scrawl burning on his face was excruciating in the extreme. His response in the curtain calls - usually so ardent in its somewhat child-like thrill - was notably restrained. Indeed he looked for all the world drawn in concern as if to say: 'What now?' . It made me wonder if we will, in fact, see him in this week's Kings of Dance performances in London. My heart went out to his concern. Perhaps he has just been doing too much in too many different places.
Polina Seminova of ABT and Friedemann Vogel (a principal with Stuttgart) in that consummate achievement that is Diamonds proved to be the real thrill. Vogel as ever proved to be the chevalier of any ballerina's dreams. It was intriguing to watch Seminova in her chosen transformations (more cool in their roundness than anywhere sharp) in THAT FABULOUS adagio. Her's were so different - but no less telling - than those of Marianella Nunez the week before in London's 'Russian Icons' gala. The large orchestra swelled in its precision here - as did the overall company. That final promenade was made even more heady simply by virtue of being in the physical surrounds of such glorious splendour.
A sidelight: I had never been to La Scala as I had only ever passed through Milan on my way to other Italian landmarks. This day trip was a thrill. I would recommend it to anyone. (Helped that the sun was shinning too.) It was also very cost effective. I had caught a cheap return flight to Milan from London on Ryanair (£19.99/$33.18) and got a relatively cheap seat in the second gallery at La Scala in the front row of one of its side divisions (fourth one from the end) at a cost of 15 Euros (£12.45/$20.66). A good 95% of the stage could be seen (which is far more than you would get in a similar position at Covent Garden). The entire door-to-door cost of this particular jaunt was only £61/$101.26 and that included my food and entry to the La Scala museum (highly recommended). In the museum you not only get to go into your choice of several of the central boxes in the grand La Scala but you can see a marble bust of Nijinsky which virtually speaks, stunning paintings of Patti and one glorious one of Tebaldi and death masks of Verdi, (as well as his piano and an open hand-written score for the Requiem), Puccini and Toscanini. I became intrigued by the locks of hair of each exhibited - and especially that of Mozart. It virtually glistened - much like his music; being a flaming golden brown. There was also a special exhibition featuring the costumes worn by Corelli on the second floor. In one lower case on the ground floor there were items belonging to Verdi. These had been extracted from his suite at the Grand Hotel where he lived and ultimately died. So interesting to peer at the stamps on letters in their original stand and the various writing instruments of the time. Later I would make a detour in my whirlwind run around the city and go to the Grand Hotel et Milano itself. It is suitably grand I must say but I was shocked that there was no reference that I could see that the great man himself had ever existed. Very strange. I even checked with the front desk staff in my broken Italian that I was, in fact, in the right place. They politely assured me that I was. Time is a strange thing - but the splendours of La Scala defeat the clock itself even now. If you haven't had the pleasure I would highly recommend it. Well worth the journey from any prospective I felt.