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Kirov's Sleeping Beauty/opening night


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#16 Ari

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Posted 14 February 2002 - 09:58 AM

I’m delurking after a long time because I’m so excited about Tuesday night’s performance. I’ve seen this production once before, at the Met in 1999, when I didn’t like it. Maybe it was having to stand for four hours that made me grumpy, but Tuesday (when I was seated, and close up in the orchestra), I mostly loved it.

The best thing, overall, for me was the truly grand scale of the production. This is what writers have always said about this ballet, but the productions I’ve seen—with the slight exception of NYCB’s—have all been trim, compact affairs, built to move from city to city. I don’t know where the Kirov found the money to pay for this production, but thank heavens it did.

The costumes struck me as ugly in 1999, but on second view I like them better. They are certainly not in the current style: the colors and patterns clash, and when the stage was crowded (which was most of the time), I felt blinded by the glare. But I liked the cut of the tutus, which were big but more softly draped than the ones that are the norm today. They moved gently with the dancers rather than sticking out awkwardly the way today’s umbrella-like skirts do. And the sets were gorgeous, the best I’ve seen since Makarova’s Bayadere. Unlike the costumes, they looked as though they’d been designed yesterday.

One thing I especially liked was their use of children. They were all over the ballet, in every scene, but there was nothing at all cute about them. Rather, they came across as fresh, charming, and poignant. It was interesting to see the human frieze of cupids and cherubs looking down at the newlyweds in the Wedding scene: this must have been where Balanchine made his stage debut (he said he was a cupid in Beauty, and I’ve always wondered how they fit that into the ballet).

Okay, the dancing. Generally very good. Vishneva looked great, especially in the Wedding pas de deux. The other classical variations were handled well; I liked the Sapphire and Gold fairies, though Sapphire showed a marked sluggishness in allegro. The Canary variation was danced, thank heaven, in strict classical style, without all the cutesiness that most companies go in for. (The Kirov has not always danced it this way; in 1989 the dancer—same one in every performance—hammed it up dreadfully.) I was a bit disappointed in Maya Dumchenko, who had jumped out at me in 1999 as a beautiful exemplar of pure Kirov style. She wasn’t bad on Tuesday, just not any better than the other first act fairies. Above all, it was a great pleasure to see the richness and depth of the Kirov’s dancing. The beauty goes beyond épaulement, but I don’t know what it is—this is where my ignorance of technique lets me down. Non-Russian dancers tend to dispatch their variations with brisk efficiency, concentrating on momentum rather than luxuriating in the many-faceted beauties of each movement.

Best of all was Igor Petrov, the Carabosse. Unlike the other male Carabosses I’ve seen, Petrov played the role absolutely straight, without any camp or even humor. He was one cold, bitter fairy, and really scary. The success of his performance was proven, I think, by the good-natured boos that accompanied his final bow. He really got the audience into the spirit.

Now, as to Mr. Kolb. I have no idea why the company chose to dress him up in the second act the way they did. Those long, curly blond locks and big mustache made him look like a ridiculous fop. When he first came out, to the Prince’s music, I thought, “Surely not.” Like Jeannie and Alexandra, I kept waiting for the Prince to come out, and only realized, reluctantly, when all the dancers were onstage, that this Groucho Marx-type was really supposed to be Desiré. He looked like a joke! In the Awakening scene, when he scurried off to a corner after kissing Aurora, and she woke up alone and ran around waking up members of the court, I started to laugh to myself, thinking, “Just wait till she gets a look at her prince! She’ll wish it were Shrek!” Fortunately, he shed the false hair for the Wedding scene and looked quite normal. He danced very well, too, except for some perilous turns. But I don’t see him as a danseur noble, either, Jeannie.

Another great thing about this production is that the character divertissements in the Wedding scene are so much fun and so plentiful. I think those of us outside Russia have lost the innocence necessary to make them work.

I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing the production again on Friday, but I’m devastated that I don’t have a ticket to Jewels. (The KC usually schedules things so that you get different bills on Tuesday and Friday nights, but not with this engagement.) I’ll be trying for a return tonight, but I don’t have much hope.

#17 Natalia

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Posted 14 February 2002 - 10:53 AM

Ari - You have me crying my mascara off with your 'Groucho Marx' comment! Good luck with a Jewels ticket tonight. Call the box office throughout the day, too, as folks turn-in an odd ticket here & there if friends cancel....subscribers can return tickets for tax deduction (if done before the show, of course). Call (202) 467-4600 for KennCen InstaCharge office. No waiting list - it's a 'luck-of-the-phone-call' thing.

Alexandra et. al. - Regarding the conductor - it's Boris Gruzdin, one of the Mariinsky Theater's regular conductors since 1992/93. Yes, it's the Kennedy Center Opera House orchestra...and they had quite a few snafoos on Tuesday night but the various soloists just kept dancing & the orchestra caught up.

I saw Valery Gergiev with Makhar Vasiyev & Olga Chenchikova, in the opening night. I could see when they left the backstage area & came out into the audience. Gergiev won't be conducting any of the ballet performances. He's conducting the gala on the 19th + all of the operas, save the 'Khovantschina' on the 21st. This guy is the Eveready Energizer Bunny of opera conducting. The thought of conducting a gala + 5 operas on consecutive nights in the same week, is incredible. And not just any little operas. 'Khovantschina' runs for 4.5 hours, employs massive chorus, includes the 'Persian Ballet'. This is Russian opera on a Wagnerian scale.

[ February 14, 2002: Message edited by: Jeannie ]



#18 Alexandra

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Posted 14 February 2002 - 11:11 AM

Jeannie, thanks for the info about the conductors (and getting last-minute tickets). Ari, I AM SO GLAD YOU'RE POSTING AGAIN! A very warm welcome back, and please stick around smile.gif

#19 Natalia

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Posted 14 February 2002 - 03:52 PM

Small but, I think, important correction to Sarah Kaufman's review in today's Washington Post:

Altynai Assylmoratova did not dance Aurora in the US premiere of this production (during the 1999 Met season). That honor went to Svetlana Zakharova. Assylmuratova danced the 3rd cast - a Wednesday matinee. [Yes - bizarre but true.]

#20 Alexandra

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Posted 14 February 2002 - 04:11 PM

I think Kaufman may have meant that the New York season (all performances) were the American premiere of the ballet, and the performance she saw was danced by Asylmuratova. It wasn't clear, but sometimes thoughts get squished together in daily reviews, when two sentences have to become one because of space smile.gif That's just a guess, of course, but I've boxed myself in similar syntactical corners. (She wrote: "The Kirov presented its American premiere of this version two years ago in New York, with the glorious Altynai Asylmuratova in the title role.")

#21 Natalia

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Posted 14 February 2002 - 04:26 PM

I see, Alexandra. it certainly was worded (reworded by editor?) to imply that AA was "it"...the one-and-only, etc. The sad part -- and this is a more important fact than pointing out errors -- is that AA was given only 3rd cast...and a freakin' matinee, at that! Zakharova & Vishneva were given the first two evenings; Nioradze was given the final night. And here was the 'prima' ballerina (AA) relegated to the one matinee. Go figure...

#22 NO7

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Posted 14 February 2002 - 09:47 PM

[quote]Originally posted by Ari:
I have no idea why the company chose to dress him up in the second act the way they did. Those long, curly blond locks and big mustache made him look like a ridiculous fop.
When I saw this production for the first time in London almost two years ago, I even mistook Galifron, the Prince's tutor for the Prince. It wasn't until the Vision scene that I started to realised that..ummm..a man in a big red jacket was in fact Prince Desire. wink.gif

#23 Juliet

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Posted 15 February 2002 - 12:27 PM

But you know, Zelensky looked wonderful in the coat and wig and hat. Quite wonderful. Guess it matters who wears the costume....or the costume wears them.

#24 Alexandra

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Posted 15 February 2002 - 12:32 PM

Bless you, Juliet smile.gif Danseurs nobles are the fashion models of the ballet. They can wear a hat -- even a curly wig. Pavel Gerdt could wear that costume!

#25 Natalia

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Posted 15 February 2002 - 05:09 PM

Juliet - I remember the handsome Zelensky as Desire. He was something else, wasn't he?! Wasn't his wig a big shorter & straighter than the one worn by the other Desires, though? Zelensky did not wear the extra-long/super-curly "Cowardly Lion" type of wig that is worn by Andrian Fadeev, Igor Kolb, et al.

Kirov principals tend to play around with & alter their costume accessories. They even tweak the actual costumes at times, e.g., Zhanna Ayupova's Rose Adagio tutu, in London 2000, sported a corsage of plastic-looking rosebuds pinned to one shoulder strap. Lordie, I felt like running on stage with a pair of scissors to clip them off! biggrin.gif


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