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Kirov's Tchaikovsky Gala


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 20 February 2002 - 02:09 PM

Tuesday night opened the Kirov-Mariinsky opera season with a gala (Gergiev conducted) that included some ballet excerpts. (Serenade and Tchaikovsky pas de deux. Note that they spell it "TCHAI" and not "TSCHAI")

First, a few tourist at the opera notes. I haven't been to an opera in DC in years, and when I did go, I stood, so I missed the ambience. Definitely an older crowd (I do not think this is a bad thing) and obviously, by applause and attention span, a group that knew what they were going to hear and had heard it before. (And the tenors were all tenors. Think of that!) These must have been long-time opera buffs and Washington Opera subscribers, because people around he were constnatly greeting each other by name -- not something I'm used to at the ballet, which does (in comparison) patch its audience together between subscribers, fans, boosters (by that I mean if the Houston Ballet comes, so do a lot of people who work for Texas congressmen; if it's a German company, you'll get embassy people, etc.) and bus tour and other group sales.

I've been told that the ballet audience here was quite similar in the Martin Feinstein era, but that many of the connoisseurs switched to opera when the ballet programs turned to smaller companies and more pop dance.

Now to the dancing -- which received a wonderful reception, and I hope some of these people will be drawn back to ballet again through the Kirov appearances. I had no sense that people were being polite to the dancers on "their" gala. No one clapped at the wrong time, no one thought that "Serenade" was over before it was over -- just genuine appreciation. Lots of applause for the dancers. Ayuopova and Samodurov (who did Tchaikovsky pas de deux) got a front of the curtain call.

Now to the dancing. Vishneva and Kolb had been on the cast list a month ago to do Tchai pas and Zakharova listed in "Serenade." They did not dance.

"Serenade" was Sologub, Korsuntsev, Dumchenko, Gumerova and Baranov. I liked the dancing without liking the performance as a whole, if that makes any sense. It was too brightly lit and too light, physically and emotionally, too. There was the oddest sense that the dancers needed a set -- they left plenty of room at the sides and back, as though there should be rocks, or love seats, or whatever. There was no sense of mystery. Have they been told "Whatever you do, don't show any emotion? This is Balanchine?"

I liked Sologub very much. She wasn't the strongest dancer I've seen in the role, but I did not recognize her after only seeing her Aurora. She's just not an Aurora, not a classical dancer (in the classical-romantic sense of the divide). Put her in a long skirt though, and the line is lovely. Korsuntsev danced the role better than anyone I've ever seen (my City Ballet "Serenades" were in the period when that ballet was not loved and seemed to be a home for out of favor dancers). Baranov (in the Elegy) was a-Romantic; I got no sense of who he thought he was. Korsuntsev, without projecting a character, made a place for himself in the ballet. Dumchenko (the Dark Angel role) and Gumerova were fine, too. It LOOKED like Serenade; it just didn't feel like it.

Tchaikovsky pas de deux was wonderful. Samudorov is a bit tight in the hips, but otherwise danced very well. The audience was especially appreciative of his triple lutz double toe combination in the solo -- Whoops. Wrong sport. smile.gif Ayuopova was quite wonderful. Light and fast and youthful. The turns were especially beautiful. My only complaint was that the flying fish dives were as careful as Sleeping Beauty fish dives, which isn't my idea of Tchaikovsky pas de deux, but otherwise, this was a very fine performance.

For opera buffs, the program also included the Act II duet from "Iolantha," a scene from "Pique Dame," the final scene from Evgeny Onegin, and the execution scene from Mazeppa. I didn't know any of the singers and would not presume to comment on opera smile.gif But I was quite happy to be there.

The audience was very enthusiastic at the end. I heard a lot of people, on the way out, "Just think! We have ten years of this to look forward to." Another thank you to Messrs. Kaiser and Vilar.

[ February 20, 2002: Message edited by: alexandra ]



#2 Roma

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Posted 20 February 2002 - 03:10 PM

Alexandra, thank you so much for your report smile.gif

Re: "It LOOKED like Serenade; it just didn't feel like it"

I have seen them do this ballet many times, usually in St. Petersburg, with Lopatkina as the Waltz Girl, and have always had the same experience you described. I think of "Serenade" as having an almost palpable sense of tragedy, a ballet in which a 3x4 smile is not exactly appropriate. Perhaps the reason they dance it so lightly is because they are not sure who they are suppose to be and where they are suppose to be, so they smile away, just in case it's right.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 20 February 2002 - 04:19 PM

Thanks, Roma. I definitely had the feeling they didn't know who they were, but, then, how would you explain it, if you were coaching? There's the other problem. You are The Girl Who Fell Down. or The Man Blinded by Fate. At least they didn't do it that way smile.gif

I've been struck by how, in both Serenade and Jewels, the Kirov looks and dances much lighter than NYCB. I don't mean to suggest that is "wrong" or "bad," just different. I wonder if it's what Balanchine meant when he said, on visiting Russia, "No, America is the home of classical ballet now. Russia is the home of Romantic ballet." Romantic ballet IS lighter. And there's no reason why a company can't develop a neoromantic style to complement a neoclassical style.

I don't remember this about their "Theme and Variations," "Scotch Symphony" or "Apollo" danced here 15 years ago. But I can't say whether that's because I didn't notice this, or think in these terms. I've learned a lot in the past 15 years. smile.gif

#4 Roma

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Posted 20 February 2002 - 09:56 PM

Alexandra, I think it could be explained to them by saying, "LISTEN to the music, and trust the feeling IT induces".

"I wonder if it's what Balanchine meant when he said, on visiting Russia, "No, America is the home of classical ballet now. Russia is the home of Romantic ballet." Romantic ballet IS lighter. And there's no reason why a company can't develop a neoromantic style to complement a neoclassical style."

How wonderful! I never thought about it that way.

But ... they don't dance Ratmansky or Petit or Neumeier with the lightness born in Romanticism, so perhaps it comes from a certain lack of understanding too. It seems as if there has been some confusion made over Balanchine's wanting dancers to be unmannered. Sometimes that gets interpreted as having to be emotionally/musically weightless (at NYCB as well; I have seen many of their performances that could have been termed "Balanchine LITE").
The Kirov dancers feel much more secure in Theme (that has been revived this season with Gumerova in the lead), and in Scotch, but Symphony in C seems to be the only complete success for them so far.

I do think it is absolutely wonderful that Vaziev keeps acquiring these ballets, that the company keeps dancing them, not only as a novelty for Western audiences, but at home, too, where they are not always well received or even wanted.

[ February 20, 2002: Message edited by: Roma ]



#5 gigi

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Posted 21 February 2002 - 09:31 AM

I believe the Kirov's Apollo premiered in the US only 10 years ago (1992 at the Met). And I believe Scotch was first performed in the States around 1990/1991. We're not that old yet!!

#6 Roma

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Posted 21 February 2002 - 09:45 AM

That's right smile.gif Scotch was staged for them in Feb. 1990 by Suzanne Farrell. That was their first Balanchine aquisition. And then Theme followed that same year. Apollo was only staged there in 1992.

#7 Kevin Ng

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Posted 21 February 2002 - 09:51 AM

Actually the Kirov premiered Apollo in Washington in 1991, before their NY performances in 1992. I can remember because I was in Washington that year to see the Kirov.

Roma, I also think it's wonderful that the Kirov keeps adding to its Balanchine repertory. I look forward to seeing their "Prodigal Son" which was just premiered last Dec.


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