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Jeannie's White Nights Reviews, May 31 - June 9

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Hi Everyone!

I'm just commencing a thread in which to place my reviews of the Kirov-Mariinsky performances during the first week of the hite Night's Festival. I'm also attending performances in other theaters (on non-ballet-nights at the Mariinsky) & plan to post these here. Here's the expected line-up of shows; assume the Kirov-Mariinsky unless noted otherwise:

May 31 - Bayaderka (premiere of 1900 new-old version)

June 2 - Manon

June 3 - Conservatory - Gala Concert of stars from all of St Pete's Professional Ballet Troupes

June 4 - Alexandrinsky (Pushkin) Theater - Boris Eifman's Don Juan

June 5 - Le Corsaire

June 6 - Nutcracker

June 7 - Hermitage - Giselle

June 8 - Maly/Moussorgsky - Swan Lake

It's easier to for me to find them in one spot. Hopefully, the thread won't become too unwieldy. If so, I can split it.

Anyhow...next stop, St Petes!! Poka!!

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Jeannie, La Bayadere this Friday will be danced by Daria Pavlenko and Igor Kolb. I will try to come to St. Petersburg next week. The flights from London are very full this weekend because of the Queen's Golden Jubilee holidays.

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La Bayadere-1900 reconstruction

May 31,2002 at the Mariinsky Theater

The highly-anticipated Bayadere-1900 premiere took placel ast night.

Overall

Not a disappointment; not quite a triumph, either. I am happy to have stuck around for Act IV (the 'all-new'act), even though it began around 11pm!!The old Betrothal Gnd Pas Classique is now here (Gamzatti & Solor+Nikiya and4 little bayaderes...no longer G+S+4+2men)

Dancers

IGOR KOLB WAS THE BEST AMONG THE DANCERS!!! -SURPRISE!!! HE FLEWWWWW!!!! Audience went nuts for him.Daria Pavlenko had a mixed night (nervous?); Elvira Tarassova's Gamzatti was fine in first three acts in which she only mimes...then wonderful in final act. BUT it was IRINA GOLUB as the first shade who made the greatest impression among all women; Irina Zhelonkina was spot-on as #2 Shade; and recent-graduate Nadezhda Gonchar (tall brunette) 'cheated' the 3rd variation with quick-high-kicks..minimal control & sublimity. Vladimir Ponomaryev--my favorite King Florestan in Sleeping Beauty!--stole the first three acts with his deft miming skills...transporting us to the true era of Marius Petipa!! Corps dancers were magnificent; very well drilled, obviously!

Production staging/mise-en-scene

re. the production, I have mixed feelings about yet another half-baked reconstruction...purporting to be 1900 Petipa, yet retaining vestiges of 1941 Chaboukiani et.al..Golden Idol (a 1930s creation by Nikolai Zubkovsky is still here. The biggest treats of this production are the not-recently-seen dances, such as a dance for 12 Balinese(or are they Thai?) girls in the Betrothal Divertissements, to recently-discovered music by Minkus, for this dance (Doug Fullington - where are you? I wish you could have been in my 'loggia' last night, LOL!) Another curious novelty that I instantly adored is a sweet Garland Waltz for 24 corps girls in Victorian tutus & Gibson-Girl wigs,wearing white pouffy tutus with kelly-green accents(4-leaf clovers & hearts, methinks!). AND Nikiya dances her sinewy Betrothal Scene solo with a long-necked LUTE (small guitar) now,rather than a basket (although the basket-with-asp appears later). Earlier, she strummed the lute outside the temple as she awaited Solor.

Several well-known divertissements are retained...yet the work to imbue them with authentic Petipa Era touches has robbed them of their 'punch' e.g., the Tom-Tom Dance no longers 'zings'...Galina Rakhmanova & Islom Baimuratov no longer perform their signature backbends; rather,they tiptoe through the tulips (comparatively speaking). NO yells of 'Bravo' as before. (In fact, the only 'bravos' of the night went to Golub's 1st shade & to Kolb's solo in Shades scene (the Chaboukiani variation...now danced incanary-yellow silk outfit).

Local non-favorite

I sat with 'locals' in 2nd tier. Most Russian afficionados were lukewarm, especially for Pavlenko.The lady sitting beside me, a scientist who goes to almost every Kirov-Mariinsky ballet perfomance, whispered, after Pavlenko botched her solo-with-scarf: "Can't they find a decent Nikiya in the city of St.Petersburg?" Ouch!! [i disagree with the lady...I thought that Pavlenko was lovely especially in mime;obviously had first-night jitters in the big classical dances.)

Sets/Costumes/Animals

Sets reworkings of the old familiar ones forthe multiple scenes in Acts I & II...yet strangely muted/faded!! ActIII (Shades) was awild moonscape; the 32 shades descend a ramp amid high rock outcroppings! The ActIV temple is similar in look & feel to the ActII,sc i palace...flat, muted. The anxiously-anticipated crumbling of the temple ,at the end, barely happened-- one or two columns collapesed.

The costumes ranged from Victorian-sublime (the shades are 32 GibsonGirls in beige/off-white pouffy tutus & pompadour hair!!) to ridiculous (Gamzatti'sfather, the radja, wears a blue-and-yellow Scarlet O'Hara prom dress for the betrothal!).

The props are a hoot: the tiger is twice as fat as before...while the elephant is half the size (and zooms across the stage at a briskpace..we barely get to see it). Oh- the 12 'parrot girls' now hold parrots of the same blue color...ahhhhh. Where did the stager,Sergei Vikharev shop for these critters? FAOSchwartz on the Neva?

I would write more, but the darn computer-keyboard on which I write this doesn't 'take'my spaces between words easily.

Overall, it is a splendid show-- don't get me wrong. It was a pleasure to have attended it last night & I hope that the few 'kinks' can be ironed out by the time of its next outing,in NYC next month.Everything is being crated & packed today for shipment to the Met; last night's premiere was the only performance before the Met season premiere on July 8, to star Vishneva/Tsiskaridze.

Jeannie Szoradi

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It's not a surprise, Jeannie. I was sure my favourite 'Igorushka' would do the best!:)

Not until can I see this new production myself that I would be able to tell you if that dance in Divertissement is Thai or Balinese;)

Oh..and if Tsiskaridze dances the first night for the Met season, what about the rest then? a big change again?

Thanks very much for your vivid report. Can't wait to read more!

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Sunday, June 2, 2002

Thanks, NO7! Always many surprises in Rossiya, re casting!

I did not attend the Maly last night, as planned, as the 'Sleeping B' was cancelled & Boyarchikov's version of 'Bayaderka' substituted. So I spent the night hanging-out with my Russian friends instead. We rented a sailboat & saw the sunset of White Nights, around midnight. Nice bottle of Russian champagne, etc!!!!

Tonight (Sunday) it's MANON with Makhalina/Kuznetsov!

I've added a performance - tomorrow night there will be a special ballet gala at the Conservatory, including stars from about 12 different ballet troupes in St Petes. Mariinsky to be represented by Ayupova-Fadeev-Makhalina-Tarassova, among others.

Also tomorrow, I hope to get the key to my own apartment (finalize purchase). God, I love this place!!

For now - CHISTLIVA! POKA! DA SVIDANYA!

- Jeannie Szoradi

St Petersburg, Russian Federation

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Sunday, June 2, 2002

Last night's performance at the Mariinsky of McMillan/Massenet's 3-act ballet, MANON, was an intensely satisfying one. (Now THAT's the Kirov-Mariinsky that I know & love...not the tentativeness of Friday's BAYADERE-1900 premiere!)

First off, this sort of ballet -- with heightened melodrama & lush sets & costumes (much more detailed & realistic than the sets of the RB original)--is 'tailor made' for a troupe like the Mariinsky. And the Russian audiences expect and ADORE this sort of romanctic melodrama!! I see more McMillan oevres in the Mariinsky's future - perhaps MAYERLING ore even ANASTASIA...now wouldn't THAT be 'tailor made' for them, subject & all!

Back to last night's MANON...

Yulia Makhalina scintillated as the young French courtesan. My, hasn't this ballerina really grown into a true artist during the past 2-3 years. She is no longer playing the same-old/same-old 'prima diva' in her interpretations but, rather, imbuing every role with gentility & subtle nuances. First the Raymonda & Cinderella's Mother in March; now this Manon. Makhalina is an artist of the greatest magnitude in every sense...reed-thin beauty (she has lot weith - or muscle, it seems, & is very sleek now), crystal-clear technique, keen musicality, but - nicest of all - a sense of total drama that was missing during her Vinogradov years.

Tall, blonde & handsome Ilia Kuznetsov was no less amazing as Manon's true love, Des Grieux. Kuznetsov - now here is another principal dancer who has grown into a true ARTIST since I last saw him. No longer just the hunk-matador, Kuznetsov is the finest, ost sensitive Des Grieux I've seen since the role's creator, Anthony Dowell. This is a Des Grieux who not only recites poetry with his movements but who knows who to act so to elicit tears in the audience. Bravo, Ilya!! [so perhaps the Kirov-Mariinsky is finally getting its long-awaiting prince-noble type of leading man who is not only tall & handsome but of excellent technique and great acting?? YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS HOPE IN THIS WORLD!]

And let's not stop with the two lead principals.

As the 'second pair' of Manon's brother, Lescaut, and his mistress, Maxim Khrebtob & Natalia Sologub were spectacular. Simply spectacular! No wonder that both of them have won multiple awards for their interpretations of these roles! Khrevtob is seen all-too-little on American tours. Here, he not only danced brilliantly but acted with a devilish air. And, finally, young Mariinsky darling, Natalia Sologub, has convinced me of her favorable position in the company. She is no Petipa ballerina...but - boy! - s she a McMillan & 20th-21st-century one! Sologum even made me forget the magnificent Monica Mason for a few split seconds - LOL! And...Elena Bazhenova made the role of 'Madam' into a more youthful & glamorous, but still coniving, one.

The corps are all well-honed actors, as well as brilliant dancers.

The new costumes -- more colorful than the London originals but very much modeled on similar designs -- are magnificent & lush. Glamour with a capital "G"! And the sets, as mentioned above, are much more satisfying than the drab minimalist rags from the Royal Ballet original version. It takes the Kirov-Mariinsky to turn an already-grand ballet into a true EVENT!

-Jeannie Szoradi

St. Petersburg, Rossiya

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Thanks, Dale, for the link.

Goodness, that "garland" photo certainly looks like Jardin Animé, doesn't it? Or the Garland Waltz without the men? Can it be that the great master recycled his choreographic ideas from ballet to ballet?

It makes me think of Arlene Croce's remark, after seeing some never-before-presented-in-the West Petipa: "The Petipa legacy is a puzzle—the more we see of it, the less there is."

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I might be crazy, but I really love the costumes from the old productions. They're gaudy and over the top, much more like vaudeville than the all-the-pale-colors-must-match produtions of today.

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I love them too, Dale. And those props! Wait til you see 'Tony the Tiger' in NY!!

re. Garland Dance - this was a Petipa Standard. Don't forget the Garland Waltz in Act I of Raymonda, that prefaces Raymonda's pizzicatto variation.

I'm just waking up from last night's star-studded gala at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory, so I'll post my review later today. I have to meet with apartment decorators now. I'm just one block from the Lion Footbridge, on the Griboyedov canal. Close to Mariinsky, Nikolsky Cathedral and a BANYA! Now I feel truly Russian!!!

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Monday, June 3, 2002

At the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory:

'Russian Yarmarka' Cultural Center Presents

St. Petersburg Ballet Stars

The Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory Theater, built on the foundations of St. Pete's first great opera house (The Bolshoi of St. P) & situated across Teatralnaya Square from the Mariinsky Theater, was the venue for a most entertaining evening of ballet chestnuts, danced by a pleiad of the finest soloists from four local ballet troupes: the Kirov-Mariinsky, the Maly-Moussorgsky, Choreographic Miniatures, and the Konstantine Tkatchine Troupe.

Venue:

One has to have a really, REALLY vivid imagination to picture the dreary, Stalin-Era auditorium as a grand ca-1820 gold-and-red opera house that saw the premieres of all of choreographer Marius Petipa's early classics, e.g., Doch Faraona, Camargo, Corsaire, Bayaderka. *Nonetheless, the original blue-and-white staicase and foyer remain...and for that we can be grateful!

Back to the present & tonight's gala potpourri; passionate audience:

We certainly got our 200 Rubles (or $6.50) worth for a front-orchestra (stalls) seat for a three-part/two-intermission marathon of pas de deux and solos from the classical and modern-classical repertoire that Petersburgers so adore! The audience was so emotionally touched that, at the end of the show, various spectators crossed the narrow bridge above the orchestra pit onto the stage to hand floral bouquets to their favorite dancers among the 22 soloists who performed tonight. One fellow even got on his hands and knees up on that stage, to kiss the feet of his favorite ballerinas!!! Ah -- only in Rossiya! What emotion! Blame it on the White Nights? If carriages existed today, I'm sure that that fellow would be pulling the one belonging to Yulia Makhalina...

As with most such galas, Marius Petipa reighned supreme tonight. The few novelties included two solos from a work-in-progress by Maly-Moussorgsky Theater choreographer V. Medveyev, as well as his recent reconstruction (or 'imagining' a-la-Lacotte?) of a pdd from a rare late-Romantic Era ballet, composer Adolf Adam's 'The Sea Robbers' (or...could that be a literal Russian translation for 'Le Corsaire??...in any case, this was new music for a so-called 'Sea Robbers pdd' with the exception of the music for the male solo, which is from 'Corsaire'...more below).

Here's the blow-by-blow...errrr...I mean, the dance-by-dance from last night's programme:

PART I

1. Nutcracker pdd - adagio (choreography Vasily Vainonen/music Tchaikovsky)

Tatyana Shashina & Alexei Shashin, both of the Maly Ballet

Secure rendering of this Soviet-era classic by a delicate young blonde couple...a Slavic prince & princess who are the up-and-coming soloists of the Maly-Moussorgsky Theater.

2. La Sylphide pdd (August Bournonville/Herman Lovenskjold)

Natalia Bashkirtseva of Choreographic Miniatures Troupe & Roman Mikhailev of Kirov

The powerful Bashkirtseva -- a Moscow 1993 IBC silver medalist -- was precise, if not quite ethereal, while Mikhailev displayed an easy lightness, including splendid entrechats-huit.

3. The Legend of Love, solo of Queen Mekhmene-Banu (Yuri Grigorovich)

Alexandra Iosifidi of Kirov

Iosifidi is a tall & striking, reed-thin brunette, whose height is probably keeping her from attaining principal status at the star-packed Kirov company. Ahe was one of my personal favorites among the many great graduates of the Vaganova Ballet Academy's legendary class of 1995 -- which also includes, Vishneva, Dumchenk, Gumerova, Ti-Eun Ryu, Kuznetsov, Fadeev, etc, etc. I fondly recall Iosifidi's 'Legend of Love' solo at her graduation...and she reprised it tonight, better than ever. Amazingly pliant body on a thoroughbred physique; endless legs; musicality-with-emotion; George Balanchine would have adored her!

4. Giselle Act II pdd (Perrot & Coralli/Adolphe Adam)

Elvira Khabibulina & Kirill Myasnikov of the Maly Ballet

Khabibulina -- a drop-dead-gorgeous brunette ballerina who is a superstar in Japan (where the Maly troupe regularly visits) and the star of the beloved recent video of 'Esmeralda' -- and Myasnikov delivered one of the highlights of the night. Elvira Khabibulina FLOATED -- there's no other word to describe it. There were audible gasps in the audience as she boureed onto the stage, as if on a silken cloud. Elvira Khabilulina is a goddress to Petersburg Balletomanes...the great Romantic-dramatic ballerina of our era.

5. The Sea Robbers pas de deux (V. Medveyev/Adolphe Adam)

Elena Glurzhidze of Tkatchine Troupe & Stanislav Fecho of the Maly Ballet

She is a tall & striking beauty who resembles Alla Mikhalchenko of the Bolshoi; he is dark & elegant. Both danced an ultra-difficult novelty of a late-Romantic Era pas de deux...although the stiff black-wtih-gold tutu for her & black velted jacket on him were more appropriate to 'Swan Lake - Black Swann pdd'!

This work follows the standard pas de deux format: opening adagio for both; male solo variation; female solo variation; ending with zesty-paced coda for both.

Three of the musical tunes are novelties to my ears; the music for the male variation is familiar - as it was incorporated into Petipa's first version of 'Le Corsaire' as the solo for the 3rd Odalisque.

Adagio - majestic & powerful

Male Solo - full of pirouettes allowing minimal preparation time

Female solo - danced to a lilting waltz, this is likewise full of pirouettes, as well as an extended diagonal of frisky hops on pointe.

Coda - includes the usual bravura moves of 32 fouettes for the woman & pirouettes-a-la-seconde for the guy. VERY impressive technique from both dancers.

PART II

1. Grand Pas Classique (Victor Gsovsky/Auber)

Irina Badaeva & Feton Miozzi of the Kirov Ballet

It's a treat for me to be able to see these two fine soloists who are rarely included on Kirov tours to the West! She is a petite redhead; he is tall, dark & lanky with a passing resemblance to Farouk Ruzimatov. Awesome technique from both, especially her L-O-N-G miraculous balances and the spring in his leaps. Audience goes gah-gah with this pair!

2. Spartacus - 'circle dance' of courtesans (Leonid Yakobsen/Aram Khachaturian)

Elena Kuznetsova of Choreographic Miniatures troupe, with corps of 14 females

This is a segment of the ca-1955 ORIGINAL version of 'Spartacus' created by Leonid Yakobsen for the Kirov Ballet many years before the now-more-famous Yuri Grigorovich version for the Bolshoi-Moscow. This is a rarely-seen ballet that is completely performed with sandals (no pointe shoes on the females)...with the effect of a classical frieze. Tonight we saw an exotic circle-dance for a group of courtesans. They enter veiled then, one by one, cast aside the veils to reveal slinky 'harem-like' attire. Thanks to the skill and beauty of these dancers, this number doesn't tumble over into the realm of kitsch. [Note: The complete, full-evening, Yakobsen 'Spartacus' is being revived by the Choreographic Miniatures troupe soon, commencing June 12. I'm sorry to be leaving it...as I will attend Bolshoi tour in Washington, DC...next visit to St P, perhaps?]

3. Suite en Blanc, final female solo (Sergei Lifar/Eugene Lalo)

Alexandra Iosifidi of Kirov Ballet

*Among the many great numbers tonight, THIS ONE WINS MY TOP HONORS!! WOW - WOW - WOW!!!! Dancing with bravura and crustal-clear classical technique, the tall Ms. Iosifidi seemed totally French & not Russian in this chestnut from the neo-classical repertoire of the Paris Opera Ballet. This is the final female solo of 'Suite en Blanc', the one that Elisabeth Platel used to perform regularly... begins like spun sugar...very languid & flirty..builds up to powerful & majestic ending with series of high entrechats alternating with razor-sharp pique-arabesques, almost piercing the stage with her pointes. An unforgettable dance! HOW ALEXANDRA IOSIFIDI IS NOT A SUPERSTAR OF BALLET IS BEYOND ME...GET HER TO A COMPANY WITH A TALL MALE PARTNER!!!

4. Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (George Balanchine/Tchaikovsky)

Elena Glurdzhidze & Yuri Vetrov (sp?) of the Tkatchine Troupe...this number was not on the printed programme so I'm relying on my Russian-listening skills for the names!

A commendable performance, if lacking in true Balanchine neo-classical style & nuances. They gave it their all, then somewhat 'lost it' int he final seconds of the coda, when she threw heerself into his arms for the fishdives...both times almost landing on the floor.

5. Raymonds Act II Panaderos-Spanish Dance (Konstantin Sergeyev-after-Petipa/Alexander Glazunov)

Yulia Slivkina & Dmitri Korneev of the Kirov Ballet

Where does the Kirov find the endless supply of tall, exotic, great female character dancers? -- from Anisimova in the 1940s to Gensler, Strogaya, Sherstnyeva, Rakhmanova, Gronskaya and now Yulia Slivkina, a recent graduate of the Vaganova Academy. Here she was teamed with the dynamic veteran character dancer Dmitri Korneev, setting the stage on fire in this all-too-brief Spanish-flavored number.

6. Manon Act I, sc i "Meeting pas de deux" (Kenneth McMillan/Jules Massenet)

Yulia Makhalina & Ilya Kuznetsov of the Kirov Ballet

A reprise of a glorius romantic pas de deux from Sunday night's memorable performance at the Kirov-Mariinsky Theater. Slavic blonde god Kuznetsov the tall Makhalina appear as light as a feather & age 16...straight from the convent school. Danced with love & abandon. Big audience pleaser!

7. Le Corsaire pdd for Ali & Medora (Marius Petipa/Adolphe Adam)

Natalia Bashkirtseva of Choreographic Miniatures and Andrei Ivanov of the Kirov Ballet

This shortish-and-muscular couple punched out a dazzling competition-style rendering of this pas de deux. Ivanov spins like a tops - made me dizzy just watching!!

PART III

1. Swan Lake 'White Swan pdd' adagio (Lev Ivanov/Tchaikovsky)

Zhanna Ayupova and Igor Kolb of the Kirov Ballet, with modified corps of eight swans.

Pure as spring water, the essence of the Art of Ballet was captured by Ayupova and Kolb tonight. Simple, no-frills beauty. Understated elegance that is so rarely seen on the international ballet scene nowadays.

When on earth was the last time that Zhanna Ayupova danced the full role of Odette/Odile in 'Swan Lake'? What a treat to see her in this excerpt, partnered by the secure & gallant Kolb. Between tonight's performance & Friday's Bayadere-Solor at the Kirov, the 'new Kolb' is erasing my negative memories of a sappy Prince Desire in 'Speeling Beauty' in Washington, DC last February.

2. 'Carnival in Venice' pdd (Marius Petipa/Cesare Pugni)

Irina Badaeva & Feton Miozzi of the Kirov Ballet

This is an early-Petipa treasure that is a 'standard' at Russian gala programs or Vaganova Academy graduations...yet rarely seen in the West. Miozzi's elevation AND ultra-magnetic stage presence won the night here! On the other hand, Badaeva seemed a bit out of step in her solo of classical poses, unlike the earlier Grand Pas Classique...but she came back strongly in the coda.

3. Eugene Onegin, Olda & Lenski pdd (V. Medvedev/Tchaikovsky 'Manfred Symphony')

Tatyana Shanina & Alexei Shanin of the Maly Ballet

These next two pas de deux are from a work-in-progress, a full-length 'Eugene Onegin' ballet promised for 2003 at the Maly-Moussorgsky Theater, to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the founding of St Petersburg. There will be inevitable omparisons with that most famous balletic rendering of the Pushkin tale - that of John Cranko for the Stuttgart Ballet, which is performed all over the globe nowadays. But this will be a Russian 'Onegin' ballet - 100percent creation of Russians. So we will see.

This Olga/Lenski pdd, set in a birch-tree forest, is full of sweeping lifts & throws, echoing the passion of the young lovers in Pushkins poem. Her yellow chiffon, empire-style dress adds greatly to the romantic effect. A lovely pdd.

4. Eugene Onegin , final pdd of Tatyana & Onegin (Medvedev/Tchaikovsky - 'Elegie' from his Suite no. 3...used by Balanchine in his ballet 'Tchai. Suite 3)

Elvira Khabibulina and Stanislav Fecho of the Maly Ballet

A passionate & highly acrobatic pdd, as Tatyana -- that quintessential Pushkin heroine -- is torn by old feelings for her childhood 'love' and by honor & respect for her present husband. Comparing to the Cranko version of this moment in the story...I would say that the different, more passionate & loud music in the Cranko version allows for a more gut-wrenching and effective dance. 'Elegie' is a bit too gentle. Nonetheless, here we saw powerful drama from Khabibulina. She is THE 'Drama Queen' of today's Russian ballet scene, for sure!!!

5. Don Quixote, gypsy character dance (Nina Anisimova/ Ludwig Minkus)

Yulia Slivkina & Dmitri Korneev of the Kirov Ballet

Slivkina & Korneev once again sizzled on stage with dep backbends & high leaps. Character folk-dancing as we only see nowadays from Russians.

6. The Dying Swan (Michel Fokine, as restaged by grandaughter Isabel Fokine/Camille St-Saens)

Yulia Makhalina of the Kirov Ballet

Makhalina was pure-pavlova in the 1920s-style wide & longish classical tutu and feathery headress. The is the very-rarely-seen original Fokine version, as danced by Anna Pavlova...so very different from the Soviet version that we all know (e.g., as danced by Ulanova, Plisetskaya, Makarova et. al.). This one is more melodramatic, less 'quiet' & neoclassical. Both are masterpieces. Makhalina did the original version proud tonight. Audience was truly cranked up by now...as if it needed forther cranking - LOL!

...and what else to close tonight's marathon gala BUT...

7. Don Quixote pas de deux (Petipa/Minkus)

Elvira Tarassova & Anton Korsakov of the Kirov Ballet

The audience was further whipped to a frenzy with this one...not that they needed my whipping, mind you!!! Razor-sharp technique & eloquent musicality by both star-dancers. Beautiful redheaded Tarassova is presently at the top of her game -- as evidenced by last Friday's Gamzatti (in Bayadere, at Kirov) and now this. Korsakov is roaring back after a long injury that has kept him off the stage, on-and-off, for the past year or so. Here, he displayed soaring leaps & spiffy pirouettes. Korsakov even overcame what seemed to be poor orchestral conducting -- his solo music began right after the applause for the opening adagio...so the entire first passage of music for the male solo was dancer-less..no Basil on stage! Perhaps the conductor was afraid of missing the last trolley to his home?

A fun night for all - long live the stars of Petersburg ballet!!!

- Jeannie Szoradi

St Petersburg, Russian Federation

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Tuesday, June 4, 2002

Boris Eifman Ballet Troupe at the Alexandrinsky Theater,

"Don Juan and Moliere"

OK, I realize that most Ballet-Alertniks don't fancy the contemporary ballet choreographer Eifman...a guy who knows how to deliver a spicy dramatic 'punch' with every new ballet. But Russians ADORE him...and I happen to join my Russian friends in this admiration. If you like full-bodied passion with a *hint* of kink...this is your man! His latest ballet -- which, I believe, was shown in the latest Eifman tour of the USA, a couple of months ago -- is the story of that rogue lover of 17th-century Spain, Don Juan, as told by the French playwright Moliere...so there was more than a *hint* of sex in this one, my friends. As if the earlier ballets 'Red Giselle' and 'Russian Hamlet' and the rest did not have enough - LOL!

And the jam-packed audience at the red-and-gold, multi-tiered Alexandrinsky Theater (the one down the road from the Vaganova Ballet Academy that one sees in photos of Theater Street) was SHOUTING FOR MORE after last night's performance. If you think that the City Center Theater crowd in NYC is rowdy...whew - come to Russia & hear 'em yell here! That alone is worth the price of admission. And I happen to agree with them on this outing. Eifman seems to be back in top form after (for me) a move back with his last-year's creation, 'Russian Hamlet - Tsar Paul'. "Don Juan' is one of his finest creations, not only choreographically but musically & scenically (is that a word?...well, I adored the sets & costumes...awesome dramatic visual effects).

The two-act ballet, set to some of the most famous Mozart tunes, plus Berlioz's 'Symphonie Fantastique, tells the story of the playwright Moliere's life, as he 'imagines' the tale of Don Juan, juxtaposing the adventures of the fictional rogue with the real-life episodes of the playwright. In fact, the ballerinas who dance Moliere's long-time girlfriend and his wife are also, respectively, Don Juan's two most famous 'episodes' - Donna Elvira & Donna Anna (remember the opera story?).

Eifman's superstar male dancer, blonde Albert Galichanin, was spectacular as Moliere. Dark-haired Yuri Ananyan embodied Don Juan to perfection. Super-slim Natalia Poboroziyuk was moving as the wife of Moliere/Donna Anna, while Alina Solonskaya danced the girlfriend of Moliere/Donna Elvira...whose father, the Commendatore, was murdered by Don Juan, so that he could get to the daughter. Sergei Zimin provided comic relief as Don Juan's faithful servant Leporello. Oleg Markov was menacing as the Commendatore who returns as a huge statue to Don Juan's banquet, taking Don Juan to hell as the Mozart Requiem's 'Lacrymosa' booms in the orchestra pit (or on tape - no live orchestra last night).

Lovers of quintessential 'Eifman Effects' were not disappointed. Let's see...we have a rape on a cathedral altar...multiple-seduction of a corps-de-ballet of nuns...a grotesque village wedding...a cart-full of white harlequins....a menage-a-trois for Moliere/wife/girlfriend...a menage-a-quatre for Moliere/wife/her two boyfriends....and - my personal favorite - a doctor injects a gigantic syringe up Moliere's ass. (NO - not really my favorite - just kidding!!!! But it was there to see.)

One thing was for sure - Eifman's creative & shocking compositions don't lose your attention for one second. No sirrreeee!!!! Last night, I finally figured out why I love Eifman's ballets so much. Movement aside, Eifman is a master of simple placement-of-character to render a powerful visual scene. Like a Delacroix or Roger Van Der Weyden painting...the figures are so perfectly placed to make you gasp. Boris Eifman surely studied the compositions of old-master painters...like those found in abundance at the 'local' art gallery here, The Hermitage (some local art gallery!!!). This mastery of visual composition/poses, coupled with a keen musicality - just the right movement for a tune - makes him today's living treasure of a choreographer. Certainly in Russia and, for me, the world. He wrenches the heart & soul of the viewer.

Oh - and did I mention the enthusiastic audience? Instant standing ovation...hooting & hollering of 'bravos' went on for 15-plus minutes. Especially when Eifman himself came on stage for a bow. Bravissimo!!!!

Next up: tonight's LE CORSAIRE at the Kirov. Svetlana Zakharova/Ilya Kuznetsov/Irina Zhelonkina/Nikita Sheglov (just returned from long time away!)...at least, that is the promised cast. Stay tuned for actual casting.

Jeannie Szoradi

St Petersburg, Russian Federation

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Jeannie -

What fun you must be having! I have to admit that reading your great time at Eifman made me almost curious to see him again. Almost :D

It sounds like there is incredible energy in Saint Petersburg for the festival, and I am so glad you are soaking it up and telling us about all of it. And for me, I'm as thrilled by Russian balletomane footworshippers as I am by the ballets themselves, so thank you for the vivid descriptions. If only Lali Kandelaki were somewhere backstage screaming. . .

And much happiness for your new home!

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Thanks for your reviews, Jeannie! It's great to be able to know what is happening in Saint-Petersburg, and there are so many bright Russian dancers who are not known in the West...

Also it's nice to know that Lifar still is performed somewhere (and that "Suite en blanc" solo is lovely indeed).

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Like Jeannie I've also greatly enjoyed the Stars Gala at the Conservatory on Monday, which for its length is really good value for money. I've nothing to add to Jeannie's vivid, and detailed review. I was glad to have the opportunity to see dancers from the Maly and other St. Petersburg companies. And I look forward to seeing Le Corsaire again tonight. It's a great experience to be here for the White Nights.

Kevin

Hotel Astoria,

St. Petersburg

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Jeannie, I've been away or I would have commented sooner -- THANK YOU for these wonderful reports! Thank you for being so patient and telling us about the performances in such detail. I'm glad you're having such a good time!

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Thanks for the kind words, everyone. I'm glad that you're enjoying the reports. :mad:

Just back from 'Corsaire' & it was another 'bravo-bravo!' night. I'll get some rest, gather thoughts & post something tomorrow.

In the meantime, our Kevin Ng is having the thrill of a lifetime. [i'm sure that he won't mind my writing this!] It just so happens that Kevin is staying at the Hotel Astoria...and who checks into his hotel, without prior notification, but President Jiang Zimin of China!!! I just *knew* that Kevin had friends in high places!!!

The friends-apartment where I'm staying, until my own flat is liveable, is just two blocks from the Astoria. I tried to get in to see Kevin a couple of minutes ago, for after-show drinks, but my path was blocked by tall Chinese bodyguards...protecting President Jiang & Kevin, no doubt. :)

Ciao!

Jeannie

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June 5, 2002

Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet

'Le Corsaire'

chor. Marius Petipa; music by Adolphe Adam et. al.

It's not until one views a Kirov-Mariinsky production at the Mariinsky Theater itself that one realizes how much of the 'total effect' is watered down on tours. A case-in-point is last night's 'Le Corsaire.' This late-Romantic/early-Classical-era ballet of pirates, slave maidens and pashas takes on a grander effect on its home stage, especially in the lush 'Jardin Anime' scene of Act III, in which three huge, high fountains gush their waters...like the fountains of Peterhof! We're talking torrential rains here - LOL! Similarly, it is only at the home theater that the full complement of Vaganova Academy students can be used in scenes such as 'Jardin Anime'. Did you realize that this scene employs not only the little girls holding garlands on the front row but also eight little lads in brown Arabic costume, complete with turbans? I don't remember seeing those boys on tours in Washington or in London. Anyhow, my point is: if ever you visit St Petes, don't pass up a ticket to a specific ballet at the Mariinsky Theater just because you've seen that one on tour; believe me, it's a different experience here.

Back to last night's 'Corsaire'...

Svetlana Zakharova -- very young, impossibly thin & of lyrical style -- was cheered to the rafters by the SRO-audience last night, as the heroine of the ballet, Medora. Let that be recorded. However, I remain troubled by her absurdly high (past 180-degree) extensions. Pure Cirque de Soleil. I am further troubled by her 'learn-by-rote; dance-by-numbers' style, with minimal intellectual & passionate involvement. I keep waiting, wishing for it...for the warmth of a Diana Vishneva or Uliana Lopatkina or Daria Pavlenko or even Natalia Sologub..or the vividness of the new-and-improved Yulia Makhalina. With Zakharova, 'everything' is there technically, yet there is a void in the soul. Sorry to be blunt - I've been trying really hard to come to grips by what is troubling me in this talented ballerina who is cheered to the rafters by almost everyone. So there. She is very young and, remember, Makhalina was once as cold as SZ is now...so there is hope.

Ilya Kuznetsov, as the hero Conrad, was THE revelation & passion-prince of the night, for me! Kuznetsov is on a roll these days, as evidenced in last Sunday's Manon & Monday's gala at the Conservatoire. This is a new Kuznetsov, light, zippy, impeccable technique, elegant partnering of the ballerina but, most importantly, a real charisma that had eluded him for many years, since his graduation in '95 til quite recently. Now, all of a sudden, it appears that Ilya Kuznetsov is ready to burn the slage!!!

Since WHEN has a Conrad been the 'main guy' in the famous Act II Pas de Trois (of Medora-Conrad-Ali)? It's usually the slave Ali who wins the day. Ali's solo is much more famous, a gala-staple. Ali is usually the showier dancer, e.g., Faroukh Ruzimatov or Nikolai Tsiskaridze. Last night's Ali, Vyacheslav Samodurov, is a lightweight in comparison. Not just his shortish stature but he simply lacks the fire...but his technique is fine enough.

On the other hand, Irina Zhelonkina was magnificent in the 'second ballerina' role of Gulnara, who dances the famous Act I 'Slave pas de deux' with the slave-trader Lankedem. Zhelonkina is now one of the senior soloists of the troupe & her purely classical style is a joy to behold. No exaggerated positions, just beautiful dancing as Agrippina Vaganova envisaged. Added to this is fire and passion in Zhelonkina last night; she really 'sold' her character..unlike Zakharova as Medora, who relies on pure technique & ultra-slim line.

As Lankedem the slave-trader, the just-returned Nikita Sheglov was quite wonderful, especially in his characterization. In his pas d'esclave solo variation, he soared; however, I missed the deep-down plies (after the jetes in the first diagonal) of Vladimir Malakhov of American Ballet Theater!

The three odalisques were OK, as a whole. Only Irina Golub, as the first, was spectacular overall & even she has some timing problems with the initial series of quick cabrioles (off the music...playing catch-up). Ekaterina Osmolkina as #2 and Elvira Tarassova as #3 were fine, both lovely dancers. Tarassova chose to perform a series of clean double pirouettes for the final diagonal of her variation...rather than the triples that are performed nowadays in the role (e.g., Gillian Murphy at ABT). I rather see clean doubles than botched triples anyday.

The Act II character number, 'Forbane,' was danced with the passion & fire that one sees in Russian troupes in Petipa's character -folk dances. It was led by Alexander Kurkov & Galina Rakhmanova - she of the amazing deep backbends & scintillating stage personna.

The corps was splendid, especially in Jardin Anime.

It is always a JOY to see the elegance & beauty of the Vaganova Academy children. Even the shape & size of their little heads match perfectly. It's called careful pre-selection of a certain 'look' - something that isn't very 'politically correct' in America & the west...yet we all admire the unison & symmetry of the Kirov-Mariinsky. This is how it begins.

Tonight - the Kirov's new & controversial 'Nutcracker' with Natalia Sologub & Danila Korsuntsev.

Jeannie Szoradi

St Petersburg, Russian Federation

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"The audience was so emotionally touched that, at the end of the show, various spectators crossed the narrow bridge above the orchestra pit onto the stage to hand floral bouquets to their favorite dancers among the 22 soloists who performed tonight. One fellow even got on his hands and knees up on that stage, to kiss the feet of his favorite ballerinas!!! Ah -- only in Rossiya! What emotion! Blame it on the White Nights?"

My oh my ! Jeannie ! You're bound to start a stampede of dancers leaving for Russia ! Sounds like the public's got their hands tied to the arm-rests out here in the West. Well, at least SOMEONE cares about art . Though I'm not too sure what old Ludwig van would have said about the foot-kissing bit ?!

That sort of thing certainly makes up for any logistical hitches the art world in Russia has to suffer through !

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And what do you do by day Jeannie? Stroll the Nevsky Prospect? View the paintings of the Hermitage - inside the glorious Zimny Dvoretz? Tour the Yusupovski Dvoretz, Peterhof, the pretty palaces at Tsarskoe Selo, or nearby Pavlovsk?

Have you been to Orienbaum or Gatchina?

I'm pea green with envy! :)

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Da, Glebb. Ya buila v Gathinye vcheira! Eta moi lubimie dvoretz.

On this trip, unfortunately, I am preparing the flat, which takes up most of the normal business hours but I did go to Gatchina yesterday with a pal. It is exquisite, especially the little pavilions scattered throughout the adjoining park. Have you ever gone to the Birch-log Pavilion? Looks like a little rustic log-cabin on the outside; step in, and its a boudoir with crystal chandelier, gold leaf, mirrors. Now *that's* what I call a HUT!

'Nutcracker' report to follow shortly. A TOTAL masterpiece of a theatrical experience. I cannot believe the awful reviews from last year....duhhhhh....this is theatrical brilliance! You have to see it to believe it...but I'm not so sure that it would 'play in Peoria.'

On other subject...

The White Nights Festival-fun will continue all this month. I have to be back in DC next week (not just work - it's Bolshoi Week at the KennCen). But here's some of the fun that lucky full-time Petersburg balletomanes can attend next week:

* Alla Osipenko will emcee a star-studded ballet gala titled 'The Fairy World of Ballet'...with lots of the same dancers who Kevin & I saw at the conservatory PLUS Vishneva, Zakharova, etc.

* San Francisco Ballet on tour - June 16

* Graduation concerts of the school affiliated with Choreographic Miniatures troupe...plus the long-awaited revival of Yakobsen's 'Spartacus' with original sets & costumes, by Chor Min.

* full season by Eifman, then Tkatchine, ballet troupes at Alexandrinsky Theater

* Vaganova Prix Competition the last week of June (HATE to be missing that one - LOL!!!)

* Series "Ballet in the Palaces" - ballet gala evenings on outdoor stages in various suburban palaces in the vicinity, e.g., Peterhof, Tsaskoye Selo, Pavlovsk, etc.

* Play "Anna Pavlova" at one of the major legit theaters in town...I'm going to try to see tomorrow's matinee but its sold out so I need to see what's being sold on the street in front of theater)

Tons of other stuff I haven't mentioned.

If this isn't Classical Ballet Mecca, then I don't know what is!

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June 6, 2002

Kirov-Mariinsky Theater

'The Nutcracker' - 2001 version by Mikhail Chemiakin (sets/costumes/libretto adaptation/basic movement) & Kirill Simonov (choreography of set pieces)

I have been hesitating putting pen-to-paper on this one since last night, as I don't believe that any words could do it justice. The new 'Nutcracker' of the Kirov is a stunning masterpiece of TOTAL ART. It's the perfect marriage of visual-arts to movement, and movement to music.

No, it is not a ballet. I would term it more of a pantomime with balletic episodes (and some astounding dancing, to boot).

The Visuals -

The photos & drawings of the sets & costumes & props by US-Russian artist Chemiakin don't do justice to the 'live experience.' The curtain goes up on each & every scene & I am dumbstruck - incredibly rich & luxurious scenes...but not traditional sweetness. No, indeed. Chemiakin delivers a true-Hoffmanesque sinister world...a world of fat-cat bourgeois adults who gorge on boars heads & sausages, and drown in alcohol. The heroine, Masha, escapes to the Land of the Sweets (Konfiterinenburg) &, unlike other productions, never returns to reality. Rather, she weds her Nutcracker Prince & becomes a decoration atop a wedding cake...a cake from which rats are seen emerging during the final tableau. Bees and wasps cling to the sugar-dripping colums of the kingdom. Hieronymous Bosch couldn't have imagined a more sinister tableau!

Uneasy Gala Audience -

Last night's well-heeled audience of mostly-foreigners squirmed in their expensive seats (the tix are double-price when the great Valery Gergiev conducts...as was the case last night). A gorgeous production - but not one that traditionalists can take easily. I'm a traditionalist but, thank goodness, having had advanced warning of this production, I went knowing that I wouldn't be seeing a bunch of kiddies on pointe or a traditional Sugar Plum Fairy. [There *is* a SPF in this production...a mime artist -- Anastasia Vasilets last night -- in long gown, pompadour wig & honeybee crown. But the pdd is danced by Masha & the prince, as the SPF & Drosselmeyer sit by & watch.]

No, Virginia, this is not your 'children's matinee Nuts'!

The Music -

Valery Gergiev has, quite simply stated, revolutionized the sound & 'feel' of Nutcracker. The instrumentation sounds richer...different tempi - faster in many parts...not at all to accomodate capricious dancers (not that our Kirov friends are!) but to convey Gergiev's philosophy about the tension in the score. The orchestra played 100-times better than at other ballet evenings of the Mariinsky this week!

The Dancing -

Now I know why Natalia Sologub's Masha has been so praised. MAGNIFICENT! Her body type & lush way of movement are perfect for this Masha...obviously in sexual ecstasy in her pas de deux with the prince. NATALIA SOLOGUB CAN MOVE, literally, and move us in the audience, too. OK, she won me over - she may not be Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, by a mile, but she is one great dramatic & neo-classical dancer. [Loved her Lescaut-Mistress in MANON earlier this week, too!]

Andrei Merkuriev danced gallantly & was a steady partner to Sologub in his one number - the final pas de deux. Prior to the 'unmasking' of Nutcracker before the pdd, the character is acted by the choreographer, Kirill Simonov.

Tall Alexandra Iosifidi was a majestic Queen of the Snowflakes at the end of Act I. The snowflakes ensemble itself was thrilling, with a corps of about 24 girls in black 'puffy-classical' tutus & connecting hoods...with many white cotton snowballs all over. The effect against the black background was of 'dancing snow.' Very neat! The Balanchinean hip-swirls, though, didn't make much sense.

Act II divertissements included:

Spanish - two matadors - one in black & one in white. Anton Pimoniv & Islom Baimoradov did a fine job.

Eastern Dance (i.e., Arabic) - Elena Bazhenova in a slinky lime-green unitard, as a cobra-snake, unwinding from her basket (with two silly toy-cobras to her sides...cousins of the new Bayadere tiger, I think)

Petroushkas (Russian) - Look ma! - three jesters!! Perhaps this was the special 'revenge' of choreographer Simonov, who is best known as a dancer, in the role of the Jester in 'Swan Lake'!

China Dance - looks very much like the dance that it replaces in the old Vainonen version

Bees Pas de Trois ('Flutes' music) - Vivacious Tatyana Nekipelova led a trio of bees...cute but slightly cheesy dance...more appropriate to a child matinee but, nonetheless, part of the 'bees' leitmotif of the work.

Mother Gignone & pulchinellas- Biggest one on record...with possible exception of the Joffrey's Jumbo Mom!! Pulchinellas here are all adults, in white. (Almost no child dancers in this version, by the way...irked a lot of American audience members. They just didn't get it, I fear...gotta see the little kiddies twinkling around..or else 'it just ain't Nutcracker. "Where are the kids?' I heard one fellow behind me ask.)

Waltz of Flowers - super-elegant, in late-1700s attire; Masha & the 'masked Nutcracker' lead it....as well as four 'sisters' of the Nutcracker - all beautiful up-and-coming Kirov choryphees: Daria Sukhorukova, Elena Androsova, Yekaterina Petina & Yana Serebriakova...all but the latter are new names for me. Recent graduates of Vaganova Academy.

Pas de Deux - very sexy yet tasteful. Natalia Sologub did the 'swooning steps' very well. Lovely, lovely dance.

In Sum -

A million-dollar-night at the theater. I see room for BOTH types of Nutcrackers on this earth. This one is not meant to totally replace the Vainonen version, which can still be seen at the Kirov, performed by the Vaganova Academy, at Christmastime.

Jeannie Szoradi

St Petersburg, Rus

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June 7, 2002

Hermitage Museum Theater (1785)

'Giselle'

What a pleasure & honor it is to attend a performance - ANY performance -- in this jewel-like classical theater built by Tsarina Catherine II, a.k.a. "The Great"! The pleasure is doubled when the program on view is a high-quality classical ballet with a fine orchestral accompaniment: the Romantic-Era masterpiece 'Giselle' (Perrot & Coralli/Adam).

History Surrounds Me -

The setting could not be lovelier: one enters the Hermitage Museum by a special 'theater entrance' by the Neva River, close to where the Winter Canal intersects the two easternmost buildings in the ensemble...Tsar Nikolai I's 'New Hermitage' and Tsarina Catherine the Great's theater. One enters at the New Hermitage, goes up a staircase, then crosses the Winter Canal by an enclosed rococco footbridge into the classical white-and-pink-marble auditorium. Designer was Giaccomo Quarenghi, with assistance of Catherine, who did the initial sketches!

I am sure that my face was as 'gumstruck' as that of President Bush's last week, when I entered the auditorium -- woweee!!! Huge crystal chandelier in middle of ceiling; 10 rows of classical-amphiteater-style seats with red velvet cushions; brocade curtain with a frisky version of the Russian emblem of the double-headed eagle, playing a lyre; life-size statues of Apollo & the muses in niches against the side & back walls...can't help but think of Balanchine when I see these! :cool:

As a Petipa-Nut, I, of course, can't help but think of the wonderful one- & two-act little 'gala ballets' that Marius Petipa deviced for special Romanov accasions, eg, 'Harlequinade' premiered right in this theater in Feb 1900...and Glazunov's 'The Seasons'...and, and... Many of those special ballets premiered during the Petersburg 'Winter Social Season' that preceeded Lent. Tonight, I made a point of getting to the theater early -- as it is 'open seating' policy -- so that I could plop myself on the bench reserved for the Romanovs. You can see the photos of Tsar Nicky & Alix sitting there during their famous 1903 Romanov Ancestors Ball.

Back to Giselle. (Sorry - I got carried away with history!)

The Hermitage Theater Ensemble is comprised of dancers from a number of Petersburg companies, including Kirov, Tkatchine, Chor Miniatures, etc. Tonight's lead soloists are from the Tkatchine Troupe. Elena Glurdjidze (who danced inthe Monday gala described above) was the picture of Romantic perfection as Giselle. Clean, pure, no-frills dancing. She was spot-on in her Act I solo with clean completion of the two double-attitude pirouettes. Sergei Pevnev was a steady partner as Count Albert. Kirov soloists Vladimir Lopoukhov & Gennadi Babanin were vivid as, respectively, the Duke and Hans. Tall blonde Elena Nikolayeva (of Tkatchin troupe, I think??) tore up the stage with her powerful jetes as Mirta, Queen of the Wilis. Natalia Kuzmenko & Veronika Ivanova were listed as the two demi-solo Wilis...but it did not look like the Veronika Ivanova that I know from the Kirov. The modified corps (14 Wilis) were very precise & clean.

About the Music/Accoustics

One of the great delights of this theater is experiencing its perfect accoustics. I heard the score of Giselle played as never before...especially the menacing tympany (kettle drums) during the climax of Giselle's Act I 'Mad Scene'...it made my hairs stand on end!!! This auditorium in in Greco-Roman amphiteater style (semicircle with orchestra at bottom &, of course, proscenium stage above & beyond it...only 200 or so seats in theater...imagine the blast from a full symphony orchestra).

Jeannie Szoradi

St Petersburg, Rossiya

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Thank you again, Jeannie! Get carried away with description/history all you want to--I love hearing about the old theatres. One has such a spirit of place there and I always like visualizing the ballets on home turf.

Thank you so much for your detailed reports--:cool:

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Thanks Juliet et. al.! I hope that this whets everyone's appetite to come to St Petersburg & the other ballet centers of Russia someday (if you haven't been here already). Believe me, this place is truly safe -- almost 'too safe' with increased security - but the cops are so kind & helpful. They're just trying to keep the country safe. The atmosphere & lowering in 'Mafia presence' since I lived here in 1994/95 is astounding, especially in St Petersburg.

This is truly a market economy now. And, sure, the humongous state monolith will take years to dismantle but huge strides have been made. Taxes are finally being collected thanks to the 13-percent flat income tax! (John McCain would love it!!) And the most important element -- the individual workers themselves -- is in place; Russians are the most industrious, friendly, willing-to-please folks I've encountered in 25 years of international development work throughout the globe. Let's not blame the individuals for government mistakes of the past.

I really had to get that off my chest because I have so much admiration for these people who are trying so hard & finally making economic accomplishments..not just in the success of the Kirov (Gergiev's revolution) but throughout the Russian Federation.

And - hey! - I went through an apartment purchase & wasn't burned...against advise of well-meaning family & friends in the USA. They only know what they read in the press. Now I have a title & key & am proud owner of a place in Rossiya. And it was conducted in a decent, professional, above-the-table manner, with contract. So, you see, one can do business in the new Russia!

p.s - I'll probably post my review of tonight's 'Swan Lake'/Maly-Moussorgsky Theater when I return to DC, as I have a get-together with some friends after the show, then depart on Sunday. I promise to take good notes!

- Jeannie Szoradi

St Petes

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