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

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#16 Alexandra


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Posted 05 June 2002 - 07:18 AM

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!

#17 Natalia


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Posted 05 June 2002 - 11:00 AM

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. :)


#18 Natalia


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Posted 05 June 2002 - 10:46 PM

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

#19 katharine kanter

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Posted 06 June 2002 - 04:21 AM

"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 !

#20 glebb


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Posted 06 June 2002 - 04:29 AM

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! :)

#21 Natalia


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Posted 06 June 2002 - 07:54 PM

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!

#22 Natalia


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Posted 07 June 2002 - 01:14 PM

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

#23 Natalia


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Posted 07 June 2002 - 01:51 PM

June 7, 2002

Hermitage Museum Theater (1785)

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

#24 Juliet


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Posted 07 June 2002 - 03:25 PM

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:

#25 Natalia


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Posted 07 June 2002 - 09:41 PM

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

#26 glebb


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Posted 08 June 2002 - 02:11 AM

Jeannie, your posts are like a tonic for those of us who love the great city founded by Peter the Great, and are not able to be there!

The Hermitage Museum Theatre is the historic site where in 1903 the Romanovs stood for a picture, wearing 17th century costumes, on the occasion of what turned out to be the last great ball thrown by the Russian Imperial Family.

I will never forget attending the ballet there and often wonder upon which Romanov's cushion I was sitting.

The Forbes Magazine Collection in NYC (which is free!) has the ostrich feather fan with the hidden mirror, designed by Faberge, which Nicholas II's sister, Xenia used to spy :) on other guests at the ball.

For those interested, there is a very good, full page picture of the theatre on page 65 of Peter Kurth's book: 'TSAR, The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra'.

#27 vrsfanatic


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Posted 08 June 2002 - 02:51 AM

Jeannie, I can not thank you enough for the wonderfully vivid reviews of the White Nights Festival. It truly is an experience that is hard to match for a balletomane! It is fantastic to hear how everyone is doing. I look forward to more in the future.

Thank you again.:)

#28 Natalia


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Posted 09 June 2002 - 11:41 PM

Thanks, Glebb & vrsfanatic, et al!

I know that photo well, Glebb. And -- guess what?-- some of the costumes worn to that fabled 1903 ball are on display now in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. Yes--the long-closed-and-dillapidated neoclassical palace where Nicholas II, Alexandra & their children lived is now being restored...finally! The 'family wing' has been fully restored & one can now tour it. Imagine walking into Alix's 'Mauve Boudoir'! Tsarevich Alexei's 2nd-storey bedroom is the most recent room to be reopened. A lot of the original furniture & objects d'art are on display. Rooms for which the furnishings are missing contain glass cabinets with mannequins displaying those fabled costumes. Remember the old days when the Russian Navy/Baltic Fleet was headquartered here & any attempt to sneak into the palace was met with a resounding 'NYET!' Them days are gone. Hoorah!!!

And from the Sublime to the Ridiculous:

I am very sorry to report that the 'sacred' Rossi Street, aka 'Theater Street' in downtown St Petes, which contains the Vaganova Academy, now also contains a STRIP JOINT/EROTIC CLUB called 'Rossi's Place' at nos. 1/3 Rossi Street. If that isn't the most sickening & sacriligeous thing... Well, I DID mention that Russians have taken this 'market economy' thing to heart...but this... :)

#29 Natalia


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Posted 10 June 2002 - 12:38 AM

June 8, 2002

Maly-Moussorgsky Theater Ballet
'Swan Lake'
(revision of complete 1895 version, by artistic dir. of the troupe, Nikolai Boyarchikov)

A Bit of Theatrical History

The third of the great-remaining imperial theaters is a small jewel box once known as the Court Mikhailovsky Theater. This is where early-autumn ballet performances were staged during the reigns of the last two tsars. Among the Petipa ballets premiered here was his famous revision of 'Coppelia' (done in collaboration with Enrico Cecchetti). In Soviet Days, it was renamed the Maly Theater &, around 1931, the present ballet & opera troupe -- considered to be the 'second troupe' of the city, after the Kirov-Mariinsky -- moved in. It's original ballet director/founder was Fedor Lopukhov. After perestroika, the theater was once again renamed...but instead of going back to its imperialname, it isnow official the 'State Theater of Opera & Ballet in Honour of Moussorgsky'. Folks here prefer to call it the Maly-Moussorgsky. [Are you lost yet? Hope not.]

This Version of 'Swan Lake' - The ORIGINAL!

Tonight I attended the last of my ballet evenings on this fruitfuljourney -- the complete 'Swan Lake' in the ca-1991 careful restaging by the M-M's artistic director, Boyarchikov. *This has long been, no-doubt, my favorite current staging of 'Swan Lake' in that it is the one closest to the 1895 Petipa/Ivanov original. In fact, it IS the 1895 Petipa/Ivanov original. The only other ballet troupe on earth that, I know, stages this version is the Royal Ballet of London...but...errr...(I'll be nice)...the Maly-Moussorgsky's sets & costumes are more traditional than those of the Royal...leading me to give the top-Swan-Prize to the Maly-Moussorgsky. It is only here that one can see, for example, the Act I Peasants Waltz exactly as Petipa envisaged it, with 24 couples, arranging themselves atop little stools, some carrying little baskets of flowers; a May Pole in brought in for the final measures of the dance. It is only here that one can see the correct finale & apotheosis of Odette & Siegfried love-suicide into the lake...done tenderly...not the heave-ho-and-away-we-go method of ABT! [I cry every time that I see this scene just thinking that nowhere else on earth can it be seen like this!!! Ditto the emotion that I feel when seeing Boyarchikov's careful restaging of the complete 'Le Corsaire' -- as passed on my Pyotr Gusev in the 1950s...TWICE as long as the Mariinsky version, which cuts out many character dances. Ditto Boyarchikov's restaging of the complete 'Esmeralda', of which about 50-60% was filmed for a recent German TV showing & video...starring Elvira Khabibulina.]

Tonight's Performance -

My last ballet-eveining in St Petes brought me a true surprise - Japanese guest star Emi Hariyama's Russian debut in the role of Odette/Odile. YES, all of you ballet competition fanatics, this is *the* long-and-lithe Emi Hariyama who is a perennial competitor & often-medalist at I BC events & star of the Indianapolis Ballet Theater (not sure if that's stil her permanent home). I did not realize that she would be making this important debut when I bought my ticket and, voila! -- I read the name of Emi Hariyama as Swan Queen!!! And how did she fare? Magnificently, thank you. Just go back to my old reviews of the 1998 Jackson Competition (where Emi made finalist) to hear me wax-on about Emi's 'swan-like ribbon arms' and unreal frailty. THAT made for a perfect Acts II & IV Odette ('white swan') full of pathos, all trembling wing-arms & bourrees. The mostly-Russian audience -- who can afford tix to this theater more easily than to the Kirov -- were stunned (lots of signs...'kak krassiva'!) & cheered Emi Hariyama to the rafters. As for Act III -- the Black Swan pdd -- Hariyama dug deep for the strength that allowed her to pull of a picture-perfect pdd with solid partner Kirill Myasnikov. Her 32 fouettes in the coda were laced with doubles...she did 'single-single-double' for most of the sequence &, as Russian audineces almost-always do, they clapped along in time, marking each fouette, encouraging her!!! [Giannina Mooney - be forewarned, if you even come to Russia - they LOVE their fouettes here & clap along like crazy!] :)

The other big highlight of tonight's performance was the male soloist in the Act I Pas de Trois, an amazing lad named Dmitri Beginni. Medium-height, lovely long line (but not skinny) poker-faced elegance. But his greatest feature: he is a creature of the air..natural ballon that is a rarity...Nijinsky style? That first diagonal of glissade-jetes (you know, the ones facing audience; sorry for lack of proper terminology) were as if suspended by a string...and he ADDED a back-double-cabriole (a-la-Solor in Bayadere) in between each of the traditional glisades. No visible effort whatsoever. THEN his final diagonal of double pirouettes were so cleanly completed..he actually seemed bored, in fifth position, waiting for the timing of the next pirouette to come. In other words, he could have easily done triples. I really wish that all of you could have seen it. The two ballerinas inthe pas de trois -- Elena Yevseeva &, especially, Anastasia Lomachenkova, were also wonderful. [Lomachenkova was Giselle in a fine performance here, which I attended last March.]

Another highlight was the Act III Mazurka, one of the friskiest & speediest I've ever seen. It brought a standing ovation. [The Mazurka is a big-huge deal in Russia, by the way...as famous & eagerly-awaited as Odile's 32 fouettes.]

But this was Emi Hariyama's night & one that I'll never forget, in a 10-day span of unforgettable performances. But such is St Petersburg's ballet scene. Take any given week in any given year, and you're bound to come across a plethora of first-class ballet performances in a number of venues.

- Jeannie Szoradi
St. Petersburg, Rossiya

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