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Bolshoi in DC -- 6/11/02 Gala


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 12 June 2002 - 05:47 AM

I won't be able to post on this, at least until the weekend, because I'm covering some of the performances, but I wanted to put up a thread to start a discussion.

The Bolshoi opened last night with a mixed opera-ballet gala (no sopranos! odd). I know one, and I think two other, Ballet Alertniks went -- what did you think?

(I'm posting this here instead of in the Bolshoi forum because my idea was that the company-specific forums would be the "home base" for those companies, while the Recent Performances forum would be the "outsiders" view. I'll probably move any Bolshoi threads into the Bolshoi forum after the run. Well, it made sense at the time :D )

#2 Natalia

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Posted 12 June 2002 - 06:43 AM

June 11, 2002

Bolshoi Ballet & Opera Soloists + Chorus

Opening Night Gala,
Kennedy Center, Washington, DC


It was a night of multiple disappointments, with an occasional delight thrown in.

Many of the dancers (corps & soloists) who I saw last night would not qualify for the back row of St. Petersburg's Choreographic Miniatures Troupe.

Programming disappointments included, for example, the fact that what was billed as 'Polovetsian Dances' from the opera PRINCE IGOR was merely the chorus standing in place & singing that excerpt from the opera. No Fokine ballet!!! Also, the Bolshoi recently acquired Ashton's 'Fille mal Gardee' & it was a huge 'hit' especially for Nina Kaptsova as Lise. So what does Nina Kapsova dance tonight? The old Soviet version of 'Fille' instead! Go figure...

***************
Run-down of ballet excerpts:

BAYADERE 'Kingdom of the Shades'
Nikia - Anna Antonicheva
Solor - Nikolai Tsiskaridze
Shade 1 - Elena Andrienko??
Shade 2 - Marianna Ryzhkina ??
Shade 3 - Maria Allash (I'm sure of this one - the 3 solo shades were not announced in the programme)
Corps of 32 shades

If it's the Bolshoi, then the shades come down three -- count 'em, THREE - ramps! The entrace of the shades went well. However the total 'look' & body line (all rather long & ultra-thin without the beautiful curved musculature usually seen in the legs of Vaganova-style grads, when they stand together) was disturbing.

Anna Antonicheva (Nikia) was 'off' in this piece. She could not dance to the beat of the music if her life depended on it. The solo with the scarf was full of shaky moments. And her constant pursed-lips-look (concentrating really, really hard) was disturbing.

On the other hand...our Solor, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, lived up to his reputation. Soaring leaps & beautiful body line. The audience woke up when he tore up the stage in his solo...but even *he* was somewhat off last night & even had a major error in the coda, falling off-balance in the sequence of double tours-en-l'air around the circumference of the stage. And he has definitely 'toned-down' his demeanor, compared to the gusto with which he dances when guesting with the Kirov of late.

The solo shades are probably the worst I've ever seen, as a group. All three ladies must have still been suffering jet lag. Totally unmusical. Hideous 'kicks' (instead of slow developes) from the 3rd Shade. Give me Michele Wiles of ABT or Irina Zhelonkina of the Kirov-Mariinsky anytime!!!!

*****************
SWAN LAKE 'Black Swan pdd'
Odile - Anna Antonicheva (last-minute substitution for the puportedly-ill Nadezhda Gratcheva, who remained in Moscow)
Siegfried - Andrei Uvarov

Antonicheva was surprisingly better in this than in 'Shades' considering that she was originally scheduled to dance only Nikia tonight. She was glamorous, menacing & displayed solid dance technique, especially the circle of jetes in her solo (the Grigorovich version set to less-familiar music from Tchaikovsky's 1872 Moscow version, pas de sept). However, Antonicheva's 32 fouettes in the coda wouldn't qualify for amateur-hour at Dolly Dinkle Academy of Dance....sloppy as heck. Uvarov was serviceable enough; he seems to have developed more muscle-bulk since his last visit here two years ago.

************
LA FILLE MAL GARDEE pdd (Gorsky version to hertel music...not the Ashton/Herold version that the Bolshoi premiered not too long ago...)

Lise - Nina Kaptsova
Colas - Denis Medveyev

*Finally* a dance excerpt & two soloists worthy of the heritage of the Bolshoi!!! Kaptsova & Medveyev were the surprise 'hits' of last night & the public poured out its warmth to them. Not only spot-on technique from both dancers but total psychological commitment to their roles -- cute & adorable but not over-the-edge saccharine. My heart was so overjoyed to finally see some great dancing that I put down my pen & simply soaked it in. Kaptsova's performance makes me ITCH to see her in the complete Ashton version now.

************
DON QUIXOTE 'Grand Pas de Deux' (Gorsky 1900 version, with two solos for bridesmaids)
Kitri - Anastasia Volochkova
Basil - Yevgeni Ivanchenko (guest from Kirov...I saw him in class at Kirov last week & he is still officially with the St Pete troupe)
Bridesmaid 1/jete variation - Maria Alexandrova
Bridesmaid 2/soft waltz - Maria Allash
corps de ballet of 8

What can I say...hmmmm...Maria Alexandrova was terrific as the 1st Bridesmaid! A creature of the air in those jetes. Alexandrova is the true star of today's Bolshoi, along with Svetlana Lunkina, who is out 'ill', I suppose.

Anastasia Volochkova as Anastasia Supermodel...errrr....I mean, Kitri, was interesting. Some in the audience went gah-gah. Most of us knew better. To *this* the Bolshoi has come? It's not even worth pointing out specific flaws. Volochkova is --has been, for a long time -- a shadow of the excellent 17-yr-old graduate student who I saw in the early 1990s. How sad.

Ivanchenko provided strong support for the tall ballerina. He was a bit heavy-ish in his solo.

At least the evening ended on a 'high' with the magnificent Coronation Scene from Mussorgsky's 'Boris Godunov' with glittering costumes & kokoshnik-headresses on the female choristers. Beautiful voices. A fine Tsar Boris by basso Vladimir Matorin. Scenery depicting the marvellous Uspenski Cathedral of the Kremlin.

Maybe the ballet was 'off' due to jet lag & all will be better in tonight's full-length 'Swan Lake' by Yuri Grigorovich? We shall see what we shall see.

Jeannie Szoradi
Washington, DC

#3 Ari

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Posted 12 June 2002 - 06:57 AM

Well, the ballet portion of the show was standard gala fare—warhorses like Black Swan and Don Q—but it also included a genuine novelty (to Western audiences, at least): the pas de deux from La Fille Mal Gardée, choreographed by, of all people, Alexander Gorsky. The opera portions seemed more like filler, with only one soloist (Vladimir Matorin, a basso). The idea behind the gala seemed to be the recognition of a very large gift to the Kennedy Center by Catherine B. Reynolds, and an attempt to match the ballet/opera gala by the Kirov last winter.

It was well organized, with two extended scenes (with scenery as well as costumes) at the start and finish, and snippets in between. It was also blessedly short—2 hours 20 minutes. I find that galas featuring "highlights" can get numbing when they go on for hours.

It opened with the Shades scenes from La Bayadère—the epitome of refined Maryinsky style. I was kind of apprehensive about how the Bolshoi would handle this, but they brought it off pretty well. I was too close to the stage to be able to see the great spectacle as it should be seen, and the lighting in the opening procession was so dark (has the Bolshoi hired away ABT's lighting designer?) that I'm sure I missed a lot. Still, the soloists were all good (but why didn't the company identify the three solo Shades?), and I very much liked Nikolai Tsiskaridze. His fine taut line and clean, airy dancing were perfect for Solor, and he didn't over-emote the way many men do in this role. He did botch his landings in a manège of turns and once pulled Anna Antonicheva off pointe, but the beauty of the rest of his performance made me put those flubs down to jet lag. :D

After Tsiskaridze, Andrei Uvarov looked merely human and earthly in the Black Swan pas de duex with the dreadfully overworked Antonicheva, who is taking on all of Nadezhda Gracheva's roles this week. It didn't look like she was pacing herself, though, and she gave a big, clear account of a role she will have to dance twice more this week in its entirety, in addition to doing two full-length Nikiyas.

The curiosity of the program was the Fille pas de deux, danced by Nina Kaptzova and Denis Medvedev. Of all the people to have tackled a restaging of this charming, gentle Romantic work, Gorsky is surely the oddest choice; after all, he made a vulgar mess of Petipa's Don Quixote. (Incidentally, Gorsky had a hand in two other pieces on the program, since both Black Swan and of course Don Q are partially credited to him.) But, surprise—he didn't ruin it. The choreography for the ballerina is clearly post-Petipa (lots of pointe work and multiple overhead lifts), but that for the danseur looked quite Bournonvillean to me—more beats than turns and even a diagonal of jetés in attitude. Of course, it was all danced in the modern Bolshoi style, which altered the look of the choreography for the man considerably, but I thought it was interesting to see Gorsky making an effort to salute an earlier style.

The final ballet item was an expanded version of the Don Q pas de deux, with two female soloists and an ensemble of six girls. The fascination here was the performance of Anastasia Volochkova as Kitri. Trained at the Maryinsky, Volochkova is now a freelance who has been guesting with the Bolshoi lately. Her style is certainly more Bolshoi-like than Kirov-like, but Bolshoi in the old Plisetskaya way—over the top and sunnily vulgar. She is a big, solid woman with an upper body more like an Olympic swimmer's than a ballerina's, and she seemed reined in, as though she were trying to tone herself down to fit in with company style. The prospect of her as Nikiya,which she will dance on Friday, leads to lurid imaginings.

I wonder how much of the company the Bolshoi is bringing to Washington. Do they really only have two ballerinas? (Volochkova is a guest.) Last night's program did not include a company roster. The list of female corps dancers was buried at the end of the program, and one was identified as dancing only in the Don Q divertissement at the gala. Very odd.

#4 Natalia

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Posted 12 June 2002 - 07:09 AM

Ari - No, Antonicheva & Volochkova (& the 'ill' Gratcheva) are not the only two ballerinas on the entire Bolshoi roster. How about Svetlana Lunkina, Inna Petrova, Anastasia yatsenko, Galina Stepnenko? Or more recent essayers of principal roles at the Bolshoi, Lola Kochetkova, Anastasia Goriacheva (recent Giselle debut) & Ekaterina Schipulina (recent big-success in Odette/Odile debut at Bolshoi...maybe she'll relieve Antonicheva for a performance or two this week???). And, of course, the unrecognized/unacknowledged true female star of today's Bolshoi, Maria Alexandrova, who is here but given the 'second ballerina' roles always.

I don't even count Ananiashvili, who all-but-disappeared from the Bolshoi radar since the change in administration. NA did not even dance at her own 20th-anniv. tribute last December...in which Anna Antonicheva 'stole the show' with her Kitri. I was there...AA was spectacular that night, much better than last night. Ananiashvili was, uh, "ill."

And how about the amazing male dancers left behind, such as Dimitri Gudanov (spectacular in Lavrovsky's 'Nijinsky' last December) or Sergei Filin (a true danseur-noble who was so wonderful as Romeo here in DC two years ago)? Or Andrei Bolotin, the young sendation who was Kapsova's Colin at the Ashton 'Fille Mal Gardee' this past winter?

Odd...really odd. Maybe they're all 'ill'?

#5 Michael

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Posted 12 June 2002 - 07:37 AM

Although I won't be able to see this, I would be very disappointed in Svetlana Lunkina did not perform. She's had a huge critical success in Moscow this past winter and, behind Ananiashvili and in some eyes even in front of Nina, I think she is now considered the company's Female Star. A beautiful tall dancer with the most gorgeous face, hands and long tapering feet, a steely technique and a paradoxically soft, romantic affect, she's suited to both neo-classical and romantic roles, very rare. If they don't present her in D.C., and if it's not a case of injury, it's definitely strange.

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 12 June 2002 - 07:40 AM

The Bolshoi is so big that sometimes another wing of it is touring elsewhere, so often one tour only gets two or three principals. I don't know if that's the situation here or not, but it's a possibility.

Thanks Ari and Jeannie for posting. I have to add something. I just have to. You guys did a great job but you forgot to tell everybody how Volochkova furiously fanned herself every fourth fouette in the coda of Don Q!!!

#7 Natalia

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Posted 12 June 2002 - 08:05 AM

Yes, the fan - forgot about it.

And how about Volochkova's 'extra-glamour' jewelry: huge gold loops & a shiny gold bracelet? This must have been her tribute to Mathilde Kchessinskaya, who was known for wearing her personal jewelry on stage (the 'trinkets' given to her by Romanov paramours).

#8 Jane Simpson

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Posted 12 June 2002 - 08:41 AM

Sergei Filin is in London, substituting for the injured Zelensky, partnering Zacharova in English National Ballet's 'in the round' Swan Lake.

#9 Katja

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Posted 12 June 2002 - 02:10 PM

Lunkina, who I also consider the true star of Bolshoi, is not in Washington because the ballets which they have brought are not her repertory.

#10 Natalia

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Posted 13 June 2002 - 04:10 AM

...which begs the question:

Why aren't 'Swan Lake' and 'La Bayadere' in Lunkina's repertoire by now, for goodness sakes? Has she added *any* major roles to her repertoire since autumn 2000? I think that she danced Lise in Ashton's 'Fille' a couple of times this winter but she wasn't even first-cast in that. Anything else?

#11 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 13 June 2002 - 10:09 PM

There is quite a lot Lunkina hasn't danced yet - which is a good thing, anyway :). Jeannie you can find a list of her roles on: http://users.skynet..../Svetla100.html

#12 coda

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Posted 14 June 2002 - 01:44 PM

This seasoon, apart from Lisa in "La Fille", Lunkina danced new roles in:
"Passacalia" by Petit; Lisa in "The Queen of Spades"; and "La Sylphide" which make four new roles in one season. She was not very well at the end of last winter.

#13 coda

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Posted 14 June 2002 - 01:52 PM

Dear Jenny, I forgot to correct you about Lunkina being cast for later performances of "Fille". In fact, she was cast for the opening night but a few hours before the performance her partner had injured himself. Therefore, Kaptsova and Bolotin had to step in and they saved the day.


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