What Nutcrackers are you seeing?
Posted 02 January 2003 - 06:23 PM
Posted 04 January 2003 - 02:36 PM
Again as usual with Bourne, terrific design, some entertaining twists to the plot and no real choreography at all. Very committed performances though, from all his dancers.
English National Ballet's new production I thought tremendous fun. I saw two performances and enjoyed it still more the second time. Designs are by the cartoonist Gerald Scarfe and he has transformed all the adult characters at the party in Act I into his own style. Grandpa wears a kilt with holly sprigged boxers underneath, and despite his walking frame chases avidly after his girlfriend - a Miss V Agra. Fritz and his friend are horrid little boys in combat trousers and t-shirts while Clara is a pretty pre-teen with red hair worn with bangs and a bob, rather like Scarfe's wife the actress Jane Asher.
Choreography is by Christopher Hampson who has just left the company where he was a dancer for some years to work as a freelance choreographer. Mostly I think it works pretty well, although it isn't what you expect from your conventional Nutcracker. His female snowflakes and male Jack Frosts, emerge from a large refrigerator stocked with Hoffman Beer, etc. The quartet of Chinese dancers arrive in a little van marked 'take away', the Arabian dance is a Hommage A Roland Petit and has a sinuous lady in all over tights and a trailing sarong, surrounded by a group of boys with blue ostrich feather fans.
The biggest single weakness comes with the grand pas for sugar plum and the Nutcracker prince. He has rechoreographed this, and it's just not as good as Ivanov. One nice thing about this production though was that all the dancers seemed to be enjoying it.
The kids all around me were having a great time, I suspect bright colours and faintly rude jokes are popular with little people. One little girl in party dress and tiara told me it was 'wonderful'.
Last up was the Royal Ballet version which I have seen every season it's been given since it was premiered. Then it had the benefit of using as much of the Ivanov choreography as could be re-staged. Most of this has now been dropped. Peter Wright has tinkered with it on each occasion it's been staged and in my view it's now just a muddle - for instance you have both angels and a magician driving the action. Surely you can have one or the other but not both.
Part of the problem lies with the design. The party scene is probably the most authentic reconstruction of a bourgeois german household in the 1820's you are ever likely to see, but as a stage picture, it's dull. The snowflake wigs and costumes are a dreary grey and manage to make all the girls look dumpy, and when you combine this with uninspired choreography and lackluster dancing.....well, struggle to keep awake.
Act II is suposedly set in a Piece Montee made from icing. This means an elaborate washed out pastel set with lots of heavy decoration, costumes in the same wishy washy creams and pinks, and everyone in unflattering blond wigs. At least the sugar plum cavalier's costume has been changed slightly, cut up at the front to look like a jacket. With the original design it was all too clear with some more mature gentlemen, that he was dressed as a Christmas Cracker!
I saw Rojo as Sugar Plum, who despite the awful wig and ornate costume managed to give both the pas de deux and her variation form and style, phrasing beautifully and adding just the right amount of ornamentation. She was partnered by Inaki Urlezaga - dancer who has never impressed me, and this wasn't the occasion which changed my mind. I've forgotten the name of the dancer who did Clara, perhaps just as well. Ivan Putrov was the Nutcracker. I suppose the most outstanding thing about his performance was the way he had got round the blond wig rule by spraying his luxuriant dark curls with a great deal of gold hair spray. He was lively when he joined in the Russian dance, but I think he's a dancer who will need very careful schooling and casting if he's to realise his potential.
Altogether a dull, and expensive, evening.
Posted 07 January 2003 - 11:14 AM
I really liked Yat-Sen Chang as Drosselmeyer though I would have liked to see Irek Mukhamedov do it too. I didn't pick up any of the sinister overtones which the critics complained about. The critics had also been unhappy with Clara's satin pyjamas and red wig but my daughter thought they were really cool, so perhaps this is a generation thing.
The Matthew Bourne Nutcracker was interesting but not an entirely enjoyable evening. I felt that there were some really witty moments but it seemed very slow at times. There isn't enough variety in the first act for my taste. I did like some of the second act dances - and I thought the idea of having Clara trying to sneak past the bouncer to get into the wedding along with each of the acts was great. I loved the Liquorice Allsorts (Spanish) and the Gobstoppers. My daughter, who is definitely a ballet-or-nothing person, hated it from beginning to end!
Posted 07 January 2003 - 11:26 AM
Thanks to all who've rung in so far and a special welcome to Clare -- I think this is your first review, and I hope there will be many more! Thank you for posting it.
It was especially fun to read the comparisons of the different productions -- you all have such stamina! Thanks to Alymer, too, whose reviews are all too rare on this site and to Sylvia, whose frequent reviews are always welcome.
AntoP, if it weren't for you, we would think there was no ballet in Italy!
Posted 17 January 2003 - 02:26 AM
Anyway, I would love to give my little contribution on how were NUTCRACKERs in Almaty (Kazakhstan, Central Aisa, former Soviet Union). Unlike in USA and Europe, in the former Soviet Union countries performances of Nutcracker do not usually begin until winter vacation starts at schools - closer to the end of December (that is PAST the traditional Catholic Christmas on December 25). There were eight performances of Nutcracker in the Almaty State Opera and Ballet Theater (by the Almaty State Ballet): one Dec 27 and 29 (i've attended both of those performances) and then six more performances - daily starting January 4 through January 10 (skipping Jan 6). Since in January all the performances were starting early - at 0500pm (usually they start at 06:30pm), I have seen only one performance on January 4, because I couldn't run away from work.
This year there were four dancers in the Almaty State Ballet who have had their premiere performances in those Nutcrackers: Sophia Galpern (Jan 10) and Natalia Zatylnikova (Jan 9) as a grown-up Marie; Alexey Safronov and Dastan Chinybayev as Nutcracker-Prince (AS - Dec 29, Jan 4, 7; DC - Jan 5).
Almaty Opera and Ballet Theater Nutcracker was made, based on Mariinsky's version, choreography of Vasily Vainonen. It is a very traditional and very enjoyable version - to me. What I appreciate a lot about the version they show in Almaty O&B Theater is that it lets us and dancers to enjoy this 'classic-of-classics' piece - for dancers to show again what they are capable of, performing this ballet, and for us - to experience that magic, 'sprinkled' at us by performers without any artificial special effects involved - only their charisma.
I've seen Leila Alpieva and Dmitry Sushkov to perform as grown-up Marie and Nutcracker-Prince on December 27 - both are perfectly great technically AND are very generous with "sprinkling of magic" telling us the magic story.
December 29 performance was a premiere performance for 18 year old Alexey Safronov as a NutCracker Prince. His partner as a grown-up Marie was Kuralay Sarkytbayeva - very romantic, with long 'singing' arms and legs - her beautiful arabesques en-pointe are still flashing in my memory. And moments of "magic sprinkling" became 'real' during the Sugar Plum Fairy part (for some reason, here we don't have Sugar Plum Fairy as a separate character - it has always been done by the same ballerina who would perform Marie). Alexey is a very good partner (always), and I can't wait to see this young dancer with obviously promising and glorious future to 'grow up' and become as 'magic' as his more-experienced partner Kuralay (it is her second season as a grown-up Marie). So far I have deepest admiration for his most dedicated and devoted attitude towards ballet.
Would love to also share my great delight about the Oriental Dance and Chinese Dolls Dance.
Zaure Umbetkulova as a lead dancer in the Oriental Dance, performed by three female dancers, is so glowing, mysterious, almost sensual yet perfectly tasteful, performing her part. There is also something about her style that I would describe like: when she dances, I almost hear her speaking to us in some beautiful unknown language, that we are not capable of understanding yet. (hope this last bit of my description would make sense to at least some ).
And the Chinese Dolls dance in the third part - Aigul Jumagalieva as a girl-doll and Yerjan Doskarayev as a guy-doll. Both dancers are of Kazakh ethnicity, which belongs to Asian race. Which makes the perfect Chinese Dolls!! However, with their technical and acting brilliancy, - even if they were born blue-eyed blondes, say Estonians - you would LOVE them as Chinese Dolls!! They are so adorable, I'd love to take them home with me, put them on my bookshelf and watch them dance FOR ME! There is ALWAYS a HUGE OVATION to those two - after the dance itself AND in the end of the performance - when all the characters go through the stage to say 'farewell' to Marie.
Pas de trois (the Little Shepperds' Dance) - is always such a thrilling experience: it is traditionally performed by those fragile 10-12 year old ones, with their tiny bodies and their thin, sometimes a bit unsure, arms and legs. It always is really touching experience for me - to watch those little ballerinas-to-be to fight their fear of being on stage for the first time, being nervous, being unsure how good they'll do - and being GREAT in the end!! Have always admired a little gentleman. taking care of this two partners in this pas de trois The final 'sweet topping' for this dance has almost always been a big ovation and shouts BRA-VO!! BRA-VO!! - out loud with those tiny voices of the pas-de-trois'ians tiny classmates from the Ballet School! I've always admired support between those kids (vs. jealous silens after their classmates perform). (another thing i enjoy - to sit close to those tiny little dancers who wouldn't be dancing that night, and secretly listen to their chat and funny comments about their classmates performing on stage - OFTEN funny, never cruel! Bless their little big hearts!
FINALE - The Waltz of Flowers (The Rose Waltz) - is always triumphantly beautiful and romantic. Ballerinas are so feminine, male dancers are such gentlemen (a beautiful dream, celebration of the pink-tutu'ed contrast to reality - something I deeply appreciate classic ballet for). Corps de ballet gets to show off their best in this part.
As a bottom line, NUTCRACKER to me personally is more about "for the very first time" performances than about Christmas - first time for those little cute kids to do their little mice and rats part in the first part of the ballet, first time for those older kids - to do 'kids at the Christmas Eve' part. And, of course, first time for those girls who are given to perform the little Marie's part. This year they both were glorious (just like every year i've been watching Nutcrackers in Almaty Ballet)!! Graceful, perfectly composed (think - it is their FIRST time to perform on stage such an important part!), REAL ballerinas, doing their parts in a BIG REAL BALLET. My usual emotion, wathing those little 'diamonds' to shine and glow on stage alerady - at such early age - will we lose them to bigger ballet companies in Russia or abroad, or will they choose to stay in Almaty when they grow up? (For some unknown reason, names of those little ballerinas are never provided in the programs with dancers' names, so for my big regret, I can't share that bit of information with you. )
Oh, and my very first ballet performance that I've attended and fell hopelessly in love with ballet afterwards, WAS A NUTCRACKER in late December 1999. The 13 year old ballerina who did little Marie's part then, had INCREDIBLY 'light' legs - effortlessly bringing her leg almost to her ear a la-second, while standing en pointe AND holding it FOR EVER - it would've seemed like a truly unreal (?sur-real?) aplomb for any adult ballerina! (by the way, I don't see her anymore in any Ballet School or Theater performances - where is she now? In Russia, Riga or somewhere else? If you happen to see a VERY light-legged ballerina whose first name is ASEL', that must be her!).
Late (Orthodoxal) Season Greetings to All!
Posted 05 November 2003 - 10:06 AM
Posted 07 November 2003 - 02:38 PM
Posted 12 November 2003 - 08:49 PM
Posted 28 November 2010 - 06:10 AM
Posted 28 November 2010 - 08:14 AM
Two others playing locally I may go to if SFB doesn't trump them with casts I want to see: the resurgent (again) Oakland Ballet is performing a version by newly appointed AD Graham Lustig; and The Great Russian Nutcracker, which is playing a couple of performances close to where I live. This latter is the one Alastair Macaulay reviewed with some favorable comments (and some not so) in his "Nutcracker Chronicles" in the NYT.
Posted 28 November 2010 - 08:39 AM
Boca Ballet -- this is a school company but also a chance to see guests Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky from ABT.
I'll be skipping the Moscow Classical Ballet performance, in town right before Christmas.
Edited to add: Beloserkovsky was out due to injury and was replaced by the excellent Alexei Tyukov, trained at Perm and now at Colorado Ballet. Dvorovenko is a true ballerina, as the term was used in the days when few were considered worthy.
Posted 28 November 2010 - 12:52 PM
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