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Ilya

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  1. I have two free tickets for today's (Monday June 27, 2016) dress rehearsal of Sleeping Beauty at 2pm. The seats are grand tier B18 and B20. These are hard tickets which you will need to pick up near 57th and Park Ave in Manhattan between 10am and 1pm today. Send me a message if interested.
  2. Queenofspade, your clip perfectly illustrates what I meant by "a little shaky at times". I have no problem with it being characterized as perfect, I just don't see it that way myself. Ditto for the other two pieces in question. So let's agree to disagree. When I brought these up, I really didn't mean to make a big issue out of them.
  3. Checking earlier posts in the thread I see that somebody else mentioned a mistake in Chopiniana so my story is at least partially corroborated.
  4. No technical errors in The Legend or Shurale (none that I noticed anyway), they just looked shaky at times. Shurale was very enjoyable regardless, The Legend not so much. In Chopiniana on Friday---also very enjoyable, albeit a tad slow for my taste---the glitch happened too quickly for me to understand exactly what happened, but a glitch it was. If I was forced to describe it in court and couldn't take the fifth , I'd say part of it looked like her hand was searching for his and not finding it. If my eyes and memory are not deceiving me, it happened during the first one of the two combinations of supported turns and arabesques about one-third of the way into the piece.
  5. Ghirei is not of Arabic descent (and arguably not really a villain—not in Pushkin’s poem anyway). He is a Tatar. Bakhchysarai is in Crimea and used to be the capital of the Crimean Khanate—a state that split off from the Golden Horde in the 15th century and was a protectorate of the Ottoman Empire for 300 years before being annexed by Catherine the Great of Russia. It was interesting to see the two excerpts from The Fountain of Bakhchisarai. The pdd of Maria and Vaslav was especially impressive and beautiful—in my mind, Osmolkina and Zyuzin fully redeemed themselves with it after Friday’s awful Sheherazade. The scene of Maria and Zarema was well performed, but is impossible to understand for someone who does not know the story already. Why wouldn’t Zakharov use mime? The over-the-top melodrama at the end of the scene illustrates the dangers of trying to collaborate with Pushkin: the poem, quite a bit more nuanced than the ballet, never makes entirely clear how Maria died. Sunday’s program seemed to have fewer technical glitches than Friday’s, although the tricky partnering in the Shurale and The Legend of Love excerpts looked a little shaky at times, and could probably have benefitted from some extra rehearsal time. Shklyarov wisely omitted the double assemblé from the Giselle variation, but finished long after the music. As on Friday, Sunday’s program had its share of questionable programming choices. As I previously remarked, Lopatkina is a great dancer, and I am willing to watch her in almost anything. But why would she subject both herself and the audience to the unattractive triviality that the Carmen Suite is? I was mildly bored by “La Rose Malade”, especially since the orchestra didn’t do much justice to Mahler’s sublime Adagietto. I was both bored and perplexed by the excerpt from “The Legend of Love”. Messerer’s acrobatic yet lyrical Melody (with Yermakov) and Ratmansky’s humorous Little Humpbacked Horse (with Shklyarov) were, by far, Lopatkina’s best appearances of the evening. The Shurale excerpt performed by Martynyuk and Zyuzin was wonderful, and the music gorgeous. I wish they would bring the full production to the US. Commercial risks of such a venture could probably be mitigated by casting big stars, the way it was done when they brought Anna Korenina and The Little Humpbacked Horse to the Metropolitan Opera. The balcony pdd from Lavrovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, performed by Osmolkina and Zyuzin, was also one of the highlights of the evening. As on Friday, Shirinkina and Shklyarov’s Giselle was breathtaking. Altogether, I’d say Sunday’s program was a big improvement over Friday.
  6. A somewhat less generous view would be that Plisetskaya's name on the promotional materials was perhaps meant to help ticket sales for a poorly conceived program. One can't help but wonder---if the gesture were genuine, surely more thought and organizational muscle should have been put into it.
  7. Nijinsky's photo was projected on the screen prior to Le Spectre. So perhaps it was meant to be a tribute to him. Sadly not a great tribute though.
  8. These performances are all billed on the BAM website and in the program as tributes to Plisetskaya. Yet most of Friday’s program didn’t look remotely related to Plisetskaya. An insert into the program announced that due to an injury to Alexei Popov, the Carnival pdd would not be performed, making an already short program even shorter. How can a company this big have no contingency plan for injuries? The projected pictures of Pavlova, Nijinsky, Cecchetti, etc looked like a tacky marketing trick. The performers should be able to stand on their own, without constantly reminding us of the various greats of the times past (some of whom, by the way, departed the company acrimoniously). The dancing was decidedly mixed. There was a partnering issue in Chopiniana, botched turns in Le Spectre, and a disastrous landing after the double assemblé in Giselle. However unusual such an abundance of technical errors would have been for the Mariinsky of 20-30 years ago, I could forgive the slip-ups. It’s harder to forgive the lack of taste and conviction in many of the performances. The tempo of the Blue Bird pdd was so glacial as to make this piece completely devoid of character. Martynyuk and Sergeyev did not convey any sense of engagement with the music or any care about the phrasing. There were many “I-am-finished-with-this-trick-and-now-I’ll-stand-and-prepare-for-the-next-one” moments. Martynyuk caught a miraculously long balance at the end of the adagio, while doing a 150-degree développé, and was awarded with a generous applause. That’s great, but I’d rather watch the Blue Bird pdd. I’m not sure if any dancers currently alive can rescue the choreography of Scheherazade, but certainly Osmolkina and Zyuzin did not. It looked like a boring Las Vegas act. Facepalm. Le Spectre lives and dies by the ability of the male dancer to sell it to the audience, and I’m afraid this time it died. For long stretches, the action on stage looked disconnected from the music. Lopatkina is a great dancer, and is a joy to watch in anything. Still, I much prefer watching her dance good choreography, rather than pieces like “Pavlova and Cecchetti”. Apart from the pieces danced by Lopatkina, the highlight of the evening by far was the pdd from the second act of Giselle beautifully performed by Shirinkina and Shklyarov.
  9. In that case his comparison is even less accurate because it appears that the 1895 production---or at least whatever version of it that was notated---called for 20 couples (my source for this is R.J. Wiley's book). This is exactly what Ratmansky has. Perhaps Macaulay means that at the 1895 premiere there were more than 20 couples. This may be so (it would be good to know his source for this), but the notation (probably made a good decade after the premiere) calls for 20. Obviously Ratmansky has no way of reconstructing what actually transpired in 1895, only what was notated.
  10. Ratmansky was following Drigo's revision of the score used in the 1895 production. So no fast ending to the Scene II adagio.
  11. I should add to my previous post that the first one of the two swans in the 4th scene was quite marvelous (I believe it was Lou Spichtig). A couple of corrections---Rothbart never gets to the lake but rather expires on the steps leading to the arch in the back of the stage. The conductor for the premiere performance was Rossen Milanov. Regarding the Siegfried variation---R.J. Wiley (page 253) seems to suggest that in fact the "tempo di valse" variation from the original Act I music was used in the ballroom scene pdd in 1895. If so then it looks like Ratmansky exactly followed Drigo's 1895 revision of Tchaikovsky's music as used in the 1895 production.
  12. Thanks for the report Natalia! I was wondering about that Siegfried variation music---is it known for sure that Gorsky danced to it in 1895? Most productions I've seen use the first variation from the original Act 1 pdd for Siegfried. I too think that the production is outstanding, the best I've ever seen. Much more intricacy and texture than anything I've seen before---it's as though an old jewel has been dusted off, polished, and presented in all its glory. There are lots of details and fine little steps, especially in the corps choreography and the character dances, that are absent from all the "standard" productions. The tempi are faster, and the choreography fills the music completely---dancers never just stand there preparing for the next step the way they do in many Sovietized versions of the ballet. The company has been coached extremely well. The character dances are energetic and joyful, and what a pleasant contrast to the bland performance from the Mariinsky last year at BAM. I fully share your enthusiasm for the magnificent Village Waltz from the first scene. Not at all sorry that the conductor and the violinist got big applause---they were both great---this is something I greatly treasure, being a regular ABT attendee. From where I was sitting (2nd ring left), it sounded like the applause for the dancers and Ratmansky and Kaplan was as enthusiastic. I was somewhat surprised to see Alastair Macaulay in the audience, so I guess a New York Times review will appear soon. Will go for the second viewing on Sunday.
  13. I, too, find this fascinating. Based on various reviews of the time, it appears that it was not uncommon for the St. Petersburg public back then to demand a number they liked to be repeated, or to cause a member of the production team to take a bow in the middle of a performance. According to Wiley’s book “Tchaikovsky’s Ballets,” Petipa was called for a bow after the “garland waltz” during the premiere. I find all this quite remarkable, for a couple of reasons. First, it shows how different the tastes were back then. These days it is hard to imagine a “Sleeping Beauty” audience anywhere in the world that, of all the dances in this ballet, would cause an encore of the dance of the White Cat and the Puss-in-Boots. Second, it shows how much more passionate the St. Petersburg audiences were in the 19th century. Nowadays the applause in the middle of a performance is rarely persistent enough to cause anything out of ordinary to occur, and on those occasions that it does, it is a repeat of some virtuoso feat, like 32 fouettés. Incidentally, in her memoirs, Kschessinska mentions that a particular dance of hers in “Talisman” would always be repeated four or five times, and describes the protocol as follows.
  14. You're welcome! Correct, it sure does sound that way! And in reading that paragraph, I couldn't help but wonder which ballets of the preceding "many decades" he deemed worthy of being "ranked with other fine arts". Quite astonishing, too, is that he is unable or unwilling to say anything at all about Tchaikovsky's music which we now know to be a hugely important milestone for ballet, especially for ballet in St. Petersburg. The Moscow public had been exposed to Tchaikovsky's ballet music via a production of "Swan Lake", but for the St. Petersburg public this seems to have been the first encounter with it, after years and years of Pugni-Minkus-type ballet music. This review as well as other historical accounts suggest that some of them were not that impressed!
  15. All the discussions and reviews of Ratmansky’s reconstructed “Sleeping Beauty” are quite fascinating. To add to the mix, here is my translation of one of the earliest (perhaps the very earliest?) reviews of this ballet. It’s by D.D. Korovyakov and appeared in “The News and Exchange Gazette” on January 5, 1890 (old style), two days after the premiere. It is reprinted in a book by O. Petrov called “Russkaya baletnaya kritika vtoroi poloviny XIX veka: Peterburg”. It has been quoted quite extensively by various historians and critics (e.g., by Marina Harss in her recent New York Times article), but I have not seen a full English translation so I decided to translate it myself. Enjoy! ======================= The fairy tales of Perrault, in the poeticism of their descriptions, have always represented a beloved and rich material for draftsmen, painters, tableau vivants, costume balls, and the like. Our current administration has been seduced by this material as well, having adopted as a motto the exterior beauty of the stage furnishings. To be fair, the material ended up in good hands, and it turned out to be a brilliant spectacle. Apart from the luxuriousness of the costumes taken to extreme limits, a lot of taste and artistic talent is spent on the staging of the new ballet “The Sleeping Beauty” given for the first time January 3 on the stage of the Mariinsky Theater. Silk, velvet, plush, gold and silver embroidery, marvelous brocade materials, furs, feathers and flowers, knightly armor and metal adornments are generously lavished, without counting, on the adornment of even tertiary characters. In the prologue, during the christening of the newborn Princess Aurora, whom kind fairies bestow with all the virtues, together with “genii bringing fragrances” and “young girls bringing gifts”, as the stage bill says—the court of Aurora’s happy parent, King Florestan XIV, is luxuriously dressed in knightly garbs from the Middle Ages; the same style is kept in the costumes of the fairies, their retinue and pages, with those light modulations required for fantastical beings that supply barely perceptible but very poetic character to the visages and events from the fairy tale world. Especially good are the costumes of the Lilac Fairy, and in them Ms. Petipa is astoundingly beautiful. The costumes of the first act, in which Princess Aurora appears as an already grown-up damsel who rejects the suits of four admirers-princes: Chéri, Charmant, Fortuné, and Fleur-de-Pois, preferring carefree dancing and frolicking, until the magic of the evil sorceress Carabosse plunges her into a deathlike slumber and the kind king and his court into despair — belongs to the same era (Ms. Brianza is dressed in a sumptuous red costume, embroidered with gold and with gold brocades, which suits her very much), whereas the costumes of subsequent acts move the action several centuries forward, and the hunt of Prince Désiré (second act) brings us directly into the golden age of Louis XIV, with affected marquises and curled cavaliers. The awakening of the Princess and all her sleeping kingdom leads, of course, to a wedding, which comes to pass in the last act, in the presence of the entire court of the Sun King (aka Florestan XIV) and the characters of all the Perrault’s tales, starting form “Tom Thumb” and until “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Puss in Boots” inclusively. The rich costumes of the Sarabands are also made extremely well: Roman, Persian, Indian, American, and Turkish—these foreign nations were understood by the artists of Louis XIV and were depicted in the courtly celebrations and carrousels at Versailles. Perhaps for greater identification of the court of the fairy-tale King Florestan with the court of the Sun King, the last act happens on an esplanade behind which the scenery reproduces with perfect exactness the Grand Palace of Versailles with terraces, fountains, carrousel ground, grand pièce d’eau, and other luxurious contrivances of King Louis. Incidentally, this set requires the stage depth much larger than that at the Mariinsky Theater, and because of this the work of the talented Professor Shishkov does not make the effect to which it would be entitled with a large perspective. Mr. Levot painted the scenery of the Prologue (Florestan’s palace), Messrs. Andreyev and Bocharov of the first act (palace garden), but they did not create anything especially prominent compared to their prior work. Not bad is also the scenery of the interior of the palace of the Sleeping Beauty of Mr. Ivanov, with many years’ dust, overgrown with moss, petrified in deep sleep, and then immediately turning into a fresh, bright hall, with a fireplace merrily ablaze. This transformation, as well as the graduate overgrowth of the enchanted castle with a forest and the moving panorama of landscapes in the second act, produced curtain calls for the machinist Mr. Berger and for Mr. Bocharov who painted quite characteristic and talented landscapes of the panorama, depicting wild surroundings that Désiré swims past on his way to the enchanted castle in a boat with the Lilac Fairy. We must admit that from the point of view of theatrical glamor and wonders of the machinery of our ballet stage, we were not satisfied by either the panorama or the transformations. The movement of a split decor between the public and a stationary boat, while the foreground decor is completely stationary, gives a very weak illusion, much smaller than during the movement of the backdrop, and this device has been applied more than once both in ballet (“The Little Humpbacked Horse”) and in the Zoological Gardens, with no smaller, perhaps even greater, effect. The exterior view of the castle overgrows with a forest via the raising up to the proscenium of a split curtain, little by little and slowly concealing the stage from the eyes of the public, like a regular curtain, but from below instead of from above; the transformation of a sleeping and dead palace into a revived one and the changing à vue of the view of the castle’s courtyard into a hall is done during a very lengthy pause, behind a cloudy tulle curtain and while the stage is completely dark. As you see, when talking about the new ballet, first and foremost one must talk about its mounting, which, indeed, is of predominant significance in it. Its choreographic part is not great; in the entire ballet there are 14 dance numbers among which the ballerina dances a pas d’action three times. The dances of Ms. Brianza were performed by her brilliantly in distinctiveness, force, and grace, although in their composition there is nothing new or particularly beautiful. The same poverty of conception distinguish the big general pas in the Prologue, the variations in allegro of the six Prologue fairies, and the pas de quatre of the four fairies in the last act: long-familiar cabrioles and entrechats, but this time without those graceful artistic devices that always distinguish our balletmaster’s talent. We must recognize the waltz of the first act as more successful and, in tableaux, quite picturesque. The tableau of the sleeping castle is good, although Doré helped the choreographer quite a bit. The most interesting are the period dances that carry the stamp of knowledge and taste of Mr. Petipa, the farandole and variations of the ladies-in-waiting during Prince Désiré’s hunt (“The Huntresses” is what it is called in the stage bill) and the divertissement of the fairly tale characters in the last act. Ms. V.A. Nikitina superbly danced her pas de deux with Mr. Cecchetti and was received by the public in a way that the public always receives their graceful darling. The dance of the Puss-in-Boots (Mr. Bekefi) and the White Cat (Ms. Anderson) was performed charmingly and was repeated. Ms. Zhukova the 1st is delightful in naïve gracefulness as the Little Red Riding Hood with the Wolf (Mr. Lukyanov), Ms. Petipa is a very pretty Cinderella, dancing with Prince Fortuné (Mr. Krzesiński the 2nd) an entire little scene which characterizes very well the content of the tale, and the children depicting Petit Poucet with brothers at the ogre’s are very entertaining. The concluding coda and saraband turned into a mazurka seems very strange, as its appropriateness at Versailles is arguable. We are silent about the music of the ballet which belongs to the inspiration of P.I. Tchaikovsky, leaving it to the competent analysis of our music critic. Summing up the impression that the new ballet left with a spectator, one must admit that an artistically sensitive taste does not get satisfied. We said at the beginning of this article that Perrault’s tales are good material for an external spectacle due to the poetics of their descriptions, but their inner content, in its lack of complexity, its simplicity and childlike naiveté, cannot give nourishment to the imagination necessary for composing a program for a large ballet of the type to which our public has gotten accustomed to during many decades. We are ready to sit for four hours in a theater, but under the condition that the ballet be substantive in every sense of artistic core, mimic tasks and a certain dramatic character of situations, which give ballet the right to be ranked with other fine arts. Whereas if ballet will be only a spectacle, a motley kaleidoscope of costumes and scenery, then no luxuriousness of the staging will redeem its emptiness, vacuity, and the boredom that inevitably by the end of it comes over any “adult”, not to mention an aesthetically developed spectator. Risking to seem a rigorist in art, we cannot avoid to be sorry about the path chosen by our theater administration in the cause of lowering the artistry of our ballet.
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