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Lynette H

July - Aug 2014 at the Royal Opera House

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Marguerite & Armand was created solely as a vehicle for the unique talents of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, Ashton never envisaged it danced by anyone else.

This was the only ballet I saw Fonteyn and Nureyev dance together. I have only fragmentary, though precious, memories, but I decidedly remember being quite surprised when I realized it was being repeatedly revived at the Royal and elsewhere. Though it sounds cruel to say so, I had at first thought that perhaps it was due to its being seen as a quality vehicle for 'aging' star ballerinas, but in fact it is also danced by ballerinas at the height of their technical prowess. (For the Mariinsky, Tereshkina danced it in St. Petersburg, though not on this London tour.)

That said, I must admit that if I had the chance to see it again, I would...

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I couldn't see the faces too well either but since Batoeva was the girl in the trio last night, would they move her into an "unnamed" dancer role the next night?

Btw, is Kamil a corps member or higher? He danced the same role last night and tonight. I was really impressed by him.

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Btw, is Kamil a corps member or higher? He danced the same role last night and tonight. I was really impressed by him.

He is a coryphee, and also incidently the husband of Yulia Stepanova. Here's hoping they both rise in the ranks!

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Btw, is Kamil a corps member or higher? He danced the same role last night and tonight. I was really impressed by him.

He is a coryphee, and also incidently the husband of Yulia Stepanova. Here's hoping they both rise in the ranks!

Thank you artsong. Yes, they both really deserve it!

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Lopatkina danced Marguerite the first night. Tereshkina danced it the next (July 8&9). Lopatkina lived the role. Tereshkina was decent but not as incisive.

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Lopatkina danced Marguerite the first night. Tereshkina danced it the next (July 8&9). Lopatkina lived the role. Tereshkina was decent but not as incisive.

Did Diana dance it, too?

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I wonder if RBV came to London. If there was ever a ballet I'd like to see on YT, it's the first night of Concerto DSCH, with everyone, especially Kim, doing such a spectacular role.

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Did Diana dance it, too?

Not in July. I think she is dancing it in London for the first time (at least with the Mariinsky.....don't know if she's danced it with another company). Lopatkina and Tereshkina got the back-to-back premieres. Lopatkina and Askerov. The next night Tereshkina and Shklyarov. Lopatkina was the better actress. I have seen Tereshkina do an amazing job in other roles, but she was nowhere near as good as Lopatkina. Askerov blended in with the walls. Nothing special at least in that role, so Tereshkina and Shklyarov, in my opinion, was a more balanced cast, and worked well together, so if you like more balanced out casts where both are doing a good job, that was the one to see, but if you wanted a "one for the ages" interpretation by Lopatkina and next to her a "meh" male dancer, then that was the one to see. I am glad I saw both.

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Vishneva has sent out several tweets about being honored to dance M&A on August 11. Some have links to photos:

 Retweeted by Diana Vishneva

Graham Watts @GWDanceWriter · 8h

Vishneva melted hearts with her poignant portrayal of Marguerite @dianavishneva @mariinskyen #Mariinsky triple bill http://londondance.com/articles/reviews/mariinsky-ballet-the-firebird-marguerite/#.U-pSh27g3mc.twitter

 London

Diana Vishneva @dianavishneva · Aug 11

'Marguerite&Armand' by Sir Frederic Ashton...

Royal Opera. August 11, 2014

#margueriteandarmand… http://instagram.com/p/rlGomTwWyI/

 London

Diana Vishneva @dianavishneva · Aug 11

it was privilege t dance Sir Frederic Ashton's masterpiece...

'Marguerite&Armand', Royal Opera,… http://instagram.com/p/rlCmF2wW6_/

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Firebird was a better performance last night. All three of the leads had more chemistry and stage presence than the first night trio.

IMO both performances of Marguerite and Armand were lifeless because both Armand were playing princes. If there's no intensity and no chemistry it doesn't matter how good Marguerite is, the ballet falls flat. Pity we didn't get Shklyarov as originally cast - I have the feeling he would have got it.

First night Concerto was incredible especially Kim and Stepin who took the breath away. The central pdd last night was (against my expectation) beautifully danced by Matvienko and Zverev - who looked much more suited to this role than to Armand.

BTW, I don't think it was Kamil who did those endless split jumps .... In this photo Kamil is the guy on the right (as you look at the photo) of the trio in orange isn't he and it was the guy on the left who did the endless jumps.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/dancetabs/14707277240/in/set-72157646371546861/

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Firebird/Marguerite and Armand/Concerto DSCH 12th August

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I also attended this performance. It was an amazing Firebird. Yulia Stepanova has bewitching command of the stage. I do think she is the best Firebird I have seen, and for me much preferable to Kondaurova, Matvienko, Vishneva - actually any Firebird. Here was a Firebird, both inhuman and powerful as well as glamorous and as for those arms .... I have never seen a Firebird with those constantly undulating, magical arms and flickering hands. She truly commanded the stage, particularly at the moment where she is sending everyone to sleep Her grands jetes were magnificent and also her lines in arabesque - but she never just poses. It is all part of a coherent whole. Her expressions were wonderful and she actually glamourized the whole stage! I liked Smekalov's Ivan, broadly drawn, but partnering well, and also Brilyova was for once a real character, and a playful princess. I found the whole performance absolutely mesmerizing.

Uliana Lopatkina in Marguerite and Armand also took my breath away. I have to say that I do not like this ballet, which does look somewhat old fashioned and as it was made for Fonteyn and Nureyev, many think only they could make it work. From what I saw of them filmed, even they could not really make it work. I have seen many in this role, including Guillem, and I have to say that Lopatkina is the ONLY dancer I ever saw who made this believable. She was wonderful. Her movement is exquisite, so so graceful, she reacted to every nuance of the score with such musicality. Her acting was wonderful. Really a great performance. Sadly, Askerov was so terrible I cannot believe he was even cast with Lopatkina. Unstretched legs, wobbly balances, complete LACK of panache. Acting? What acting? He had two expression - vacuous smile and pained - nothing in between. Anyone who attempts this role is inevitably competing with the shade of Nureyev - well, Nureyev must have been roling in his grave with laughter at this travesty of "his" role. The ballet rightly belonged to Uliana, who was greatly applauded.

In Concerto DSCH, to me the most virtuosic dancer was Vasily Tkachenko, although Konstantin Zverev also was good. Quite frankly, for want of a better word, Anastasia Matvienko is just "meh" - she doesn't have any beauty of line, really she does not interpret the music. She is very ordinary. I wondered how many in the audience realized that Renata Shakirova is only an undergraduate student of Vaganova Academy, since it was not mentioned on the cast list. Actually, she was very good, bright and fast, but how could she compare with Nadia Batoeva or Nastia Nikitina, if they had been given the chance to dance this? Why were they not cast? Why cast a student when there are so many brilliant dancers at Mariinsky just waiting for the chances they never get? Yes, she was good enough - but still WHY?

I enjoyed this evening for two truly GREAT performances - the bewitching Firebird of Poster Girl Yulia Stepanova and the exquisitely drawn Marguerite of Uliana Lopatkina.

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Firebird/Marguerite and Armand/Concerto DSCH 12th August I wondered how many in the audience realized that Renata Shakirova is only an undergraduate student of Vaganova Academy, since it was not mentioned on the cast list. Actually, she was very good, bright and fast, but how could she compare with Nadia Batoeva or Nastia Nikitina, if they had been given the chance to dance this?

Someone had told me that Renata was a student so I realized that. Tiara , the night before Batoeva danced that role, so don't worry , she wasn't passed over. The unfortunate thing last night was that Sergeyev and Tchacheno did not come ANYWHERE near the thrill and excitement of Kim and Stepin the first night. That was really a performance of Concerto DSCH for the ages!

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Yesterday I paid the price for not realizing that «Firebird» was not for multi-story cavernous interiors like ROH. Sitting at the distance of mid Amphitheatre I was unable to see the upper body magic inscribed in Fokine's choreography for the protagonist Firebird. In this situation the most enjoyable were the fragments where Firebird was drawing broad figures with outstretched wings, all beatifully rendered by fluttering and undulations of Stepanova's arms, wrists and hands. Yulia's leaps seemed substantial but from the lofty heights where I was sitting I could not discern their quality. A lesson for the future: do not sit too far while watching Fokine's «Firebird».

Lopatkina's noble lines fit very well into broad melodies of Ashton's choreography for Marguerite and they survive being observed from far away. I wasn't disturbed by realization that they transformed a courtesan into a virtuous, noble lady -- such is the power of Art. For me Lopatkina's "meditation on the theme of Marguerite Gautier" was the high point of the evening. The distance was apparently forgiving for Askerov's woodiness and technical infelicities that were still noticeable from where I was sitting.

Ratmansky's «DSCH» begins on a high note. Later, however, it suffers from a common ailment of modern pseudo-classical choreography: the musical material being much richer than a few ideas at the core of the choreography, is being filled with stretches of generic 'balletogymnastics'. This creates tension between the cohesion of the musical compostion and the fragmentation of the superimposed choreographic text. In Ratmansky's case the choreographic fill-ups often resemble gymnastic displays as seen on May Day Red Square parades during Stalin's time. I doubt mature Shostakovich would have approved of such use of his music.

Leaving this aside, of the three female soloists I liked best the one who was by an inexplicable omission not named in the cast sheet. Anastasia Matvienko would be an excellent soloist in nearly any company yet her deficiency in upper body is so noticeable even when compared to anonymous corps de ballet girls dancing with her, who received proper training at the Vaganova Academy. Whatever calculations were associated with offering Renata Shakirova, who is still a student at the Academy, to dance «DSCH» in London, in my opinion they were miscarried.

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Renata Shakirova was selected by Ratmansky to dance in DSCH, surely it is the choreographer's prerogative to choose whoever he wants to dance in his works?

For Londoners it came as a jolt to see a new work to a score so closely associated with Kenneth MacMillan and I expect a lot of us were making mental comparisons throughout, but no one can deny the craftsmanship of this choreography and it was for me another palpable hit for Ratmansky. It was a pity though that DSCH didn't come first, if it had we could have left and gone home happy.

The version of Firebird that the Kirov has is vastly inferior to the Royal Ballet's in particular the lack of a coronation at the end is a real anti climax. I disliked it more than usual this time around as the saving grace used to be Ilya Kuznetsov's swaggering Prince Ivan and without him the work is flat as a pancake. I quite liked the much vaunted Stepanova, but she was miscast in the role as the Firebird should always be a creature, never a person.

M&A was even worse, so bad I'll draw a veil over it, though I can't resist repeating what one wag said about Lopatkina, "when she leaves the stage she looks like she's popping to Tesco's for a pint of milk". Quite.

Note to Kirov promoters: never bring Firebird or M&A to London again - ever.

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Choreographers generally do get to pick who they want. Balanchine used to make some casting choices that drove critics and fans off the deep end. (For all of Robbins' sadistic methods, at NYCB at least, I don't think I'd ever seen a miscast Robbins ballet when he was in charge when I left NYC.)

If Ratmansky chose his "Concerto DSCH" casts in Seattle when the work made its PNB premiere, in the role created for Ashley Bouder he cast one dancer who was technically dynamite and one dance who was not. The latter must have appealed to him in some way that eluded me.

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BTW, I don't think it was Kamil who did those endless split jumps .... In this photo Kamil is the guy on the right (as you look at the photo) of the trio in orange isn't he and it was the guy on the left who did the endless jumps.https://www.flickr.com/photos/dancetabs/14707277240/in/set-72157646371546861/

No, Kamil is the dancer all the way on the left. I took a photo of him during the curtain call, tweeted it (along with a description of his jumps) to the Mariinsky .They immediately responded that it was Kamil Yangeruzov.

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annamk, I also had really good opera glasses with me on the trip. I made sure to look at the jumping dancer (same both nights) so I would know whose photo to take. I'm sure it was Kamil. It's incredible, though, that a dancer that good would be only a coryphee. In ABT or NYCB he would certainly be a soloist. Just goes to show the depth of talent in the Mariinsky.

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I also had really good glasses and a view from the stalls circle. Anyway, if the Mariinsky said it was Kamil then the photo of him on the Mariinsky website can't be right for sure that wasn't the guy doing those jumps.....

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I also had really good glasses and a view from the stalls circle. Anyway, if the Mariinsky said it was Kamil then the photo of him on the Mariinsky website can't be right for sure that wasn't the guy doing those jumps.....

You're right. The photo in the programme and on the website absolutely does not look like the photo I took. But who am I to argue with the Mariinsky.

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We don't know if he did, although most of the time a choreographer of Ratmansky's reknown does pick or at least influence the choices heavily, but he doesn't have to have seen her on stage to cast anyone. Returning choreographers may have had knowledge of and/or experience with a dancer from prior visits and new choreographers from video or other engagements. Most non-resident or emeritus choreographers don't know many of the dancers before they work with them, and they use class, AD referrals, a roster the AD makes of available dancers, workshops, and/or rehearsals as tryouts, depending on the company and the circumstances.

Perhaps someday he will describe the process in an interview.

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Did Ratmansky personally re-stage this work for the Mariinsky, or was it re-staged by a member of his "team". I know sometimes his wife goes to various companies to re-stage his works. Of course, when he initially creates a new work, he is there personally with the dancers.

As an aside, Paul Taylor only creates new works on his own dancers and then has someone else go out and stage the work for other companies. For example, when he created a new work - a world premiere- for ABT several years ago, he did not create the work on ABT dancers. He created it on his own dancers, and then someone set it on ABT, as I understand it.

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What does the program say? We've had plenty of people reporting back from London. The ballet info on the Mariinsky.ru website from July 2013 shows:

Choreographer: Alexei Ratmansky
Assistant Choreographer: Tatiana Ratmanskaya

There's nothing to indicate that there was a stager, and I don't see any listing for the London performances still on the website. There's nothing on the Royal Opera House website about a stager, either, simply a choreography credit for Ratmansky. I haven't seen any references about the staging in the British or US press.

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I think the Mariinsky sometimes identifies stagers as "assistant choreographers." For example, Dutch National Ballet soloist Alexander Zhembrovskyy was responsible for staging Hans van Manen's Five Tangos (he posted photos of the process: https://www.facebook.com/ZhembrovskyyBalletDanceFitness/posts/625061397585762), but the Mariinsky site calls him the "assistant choreographer," even though he obviously wasn't responsible for inventing any of the steps. It's a poor translation from the Russian "assistant of the choreographer."

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