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mnacenani

Helsinki Ballet "Don Quijote" Premiere Sat 24 March

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Hei, hyvä iltaa Helsingistä !  Hello, good evening from Helsinki. This is the teaser - just back to hotel from matinee to change into evening gear for the soiree. Helsinki has also joined the Don Q bandwagon, so my frequent assertion that this is a most enjoyable ballet for adult and child may have some truth in it. There are three Turkish CdB dancers in this company - the girl Cagla was snapped up from one of the Istanbul ballet academies last year before she graduated. Have to go now, hope to post a few words later in the evening.

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Back home after seeing mat and eve of Helsinki Ballet's "Don Quijote" on Saturday. I normally would not go to Helsinki for ballet when there is Moscow and Peterburg within the same 3-hour flight time from Istanbul but when a friend rang me a couple of months ago saying she was going to book the premiere on 23rd March I decided to join up - there are three dancers from Istanbul in the CdB, and Cagla who seemed quite talented to my amateur eye when I spotted her at their graduation show rehearsals two years ago was signed by Helsinki Ballet for their junior company last year before she graduated. At the end of the year the junior company was disbanded with a couple of dancers being taken into the main company including our girl so I was curious about how she was doing.
Finnish Ballet was founded in 1922 according to their website so it has some history. They rank their dancers as Etoile, Principal, Soloist and Dancer. At the matinee Kitri was Eun-Ji Ha (E), Basilio Frans Valkama (P), Mercedes Rebecca King (S) and Espada Maksim Tsukarjov (D). Kitri's friends were Maria Tamminen (D) and Lucie Rakosnikova (S). This staging by Patrice Bart (1995) is also abridged at 1:45 hours stage time, the dance quality was fine and the orchestra excellent - will not attempt further description since there is a full video of a recent Giselle which I will post below so anyone interested can judge for themselves.

At the evening performance Kitri was CdB dancer Abigail Sheppard partnered by Michal Krcmar (E). To my eye they seemed a notch or two up compared with the leads at the matinee, maybe not surprising since this was the premiere. Sheppard looked very good and is most probably tagged for promotion to at least soloist - she only needs to work on her fouettee a bit more I thought. Basilio, Mercedes and Espada (etoiles Tiina Myllymaki and Sergei Popov) were all very good. Soloists Rebecca King and Lucie Rakosnikova as Kitri's friends I also thought were very good. The Turkish CdB dancers appeared at both mat and eve with Cagla dancing as a villager in the opening scene, then as gypsy, as dryad and in the bolero at the wedding scene. I could not take any pix since not even one soul lifted a mobile at both mat and eve - the Finns must be a very rule-abiding people !

Have to say I and my friend found the costume and characterisation for Gamache a bit over the top - the costume really looked like it had been borrowed from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" set !

Now the orchestra and orchestration :  the orchestra was excellent - sooo tight in all sections, strings woodwinds and brasses, not surprising in the land of Sibelius with "his concert hall" just next door. Ballet without a good live orchestra loses half its allure for me, and if the interval food & drink is not lively either the rest is gone too. Interval buffet was excellent in all sections like the orchestra :D. The orchestration by Lanchberry sounded similar to what is played at the Scala and in Rome for Don Q and Bayadere :  with more prominence given to the strings and woodwinds, if you know what I mean :  if you hear this music on tv from afar you can guess that the performance shown must be from the Scala. I am going to look up whether my guess that it's Lanchberry's scoring being played at the Scala is correct.

(PS1 :  Act 2 starts with the gypsy camp and a Kitri-Basilio PdD to music which has nothing to do with Spain or Gypsies - sounds totally out of place when followed by the csardas ..... could perhaps be plugged into Manon or Onegin but certainly not Don Q. So much so that what Fadeyechev added to Act 2 of Bolshoy's Don Q would seem more befitting by comparison :P)

(PS2 :  the decision to shorten the wonderful march starting the final (wedding) scene and slowing its tempo to something quite unfitting for a march was imho in poor taste and judgment !!  This march is iconic, instantly memorable and instantly puts the audience in festive mood, so if it ain't broke why fix it ??? My congrats to the Istanbul ballet and music directors for not only incorporating this march in full and at correct tempo, but also playing it during the curtain calls till the end - everyone was clapping in sync and had a wonderful time and left the theatre in festive mood with the night surely to linger in their memories for ages)

I have to say that overall Helsinki Ballet is of somewhat higher quality than Berlin Ballet, putting Salenko aside. Can't say whether it can be called better than Munich which really impressed me on my only viewing (Giselle) last October, maybe some members can.

The full video of recent (March 1st 2018) Helsinki Giselle (Act 1 from 21:00 / Act 2 from 1:40:00)  :  http://oopperabaletti.fi/en/stage24/giselle-recording/

Infolink for Finnish Ballet company and repertory : http://oopperabaletti.fi/en/ballet/

Edited by mnacenani
add. link, ps1, ps2, video timing, Gamache

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I just read that the director Kenneth Greve was dismissed for inappropriate comments towards dancers.  

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4 hours ago, Jayne said:

I just read that the director Kenneth Greve was dismissed for inappropriate comments towards dancers.  

This is what came up when I did a search after reading your post ... he will stay on as director till end of his contract (July 31) but has been relieved of his "managerial" position. I am guessing that refers to specific personnel responsibilities, but don't really know:

https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/finnish_ballet_artistic_director_stripped_of_managerial_role_over_improper_conduct_claims/10133557

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5 hours ago, Jayne said:

I just read that the director Kenneth Greve was dismissed for inappropriate comments towards dancers.  

By this yardstick Zelensky should not be allowed to work anywhere  :D:D

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On 3/26/2018 at 9:48 AM, mnacenani said:

The orchestration by Lanchberry sounded similar to what is played at the Scala and in Rome for Don Q and Bayadere :  with more prominence given to the strings and woodwinds, if you know what I mean :  if you hear this music on tv from afar you can guess that the performance shown must be from the Scala. I am going to look up whether my guess that it's Lanchberry's scoring being played at the Scala is correct.

Just checked  :  the Bayaderka orchestration for Scala is also Lanchberry - he does have a "signature" - also makes prominent use of the flutes !

Edited by mnacenani

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I’m of two minds on Lanchberry: for lighter fare such as comedies or modern singbook arrangements his work is very charming.  

But he can teeter into the musical equivalent of interior design  “twee”.  

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