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Jeannie's White Nights Reviews, May 31 - June 9

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Jeannie, your posts are like a tonic for those of us who love the great city founded by Peter the Great, and are not able to be there!

The Hermitage Museum Theatre is the historic site where in 1903 the Romanovs stood for a picture, wearing 17th century costumes, on the occasion of what turned out to be the last great ball thrown by the Russian Imperial Family.

I will never forget attending the ballet there and often wonder upon which Romanov's cushion I was sitting.

The Forbes Magazine Collection in NYC (which is free!) has the ostrich feather fan with the hidden mirror, designed by Faberge, which Nicholas II's sister, Xenia used to spy :) on other guests at the ball.

For those interested, there is a very good, full page picture of the theatre on page 65 of Peter Kurth's book: 'TSAR, The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra'.

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Jeannie, I can not thank you enough for the wonderfully vivid reviews of the White Nights Festival. It truly is an experience that is hard to match for a balletomane! It is fantastic to hear how everyone is doing. I look forward to more in the future.

Thank you again.:)

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Thanks, Glebb & vrsfanatic, et al!

I know that photo well, Glebb. And -- guess what?-- some of the costumes worn to that fabled 1903 ball are on display now in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. Yes--the long-closed-and-dillapidated neoclassical palace where Nicholas II, Alexandra & their children lived is now being restored...finally! The 'family wing' has been fully restored & one can now tour it. Imagine walking into Alix's 'Mauve Boudoir'! Tsarevich Alexei's 2nd-storey bedroom is the most recent room to be reopened. A lot of the original furniture & objects d'art are on display. Rooms for which the furnishings are missing contain glass cabinets with mannequins displaying those fabled costumes. Remember the old days when the Russian Navy/Baltic Fleet was headquartered here & any attempt to sneak into the palace was met with a resounding 'NYET!' Them days are gone. Hoorah!!!

And from the Sublime to the Ridiculous:

I am very sorry to report that the 'sacred' Rossi Street, aka 'Theater Street' in downtown St Petes, which contains the Vaganova Academy, now also contains a STRIP JOINT/EROTIC CLUB called 'Rossi's Place' at nos. 1/3 Rossi Street. If that isn't the most sickening & sacriligeous thing... Well, I DID mention that Russians have taken this 'market economy' thing to heart...but this... :)

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June 8, 2002

Maly-Moussorgsky Theater Ballet

'Swan Lake'

(revision of complete 1895 version, by artistic dir. of the troupe, Nikolai Boyarchikov)

A Bit of Theatrical History

The third of the great-remaining imperial theaters is a small jewel box once known as the Court Mikhailovsky Theater. This is where early-autumn ballet performances were staged during the reigns of the last two tsars. Among the Petipa ballets premiered here was his famous revision of 'Coppelia' (done in collaboration with Enrico Cecchetti). In Soviet Days, it was renamed the Maly Theater &, around 1931, the present ballet & opera troupe -- considered to be the 'second troupe' of the city, after the Kirov-Mariinsky -- moved in. It's original ballet director/founder was Fedor Lopukhov. After perestroika, the theater was once again renamed...but instead of going back to its imperialname, it isnow official the 'State Theater of Opera & Ballet in Honour of Moussorgsky'. Folks here prefer to call it the Maly-Moussorgsky. [Are you lost yet? Hope not.]

This Version of 'Swan Lake' - The ORIGINAL!

Tonight I attended the last of my ballet evenings on this fruitfuljourney -- the complete 'Swan Lake' in the ca-1991 careful restaging by the M-M's artistic director, Boyarchikov. *This has long been, no-doubt, my favorite current staging of 'Swan Lake' in that it is the one closest to the 1895 Petipa/Ivanov original. In fact, it IS the 1895 Petipa/Ivanov original. The only other ballet troupe on earth that, I know, stages this version is the Royal Ballet of London...but...errr...(I'll be nice)...the Maly-Moussorgsky's sets & costumes are more traditional than those of the Royal...leading me to give the top-Swan-Prize to the Maly-Moussorgsky. It is only here that one can see, for example, the Act I Peasants Waltz exactly as Petipa envisaged it, with 24 couples, arranging themselves atop little stools, some carrying little baskets of flowers; a May Pole in brought in for the final measures of the dance. It is only here that one can see the correct finale & apotheosis of Odette & Siegfried love-suicide into the lake...done tenderly...not the heave-ho-and-away-we-go method of ABT!

Tonight's Performance -

My last ballet-eveining in St Petes brought me a true surprise - Japanese guest star Emi Hariyama's Russian debut in the role of Odette/Odile. YES, all of you ballet competition fanatics, this is *the* long-and-lithe Emi Hariyama who is a perennial competitor & often-medalist at I BC events & star of the Indianapolis Ballet Theater (not sure if that's stil her permanent home). I did not realize that she would be making this important debut when I bought my ticket and, voila! -- I read the name of Emi Hariyama as Swan Queen!!! And how did she fare? Magnificently, thank you. Just go back to my old reviews of the 1998 Jackson Competition (where Emi made finalist) to hear me wax-on about Emi's 'swan-like ribbon arms' and unreal frailty. THAT made for a perfect Acts II & IV Odette ('white swan') full of pathos, all trembling wing-arms & bourrees. The mostly-Russian audience -- who can afford tix to this theater more easily than to the Kirov -- were stunned (lots of signs...'kak krassiva'!) & cheered Emi Hariyama to the rafters. As for Act III -- the Black Swan pdd -- Hariyama dug deep for the strength that allowed her to pull of a picture-perfect pdd with solid partner Kirill Myasnikov. Her 32 fouettes in the coda were laced with doubles...she did 'single-single-double' for most of the sequence &, as Russian audineces almost-always do, they clapped along in time, marking each fouette, encouraging her!!! [Giannina Mooney - be forewarned, if you even come to Russia - they LOVE their fouettes here & clap along like crazy!] :)

The other big highlight of tonight's performance was the male soloist in the Act I Pas de Trois, an amazing lad named Dmitri Beginni. Medium-height, lovely long line (but not skinny) poker-faced elegance. But his greatest feature: he is a creature of the air..natural ballon that is a rarity...Nijinsky style? That first diagonal of glissade-jetes (you know, the ones facing audience; sorry for lack of proper terminology) were as if suspended by a string...and he ADDED a back-double-cabriole (a-la-Solor in Bayadere) in between each of the traditional glisades. No visible effort whatsoever. THEN his final diagonal of double pirouettes were so cleanly completed..he actually seemed bored, in fifth position, waiting for the timing of the next pirouette to come. In other words, he could have easily done triples. I really wish that all of you could have seen it. The two ballerinas inthe pas de trois -- Elena Yevseeva &, especially, Anastasia Lomachenkova, were also wonderful. [Lomachenkova was Giselle in a fine performance here, which I attended last March.]

Another highlight was the Act III Mazurka, one of the friskiest & speediest I've ever seen. It brought a standing ovation. [The Mazurka is a big-huge deal in Russia, by the way...as famous & eagerly-awaited as Odile's 32 fouettes.]

But this was Emi Hariyama's night & one that I'll never forget, in a 10-day span of unforgettable performances. But such is St Petersburg's ballet scene. Take any given week in any given year, and you're bound to come across a plethora of first-class ballet performances in a number of venues.

- Jeannie Szoradi

St. Petersburg, Rossiya

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