OK, I hope I don't bore anyone, it is longer than I thought I would write.
I considered myself lucky. Last year, I saw the Mariinsky; this year, I saw the Bolshoi. Live.
I have been seeing Bolshoi’s productions for several times this year, thanks to the live streaming broadcast, but never up close and personal in a theatre. I didn’t see it as an option when the new dance season was announced in April 2011, with a colorful poster of Zakharova in Kitri’s costume completely filled the cover page of the season subscription booklet and inserts of Osipova and Vasiliev. (Is there a chance I could see Osipova next year? Alright!)
Well....that didn’t happen. I mean Osipova. However, it didn’t stop me.
So basically, 3 different casts of principals as Kitri and Basilio, with mostly 2 different casts of soloists and same corps members sharing the rest of the roles. I decided that I would see all 3 casts. Friday the 25th was a must because of Nina Kaptsova, her only show in Ottawa. The first and second casts danced twice, I decided that I would see them all on the same day on Saturday, the 26th (mat and eve).
Every performance was almost sold out. A few single seats left here and there, mostly the last rows up at the top level. I would say all three performances I went to the theatre was at 95-98% full. Some were willing to get in for the standing room (space behind the last row at the Orchestra level) at the last minute.
Friday, May 25th – Nina Kaptsova as Kitri and Semen Chudin as Basilio
Kaptsova and Chudin made a very charming couple together. They were playful in Act I and reasonably fun (as much as you would expect from Act II). I found the reaction from audience was a little “reserved” this evening. Nothing particularly stood out with their partnering, and nothing was less either. Kaptsova struggled a bit to balance in the Act III PDD, as she extended to the second and held her arms in fifth. Chudin saw that coming, he let go for less than a second and supported her from behind right away. She got better later on when balance was required again in attitude but the struggle was still obvious (to me anyway). Other than that, the rest of the variation was easy sailing. She did the fouette turns with single fouette then double pirouettes throughout. They both finished the coda with a very enthusiastic reception from the audience.
Saturday, May 26th, matinee – Maria Alekandrova as Kitri and Vladislav Lantratov as Basilio
Out of the 3 principal casts, this pair was my personal favorites. At first I thought Alekandrova might not be a good fit with Lantratov but they actually partnered very well. The supported turns at the beginning tended to tilt to the right (of the dancers), Lantratov kept having to support the turns and keep her in balance at the same time, but things seemed to get better right after. Alekandrova’s balance and control and Lantratov’s energy and youthfulness were able to build up the momentum in Act I and get the audience excited. Lantratov kept Alekandrova up during the second overhead single arm lift longer than any other cast, and the orchestra just kept on drumming till she came off the lift. This played off when Act II came around, the audience found them and the rest of the characters comical and not holding back laugher when Basilio pretended to be dying. They were fantastic in Act III. Alekandrova’s balance was incredible during the PDD and she made it look so easy. Lantratov reminded me of a very young Angel Corella (not sure if I made a good comparison since these two male dancers came from different schools, but Corella just came to my mind as I watched Lantratov) when he did the Basilio’s variation, clean jumps and turns, sharp and spot on. He was just made of air. Alekandrova did the fouette turns later on in Kitri’s variation as singles instead of inserting doubles in between. The simplicity allowed her to do one turn per beat, and right on the beat fast. The audience at this point was just going wild for her. They both finished the coda at such height the audience was ready to give a standing ovation before the act ended.
Saturday, May 26th, evening – Ekaterina Krysanova as Kitri and Vyacheslav Lopatin as Basilio
They were the original opening cast and they also finished this tour in Canada on a high note. I heard of them before here and there but it was the first time ever I saw these two dancers performing (never on any sort of media outlet or in person). Technically, they delivered, especially Lopatin. Whatever other casts have done, he had to slip in an extra turn or jump, even if it meant finishing the variation one note later. I have no complaint throughout all three acts. The balance, the control, the turns, the jumps, the partnering, the elasticity, the attack, the suspense…everything was there. Needless to say, the audience loved the feat. Krysanova did the fouette series first with one single fouette and double pirouettes, then all single fouette in the second half. If I have to pick on something, and interestingly, it would be after the fouette turns in Kitri’s variation, and Basilio’s series of turns right before the coda ends, they both ended up facing the audience with their backs because they were both attempting to make faster and more turns. They just turned around and posed to finish. That put no dent whatsoever, as the act was about to end and the audience was very taken.
Don Quixote & Sancho Panza
Alexey Loparevich as Don Quixote for all 5 performances. I saw him literally in every Bolshoi’s productions I have seen this year and I like him. There wasn’t any surprise in terms of the casting, as well as his ability in playing this character. His slender built was very fitting for this role.
The role of Sancho Panza was shared by Sergey Minakov and Roman Simachev. They were funny and effective as character dancers. There were slight differences throughout in how these two interpreted the role. For example, when Don Q showed Panza his book in Prologue, Minakov conveyed the character’s illiteracy by turning the book upside down and shrug his shoulders, “whatever...” and gave the book back; Simachev also turned the book upside down, then put the book above his head and “wore” it like a hat, gave the book back and gestured “Oh I see what you mean there.” That is also why I like seeing the same production with different casts. Different interpretations provide the performances with alternative texture and flavour.
The role was shared by Vitaly Biktimirov and Ruslan Skvortsov. I was secretly hoping to see Skvortsov as Basilio but he wasn’t on the list when the official casting was out (on the website). I thought he wouldn’t be coming. I was surprised that he was cast in this role instead as I read the program. In truth, both dancers were dashing, handsome, and most importantly, great as Espada. Skvortsov and the corps were very sharp-looking and together as they performed their variation in Act I. I first thought Biktimirov’s performance was just ok on Friday the 25th, then on Saturday the evening of 26th, I saw the flair in him.
The mercede variations were well done by both Kristina Karaseva and Anna Balukova with the repeatedly slow and deep backbends. Just exquisite. Although it’s probably not mostly regarded as one of the highlights in this particular ballet, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Anastasia Meskova and Anna Antropova alternated this role. Both good but I favoured Meskova more, she danced with such intensity and wilderness. I liked her in this role better than as the Street Dancer in Act I.
Whenever the stage was transformed (as the lights came on) into this scene, with beautiful dancers in all tutus, everyone was going “woo” and “whoa”. Same dancers performed all shows for the roles of the three dryads, the four dryads, and the cupid. The three and four dryads, along with the corps, were all in harmony and synchronized at all times, they were absolutely wonderful to watch. Anastasia Stashkevish as the Cupid was marvelous. She looked more mature on the company profile picture than when she was on stage. Her pin-size figure was perfect and so adorable for this role. She was quick and light on her footwork. Her variation was warmly received. The three female principals danced the variation in this scene more or less with the same tempo except the entrance: Kaptsova came out and posed about two notes early, Alekandrova rushed out almost at the last minute to create the super quick bourrée effect then hop to pose, Krysanova timed it to the exact second and note. I actually giggled in my head seeing Don Quixote walking around upstage and nodded “oh this is nice…oh you girls over here danced very nicely too!”
Overall, it was a great run for all casts. The theatre was full most of the time, the anticipation was high, and the company delivered what was expected. The corps members were in sync with high energy, the soloists and the principals did not disappoint. Every performance received a standing ovation at the end.