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Everything posted by sasark

  1. Wow, that is amazing!! I'm stunned that he turned in such a polished performance under those circumstances. Thanks pherank!
  2. I saw it Friday night with Kochetkova/Walsh. I don't know how often this company performs Swan Lake, but I've just moved to SF, so this was my first time seeing them do it. There were a lot of things I didn't like about it, but I almost always enjoy Swan Lake, as long as the core elements are there, and I'm looking forward to returning to see Chung/Luiz and Zahorian/Karapetyan. As others have mentioned, the piece opens with a prologue. In general, I like the inclusion of a prologue, because it helps tell the story, and I also think the overture music is well suited to storytelling. In this prologue, Odette enters in a dress, with her long hair down. She doesn't seem to really be doing anything. (I've seen other prologues where she's picking flowers or something; here she seems to be dancing aimlessly.) Rothbart attempts to engage her. She demurs and disappears from the stage, only to reappear again behind a scrim. Rothbart points at her as the music swells, and she crumples to the ground. Then we see her shadow take the shape of a swan that flaps its wings, but isn't quite able to fly. (For me, this is a bit literal. I've seen other prologues where Odette goes from being a girl in a dress to a girl in a tutu -- I like that a little better. But I still thought the prologue added more than it detracted.) For me, some of the biggest differences came next, in the re-imagined Act I. (In this production, "Act I" refers only to the prince's birthday -- the White Swan Act is called Act II.) Anyway, all of the Act I activity takes place outside the palace gates. You can see the palace facade in the background. It seems like we're watching a courtyard or walkway where children, peasants, and gentlefolk wander about, often talking to each other and paying no mind to the dancing. There's no sense that it's an organized event; rather, it seems that each group decides to dance somewhat spontaneously. The dancing falls roughly into five main segments: a piece featuring five couples, the pas de trois, a brief interlude with six children and the tutor, a peasant dance (which to my eye featured surprisingly simple choreography), and the prince's moody solo a la Nureyev. Absent was the jester, which disappointed me. In my view, the jester in some productions is annoying, but the role has amazing choreography and, with the right dancer and direction, can be a highlight. Here, the music for the jester's stunning turns was used by the children, who did a nice enough job, but clearly it was a different effect. If it's not obvious, overall I felt this act was a bit unsatisfying. The music of these scenes is some of my favorite in the work, and I didn't think the choreography made great use of it. In addition to what I've noted, in one climactic part of the music, we're stuck watching the Queen Mother walk slowly away from the audience toward the castle -- it's basically a long shot of her receding back and train. Separately, I think the tone of this music suggests a grand event, and what this production shows is more a slice of life that references class distinctions. In itself, that isn't a bad thing, but it was a little distracting, since that's not a theme of the ballet. On the upside, I did enjoy very much Sasha de Sola's work in the pas de trois. I thought she danced with a great deal of lightness and joy. (As a sidenote, I also saw her today in "Trio," where she was again a standout.) Walsh as the prince was also good. I don't usually love the prince's moody solo -- I prefer when productions omit it -- but he did a nice job with it. I was less happy with the set: as he danced, the sun set with a blend of colors a few shades more brilliant than what we usually see in the sky, while the silhouettes of flying swans appeared overhead. For me, this was heavy-handed, although I guess it helped tell the story. The White Swan Act opened with something I found surprising -- a giant wedge of rock and an outline of moon that looked bigger than the footprint of my Pac Heights apartment. While I appreciate romanticism, it was a bit much for me. Of course, the dancing was more important. The corps was good, and, while I did not find Kochetkova to be emotionally engaging, I thought she showed good control, well-executed arabesques, and a nice classical style. My nitpick is that I didn't always love her port de bras -- I often felt that her arms were too hard somehow, and when she bourréed off the stage at the end of the act, I thought she was flapping her wings a little too forcefully. As far as her performance goes, I was more pleased with the Black Swan Act. Here I thought she and Walsh showed great chemistry -- their duet was exciting. And in this act, her technique was complemented by better characterization. You could tell she was having fun with the role. Her fouettes were a mix of singles, doubles, and I thought triples, though I might have counted wrong. I did think she was getting a little tired at the end -- I thought she seemed to slow slightly -- but I didn't see any mistakes, and she ended cleanly, in time with the music, which is something that I always appreciate in this sequence. She almost made me forget about the distracting sets, which were again omnipresent. The backdrop here was a giant staircase that led to a landing at the back of the stage before branching off into a separate pathway on each side. It left me thinking, why are they dancing in an entryway? And what's upstairs? In the final act, I could be mistaken, but it seemed to me that the production offered less choreography for the swans than many other productions do. I'll have to pay more attention to that the next time I go. But my impression was that a greater proportion of the act was devoted to Siegfried and the confrontation with Rothbart. While I missed seeing some of my favorite swan patterns, there was a quiet moment here that I liked a great deal -- when Siegfried falls on bended knee before Odette, and the orchestra reprises the music of the moody solo. This somber moment evokes the feeling of a raw and real apology. For me, this was the real finale, as the actual one, which has Siegfried falling limp in the face of true love, then both Odette and Siegfried flinging themselves off the giant wedge of rock, then emerging seemingly healthy in front of the giant moon, confused me a little.
  3. I just saw Alexandrova last night at the Bolshoi, in "Sleeping Beauty," so I thought I'd wake up this long-slumbering thread. This was my first time seeing Alexandrova. In the interest of being totally honest, I'll admit that I wasn't sure how to feel about her having been cast. Since her injury, I've been reading mixed reviews. Also, I had really been hoping for Krysanova (who ended up dancing the previous night, sigh). However, I tried to keep an open mind. During the First Act, I was a little disappointed. I thought that Alexandrova lacked the lightness and playfulness that these charming scenes requires. One small example: when Aurora throws the roses down at her parents' feet, I think that the gesture should seem spontaneous and joyous (to correspond with the rise in the music). However, in Alexandrova's interpretation, it looked like she'd just remembered, "oh, I'm supposed to drop the flowers now." I also felt that her movement, throughout much of the sequences with the four princes, was choppy. Perhaps less important, to me, her broad smile looked pasted-on, and I was distracted by (not her fault) her strange-looking wig. On the positive side, one thing that I did like was her arabesque. The position she managed was divine -- I wish every Aurora could pull it off. In the Second Act, which generally is not my favorite in this ballet, I thought she was much better. In the Second Act, Aurora isn't a 16-year-old but rather an elegant vision, so maybe that character was more accessible to Alexandrova. It looked that way to me, anyway. She had great poise throughout the act and overall I thought she seemed more musical than she had previously. I was again struck by her ability to assume very classical positions. She made me like this this part of the ballet more than I usually do. The Third Act for me was somewhere in between. She was fine here, but it was the Second Act that I'd like to see again if I had a choice. So, in all, on the basis of this one night, Alexandrova was not my favorite Aurora (and this was not not my favorite Sleeping Beauty production), but there were plenty of things to like.
  4. Thank you Raymonda! I've actually just returned from my front-row seat. : ) You're right that the wall was fine. I was a little disappointed about the lip at the end of the stage (I assume it's a lip that keeps you from seeing their feet when they're close to the edge), but I agree with you that it's far better to sit close and see more details, rather than far back and able to see their feet the whole time. I wondered whether it would be a good option sometime to try the box seats that are at the first level right by the orchestra. You'd be a little higher while still being close (albeit off to the side). I just tried to check what the pricing is for those seats, but for the productions currently on sale, none of those seats show as available. For me, the new Bolshoi offers better sight lines from the front row (you can sit close and see their feet!). At the new theater, I also feel I'm always closer to the dancers. I assume that's because the stage isn't as deep. Maybe the orchestra pit isn't either.
  5. Thanks everyone for the comments! Drew, I'm glad you got to enjoy Chudin as much as I did. I feel it's one of those great performances that I'll never forget. Birdsall, with the national princesses, yeah, I noticed that -- when he dances with them all, it's the same music to which the prince dances (in some versions) with random women holding with fans. I thought it was a nice touch using the princess that way (instead of random women). But something about having all-women for the national dances, except the Spanish one, struck me as less exciting than showcasing a couple or male-female ensemble. Or maybe I have that reaction because their choreography wasn't that interesting. I also thought it was a little odd that the prince wasn't there watching the national dances, like he is in some versions. Or at least, I couldn't spot him on the stage.
  6. I've just returned from Moscow and am now on a Bolshoi high. : ) Most of the works described in this thread were not being performed while I was there, but I was lucky to see Semyon Chudin turn in a phenomenal performance in Swan Lake. I also saw the new Hamlet. I'll start with SL: I thought I'd seen good Siegfrieds before, but Chudin was something else entirely. Every leap seemed to hang in the air. Every series of turns and jumps ended with a rock-solid finish -- with no unsteadiness or extra steps. His solo in the pas de trois was without question the best I've ever seen (although granted, most companies don't have a principal dancer in the pas de trois). Still, I found myself sitting up a bit in anticipation every time he came on stage, and I was never disappointed. His performance was in equal parts polished, athletic, and artistic. In the past, I've read criticisms of Chudin's acting ability, but I thought he did a great job there too. I wouldn't say there was any excessive "dancing with his face" (that I noticed; the Bolshoi stage is deep, so I didn't feel like I could always see their faces well). But he didn't need that. With his movements alone, he told a story. It was an incredible performance. My O/O was Olga Smirnova. I've read some raves about her on BA! (and in particular about how she is with Chudin). But I wasn't so moved by her. I didn't see any mistakes (except for a turned-in leg during her pique turns and an overcrossed leg during pirouettes), but her Odette left me a bit cold. Her Odile was better but not spellbinding. Unfortunately, one thing that I found distracting during the Black Swan act was that, between the Odile makeup and headpiece, she looked totally different!! I spent a lot of time squinting at the stage and asking myself, is that her? I do think it was -- her physique is pretty recognizable. But the stylists/costumers may have gone a bit too far trying to change her look. I'll just add, I know that a lot of people hate the Grigorovich SL, but I actually liked this staging much more than I was expecting to. The scenes pairing Siegfried with the Evil Genius weren't nearly as goofy as I was expecting, nor are they omnipresent in the piece. (And Artemy Belyakov as the EG was fantastic. When the Evil Genius mirrors Siegfried, he and Chudin were in crazy-perfect synch.) I wouldn't say this was my favorite SL staging ever, but I didn't find it nearly as offensive as the two other Swan Lakes I saw this year (the Nureyev version in Paris and the new Royal Danish version by Nikolaj Hübbe and Silja Schandorff). I thought the Grigorovich took fewer liberties than those did, and I also admired its simplicity. This is a generalization, but to me, it seems that the main approach of Nureyev's and Hübbe's revisionism was to add a lot of things that suggest bold new elements in the plot, which make both of those works very busy. The Grigorovich staging adds some things, but as far as the plot revisionism goes, it mainly takes things away. There are some downsides to this approach. For example, by dropping the sequences that suggest Odette was transformed into a swan, this staging doesn't give you as clear a narrative as more traditional ones. But on the plus side, it's open to interpretation. And on some level I found it refreshing to have less clutter (fewer props, less of the tutor, and no mime, which to me usually looks silly and almost never makes sense). You can really focus on the dancing, and I think you can read the work in multiple ways. One of the things I disliked about this staging was the Russian character dance. I know it's a very small part of the ballet, but it's such great music, and I hate to see it wasted. For the first two-thirds of the dance, almost all the Russian princess does is walk back and forth waving her arms around! She occasionally does a little hopping step, and then toward the end she does some simple bourrées and turns. And for this she got bravas!! Maybe there's something culturally significant in the staging that I wasn't getting. As for the other character dances, I didn't like them as much as the traditional, off-pointe character dances that you see in other versions. But stylistically, the on-pointe versions might fit better in this staging. I do wish that these dances had included more couples, rather than being mostly all-women (although featuring women prominently does make a bit more sense with the plot). The corps was absolutely amazing: gorgeous arms, gorgeous epaulement, great professionalism all the way around. My only regret is that I was able to see only one performance. I went on my last night in Moscow, and it almost killed me to have to return home when Krysanova was dancing the following night! (They hadn't yet announced the casting when I arranged the trip.) Also during this trip, I saw Hamlet. I had mixed feelings about this piece. For about the first third of this performance, I was pretty happy. I thought the scenes segued well into one another, and I found many aspects of the storytelling to be deft. However, somehow as the body count climbed, the piece seemed to me less and less compelling. Several scenes in the second act didn't make a lot of sense to me, even though I know the play and had read the program beforehand. And while I liked the modern styling of the dancers (they seem to be in late-50s/early-60s-style street clothes), I found myself wishing to see just one pair of pointe shoes. The choreography is very modern and much of it struck me as unattractive. I also didn't care much for all the voice effects. (Ophelia laughs audibly when she's going crazy; Hamlet makes nonsense sounds when he's pretending to be crazy, etc.) Despite this list of complaints, I'm glad I saw it! I really admired Artyom Ovcharenko's transformation from nice normal guy to tortured soul. Also, as with the Taming of the Shrew last year, the theater did a great job with costumes, sets, and overall high production values. And I really appreciated the ambition of the piece. It's great that the Bolshoi takes on projects like this. I'll take a Hamlet any day over a tired Bayadere or Don Quixote.
  7. I am a chronic buyer of front-row tickets whenever possible. However, I've been browsing photos of the historic Bolshoi theater and am concerned about how the sight lines are in the front row. It looks like the wall between the seats and the orchestra pit may be a bit high. At least, that is how it appears to me judging from photos like this one on TripAdvisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g298484-d302506-i101494756-Bolshoi_Theatre-Moscow_Central_Russia.html Does anyone have experience sitting in the front row? Or have you heard anyone say anything about it? thanks a lot, Sasha
  8. I think most reasonable people would agree that bad things can happen anywhere. However, I mentioned complacency in foreign cities because, if you don't know the language, the customs, the neighborhoods, the local scams, and so on, I think you're more at risk than somebody who does. I also think that criminals often perceive tourists as easier marks. Additionally, if you're the type of traveler who crams a lot of activities into one day, you may be quite tired when you finally call it a night. Being very tired puts you at risk because you are less likely to notice warning signs. If you're having a very good time, that can also put you in a mindset where you're not as likely to notice red flags. No one wants to ruin their vacation by being paranoid about crime. For me personally, I travel a lot, and I live abroad, and I'm very comfortable with both. But after reading Birdsall's story, it makes me wonder if I've gotten too complacent, especially in the bigger cities that I enjoy visiting. Regarding St. Petersburg specifically, I wanted to mention that you can save money on taxis by having your hotel arrange the taxi. When I visited, I stayed close to the Mikhailovsky theater, so the Mariinsky was a bit far. Several times I had my hotel arrange a taxi back to the hotel directly after a performance. It was bit of a madhouse with all of the people exiting the theater and trying to find their rides, but those taxis cost me only 350 rubles. By contrast, when I hailed a taxi after the theater one night, it cost 1000 rubles. Of course, as someone else in this thread noted, it's better to pay for an overpriced taxi than to get mugged. But if you don't mind arranging it in advance, you can save money that way. One night I didn't arrange it an advance, and I walked to a cafe after the theater. Afterward, I didn't want to walk back to my hotel, so I had the restaurant call me a taxi. That taxi was in the 250-300 range. So doing it that way may also an option.
  9. Oh.... what a terrible ordeal. I am just getting caught up on this thread, and I was so sorry to read all of this. I wish you a speedy recovery, both physically and emotionally. It sounds so traumatic. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. It definitely makes me wonder if I am sometimes too complacent in foreign cities. I always think I'm being careful, but I wonder if it's easy to develop a false sense of security. Sometimes, if you're having a good experience in a city and doing things like going to ballets that finish up after dark, I think it's easy to let your guard down. (In fact, I remember a covered walkway from last fall when I was there, and I am pretty sure I went into it, although it was not the same one. It was on the Moika.) Anyway, I know that I'll definitely be more careful from now on, not just in St. Petersburg. Well, good luck at the doctor's office tomorrow and with your teeth. I really hope everything goes well and that you have only good news from now on.
  10. Oh wow. That's amazing!! LOL! Thanks so much for the detailed reviews. It's the next-best thing to being there. Keep them coming, please!
  11. LOL! How exciting that you got to spend time with Kolegova after the theater -- how did that come about!? I tend to see them as unapproachable movie stars.
  12. LOL. I thought the same thing too! But that's OK; it was fun dressing up. : )
  13. Oh that's interesting. I noticed that she'd disappeared from the list of possible O/Os for the last few Swan Lakes of this season, but they (the Czech company) still have her bio up, so I didn't think anything major had happened. Oh well. A good hire for the Finnish company.
  14. I share your feelings completely about how this production compares to others. In the past year, I've seen SL performed by the POB, the Royal Danish Ballet, the Mariinsky, and a few other companies. I would put the Prague production, along with the Mariinsky's, at the very top of that list. In some ways, it's apples and oranges (for example, the POB does the Nureyev version -- obviously it's pretty different). But they are all still Swan Lake, and I think the Czech company does a really beautiful version that compares favorably to the others. I feel the same about the individual O/Os. I suppose that these two comparisons aren't mutually exclusive -- that is, if you like the production more, you might be more predisposed to like the dancer. Still, as you mention, just on objective, technical terms, this company's O/O dancers have been very strong. Since I started this thread, I have also seen Rebecca King perform Gamzatti, and again I was struck by how fluid and smooth she is during highly technical variations. She's very classic and yet there's also something wonderfully distinctive about her. But getting back to SL specifically, both she and the other O/O I saw, Alina Nanu, both presented richly textured, really compelling Odettes -- some of the best characterizations I have seen. If I could see repeat performances of any O/O dancers I have ever seen (anywhere), King and Nanu would for me be clear choices, along with perhaps two or three others. I'll just add that I've seen two other productions by this company, featuring other lead dancers, that I wasn't quite as taken with. So I don't necessarily think that everything the company does is perfect. But IMO they know what they're doing with Swan Lake. I was trying to see Alina Nanu again this year -- it's been a long time since I've seen her. But the company had only a handful of SLs scheduled for this year, and not a lot of casting choices (and of course never announced very far in advance!). So I'm going on Saturday, the last performance of the year, and I'll be seeing someone new -- Miho Ogimoto. Can this company produce a third amazing O/O? We'll see. : )
  15. I saw this production on its last three nights, and, while I admired some things about it, in the end I thought there was too much that didn't make sense. First, some positives: I really enjoyed the costumes, especially the court garments and styling. In some ways, the garments were very traditional, with wide skirts, long trains, and corseted bodices, but throughout the piece the costumes also use fantasy elements, including elaborate, strange headpieces. I felt I was seeing a touch of retro futurism here -- sort of like the luxe weirdness of Bram Stoker's Dracula with a hint of Queen Amidala. These strange, beautiful costumes help create the sense that you're in another time and place, one that's worth seeing. I also adored the color palette worn by the corps at the beginning of Act I: the ultra-pale yellow of the women's dresses, the barely visible dusky rose in the little girls' dresses, and the pale grays present throughout. I didn't care for the sleeveless collared shirts that the men wore -- these read "Chippendale's" to me. But overall I would give the costume designer very high marks. I should also note that I liked the dresses of the swans; the bodices looked like negligee tops, making them a little sexier than the average swan costume. I also loved the lighting and set design. When Odette dances in the White Swan Act, it's before a deep, gorgeous blue. When Siegfried joins her at the climax of their courtship, the light turns to a brilliant golden white. I wouldn't have minded more of a suggestion of a lake, but I respected the minimalistic approach. I also quite liked the projection on the curtain at the beginning of the performance, during the overture. The image in the projection resembled the large, more-or-less triangular set pieces that would later descend from the rafters and which looked, to my eye, like big metal gears. In the projection, the image changes in a way that makes you feel you're moving closer and closer to the center of those gears, and each time you think you're coming to the end, you see that there's more coming, more complexity. Finally you can make out figures behind the curtain (the prince and court members, standing grim-faced because of the king's death). It's a powerful introduction. I thought it created the feeling that you were about to enter an elaborate, dark, mysterious plot. Unfortunately, the mysteries of that plot are never adequately revealed. From the beginning, I felt there were problems of logic and continuity. For example: the grim funeral scene at the beginning doesn't segue gracefully into the happier party scene. Then in the party scene, you see a man whose painted face suggests he might be a second jester, and he spends a lot of time leading small children in a happy dance. Who is this child-friendly man of the court? It's the evil Rothbart. Hmm.... For reasons that aren't apparent, Rothbart seems to somehow be in charge of many people, including Siegfried's friend, Benno, and the jester. Rothbart is often seen whispering in the ears of the other two, seeming to give them instructions. I actually liked the feeling of paranoia that came from having these three, and perhaps others in the court, all being in cahoots with one another, but the idea isn't well executed. For example, as the party scene ends, with a procession of people filing off stage, Rothbart stops the procession after about two-thirds have already exited. Rothbart appears to command the remaining six or seven people to stop, turn around, and basically stare down Siegfried, who had been bringing up the rear. In response, Siegfried stops short, seeming confused (as I was). I liked the weird, conspiratorial feeling of the moment, but it didn't connect to anything that had come before, and it never culminates in anything understandable that comes afterward. Since the ending has already been revealed in this thread, I'll go ahead and comment on it, because I think it's another example of poor continuity. For me, it came and went so quickly, it felt very tacked on. I could be on board with a Siegfriend-Odile ending (if that's what it was), but I think it should involve a little more than her running out in a black dress and standing there for three seconds, just long enough for you to figure out who it is before the curtain falls. I actually think there are other ways you could interpret it (other than as a Siegfried-Odile wedding), but for me there just wasn't enough there -- it was more confusing than anything else. I have more complaints, but I will move on to what I thought was the clear A+ of this production: the Russian dance. I am always baffled as to why more companies don't stage a Russian vignette, as the music is gorgeous, but for whatever reason it is often omitted. So I feel that this production gets points just for having a Russian dance. And what a dance! It was so inventive. Stephanie Chen Gundorf, as the Russian princess, was spectacular in embellished black shorts, a sleeveless shirt, and a velvety looking red headpiece with straps that fastened below her eyes. The men were similarly striking, wearing long crimson skirts and going shirtless. But it was what they did that was truly fantastic! Every time the music reached a crescendo, it was accented in some way, but never in the same way twice: once it was Gundorf hitting the crest of her leap, another time she was being tossed into the air, and I particularly like the moment when she jumped into the air, showed us a gorgeous arm, then each of the men followed behind her in a slightly different pose. It reminded me of Matryoshka dolls opening up before me. I rarely shout "bravi," especially when I am part of an audience where no one else is doing it, even for the leads. But after seeing these dancers deliver on three consecutive nights, I couldn't resist! I also enjoyed the Italian dance quite a bit, which I twice saw performed by Ida Praetorius. She was wonderfully sly in this role. In general, I had been nervous about all four national dances being on pointe (because the Grigorovich version does that, IMO not very well). But in general, I liked these dances. The one exception was the all-female Hungarian dance, which wasn't bad, but in my view it pales next to the more traditional version of this dance. The Siegried-O/O pairings that I saw included Holly Jean Dorger and Ulrik Birkkjaer; Ida Praetorius and Marcin Kupinski; and Caroline Baldwin with Andreas Kaas. My favorite was Praetorius/Kupinski. She turned in the cleanest performance of the three O/Os, and I thought she had the best stage presence. I felt that she and her partner also had the best chemistry. The Rothbarts I saw included Jonathan Chmelensky (twice) and Jon Axel Fransson. Both were excellent -- great athleticism, great stage presence, very clean all around. I couldn't choose between them. The first night I attended, I thought the corps had problems. The little swans had a lot of synchronization mistakes, and other things seemed off. On later nights, I thought the swans did better, but the corps in the first part of Act I (the party scene) never seemed to be in synch in those places where I thought they should be. I was also never impressed with the pas de trois. Benno was always good, but the women all seemed to have little shortcomings. This was my first time seeing the RDB, and in general I was most impressed with the men. I saw a lot of great leaps that seemed to hang in the air. On all three nights, it was a treat to watch Rothbart, Benno (the nights I was there, this role was performed by the alternating Rothbart dancers: Chmelensky and Fransson), and the jester (Tim Matiakis and Alexander Bozinoff). I just wish that the jester had had more to do. As others have noted, in this production the role seemed a bit wasted.
  16. sandik, is it very hard to read notes taken in the dark? I usually wait until intermission to jot down observations, assuming there's no point trying when I can't see my notebook. Now I wonder if I haven't been trying hard enough. : )
  17. Yes I will -- and thank you so much for the tips, Pamela!
  18. Does anyone know what the dress code at the opera house is? I'm packing for my first trip to Copenhagen and need to figure out a wardrobe for three evenings at the ballet. Could I get away with jeans and a patent heel on one night, or should I dress up more? thanks a lot, Sasha
  19. Yes, you understood correctly -- I felt she looked more classical in those moments. I'm never sure how important that is, or how common it is for dancers to push the boundaries in certain roles (or at certain moments in certain roles). But I preferred Osipova's style in both those instances that I mentioned. Thanks everyone for the comments!
  20. Night Three, April 11 ---------------------------- Giselle - Natalia Osipova Albrecht - Sergei Polunin Myrtha - Nicoletta Manni My last night in Milan was bittersweet. I'd had such a good time in Italy (it was my first visit), and I hated for it to end. On the other hand, Natalia Osipova! I was super excited to see her, and she didn't disappoint! My very first impression was that she had great energy and height during her entrance and the initial skipping. My next thought was that she overdid it with the shock when she first saw Albrecht. She froze -- completely froze -- in a position that looked unnatural. I thought it was too much. But that was the last overacting I noticed. During the rest of the piece, I thought she struck exactly the right tones. When they started dancing together, things really took off. They had great chemistry, and she was exhilarating to watch. Her spins were fast, her manner playful, and she looked like she was having a fantastic time. During the hopping on pointe, she was the first of the three Giselles to vary from tradition. (She started out regularly, but when she got about halfway across the stage, she hopped around in a little circle, before continuing downstage.) Then when she did the turns in a circle round the stage (right after the hopping), she had great speed and form, though I did wonder a little about the fact that she was not perfectly vertical. She was tilted inward a bit. In other words, she was moving in one large circle, and leaning in toward the center of that circle. I wondered if that was to help with speed, or if it was a stylistic choice. In any event, when she ends the turns, holding her arms out to the audience, you could really see on her face that this is a woman who loves dancing! It's hard to imagine anyone in the theater not responding to that vitality. Polunin was exciting to watch too. He has a very particular grace, and, with his long unruly hair (which flowed behind him during leaps), he seemed a different type of prince -- a bit more the rogue. Unfortunately, during the scenes when Giselle had the spotlight, I thought he looked a little disengaged. There are a few moments where she's dancing and he's sitting on a bench watching her, and Polunin looked a little bored. This was so different from Bolle, who was always 100% in character. Still, they were absolutely charming when they danced together. I remembered being disappointed when Hilarion came to tell Giselle the truth, because I had been enjoying their dancing so much! I didn't want it to stop. Still, that part was great too!! For Osipova, the best part of the "crisis sequence" was the initial moment of realization. She exuded such disbelief and such pain when she confronted Bathilde. I really believed her. The rest of the scene -- the madness and death -- were also good, though again, I didn't think Polunin seemed properly engaged. Before I came to Milan I had read the reviews, on the BA! Mikhailovsky subforum, of Osipova's recent "Giselle" at Lincoln Center. Many of these reviews were not very positive about her Act II work. I believe one of the complaints was she was too athletic at the expense of being ethereal. As I mentioned earlier in this thread, I am not an expert on this ballet, so I may not have as full a frame of reference as others. However, I liked her. Her style was not as delicate and otherworldly as Zakharova, but everything she did looked good, and I totally believed in her character. If Zakharova was maybe a bit more delicate, Osipova was strong, while still being graceful and beautiful. I also think that Osipova projects a great deal of warmth. During both acts, that quality really works for this character. I noticed a couple of other small differences between Osipova and the previous Giselles. One had to do with some turns Giselle does right after her entrance in Act II (the initiation scene), where Giselle, on a flat foot, she turns very quickly in a clockwise direction with her right leg in back attitude. Both Zakharova and Di Stefano had similar positions during this turn, with their knee angling down a little bit and their right foot cocked slightly upward toward the ceiling. Osipova's leg and foot looked more perfectly horizontal -- more parallel to the floor. I don't know which is right, but I liked Osipova's style. Another difference occurred during one of the pdds, when Giselle does a developpe to her right, with her arms in fifth position. Both Zakharova and Di Stefano leaned to their left, and they ended up with higher extensions. Osipova kept her back upright and possibly ended up with less height in her right leg, but I thought Osipova's version looked better, partly because I thought she maintained better positioning of her arms and head. For Polunin, maybe I was influenced too much by my impressions of him being bored during Act I, but he didn't move me in Act II. I did think he was pretty amazing during the solo before the entrechat sixes. He had great height during all the jumps, seeming almost to hang in the air, and his pirouettes were perfect. He did only 25 entrechat sixes, which surprised me, though maybe this was an artistic choice. He certainly did a great job of looking both like an incredible dancer and someone who is fading. The evening's Myrtha, Nicoletta Manni, was again solid. I also thought that the evening's peasant pdd, performed by Alessandra Vassallo and Walter Madau, was the best of the three that I saw. (I'd also enjoyed Gaia Andreano on the first evening; I just wasn't quite as taken with her partner.) So overall, it was an incredible trip. I'm so grateful to Ballet Alert! If I hadn't had a heads-up from this forum, I never would have thought to start perusing the La Scala calender early enough to actually get tickets to these performances. I love this forum!!
  21. thank you, Sandik. I am certainly no expert on "Giselle, so I appreciate the info! Oh that's funny!
  22. Night Two - April 9 ------------------------- Giselle - Svetlana Zakharova Albrecht - Roberto Bolle Myrtha - Nicoletta Manni I arrived early at La Scala for my second "Giselle," and the entrance to the theater was already teeming with people (all fabulously dressed, of course!). There was a definite buzz in the air, as people crowded into the lobby, bought their programs, and took their seats for the performance, which had been sold out for months. If it wasn't yet clear that Bolle and Zakharova are much-loved in Milan, then it certainly became apparent during the first five minutes of the performance. As Bolle bounded onto the stage, he got a roaring welcome from the audience. It was exciting! A few moments later, Zakharova was also welcomed warmly. It was my first time watching either Bolle or Zakharova live, and it was pretty amazing. He had tremendous stage presence, and he made everything look easy. During one of the opening variations, Albrecht does a series of steps that include leaps landing in arabesque, moving from downstage left to upstage right; then he returns doing a series of other steps that includes an entrechat six and an arabesque in attitude. The previous night, when Sutera did this sequence, I thought it looked jerky, and Sutera's landings left him bouncing up and down a little. When Bolle performed the variation, it was rich and plush -- everything well executed, deftly finished, just no problem! And throughout it, he was 100% in character, apparently thinking of nothing but Giselle and how to charm her. In turn, Zakharova showed great attention to detail in everything she did. During the hops on pointe, she slowly brought her arms up in a beautifully controlled way. She was light and graceful during all of the opening scenes, and her turns were fast and flawless. On top of this, I was really struck by how great Bolle and Zakharova look together. With his height and movie-star looks, and her slender, delicate frame, they complement each other. Plus, they seem to have an easy intimacy that I imagine is born from many years of dancing together. This rapport paid off during the whole piece, but especially during her death scene, which was genuinely moving, and during Act II, where their connection helped convey the sense that these were still the same characters, despite all of the changes. I especially liked their first interaction together during Act II: when he's visiting her grave and she's sort of there and then not there. He did a great job looking haunted, and she was impressive as the ghost, showing up and then drifting away, before they finally danced together. I enjoyed Zakharova quite a bit in Act II, because this act really showed off her elegance. She looked light and ethereal during all of the lifts, particularly the one where she's sort of draped across his body, and he walks her across the stage. I also really liked a series of leaps she does near the end, where she runs/leaps across the diagonal length of the stage; she did a great job keeping her torso at the same height throughout, which made the flight look like one smooth motion. Lastly, I liked the scene where Giselle stands in front of Albrecht to protect him, extending her arms to the sides and gently draping her hands over his. This is right after Myrtha has gotten rid of Hilarion and wants to do the same to Albrecht. This was a great moment for Zakharova because of the fineness of her position, and because she assumed it so slowly and gracefully. Although she's a slight person, I felt that she had great power, and it was a powerful moment. Because I know that in the past there have been complaints about Zakharova's 180 extensions (and I don't like them either), I'll note that the night I saw her, her extensions didn't seem overly high. I think she must be tempering them a bit. If I were being nitpicky, I would add that there were exactly two moments where she was not quite as fluid as I would have liked. One was during her first Act II arabesque; she started moving into the position super slowly and with great control, but toward the end of the motion, it was a bit rushed. The other was during a pdd, where she's facing him and he turns her around to face the other direction; it looked a little bumpy. As long as I'm pointing out imperfections, I'll also mention that there was a moment of imperfect stagecraft when Bolle put his hand on Giselle's tombstone and it rocked back and forth ever so slightly. I guess poor Giselle's family couldn't afford a very sturdy monument! The evening's Myrthe, Nicoletti Manni, was fine. I could find no faults in her performance, but I may have preferred Vassallo from the night before, because I thought she had more quiet severity about her. Bolle did more than 32 enthrechat sixes. (I think maybe 37, though I'm not certain.) Like Sutera, toward the end Bolle began punching his arms into the air -- maybe that's a more common thing to do than I had realized. I think my main takeaway from the evening is that there's something special about getting to see two great dancers who have a long professional history together. Their chemistry was so good, and I'm sure that's part of the reason why I found the performance so moving, with a real sense of redemption at its conclusion. During the curtain calls, Bolle and Zakharova received many shouts of "bravi" and flowers that came flying from all directions. When they turned and bowed to each other, the applause volume increased a few notches. Another great moment was when someone threw two items to the stage: a bouquet of flowers and something else that was hard to see. Bolle retrieved the bouquet and presented it to Zakharova. She in turn picked up the other item, and if I recall correctly, it was at this moment when she finally broke from her somber dead Giselle character and started smiling. She handed the item to him, and he held it to his heart. Grinning broadly, he turned to show the item -- a small teddy bear -- to the whole auditorium. The crowd loved it!! I couldn't end this report without mentioning that during intermission, I'd started chatted with an Italian woman and her daughter who were sitting in the row behind me. We had bonded over our mutual dislike of some loud people who had crept into the front row from some further-back area, talked almost constantly through the first act, and then apparently been asked by an usher, at intermission, to go back to their own seats. Anyway, my new friend persuaded me to stick with her after the show and come to the stage door, something I've never done before. We waited about 45 minutes in a small walkway before Zakharova emerged, looking like she just wanted to head to her hotel and a hot bath. (I don't blame her, I'm sure I look that way after far less-strenuous nights!) Bolle emerged later, grinning spectacularly and seeming to adore the crowd. My new friend was off like a shot for a photo opp and autograph. She advised me to stick close to her, but it was hard with all those energetic teenage girls pushing people out of their way!! We tried to stick together but were separated in the chaos. My friend and her daughter got their autographs and then shouted advice to me ("Tell him you're from the US!!"). I'm probably the worst autograph hound of all time, but I did eventually get an autograph and a richly textured "Prego" in response to my "Grazie." And that was the last word of the night. : ) Next: Osipova and Polunin
  23. Yes, I totally agree!
  24. Thanks for your comments Sandik! Yeah, I'm really glad I went, too. I wasn't sure if three nights of the same production would be too much, but it definitely wasn't, and it was great being able to see three different casts.
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