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  1. Both the Bolshoi and the Royal Ballet showed La Bayadere in the last ballet cinema season, and though I'd seen both productions before and had vaguely preferred the Makarova production for offering a resolution, this time I actually thought the truncated Bolshoi version was more satisfying, in a manner of speaking. It ends in the Kingdom of the Shades, not with the pas de deux, but with Solor seeing a final vision of Nikiya and fainting away. This time It seemed to me as if Solor had died, in a psychic if not a physical sense. I think like volcanohunter I didn't think Solor deserved the apotheosis in the original/restored version, so this felt right - a beautiful dream of reconciliation and forgiveness, then catharsis for us not in their reunion, but in his death.
  2. I believe it was Artem Ovcharenko, not Beyakov, who was Nikulina's Jeanne de Brienne. Kovalyova and Belyakov must have made a beautiful couple. Have they danced together before?
  3. The cinema screenings are great way to see them if you're outside the UK. Hayward has danced Clara in the last four Nutcracker relays, and Naghdi the Rose Fairy in two of them, including the most recent one. There's a new Clara for the relay this December - Anna Rose O'Sullivan - but we don't know who the Rose Fairy will be. Naghdi and Choe have taken turns for the past four relays, so there's a chance it may be Naghdi this year too. Hayward is dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy for this run, but not in the relay. And of course, she is one of Siegfried's sisters in the Swan Lake screening. At one point, landing on one knee, she keeled backwards too far and almost fell, but otherwise she was one of the loveliest things in that performance.
  4. Ashton Fan, I'm aware that the Dowell production was a return to a more authentic choreographic text. I'm sure Parry was too. I doubt she was implying that it was in a choreographic sense that Dowell had failed as a curator. The spirit of the ballet, the poetic truth as you say, surely matters just as much. In any case, my point was that, while Scarlett had the choreographic resources of the Ashton and Dowell productions at his disposal, he still managed to produce a staging that seems distinctive primarily in its design, and even further away from being definitive than its predecessor. And this is both ironic and deeply regrettable. Incidentally, I agree. Act IV in particular always had remarkable clarity and beauty for me, even when danced by uninvolving leads and in spite of the corps dressed like ostriches.
  5. Thank you, Mashinka. The Makarova-Dowell version was the first full-length recording of Swan Lake I ever saw and I don't think I've seen any others quite as dramatically compelling and satisfying since. And of course I loved the Nureyev solo performed by Dowell which I've missed in the subsequent productions. I've found the black-and-white Fonteyn-Somes video from 1954 on Youtube. Danced at this tempo, Odette feels terribly alive.
  6. I was reading old reviews and came across this in a piece by Jann Parry on the occasion of Dowell's retirement (2001): The ideal director, if he or she is not a creator, should be a curator, ensuring that the Royal Ballet presents the classics in the purest form. By emphasising design over direction, Dowell has taken the company out of the premier league of classical troupes. It still dances well but its productions have become secondary ones, not the definitive statements Ninette de Valois required of the Royal Ballet. It seems to me a very sad thing that the new production has not righted the situation and the criticisms of the old one may just as well be levelled at the new.
  7. Drew, Ashton Fan, thank you for your responses to my clumsily phrased, stupid-sounding question. They clarified some of the problems I was struggling to put my finger on. The scenario as it is does beg more questions than it answers. Perhaps Rothbart has power only over women – princesses, queens – and can’t cast a direct spell over Siegfried, but it doesn’t answer the question of why he has to bring Odile to the palace – surely if he means for Siegfried to take her for Odette, the lakeside might be a better setting… the list of questions goes on and on, which goes to show that complicating the original scenario, ostensibly to iron out logical inconsistencies, only serves to introduce more of them. Drew, I confess I was proposing the plausibility of historical/realist settings if we take a psychological approach purely for the sake of argument. In fact, I agree with much of what you say. Personally, I’ve not found the productions that take this approach to be anything other than hollow and anti-climactic. A Swan Lake without a sense of romance or mythic grandeur, where the concepts of suffering, the desire for freedom, the longing to simultaneously lose and find oneself, forgiveness and redemption, have no meaning – a production like that would seem to fall far short of what the music demands. To link this back to the new Royal Ballet production, I think the problem I have with the new ending is that Siegfried doesn’t die. He doesn’t redeem himself by joining Odette in death. Here also Odette is reduced to being a catalyst for Siegfried’s self-knowledge. Ashton Fan, could you point me in the direction of a current staging, or even an older one that has been recorded, that you feel has the poetry or poetic truth that this new production lacks?
  8. I would add that for all its "historical" trappings, the Royal Ballet's new production isn't consistently "realist" - this conception of Rothbart feels particularly cartoony to me. I have yet to work out how, in this late 19th-century Germanic court, a palace coup can be accomplished simply by making the heir to the throne pledge to marry your daughter. Do you have any theories?
  9. As most of the critics I've read have been very positive, even effusive, about the production, I'd be very interested to hear what else other people in the business are saying. My own response to it as a punter outside the UK, via the cinema relay, was one of deep disappointment. It seemed too dour and conceptually muddled a production for such a talented new generation of dancers to be trapped in for the next decade and more. I had similar impressions - the action felt badly timed and confused. The moments that you noted - Rothbart's attack on Siegfried, Rothbart overcome by the power of Odette and Siegfried's love - were not at all clear to me, when they had been unmissable in the previous production. I think the swan maidens rushing about separating the lovers had something to do with it. By the time Siegfried had found his way back to Odette and she was miming 'death', Rothbart was rolling on the ground and I had no idea why. And before I could properly register the fact that Rothbart had struck Siegfried down and was himself on the verge of collapse, Odette was off the cliff and it was all over. Also, Siegfried was knocked out before Odette made her way up the cliff, which meant he hadn't seen her die. So his reaction on being roused by the swan maidens struck me as not only dramatically awkward, as you say, but somehow unconvincing. I would have expected him to rush up the cliff first or at least spend a long moment looking up at it to let what happened sink in. Nicely observed. I agree that it's an unnecessary distinction (dress/tutu) for Scarlett to introduce in the first place - when we first see Odette in the traditional productions, she is in her maiden form and in a tutu - particularly when he does not observe it consistently. Would you consider productions such as Nureyev's for the Paris Opera Ballet and Grigorovich's for the Bolshoi still "Tchaikovsky's (and Petipa's and Ivanov's) Swan Lake"? I ask because they seem to interpret the existence of Odette and the love story as reflections/manifestations of troubled aspects of Siegfried's psyche. None of the magic is real - in the Nureyev version it's all a fever dream. With these psychological approaches, "realist" settings seem feasible and perhaps quite plausible too.
  10. Buddy, I agree that they are linked by love. But I tend to think of it as a love that once was (though great enough for its lingering echoes to save and to redeem). The lovers have been divided by disillusionment and death, and when we next see her, the woman’s nature has changed. Elements of the choreography express her elusiveness, her aloofness, and I like to see the expressions of the dancer reflect that detachment. Odette in act 4 of Swan Lake is different as she is still very much a woman caught up in mortal passions – she can forgive but she will still take her own life in desperation. Giselle will save Albrecht and then let him go, back to Bathilde. 😅 Please stay and watch it anyway, and report back. Your perspective was illuminating, Quinten. Speaking from a less technically-informed viewpoint, I also had the impression that I was watching not the character but the dancer, concentrating hard on getting the steps and arm positions right. There was little sense of control or ease. But, as with the videos of her in Swan Lake, she does seem to possess a rare combination of youthful freshness and ageless luminosity that’s captivating*. I do hope I will get to see her one day when she reaches her full potential, and that premature exposure won't get in the way of her reaching that. *I can’t agree that she has more charisma than Lopatkina, but Lopatkina certainly doesn’t have these qualities, much as I’ve loved her dancing. Many thanks for the Clemence video – so much assurance at 20, and natural authority.
  11. Buddy, by "them" do you mean Solor/Albrecht, and "they" Nikiya/Giselle"? That's true. But have you seen the videos, Quinten? How does her NIkiya come across to you? I believe Buddy is referring to these:
  12. Buddy, thanks for directing me to Simone Messmer. A nuanced and sexy Gamzatti is certainly a treat. mnacenani, I've only seen the Alexandrova/Zakharova pairing in the cinema relay from a few years ago, and I would certainly agree that they were well matched in terms of star wattage 🙂. I see what you mean here, and like you I do appreciate touches like this that add nuance to a character, but I did wonder if this added dimension might not be inconsistent - the catfight in the previous scene had ended with Gamzatti making a very emphatic gesture. In the Royal Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet and Mariinsky versions, she makes a fist and drives it downwards. It's not the same gesture as the mime for "death" but I've always assumed it meant something violent. Vengeance, certainly - 'She will pay for this!'. So if I'd seen Alexandrova's look of disbelief after that, I might have been a bit puzzled - hadn't she sworn vengeance? Or was it more of a 'Daddy! Here? Now?' sort of dismay? But I've just checked on youtube etc and in the Bolshoi version, Gamzatti doesn't make that gesture with the fist - after Nikiya's exit, Gamzatti points backwards, presumably to indicate Nikiya, and then she raises both hands and rests them just beneath her shoulders (Allash crosses them at her throat). Now I don't know what this gesture means in this context. It may leave room for the idea that she wasn't, as you said, "hell-bent" on destroying Nikiya. But I'm tempted to say this more "big-hearted" character is more Alexandrova and less Gamzatti. The reconstruction in Berlin - I've heard about it, and I don't really see Simkin as a natural Solor, but I'd be interested to hear what the reconstructed wedding and temple destruction scene is like, and how it compares with Makarova's version - as it happens the ballet will be revived at the Royal Ballet in November. Will you be going to see the reconstruction, mnacenani? Quinten, to be fair, this Nikiya that Solor is seeing is a figure in his drug-induced dream, so she may very well exude the unShade-like qualities Buddy mentions, even if no one dances it that way. Having said that, I think dramatically, remoteness is what's called for. And a transcendent tenderness, but no more. (This reminds me of the problem I have with Wili-Giselles who exude emotion - love, protectiveness, mournfulness etc - when part of the power of the drama is surely the fact that she is beyond them now).
  13. From what I remember about the Bolshoi version, when the Rajah first proposes the marriage with Gamzatti, Solor is taken aback, moves a few steps away to appeal privately to a friend (?) for help, and then turns back as if resolved to refuse the Rajah. At this moment Gamzatti, who has entered while Solor's back was turned, is unveiled, and Solor is so struck by her beauty that all thought of protest seems driven from his mind. So if anything, a "less beautiful" Gamzatti would make the drama less coherent. I think Gamzatti's reaction to Nikiya's beauty is quite natural for a princess who had probably assumed that no one, let alone a mere temple dancer, could be as beautiful as herself, and therefore a genuine rival (but she had to make sure - which suggests it's not just Solor's hand she wants but his heart as well). It doesn't necessarily suggest that Nikiya is more beautiful. Could you elaborate on why it's great theatre? Is it because other Gamzattis have been expressionless, or have had different, maybe less dramatically logical expressions?
  14. Marchenkova's debut as Gamzatti, in Stepanova's debut performance as Nikiya, no less: From 14:48: From 7:14:
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