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  1. Translation of Kommersant obituary May 12: ‘Dance’s female lion-tamer’ On 8 May in the outskirts of St P Ninel Kurgapkina’s life was tragically ended under the wheels of a car. She was a People’s Artist of the USSR, renowned Soviet ballierna and leading teacher-coach at the Mariinsky Theatre. Only two months ago at a jubilee evening in honour of her 80th birthday, she appeared in a long pink gown with fur trimmings over her naked shoulders, on the Mariinsky stage, where she thanked her pupils, “My dear girls, who long ago stopped being girls”. All applauded, her numerous students and her stage partners and colleagues and friends, all acclaiming this shapely miniature person, in high heeled shoes, with her wild curls, lively black eyes and loud voice (she was hard of hearing) . A student of Agrippina Vaganova’s post-war generation, Ninel Kurgapkina entered the Kirov theatre in 1947. Like her great teacher, she made her journey to ballerina status step by step, and left the stage in 1981, having worked almost 14 years past the usual retirement for ballet artists. though in her 50s shewas dancing in such form that many people thought she left too early. Recalling Ninel Kurgapkina’s dancing, everyone, both professionals and public, noted her speed, attack and energy. They spoke of her life-enhancing talent. About cleanness and exactness, a purposeful perfectionism without which she could not take a step. Among her roles only one was created specially for her - Anna Andreevna in the Oleg Vinogradov ballet Revisor, a hilariously funny provincial lady. This joyful ballerina never incarnated dry-spirited aristocrats of refined, fastidious manners. Better for her such characters as the combative Frenchwoman Jeanne in Flames of Paris and the spirited Spaniard Kitri in Don Quixote. Both are ordinary girls with a realistic view of life, firmly rooted on the ground. She herself was that sort of personality, she loved a good joke, had the exact retort ready. She could tame even Rudolf Nureyev. That restless lad was given to her as partner when he graduated from the school into the company. At their joint rehearsals the conceited Rudik would curse without restraining his language, but he would still repeat lifts 20 or 30 times, as many times as his demanding partner required. On tours he would drag boxes of apricots into the carriage for her, presents from her fans delivered to the railway stops on the way. In 1989, when he made his one visit to Leningrd following his famous defection, Nureyev stayed in Kurgapkina’s flat not far from Palace Square, and for his partner in that historic performance of La Sylphide he chose Ninel’s leading pupil, Zhanna Ayupova, then only beginning her solo career. Three years later, the terminally ill Nureyev invited Kurgapkina to Paris as his assistent on his last production at the Paris Opera, and they created La Bayadere together, just as 30 years earlier they had created their roles. On one of the viedo recordings of the rehearsals the old friends sit side by side, chuckling and swearing colourfully, evidently recalling a rich past. Kurgapkina’s gift for coaching appeared the instant she began teaching in 1969 inside the theatre, and after her theatre retirement, at the Leningrad’s Vaganova ballet academy. In 1989 she graduated a particularly phenomenal class of her “girls”. True, not one of them today remains in Russia; all are successfully dancing in Europe and America. But in her native theatre many ballerinas owe their professional reputation to Kurgapkina. For example she almost literally gave Uliyana Lopatkina’s career legs - after her graduation from school, the young dancer had no special gift for ballerina virtuosity. To her last day Ninel Kurgapkina taught in the Mariinsky theatre, and several generations of stars were her work. And her life ended suddenly, in an instant - not after a hard and prolonged illness. Ninel Kurgapkina’s farewell is being held today in the Mariinsky Theatre.
  2. That TV is too quick for me to get all of it, but it and the original report from the Mariinsky say she died on Friday May 8, not Saturday. The latest Izvestia report says she was hit by a car in the countryside near her dacha. They say the details are not yet released. Awful
  3. Gergiev's interview in Rossiskaya Gazeta, June 4: Headline: Crisis in choreography: Yuri Fateev will lead the Mariinsky ballet. An introduction outlines the on-off saga of Vaziev offering his resignation in March but it not being ratified, his non-appearance in the US tour, and Fateev's being deputed to lead that. It says that Gergiev has been reconsidering the ballet management, and Vaziev "undoubtedly" hoped that there might be a last-ditch offer to recognize by retitling him "artistic director" his sterling work in overhauling the Kirov's repertoire and world ranking, through adding mastery of 20th and 21st-century styles, Balanchine and Forsythe, as well as the 19th century reconstructions of academic classicism to their core repertoire. In the interview itself, Gergiev was first asked why the Vaziev problem had dragged out for two months. Gergiev: There was no problem whatever. Our company's manager gave notice of his leaving, perhaps under pressure from some nervous overload or tiredness, since recently he was not giving his all. We had these big spring tours to New York, Britain, and performances in Moscow. I gave Vaziev time for thought, but on the other hand the theatre is no place for wavering to and fro: yes, I will, no I won't, yes I want to, no I don't want to. Why upset the collective before an important tour in New York? That is what you might expect of an inexperienced or unwise director. Of course I also had to consider whether in principle the structure of the ballet directorship was right in our theatre. This structure appeared in years of heavy crisis and perhaps has by now run its course. It's in relation to that history that people spoke of some crisis or other in the Mariinsky. But there is not the slightest crisis. No one blames Vaziev because Russia has produced no brilliant choreographers of the middle or younger generations. We noted Ratmansky at that time, when indeed, no one else knew of him; he was a 27yo dancer in Denmark. The choreographic crisis is not a Mariinsky problem, but a general one. As regards the structure and organisation of work in the Mariinsky ballet company, with such an evident problem with finding a leading choreographer, I had to consider the best possible formula which would allow us to guard the highest standards of the company and also create new productions. Q: Resulting from your reflections, what have you decided to keep of old? Or are you now going to operate in line with Western troupes- Covent Garden, Paris, La Scala, where in general there isn't an artistic leader, but just a ballet director [in Russian they have several ways of differentiating the top job; what we call artistic director in a ballet company is usually called "chief balletmaster" acknowldging an essential choreographic core to the job, while leaving the administrative job to the "ballet director" or company manager, which is what Vaziev is. By reverse, in English "balletmaster" means classroom coach, not as important even as the company manager. The term "artistic director" in Russian seems currently to be applied only to Gergiev, as the overall strategic artistic chief of the theatre] A: In our theatre the structure of ballet directorship has continually altered under the influence of circumstance. In Soviet times when the chief balletmaster was Igor Belsky or Konstantin Sergeev, or Oleg Vinogradov, their superiority over everyone else was obvious, like that of Yuri Grigorovich in the Bolshoi Theatre. Productions were seen as landmark events. And in those days there was a clarity of style. I remember how people argued whether to allow Vinogradov into the Kirov, because he was from Malegot [Maly Ballet, or Mikhailovsky] and had no connection at all with the Kirov. Now it's all changed, but in a great country there is hardly one choreographer apart from Ratmansky of whom one can seriously talk as an artistic leader. To whom in reality can one entrust a company like the Mariinsky? Q: How did Yuri Fateev figure, given your assessment of this situation? A: Yuri Fateev is our balletmaster-repetiteur, knows the company exceptionally well and has worked in this theatre all his life, so he is a predictable person. Imagine, you are on tour, you have 200 people. They must know what they're rehearsing tomorrow. It was said that the company manager had given notice; peple kept asking me about why I had not signed off Vaziev's declaration. I say: please, let the man work. No, Vaziev doesn't want to work. I say, okay, let him write me a two-page assessment of the situation. It doesn't come. He is a complex character: makes things hard with Uliyana Lopatkina, who is a world-class artist, and has problems with Diana Vishnëva. There were also more difficulties than was necessary with Svetlana Zakharova, which is why she left. Why must we lose our best people? Why don't I have issues with Vladimir Galuzin even though he's an outstanding singer? Because I know he is a great artist. I need everybody, Olga Borodina, Anna Netrebko, Larisa Dyadkova, Galuzin. Therefore for entirely pragmatic reasons I decided to look for a person who can construct precise working processes and normal relationships: which people will rehearse, which ones perform, when technicians will be needed, or orchestral rehearsals. Apart from that, there's a need to support the younger ones. I say frankly that in two days of talks with Fateev that I got more firm grounds for action than in the past three to five years working with Vaziev. I never intended and I don't intend now to drive anyone out or remove them. I simply want that our chief should occupy himself calmly and steadily with the company, without shouting and fuss: rehearse, put up the casts. So I don't suddenly discover that our artists are running off to dance at the Mikhailovsky theatre. And if suddenly I should sound out Ratmansky about the job of chief guest choreographer, he should know he would encounter no organisational difficulties here, and concern himself entirely with creativity. Yuri Fateev can fix this kind of thing. Yuri Fateev CV: Born Aug 21 1964 Leningrad. Graduated Leningrad's Vaganova Academy. 1982 taking into the Kirov ballet. Appeared on stage up until 2003. As coach prepared productions by Balanchine, Roland Petit, John Neumeier, at the Kirov. Has taught at the Royal Swedish Ballet, Pacific North-West Ballet, where he staged the Mariinsky productions of 'Raymonda' and 'Le Corsair'. Assisted in the staging of 'Le Corsaire' at the Royal Danish Ballet.
  4. This sounds like a very odd, intriguing new creation. A report in Kommersant, June 2 2008. BALLET PREMIERE: In Rostov took place the premiere of the ballet Hamlet on Shostakovich music in a production by Alexsei Fadeechev with participation from Bolshoi theatre performers. Tatyana Kuznetsova could not make out whether this Rostovian Shakespeare was comedy or tragedy. The Rostov Musical Theatre ballet company, formed in the new millennium, is scarcely out of babyhood in age, and yet already includes the grown-up classics Swan Lake and Giselle in its repertoire. Understandably the company, its members selected at random, doesn't dance classics at a world-class level, but the city wants its own ballet troupe and it has one. It goes without saying that Rostov 'classicism' scarcely deserves serious attention, however its entirely original 'Hamlet' is another matter. Aleksei Fadeechev, its creator, is a People's Artist of Russia, ex -artistic director of the Bolshoi ballet company -- the same man to whom the Moscow theatre owed its breakthrough in repertoire, in the form of Balanchine ballets and Pharaoh's Daughter, and its first international successes for a long time. In 2000, not finding a common language with the new conductor of the Bolshoi Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Mr Fadeechev was scandalously dismissed from the theatre in which he had worked all his life. This is the fourth year that he has directed the Rostov ballet, but the first original ballet under him. He used for his score a kind of jigsaw puzzle of chunks of Shostakovich; there are sections of the 1st, 5th and 10th symphonies, music for the famous comedic Hamlet put on by Nikolai Akimov in 1932 in the Vakhtangov theatr, fragments from Bright Stream and The Bolt and much else, as much for the musical ear, as for the balletic ear. The libretto was done by the Rostovian lawyer Nikolai Oganesov, author of popular detective fiction. He confronts Shakespeare's chief question full-on: to take revenge or not. Not going into details like Hamlet's exile to England or the Yorick's skull, the librettist has edited out some of the action, timing the events of the last three acts of the play with the palace's celebration of the New Year. The set and costume designer Vyacheslav Okunev brought up the action to the totalitarian 1930s, constructing on stage three turrets from gleaming metal panels (this one Stalinesque ramparts, that one a Palace council chamber) and painted them with tubby imperial eagles. He arrays the castle guard in black full uniform and high-crowned peaked caps. Claudius is in white military jacket with award ribbons, the women are in evening dresses while Hamlet is in shirt and breeches, the timeless uniform of the intelligent man. As distinct from the play and operas, having pretty well worn out the device of updating historical plays to modern times, this home-grown ballet doesn't venture so far . The theatre's artistic director Vyacheslav Kushchev (who is also a deputy on the state Duma) took the risk of abandoning a seditious interpretation, and it was the right decision since in the production's choreography, putting it mildly, there was nothing innovative. There are two dynamic acts 45 minutes long -- like a ballet comic book in a way. A reader's digest translation of 'Hamlet' arranged by the librettist Oganesov is read by a voice on tape in heartfelt emotional 1950s pathos. Speedy and lively, the act sketches events: here's the grave with the body of old Hamlet, here's the sorrowing procession of courtiers, here's the wedding of Claudius and Gertrude, here's son Hamlet, interrupting the newly-weds' kiss. The mocking predictive steps, staging and gestures pass by suspiciously smoothly; Fadeechev is a writer in "Classical'' style without pretending to the laurels of a true choreography, he simply strings together competent academic combinations. His assistant, the Bolshoi principal Yuri Klevtsov, playing a handsome, villainous Claudius, gives himself character steps in the style of Grigorovich. Hamlet, created for Alexsandr Smolyaninov, from the Bolshoi, slim and nervy, does all that Hamlet is provided; he jumps depairingly, turns miserably and rolls on the ground, and plays rough with Ophelia; now he clasps her, now he repulses her. The enchanting Ophelia (Victoria Litvinova also of the Bolshoi) is gentle in an adagio that's neurasthenic in its own way, and goes prettily mad, stumbling on numb legs. The cow-eyed, supple Gertrude (Polina Shakhanova) behaves like the typical vamp. The company, given a task within their capabilities, dance precisely and with pleasure. But all this banal-naive easy-watching covers a second, parodic layer to the ballet. The authors, with trusting expression, have in their pockets a very large fig, and indeed it's the cliches that allow them to get away with distraction. This tale turns out to be for grownups who are capable of seeing jokes in the most unexpected places. An obvious passage is a sports parade in honour of the coronation; the chief personages of stage stand high on a staircase and in front of them proceed files of happy citizens while children rush to the leaders with bouquets of flowers in their hands. Less obvious is the Ghost's appearance: clothes fluttering, he stands, stretching out his hand, on a pillar inside the sliding walls of the "Palace council chamber" tower, like an exact replica of Lenin. And this round space, framing the castle like a crater, resembles the cannon in the film "Tsirk" ("Circus"), at the muzzle of which Lyubov Orlova banged out a tap dance; and when the witless Ophelia climbs the stairs to a noose, to swing high aloft, in one's memory surfaces inevitably "Tigi, tigi, du -- I'll go to heaven from a cannon". There is purely balletic mockery in a tango danced by Claudius and Gertrude with the sort of rough jerkiness that's in Grigorovich's ballet Golden Age, and their brutish guards freeze in the pose of the notorious "Kissing policemen" [for information, this I think refers to a contemporary picture that very recently caused legal action between the Tretyakov Art Gallery and the culture Minister who said it was pronographic]. In that sequence there is a reckless optimistic duet with devil-may-care overhead lifts, in which Hamlet tosses the apparition of the newly hanged Ophelia, at once a parody of both the well-known Moshkovsky Valse (symbol of ballet in the 30s) and of all ghostly reunions. Hamlet's duel with Laertes -- with the duellists wearing gigantic fencers' masks, the clash of rapiers, blood spots on their shirts, a growing mountain of corpses (at the end, all the courtiers too fall onto the general pile) -- resolves in a kind of clown-like guignol, particularly the finale, in which the dying Hamlet climbs up the staircase to the embrace of his father's monument.
  5. delibes

    Igor Zelensky

    Marina Shabanova, Vedomosti, May 23 2008 Igor Zelensky interview: "Novosibirsk will be a capital city of dance" Ballet lovers expect large-scale events. The 1st Siberian international festival of ballet opens on May 26, and concludes with a gala concert on May 31. The fact that to the Siberian Grand Theatre travelled top dancers of today is largely to the credit of the artistic director of Novosibirsk Ballet, People's Artist of Russia Igor Zelensky. His international contacts are the consequence of his extended work abroad and a glittering artistic life. Today, by his own admission, he is experiencing a new phase of his life, mastering the job of artistic directorship while continuing to dance. Q: Igor, what are you expecting from the 1st Siberian Festival? A: Similar festival take place in all great cities and capitals of the world. May is the month of the Mariinsky's White Nights, premieres are happening on stages in Paris and London, ballet artists are gathered at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. And we have all the right conditions to mount our own ballet festival. An excellent building, a theatre stage of world standard (our floor is actually better, more up-to-date, than at the Bolshoi, the equal, apparently, of New York or Paris). The artists who are coming to our festival, despite its youth, today occupy the top places in world ballet. And thank the Lord, they've agreed to participate in our festival despite their busy schedules. We won't deceive anyone that to these people my name carries weight, many of them are coming here for the first time without knowing our theatre, but trusting my word. I hope our festival will please them. The main point is that everything will be done for our public, this town's inhabitants. And even today you won't find a single spare ticket, even though they were more expensive than usual. Q: Will our artists meet the standard set by the festival? A: We have outstanding ballerinas: Anna Zharova, Natalya Ershova, Elenva Lytkina, Anna Odintsova, the young generation Olga Telyupa, Maria Kuzmina, and our leading soloists Roman Polkovnikov, Vitaliy Polovnikov, Andrey Matvienko. They could work on any world stage, but luckily they trust in their theatre. Ballet festivals like this are not unimportant to our artists. Q: The festival programme has all the best productions of the theatre. A: Yes, nothing is too much for us. We will show what we are capable of. Of course, we don't have a corps de ballet of 300, as it seems they have at the Mariinsky, where they have such choice (one troupe on tour, another appears at the home theatre, the third prepares new productions). The way above all to support the standard of the corps de ballet is to support the level of finances. Today I can't invite people here, this brings too many difficulties. It's necessary to achieve a level where people don't just not leave, but actually come to us to work. Each artist who quits the theatre is a great loss. Unfortunately, Semyon Chudin left, and now dances in the west. Roman Polkovnikov also had a contract in London, but thank God, he stayed. This year eight people are being discharged, and not one of them intends to leave. This is a very good trend. So the state devotes a lot of money for the training of the dancer of the future for eight years, and then he leaves... Why? Because it's essential to provide him conditions to work. Nowadays we are struggling with the question of why they take our young people into the army. Ballet is a young person's business; for a 15-year career it's necessary to accomplish a huge task, to collect one's interior physical and emotional being, form oneself into an artist. What army work equals that? Q: I know that you nurture ambitious plans to make Novosibirsk a capital of ballet. Seriously? A: Otherwise, the theatre is hardly of major importance to the city, is it? If everything is organised right, there is no reason why in Novosibirsk should not become Siberia's centre for ballet. Here this festival can gather together the students of many ballet schools, arrange professional congresses, educate our personnel. In order to convert Novosibirsk into the capital of Siberian ballet, the priority honestly is to organise financing. I rate sport very highly, it's correctly financed, but really they could expend equal kopeeks on our theatre too. It has different funding, patrons, in the end. This is what people come to me and say: How good your new ballet "Whispers in the dark" is! Fine, it will mean a lot to us, above all, if our state responds and helps us. For our first festival we will bring leading artists, and later we plan to invite whole companies. By way of example, to show the Novosibirsk's public the Maiinsky Company in William Forsythe, and two years later to bring here the Grand Opera! There ought to be the financing. Q: The Mariinsky Theatre's chief director Valery Gergiev somehow put your name first among those who the Marrinsky needs to transmit their professional experience to young dancers... A: As they say, better the bird in the hand than two in the bush. Of course it's pleasant for me to hear that. I"ve known Mr Gergiev for 20 years, we met in New York. As concerns passing on artistic experience, I was occupied with this periodically for many years at the Mariinsky. At present, for me it is a theatre where I'd be interested in taking on the artistic directorship. A ballet artist doesn't really have a profession -- the time advances when it's necessary to assimilate a new speciality. I am not Gergiev, who's already directed for 30 years. Nevertheless, I am full of strength, energy and enthusiasm. I can still dance, two weeks ago, for example, I returned from London. But today I want to spend my strength on artistic direction. The director shapes taste. Apart from that, I very much like teaching, and next year I plan to occupy myself closely with our school. Q: How do you feel in the role of the Novosibirsk artistic director, which you've had for two years now? A: To be frank, I continually think that I'm doing right or wrong. But, please God, it's also necessary to make me allowances, I'm only learning this business. I don't want to make mistakes. I have a lot to learn. Artists comes to me and say, Igor Anatolievich, help me, my mother (or wife, or daughter)... This too is the what the artistic director has to do. Sometimes they ask me why we don't put on this or that production. I try to approach the repertoire accurately. It would be a pleasure to put on such masterpieces as Grigorovich's Spartacus and Legend of Love, but unfortunately I can't choose to, I don't have enough people. Now we're planning to work on a revival of Swan Lake. After the festival I have two shows at the Bolshoi Theatre, and as soon I come back we'll begin work. We'll be having a costume designer of world fame, Luisa Spinatelli from Milan. AT the end of October, Novobisirsk will see the new Swan Lake, in new designs. We are changing everything, from the flowers to the headgear, from the feathers to the leathers. Then I'll bring here seven ballerinas, we'll show Swan Lake en bloc; seven shows side by side with different interpreters in the leading role, and let the audience see and compare. It will educate taste. We'll do the production at a level like Bayadere, which today enjoys unprecedented demand: whenever we show this ballet, the hall is always full. Q— You have danced Bayadere on theatres in Buenos Aires, London and New York, in all the existing editions of the ballet. In Novosibirsk you put on the version by Vakhtang Chabukiani, who was your mentor at the Tbilisi school. A— When you're 15, you don't wholly understand what a superlative individual you have in front of you. The realisation that my teacher was of the same status as Nureyev or Baryshnkov came to me much later. But as regards Bayadere, at the Maryinsky theatre they returned to the old edition. But in my view it wasn't accidental that such titans as Chabukiani produced new versions, they kept up with the times. I for my part brought to his production other characteristics. The ballet's power is such that I myself sometimes sit in the hall and I don't get tired of watching it. Q— Specialist commentators remark on your partnering technique, but all the same it was in a duet that you received a spine injury that kept you from dancing for two years... A— It's true, girls in the ballet come up very different. I often talk about this with my artists. 90 per cent of ballets are about love, and the audience wants to see on the stage a man and a woman. The male artist is obliged to carry the ballerina. It's a very delicate business. Q— And in your own life what about love? Who are your family? A— My family will arrive in a few days. My daughter is a year and a half old, my wife is a former ballerina. One of our artists twisted her ankle the day before the Golden Masks, and Yana rehearsed another girl in three rehearsals. That's how she can help us in the festival. Q— You give the impression of a person for whom everything in life has turned out well. Is that so? A— You can hardly say that you are completely happy, can you? An artist cannot be self-satisfied in everything, he must do better every time, and raise the bar every time. I have had the good luck to master the chroeography of Balanchine in the place where he himself worked, and I lived for 12 years in New York. I could have remained there, but I wanted to dance MacMillan's ballets and I went to London. In our profession it's necessary to advance oneself. Of course, probably I had a talent from God, certain physical gifts, but the rest I did myself. Our profession is terribly hard, seriously physical toil 6-7 hours a day for 20 years. When you are young, many roads open in front of you, but this one is over very quickly. I say frankly, the euphoria I feel on stage I could have had nowhere else. But I understand that this period of my life is ending. And being a determined person, I am continuing to find myself, to develop, to create, which I also wish for you and all your readers too. IGOR ZELENSKY: [biog] Product of Tbilisi choreographic academy, probationer at Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, after graduation was taken into the Mariinsky Company (St Petersburg). At 21 received the Grand Prix in the Paris international ballet competition. Guest soloist at Deutsche Opera Berlin, for six years was a principal with New York City Ballet, and from 1997 soloist at Covent Garden, London. Danced leading roles in the most famous ballet stages of the world: in the Royal Ballet, The Bolshoi Ballet. Appeared on stages in Boston, San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro and tokyo. Programme of the 1st Siberian Ballet Festival: May 26: Giselle (Johan Kobborg from Royal Ballet) May 27: Bayaderda (Igor Zelensky, Elena Vostrotina from Berlin) May 28: Don Quixote (Ivan Vasiliev, Natalya Osipova from Bolshoi Ballet) May 29: Bayaderka (Leonid Sarafanov, Olesya Novikova from Mariinsky) May 30: Sleeping Beauty (Semyon Chudin from Bolshoi Ballet) May 31: Gala Concert: guest artists and soloists of Novosibirsk State Ballet
  6. Hamburg Ballet's prima ballerina Anna Polikarpova: "Humanity will die if it doesn't go to the theatre". Izvestya, May 14 2008, Svetlana Naborshchikova http://www.izvestia.ru/culture/article3116194/ On May 26 on the new Opera stage the "Sun Kings" gala concert will be held. The featured attraction will be Anna Polikarpova and Ivan Urban, the acclaimed couple from Hamburg Ballet. At the start of the 1990s the married couple became the first Russian dancers to be invited by John Neumeier to his company. How she then gained the title of Neumeier's muse was the subject when the former Peterburg girl Anna Polikarpova talked with Izvestia. Question: What struck you most of all on your arrival in Hamburg? Answer: Everything! In a month I realised so much. I did not speak either German or English, and it was a shock to me that many people in the company spoke five languages. It also struck me how much they worked, and how they worked. Simultaneously they were rehearsing Nutcracker, Requiem and Cinderella, all absolutely different in style. And then Mats Ek arrived to do "Meinungslose Weiden" (Spaces without meaning). I could not even bring myself to repeat after him, and I was very surprised when I saw my name on the first cast list. Q: Are you comfortable with life in Germany? A: I like how everything is in order, disciplined - you know what can be done and what can't. But sometimes it seems that most people have in their heads only business plans. Those who put the Euro first, they're immediately obvious. They're like zombies, all identical in their suits and ties. Lots of people don't know where to find opera. To me this seemed amazing. How can one live without theatre? You have to go to the theatre, even only once a year. Otherwise humanity will die. Q: Does John Neumeier seem to you a despot or a father-figure? A: He's a dictator. He holds everything in his fist. If it weren't so, the company would not have endured 34 years. I had intended to leave after two years of work, but he held me on -- gave me the rank of first soloist, and I began to dance literally everything. I simply could not refuse. Usually people don't last so long. They leave, or even change their profession. I was used to the idea that in the Mariinsky artists are there until their pension, and at first couldn't consider any other way -- Where else would they go, and why? Then I understood that with him people can just fizzle out, lost heart. There is absolutely no time for private life, let alone children. Right now, not one of the people in the company has children. For John only work exists. For that it's necessary to sacrifice everything -- he won't have it any other way. If you don't want it, go to another company. Q: How do you relax after such effort? A: We just sit at home. Ivan and I are very domestic, we rarely go out. In a restaurant you can't sit in front of the TV with your dinner! Q: Recently in Moscow you lit up his production of 'The Seagull'. How organically they depicted the character of Arkadina as a ballerina. A: To start with, she was to be a dramatic actress, as in Chekhov. But on the very next day, John announced: "You'll be a ballerina, like Anna Pavlova". It turns out, that the day before he was sitting by himself at home, which in fact is filled with ballet antiquities. Some little thing fell down -- and it was Pavlova's fan. John explained that in this way she herself had given him a sign. Q: Last year in Moscow he said that he intends to put on 'Anna Karenina', because he continually gets signals to do this. He also said that in the role of Anna he saw Uliyana Lopatkina and you. A: How interesting . With us John never outlines his plans. This season we revived 'Otello'. He gave the part of Desdemona to a girl in the corps de ballet, even though I really wanted this role. But to ask or argue with him is useful-- John sees it thus, and that's it. Next season he wants to put on 'Arminde's Pavilion', 'Sylvia', and to do Nijinsky's 'Rite of Spring'. I just hope that I will survive until 'Anna'. Time marches on, and I don't intend to dance till 50. Q: What will you do? A: I want children, I'd be interested in coaching, and I would very much like to act in movies. I've already had some experience in Leningrad. In a film called 'The Dogs' Feast' I played an inactive ballerina. The director Leonid Menaker saw my photo in a card index-- I was photographed for Lenfilm in the role of a girl in 'Vaganovka' -- and he said "Find me that face". I was stunned by the way Sergei Shakurov and Natalia Gundareva worked. Not a trace of star vanity and a great desire to help me, a slip of a girl... Q: If it's not a secret, what did your husband give you for your last birthday? A: Oh, this was so funny! I saw, myself, this Balenciaga handbag, and Ivan got it for me. I was in ecstasy, I started to thank him, when he said "Open the bag." And there appeared a Cartier ring! He always knows what I would like.
  7. "QUOTE Three roles in the Benefit -- Solor in Bayaderka, Narcissus in the eponymous miniature, and Herman in Pique Dame -- were dedicated to three legends of Russian ballet, Marina Semyonova, Galina Ulanova and Nikolai Fadeechev, who once upon a time prepared these roles with Nikolai Tsiskaridze. 'Once upon a time' is true for Semyonova and Ulanova, but Fadeechev still coaches him in all his roles, as far as I know." Sorry I don't know how to extract previous quotes properly. I should say that in translating Russian, it's possible to suggest slightly different nuances or variations of tone in English by the variety of available translations. Kogda-to's first meaning is 'Once upon a time' but could also be 'once' or 'formerly'. Also the perfect tense in Russian can change in English if you say "who have formerly prepared the roles" rather than "who once (upon a time) prepared the roles". I do not know which would be more accurate. I try to translate close to word by word, in order not to second-guess more readable but maybe interpretatious (my own invented word) translations. Like Mashinka, I was also impressed by the straightforwardness of the description of Stepanenko, a dancer I do not know. By the way, on Tsiskarize and new roles, did he not pull out of making a new ballet with Christopher Wheeldon recently? We had a television documentary about that, and he did not seem very wholehearted about it in the rehearsals, though there was also a suggestion that he got sick. Non-ballet popularity has always seemed to get up some of the ballet fraternity's noses; Darcey Bussell and Rudolf Nureyev on TV comedy shows, and Baryshnikov in Sex and the City. I wonder if this wider media exposure actually has brought general watchers to see performances of ballet, though. My impression as an occasional goer was that more people would only buy a Darcy Bussell ticket for the Royal Ballet, because they were frightened of seeing someone else who they didn't know. It works better when ballet dancers turn themselves completely over to a different stage, like Adam Cooper or Sylvie Guillem. Ballet people don't seem to resent that so much for some reason.
  8. I have translated the Kommersant report in today's paper (May 12th), critical of Tsiskaridze, even sarcastic, but it explains his mysterious fame (mysterious to me, I regret). Introduction: The Bolshoi Theatre had a sold-out benefit for Nikolai Tsiskaridze, the most famous male dancer in Russia. Tatyana Kyznetsova was witness to his celebration. Benefit performances are given for three reasons: as a sign of farewell to the public, to verify someone's exceptional status, and to attract attention to that person. In the last instance they are usually organised in an outside theatre for those artists who aren't satisfied with their career progress or repertoire (a significant example was Anastasia Volochkova). In the Bolshoi itself benefits are rare, with just three in the 21st century for Svetlana Zakharova (by reason of her special status), Galina Stepanenko (for long service) and now Nikolai Tsiskaridze, the only dancer whose popularity has extended far beyond the limits of the world of art. If you stopped a man in the street and asked him to name a famous male ballet dancer, in Europe they wold name Nureyev, in America Baryshnikov, while in Russia invariably Tsiskaridze. No one in ballet equals Tsiskaridze in the eyes of the general public, and this is to the credit of not just him as an artist. Actually, no one of his colleagues leads such a busy life beyond his theatre-- he judges ballroom competitions on television, he performs in musicals, he doesn't miss important worldly events. It's true, though, that on the Moscow stage today there is no one capable of being a sufficiently charismatic and brilliant leading man to contest Mr Tsiskaridze's announced precedence. No wonder that his benefit was a total sell-out. The People's Artist indulged his public with his hits, the freshest of which dates from 2001. Apparently new stage roles aren't so urgent for the 34-year-old artist as new roles in life -- the dancer doesn't bother to conceal his desire to be chief of the Bolshoi ballet. Meanwhile, as he awaits his promotion, Nikolai Tsiskaridze asserts himself as the living embodiment of the Bolshoi' historical tradition, the natural heir to his geat teachers. Three roles in the Benefit -- Solor in Bayaderka, Narcissus in the eponymous miniature, and Herman in Pique Dame -- were dedicated to three legends of Russian ballet, Marina Semyonova, Galina Ulanova and Nikolai Fadeechev, who once upon a time prepared these roles with Nikolai Tsiskaridze. From the stage result it's hard to say anything definite about either the pedagogic gift of these celebrities or the receptivity of the student. In all three incarnations N Tsiskaridze showed his trademark quality-- an excellent, almost feminine adagio line, exceptional footwork, amazing jete en tournant with his rather curved-back torso. He has just as rigorously retained his typical flaws -- the unstable, if passionate rotation, the mincing affectedness of his dance, and a pretentious mime style that is usually considered in this country to be a mastery of acting. In the final ballet, Petit's Pique Dame, which brought Tsiskaridze a Golden Mask and State prize, the six and a half years since its premiere have produced irreversible changes: the role of Herman has lost all the movements and combinations the People's artist found uncomfortable for his body. However, he has made up the loss with hard work on his face muscles -- none of Tsiskadirze's colleagues is capable of so horribly knitting his brows, or blazing with so wild a gaze, or twisting his lips into so sardonic a grimace. It was rather to Galina Ulanova's credit that in the old days she would counsel the young dancer to look in the mirror once in a while. "The mirror is your only true judge," said this great artist, who could play dead, not quivering a single muscle of that angelic, still face. While Mr Tsiskaridze dramatizes in a directly opposite fashion, evidently he has stayed satisfied with the process of judgement by mirror. Love of one's own reflection is the subject of the second role he danced at the benefit. Galina Ulanova adapted Kasyan Goleizovsky's 'Narcissus' for the then young dancer, jettisoning from it all that didnot suit his superb body. Since those days the half-naked Nikolai Tsiskaridze in a pale-blue leotard with coquettish yellow triangle below his waist has been loving himself with such self-intoxication that there isn't breath to reprove him either for his technical flaws or his distortion of the choreography. Only in the Shades Act from Bayaderka, in honour of Marina Semyonova, did Nikoali Tsiskaridze remain true to the accepted text of the role, and he danced Solor very successfully -- he turned clearly, he flew like a bird in his jetes and pas de chats, and the more complicated double assembles were done practically without fault. However, it is precisely in the territory of academic classicism where rivals to the People's Artist are found, who are capable doing as much with no less brilliance. Genuine uniqueness in the Shades Act was demonstrated by his partner, Galina Stepanenko, the oldest of the Bolshoi's primas. It lay in the natural regality of her stage authority, by some miracle transmitted by Marina Semyonova to her pupil. Galina Stepanenko, uniquely among all today's ballerinas, dances everything that is set, in the way that it is set, not changing movements and not simplifying them either. All the little details of the role that are missed by the normal viewer, were surmounted not simply honourably, but were performed by the ballerina with a kind of elegant flair, showing an unostentatious respect for herself, her profession and her teachers. This testified to the continuity of tradition more hopefully than the most emotionally wrought dedication, and the most packed-out benefit.
  9. Catherine, sorry to be so long to check in. I found it through a link to another Russian article and when I copied the text for translation I didn't keep the full link. If you use this link to the Gorod site and search in the Kultura section you could find it. http://www.gorod-spb.ru/index.php
  10. An article in a St Petersburg weekly GOROD on April 7th about the Kirov/Vaziev turmoil is strongly critical of Valeriy Gergiev, the conductor and theatre's overall artistic chief. Irina Gubskaya writes that it is not at all clear that the ballerina Ul'yana Lopatkina has the company's support as the next ballet artitic director, as when she was officially designated "director" of the American tour -- with the prospect of "the company directorship" in due course -- it aroused an "indignant flurry" or "upset" inside the company. This was said to be why the dancers were so noticeably relieved on the eve of the tour that Vaziev was announced as still in position. This turmoil has been reignited since, in America, as Gergiev "urgently" called up Igor Zelensky to dance in the US, abandoning his planned performances in the Mikhailovski theatre in St Petersburg. This is seen as indicating favour for Zelensky as Kirov company leader and currying favour with American audiences. The absence of Vaziev when the company arrived in the US is said to have astonished the producer Sergey Danilian, who would have been expected to know all about it, but didn't. M eanwhile, Gergiev's pronouncements on the ballet's general aspect have unearthed that he dislikes Forsythe ballets being done in the Kirov, thinking that they are "not of our tradition", and he also disapproves of several recent new productions there. (It isn't stated whether this includes the "reconstructions") . He has lately shown interest in Yuriy Grigorovich, but the writer comments with heavy irony that apparently Maestro doesn't know about the existence of "foreign" classical ballet, such as Bournonville. She also remarks that if Gergiev is now making blanket criticisms of the ballet policy -- which she says he did also in America, 5 years ago -- he himself is accounted as the policy's author, being the theatre's artistic director and in part the ballet's artistic director, a policy which Vaziev has only carried out for him since he himself has always been denied the title and job of artistic leader. The policy is: Petipa, Balanchine, leading contemporary ballet choreographers, and a smattering of Russians (yet not so far any interest in earlier "golden age" Soviet choreographers). If Gergiev disapproves of this, says the writer, he has made no alternative proposals. However Gergiev has mentioned that he longed, from childhood, to see a ballet based on 'The Tsar's Bride', has talked with Alexey Ratmansky about new productions, and he has, to give him his due, recalled some older stars of recent times, eg Makhalina, to pass on their experience. For Vaziev the writer has a lot of sympathy. She says that all mistakes will be put down to his account, including of course Gergiev's -- since "Gergiev can hardly be wrong".
  11. The verb Baryshnichat means to profiteer, usually in horsedealing. A person who does it is a Baryshnik. Ov (or ev) at the end means, son of. Nureyev is son-of-Nuré or Nuri, a Russified Turkish name meaning 'light, or pale'. http://mirslovarei.com (in Russian) has a comprehensive list. Vaziev is not in the list, but I suppose that it might be a Turkic version of Vasiliev (Basil = king) type names, such as son-of-the king. Makhar means blessed. But Valery means strong. Tsiskaridze is Georgian, and derives from 'Tsiskari', a very old Georgian name meaning dawn. One of Balanchine's nephews is apparently a ballet dancer called Tsiskara Balanchivadze. See http://www.opentext.ge/art/BALANCH.HTM
  12. There is a whole lot of strange spellings/ transliterations from the Diaghilev/ Dyaguileff Ballets Russes time. Sergeev can come out as Serguéeff, nowadays Sergeyev, and I guess that 'Serge' with the soft 'ge' sound was the result of French people having a stab at saying 'Sergei'. We presumably also owe to that time the kind-of-misspelling of Nijinsky. In Russian to English direct, as prounounced, he should be written Nizhinsky. But the French 'j' sound is the same as what we write in English as 'zh', so we inherited the French Nijinsky spelling from his first European transliteration, even though it makes us speak it with a hard 'j' as in 'Jump'. I have heard horseracing folk pronounce the name more accurately when talking of a famous racehorse by that name, using the soft 'zh' sound. Also his first name, directly transliterated from Russian-to-English 'Vatslav', started with its original Polish 'Vaclav', where the Polish 'c' is pronounced 'ts'. This was perfectly transliterated into the Russian 'ts' character, but in French maybe it was taken as the Russian 'c' (which is pronounced 's') and therefore became 'Vaslav' in the French version, and therefore the standard English version, which makes two mispronunciations in one name. I think some people even sometimes say 'Vaklav', reading the 'c' as hard one, when they are for example talking of Vaclav Havel. So Vatslav/ Vaslav/ Vaklav = vats it all about? incidentally many famous ballet dancers' names can be translated amusingly, as several Russian surnames are close to adjectival, and not always flatteringly. Yuliana Lopatkina's surname means 'little spade', or even 'little digger'. Diana Vishneva means 'Cherry girl'. Bessmertnova means 'immortal, undying'. Volochkova has an homonymical relationship to 'svolochka', a very rude diminutive of 'pig' . Zelensky means 'green man'. Nizhinsky/ Nijinsky means 'low to the ground, short', which is rather suitable for his height. Diaghil is the herb angelica, though I am not sure whether Diaghilev was the most angelic of men. Lopukhov means 'simpleton'. Lifar's name associates with the word 'lif' or 'lifchik', meaning bosom or bra. I am quite taken by the English homonymical aspect of 'lifchik' (bra) and the strong pictorial association of Lifar lifting a lady's, erm, chicks. Khrushchev means the son of a cockchafer. Talk about being born with a disadvantage.
  13. On from Catherine's post about transliteration, Vaziev should really be with a 'zee' rather than an 'es' as the sound is distinctly the zee letter, not the s. However as in the name Plisetskaya, there are those who write the 's' sound with two 'ss' to make the sharp unvocalised sound, and Kshessinskaya the same. The problem arises that in English 's' can have both the 'ss' and the 'z' sound. Many people seeing Plisetskaya would instinctly turn the s into a z. But on the 'iev' question - there are two problems here. If we wrote Vaziev consistently with the way we write 'Nureyev' would we not write Vaziyev? And re the 'v', if you have the wonderfully funny Caryl Brahms book 'A Bullet in the Ballet', you will see that Stroganoff is the company's director (as in Diaghileff - the old-fashioned spelling). This only reflects the care that Europeans took at first to get the sounds right - the 'v' sounds like 'ff' at the end of the word. (You see how they put an 'h' after the 'g' in 'Diaghileff' -- it is because in English and French 'g' before 'i' becomes softened, like 'ginger' or 'gîte', and they wanted to help us get it right.) Beef Stroganoff seems, perhaps for sentimental reasons, to have retained the 'ff', where now Stroganov would, I think, be acceptable as in Romanov. On the subject of Matilde Kshesinskaya, one of the hardest-to-transliterate names, her original name would be spelled in English as 'Matilda Krzhesinska', as her father was Polish. I am assuming that the Kshesinskaya (or the short version Kshessinska) was the French version as the Tsar's court only spoke French. She is not, by the way, Kchessinska, which I have seen from time to time. KCH would have different letters in Cyrillic. Also it is Matilda, or French-version Matilde, not Mathilda. The Tchaikovsky/ Chekhov anomaly arises from the fact that Russian names were first Europeanised into French, whose alphabet does not have the same sounds as the English. 'Ch' in French would be 'sh' in English - as in 'Chat'/ cat or 'Chopin' - so I suppose that Chaikovsky would be pronounced 'Shaikovsky'. So they put the T first. Maybe the English cottoned onto Chekhov before the French did and were happy to transliterate the sound into Ch as in Church. (Nureyev became Noureev in French - just to confuse matters further). I do not know how the French write 'Chekhov', with a T? Also there is the Polish factor, that 'w' can sound like 'v', so you see Tchaikowsky. Where we get into deep water is the Shch and Io (= Yo, but not as in Yo bruv/my man) sounds. According to my studies, there is no real reason, as far as I can see, why Rodion Shchedrin (the composer and husband of Plisetskaya) should not be Roden Schedrin - as we routinely write Gorbachev, not Gorbachyoff as per pronunciation, and we write Soloviev and Vishneva, when actually the sound should make them Soloviyoff and Vishnyova, and we often write Khruschev, when it should probably be Khrushchyoff. I think that my conclusion has to be that we should just go with the flow and do as the French do with consistency. I now wish that I had not begun this.
  14. I am not sure that I have such wholesome confidence that the sound team on the recording were so fastidious. If the recording is not recorded live, and the "live" sounds on stage would I guess give this away, then how certain is it that the dance you see is being danced to what you hear? in this case there are places where the dancers clap or stamp their feet, visually clear, but they are all just after the beat (and in some places kinda raggedy so it's not like they are an incredibly disciplined team all dancing just 'off' or 'through' together.) It would make a very strange impact live, I would guess,to hear those heels go down off the beat or the claps off the beat. Could be wrong, but inclined to stick to my theory that the recording engineers didn't 100 per cent engage, maybe just 99 per cent. Remember Singin' in the Rain ... "yes-yes-yes! / no-no-no! "
  15. They are two different ballets, kind of almost like comparing Tudor's Romeo and Juliet (Delius) with MacMillan's (Prokofiev). Same story, but different music, different treatment. Lacotte/Taglioni is a reconstruction of the first Paris Sylphide, which Bournonville saw and wanted to imitate in Denmark but could not afford to use that music, hence had to commission a fresh score for his own take on the story. I remember that I enjoyed the Lacotte one and its music very much when I happened to catch it on its premiere a few years ago. I have this Danish DVD and I think that the sound must have been produced later, as in my copy the music is around half a beat ahead of the dancing throughout. It is very disconcerting. They are always taking off or landing just after the beat. Scherzo, I have just realised you noticed this too, so it is not my rogue copy. By the way, I have just seen an interview online in the British ballet website with Peter Schauffus the Danish director where he said that ballets change so quickly now because there are many more casts performing them and making their own adaptations. He said that in the 19th century ballets had only one or two casts who would 'own' the role and dance it a long time, develop it on their personality, and then pass it on to the next longtime occupant. So you did not get these continual rewriting of productions and variations for many new casts. Interesting. More like today's theatre, actually.
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