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Golden Mask Awards

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On April 14, in St. Petersburg, Nikolai Tsiskaridze and Ilze Liepa received this year's Golden Masks (Russia's top awards for performing arts) for best male and female role in ballet, both for their performances in Roland Petit's adaptation of the "Queen of Spades", as staged for the Bolshoi.

Best Ballet Award went to the "Roland Petit Evening" at the Bolshoi, which grouped his "Queen of Spades" and "Passacaglia".

The Golden Mask for best choreographer was not awarded. The Chelyabinsk Theatre of modern dance was chosen for best modern dance performance (for "Expectation").

Quite ironical that the award ceremony was held at the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg and that all the prizes went to the Bolshoi and other Russian theatres.


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One more reason for irony: the fact that Roland Petit was not awarded the prize. My interpretation is that the ballets and the roles won the Golden Mask IN SPITE of the lousy choreography:)). The ends do not seem to meet in this decision. At the same time the jury neglected two works of a young inventive and surely talented choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. My preferences here are with his ballet “Lea”. It was produced by a small company, led by Alexei Fadeechev and Nina Ananiashvily, which still managed to become a rival for the Bolshoi and Mariinsky. It won the hearts of the public and the minds of the critics, which is a rare occasion. From my point of view a very serious competition was among nominated female dancers. All of them – Ananiashvili (Lea), Vishneva(Cinderella), Liepa (La Dame Pique) created spectacular roles, among which Liepa’s role is the least dancing, beeing based more on plastic movements and acting, than dancing. I’d rather leave out my comments about male dancers, since the level of the competition in this nomination wasn’t as strong as among females. Personally for me the prizewinner role itself and it’s interpretation was far from revelation.

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Although I haven't yet been to a live performance of Queen of Spades (I plan to see it in Paris in January) I have seen a video of this ballet.

I appreciate that opinions on this board are often highly subjective, but I feel I must protest at the description of Roland Petit's choreography as "lousy". Petit's choreography is often highly idiosyncratic but never less than craftsman-like and competent. Frequently it is inspired.

Queen of Spades is a ballet of highly charged dramatic dancing with truly astonishing performances from both Liepa and Tsiskaridze. It is a ballet that burns itself into the mind thanks to the outstanding talent of those involved.

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The word "lousy", which was used in my posting, was chosen only for one reason - to point out the controversy of the decision of the jury. If the whole performance (two Petit ballets) are decided to be the best plus the two roles he created as well, why not give him the prize for the choreography, which is not just a trifle in a ballet performance? The alternative for these thoughts is that the chosen bests are not 100% best. Sorry, if my attempt to express a bit of irony failed.

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Just a quick moderator's word -- calling choreography "lousy" is quite within bounds. All the opinions expressed on this board are subjective :)

I take your point, Ina -- but I don't know the politics of this particular jury, so I wouldn't hazard a guess as to why. (Although Fadeechev must be out of favor and unlikely to win any award for awhile from the Institutions, no?) I didn't know he had a company now, and was glad to hear about it.

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I'll say it--I thought Petit choreography really was lousy. Granted, I only saw it on tape, but it was at odds with the music (Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony) to such a degree that it made me quite literally queasy. I could only watch it in ten-minute increments, and just barely then.

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Gosh, I'm shocked to hear Queen of Spades described as in any way "lousy". How odd. It is a fantastic ballet, a masterpiece in my opinion. And I have, by the way, seen it live at the Bolshoi, not just on video......Ballet is an art of the theatre after all, not of the TV and I sometimes despair at arm chair critics that judge ballets from videos....

I in fact found the choreography not only to be extremely inspired, but also extremely sensitive and intelligent in it's use of Tch's 6th. Never did I detect any hint of un-musicality, quite the opposite in fact. Petit was inspired in his use of the music to invoke mood and character throughout the piece.

I don't quite see the argument that is being played that just because the jury didn't give the choreographer the choreographer prize means that by default they do not think it great choreography, even through they gave prizes to the interpreters. This is rather like saying that if an Oscar jury gives an award to an actor for best portrayal within a certain film, but does not then also give the Director of the same film the award for best Director, that they are automatically saying the film is a badly directed film even if it was well acted. You cannot make such a loose generalisation.

It is rarely possible and never advisable in any awards ceremony to give one particular work all the awards. It may well be that this jury felt they had to reward one or two aspects of what they recognised as a great theatrical triumph, and choose to reward the great interpreters of the lead roles. And who can blame them? Tsiskaridze was extraordinary in this role, truly amazing.It was a blazing success, and Leipa was not far behind him either.

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Congratulations to Ilse Liepa and Nikolai Tsiskaridze on receiving the high awards they deserved so much!

I had a great luck to see "The Queen of Spades" at the Bolshoi when it was first performed in October 2001 and also just recently, at the end of February. For all my love for the 6th Symphony I haven't felt that the choreography was at odds with the music. Roland Petit advised beforehand that he intended to "switch" two parts of the symphony and, in my opinion, he managed to justify it by working out the plot with a great skill and demonstrating what a powerful director he is. The ballet lasts just over one hour and every minute it keeps the audience in awe of the developments on stage. The atmosphere becomes very charged when the culmination approaches.

Petit used very skilfully the talents of the actors (I stress: actors, not just dancers) he worked with by following their distinctive features as well as revealing their enormous potential. Originally he asked Altynai Assylmuratova to be the Countess. If she agreed, he undoubtedly would have created the choreography very different from one that he offered to Liepa, it would have been more on a dancing side I suppose. For Ilse Liepa, a tall, slower dancer, he offered an approach more suitable for her elongated lines, sense of rhythm and plasticity. In this role she reached her peak as an artist.

Tsiskaridze was astounding as Hermann on the opening night but I admired him even more when I saw him in this role recently. His stunning leaps and tours are as good as ever, however, his acting became even more profound and powerful, the important mise en scenes were even more vividly accentuated. This is a role to treasure. I am sure more will come.

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Three of four awards were given to “La Dame de Pique”, nobody received the fourth one - the Golden Mask for the best choreography. This COMBINATION is indeed the greatest surprise of the Golden Mask festival.

I do not wonder by awarding of Ilse Liepa and Nikolai Tsiskaridze. Their works were good enough but to tell the truth the concurrence this year was so high that all nominates could gain the awards as well. Me personally I would prefer Ananiashvili as Lea – the role is both highly dramatic and dancing. But the jury made its choice and it was neither better nor worse than any other choice they could make. Actually the jury could even dice and any result would be appropriate. Thus, I see no reasons to use too much words describing how good is Liepa (only miming SHE is a pivot of “La Dame de Pique” and probably her artistic talent is the only raison d’etre for the ballet). Or to tell the stories how impressive is Tsiskaridze in his jump over the bed (which is in a ridiculous way supposed to block up the exit from Hermann’s lodging) or in his jetes en tournant around the Countess (what symbolizes probably the vicious circle of his exaggerated devotion to money). Evidently there is no need to guess how the role of the Countess would look like if created for Asylmuratova (why not Plisetskaya? she would be excellent). We watch what was presented at the stage and we estimate what was created by Roland Peti and Bolshoi company.

But I am surprised indeed with the decision to proclaim “La Dame de Pique” as the best ballet of the last season in Russia. It seems the jury just could not award Roland Peti for the choreography – people would laugh at the decision. And for some reasons they did not want to award young and talented Alexei Ratmansky. By the way, I have seen not only “La Dame de Pique” but also competing “Lea” and “Cinderella” (both by Ratmansky). Did you, Coda and Tahor?.

As to “La Dame de Pique” I was at the performance of December 5th, 2001 and carefully watched also the videtape with the record of the opening night (I was absent then in Moscow). I dare say it was enough for me and I am not eager to attend the performances of “La Dame de Pique” anymore. Why? I found the choreography rather eclectic and full of self-quotations from “Clavigo”, “Notre Dame de Paris” and “Carmen”. I did not like the mixture of the modern steps with classical pas in the role of Hermann – it seems this was done with the only purpose to demonstrate Tsiskaridze’s abilities. Lousy? I don’t know, I prefer to use the words “dull” and “boring” in this case. I think the very structure of the ballet repeats that of “Clavigo”. Besides, there are no good ensembles in the ballet. I did not like the adaptation of the Pushkin’s plot made by Peti who converted the story into a trivial melodrama. I did not like the distortions of the great Tragic symphony (the tempi, the wrong order of different parts). Thus, if we “subtract” three duets of the main heroes which were awarded already then what is the “residue” of the ballet which is announced now as the best BALLET performance? I am afraid the residue is just zero. By the way, the mentioned three duets have been shown as a concert number during a recent performance in honor of Ilse Liepa - they produced stronger impression being not dissolved in the ballet.

All opinions are subjective but some of them are more subjective than the others. Some fans of Tsiskaridze called “La Dame de Pique” a masterpiece of the great choreographer. I guess they are motivated mostly by the fact that “La Dame de Pique” is the first and the only ballet staged for Nikolai. Thus, “La Dame de Pique” is condemned to be considered as a masterpiece. Besides it found a support at high places. Just as an illustration: R.Peti, I.Liepa and N.Tsiskaridze are nominated also for the State Prize, and the nomination is done by the Ministry of Culture. It is not a competition, “La Dame de Pique” has no rivals, and the final decision will be made by President Putin in June.

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Yes I did see the Ratmansky Cinderella in St Petersburg, and thought it truly awful!! Horrible choreography. Those awful season variations for the boys with those punk hairstyles. The corps de ballet sitting on steps at the back of the stage swinging their head from side to side to the music!! Most of the dancers hated this chreography too. I never saw Lea so can't comment on that.

It is really beyond my understanding how you can compare the work of a master chreographer like Petit with an amateur like Ratmansky. They are not in the same class.

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Well, I will be impressed too if the President of the US is involved in the selecting of ballet awards. But we have a different experience in Russia: our leaders were interfered in everything. For instance, «The Limpid Stream» and opera “Katerina Izmailova” were forbidden by Stalin personally (the premiere of the “Stream” in a new version by Ratmansky will take place tomorrow at the Bolshoi). As far as I know Mr. Putin never attended performances of “La Dame de Pique”.

> It is really beyond my understanding how you can compare the work of a

> master choreographer like Petit with an amateur like Ratmansky.

Tahor, did I compare people? Sure I did not. I just formulated very clear why I do not like “La Dame de Pique”. Even a “master choreographer” can produce not a masterpiece and this is just the case. On the other hand Ratmansky is not an “amateur” – he staged about 40 ballets and concert numbers and one can see his productions at Mariinsky, Bolshoi, Danish Royal Ballet, Swedish Royal Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, etc. If we discuss “Lea” or “Cinderella” I would criticize these ballets too. If I were asked about “Golden Masks” I would give the awards to Tsiskarizde for his Hermann, to Ananiashvili for her Lea, a special “Mask” (such possibility exists and was used the last year even twice) to Liepa for her distinguished mimic role in the ballet . I would give the “Mask” for the best choreography to Ratmansky for “Lea” and “Cinderella” (although I did not like everything in these ballets I think they are much more interesting than “La Dame”). And probably it would be better not to select the best ballet of the last season. At least I would have doubts at this point. If I am forced to do the selection I would vote for “Lea”.

I noticed a correlation: Tsiskaridze’s fans are very enthusiastic about “La Dame”, I know no exceptions. It is beyond my understanding and seems very strange for me as I like the ballet art and ballets not for the participation and/or success of that or another dancer. What is also a completely personal and subjective point of view:).

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There's a mention of Alexei Ratmansky's Cinderella in the Moscow Times by Raymond Stults, which was pointed out by Ari yesterday.

"Privileged over the past 50 years and more to have seen the very best in ballet on the stages of Chicago, New York, London and Paris, I cannot recall a production of greater overall beauty than the Mariinsky's "Cinderella."


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As predicted here in April Roland Petit, Ilze Liepa and Nikolai Tsiskaridze were awarded the State Prize for Queen of Spades. The award was conferred on them by President Putin at the Kremlin.

Petit is the first non-Russian ever to have received this award.

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