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Raymonda in Finland (review)

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Ok, I went to see the Raymonda last night. Before I go forward, I want to stress that I'm definitely not an experienced ballet-goer, and that this was the first Raymonda ever that I saw.

The program leaflet unfortunately does not describe the role of Kevin McKenzie in the production any more clearly than we had it already. It says, though, that in the choreography Anna-Marie Holmes has been very faithful to the originals, keeping many of the variations to the last detail, and restoring the role of the White Lady (if that's what she's called in English, the statue/spirit/foremother anyway).

The ballet was pretty ok, but nothing more than that. In many story ballets the plot seems to me to be a side issue, and the dancing the point, but in Raymonda this was notable enough to approach boring. The problem seems to be that many of the "non-plot" dances don't portray any particular emotion either - they are just dream scenes or party scenes without any deeper meaning. Either the choreography is not to my liking, or some of the feeling that should have been there was lost in rehearsing. :)

Either because of that lack of emotion or some other reason, the coprs was sort of out of touch. I can't put a finger on it, but sort of, instead of looking like a group that dances they looked like a bunch of people who just happened to be at the stage at the same time dancing the same thing. Especially the first act was bad this way. It could have been a deliberate stylistic choice, but I doubt it, and in any case I didn't like it too much. They were not bad as such, but something was missing.

Minna Tervamäki danced Raymonda technically well, but something was missing there too. Somehow her expression seemed to be either forced or indifferent or both all the time. The second act was a bit better in this sense.

(Personally, from what little I have seen Tervamäki dance, I wouldn't have casted her to the role. Had I realized to check in time, I would have gone on an evening when Carolina Aguero dances the name role - she might not be as technically pure, but she has an expression I might have found more suitable. But that's just my opinion based on seeing both of the dancers only about twice.)

The highlight for me were the dances by Raymonda's two girl friends; especially Anu Viheriäranta in the second act was great and alive. Dario Franconi as Abderahman was wonderful, too, and all of the audience seemed to love him. Nicholas Ziegler was not bad at all as Jeanne de Brienne, either.

The orchestra was great, as far as I can tell, which is not very far. :)

(I was just told by a friend a corps dancer aqcuitance has said that she feels that the problems with the corps are because there are "too many dancers". I don't know if she meant too many dancers on stage in some particular scenes, or too many dancers in the production to make it smooth, or something else; I'll ask if I see her.)

Päivi Savola was there the same night, maybe she can add something more knowledgable. :)

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I'm not very knowledgeable, I'm afraid. :)

I'll try to consentrate on stuff Jaana did not cover, since I pretty much agree with everything she said.

In my opinion, this ballet was good entertainment, but mediocre art. It was stuffed too full of dancing and running around, and consequently lacked depth and drama. The emotional content and story were somewhat shallow.

The choreography was generally interesting, if a bit crowded. I could not help thinking, that the ballet had been meant for a larger or differently shaped stage (wider and less deep, perhaps?). In general the ballet had lot of good dancing in it. I particularly liked the wedding scene. :)

Some of the costuming, especially in the dream scene failed to impress me. (In fact, I really did not like the way the dream scene was done. Too many people crowding the stage in too many kinds of costume with too many details. Dancing was bland and unconvincing too.) The first act was nice, and the last act quite good. There were some utterly beautiful tutus on stage. (Raymonda's blue tutu with roses in the beginning of the second act was splendid. Suited the tall blonde lines of Minna Tervamäki

extraordinarily well.) Male costuming, however, was in my opinion generally excellently done, and most of it was very flattering with nice pseudo-late-medieval details.

I liked the staging - horrendously American colour choices, glittery and crowded, and most of the time complementing the mood of this glittery and crowded ballet very well.

The story has been changed around again. Jean de Brienne is not Raymonda's intended, and he is not away on a Crusade but right there in Raymonda's garden. In fact, it seemed like Raymonda and Jean weren't having any kind of really serious affair before the ballet starts, and Abderahman is the catalyst for a stronger bond.

I would have liked to see more mime - I understand it was mostly taken out. I really like seeing good mime that flows naturally into the dancing. Maybe I would be clearer on all the details then, since the acting was not strong enough to carry the nuances of the story and to communicate the reason for each dance.

I have to agree with Jaana, that the role of Raymonda in the ballet seemed shallow and bland, and/or Minna Tervamäki did not act it very well. The supposed attraction to the exotic foreigner looked like fear or disgust, except when it looked like glued-on smiles. It is a pity, because while she is a cool, more technical dancer type, I've seen her act quite well in other ballets, notably Giselle. On the technical side she was her her usual competent self. (I don't want this to sound like I don't like Minna Tervamäki - I do quite a lot. Her strong classical technique, beautiful lines and restraint in introducing mannerisms or over-athleticsm to her dancing are admirable. She is generally my favourite female principal for the "big tutu classics".)

I also liked both of the male principals. Nicholas Ziegler was a beliavable "nice guy" Jean de Brienne and an exciting turner as well. Dario Franconi as Abderahman was my favourite character for his clear, loud, yet natural-looking gesturing, which sneaked some forbidden mime elements in. :D He seemed the only one of the three principals to be really completely comfortable with his role on more than a technical level. Raymonda's friends were great, especially the female ones. They sparkled with life and their unison in timing and styling was breathtaking when it was not very, very good.

I'm going to see the third cast in June; I can post an update. :)


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The changes sound harmless. Raymonda is one of the few ballets to make use of a real historical character as a principal. Jean de Brienne was the Crusader King of Jerusalem, and even though King Andrew II of Hungary was his ally and advisor, I don't think de Brienne spent a day there in his life. He was married twice, by the way, and neither bride was named Raymonda.

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Here I am again, after seeing the third cast.

Maybe it was the fact that this is the final performance of Raymonda this season, but the evening had a very special atmosphere. I've never seen so many technical slips in one single performance before (most seemed to mess up at least once, and there were no less than three falls), but everybody on stage seemed to have great time, and most danced with abandon. I enjoyed the performance very much. :) I wouldn't care to see this many problems in every performance, but a exception to a rule is forgivable.

Anastasia Dunets danced Raymonda. She has not been my favourite in past performances but I must say this time I was convinced. Her acting was good - she actually seemed to have a dilemma, and not quite understand all her actions. Her technique was great, very solid. (Her obligatory slip was very small, a brief loss of balance in a "posing" scene) And unlike I remembered, her arabesque line was beautiful. Either I imagined the winging in Cinderella, or she has fixed it. :)

Physically Anastasia Dunets does not match my mental image of Raymonda as well as Minna Tervamäki, whose tallness and royal neck-line made for a great figure, but I must say I still preferred Anastasia for her better acting, and the joy of dancing which shone thorough at times very clearly.

Juha Kirjonen was Jean de Brienne. While his face could have used more different expressions, the few ones he had weren't bad, and his gesturing and body language were eloquent. He and Dario Franconi seemed to have great time puffing up. :mad:

Dario Franconi was again Abderahman, and made up for his technical problems (which he did not have last time) with even stronger acting. (Last time was already great.) Instead of freezing up at the face of difficulty, he threw himself even more passionately to the role and received thunderous appaluse for it. :)

Raymonda's friends were again great - they definitely have some of the best dancing in this ballet.

I also want to specially mention Jarmo Rastas whose miming was superb and expressive. I loved the way he reacted to the monkey! Unfortunately my language skills are not good enough to translate the mime role name (Linnanvouti) to English. :( Countess Sybille, played by Jaana Puupponen, was also better than last time, and adjusted to Abderahman's new, stronger personality well.

I hope people who see Raymonda at ABT have time to post their impressions. :)


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