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Raymonda@The Met 2004


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The ABT website now has a few videos you can watch of the dancers rehearsing Raymonda (mostly Dvorovenko and Belotserkovsky) while Kevin McKenzie talks about the plot. There is also a video with Susan Jaffe, Cynthia Greogory, and Martine Van Hamel talking about the ballet. It's clearly advertisement (every video has a link "buy Raymonda tickets!" underneath) but still nice to see.

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Opening night Friday - anyone else go?

It's a very pretty - and sparkly - production. And that is meant literally. The dancing is very pretty, and the costumes and sets have sparkles and glitter all over them. And the dancing itself is very pretty as well. But - it was almost too pretty. All beauty and smiles, less life except in isolated scenes (mostly, the ones with Marcelo Gomes). Perhaps they simply need to settle into the production and start having more fun with it.

Irina Dvorovenko was a beautiful Raymonda. Crystal clear dancing, especially her variation at the beginning of Act II, in the pas de trois. Her hops on pointe were light as a feather, stunningly rendered. Dvorovenko too, though, was almost too pretty. Everything move was perfect, but at the expense at some kind of spontenaity or spark. Dvorovenko also strikes me as the kind of dancer who moves excellenty from pose to pose, but the flow between them isn't quite so interesting, or when the need for speed is there in the choreography presents itself, she falters slightly. (I also noticed this when she danced Nutcracker last year).

Maxim Belotserkovsky was very good as Jean de Brienne, very princely. The ballet gives little reason why Raymonda chooses him over Abderakhman, though, esepcially when Abderakhman is being danced by Marcelo Gomes. Gomes was spot on and very charismatic whenever he was on stage. Too bad he didn't get more to do.

Michele Wiles and Veronika Part were Raymonda's friends, with David Hallberg and Genadi Saveliev. All four were excellent and were great in the variations; their roles though, didn't give them much to do except dance prettily - again with the prettiness.

Grand Pas Classique late in the ballet read very well; didn't seem like quite the disaster that earlier reports from the excerpted showings described. The Grand Pas does, however, seem like a totally different ballet from what precedes it. Most of the ballet (at least on Friday) was a very refined, straightforward classicism; then comes the Grand Pas, with its Hungarian-flavored steps and a bit of attitude thrown in for good measure. Looked like the transition from "Sleeping Beauty" to "Paquita." It went well for the most part, though, and Dvorovenko was perfect, again.

Really - very little to complain about here except that it the whole evening felt like it was covered in smooth gloss. I longed for a more textured surface.

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Opening night Friday - anyone else go?

It's a very pretty - and sparkly - production.  And that is meant literally.  The dancing is very pretty, and the costumes and sets have sparkles and glitter all over them.  And the dancing itself is very pretty as well.  But - it was almost too pretty.  All beauty and smiles, less life except in isolated scenes (mostly, the ones with Marcelo Gomes).  Perhaps they simply need to settle into the production and start having more fun with it.

Irina Dvorovenko was a beautiful Raymonda.  Crystal clear dancing, especially her variation at the beginning of Act II, in the pas de trois.  Her hops on pointe were light as a feather, stunningly rendered.  Dvorovenko too, though, was almost too pretty.  Everything move was perfect, but at the expense at some kind of spontenaity or spark.  Dvorovenko also strikes me as the kind of dancer who moves excellenty from pose to pose, but the flow between them isn't quite so interesting, or when the need for speed is there in the choreography presents itself, she falters slightly.  (I also noticed this when she danced Nutcracker last year).

Maxim Belotserkovsky was very good as Jean de Brienne, very princely.  The ballet gives little reason why Raymonda chooses him over Abderakhman, though, esepcially when Abderakhman is being danced by Marcelo Gomes.  Gomes was spot on and very charismatic whenever he was on stage.  Too bad he didn't get more to do.

Michele Wiles and Veronika Part were Raymonda's friends, with David Hallberg and Genadi Saveliev.  All four were excellent and were great in the variations; their roles though, didn't give them much to do except dance prettily - again with the prettiness.

Grand Pas Classique late in the ballet read very well; didn't seem like quite the disaster that earlier reports from the excerpted showings described.  The Grand Pas does, however, seem like a totally different ballet from what precedes it.  Most of the ballet (at least on Friday) was a very refined, straightforward classicism; then comes the Grand Pas, with its Hungarian-flavored steps and a bit of attitude thrown in for good measure.  Looked like the transition from "Sleeping Beauty" to "Paquita."  It went well for the most part, though, and Dvorovenko was perfect, again.

Really - very little to complain about here except that it the whole evening felt like it was covered in smooth gloss.  I longed for a more textured surface.

I wish I could have seen it! Please clarify: Are you saying that Irina's phrasing showed seams in some minor passages, or not? Based on your report it sounds to me that her interpretation needs to evolve and of course that's ok. Was this her debut in the role? I think her coach is Kolpakova. If so, Irina's in the best hands for this role. Since its a new production, they'll knit themselves into it. I'm sure V. Part did very well. She was a promising Kirov Raymonda before she came to ABT. Some folks wait all night for Act 3; I'm one of those people. How was the character dancing - really? Did they include or exclude the Mazurka? If so, how did they dance it? How was the Cortege Hongrois/Czardas, the Grand Pas and her final solo? Did Irina and Co. 'give you Hungary'? In your opinion, did the act 'have paprika' or was it just 'pretty'? Thanks!

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Thanks very much for that, Art. I was struck by your comment about the Grand Pas Classique seeming odd in context. In the original "Raymonda," the first act was a suite of classical dances, the second character dances, and then the third character-flavored classical. Were there no character dances in the second act?

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After seeing this production twice, I think the big problem is a complete lack of tension. I've seen the ballet only twice before: Nureyev staging for ABT and Grigorovich's for the Bolshoi -- both in the very distant past. Calling either a dim memory is to give it more weight than it has. Therefore, I don't know if I address my criticisms to Team Holmes-McKenzie or to Maestro Petipa.

At the Raymonda Works & Process evening at the Guggenheim a couple months ago, McKenzie explained that the dramatic action in this production would be pushed to the side of the stage while the dancing is going on. The result of this is that the drama -- what I assume would be mime passages -- is not played out to music that would provide the appropriate emotional color. It is overwhelmed by the dancing that dominates the moment. This clearly is a misjudgment on the part of the restager(s).

So much for lack of dramatic development. The other lack of tension is the contrast between the classical and character dances. Act I is purely classical -- the Birthday Party and the Dream Scene are danced in an undistinguishable style. It seems to me that during the Party, there should be suggestions of Hungarian-ness, along the lines of the Spanish-isms that inflect the non-Dream Scene Classicism of Don Q. Even during Act I's recessional, I kept looking for a hand-on-hip. Nothing. But maybe that's how Petipa choreographed it. I don't know.

So when, in (this production's) Act II there are suddenly national dances, they are on the one hand welcome for the contrast they provide for the Classical dancing (which by now has started to blend together in the mind's eye), but on the other do seem out of context, because, as Art says, there is no context.

This is indeed a very pretty production. The sets are beautiful, the costumes are tasteful and attractive, the music -- oh! that music! Neither cast (which included quite a large overlap) was at its best, unfortunately. But Ananiashvili's performance was very good -- fresh, joyous, clear -- and I especially enjoyed her bouree variation. Also notable (on both nights) were Viktoria Part as Clemence, radiating warmth, and David Hallberg as Bernard, outdancing every other man (and possibly woman) on stage with his magnificent line and nobility. This is one hungry dancer!

Friday night, Maria Bystrova and Jesus Pastor led the Grand Pas Hongrois. (The Mazurka is omitted.) She was ravishing! What hauteur and playfulness! Now I see what all the excitement (on another thread) was about. (Maria also distinguished herself as a demi in Bayadere's pas d'action.)

Will I go back? I already did, and plan to see more casts. I'm not sure, though, how well it will hold up over time. I hope A-MH and KMcK can find a way to bring some hills and valleys to this production. Or, as Cygnet put it, Paprika. That's really what it lacks.

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One of the problems that Raymonda has had historically is that even for a ballet the plotline is kind of thin. Abderakhman is a real problem. The ballet is supposedly set in Provence, so how in heck does a Saracen manage to get himself and an entire entourage from all parts of the Ottoman/Moorish Empire into France? Even during the Crusades, French customs were a lot tougher than to allow an invasion force to land! The Hungarian-ness of the last act is a tribute to the timely arrival on the scene of King Andrew II of Hungary, who orders that the battle be settled by single combat of Jean de Brienne and Abderakhman. Whether there's a White Lady (a Virgin Mary surrogate) or not, this single combat resolves the conflict and the invaders depart. Incidentally, both King Andy and Jean de Brienne are real historical characters. De Brienne was the Crusader King of Jerusalem. Of his three marriages, none was to a Frenchwoman, much less named "Raymonda".

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The first full length 'Raymonda' I saw was the Balanchine/Danilova version of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in NYC. At the time (1946) its failure was attributed to an audience that was not attuned to "the leisurely panoramic productions of Petipa, and were bewildered by it" (Jack Anderson). A mere 3 years later New York was delerious over the Sadler's Wells 4-act 'Swan Lake'. The redeeming feature of that early 'Raymonda' was the performance of Danilova; and that was repeated, for me, last night with Ananiashvilli's performance. For me, the problem lies in the fact that there is no dramatic core to the ballet, then, as now, it seems like a series of divertissements with a weak story line thrown in here and there. I doubt if I would want to see this ballet again without a ballerina of Ananiashvilli's stature. I have run out of superlatives to describe her 'czardas on toe' and I feel especially privileged to have seen her and Danilova. (I also saw similarities between the two when I saw 'Offenbach in the Underworld' last year) If you have never seen Danilova, watch Ananiashvilli---her manner (grand, if you wish) and her coquettery are very much like Danilova's) I agree with Carbro---Veronica Part and David Hallberg stood out --I couldn't get my eyes off of Hallberg, and I can't comment on Ricardo Torres. I was disappointed in Carreno, granted, deBrienne looks like a thankless part for a male dancer, but he never seemed 'connected' to Ananiashvilli.

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I saw the Saturday matinee with Xiomara Reyes, Ethan Stiefel, and Herman Cornejo. This is a very good production - with great music, beautiful costumes and sets, spectacular dancing, but not much of a plot. More of the characters were ciphers, except for Herman Cornejo's Abderakman. He was the sexy bad boy the girl desires but never marries. Cornejo was evilly exciting in the role, but I was very disappointed that he got to do so little.

As Raymonda, Xiomara Reyes danced exquisitely, but she didn't portray a character at all. I really had no idea who Raymonda was. Did she have any dreams or desires? Did she really love Jean de Brienne, or just think he was a great dance partner? Stiefel's dancing was wonderful, but his Jean de Brienne was even more of a cipher than Reyes' Raymonda. He didn't seem to feel any passion for her even when he fought the duel with Abderakhman.

But as has already been stated, the dancing was spectacular. I was especially impressed by Erica Cornejo, Mria Riccetto, Sascha Radesky and Gennadi Savliev as Raymonda's friends. Monique Meunier was fine as Countess Sybelle, but I'm very confused as to why Meunier is dancing these types of roles. During the intermission I heard others voicing the same feelings.

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Responding to Cygnet:

Are you saying that Irina's phrasing showed seams in some minor passages, or not?

It just seemed to me that she luxuriates in extended poses, like a huge arabesque, or a grand stance smiling big and brightly at the audience. But the stuff in between the poses isn't quite so smooth, and things get choppy. It looks like she's putting forth a lot of effort to get from point A to point B, even though points A and B are individually quite pleasing.

By the way, the production just got good notice in the New York Times. Anna Kisselgoff liked it, and, in her lead paragraphs that the ABT press office will absolutely LOVE to quote in advertising copy, called it "super-duper." Kisselgoff seems to like most things ABT does; but she did mention Dvorovenko's lack of flow ("Irina Dvorovenko led off on Friday night with clean, strong technique, but little charm and continuity between her movements.")

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I too enjoyed Saturday matinee performance. ABT went all out with the costumes. The tutus are of the long and stiff variety favored by ABT. The scenery puzzled me though, as the second act staircase and lighting fixtures looked more 19th century than 15th century. Although her talents were underutilized, Monique was terrific and commanding in the mime role of the Countess. One touch I liked very much was that many of the nobles -- who were not credited in the program -- were from a older generation and I assumed had some connection to ABT. I would like to have known who they were; only Kirk Peterson was given mention. As far as the choreography goes, I'm not a good one to comment on it as I am such a lover of Balanchine ballets. (You know, the "after they've seen Parree" syndrome.) Suffice it to say, there were several times during Saturday afternoon when the dancing didn't "answer" the music for me; indeed, at one point I was looking for those pretty girls in pink tutus doing their fouttee competition. And I really missed Raymonda's famous (infamous?) clap in the grand pas. I would see this production again though if the casting were on the A level. However, I'm really looking forward to seeing Raymond Variations and Cortege across the Plaza. . . .

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The first full length 'Raymonda' I saw was the Balanchine/Danilova version of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in NYC.  At the time (1946) its  failure was attributed to an audience that was not attuned to "the leisurely panoramic productions of Petipa, and were bewildered by it" (Jack Anderson).  A mere 3 years later New York was delerious over the Sadler's Wells 4-act 'Swan Lake'.  The redeeming feature of that early 'Raymonda' was the performance of Danilova; and that was repeated, for me, last night with Ananiashvilli's performance.  For me, the problem lies in the fact that there is no dramatic core to the ballet, then, as now, it seems like a series of divertissements with a weak story line thrown in here and there.  I doubt if I would want to see this ballet again without a ballerina of Ananiashvilli's stature.  I have run out of superlatives to describe her 'czardas on toe' and I feel especially privileged to have seen her and Danilova. (I also saw similarities between the two when I saw 'Offenbach in the Underworld' last year)  If you have never seen Danilova, watch Ananiashvilli---her manner (grand, if you wish) and her coquettery are very much like Danilova's)  I agree with Carbro---Veronica Part and David Hallberg stood out --I couldn't get my eyes off of Hallberg, and I can't comment on Ricardo Torres.  I was disappointed in Carreno, granted, deBrienne looks like a thankless part for a male dancer, but he never seemed 'connected' to Ananiashvilli.

Nina's Raymonda sounds like the cat's pyjamas!! I hope ABT brings 'Raymonda' and Nina to Los Angeles before its too late for me to see her. Hopefully they'll do

a DVD with her. 'Is there a Bolshoi tape of Nina in 'Raymonda'?

Nina has the experience and tradition behind her. Its wonderful that you've been privileged to have seen Danilova and Nina; and to have seen the similarity in understanding, execution, and temperament from two ballerinas who are generations apart!! All I can say is WOW!! Your experience is a testament to the Russian tradition of coaching and teaching 'from foot to foot'. You've probably seen the invisible chain of instruction and advice that stretches back to the opening night of the original premiere. Lucky you!! :D

*****

PS: Cabro, thank you for the info! :thumbsup:

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Sorry, Joe. You know how badly I wanted to see this, but wouldn't you know? Family event -- not to be missed! -- had me out of town. So I echo your request for reports!

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I was very disappointed. There were partnering problems with both Hallberg and Molina, and Wiles just did not seem to have any handle on the role until she reached the Czardas solo, which was so much more strongly defined than anything else she did that I would imagine she was drawing upon her experience with it last fall at City Center. The difference between her solo and the rest of the performance made me suspect she had gotten minimal coaching for this debut. I do not think the artistic staff gave her the support she needed for this, her second performance in a full length role (Swan Lake in Chicago in March was her first, I presume.) At least in his solo work, Hallberg was somewhat more in command of himself than she, soaring in some beautiful jumps. I hope everyone will roll up their sleeves and make sure that their Swan Lake next week is a triumph.

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I've been very interested in seeing ABT's new super couple and had hoped to make it to Saturday's matinee but it just wasn't meant to be. I did see them in "Theme and Variations" last week. I have to say that I fell in love with Michelle Wiles, and was less impressed with David Halberg. He has gorgeous feet and uses them beautifully--never less then fully arched and pointed, feather landings...but I was very unsatisfied with his upper body. I saw stiffness through his shoulders and a rigid port de bras, which conflicted sharply with the lovely clarity in his footwork. Michelle Wiles showed me great potential, but I wonder why she would be scheduled in debuts of not one, but two demanding principal roles in full length ballets. Why not devote time to perfecting one role?

I think I will be seeing their Swan Lake on the June 16 matinee.

Related question: I am puzzled by the "everyone does everything" casting at ABT. Is everyone suited to Odette/Odile, Raymonda, Swanhilda, Juliet et al? I don't think so.

And one more question: are most people of the opinion that Raymonda will be staying in the rep for next year's Met season? I'd like to see it and it just didn't work for me to get there this year.

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I also saw the Saturday matinee performance of "Raymonda", but I enjoyed it much more than Thalictum. Yes, there was a major partnering problem with Wiles and Molina. During the dream pas de deux at the end of Act I, it looked like Molina almost dropped Wiles. Wiles put her hands out as if to break her fall. Fortunately she wasn't injured. But I was very impressed with Wiles' solo dancing and with her pas de deuxs (what it the plural for pas de deux? This doesn't look right) with Hallberg. As the lady sitting next to me said "It's like she has the music inside her". And I like Hallberg more every time I see him. Hallberg not only danced cleanly and elegantly, but he had real command of the stage. I found my eye often drawn to Hallberg even when he wasn't dancing.

This was my second time to see "Raymonda". (I saw it on May 22nd with Xiomara

Reyes, Ethan Stiefel, and Herman Cornejo.) This time, due mainly to the efforts of Wiles and Halberg, there was more of a story. From the first time Hallberg's Jean de Brienne saw Abderakhman, his displeasure and jealousy were obvious. These feeling only intensified as the ballet went on - leading to the inevitable duel beween Jean de Brienne and Abderkhman. At the end of the Act I dream sequence, Wiles' Raymonda clearly showed her confusion over which suitor to choose. But when Raymonda does select Jean during the Act II ball scene, the decision seemed to be based on love. Wiles and Hallberg's reconciliation pas de deux at the end of the ballet was very tender and sweet. I don't think Wiles' Raymonda will be secretly dreaming of Abderakhman while Hallberg's Jean de Brienne is around.

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(what it the plural for pas de deux?  This doesn't look right)

Pas de deux. :innocent: The only way to indicate plural is to use the actual number, or else "several," or go into French and use "les" or "ses". :thumbsup:

Glad to read a more favorable report, Colleen. Thanks. Michele's musicality is one of the most attractive qualities in this very special dancer from my point of view.

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