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Don Quixote @ the Met, July 18-21, 2005

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The Bolshoi Don Q is quite different from ABT's, with more of the Don [although of course not in the profound manner of the Balanchine/Farrell version] and more long solo character passages, generally beautifully danced, but which slow the pace of the ballet. Also, Basil's comic suicide occurs two scenes prior to the Don's Vision scene with the Bolshoi, reverse the order at ABT. ABT's Vision scene seems richer for the Principal soloists, although one cannot ignore the exceptional corps dancers in the Bolshoi. An advantage to having a company of 220 dancers (130 here)!

Unlike the good old days under Grigorovich (bad), there is quite an emphasis on young talent this time, no longer is travel used for rewarding long-time party toe-the-liners. Perhaps THE THRILL of opening night was Natalia Osipova's first variation in Act 3's Grand Pas. Listed in level 5 of their heirachy, corps de ballet, she is clearly fulfilling the promise of her La Scala Gala performance in 2003. Such floating leaps, flowing harmony, and extensions that work! And she is just one of very many sensational young talents on display.

The matter of extensions. Yes, Svetlana Zakharova delivered many 180's, but not more excessive than this, and naturally, seemlessly integrated into the choreography. She was stunning, an Ikon of beauty. But of course controversial.

Some mumblings that they didn't bring enough principals. But if fact, the list is loaded. Our three-tier system is such that what we call Principals they break into two groups, "Principals" and "Leading Soloists." This latter group includes the likes of Svetlana Lunkina, a Principal anywhere in the Western World! And the eagarly awaited Anastasia Yatsenko is in the third level!

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My one disappointment is that it doesn't look like Yulianna Malkhasiants made the trip. She did such a memorable gypsy dance in their Boston performance last year that I was looking forward to seeing her again. Anna Antropova did it this time, and she did a great job, but it was different. A younger, less world weary gypsy. Loved Maria Allash as the street dancer, I'd seen her previously in classical roles (Dryad Queen & lead in Raymonda) and found her bland. Last night her character dancing was great, she was very fiery & I'd love to see her Aegina! I missed the developes-a-la-second into fouettes in the Dryad scene - I know in this version Kitri does them rather than the Dryad Queen but last night I don't remember seeing them at all. Was I snoozing? Nellie Kobakhidze is back & lovely as ever - she did the 2nd varaiation in the Grand Pas. Haven't seen Ekatarina Krysanova yet, but she's listed in the corps so hopefully she'll get some featured roles again this trip. More later.

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This is what the NY Times thought:

John Rockwell's review

First of all, this staging has a lot more verve and dramatic flair than the Kirov's. The Kirov has better soloists and corps but their staging was wan and anemic. This wasn't as clean and classical but had a bit more pizzazz and fun.

The Bolshoi has a team of crackerjack character mimes and the Don Quixote and Sancho were the best I have ever seen. Also all of the flat-shoed character dances were stunningly performed (Anna Antropova's Gypsy solo was a tour de force). However, it made it a longer evening than ABT's version and some of it felt like padding.

The audience wasn't exactly demonstrative except for the dazzling Osipova who just floated through the air. More please and soon! A few of Zakharova's virtuoso gambits got the crowd going and they loved Antropova's Gypsy dance. Otherwise, fairly ho-hum. The men were okay, Uvarov more than okay in the wedding PDD. I was bothered by the fact that Kitri wore red on her wedding day (reminder of Bette Davis in "Jezebel"). I also missed Basil using his razor to commit "suicide" in the inn scene. Timofey Lavrenyuk looked good in tight white satin pants and knew how to work that toreador's cape. He is no match dancewise for Marcelo Gomes of ABT as Espada though. He also seemed to be replaced in the final act (did he get gored by a bull in between acts?). Anna Antonicheva had lovely form and placement as the Dryad Queen but she seemed to be dancing a different solo (was the music moved to one of the Flower Girls in the last act?) that didn't have Italian fouettes. I like the standard solo better (as performed by Veronika Part with ABT).

Zakharova will always bother the purists but this role (with this less classical company) seems to suit her more extreme tendencies. Her 6 o'clock ecartés look fine on a Spanish spitfire hoyden if out of place on Princess Aurora. I found her a touch brittle in places with her thin legs and way of pushing steps at the viewer but her acting has improved (as Vishneva's has) outside the Kirov. I preferred Vishneva's Kitri with ABT in May (a big improvement over Vishneva's Kirov tour Kitri two or three years ago) and ABT's men are the best in the world right now. However, Zakharova was distinctly a star presence and in control of the show. Uvarov seemed mainly a good partner and okay dancer until the final act where he showed typical Bolshoi dynamism with a bit more elegance than we have gotten recently.

I did enjoy the evening.

BTW: by 5 or 6 p.m. the few remaining orchestra and family circle seats had sold out (I saw some partial view rear box seats empty) and standing room was sold sometime later in the afternoon. However, it was a mad scene in the box office lobby around 7:30 p.m. with a ticket line that snaked around four times to the escalator. People were pushing into the line from the entrance and the Met security staff was useless. :thanks: When we complained that no one was pointing out the end of the line and protecting us from people cutting the line we were told that we would all get our seats, see the show and forget about it. These guards are paid to look after these situations and take care of Met patrons. Really an offensive attitude. :( I managed to get a Dress Circle standing place all the way to the side. There must have been many standing room places sold before 7:30 p.m.

I have been told that all the "Spartacus" and "La Fille du Pharaon" performances are now sold-out. That leaves "Bright Stream" a question mark for standing room availability as well as tonight's "Don Quixote" with Alexandrova.

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A friend of mine went to the box office at 11:00 AM Monday to get standing room and was told that they would not sell S.R. until all seats had been sold. He came over to see me at work, distraught...an older gentleman for whom standing in line is a physical torment. He was demoralized, having waited for his beloved Bolshoi to return to NYC and planning to see each ballet twice.

Did anyone else experience this?

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Grands fouettés are often called "Italian" fouettés. To perform a grand fouetté, one does a developpé with the right leg (for example) to either écarté or à la seconde on demi-pointe, then turn the body toward Vaganova point 6 (upstage left) while bringing the leg down to a plié in first position. From there, brush the working (right, in this case) leg front, turn the body to Vaganova point 2 (downstage right), and as the body turns the leg moves from devant to à la seconde to Vaganova 3rd arabesque or attitude derrière croisé.

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First of all, this was the best birthday present that I ever gave myself!

I was really looking forward to this performance of "Don Quixote" and, of course, I was looking forward to seeing the Bolshoi Ballet. The Bolshoi Ballet really delivered a visually stunning, dynamic, fun display to a packed, SRO audience.

Kitri was played by Svetlana Zakharova. Now, I am a ballet newcomer. I really have not seen too many ballets live. But, I can say that she is one of the loveliest ballerinas I have ever seen! (THE loveliest I have ever seen is Cojocaru.) Svetlana Zakharova was beautiful, technically secure, hyper-extended, graceful, and so incredibly sure of herself in the character of Kitri. Someone has to explain to me what the controversy about Zakharova is. She was the best part of the whole ballet. Although there were other highlights of "Don Quixote", I kep waiting for Zakharova to dance.

Basil was played by Andrey Uvarov. He was good, but nothing spectacular. He was an excellent partner to Zakharova, but he was only really able to turn on the fireworks during the Act III pas de deux. I agree with Faux Pas - I think I was not excited by Uvarov, because I have been spoiled by Corella, Cornejo, Bocca, and Gomes all spring and summer. But his partnering was very good.

There were other highlights:

- Maria Allash and Timofey Lavrenyuk in the Act I street dance

- the whole corps de ballet

- the Act II flamenco dance (especially the dancer who was able to bend her back and touch her head to her feet)

- the Gypsy dance with Anna Antropova

- the scene in the forest, especially Anna Antonicheva and Nina Kaptsova, but Zakharova was glorious in that scene as well

- the Grand Pas variation with Natalia Osipova (talk about flying through the air!)

It was a great night, but with the sad news that this might be it, because there was a lot of grumbling about the rest of the Bolshoi run being sold out. I am going to try anyway!

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Loved Maria Allash as the street dancer, I'd seen her previously in classical roles (Dryad Queen & lead in Raymonda) and found her bland. Last night her character dancing was great, she was very fiery & I'd love to see her Aegina!

Ooops. It seems that the reason I liked Maria Allash so much better than last time was that this time I was crediting her with both her own dancing & someone else’s. Two other dances, in fact! I’ve had a hard time differentiating between the Street Dancer and Mercedes in the Bolshoi’s Don Q. When I saw it on Monday I thought that Allash’s Street Dancer appeared in both the first and second acts - in the long black dress dancing on point in the first act and in the long red dress doing the character dancing in the second act. I also thought she did the Bolero in the 3rd act. I guess I should use my opera glasses more often because tonight it was obvious that Allash only appeared in the first act. On Monday night the second act character dance (long red dress - Mercedes, I guess) and the 3rd act Bolero were both danced wonderfully by Irina Zibrova. Tonight Allash reprised the Street Dancer, Zibrova danced Mercedes and Anna Antropova did both the Gypsey and the Bolero. Sometimes I thnk I need a scorecard

I missed the developes-a-la-second into fouettes in the Dryad scene - I know in this version Kitri does them rather than the Dryad Queen but last night I don't remember seeing them at all. Was I snoozing?

I guess I did look away for a minute on Monday night, because tonight Alexandrova did the Italian Fouettes in Kitri’s dream variation. They didn’t go on as long as I remember though..

Alexandrova was very charming as Kitri, and her jumps, turns & balances were awesome. The overhead lifts weren’t as impressive as Zakarova’s and some of her supported pirouettes were a little shakey but I think that might have been because Klevtsov was a little small to partner her. I thought she really shined in the Dryad scene - we got just a glimpse of what a beautifully classical ballerina she can be. Shipulina did the Dryad Queen and she is another one of my favorites. Based on their dancing in the Dryad scene Shipulina & Alexandrova would both be beautiful Auroras or Sugerplum Faries so it’s kind of a shame that we won’t get to see either of them in that type of role this trip.

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NYsusan, don't think you looked away on Monday, I didn't see Zakharova perform the Italian fouettes either. Wish the Bolshoi gave them to the Dryad Queen as does ABT, since that role is a little thin without them--and both days we've had very accomplished dancers in that role. I believe ABT gives us more Italian fouettes, or maybe it is just the high quality of what Michele Wiles delivers!

Alexandrova, wonderfully in character, seemed a more natural Kitri than Zakharova, but then the company overall seemed more at home on the Met stage than on opening night. Maybe we've got to thank the Times music, er, dance critic for that: the orchestra may have taken his opening night scorn to heart. They upgraded from a high school band to a proud opera orchestra on Tuesday. Of course, we don't know how much time, nor the conditions, they had for rehearsal. Music has got to matter to the dancers!

Brava again to Anna Antropova. And to Natalia Osipova, who appears to have an angel hovering above her leaps, creating a partial vacuum.

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The look of the company "as a company" is very positive. In training and physique they do seem to be the product of the same academy. The connection between the corps de ballet, the soloists and principals is organic and that is NOT something I've observed recently on that same Met stage. (In fact I would say the opposite -- that there is no organic connection whatsoever at ABT between the corps and the soloists and the principals, or between any of the members of the company, even between the corps members as individuals, and each other).

But back to the Bolshoi Wednesday night. The ensemble dancing, particularly among the women, was the most consistently positive thing about the performance. I'm very happy to have seen this. The smaller ensembles -- Kitri's friends (Stebletsova and Rebetskaya) in Act I; the variation dancers in the Grand Pas (Osipova and Kobakhidze -- the latter in particular is stunning); and the groups of three and four dryads in the Act II Dream were among the best seen all year in NY. Ditto for the large Spanish dances for the massed corps de ballet. That is where you see the company as a whole and that is where their strength lies.

The girls corps de ballet is exquisite: as a group they are beautifully pulled up yet relaxed in the upper body, well matched with each other, and nicely, indeed very nicely musical in their seemingly unified, joyous, relaxed response to the music. Also a good big jump throughout. Among the girls it's a company of jumpers, in fact.

The big jump also goes for Shipulina, last night's Kirti. Just don't look at her feet. (Do look, on the other hand, at the lovely unfolding and easy developee, the big lush poses, and the flexible back). In fact, with a lot of the women at the soloist level, try not to look at their feet. The Bolshoi has always had the reputation that Turn Out doesn't matter and that doesn't seem to have changed. The big exception last night was Maria Allash as the Dryad Queen, who does close fifth position. Or pretty much closes it. With Allash fifth is sort of "four/fifths" but at least consistently so. Allash is a big, strong and lyrical girl and a very good one.

The individual performance to write home about, however, was Nina Kaptsova's as Cupid. This was quite amazing. Beautiful little runs on point, soft and sensitive with her feet, effortless and right on the musical timing. She has the coy look, the slight physique -- you won't see a better Cupid.

A final word about the boys. As a group the legs appear long, meaning the body is slightly longer below the waste than above it and the physical development is not overmuscled. The men appear boyish, elegant, and slender. It is not an effeminate type but it is also not a type that reflects training with weights. The line is refined and somewhat Baroque. The look gives a nice long stretch into fourth position at the finish of phrases, and the footwork among the boys was consistently neat, clear and again musical. The old Bolshoi bravura strength, and sex appeal, on the other hand, are somewhat absent.

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The look of the company "as a company" is very positive.

Thanks Michael for your post. Your impressions show a discerning eye.

I enjoyed reading your assessment of the Bolshoi company's 'look' and deeds.

I, too, am a great admirer of Shipulina's buoyant jumps.

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I don't know why I forgot to mention the Bolshoi Orchestra. They were glorious and made Minkus sound almost like Delibes. One Evgeny Gurev on the Cornet (who was mentioned in the program), and another unnamed player on the Trumpet, were so perfectly bright and sustained, in tune and in key, in the Cornet solo and elsewhere, at the top of all of the orchestral chords, that it was probably the best I have ever heard Orchestral Brass.

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I don't know why I forgot to mention the Bolshoi Orchestra.  They were glorious and made Minkus sound almost like Delibes.  One Evgeny Gurev on the Cornet (who was mentioned in the program), and another unnamed player on the Trumpet, were so perfectly bright and sustained, in tune and in key, in the Cornet solo and elsewhere, at the top of all of the orchestral chords, that it was probably the best I have ever heard Orchestral Brass.

Thanks for that, Michael. They were equally wonderful Tuesday, another level above what we get on even a great day at ABT or NYCB. It is a shame that they have been stained by the "review of record," in the Times, for Monday's performance. Mr. Rockwell was very much correct in this regard, but there must have been some extraordinary extenuating circustances involved. I hope he'll have an opportunity to re-review the orchestra.

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Rockwell's review was an abuse of his power. He appears to have an agenda somewhat like a fan at the moment. He comes to ballet inexperienced and it's interesting to see him respond to things like the Bournonville Festival or more recently to La Vishneyva in what was evidently his first big foot-stomping, flower-throwing Giselle experience. But one expects a lot more form the New York Times than that. My son the Politics Major could now be their diplomatic reporter?

Zacharova was a wonderful Kitri last night (Thursday). She handled the demi character stuff very very well, dancing through it rather modestly (twelve noon extensions notwithstanding, she always does that) but with great energy and joy (that was what projected) and adopting comic timing a la Ananiashvilli. In a lot of ways, Nina appears to be her model right now, Zacharova is an unexpectedly strong actress/dramatic Ballerina. And of course, she's dancing Nina's role with Nina's company. And Ananiashvilli is a great comedienne.

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Natasha Osipova was the first dancer's name mentioned in the Gia Kourlas review of DQ's 2 & 3. And my personal favorite in the DQ's that I saw. If you missed DQ but want to see the phenom, in Friday's Spartacus she was the fifth shepherdess at the beginning of act 2, the last one who comes down from the 'hill.' A thrilling, glowing cameo.

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In a city without readily available [save for the internet] professional ballet reviews, here's a refreshing one of the opening night of Don Quixote, by Eric Taub of ballet.co's magazine:


"If the Bolshoi dancers are sometimes cavalier about pointing their feet or straightening their knees, they are never less than passionate about their music, dancing on top of the beat in a manner more reminiscent of City Ballet than the more-somnolent Kirov, where sometimes it seems that keeping on the beat is considered vulgar. "

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