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VI Int'l Ballet Festival-Mariinsky

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Swan Lake 25-03-06 Mariinsky

Odette-Odile Ulyana Lopatkina

Prince Siegfried Jose Martinez (POB)

Jester Andrei Ivanov

Rothbart Ilya Kuznetsov

Swan Lake was certainly planned as the culmination of the Festival; the pre-performance theatre atmosphere was full of anticipation for the event.

Ulyana Lopatkina as Odette-Odile remains a standard by which others are measured. To me, she seems the definitive Swan Queen. The reason is that she ‘nails’ her performance with clarity of motion, precision of means, and command of space.

In the supported adagio of the first lakeside scene, every ‘pas’s line design was brought to completion with a definitive placement of the head. The overall effect of the completed design became expressively powerful; that, in turn, translated into emotional content.

The partnership with Jose Martinez was serendipitous. Martinez, a tall and elegant dancer, commanded the opening party scene with natural mime and an easy manner. The first scene of K. Sergeyev’s version is rich in detail. I particularly enjoyed the ballabiles of the corps couples, looking handsome in the costumes of Galina Solovieva.

The jester of Andrei Ivanov was outstanding. (Sometimes I find the jester part overwhelms the goings-on that animate the party).

The pas-de-trois, with Nadezhda Gonchar, Yulia Kasenkova, and Vasily Shcherbakov, had choreography with lots of batterie; it was very well-danced.

Unlike some other productions, I found Sergeyev’s first scene and the last lakeside scene extremely watchable. In both cases, I think it is the presence of the elegant corps couples or swans that vivify the proceedings.

In the lakeside scenes the big swans were Ekaterina Kondaurova, Yulia Bolshakova, Xenia Ostreikovskaya, and Elena Vostrotina, all of them impressive. I am not sure whether there were substitutions or not. In the fourth scene at the lakeside, Yana Serebriakova ended up dancing a solo variation—when in the program it is described as: Two swans: Serebriakova and Ostreikovskaya.

Lopatkina’s Odile created a brilliant silhouette in her black tutu decorated with red stones.

Her Odile, while etching in space a sharp presence, had the illusive quality of a phantasm.

It was, for me, a very interesting characterization because of the profound contrast with the emotionally packed portrait of Odette. Her fouettes, incidentally, were faultless; all thirty-two

of them.

Martinez in the ballroom scene was an ardent partner and danced with high jumps and an altogether winning presence.

The swans and cygnets both in the second and fourth scenes provided the core of the fantasy world of Tchaikovsky’s music and Ivanov’s choreographic vision that endures in Sergeyev’s fine production, which, against artistic ‘reality’ has a happy ending.

It was altogether a beautiful evening of dance at the Mariinsky.

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Quote: “The first solo, Narcissus, by K. Goleizovsky (1960) with music by N. Cherepnin seemed like a bland piece for Tsiskaridze.”

For me “Narcissus” was the highlight of that evening although I have seen it many times performed by Nikolai live as well as in various recordings. There is no OPENLY “displayed pyrotechnic virtuosity” in it but technical difficulties are subtly woven into the 'text' of this dance, I would say well hidden, thanks to Goleisovsky’s harmonious choreography and Tsiskaridze’s perfect presentation. It will be enough to mention the unusual jumps, the final grand pirouette and a sequence of fuettes and pirouettes with the intricate pattern of his lithe arms movement, all done so brilliantly that one doesn’t notice how complicated they are. To do them with such an ease requires first-class technique.

All this was beautifully done by the first Narcissus, Vladimir Vassilyev, for whom the choreographer created this piece; however, IMHO, Vassilyev was more a sort of a faun than a son of water spirits ready to turn into a flower. The exceptional plasticity of Tsiskaridze’s body and flowing movements possess a special languorous and androgenic quality which suits this piece perfectly. His acting when he is circling the patches of sunlight, listening to the sounds, playing the imagined pipe, admiring the spray of water trickling down from his fingers (as Ulanova taught him) and the most graceful death when the right arm desperately tries to reach to the sky and then lifelessly unfolds and ‘dies’ so much in tune with the music - well, it supersedes most of “Dying Swans”.

Lyrical and elegant classical ballets and concert pieces – this is where Tsiskaridze’s own inimitable style manifests itself at its best. Therefore, I would have preferred for him to choose for his gala evening either “Les Sylphides” or The Shades from “La Bayadere” or even Act 2 from “Giselle” with very dancable music but instead had to listen in Part 3 to boom!-bang!-boom! As an artist Tsiskaridze is obviously interested in the choreography which is new for him and he has full right to do so.

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coda, thank you for your full appreciation of Narcissus. I learned a lot from your post.

I also agree with you that "Tsiskaridze is..... interested in choreography which is new for him and he has a full right to do so".

Did anyone challenge that right?

Edited by chiapuris
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March 26, 2006

Mariinsky Theater Ballet and foreign guest artists

St. Petersburg, Russia

Despite some high points, yesterday night's closing gala was mostly disappointing, for a numbers of reasons:

* Natalia Makarova never showed up, so the event that was supposed to be in her honor, with her participation, did not happen. This is a huge embarrassment for Kirov-Mariinsky management, as the Festival's souvenir programme featured pages & photos devoted to the ballerina. As we say in Spanish "Que pacho!"....What a bomb!

* The much-anticipated return of Zhanna Ayupova -- publicized in the posters and souvenir book, for quite some time -- did not happen. No explanations given. Was she ill? Was there ever an intention of her dancing, I wonder?

* An unacceptable watering-down of the originally-intended program. A major classical work was replaced with modern conceits. [Many modern ballets are beautiful and devoid of conceits...but not these two.]

The first segment was to have been the 'White Act' of Swan Lake, starring the superstar pair from Bavarian Ballet, Lucia Lacarra & Cyril Pierre. Lacarra/Pierre were last-minute cancellations, so the management substituted -- hold onto your hats -- two short modern works: a short pdd 'De Cote Chez Swan' by Mironischenko, starring Olesya Novikova and Alexander Sergeev as modern ‘swans’ in matching black unitards; and Igor Zelensky in black street clothes, in the brief solo, 'Concerto Grosso' by Alla Sigalova, one of Russia’s self-styled intellectual pets of the moment. Both works are huge wastes of great dancing talent & in no way constitute an acceptable substitution for the Imperial splendor of the White Act of 'Swan Lake'! BOO!!!

The second segment of the evening -- the mostly-classical Divertissements -- was a grab-bag of delights and frights. Kudos to the gorgeous Diana Vishneva, dancing the Act I pdd from Ratmansky's 'Cinderella' with a perfect prince, Andrei Merkuriev. Vishneva is the queen of plasticity in this pdd & she received some of the warmest applause of the night. Kudos, too, to Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg for a highly-charged pdd from Act I, sc ii of ‘Manon.’ These two may as well be named 'permanent guest artists' of this theater, they are so beloved by Petersburgers! Another highlight was the 'Don Q pdd' by Olesya Novikova/Leonid Sarafanov, receiving loud 'bravis!' Just for me -- Alina Somova danced the Bridesmaid Solo between Sarafanov and Novikova's own solos; more of the same gymnastics style from her, I’m sorry to report. Hans Van Manen crafted a duet, 'Trois Gnossienes,' to Satie's music, for Uliana Lopatkina & Ilya Kuznetsov; much ado about nothing but I appreciate Lopatkina's plasticity and Kuznetzov's strong partnering. The least said about a 'Swan Lake pas de trois' (Nureyev version) danced by POB soloists, the better. Shockingly weak dancing by three French dancers who I have so admired in the past; not sure what happened here. Perhaps they had minimal time to rehearse with the orchestra or lighting experts, thus becoming frazzled and making uncharacteristic errors?

The third segment of the night was a somewhat mediocre performance of Balanchine's 'Diamonds.’ In and of itself, it is always a joy to experience ‘Diamonds’ at the Mariinsky. The corps de ballet and demi-soloists were spot-on, as ever. However, the leading couple was a bit rusty. Beautiful Daria Pavlenko – back from a long recuperation period – was OK but not quite yet her old resplendent self. [Nonetheless, a friend told me that tonight’s essaying of the role was a big improvement on her performance just two nights ago in the same ballet…so she is on the mend. Hurrah!] The handsome Igor Zelensky tried his best but is, sadly, quite past his prime in the bravura solo work in the fourth movement but still a fine partner in the pas de deux. No matter what, Petersburg balletomanes continue to cheer him to the rafters, as rightly they should.

Despite the hiccups of this gala, I'll fondly remember the 2006 Festival for the magnificence of 'Sleeping Beauty-1890' (with Cojocaru's Aurora) and the joy of Pierre Lacotte's 'Ondine.' That alone was well worth my trip to this magical city on the Neva!

Natalia Nabatova

St. Petersburg, Russia

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It's a great pleasure and a privilege to have the chance to read this reports from chiapuris, natalia, and others. And almost as exciting as the performances.

I especially love the immediacy of their well-trained eyes and pens. How fortunate we are.

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Thanks for the reports from St. Petersburg, they were wonderful again this year. :)

I second, and third, and fourth Starr's post. I've been so engrossed in reading them I forgot to say thank you :wub:

You've been our eyes and ears for one of the great cultural events of the year.


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I wonder if the reason for Makarova's absence was a protest against the program changes. .....

I don't think so, Carbro. Lacarra & Pierre cancelled only a day or two ago. Apparently, Makarova 'pulled-out' five or six days ago, for reasons unknown. The sad thing is that not only did she not come but the gala's name (dedication) was changed, which I found odd, especially after all of the posters, programmes, press articles, etc. had touted this as the 'Makarova Gala.' Makarova may have been ill or otherwise unable to travel to Russia...but that's no reason to yank the dedication too. We were ready to honor Makarova, whether or not she showed up. Ha - but they didn't have enough time to go through all of the unsold souvenir books & rip-out the pages dedicated to Makarova!

Oh well...Vishneva, Sarafanov, Cojo/Kobbo, etc. were wonderful in their bits, so it wasn't a total waste. Just not what we had expected.

This may or may not be the last such Festival in this theater, before the long closure. Now we're hearing that the theater won't close-down after all; a few cosmetic changes will be made during the regular season-closure, in August/September. So everybody who may be saving their pennies, making sacrifices, rushing to get over here before the long closure, can slow down. The Mariinsky will remain open next season & probably for many seasons after that.

Who to believe about anything? :)

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Who to believe about anything? :)

You have schooled me well in my "expectations" of the Kirov-Mariinsky. I went to see them in Detroit, casting had Diana V. as the lead in Sleeping Beauty, well that was wrong, but because of reading all the posts here I knew it was not unexpected, so I went and really enjoyed the performance. You don't get to see that caliber of dance in the Midwest that often.

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I agree with Natalia's report on the Gala program of 26-03-06.

She covered the negatives and the positives, I think, very accurately.

My personal disappointment was greatest with Ayupova's non-appearance.

Also, I viewed Pavlenko's gala performance in Diamonds much more positively. She seemed to me stronger in the Gala of the 26th, than in the Zelensky Gala (which I liked a lot and found thrilling moments in it). But I had not seen her in pre-injury performances of Diamonds; so Natalia may be perfectly right that she is not up to her pre-injury performance levels.

I did speak with Pavlenko to congratulate her at a party, after the Gala, and she did mention the long road of recuperation and its costs.

The Mariinsky building may undergo some cosmetic changes and essentially stay open for its regular future schedule. Nothing seems definite or definitive.

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I have just returned from Europe and have had a chance to read some of the postings. I add my thanks to chiapuris for his fine and detailed reports and for his dedication. I also thank Natalia for her continued excellent and informative comments.

I too attended the Mariinsky Festival as well as performances of the Bolshoi Ballet's "Swan Lake" in Birmingham, England.

My only real feeling about these two sets of performances is WWW!

Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!

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A Few Memories

I have to begin by saying that there probably wasn't a performer that I couldn't find deserving of a heart-felt compliment as all these performances were beautiful in one way or another. The stars could never shine as brightly if it weren't for the support and talent of all the others.

Uliana Lopatkina leaves me speechless. She is in her own universe. One of the things most noticeable to me this time is her great physical control. Her poetic presence and amazing abilities are generally described in superlatives and deservedly so.

Diana Vishneva's name I tend to hyphenate with Uliana Lopatkina's because of her contrasting exceptional abilities, perhaps the Taglioni-Essler comparison.

Natalia has refered to her as "the queen of plasticity". I would try to put is more poetically and glowingly, but it does express the idea.

Alina Cojocaru I sat next to on the plane from London to St. Petersburg. She is an extremely modest and lovely person whose transformation to a performing goddess is almost unfathomable. I would actually describe her as being 'fairylike' on stage in the most positive sense.

Yet it is her real-life modesty that seems to produce her wonderfully loveable stage presence that combined with almost bravura capabilities, makes her one of today's most popular ballerinas.

Daria Pavlenko I also find loveable. Her facial presence as the Lilac Fairy was captivating. In "Diamonds" I watched her wonderful face almost exclusively through theater glasses, checking the rest of her dancing occasionally to be reassured by her poetically beautiful moves.

I watched her and chatted with her most briefly at the Mariinsky party that chiapuris mentioned. (I bought a ticket to get in.)

She was radiantly beautiful, unassuming and very nice. All the dancers there seemed quite nice.

My main concern there was to keep my mouth from hanging wide open in awe.

Leonid Sarafanov is simply an aerial wonder! Amazing in his ability and captivating in his airy gracefulness.

A slight and perhaps startling digression here.

One of the most impressive male performers to me was Vladimir Ponomarev, the character acter. I am generally impressed by his acting, but his Don Quixote portrayal is something that I feel could hold it's own on any of the world's great dramatic stages. He never stopped the entire evening and I wish I could have just watched him. He is definitley deserving of some sort of Gala evening of his very own.

While we're on the subject, Faruk Ruzimatov's deeply moving characterization at the end of "The Moors Pavane" was intensely powerful, showing a perhaps strong newly developing ability from this physically maturing dancer. Hopefully there will be a place for this display of talent well into the future.

The apparent inclusion, according to chiapuris, of Noah Gelber's newly premiered " 'Overcoat' After Gogol" in future Kirov performances I believe will give the Kirov a huge presence in the world of significant modern dance. This is an excellent presentation of a piece packed with dramatically powerful and meaningful modern choreography ( New York City meets St. Petersburg, Russia). May this collaboration long continue and hopefully bear marvelous results.

Another digression regarding drama.The 'acting capabilities' of the Bolshoi lead dancers in their Swan Lake, Birmingham, performances are a wonder to behold. Maria Alexandrova's Odile comes to mind immediately.

With Svetlana Zakharova already at the Bolshoi, Diana Vishneva newly announcing her presence there and Svetlana Lunkina's beautiful Kirovian resemblances the comparisons of these two companies becomes more fascinating and interwoven. I hope to be able to make a few comments about the Bolshoi Swan Lake in a Bolshoi topic, but interest in this company should not be overlooked by even the staunchest of Kirov purists these days and visa-versa. The Kirov's Jester Andrei Ivanov with his rock solid speed-of-light spinning among other things would illuminate a traditional Bolshoi stage.

For all the wonderful performers that I leave unmentioned, it is simply a matter of not having the time and space, my limited expertise and the inability to begin to take in all the amazing and multitudinous activity of any one of these magnificent presentations.

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For those with 'connections' in Russia - Remind your friends to set their VCRs for April 20 (next Thursday) at 18:20, when Kultura will broadcast its annual "Tsars Box: Mariinsky Festival" show. The announcement on the Kultura website promises us clips of 'Ondine,' the 'New Names' triple bill & Alina Cojocaru's Aurora. :lightbulb:

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