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Mariinsky: NYCC

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I won't dare try to post a detailed review of opening night, as there are so many people on BT who are experts on this company. So just a few remarks.

Raymonda This is the first time I've seen Uliana Lopatkina, and in one way it was not what I expected. Not an "ice princess" at all. She immediately radiated an open generosity and warmth to the audience. Early on there was such a beautiful smile, and then in the great piano variation, as she took a tiny step back, it looked as if she inhaled, and that breath of air was returned, and the theater seemed filled with Spirit. Dancing that in the beginning seemed most easy to characterize in terms of the exceptional graceful movement of the ballerina, was transformed into Grace.

Earlier Vladimir Ponomarev, Rene de Brienne, filled the small stage with such presence that one knew he would do likewise at the Met. Danila Korsuntsev was fine as Jean, and substitute Yana Selina brought an extra dimension of youthful happiness to the Variation. There was a backdrop and set, and the company seemed to have overcome many of the problems of the tiny stage.

Paquita With local favorite Diana Vishneva glittering in her first two variations, this was clearly going to be fun. The ravishing corps formed a diagonal from stage right back to stage front left, for Andrian Fadeev to approach Diana: her face transformed. As Balanchine said, put a man and woman together and already there is a story. And Diana (as always) and Andrian delivered that. The five variations were wonderful. Sub Alina Somova had the first (of course) and it suited her "style". The audience began gasping for joy with the first 180 (not more for this classicist). And her turns were also very effective. A grand response. But next came Ekaterina Kondaurova, whom we saw triumph last year. This match for NYCB's Tess Reichlen, with comparable amplitude but with glorious red hair, won the hearts of the crowd as well. In three and four Valeria Martynyuk (tiny) and Ekaterina Osmolkina continued the joy. Then fifth, Viktoria Tereshkina, so pure and grand without exaggeration. Maybe in some lost blurred memory, this is what we long for as the classical style... I would say her ovation was longer than for Vishneva's sixth, and that too was a joy! The minute stage seemed to confine Mr. Fadeev, although the nobility was there in spades.

Bayadere may have been a serious mistake. The program contained the company's apology for using just a corps of 32 instead of 48 ("tight touring budget"). But actually only 24, entering from a center stage curtain, NO RAMP. The effect, despite the corps' beauty, was destroyed. Then the casting. While Leonid Sarafanov danced with exciting virtuosity, the role seemed most ungenerous to Ms. Somova. There was nothing spiritual, no sense of any story. Sure, as a stand alone piece, one could live without the plot, but as one of the supreme classical Acts it should be classical and, as so widely pronounced by Ms. Lopatkina at the evening's beginning, have SOUL. It was just a show-off piece. Even the soloist trio of Olesia Novikova, Nadezhda Gonchar and Kondaurova could not save it.

The Mariinsky orchestra played surpassingly well under the baton of Mikhail Sinkevich. In addition to the program's very complete casting for week one, an insert also updated these seven casts. No changes in leads in the classics.

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Yes, it ended right about 10, you should have no problem catching that train.

Lopatkina was majestic in Raymonda. I, too have never found her to be cold it's just that her every movement is so beautiful that sometimes you find yourself so enraptured by the beauty of her dancing that you really can't pay attention to the story. That wasn't a problem here. Korsuntsev partnered her well and looked handsome, and I'm so happy to see Selina listed for a number of small soloist roles. I also love the national dances, and I just adore the whole pas de dix. I don't think the small stage was a problem in either of the first 2 pieces, and with the reduced corps in Bayadere that was fine, too.

Vishneva sparkled in Paquita, and was certainly given a home town welcome. Fadeev didn't have much to do, but he did his variation well. I loved all of the soloists with the exception of Somova. She's blond again, the chin is back and so are all of her other annoying habits. I have to report that the crowd went wild for her, but she just about killed Bayadere for me. I was disappointed that they performed it without a ramp, but at least they left the scrim home, too. I still found the corps spellbinding but the minute the soloists came on it was over for me. Sarafanov was great, as were the 3 shades but Somova was awful. Her 180 degree extensions are annoying but I find her lack of fluidity, phrasing & musicality even worse. It's disappointing, because she seemed to be making progress the last time I saw her (in those DC Bayaderes) but she's definitely back to her old self on this tour.

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I have to second and third the above reviews. Raymonda and Paquita were an absolute delight as was the corps in the Shades. But Somova's Nikyia was truly atrocious, and it's a crying shame that they gave her the opening night (it should have gone to Tereshkina IMHO - then we would have the perfect cast for this kind of program).

Lopatkina was not her usual melancholy self. I happen to love her melancholy, but it was nice to see her so radiant and happy. Vishneva dazzled with her technique, and all the variations in Paquita were very good (even Somova: here she was ideal and the audience loved her acrobatic circus style).

Among the supporting treasure grove I would single out Kondaurova (incredible as the Third Shade) and Tereshkina, who is going to be a huge star very soon.

Men, OTOH, were rather disappointing. Korsuntsev just looks good and that's about it. Fadeev didn't have much to do. And Sarafanov, brilliant as he is, seemed intimidated by the unusually small stage.

Overall it was a perfect ballerina evening, with incredible abundance of talent, and even Somova with her tasteless antiques couldn't spoil it.

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Just flew back into DC on the earliest Delta Shuttle....straight to the office...but could not wait to get this off to you!

* The trip to see the Kirov Ballet's opening night was absolutely-positively worth the time & effort. It was a MAGICAL night, on most counts! Having the legendary Kolpakova, Semenov, Terekhova and Berezhnoi seating close to me was the icing on the cake. It reminded us of just WHO we were seeing on that stage: Simply The Best. :)

* Two words describe most of last night: Beautiful Happiness The extreme beauty on stage filled my heart and soul with incomparable happiness.

* Raymonda Act III - Stately goddess Uliana Lopatkina radiated sunshine -- yes, Virginia, she CAN SMILE -- throughout Act III of Raymonda. Her 'clapping variation' was so controlled and lighter-than-air, that one forgave the tiny off-balance moment at the very end. Yana Selina's brisk classical variation was an unexpected highlight...perhaps the single most perfectly executed solo of the night. Xenia Dubrovina was a particularly glamorous leader of the Mazurka dance. Danil' Korsuntsev was a capable partner and fine jumper as Jean de Brienne.

* Paquita Grand Pas - Diana Vishneva shined even brighter than the stones in her large tiara; it's obvious that she is NYC's very favorite Kirov ballerina...she is practically a 'local' by now! Like Lopatkina, she was not absolute perfection in her solos...but who cares when the overall artistic impression is so very high and the delivery so elegantly tasteful? Andrian Fadeev proved yet again that he is the leading romantic cavalier of this company, dancing strongly and emitting as aura of 'height' even though he is not particularly tall. The solos improved as they were presented, progressing from a clutzy-flashy initial dance by Alina Somova to absolute greatness in the last two (Ekaterina Osmolkina simply divine in the gentle 'Celeste Variation' and Viktoria Tereshkina a high-flying amazon of beauty in the Jete Variation). The corps were not totally spot-on in the port de bras...but they 'danced to the same Vaganova tune & style' which is a rare delight to see on any stage. These ladies clearly understand and ADORE classicism. [i'm only sorry that so talented an up-and-coming corps lady as Daria Vasnetsova feels compelled to mar the lines of her group with extreme extensions. Somebody please tame her before we begin to call her 'Somova Junior'!]

* Bayadere Shades -- To me, this act was all about Leonid Sarafanov's unbelievable lightness and ballon. The 24 shades displayed that extraordinary unity of style and schooling mentioned earlier...even if each did-her-own-thing in the height of the arabesques. (As in Washington last January, kudos go to Yana Selina for leading the entrance of the shades.) The three solo shades -- just as in all DC performances: Novikova, Gonchar & Kondaurova -- all had slight bobbles but were still basically pleasant. It's a shame that the ever-improving Kondaurova was not able to repeat the floating perfection of her 3rd Shade variation in DC..opening night jitters, perhaps? Still -- Queenly Kondaurova remains one-to-watch who is definitely on the rise.

Every nearly-perfect night has it's downfall & tonight it was the horrendously grotesque Nikiya of Alina Somova. She has obviously decided to eschew every bit of 'reserve' and control that she had displayed in Washington DC last January & is back to being a monster of unrestrained vulgarity...and, besides, is back to sporting extremely-bleached pale-lemony hair. Yuk! It's a shame that her ugliness kept many of us from standing at the end of the show -- standing for Sarafanov and the corps, who truly deserved our accolades.

Despite Somova, it's a joy to see this fabulous ballet troupe once again & in such a classical program that so suits their strengths. I'll be back to NYC four times between now and the end of the run...so the fun has just begun!

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I went as well. Despite the turmoil and "regime change" backstage, the show must go on, and everything was beautiful at the ballet.

Raymonda showed a happier, more spontaneous Lopatkina then I've ever seen. It was also great to see her doing some allegro dancing. Korsuntsev didn't have much to do but he looked handsome and elegant. This is the kind of ballet the MT does so well -- they can pull off the kind of character dances that cause other companies grief. The uniformity of their training was evident by the way that I only noticed the differences in height and appearance in the ladies when they were taking their curtain calls. Lovely. Bravo.

If the audience had a favorite of the night I'd say it was Paquita. Again, the company dances this sort of ballet as if it were in their blood. Diana was fabulous -- bubbly and charming. She literally seems to sparkle, and it wasn't just her glittery tiara. The role seems tailor made because it mixes adagio dancing with pull-out-all-the-stops allegro moves. I loved the "Pavlova" harp variation. She also pulled out two triples in the fouettes. She and Fadeev were a beautiful couple. Alina Somova, bleached blond and all legs and not much else, stuck out like a sore thumb compared to all her colleagues. At times she seems to be wanting to do a weird impersonation of Lopatkina, with the way she holds her chin. She has a distressing lack of turnout, elevation, and speed. She's not so much a gymnast as a ... I have no idea what. In comparison, Ekaterina Konduarova, Olesia Novikova (I *think* it was her), Ekaterina Osmolikina and Viktoria Tereshkina all sparkled with impressive but elegant technique. Tereshkina in particular was really stunningly beautiful.

Bayadere was the worst part of the evening. Who insisted on programming this? The poor corps de ballet (24 instead of 32, no ramp) were literally hugging the wings. Somova was really unimpressive. She is NOT like Sylvie Guillem or Svetlana Zakharova, who back up the 'ear whacking' with an impressive technique. She does not. She has a lack of elevation, her jumps having little beauty. Her turns in the scarf duet were shaky and she stumbled out of every one. Her bleached blond 'do, acrilylic nails, and "look at me" style ruin the spell of the otherworldly shade. It's a crying shame that so many talented soloists are dancing small variations and Somova is given such huge leading roles. Leonid Sarafanov is a technical wunderkind and he knows it. When taking his curtain calls he had this "yeah, I'm awesome, I know it" look. He's a real crowdpleaser, and a poor partner for Somova, being too short and too boyish. I can't wait to see him do Spectre a la Rose. The three shades were wonderful, especially Ekaterina Konduarova, who unfortunately almost grand jeted into the pit.

While I was waiting in line at the box office who do I see in front of me but a lovely little lady talking animatedly in Russian. I realized it was Irina Kolpakova, who is still pretty, petite, and bubbly. People around me also saw Tatiana Terekhova as well as Mikhail Baryshnikov.

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Just a few notes as I basically agree with everything I read above:

Raymonda: Lopatkina was lovely and rules the stage. The only one who could compete was Kondaurova who has real amplitude and strength. Korsuntsev is a pleasant, steady cavalier. The corps looked underrehearsed on the small stage and there were some sloppy moments. Given the level of perfection in corps unity and style we are used to with the Kirov, this was unusual. Hopefully they will improve. This scene had a set, a platform with a drop behind it - somewhat faded and musty but evocative. The costumes are gorgeous and elaborate.

Paquita: This really sparkled for me. Vishneva got huge entrance applause - international prima ballerina star! Fadeev also has his local admirers who welcomed him enthusiastically. Somova had the audience gasping and applauding each 180 degree ecarté that she was able to hold endlessly. Unfortunately once she was beyond that point the italian fouettés were loose and wonky looking due to the fact that her raised leg was overextended. I found Kondaurova a dream in the "Kalkabrino" variation with its gorgeous music. Tereshkina also was incredibly impressive in her heroic leaping variation. This had real excitement and sense of occasion. This was in contrast to the "Raymonda" which had an air of accomplished but slightly dull routine. The corps was more on here too.

Bayadere: This is may be my favorite classical ballet and you have to work hard for this scene to fail for me. It looks like the corps got the most rehearsal for the "shades" entrance because despite the lack of a set and a ramp, they looked good. Sarafanov actually stole this from the prima ballerina despite her attempts at audience-pleasing circus tricks. Sarafanov gave us some of the old-time bravura excitement with real virtuoso leaps, barrel turns, assemblé, tours a la seconde, you name it. A powerhouse. Somova was frustrating. Clearly someone worked with her carefully on this and there were some good things. She was not falling out of pirouettes though one unsupported pirouette where Sarafanov had to catch her at the end didn't come off properly - it looked like she fell into him. She showed that she could connect steps together smoothly to create line - when she wanted to or was told to. Then she would do something flashy and break the line - and the spell. Her footwork didn't look sloppy or uncontrolled and her arms weren't flapping about. But she has a general lack of elegance and her insistence on poses, exaggerated poses at the expense of form and line intrude despite the good intentions of her coaches. She also was indeed jutting out her chin and pushing out her arms in a way that said "look at the star" rather than projecting the character or the mood. Clearly she has talent and physical gifts but she would look better doing contemporary ballet or something like "Don Quixote" - at the Bolshoi. But they already have Zakharova (and had Volochkova) - two former Kirov ballerinas of some talent who Somova seems to want to become a cheap caricature of. Hopefully if a new regime comes in they will either a) clean up her act big time or b) kick her out to dance in the provinces. She does lack taste and musicality but on the other hand she is very young and I feel she has been led astray and encouraged in the wrong direction by people who are supposed to know better.

So, lots to be happy about (particularly the soloist women) and some things to be worried about (the corps and Somova's prominence). I saw Maxim Belotserkovsky in the audience as well as Kolpakova.

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Canbelto, Hi - That was Valeria Martinyuk dancing the 3rd (Don Q 'Amour') variation in Paquita.

According to the insert-sheet in the playbill, listing a number of cast changes, the variations in Paquita will be the same at all performances:

1. Somova

2. Kondaurova

3. Martinyuk

4. Osmolkina

5. Tereshkina

(...preceding Paquita's own 'harp variation')

...with the exception of tonight (April 2) when there will be only four variations preceding that of Paquita. Perhaps that is due to Tereshkina being THE Paquita today? It could be that Tereshkina will elect to dance the 'jete variation' in place of Paquita's usual 'harp var.' I am guessing.

Also, according to the cast sheet the three solo shades in Bayadere will be the same at each performance: Novikova, Gonchar & Kondaurova (in this order).

The solo variation in Raymonda *does* change - last night Selina (spectacular!) but Gonchar tonight and tomorrow.

Kolegova is not here and will not be dancing in any of the Chopinianas...at least not this week. Yulia Bolshakova idances 'Prelude' in all performances. Nadezhda Gonchar dances the solo waltz (Valse Op 70, no. 1) at all performances. The Chopiniana leads are now:

Ap 4 - Osmolkina/Korsakov

Ap 5 mat - Vasnetsova/Korsuntsev

Ap 5 eve - Osmolkina/Kolb

Ap 6 mat - Vasnetsova/Ivanchenko

As per the cast sheet, the one ballerina being replaced in all of her previously-scheduled roles this week is Irina Golub...and it appears that Gonchar is her chief replacement. This could turn out to be a "Gonchar Fest"!

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:thanks: Thank you everyone for the wonderful reviews! It has helped me feel like I was actually there. *sigh* Also, I'm glad to hear about all the sightings of present and former dancers that were in the audience. :D Thank you again!
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Lopatkina's 'clapping variation' has been described as 'lighter-than-air'. It's a quality I don't look for in this variation. I prefer it to be more terre-a-terre. While watching Lopatkina I thought back to the first time I saw this variation performed by Danilova (on that very stage in Balanchine's version). I would have preferred Lopatkina's 'melancholy self' to all her smiles. (watch Guillem on youtube in this variation!).

Somova deserves all the harsh criticism she has received. Unfortunately the audience goes berserk whenever she raises her leg--and how she does raise it :thanks: She raises her knee in passe up to her armpit and then unfolds the foot to her ear----. I fear at some point she may wrap the foot around her neck. I will be seeing her in Ballet Imperial--------I hope we both survive it.

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Lopatkina's 'clapping variation' has been described as 'lighter-than-air'. It's a quality I don't look for in this variation. I prefer it to be more terre-a-terre. While watching Lopatkina I thought back to the first time I saw this variation performed by Danilova (on that very stage in Balanchine's version). I would have preferred Lopatkina's 'melancholy self' to all her smiles. (watch Guillem on youtube in this variation!).

Somova deserves all the harsh criticism she has received. Unfortunately the audience goes berserk whenever she raises her leg--and how she does raise it :thanks: She raises her knee in passe up to her armpit and then unfolds the foot to her ear----. I fear at some point she may wrap the foot around her neck. I will be seeing her in Ballet Imperial--------I hope we both survive it.

atm711, by 'lighter than air' I mean the bourrees performed by Lopatkina while the piano tinkles...a major leitmotif of this variation. She was truly bourree-ing on a cloud last night. By the way, Lopatkina was not 'all smiley' during this one variation, as she was elsewhere. Also, I hate to use the words 'clapping variation' in the Kirov-Mariinsky version where Raymonda merely floats her hands in a clapping-like motion. This is not the 'dominatrix' with the whip-like attack, as at POB (and that Guillem YouTube that you cite). This is an elegant court, after all! However, the ballet world calls this "the clapping variation"; hence, my use of the term. Perhaps we could call it Raymonda's Classical Hungarian Variation instead?

As far as audience reaction to Somova is concerned - I heard loud gasping...but it did not sound positive. Heck, I gasped loudly...but I was not giving positive feedback as I gasped! I hope that folks don't interpret a loud gasp as if it were a 'bravo!' People did not boo because it would have been impolite, especially when the stage was being shared with other dancers.

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The quality that ATM711 loved in Danilova's "Raymonda" piano variation I suspect was "slavic soulfulness" rather than melancholy. A kind of remoteness with a hint of melancholy, very lost in one's own world. Lyudmila Semenyaka nails this in the Bolshoi video (much better looking on Kultur DVD now) from the early eighties. Oddly, Irina Kolpakova is very cheerful and smiling in this section on the newly released Kirov performance. I think ATM711 would have approved of Lopatkina who had a kind of serene, regal hauteur here - a little remote but not cold or totally sad. She had a light, happy touch elsewhere - remember its her wedding day!

I also must mention Vishneva's mesmerizing arms in the "harp variation" in "Paquita" - she was weaving dreams out of the air.

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One thing that annoys me is the idea that Somova would be good in Balanchine. Balanchine wanted crispness, attack, MOVEMENT above all else. The biggest problem with Somova is that except for the ear-whacking, she can't move. She was the only dancer for whom the City Center stage didn't seem too small. The rest of them seemed to float so effortlessly that the narrow, shallow stage seemed unnecessarily confining. But she has trouble jumping, she has trouble with bourrees, pique turns, etc. etc. Mr. B would be horrified that she's dancing in his ballets.

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:thanks: as well from me to all who posted. I am so very sorry to have to miss these performances, and so far, have been subsisting on BT posts, and those Russian YouTube clips from the Mariinsky Festival last month. (Where the unfortunate Somova is visible exhibiting every fault you have all described--such as hyper-extended knees, to go with her extended chin, and horrible fouettes.) But Tereshkina I love, and Vishneva, and wish I could see more. Thanks again to all.
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I just watched a couple of the YouTubes, one of Odette/Odile, then Rose Adagio. It's strange movement, almost as if 'double-jointed', but the rest of the dancing (as in rather easier steps as Odette in this 'White Nights 2006' clip) is also like the air-splits with the legs looking like asparagus. Quite a spectacle. There's something lethargic about it, a weird sort of (naturally) being slightly out of control; the legs scissoring up look a little like a form of seizure.

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she would look better doing contemporary ballet or something like "Don Quixote" - at the Bolshoi.

Don't you need musicality for those? She is the most unmusical star dancer I have ever seen just from YouTubes alone. Having just watched Aurelie Dupont, an extraordinarily musical dancer, in 'Don Quixote', I don't see why Somova would be good in that. That POB production let me know what 'Don Quixote' could really be--a lot more than just hokey.

b) kick her out to dance in the provinces.

Yes, it might even work in a low way with squawky orchestras which lag in rhythm and can't stay together, because she's one dancer they could keep up with 'in the hard parts.'

She does lack taste and musicality

I can't even get to the 'taste' part. Musically, she should dance without music, so that whatever she does, it could be like a musical improv in dance. Because, in one of the Odette pieces, she not only is not a musical dancer, she just barely keeps with what poorly-played music there is.

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I saw the April 1 performance and subscribe to everything that has been said here. For me, the highlight of the evening was Sarafanov's performance: incredible elevation, stage-devouring jetes, dizzying turns, solid partnering. After Lopatkina and Vishneva, I thought the third act could only be downhill (and it was in certain aspects amply described above) but I was very pleasantly surprised by Sarafanov.

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Also, I really went in trying to think positive about Somova. I kind of thought, "she can't be that bad." But she wasn't that bad. She was worse. :smilie_mondieu:

I was at City Center tuesday night too and haven't posted because most of the earlier posts already reflected my own thoughts.

But Somova? She was worse than I thought too and one of the ideas I came away with is how much she stuck out like a sore thumb.

She stood apart from the rest of the company which had a uniform level of standards (schooling, technique, polish, musicality) and just didn't belong.

I also thought it is a pretty bad reflection of the current management of the company (soon to change???) that she has been placed in such a position of prominence...i.e closing number on opening night. Something like "what ARE they thinking?"

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