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Mariinsky: NYCC

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Saturday night, April 19

Last night, it was all about Big Red for me. This time, she was the #1 lead -- Waltz Girl -- in Serenade. WOW! Every movement, every pose, every effect was spelbinding. All of the folks sitting around me in rear-right orchestra were mesmerized, uttering "Wow" or "Ah" every few minutes. But the piece de resistance was the final moment when we would see how the three tall (VERY tall) corps men would have to lift her straight up and slowly carry her upstage. It was so beautifully and steadily done, that I cried of joy, seeing one of the top moments of ballet-going in my life. I am sure that Mr. Balanchine was watching from above and applauding Ekaterina Kondaurova's beauty and artistry.

Really, that was it for me. Yes, there was some other dancing -- sometimes good, sometimes riddled with faults --- last night but I barely remember, the impact of Ekaterina Kondaurova is so engrained in my mind. Now I am really looking forward to today's (Sunday) final matinee performance and her (I hope) "Tall Girl" in Rubies and one more dose of her Dark Angel in Serenade. Doggone it -- if I see Gonchar one more time in any of these 2nd-ballerina roles I will.....ughhhh....maybe commit Hari-Kari. It's bad enough that we won't be getting Diana Vishneva in Ballet Imperial but Two-Tone-Haired Gymnast instead.

SERENADE - Beside Kondaurova's perfect, big beauty, there were delights galore in this ballet last night, including the perfect partnering of leading guy Danil' Kosuntsev; the radiant 'classic ballerina beauty' of Ekaterina Osmolkina (this time as the Russian Girl - so superior to Gonchar in the afternoon); majestic movement from up-and-comer Daria Vasnetsova as the Dark Angel; and sparkling demi-solo work from the four choryphees in the 3rd movement -- these included blondes Androsova and Ivanova, brunette Chirinkina and one other whose name escapes me at this moment (Akhmatova?). The corps was even more exquisite than in the afternoon, it seemed. The only gaffe in the ballet was the slow turn of the Dark Angel while in arabesque during the last movement; for a second, I thought that Sergeev would let Vasnetsova fall, the arabesque-promenade was so off-balance. The makers of prayer rugs in Arab soukhs purposely leave one fault in their carpets, usually a stray thread -- this one moment was the fault in an otherwise perfect rendition of Serenade.

Edited to add: The above was the beginning of my "first take" on the performance. When my hotel computer went blank, and I thought that I had lost my work, I began the "2nd take" below. I'm keeping this one, too, because it reinforces what I write below and also includes a few bits that I forgot to mention the 2nd time. Enjoy!

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Sat. night, April 19

2nd try at this review...hotel computers went funky on me one hour ago and I seem to have lost my initial take on last night.

Last night was all about Ekaterina Kondaurova, a.k.a. "Big Red" and her spellbinding Leading Girl (Waltz) in Serenade. It was truly one of the most magnificent performances I've ever seen in forty-plus years of balletgoing around the world. Everyone seated around me (right-rear Orch section) was captivated - oo-ing and ahh-ing her major moves and poses. The rest of the mixed night -- some great, some faulty -- hardly matters for me, THIS was the performance of the run, from among the 5-6 performances seen so far, with only tonight's finale to go. [Yes - I opted to miss the Scheherazades which were also greatly praised.] After Kondaurova's amazing performance, I saw NYCB Ballet Mistress and ex-prima Merill Ashley shoot up from her seat and run out to the lobby...hopefully to the NYCB hotline to prepare a nice guest contract for Big Red?

The other soloists in Serenade were amazing, especially the two ladies. I love the way that Daria Vasnetsova (as Dark Angel last night) has matured into her 'real woman's' body and maintained her beautiful technique. I take back what I wrote earlier about her possibly being a "Somova junior" due to over-high extensions -- no way!! It's too bad that, in the Elegie, her slow twirl-around arabesque pose was almost 'lost' by her partner....but he saved it from becoming an absolute wipe-out. Ekaterina Osmolkina was a beautiful, bubbly Russian Girl.

Rubies gave us a 3rd look at the bright interpretation of Novikova instead of the scheduled Somova -- as the latter is resting up for her unscheduled Ballet Imperial in the closer. As the main-man in Rubies, Leonid Sarafanov tore about the stage with gusto, truly showing joy and sass...and a few new moves (leaps during the run-around with the four demi guys)that were not choreographed by Mr. B. He got huge ovations. Nonetheless, I believe that Rubies is not Sarafanov's ballet; I kept thinking "Mercutio Does Manhattan" because he is too slight of frame to be the street-smart slightly-tough man that the role calls for.

Gonchar was again the "Not-So-Tall Tall Girl." PetiteArabesque, you mentioned that you can't pinpoint what is is about Gonchar that turns you off. May I offer this: teeth. Sorry to sound crude but somebody has to say it -- Nadezhda Gonchar seriously needs the services of an orthodontist to replace those huge choppers. All it takes is one "off" facial feature to ruin the overall look and there's no reason that in this day & age this should be an impediment to an otherwise-wonderful dancer...cause she CAN do the moves....but, still, I would not cast so short a dancer as 'Tall Girl" when the company has so many capable tall ladies.

Ballet Imperial - Uliana Lopatkina and Igor Zelensky triumphed, in the end. He was spot-on...surprising even me with his high entrechats, powerful jetes, etc. Lopatkina triumphed due to her overall line and 'diva personna'...but her allegro technique was iffy last night, including bobbly series of initial double pirouette with quick stops (masking her faults nicely) and a very weak series of fouettes in the 3rd movement. Lopatkina was divine in what she excels - legato dancing. The corps seemed better than in the afternoon but still not up to their usual perfection in this ballet, as I've seen in Petersburg. The "2nd solo girl" was Nadezhda Gonchar - unannounced, as usual.

The big news is that Vishneva is now out of the final Ballet Imperial so we will get on Sunday....Alina Somova! Well, we *do* get Andrian Fadeev as her Cavalier and (maybe, just maybe) the scheduled divine Osmolkina as the 2nd Ballerina....but I am mentally prepared for Gonchar appearing.

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I saw the Saturday matinee and I am finally finding out who I saw in 'Rubies'. The garbled announcement said that "(uninteligible) was replacing Vishneva...who was not scheduled to dance...go figure!. I did like Olesya Novikova, and saw shades of Patty McBride..my highest praise for her. The rest of it?---not so good---where was Balanchine? The men had a problem with the famous running/jogging step that Balanchine uses throughout the ballet; they looked comical in a clumsy way-- THINK Ray Bolger when doing this :) The women fared much better. Nadezhda Gonchar (I am assuming the program was correct) in the 'tall-girl' role had the demeanor of one performing the Siren in Prodigal Son; a bit too menacing.

For me, Ballet Imperial should always be performed in the classical tutu; the 'imperial' is not there in the chiffon dresses (which is the main reason I do not see it at NYCB). The last performance of this I saw was at ABT with Ananiashvilli and Gomes...and now here comes Somova! and she was everything I expected :) The long suffering look on her face made me wonder what she could possibly be thinking; or what ballet she thought she was performing. She looked like the parody of the Russian Ballerina in Tudor's 'Gala Performance'. Vladimir Shklyarov deserves better and I join the chorus of Hurrahs for him. (I wish ABT or NYCB could entice him to join)

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My quick notes on the all-Balanchine program:

Big Red is absolutely perfect, gorgeous, in Serenade, in either Dark Angel or the waltz girl parts. Not sure she'd be able to get through Ballet Imperial though without problems, but Big Red is divine in the right parts for her.

Novikova, as everyone here pretty much has agreed, was lovely with an excellent technical ability, but was much too sweet/cute for Rubies. That's not the style of this ballet (or desired for any Balanchine ballet really).

Gonchar is a dull, but very strong dancer. Her horsey teeth are nothing compared to her poor absorption of the music, feeling the flavor of the music. She dances everything with the same approach. Very boring.

Was sorry to have missed Vishneva in Rubies. It's a part she is wonderfully made for. I saw her in it when the Kirov brought the entire Jewels to the Met six years ago.

I thought the corps overall, for the entire performance, was not that good. Restricted in movements, flat. It's a tough thing for the Kirov to dance Balanchine excellently.... Their training is so different with strict, correct lines on top of controlled technique. There isn't much letting go, pushing past what is "classical" in their style. This works in the older ballets beautifully, but with Balanchine there has to be a youthful, sexy, (almost rebellious) freedom to movements that the Kirov (ditto Royal and Paris) just do not own yet in their bodies. NYCB can look sloppier because of this, but, when done at its best, it's a more natural looking artist style.

Then again, not sure I'd want to see NYCB dance Bayadere any time soon...

I thought much of the Kirov's performances of Balanchine ballets were forced acting and not enough brilliant "just dance it to your fullest." But they, overall, have improved much at dancing Balanchine ballets since the first time I saw them attempt it with Serenade, six years ago at the Met. Ballet Imperial appeared to be too much, too soon for them, but something to work towards. It's a very difficult ballet.

Somova I thought had it best, but was still overacted and a bit of a mess, though she handled the style of the technical demands better than the other leads. Her partner, Shklyarov, was definitely at his best, completely understood the ballet demands of him, and he performed it with elegant, intense, huge dancing. BRAVO! If he joined NYCB, I'd be the first one in line for ticket sales!

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Saturday evening:

Sorry folks, I preferred the slower pace of Serenade last night, regardless of whatever takes place at NYCB or any of its clone companies. I can't recall ever enjoying a Serenade more. The slowness may not have been conducive to forcing bright fluorestan-like technique, but it sure enhanced a dramatic element that is impaired in other versions. And before anyone gets too bent out of shape over the tempo, note the obnoxious and over-bearing notes repeated three times in the evening's program. Below Serenade, Rubies and Ballet Imperial casting appears: "The performance of ___, a Balanchine Ballet, is presented by arrangement with The George Balanchine Trust and has been produced in accordance with the Balanchine Style and Balanchine Technique Service standards established and provided by the Trust" with all of those registered trademark symbols. Good grief! Once is enough. They ought to rephrase it to indicate that the Balanchine Trust is proud that the Kirov has chosen to dance its works.

Kondaurova was magnificent and really made the audience snap to attention whenever she came on stage. Those shoulders are both one of her greatest assets and also a bit of a problem when her neck starts to sink into them. But her go-for-it-bedamned-this-small-stage performance was thrilling. Osmolkina - what a darling! A breezy, no-floor-for-me little whisp of a dancer who flew out on stage and just dared everyone not to immediately love her.

The corps, from my vantage in the Grand Tier side, looked beautiful, certainly more cohesive and singular in voice than what we're accustomed to seeing at NYCB. Once in a while a line was off, but off is the standard elsewhere. I really wonder how Peter Martins could sit front and center Friday night and watch the Kirov masterfully execute port de bras and not realize that it's a better world.

What a relief to see Novikova in Rubies instead of Somova. And you know, she did remind me a bit of McBride. It was that feeling of an always good girl stepping out to be slightly naughty quality that was originally appealing about this piece. Unfortunately, castings here and elsewhere have evolved over the years that seem intent on emphasizing cheapness and it oftentimes comes off making Rubies look like Woolworth jewelry. Not last night! However, in the same breath, I have to agree with all of Natalia's comments about Gonchar.

Like atm711, I prefer Ballet Imperial in tutus. It comes off looking more "imperial". The Karinska costumes need updating and they looked a bit weird with such huge tiaras. Lopatkina was gorgeous last night. Very responsive to the music. I would pay to watch her cross the sidewalk. I wonder where she goes spiritually when on stage. She is definitely somewhere else and I almost feel like I'm intruding when I watch her. But Zelensky - a disappointment. Maybe I was too distracted by his weirdly outlined lips and eye makeup. Beats were not what I'd hoped to see. A couple of good sized leaps on the diagonal. But all in all, I was watching someone whose brightness has passed.

The two demis - Selina and Ivanova were lovely. Selina continues to be my new found treasure.

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Seems as if the consensus is that Russian audiences are rather poorly behaved. Is that sort of thing common in Russia as well? ....

***initial apologies for what will be offensive language to many; not really intended that way but trying to clear the air****

Absolutely not, SanderO. These are people who probably had never set foot inside the Mariinsky or any other great Russian opera house when they lived in Russia (if they lived in Russia...there are many from 'the republics' which does not make them bad people). I agree, this 'City Center Rear-Mezzanine* Russian Crowd' is, for the most part, boisterous and ill behaved. They also know very little about ballet, with exceptions, of course. Many appear to be the parvenue who made money and can now pretend to be elegant thanks to the almighty dollar....and the "A Train" that can whisk them up to Manhattan from Little Odessa in one hour.

* - I've sat in all spots during this run and can say that Rear Mezz is where you get the worst of them. There were no bad incidents during my two times in orchestra section -- at the opening (April 1) & last night. There was one screaming incident at yesterday's matinee in Grand Tier (lower mezz) between a woman and a man that caused both to be removed, at the start of Serenade.

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my boyfriend and i spotted vishneva walking around lincoln center yesterday afternoon. is she injured?

Yes, and she was replaced by Novikova in "Rubies" on Friday night.

However, there's been no annoucement or official news about how severe.

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Seems as if the consensus is that Russian audiences are rather poorly behaved. Is that sort of thing common in Russia as well? Audience manners vary from house to house, country to country, don't they?

You could hear a pin drop during "Eugene Onegin" when I heard it at the Bolshoi a few years ago, and the audience for both "The Gambler" and "The Demon" at the Met were both pretty well-behaved. Not a statistically significant sample, but very different from City Center for ballet.

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Agreed that Big Red was absolutely fantastic in Serenade. But am I the only one to really miss the main women's unfurling of their hair for the last movement of Serenade? It adds so much poetry and I was a little shocked that it wasn't called for in the choreography (given that this performance has met the standards of the Balanchine Trust, etc). The Dark Angel arabesque was terrible. It marred an otherwise heavenly performance -- I thought her ankle was going to snap -- what a heroic effort to save the balance! I've seen Hanna turn Maria K. in that and it looks like magic -- you can't even tell there's a guy back there doing the turning. This was awful by comparison. But wow, what wonderful arms the women have! And complete, clean turns that would be the envy of many a NYCB dancer.

ps -- forgot to say that I was commenting on last night's performance (Saturday night, April 18). Big Red blows Darci to pieces as the Waltz girl!

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

What a difference a day makes!!

Tereshkina as the lead (waltz girl) in Serenade was intense, extreme and rich. I think her attack and very strong technique would have been better served in Ballet Imperial, but.... she's absolutely fantastic in everything I have had the pleasure of seeing this City Center visit.

Shklyarov in Rubies!!! Lit up the place!! Here come those adjectives again.... Strong, elegant, fun, extreme, fascinating on so many levels.... handsome as heck too!!

Novikova was better this afternoon, seeming to play off more with her bit wild and crazy (wonderful) partner. Novikova has a lot of potential.

Big Red!!!! WOW! As the soloist, tall girl, of Rubies. Absolutely fantastic!! On top of the usual adjectives, now add a quirky, very sexy, mysteriousness. She was amazing.

Somova improved today too. She still needs some polishing, but she was absolutely fascinating to watch in the way she goes for everything without hesitation. I love that! And the fact that she is gorgeous! Fadeev, Somova's partner was a bit unreliable as a partner, there were several near scarey moments, but Fadeev danced his part well.

Let's hope all who sponsored this visit from the Kirov will make it happen again very soon. Thank you for the last three wonderful, exciting weeks.

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Viktoria Tereshkina is one of the most technically amazing dancers I've ever seen, the iron hand in the velvet glove, and what she does with it, softening as the Waltz Girl this afternoon, and even smiling when the music called for. I only flew to NYC this past Thursday, so Nadezhda Gonchar was not replacement casting for everything I've seen for weeks, which, frankly, annoys people no matter who it is. I very much liked her Russian: straightforward, strong, and like pickled ginger, clearing the palate between Tereshkina's unagi and Kondaurova's saba. I love her strong, muscular back and arms, and her long neck sitting on those shoulders. She is a plain dancer, but her pedigree is obvious from the way she moves her arms and the clear precision of her legs and feet.

Ekaterina Kondaurova may be the first 21st century Kirov ballerina. It's clear where her pedigree comes from, too, but of all of the dancers I saw in this mixed bill, she absorbed the concept of Balanchine dancing the most and met it more than halfway, and she was no slouch in the Forsythe either. I think she's every bit as majestic as Lopatkina, but her blood runs warmer.

The tempi made it a lovely concert piece, but bogged down the forward momentum and stymied the dance impetus, particularly among the corps. "Serenade" was explicitly a teaching ballet, and one of its most important lessons was how to move and claim space, a lesson valuable to all companies that dance the work, no matter how venerable.

Olesia Novkova danced her scheduled performance of the lead in "Rubies," and this afternoon she seized it as her own, giving a lighter, brighter, bigger, and much more playful performance. Perhaps that was due in part to her partner, Vladimir Shklyarov, whose infectious energy -- he was almost zany -- and generosity lit up the house. In my opinion, the sexiness doesn't always have to be in the motions in "Rubies;" sometimes it's as much in the dynamics between the dancers. While Novikova by no means looks old, the scrumptious Shklyarov looks barely old enough to drink, which made her the one with the experience, and that gave the ballet all the sex it needed.

Alina Somova has lovely lyrical qualities, even ballerina qualities, but I don't think she can yet carry a ballet, and certainly not "Ballet Imperial." (Unless one loves her, and when one loves a dancer, the choices and development are what are most interesting. I could see why someone would make that choice.) Her allegro work and feet are lacking. In the first and third movement finales, she belonged in the back row of the corps. Granted, this is the back row of the corps of the Kirov I'm talking about, but one of the great pleasures I had this afternoon was focusing on the beautiful feet in allegro work of the corps women, each of which was superior to the lead in these regards.

It didn't help that she was dancing next to Ekaterina Osmolkina, who was damn near perfect. In this performance, the authentic Crown Princess was in blue, dancing with the grace and graciousness of true breeding. I wish I had seen Osmolkina, who was not cast in the role, as the lead, with Yana Selina in the second lead.

This time, the flowers came from the audience, with the exception of a small bouquet presented to Osmolkina by a tiny admirer. Was it her daughter?

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Sunday, April 12 matinee - FINALE of the tour

A commendable performance, overall. The Queen and King of this run performed today to great aclaim. They are:

THE QUEEN - Big Red Ekaterina Kondaurova, who yet again made an impact as the Dark Angel of Serenade but...absolutely blew the lid off the City Center as the Tall Girl in Rubies. Absolutely THE Best Tall Girl I've seen live or on video.

THE KING - Vladimir Schklyarov was in Da House. Electrifying, captivating, charismatic...a magnificently-danced lead male in Rubies.

Also delightful: Ekaterina Osmolkina as the Second lead Girl in Ballet Imperial (yes! it was she and not Gonchar, finally). Osmolkina provided the true ballerina radiance on that stage in the final ballet. The leading cavalier in Ballet Imperial, Andrian Fadeev, was every bit as noble and scintillating as we've always expected him to be. Alina Somova -- subbing for Vishneva, as I had mentioned earlier -- was an even bigger mess than before. Aother big winner of the day -- and of the run -- was the troupe's newest female principal, Viktoria Tereshkina, who was stunning as today's Lead Waltz Girl in Serenade (if not as great as Big Red the night before) and in everything else that she danced during the past three weeks.

Intrestingly, neither of the two super-primas of the company, Lopatkina and Vishneva, ended up being the 'queen' of the run, even though both were amazing...and I still consider Vishneva to be their Prima Ballerina-Czarina whenever she is not injured.

The Bottom Line: New York City belongs to Ekaterina Kondaurova. Period.

Kisses and God-Speed to the spectacular Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet. How nice that they will be revisiting these shores in a few months' time!

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Alina Somova has lovely lyrical qualities, even ballerina qualities, but I don't think she can yet carry a ballet, and certainly not "Ballet Imperial." (Unless one loves her, and when one loves a dancer, the choices and development are what are most interesting. I could see why someone would make that choice.)

Feel totally different about this, to my great surprise. All the things sz said about Somova, in opposition to most, in the early ballets or Petipa and Fokine days and nights seemed to be Somova for me in 'Ballet Imperial.' I couldn't believe it, because I still thinks she looks soggy and numbed (at least with Nytol or Sominex) in those awful Auroro YouTubes. Interesting that you would say you thought Kondaurova was the 'first 21st century Kirov ballerina'. It occurred to me that that is what Somova will be, and I also agree with sz that she will do 'Diamonds.' Since nobody answered my query about Agnes Letestu and whether she became able to do 'Diamonds' or if somebody else also dances it at POB, I will just say that Ms. Letestu is not even there on the POB DVD, and she literally ruins the otherwise fabulous POB Jewels. I can't see 'the big mess' the Somova is accused of making this afternoon, I thought she glittered in a way I thought absolutely impossible--I had been given this ticket as a birthday present last year and then had chosen the particular performance because I wanted to see Vishneva. I realized I would probably hate Somova after what many had said on here and what I had thought of those godawful YouTubes. I was totally disappointed, and therefore startled that I think what it may possibly be is this: The talent is so huge (going along with sz's 'extreme dancer' term), that it does go out of control a lot as it developa. So, yes, as Helene says 'Unless one loves her.' I do, and though even I could see some things that didn't work, she was not unmusical, the high extensions were never distracting, her body is one of the most beautiful ballerina bodies I have ever seen, and it is capable of doing things that other bodies are not doing. She was not mostly messy today IMO, and she glittered enough to blind someone like me had this been something I was prone to. She was sublime in her spring season. Too many grins is the only one of the annoyances posted by many that were way too frequent. That piece doesn't need a cheerleader face for it, but she is A STAR, and will probably become a great Balanchine ballerina instead of Petipa.

What was a HUGE MESS was the piano-playing of the concerto, Ludmila Somebody (they announced it, i believe) made absolute mud when she was not playing with the orchestra. Didn't anybody hear this? It was GHASTLY. Because this is a charming Balanchine work and even at the much-maligned NYCB orchestra at least the soloist always sounded like he/she was not about to run out of gas at any moment. I mean, this is one of those times one resents censorship of ordinary four-letter words at the BT. Hideous.

I also didn't think the secondary soloist and her two men were very Balanchinian, and there were many male dancers throughout the afternoon I thought lacking in much of the spirit of Balanchine as I had thought I understood it from NYCB. But most of the men did not interest me very much, only Schklyarov.

Loved Kondaurova and Tereschkina in 'Serenade', and thought this much better than I'd ever seen it elsewhere. Ms. Tereschkina is what I was glad to see most, I wanted to see one of the ones more in line with traditional Kirov as has been spoken of much here. Also loved Kondaurova in 'Rubies', and also Schklyarov especially. I think someone said something about one of the lead male dancers in 'Rubies' too wiry to get the jazzy americanisms of 'Rubies.' A number of them seemed like they hadn't descended from ABFAB's Patsy's '400 years of potato diet' , or when they had, they weren't really charismatic. Not so, the Schklyarov, who is almost too pulchritudinous for anyone's own good. I didn't even notice Novikova, wondered if she needed another partner, or perhaps my jaded sensibilities just can't see this kind of dancer. I can't say I saw any of the McBride that others are talking about. I never really looked at her though. My other bad taste acc. to BT, Galina Mezentseva, made me do the same thing with Odette/Odile on the video, even though Konstantin Zaklinsky is much prettier than she is. Mezentseva looks just like a Politburo wife when she's not in character, but I never quit looking at her as either Odette or Odile, and I thought I wouldn't like her Odette because the Odile is so brazen. Well, I did. And although Novikova was cute, I looked Mr. Schklyarov the whole time--he's got Nureyev attributes and is fabulous.

I sat next to a most wonderful young woman who i've invited to Ballet Talk. She knows tons about ballet, and is a huge fan of Ananiashvili in particular. She wasn't quite as familiar with 'Jewels' as with some other ballets, and we were talking about it--she thought there was a 4th Jewel--Amethysts. We had quite a laugh over that and I told her it was very, very important to come to BT, and that I would be signalling by writing about the missing jewel, the Amethysts.

After the POB set for 'Rubies' (and especially for 'Diamonds' too), they all look harlotish after such perfect understatement, not least some of those candy-box effects at NYCB that people do the ooh-ing and ahh-ing about. But THIS--the Kirov has the tackiest 'Rubies' set I've ever seen. It all looks like 14th Street Xmas Style and the backdrop looks like the 3 dollar cloth pictures drawn on cheap black velvet. I couldn't even believe it. I guess it was a great 'Rubies' I saw today, but while I loved Kondaurova, I guess I'd want to see Ms. Novikova with somebody less charismatic.

Well, this thread among all i've read at BT within 2 years has by far the most animalism about it. Tribute probably to the excitement that the Kirov causes more than any other company. But all the fast shuttle-trips by Natalia, the constant controversy over Somova, hideous audience conduct (I saw none today that was as bad as much I've been victim of at NYCB), canbelto's audience member from hell (but whose line "Are those programs different, or are you just taking pleasure in reading the same program three times?" is so inane as to be nearly immortal... nysusan's many enthusiastic posts, FauxPas's always sensitive and thoughtful pieces (he can even see what I see in Ms. Mezentseva), Haglund's super-brash statements full of energy.

I now have enough material to write 'The Balletomane' from this thread alone!

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What was a HUGE MESS was the piano-playing of the concerto, Ludmila Somebody (they announced it, i believe) made absolute mud when she was not playing with the orchestra. Didn't anybody hear this? It was GHASTLY. Because this is a charming Balanchine work and even at the much-maligned NYCB orchestra at least the soloist always sounded like he/she was not about to run out of gas at any moment.

HUGE MESS justly describes Lyudmilla Sveshnikova's performance of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 this afternoon. I thought at first that a string on the piano snapped or went sourly out of tune, but her playing for the rest of the piece was all over the place.

I had admired her playing the other night, though.

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* - I've sat in all spots during this run and can say that Rear Mezz is where you get the worst of them.

Perhaps it's sitting in the 'rear mezz'--the worst seats in the house. I have been coming to this theatre since the Ballet Russe days, and learned early on not to sit there. (It reminds me of the St. James Theatre; the same long, high crowded seats). In my salad days I sat in the 2nd balcony and had excellent views; I could not understand why the Kirov did not use the 2nd balcony----when I looked at the crowded upper Mezz (I was lucky to be in Row A; slightly to the side since the best part of that r ow was reserved) and saw all those good seats going to waste.

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Andre (replying to your comment, to my comment, back a bit on page 10 of this thread). I think you may have said it best, about hiding SFB's weaknesses. The thing is, if you can even make that comment about any ballet company, doesn't that say something about said company? I am sure there ARE ballets they excel in that do mask their weaknesses. (I really have no idea what happens on their tours though. Maybe different casting and/or different rep? They sure won't do a Swan Lake in Paris that is for sure!) And I also think you're right in the supposition that no American company at present can do justice to the classical repertoire, period. I think that's the main difference. You want to see a classic, do not bother with the Stateside companies. You want to see anything else, then go for it. That has become my more general approach in recent years at least.

Also, SanderO,

Seems as if the consensus is that Russian audiences are rather poorly behaved. Is that sort of thing common in Russia as well? Audience manners vary from house to house, country to country, don't they?

Just to underline NataliaN's point. Here in St. Petersburg there are very clear, very well understood rules inside the Mariinsky Theatre by all of the locals. Tourists are not always aware of these rules, but as soon as the tourists leave and the fall season begins here, you notice a HUGE difference in the way the dancers onstage are treated. Then around this time of year the tourists become a disproportionately large percentage of the audience, and that remains until end of the season.

In high tourist season you get:

1) more/constant flash photographs during the performance

2) more bravos/applause at inopportune moments, or applause when there should be none

3) more talking/whispering*/candy unwrapping.

*ALthough it is never very bad in this theatre noise-wise, there is simply an increase between April and August.

A relative of mine is working in Havana. She told me the Cubans talk throughout the performance, run up and sit in the aisles, there is zero regard for the sound level, as if they are at home with the television on. She can't stand it. What's more is they have some incredible dancers there. But the crowd is also very generous and appreciative -- they go wild for the quadruple fouettes and the balances held for an eternity (Viengsay). They're just plain noisy.

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HUGE MESS justly describes Lyudmilla Sveshnikova's performance of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 this afternoon. I thought at first that a string on the piano snapped or went sourly out of tune, but her playing for the rest of the piece was all over the place.

I had admired her playing the other night, though.

That's too bad. I wonder what happened? At least you heard her on a "good" night. Here, she is typically VERY reliable and VERY brilliant in any performances. It must have been the odd off night or some technical difficulty. Both audience and dancers respect her highly here.

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Still in NYC...stayin' on for tonight's big YAGP gala (Osipova, Semionova, Ueno et al)...and just had my breakfast at the busy Park Cafe close to my hotel and City Center...the same Park Cafe in which I saw Sarafanov and other Kirov colleagues have late-night supper after a performance the other night. :) While reading this morning's NTTimes at the Park Cafe, I spotted the review of this final Balanchine program by the much-maligned Alastair Macauley. OK - I now declare that Macauley has saved himself in my mind after singling-out our Big Red as his favorite Kirov dancer ("....I enjoyed and admired no dancer more than the bewitchingly elegant Ekaterina Kondaurova...."). Yessssss!!!!!!!!

I won't try to do links -- just have the hard copy with me...a hard copy with a glorious page-length color pic of Big Red and the four demi guys from Rubies.

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And I also think you're right in the supposition that no American company at present can do justice to the classical repertoire, period. I think that's the main difference. You want to see a classic, do not bother with the Stateside companies. You want to see anything else, then go for it. That has become my more general approach in recent years at least.

One could also say that the Kirov shouldn't touch Balanchine and should stick to Petipa, but that, too, precludes so many moments of beauty and revelation.

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