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Kirov Sleeping Beauty - 1890, #2

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I'm continuing the thread with a new topic, at Alexandra's suggestion.

To Manhattnik - The excellent Carabosse on Monday & Tuesday was Islom Baimuratov.

On the 180-degree extensions - This was one of my three disappointments, along with:

(a) the lack of a Panorama (especially after my Russian friends described it in ecstatic terms after the April premiere; highlights included sleeping dogs & horses in front of the castle) and

(B) the paltry flames in the fireplace after Desire planted his kiss on Aurora (given Benois and other historians' vivid descriptions of the way that the flames ignited the fireplace immediately following the kiss).

By the way, RJ Wiley's book, TCHAIKOVSKY's BALLETS, includes detailed English translation of tHarvard manuscript's instructions. I followed this carefully with a pen-light during Monday afternoon's dress rehearsal & can vouch that 95% of the original choreography was adhered to faithfully by the Kirov notators. What a monumental achievement!

I agree 100% with the insertion of the 1952 Soviet (Konstantin Sergeyev) solo for Desire in the Grand Pas de Deux, as it afforded a couple of minutes of "modern" virtuoso dancing for the male star. Among the two Desires I saw, Andrian Fadeev was by far the more "princely" & godlike in manner--hence, the best. It does not matter that Igor Zelensky (opening night) was the better dancer. Technique is not the deciding factor here. Overall aristocratic bearing reigns supreme.

Vishneva is a born princess - by far the better of the two Auroras I saw. Imperial Ballet is a discriminating art - beauty of face counts, folks. That's all I have to say about that.

As for the Lilacs, Veronica Part is a born Miss Universe--hence her superiority as Lilac Fairy. Dancing is secondary; superiority of beauty is first. Veronica Part is a Beauty; Daria Pavlenko is a sweet & talented girl masquerading as a Beauty. Ability in dance is secondary. Again...no time for "political correctedness" in this art form.

Among the other fairies in the Prologue, Jana Selina was gorgeous (and adorable) as Canari--no, not with a yellow tutu, but with a white one, with roses on the front-bodice.

How many of you noticed that, at the start of Act III (The Wedding), Aurora's costume included an exact replica of Catherine the Great's crown (from the Russian State Jewels)? Look at the photos! That is the symbol of the Mariinsky (above the Royal Box & on the roof of the theater. Carlota Brianza wore a different coronet; the "new Auroras" wear exact replicas of the Imperial Jewels. (One of the great benefits of sitting in the fifth row orchestra-center is noticing such details. Fun-fun-fun!)

More comments, please. How was the fourth (& final) Aurora, Irma Nioradze. Until last month, she had never danced Aurora at the Kirov, specializing in Lilac Fairy instead. Did she pull it off?

[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited June 30, 1999).]

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I was totally exhausted by the time I got to my fourth Beauty, and I bailed on Nioradze after the second act. She has a very, well, severe face for an Aurora, and her dancing was kinda, servicable. She made me think a bit of Eleanor d'Antuono, who could dance anything, but not very interestingly.

I have a friend who knows the Royal Ballet production inside and out, who tells me that the Kirov's mime is drastically reduced from what the Royal did. I wonder if perhaps some of the mime fell by the wayside over the years, and didn't get reconstructed?

Oh, and Alexandra, I said the two main forces were Lilac and Catalabutte, not Carabosse. It seems to me that when Lilac isn't running the show, then Catalabutte is.

Notice how the one change that happens over the 100-year sleep is that Catalabutte's hair grows back?

By the way, I think Fadeyev danced better than Zelensky. The only problem I had with Fadeyev is that the Prince really shouldn't be prettier than Aurora.

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Thanks, Jeannie, for starting the new thread, and for your comments.

Sorry I misread you, Manhattnik.

Do you have any details on the missing mime? From what I've been hearing, there's a lot of mime that the old Royal production did not have. (Maybe it's important to know which Royal Ballet production, or at least which decade.)

I think I'd vote for a Prince with authority.


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Manhattnik, I am glad to read your comments about Andrian Fadeyev. I saw very little of him 2 years ago in London. Presumably you are going to see his Albrecht later this week.

Jeannie, your description in the earlier thread about this Kirov "Beauty" was most moving - that it was a summation of your theatre-going experiences, and that it reflected the highest values and gentility of the human race.

Oh dear, I have to wait for 1 year to see this splendid "Beauty" in London next summer - assuming they will bring it to London with other ballets. What a long wait!

[This message has been edited by Kevin Ng (edited July 01, 1999).]

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Thanks to all for so much detail and excitement in the reviews of the "new" old Beauty! Fun to read them all. Jeannie, your review indicates this one certainly was particularly special for you! After all the ballets you have seen, you were able to give this production the place in your experience that it now takes. I'd say that has to count a lot towards its quality.

But, though generally everyone seems to believe this is a milestone rebirth for "Beauty" from the Maryinsky, there do seem to be some slight differences of opinion on the mime and the comparative "authenticity" (is that the word) relative to what was produced at the Royal a few decades back.

Any further views on how perceptions can differ on some things so greatly? I'm always amazed at how much many of you experienced balletgoers can remember of the details of past performances. My memories of detail fade quickly, but the overall impression remains strong re a particular dancer or the production itself.

After such great reviews, it is frustrating to have missed what might be a historical significant mounting of this ballet. I will be seeing the Kirov "Giselle" and "Fountains" next week however. Any chance it is likely that "Giselle" in particular will approach the level of former 19th century standard?

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Alexandra, regarding the mime - I totally disagree with folks who say that the Royal Ballet'1940s-60s version had more mine. No way! The Kirov-1890/1999 version is jam-packed with mime. What's more, it follows to a "T" the many "dialogues" of mime from the Choreographic Text (Harvard documents) that are detailed in RJ Wiley's TCHAIKOVSKY BALLETS - see pp. 165-188. All of those passages of mime were seen on the Met stage, at exactly the right spot in the music, as per the Choreographic Text cited in Wiley. I place my money on the authenticity of the Kirov-1890/1999 versus Royal Ballet 1950s/60s. [This from someone who possesses a film of a complete ca. 1956 performance starring Fonteyn...so I can compare the details.]

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I think what people are saying is that the old Royal ballet mime was richer and more detailed. There are certainly more mime scenes in this, with the addition of the King's scene with the knitting ladies. I would have to agree. Mime isn't the current Kirov's natural language, like it used to be with the Royal ballet, but the outlines were certainly there. The Lilac Fairy, even Part, who I adored, could have had more power when she dispells darkness, and Carabosse could have been more clear when he was making fun of the fairys. But at least it was a start.

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Regarding the mime, I will pester my Royal-loving friend for details. I think she was commenting not so much on what was said, and when, but rather how, and with what detail.

More about Nioradze. She seemed a little, well, long in the tooth for Aurora. Sometimes more mature dancers can make great Auroras (Fonteyn, of course), but Nioradze isn't a Fonteyn.

Of the four Auroras, I like Assylmuratova the best, but I wasn't really bowled over by any of them. Heretical as it may be, I think I prefer Giselle or Swan Lake as a test of a ballerina.

That's not to say I didn't love this production. I do hope the Kirov keeps it around for long enough for the dancers to grow into it. There were times when it looked like it was still new to them, and could use some fleshing out by the dancers. But it's a lovely skeleton, nevertheless.

Having said that, I wouldn't mind it if they ditched Cinderella and Tomb Thumb.

Was anyone else struck by how close some aspects of the production veered towards vintage music hall? I loved the dance for Aurora's violin and lute girls, and the four in those lovely black and gold costumes. It seemed like a "dancing girls" number for the bored husbands in the audience.

And, Jeannie, of course the production matches the Harvard documents. It'd better. That's the source the stagers used, after all. But does that mean there may not have been equally valid aspects of Beauty passed down orally through the Royal production's progenitors?

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Please, Manhattnik...don't ditch those wonderful numbers for Cinderella/Prince Charming and Tom Thumb & friends and the Cannibal! I especially loved Cinderella flirting with Prince Charming, with that little fire-snuffing gatget in her hand (squirting air in his face...in time to the music). I will never again be able to listen tothe Cinderella music without recalling the "snuffing move"!

As for the Music Hall aspect, it didn't cross my mind...probably because my mind was in "late-19th century mode" before I even entered the theater. The female quartets, such as Aurora's friends in black & gold, or the four Mandolin Girls (also in Act I) are, "cousins" of many other, similarly-patterned Petipa quartets for females. The four Little Bayaderes, four Gypsy friends of Esmeralda, four Frescoes in Humpbacked Horse, and even the four Cygnets come to mind. Petipa liked "Female Fours" a lot!

"Cargill" (Mary?), thanks for understanding (& agreeing on!) my comments regarding the Kriov/1890 mime. Perhaps my proximity to the stage (close to front-orchestra, center) made the mime clear-as-a-bell while it wouldn't have registered powerfully to someone seated farther away. That's for sure. Save for the Royal Danish Ballet's Bournonville productions, I have never experienced so much "talking" in a ballet production as I did last Monday & Tuesday with the Kirov BEAUTY. I swear, I could almost hear dialogues going on throughout...especially between the King & Queen. The King--Vladimir Ponomariev--is a hoot (& quite the "character" in real-life, let me tell you..Ponomariev is so funny!). I had a hard time shifting my eyes to the Village Waltze dancers as I tried to keep an eye on Ponomariev making "googly eyes" and doting over his Queen, Nina Borchenko...kissing her white-gloved hand out-of-the-blue every now & then. It was precious!!

[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited July 01, 1999).]

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I must say, the "entertainment"issue crossed my mind when the little girls in bloomers and character shoes came in after the Rose Adagio. I bet the men in 1890 loved them. It was very interesting to realize how varied the dances for Aurora's friends were, with three groups in different costumes. As I was watching, I realized the music did change mood a little bit for each group. What a genius Petipa was, to work in variety and interest in a little throw away number to give the ballerina a rest.

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Oh, those bloomer girls with violins were cute. And how about those little cherubs sitting in the Lilac Fairy's boat, including the one whose tiny head was barely sticking out of the boat, watching the entire Dryads Scene? No..I say that we all write en-masse to the Phillips Corporation (official videos of the Kirov) to request a filming of this production for commercial release PRONTO!

By the way, I really enjoyed your review, Cargill. You were spot-on in every observation!

Oh...one more thing. Cargill, I do beg to differ with you (in the most friendly manner!) on your posting above regarding the Kirov Ballet not having a recent tradition of extended mime (not being it's "natural language" you wrote, I believe). How about the first act of LA BAYADERE, which is practically all-mime in the Kirov edition? Or the extended comic mine in DON Q (Gorsky emphasizing dramatic realism)? Or the Kirov's GISELLE...or all the Soviet "dram-ballets" - BAKHSHISERAI or ROMEO & JULIET? How about GAYANE? Extended mime is indeed a hallmark of much of the Kirov/Mariinsky repertoire & mime is very much a part of its natural language. The Kirov even maintains a staff of coaches who specialize in mime and character dancing (Alisa Strogaya et. al.). True, the post-WWII Soviet/Konstantin Sergeyev editions of the Petipa/Ivanov classics tended to emphasize "pure dance" over mime. But to make a blanket statement that extended mime is not in the Kirov tradition is a bit too much.

[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited July 01, 1999).]

[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited July 01, 1999).]

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May I get down on my knees and thank all of you for your posts on "Sleeping Beauty". These reviews are the best that have been written by our contributors to date. They are so full of detail...costumes, music, mime, color, dancing, personalities, history...I almost feel as if I've been there (that's a BIG "almost".) I'm eagerly look forward to the reviews to come.


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Jeannie, thanks for your many well-considered comments about this Beauty.

By the way, that "fire snuffing" thingie that Cinderella puffs the Prince with is a bellows. You use them to pump a stream of air onto a fire to keep it going, not to snuff it out. It's a reference to Cinderalla's career as a hearth-tender, and cleaner.

There's a great deal to love in this production. It's amazing to me how quickly it seems to have come together, and I find the juxtaposition of the sublime and ridiculous profoundly affecting. Take the entrance of the fairies in the prologue. In one sense, it's a mess. All those colors, all that braid and noisy detail, all those wands and other carried objects, and tassels, capes and ornamentation everywhere, all those attendants and frond-carriers. You almost have to put yourself, as you said, into a 19th-century frame of mind, and then it starts to work, beautifully.

These designs, seemingly way too ornate and overdone to our modern eyes, tell a lot of things about Vsevolozhsky and his milieu, but mostly it tells me that details that might not mean much today, mattered a great deal then. More, I think, than just a means of providing spectacle.

I was also touched, for both performances Wednesday, to see Yana Selina, the prologue's Fee Canari qui Chante (called that, I suppose, to differentiate her from some Fee Canari qui ne Chante pas), doubling up as one of the frontmost girls in the Garland Dance. I suspect there was a lot of that sort of thing going on, but this was the only instance I caught.

Speaking of which, shouldn't there be some clause in the dancers' union contract against making someone dance that variation four times in three days? It may not be cruel and unusual punishment, but I can't imagine coming away from it with one's psyche totally unscathed. Perhaps the Kirov soloists are made of sterner stuff than me.

[This message has been edited by Manhattnik (edited July 01, 1999).]

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So the thingie is a bellows? Thanks, Manhattnik!

I, too, noticed the doubling and tripling of roles among many soloists. Even Maya Dumchenko--a soloist who has danced Aurora in the older Konstantin Sergeyev production--was called upon to dance theFleur-de-Farine/Coulante Fairy variation AND was in the corps of Dryads AND was a Quadrille Dancer in Act III. Talk about company loyalty! Luckily, Dumchenko returns to star status on Saturday afternoon. when she dances the role of Giselle.

Only 84 or so Kirov dancers are on the tour. That is half the company...less than that if you count the "reserves." When BEAUTY is performed in Petersburg, nearly the entire company plus many Vaganova Academy students take part. (The children in NY came from various area dance schools including SAB.) No wonder that the dancers were doubling and tripling roles.

Your comment on unions is interesting. I cannot imagine a single US company performing a complete BEAUTY due to the overtime union wages that this would entail--not only dancers & musicians, but also backstage crews. American unions demand overtime pay past 11 p.m.--I remember when I supered with ABT at Kennedy Center (the 1986 & 1988 McMillan BEAUTY) and was asked to be sure that I'm out of my costume before 11 pm, or ABT would have to charge the wardrobe women double pay! Such problems are not a concern at the Mariinsky Theater.

Did you know that, in St. Petersburg, BEAUTY is normally performed only once every two months or so? [The string of 4 performances this past May was an exception, due to the novelty of the current production.] BEAUTY requires more time & resources than any other ballet. Thus, it's only scheduled 5-6 times during any one calendar year. Given that, you can only imagine how happy the Kirov tour's dancers were last night when the curtain rang down on the fourth and final BEAUTY of this tour. GISELLE should be a piece of cake for them, in comparison to BEAUTY!

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Considering that, counting the rehearsal, they did Beauty five times in three days, it's amazing they looked as good as they did last night.

It's interesting what you said about the number of dancers. I'd love to see it on the larger stage with even more dancers.

I am baffled why they went with the false proscenium, though. Did the original designs call for one? Even if so, I think it would've been better for them to leave it behind. The Met is already smaller than the Mariinksy, and the false proscenium just made it worse. I'm sure you noticed the times Zakharova and Vishneva had to dramatically throttle back on their jumps to keep from flying a) into the wings (Vishneva practically ended up in them anyway once or twice); B) into the pit; c) into the Queen.

I just don't get it; why take a difficulty and deliberately make it worse?

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Manhatnnik, the false proscenium is indeed in the original designs. Did you notice how, at the end of Aurora's Act I solo, Diana Vishneva ran into the downstage-right (audience-left) "stone" pedestal with the giant urn, as she did the final arabesque? Thank goodness it was just a flat.

Another fun-type detail (for the readers who love such things): Did you notice how Andrian Fadeev wore a very long Goldilocks wig in Act II, yet Igor Zelensky did not? Igor wore a shorter, less-curly pageboy style. I supposed that Fadeev looks natural with the wild curls due to his "baby face." Zelensky--with his macho-man jaw--would have looked downright absurd as Goldilocks.

Another fun detail: I loved those little pearl chocker-necklaces worn by the Dryad corps de ballet girls. Very chic, a la Marie Taglioni in SYLPHIDE.

Best color combination: Act II Dryad scene - Lilac Fairy's outfit against the aqua (blueish-green) tutus of the Dryads.

Corniest prop: Again, Act II Dryad scene - the little seashell on the floor, into which Aurora steps to perform a miraculous balance at the end of the adagio. Several long flowered ribbons are connected to the seashell, each held up by a Dryad. (The garlands radiate from the seashell.)

There is a great photo of Brianza stepping onto that seashell-and-flowers prop in the delightful SLEEPING BEAUTY souvenir programme sold at the MET. It's a great buy at $8 - full of photos of the original 1890 production, plus a number of interesting essays on Petipa, Tchaikovsky, etc. On the other hand, the 1998/99 Mariinsky Theater Season Souvenir program, at $12, is almost useless....80% of the color photos are devoted to opera. Teeny-timy thumbnail photos of the current BEAUTY production. Chock-full of ads for St. Petersburg firms. I bought one only because it contains an updated Kirov company roster, by categories (principals, soloists, corps, and "reserves"). Also, buried in the programme, in tiny print, is the announcement that the long-awaited Kirov premiere of Balanchine's JEWELS will be this October. Otherwise, the $12 programme a disappointment.

[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited July 01, 1999).]

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I've really enjoyed reading all these reviews; it's great to see the bubbling over of enthusiasm. And it's been great, too, to be able to hear so much about the other performances.

I went to the matinee and really loved it. In fact, I've been way too high to be able to come here to Ballet Alert and talk about my impressions....and now I find that EVERYTHING has been said already!

If some Good Fairy ever granted me three trips in a Time Machine, then one of them would have to be to see `Beauty' at the Maryinsky (though I'd have to think about which year I'd go there, and who I'd want to see. Probably Kschessinska.) People are always telling me that you can't go back to the past. Well, maybe not, but you can give it a good try - as the Kirov have done this year. (Of course, if you really went back to 1890 or so, you'd probably be seriously disappointed by the standard of dancing, but that's another story.)

Thanks Jeannie, for answering one of my biggest questions - which was whether they had a real panorama in Russia. (Any more details? Is it like thee original?) But what about Carabosse's disguise at the end of Act 1? Isn't it supposed to disappear down a trap in the original production? And, though I LOVED the fountain in Act 1, what about the fountains in the last act?

Have just read Anna Kisselgoff's review in today's New York Times, which I found annoying. The last sentence, for instance:`how to make the classics come alive to a modern audience is still the problem.' For the modern audience I saw on Wednesday afternoon, the problem seemed to be to keep from jumping up and down with excitement.

(And there are times when I get the distinct impression that Anna K. is not familiar with the earlier Kirov versions of this ballet.)

Thank you to the Kirov for a thrilling production - which could have been a lot longer as far as I was concerned. And thank you Altynai for a gorgeous performance.

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Wendy - Wow, I'm sorry that I missed Assylmuratova at the Wed. matinee. (I can only stretch "time off" work just so far! )

To try to answer & comment on your QQs -

I have not seen the new BEAUTY production at the Mariinsky & am only going by a couple of phone conversations with someone who did see it. Yes, there is a new Panorama in this production. Yes, it is an exact duplicate of the 1890 original, as are all of the other sets and costumes. The details of the new-old Panorama are different than those in the 1952 Panorama designed by the Soviets (Virzaladze), most notably the "bend in the river effect" (first spot Beauty's castle from afar; optical illusion in the scenery makes it appear as Lilac's boat is going around a riverbend; suddenly the castle appears close-up). Sleeping dogs and horses--presumably models & not real animals!--are seen at the castle's entrance.

The Mariinsky does have a trap door in the center. The disappearance of Carabosse's cape could occur through the trap door; it did in the 1952 production! I'll guess that the MET does not have such a trap door &, thus, this effect could not occur on tour.

The Act III backdrop scenery is a flat. It was designed as a flat in 1890 and that is what was replicated in 1999. Ironically, it's the old Soviet (1952) Act III that incorporates real fountains with real water...but I'll take the brightness & color of the 1890 scenery any day! I remember reading a story about George Balanchine reminiscing about the real fountains in BEAUTY, when he was a child. We now know that he was referring to Act I & not Act III.

Like you, I am a bit perplexed at both Anna Kisselgoff and Clive Barnes' negative comments on the "problem" of staging an old-fashioned ballet in 1999. I've always known them to be great admirers of the classical style. Maybe they've become too acquainted and cozy with the accellerated New York City Ballet style of dancing the classics? In all fairness to them, I, too, was a bit skeptical at how the "NY Ballet In-Crowd" would react to the Kirov's new BEAUTY...but that was before Monday night. What puzzles me is that, even after the all-embracing reaction of the Monday opening night crowd, these two critics still feel this way. [Hmmm...wonder if they really attended the Monday opening night or if they wrote reviews only based on the rehearsal that afternoon?? Nah...just a dumb thought!]

By the way, even I am starting to tire of discussing BEAUTY. How about turning the focus to the current Kirov production, GISELLE, with a new thread? Would love to read everyone's impressions of Vishneva (last night), Zakharova (tonight), Sologub (tomorrow night)& Assylmuratova (Monday). I'll be able to join in discussions on Dumchenko's performance (tomorrow matinee); saw Zakharova & Assylmuratova in the role in past years.

[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited July 02, 1999).]

[This message has been edited by Jeannie (edited July 02, 1999).]

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Many thanks to all for providing these fascinating impressions about the Kirov's "Beauty."

But on top of all these Goldilocks wigs and cute little cherubs, I'd still like to read some more details about how it was actually danced. I suppose that besides these fearful extensions the Aurora's did have some real dance qualities as well ? Also who danced what and how in the supporting roles (the numerous fairies, Blue Bird, Florine, Cinderella etc)?

Thanks again (and sorry for those of you who are already focused on "Giselle").

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Hello Marc i am thrilled and impressed by the sensible and

rather thoughtfull comments of everyone , by the way thanks

to all , but i keep wondering the same thing i feel a bit lost

for not reading any regards concerning really detailed comments about the dancers thecnique and qualities.:P

Anyway again thanks everyone !:)

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