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Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty at La Scala


Natalia
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Now that originally-cast David Hallberg *and* his replacement, Sergei Polinin, are out...who will dance first-cast Prince Desiree, partnering La Zakharova? Is Marcelo available?

Update: According to Teatroallascala.org, corps newbie Jacopo Tissi (la Scala class of 2014), has been tapped for the honors. Talk about an opportunity!

Opening night is just five days away, this Saturday. Will Milan audiences love it as much as we did in the USA?

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I remember that Italians, for the most part, detested the new-old RAYMONDA designs and pageantry, as staged by Vikharev in 2011. (We foreign visitors loved it...but that RAYMONDA was slammed in the local press as pretentious return to elite aesthetics). Maybe it's a political thing in Italy? That's the only reason why I fear a bit about this BEAUTY. But perhaps Ratmansky has done his "prep work" with local powers-that-be and journalists, which Vikharev was unable to achieve in 2011 with RAYMONDA? Ratmansky's earlier work for La Scala (the ballet titled OPERA) was rather well received, so maybe he'll fare better than did Vikharev.

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I don't want to read too much into Ratmansky's comments in this Facebook post, but he says that the boys at La Scala's school shouldn't have any problems w/ the garlands, so does that mean he had no confidence that the boys at ABT's school could handle them?

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The big premiere was on Saturday. There are lovely photos of Zakharova, Tissi and the rest of the opening cast in http//www.gramilano.it

Did anyone here attend the premiere? I'm hoping that impressions of others are a bit more positive than my Milanese friends, who reported "mild applause" at the end for the dancers, then a quick emptying of the stalls before the curtain calls! Not nice. "Not enough action...too much posing and parading....Where was the virtuosity?" were some of the quotes.

This is similar to what I heard in 2011 during the premiere of the new-old Raymonda. Milanese balletomanes do not seem to love recons of old Petipa ballets but they *do* love the Nureyev versions.

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The Milanese are very keen on Nureyev's stagings of the classics, with very energetic movement. The pro reviews of the new-old RAYMONDA (2011) were mostly scathing, even though we American and British tourists mostly loved it. Local balletomanes, critics and dancers themselves hated it. Yet, a telecast and DVD of RAYMONDA came to pass soon after premiere and that ballet was repeated the following season, probably due to tourists' interest. I wonder if Milanese critics may be kinder with the BEAUTY reconstruction?

My initial hopes for an Italian telecast & subsequent DVD aren't so high but one never knows.

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I was there tonight for a second cast. Applause was very muted throughout and I think it affected some performances. Timofej Andrijashenko nearly dropped his poor princess Nicoletta Manni on fish-dive number 2. The sound of slapping flesh (his hand striking her body panickedly) was very audible. The third was much more sheepish.

I am glad I have first cast tomorrow to look forward to, as tonight was merely OK in my eyes. I hope to review both.

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Much better reaction to last night. Zakharova found the core of beauty within this Beauty. Petipa's vision by way of Ratmansky done full justice. Mr Tissi showed a few hints of his 'newness' and exhibited some uncertainties, but they made a lovely couple with a small frisson of true chemistry that should if allowed only grow.

It might be worth keeping an eye out for local reviews, Natalia? if you see any please let us know!

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Here's links to my two posts about the Ratmansky Beauty at La Scala. I went on two nights. The first was me a bit underwhelmed by the dancing and the second is where it really worked well.



https://theoperatuni...october-1-2015/



https://theoperatuni...october-2-2015/



High quality dancing from all, but truly the stand out for me apart from the expected qualities from Zakharova was from Maria Celeste Losa. Just delightful.


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La Scala has released a new trailer for The Sleeping Beauty; it looks so beautiful, I can't wait to see it on the 22nd! And I really hope that La Scala or ABT will release the production on DVD.

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Hey everybody; just thought I'd let you all know that I'm heading to Milan tomorrow and I will be attending Thursday's performance of Sleeping Beauty. I'll be back on Saturday and I'll be sure to give you all a report on the performance.

Until then, hope you all have a good week! :)

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Hello everybody!

I got back from Milan last night and I said I would give a report on the performance of Alexei Ratmansky's reconstruction of The Sleeping Beauty that I attended, so here we go.

Just like he did with Paquita, Ratmansky has once again succeeded in restoring more of Petipa's choreography to its former beauty and splendour. We first saw a reconstruction of The Sleeping Beauty sixteen years ago in the hands of Sergei Vikharev, but unfortunately, that attempt did not exactly succeed in showing everything of Petipa's choreography that still exists. This time, however, what still exists of Petipa's choreography for this magnificent ballet has been fully reconstructed. Ratmansky said that what the Sergeyev Collection contains for Sleeping Beauty is so much better than the traditional versions danced today and I could not agree with him more.

So, let's dive into the performance. First of all, I had only seen La Scala Ballet on recorded performances, so this was the first time I had ever seen them live and I was not disappointed. A very fine company indeed and they proved to be very suitable candidates for this reconstruction. They presented wonderfully intricate fast footwork, all round beautiful performances and splendid musicality. However, there were a couple of times when one or two dancers were slightly off-count, but they held it together and successfully got back on track. They still showcased the beauty and magnificence of Petipa's musical choreography; in fact, I couldn't get over how fast all the dancers were!

And just for the record, I know that there are one or two people here on this forum who think the La Scala dancers have so-called "stiff upper bodies" and don't like watching them for that reason, well I'm going to say this - for Petipa's choreography and the style that Ratmansky has staged it in, the dancers cannot afford to be very fluid in their upper bodies; they need to be able to execute fast footwork at fast tempi and they won't get very far there if they put too much emphasis on flexibility, which is not supposed to be a number one priority for Petipa's choreography!

Anyway, back to the performance I had the pleasure of attending.

Prologue

One of the sections I was really excited to see in its notated form was the Grand Pas de six and I was not disappointed. Petipa's Grand Pas de six is a masterpiece and I really cannot understand why anybody would even think of changing it. It was also really exciting to see the notated variations for the six fairies. All six ballerinas did a wonderful job as did the six cavaliers and the corps de ballet of the Lilac retinue. Leading the fairies was Maria Celeste Losa as the Lilac Fairy; how wonderfully lively she was in her variation and how expressive she was in her mime scene with Carabosse, who was played by Marta Romagna; how wonderfully wicked she was.

And of course, the mime that is often missing from certain productions today was back and it was a pleasure to see it. There's nothing boring or pointless about mime in ballet and as I said in my Paquita review, mime itself is very entertaining and not to mention, it goes with the music really well and it brings excellent balance to the narrative.

Act 1

After an entertaining dramatic scene involving Cattalabutte discovering six women knitting in the castle, the corps de ballet presented the Garland Waltz in all its glory and splendour and the children were fabulous. Dancing the role of Princess Aurora in this performance was the splendidly talented Nicoletta Manni and what a delight she was. She executed Aurora's terre a terre entrance wonderfully; it was so refreshing to have pas de chats and petite developpes instead of the common grand jetes and grand developpes that we often get today in Aurora's entrance.

The Rose Adagio was very refreshing as well; it can be seen how the standard version of today used the original/notated version as a foundation, but it was a welcome change to see differences in certain places. This has got to be the most musically rhythmic version I've ever seen. Of course, Ratmansky used the Margot Fonteyn arm in fifth position for the balances, which I was fine with, though I wouldn't have missed it if he hadn't used it. Nicoletta Manni's balance was superb and spot on when she was transferred from prince to prince.

And then of course came the climax in which Aurora pricks her finger, falls into a deep sleep and the Lilac Fairy puts the whole kingdom to sleep. Interestingly, the melancholy piece of music from the finale that is played after Aurora collapses and before Carabosse's theme is played was restored here. I have often assumed that this music was cut by Petipa, but it turns out, I was mistaken. It was used here as a scene where King Florestan demands to know who gave Aurora the spindle and the cloaked Carabosse is brought forward and this is referenced to by Roland John Wiley in his book Tchaikovsky's Ballets. After Carabosse's theme begins, she removes her cloak and disappears in a cloud of smoke when the four princes try to kill her on the King's orders.

Afterwards, the Lilac Fairy arrives and what a relief it was see her as she should be at this point in the ballet - a mimed role. Maria Celeste Losa's mime was wonderful; she expressed her words to the King and Queen very kindly and assuringly, which suits the Lilac Fairy's character down to the ground. When her retinue of children came, she mimed to them to guard the palace and again, her warm and kind character was fully present.

Act 2

The second act opened with the arrival of the hunting party and a game of Blind Man's Bluff. Dancing the role of Prince Desire was Marco Agostino and this was his début performance as the Prince in this reconstruction. The whole point of the beginning of the second act is that Desire is in a gloomy mood because he hasn't found true love and Agostino really showed that throughout the first half of this scene. When the Lilac Fairy arrived on her boat, she showed concern for her godson as soon as she could see him and noticed how sad he looked. There was a small mime from her on the boat before she got off to talk to Desire and in came the mime scene in which she tells him about Aurora; again, the mime was wonderful, expressive and musical.

How I love the notated Vision Pas d'action and this is another piece that I cannot understand people changing! The way in which Ratmansky has staged it is marvellous; the whole point of it is that a man is chasing an elusive woman - the Lilac Fairy is showing Desire an elusive vision of Aurora, he falls in love and longs to embrace her, but he cannot because she's not really there. In Ratmansky's staging, the vision of Aurora actually communicates with Desire, which fuels his longing for her; he tries to catch her, but she evades him and the Lilac Fairy constantly intercedes, until finally, he catches her at the end and declares to the Lilac Fairy that he is in love with Aurora and will marry her. This is then followed by the reference to Botticelli's The Birth of Venus painting, in which Aurora balances on a toe-hold in the shape of a shell. It was all so romantic; this is by far the most romantic staging of this pas d'action that I have ever seen in my life!

I was also very excited to see the Carlotta Brianza Act 2 variation for Aurora to the the music for the Gold Fairy's variation, as chosen by Petipa. Nicoletta Manni danced the variation beautifully and at a great tempo; such a relief to not have the ballerina putting her ankles beside her head in the developpes like we saw in Vikharev's staging of this variation.

Unfortunately, Ratmansky was unable to restore the Panomara, which really is heartbreaking, and he cut about half of the music that reveals the castle in which Aurora is asleep. This was due to union rules that stated the production could not be longer than three hours; it's a shame, but rules are rules. And despite all this, he was still able to stage a nice scene for the awakening.

Act 3

And finally, Act 3; the act of all our favourite divertissements. I was a bit surprised to see that Ratmansky had cut the opening Marche for the third act and instead, used the music for the procession of the fairy tale characters as the opening number and everybody's entrance, but it worked well. After all, there is nothing notated for these two numbers and he presented a very suitable entrance for each character. Also, he did not use every character who made an entrance at this point in the 1890 production; for example, in the 1890 production, when Puss-in-Boots entered, he was followed by his master, the Marquis of Carabas, who was seated on a sedan chair, and the six fairies from the Prologue also attended the wedding; they didn't make an appearance here, but Carabosse and the Lilac Fairy did. Ratmansky also used some characters who didn't appear in the 1890 production, who must've appeared in Diaghaliev's production, and I think they were Ali-Baba and his two wives and Aladdin and the Princess.

The divertissements were splendidly presented in their notated forms; the Precious Jewels Pas de quatre was wonderfully fast and musical and the four dancers danced extremely well, although it seemed that the Sapphire Fairy was having a bit of a rough time... she didn't look entirely comfortable, but she still maintained a fast speed like the Gold and Silver Fairies beside her. Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat were felinely funny, poor Little Red Riding Hood hopelessly attempted to escape from the Big Bad Wolf, Cinderella and Prince Fortune danced a very pleasant character dance and Hop 'o' My Thumb and his brothers were very lucky to escape from the Ogre. I believe that Ratmansky choreographed the dance for Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf because this dance is not notated and the dance he presented was very pleasant and funny.

The big highlight of the divertissements for me was the Bluebird Pas de deux with Nicola Del Freo as the Bluebird and Agnese Di Clemente as Princess Florine. The whole point of the Bluebird Pas de deux is that Princess Florine has been locked in a tower by her jealous stepmother and her Prince has been turned into a bluebird by a wicked fairy after refusing to marry Florine's ugly stepsister. So he visits Florine in her tower and in this pas de deux, he's trying to help her escape from her prison by teaching her how to fly. This certainly shows in the way Ratmansky has staged the pas de deux; the narrative is very clear and I really love the interaction between the two characters.

The style in which Ratmansky has staged Petipa's choreography really does have a lot of advantages because it gives some really great effects and the variation of the Bluebird is one such example. In his opening section, when performing his jumps, rather than having both legs straight, his knees are bent and the effect was amazing because it looked like Del Freo was defying gravity for much longer than a couple of seconds; it was incredible! Del Freo performed the Bluebird wonderfully; Enrico Cecchetti's role has been done a lot of justice here.

Agnese Di Clemente was delightful as Princess Florine; her variation was beautifully danced and how wonderfully musical it was too. The tempo to which Di Clemente danced was spot on.

And finally, the Wedding Pas de deux and again, Ratmansky has done this pas de deux a lot of justice. The narrative has been restored with the use of mime between Desire and Aurora, which is often absent. Desire and Aurora actually mime to one another during the adage, first with Aurora miming to Desire "I will dance with you" and Desire follows by miming to Aurora "I love you and will marry you" and then later, Aurora mimes to Desire "I love you and will marry you". They declare their love for one another and where Aurora usually performs a penchee arabesque supported by Desire, they simply embrace instead, which is very Petipa. So we have a lovely amount of intimacy in the adage between Aurora and Desire, which makes perfect sense because it's a wedding and they're the bride and groom. Ratmansky also added the fish dives from Diaghilev's production, which I was fine with, but again, I wouldn't have missed them if he hadn't used them.

How excited I was to see the Nikolai Legat variation for Prince Desire - I love this variation! It's much more difficult than the traditional version danced today and for his début in this production, Marco Agostino performed this variation extremely well. Oh how I would love to see my favourite dancers like Vladimir Shklyarov, Leonid Sarafanov, Thiago Soares, Steven McRae, Freidemann Vogel and others performing this variation! It's one that truly showcases male technique.

Nicoletta Manni performed Aurora's variation beautifully, the coda was a joy and finally, the finale and apotheosis. It's such a shame that Ratmansky could not restore the original apotheosis, but he still followed the concept of bringing all the characters together. I also really liked how here, we are actually shown Desire and Aurora joined in marriage by the King, which we didn't see in Vikharev's staging. Down came the curtain and in came the applause from the audience, who I can safely say, enjoyed themselves.

Well as you can see, I had quite a lot to say about this one! Lol!! Ratmansky has again proved he's the best person to reconstruct Petipa. He did a great job at filling in all the blank spaces in the notation and his strong storytelling abilities really attributed to restoring Sleeping Beauty to its former glory. I have no doubt that Petipa would have also taken strong approaches to the storytelling. I am so happy I was able to experience his reconstruction of one of my favourite ballets. I will say, however, that the only thing I was disappointed about was the scenery designs; they were not the strongest designs to use I think. I did, however, like the costumes; Richard Hudson really did design some beautiful costumes based on Leon Bakst's for Diaghilev's production. But in all honesty, I do wish that Ratmansky had used the original 1890 scenery and costume designs, but he had his reasons for not using them and I won't hold it against him. It would be really wonderful if one day, we did see Ratmansky's staging of the reconstructed choreography staged with the original 1890 scenery and costume designs; the picture of such a reconstruction is a real heavenly image.

Overall, I loved this reconstruction and I really hope Ratmansky's plan is to reconstruct all the ballets in the Sergeyev Collection because I know he would do them a lot of justice. Massive congratulations to Alexei Ratmansky and the dancers of La Scala; hopefully next year, I will have the pleasure and honour of attending his Swan Lake reconstruction.

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What a lovely review, Amy! Isn't Maria Celeste Losa delightful? I am glad you had a lot to say because it was a pleasure to read your thoughts.

Thanks Nick, glad you liked it! :)

And yes, Maria Celeste Losa is delightful; I really enjoyed her performance as the Lilac Fairy.

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I liked this production when I saw it with ABT but also was disappointed with the scenic effects--the transformation of the castle at rhe end of Act I especially held little magic. I gather some of the scenery, like the costumes, was based on Bakst...but that knowledge doesn't help...

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I liked this production when I saw it with ABT but also was disappointed with the scenic effects--the transformation of the castle at rhe end of Act I especially held little magic. I gather some of the scenery, like the costumes, was based on Bakst...but that knowledge doesn't help...

Yes I think it was all based on Bakst's designs; definitely not as spectacular as the scenery designs from Vikharev's reconstruction, which were the original 1890 designs. But still, it didn't ruin the beauty of the choreography.

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