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Legenda o Lyubvi at the Bolshoi - 13 December 2015


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Hi there seasoned membership - would like to share my experience with you. After discovering that I have been shortchanged in London in Paris for the last 30+ years I took it upon myself with a vengeance to see proper classical ballet in Russia and this was my 5th trip to Russia this year, the third to the Bolshoi the other two being to the Mariinsky. As some of you may know relations between Turkey and RF soured last month due to an incident at the Syrian border. The RF government revoked the visa exemption for Turkish citizens effective 1st January but in the meantime has been refusing entry to many Turks going to Russia as tourists. So it was against this backdrop that I took off without a visa on the early morning flight from Istanbul last Sunday on a mission to see Svetlana Zakharova as Queen Banu in Legenda o Lyubvi which I understand is generally regarded as Grigorovich's supreme creation, shortly after his arrival at the Bolshoi in the early Sixties.

I have been attending a Russian language course in my hometown Istanbul for some months now so I memorised what I should say to the passport officer in Russian to explain myself upon arrival. I had prepared and printed out everything including a copy of my ticket mailed from my hotel. The young lady officer was very polite and told me to sit down and wait and took my passport to the back office and within 10 minutes was back with good news. I must say on all of my trips to Russia so far I have been treated nicely and warmly by anyone and everyone I have met. So after checking in at the hotel and a quick nap and dressing up in a black evening suit I was at the Bolshoi half an hour before curtain up to enjoy a drink at their spacious café-bar on the top floor.

Opening the program I discover to my horror that once again Sveta has jilted me (!) and is off having been replaced by Masha Allash (an eminent Myrtha !) as Banu. The cast sheet was overwritten by hand so must have been a very late casting change, and there was also an announcement before curtain up. I had never seen Legenda as it is not on the repertory of Western European companies as far as I know. Once the initial shock of the absence of Sveta wore off the performance was enjoyable. Shirin was Anna Nikulina and I finally clicked with her on this third time seeing her live (previously as Odette/odile and Giselle) and really appreciated her characterisation and technique. The CdB was excellent as always, but the story was barely discernible from the choreo. if at all - I totally believe any performing arts work must have a story to tell which in ballet the audience hopefully can discern and relate to without having to read the synopsis every now and then. I did not read the synopsis on purpose but like most people living in the Near East I know the basic story of "Farkhad-wa-Shirin" which the great Turkish writer Nazim Hikmet made into a play and later worked with Grigorovich for the libretto of Legenda. My standard test question is : would anyone seeing this ballet be able to make out and relate to the story (as imho in Giselle or Bayadere) without reading or being told what it is all about ? For this ballet my answer would be a firm "Nyet" !

The choreo. and general spectacle quite impressive if you are not bent on searching for the story ..... especially considering what passes for "ballet" these days. I thought the ensemble scenes bore a striking resemblance to "Spartak" which I had seen before so that must be Grigorovich's work too which turned out to be a correct guess upon looking up later - I presume this would be called his "style". The music of Arif Melikov not on par with Prokofiev's R&J but again enjoyable and at times quite evocative for Orientals like myself ! The combined artistic + athletic performance of the soloists and the CdB was once again something which can only be found in Russia - nothing I have seen in London and Paris over the past 30+ years comes close let alone match it. I will try to post what I have seen on the previous four visits under a separate heading, but let me just say for now write down this name : Renata Shakirova ! Saw her as Kitri at Mariinsky last month, incredible talent imho, graduated this year from Vaganova and had her debut as Kitri I think only in October which is on Youtube.

I would have liked to attach the synopsis and castsheet of Legenda as pdf file but could not work out how to do it. Maybe the moderators can give me a hand ??

Note from Helene: Here it is -- thank you so much! (Click to enlarge):

post-3390-0-37976800-1450213572_thumb.jp post-3390-0-03689600-1450213586_thumb.jp post-3390-0-30381500-1450213600_thumb.jp post-3390-0-24456200-1450213616_thumb.jp post-3390-0-58215700-1450215548_thumb.jp

(Click to download .pdf)

Bolshoi Legenda o Lyubi 13DEC2015.pdf

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Hello, mnacenani, and welcome to Ballet Alert! I'm glad you're visa went through!

Only Admins can post attachments, but if you email the .pdf as an attachment to our Contact Us address at the top of the page, we can add it to your post.

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Hi mnacenani, enjoyed reading your thoughts on Legend of Love, but there is an aspect of the story that has always puzzled me and I am hoping that as you've read the Turkish original you may be able to explain it. Why does 'the stranger' demand that Banu must lose her beauty in exchange for her sister's recovery? She pretty well promises him anything he desires but all he wants is to take her looks away.

None of the programme notes I've read explains exactly why, is there a clue in the original poem?

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Hi Mashinka. To my mind the stranger's demand that Banu trade her beauty for her sister's recovery is a fundamental element of the plot as it introduces a psychological reason for the ensuing behaviour of Banu : she has saved her sister only for her to capture the heart of Banu's beloved Farkhad who otherwise might have fallen for Banu. Hell hath no fury like a woman who has been upstaged by her younger sister ...... and no man could be as cruel towards another man as a woman can be towards another woman (!)

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Thanks for your post about Legend of Love. Also: I saw some video of Shakirova's Kitri--I think you are lucky you got to see that performance live.

I find that going through border patrol even when the political situation is not fraught can be kind of nerve wracking! Glad you got through smoothly.

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Drew glad to hear that you found my post somewhat interesting. Will try to post my Mariinsky visits notes asap with link to Shakirova's clip on Youtube. I am a ballet "student" not an expert but I believe it would not take anyone with some "sensitivity" for it more than 15 seconds to spot great talent. I firmly believe Shakirova will hit big time quite soon.

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