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The Bronze Horseman

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The schedule of ballets for Mariinsky Festival 2016 has now been put up on the Mariinsky website, and opening the Festival on 31st March is Yuri Smekalov's new production of The Bronze Horseman, followed by two further performances of the ballet on 2nd and 3rd April. There is no casting yet. I am SO disappointed. I have only seen extracts of the original staging and I was looking forward to seeing the reconstruction of this ballet: now we will get an entirely new version. Why would the Mariinsky management do this? There are so many great, historic ballets in its repertoire that need to be seen, and so many reconstructions that would really benefit the repertoire as a whole and the dancers. Why a modern adaptation of The Bronze Horseman? Doesn't the Mariinsky management care about its great heritage of ballets?

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The schedule of ballets for Mariinsky Festival 2016 has now been put up on the Mariinsky website, and opening the Festival on 31st March is Yuri Smekalov's new production of The Bronze Horseman, followed by two further performances of the ballet on 2nd and 3rd April. There is no casting yet. I am SO disappointed. I have only seen extracts of the original staging and I was looking forward to seeing the reconstruction of this ballet: now we will get an entirely new version. Why would the Mariinsky management do this? There are so many great, historic ballets in its repertoire that need to be seen, and so many reconstructions that would really benefit the repertoire as a whole and the dancers. Why a modern adaptation of The Bronze Horseman? Doesn't the Mariinsky management care about its great heritage of ballets?

How much of the ballet is reconstructable?

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Will the Gliere score be used? That would be one saving grace, as would be traditional realistic sets & costumes. Maybe Smelalov will lace his staging with the known bits of Zakharov's original choreography, as some segments are preserved on film? More than Smekalov, I fear the eschewing of Gliere's tuneful score for a dissonant modern score by Desiatnikov and/or minimalist El Cheapo designs a-la Ratmansky LHH.

Edited to add: It was hard to find on the mobile Mariinski site but the Gliere music will be used (yeah!) and the costumes will be created by Tatyana Noginova, who Is the genius behind the gorgeous old-fashioned outfits in many of Sergei Vikharev's new-old ballets. So there is hope that this will be a gorgeous traditional production in many respects. It will be presented in the new Mariinsky, so I'd expect some amazing special effects for the flood scene.

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At the Mariinsky press conference in Japan in November, Fateev spoke about the Bronze Horseman. He said that Smekalov will create the choreography with respect to the original Zakharov one, trying as much as possible to preserve it and to be true to the Pushkin libretto. The costumes and scenery, sets are a new production. He did not mention about the music.

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Thanks, Naomikage! Between what you reveal and what I've just posted above (findings on the mobile site), this sounds like a winner! Now...who may be a perfect Parasha, the quintessential Russian country-girl sweetheart? Who will be the hero, Yevgeny? I know who I'd like to see but he's not yet a principal...almost! Not-so-subtle clue:

http://www.mariinsky.ru/en/company/ballet/first_soloists/dancers2/yermakov/

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Thanks, Naomikage! Between what you reveal and what I've just posted above (findings on the mobile site), this sounds like a winner! Now...who may be a perfect Parasha, the quintessential Russian country-girl sweetheart? Who will be the hero, Yevgeny? I know who I'd like to see but he's not yet a principal...almost! Not-so-subtle clue:

http://www.mariinsky.ru/en/company/ballet/first_soloists/dancers2/yermakov/

I agree that I too would like to see Yermakov get the role, but the odds are that he probably won't get it. I think I can guess who Parasha will be on opening night. I'll be surprised if it's not she.

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I was thinking the same, Cygnet...ha ha! Well, Parasha is a simple country girl - not at all aristocratic - so it may work. :) My secret wishes for Parasha casting are Katya Osmolkina or Svetlana Ivanova. (Obraztsova would have been PERFECT!) I'd love to see zippy technical whizzes Valeria Martinyuk and Ernest Latypov in the Harlequins pdd at the carnival. Queen of the Ball? Lopatkina! That would be the "cameo" of the Festival. Peter the Great...who else but Vladimir Ponomaryev!

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Thanks, Naomikage! Between what you reveal and what I've just posted above (findings on the mobile site), this sounds like a winner! Now...who may be a perfect Parasha, the quintessential Russian country-girl sweetheart? Who will be the hero, Yevgeny? I know who I'd like to see but he's not yet a principal...almost! Not-so-subtle clue:

http://www.mariinsky.ru/en/company/ballet/first_soloists/dancers2/yermakov/

I don't see Ermakov in this role. Actually I think both Zverev and Stepin are far better dancers and far more deserving of principal status. The 2005 Vaganova graduation review by Catherine Pawlick is interesting:

http://www.ballet-dance.com/200507/articles/Vaganova20050606.html

Clearly Zverev was considered higher level since he was given Katya Osmolkina to partner in Bayadere. He has such elegance and panache on stage. Filipp Stepin also has some of the best technique in the company and in his graduation, he danced Markitenka and the pas d'esclave from Corsaire. Ermakov danced a modern number rather than Desire or Bluebird. I think both Zverev and Stepin would be better choices for The Bronze Horseman, with Shklyarov third choice.

As for the choice of Smekalov to reinvent The Bronze Horseman, I do think it was strange to entrust this production to him, since he has no great full length ballets to recommend him as a choice, and actually the only piece he choreographed that I even liked was Parting - only a few minutes long. Why did Mariinsky not use Vikharev, who has made several good reconstructions? Zakharov was a great choreographer and the production of his Bronze Horseman is being entrusted to someone relatively inexperienced. I just think it is awful and I hope Smekalov does not "modernise" it too much.

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Past Yevgenys include the originator, Konstantin Sergeyev (w/ Dudinskaya, the 1st Parasha), Boris Bregvadze (2nd cast with Shelest), and Sergei Berezhnoi (seen in the film with Kolpakova). Ermakov and Schklyarov seem to be "he-man heroes" of choice at the MT nowadays, although Mme P's suggestions would be fantastic too.

Wasn't Smekalov involved in the recent Laurencia recon for the Academy? I know that he's done smaller-scaled recons of old Soviet ballets before and was traditional/faithful to original intents...he's not a "mucky-muck" like Ratmansky, changing scenarios, changing music, simplifying decors, etc., in other words. Furthermore, Smekalov is listed as second choreographer, after Rotislav Zakharov:

https://www.mariinskykirov.com/performance/The_Bronze_Horseman_/02-April-2016/19:00/3630/

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No - that was Tsiskaridze who was involved in Vaganova's Laurencia. The programme mentions the choreography by Chabukiani and that the person who arranged everything was Tsiskaridze. He bascially took parts of Act 2 of Laurencia and, like Fairy of Dolls, it is called a Suite.

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Smekalov may have assisted NT and, at any rate, had been involved in such restagings in the past. What matters is that BH will be staged primarily following the classic Zakharov original, large parts of which were filmed on at least two occasions...thus, no excuse to not get it right.

BH was, after all, *the* most performed ballet on the Kirov stage in the late 50s/early 60s, even topping Swan Lake in certain years, as per the research by Christina Ezrahi (Swans of the Kremlin, 2012).

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Smekalov may have assisted NT and, at any rate, had been involved in such restagings in the past. What matters is that BH will be staged primarily following the classic Zakharov original, large parts of which were filmed on at least two occasions...thus, no excuse to not get it right.

BH was, after all, *the* most performed ballet on the Kirov stage in the late 50s/early 60s, even topping Swan Lake in certain years, as per the research by Christina Ezrahi (Swans of the Kremlin, 2012).

Do you know which parts of The Bronze Horseman were filmed and Is it possible to see these two filmings anywhere?

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The black & white film (early 1950s, it appears) shows almost all of the Dudinskaya & Sergeyev segments, as well as the AI dance of Columbine/Harlequin. A bit of one of the PDD's appears in the Dudinskaya docum "Dialog on the Stage."

The color film is part of a "Tribute to Pushkin" (ca 1979) featuring several ballets. The BH section includes the lovely "circle dance" of Parasha and her friends, solo for Parasha, the 2nd love adagio, waltz another pdd), and a studio recreation of the flood scene with lots of wind on Berezhnoi's face.

Both of the above were on YouTube at one time but no longer seem to be there, at least not in English titles...maybe still via Cyrillic titles? I have the films from Russian sources but don't know how to upload, sorry.

I know that there also exists an audience-shot silent film of the premiere, which I saw via my husband's family, as Peter I was danced in one of the 1949 casts by Bakanov, my husband's maternal grandad...da! (Poor grandpa's claim to fame was dancing Von Rothbart in the famous 'Masters of Soviet Ballet' film...and being thrown off the high rock by Konstantin Sergeyev.) Bits of that wide-shot audience film are in one of the documentary videos (pre-DVD) that came out in the mid-90s...Story of the Kirov or Glory of the Kirov...forget title of film in which the tiny clip appears.

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W

The black & white film (early 1950s, it appears) shows almost all of the Dudinskaya & Sergeyev segments, as well as the AI dance of Columbine/Harlequin. A bit of one of the PDD's appears in the Dudinskaya docum "Dialog on the Stage."

The color film is part of a "Tribute to Pushkin" (ca 1979) featuring several ballets. The BH section includes the lovely "circle dance" of Parasha and her friends, solo for Parasha, the 2nd love adagio, waltz another pdd), and a studio recreation of the flood scene with lots of wind on Berezhnoi's face.

Both of the above were on YouTube at one time but no longer seem to be there, at least not in English titles...maybe still via Cyrillic titles? I have the films from Russian sources but don't know how to upload, sorry.

I know that there also exists an audience-shot silent film of the premiere, which I saw via my husband's family, as Peter I was danced in one of the 1949 casts by Bakanov, my husband's maternal grandad...da! (Poor grandpa's claim to fame was dancing Von Rothbart in the famous 'Masters of Soviet Ballet' film...and being thrown off the high rock by Konstantin Sergeyev.) Bits of that wide-shot audience film are in one of the documentary videos (pre-DVD) that came out in the mid-90s...Story of the Kirov or Glory of the Kirov...forget title of film in which the tiny clip appears.

Wow! That 50s film would be worth seeing! Do you have any information at all about it - the exact title or date or anything else? It might be possible to trace it somewhere if there is some more information. I would love to see it!

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I'm currently overseas and away from my films, sorry. I wish I had more details or remember how they were titled on YouTube. I have only the Russian versions of both. I'm pretty sure that #1 (the ca-'50 b&w) was simply titled the name of the ballet, so "Medny Vsadnik" in Russian. As you may know, the USSR produced many abridged versions of popular ballets to serve as featurettes in movie theaters. It was a way to take ballet to the masses before TV became the norm.

The second one - Tribute to Pushkin, ca 1979/80 - you may know because portions were shown in an English-narrated edition by Makarova. I have not seen the English version and haven't a clue as to the title....Makarova and Pushkin???? Was it for US or UK audiences???

As for the wide-angle silent movie, it is literally in a can, but I suspect that "grandpa" got it because he was a principal in that production and/or he staged it somewhere...worked throughout USSR after retiring as dancer. My mother-in-law said that the films were made by the theater from a parterre box, so not really pirated per se but not intended for public viewing. I've no doubt that Smekalov et al have access to a copy because these types of silent records were theirs (the theater's). You can see many of these sorts of 'shaky' silent films taken from a side-parterre box, in documentaries of the post-war 40s/50s/60s. I bet that the theater has transferred them from 'cans' to VHS and maybe even DVDs but only for internal use.

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I'm currently overseas and away from my films, sorry. I wish I had more details or remember how they were titled on YouTube. I have only the Russian versions of both. I'm pretty sure that #1 (the ca-'50 b&w) was simply titled the name of the ballet, so "Medny Vsadnik" in Russian. As you may know, the USSR produced many abridged versions of popular ballets to serve as featurettes in movie theaters. It was a way to take ballet to the masses before TV became the norm.

The second one - Tribute to Pushkin, ca 1979/80 - you may know because portions were shown in an English-narrated edition by Makarova. I have not seen the English version and haven't a clue as to the title....Makarova and Pushkin???? Was it for US or UK audiences???

As for the wide-angle silent movie, it is literally in a can, but I suspect that "grandpa" got it because he was a principal in that production and/or he staged it somewhere...worked throughout USSR after retiring as dancer. My mother-in-law said that the films were made by the theater from a parterre box, so not really pirated per se but not intended for public viewing. I've no doubt that Smekalov et al have access to a copy because these types of silent records were theirs (the theater's). You can see many of these sorts of 'shaky' silent films taken from a side-parterre box, in documentaries of the post-war 40s/50s/60s. I bet that the theater has transferred them from 'cans' to VHS and maybe even DVDs but only for internal use.

Thank you for trying to remember the titles and details. Perhaps if anyone else remembers or has any more information, they could post the link here? I would love to see these old films!

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I have just seen the second performance this evening, with Renata Shakirova as Parasha, Philip Stepin as Yevgeny and the indestructible Vladimir Ponomarev as Peter the Great.

The choreography was often perfunctory and the music is pleasant Soviet style, but unexciting. I longed for Prokofiev or Shostakovich to add a bit of sparkle and danger in the orchestra.

The production used all the resources of the Maryinsky 2. The flood scene was quite spectacular with flapping cloths and girls from the corps de ballet performing a kind of Loie Fuller veil dance, to represent the waves. There was significant use of video imaging, for example viewing the Bronze Horseman statue from every conceivable angle and making it look as though the statue was galloping into the audience. This drew significant appreciation from the audience.

There were several back projections of St. Petersburg in the early 1700s and in 1824, including a romantic shoreline view of Vasilievsky Island with a fishing boat and a small church on an offshore island - rather different from today's apartment blocks. These vistas also drew appreciative applause from the audience.

Neither principal had the weight to carry off the piece. Shakirova was bright and charming, but failed to project into the vast space of the Maryinsky 2. Stepin performed the virtuoso elements of the role well, but lacked the maturity and strength of character to convey the mad scenes convincingly. Unfortunately my eye was drawn away from his desperate emotings, by the cavorting of the Bronze Horseman video projections. I longed for a great actor-dancer, such as Rudolf Nureyev or Igor Kolb, to do justice to this role.

Overall I am not sure that this ballet is a very satisfying evening in the theatre, unless it has two great principals to pull it off. The applause petered out after the first curtain call, perhaps reflecting the rather lukewarn impression the evening had made.

The Fountain of Bakhchisarai earlier in the week with Kondaurova as Zarema fared slightly better, although she did not measure up to Lopatkina's towering interpretation in the 1990s.

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Many thanks for posting your impressions, Dorkon, and welcome to Ballet Alert!

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I viewed two performances of The Bronze Horseman. One with Vladimir Shklyarov and Viktoria Tereshkina and another with Konstantin Zverev and Elena Yevseyeva.

For me it seems like a paean to the city of St. Petersburg. The story seems to say that despite some tragedies or angst in people's lives, the great city of St. Petersburg, the idea of Peter the Great, carries on and lovers fall in love ad infinitum.

It is a very nice and lovely ballet based completely on the classical ballet idiom. I don't believe there was one modern step in the entire ballet, although I could be wrong. However, despite the lovely dancing and the pretty music there is really no scene in it that moves me the way Swan Lake Act 1 Scene 2 does. But it is charming and entertaining.

In Act 1 character and folk dancing dominates. I do enjoy character and folk dancing, so it did not bother me, but someone who does not like that type of dancing would have been bored. There is a show called "Feel Yourself Russian" available when you go to St. Petersburg. It is a night of Russian folk dancing. I have actually never attended one of those events, but I imagine it to be somewhat like what I saw in Act 1 of Bronze Horseman.

Act 2 has a lovely pas de deux for Eugene and Parasha.

Act 3 has a great flood scene (I agree with Dorkon above) which demonstrates how good old fashioned stagecraft can be just as exciting and spectacular as today's movies with their reliance on computer graphics. It also has a great mad scene for Eugene. To me this ballet is a great one for the male dancers who take it on......this mad scene requires acrobatics and acting.

I thought Zverev was fabulous as Eugene. He was very elegant in his mannerisms and how he holds himself. His dancing was no less elegant which made his descent into madness all the more poignant. I notice that Diana Vishneva uses him a lot in St. Petersburg whenever she can. She seems to want to help his career. I hope he gets the recognition he deserves b/c usually he is stuck as Rothbart or Abderakhman, neither of which show off his strengths (elegance).

Anyway, a very nice ballet. Not one of the best, but anyone who loves St. Petersburg would enjoy seeing this. It is like an ode to the city.

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It's interesting to me that the Mikhailovsky is also doing a (very different) ballet based on Pushkin's poem this season.

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To the above review, I would like to add that Filipp Stepin and Renata Shakirova also gave lovely performances in this ballet. Shakirova is very young and also has a particularly sweet, expressive face and I think she was ideally cast as Parasha. I think her partnership with Filipp Stepin is promising and their interaction was very touching, especially in their act 2 pas de deux. I liked her very much and technically she is very able, with good turns, and soft jump. The principal male role in this ballet clearly can only be danced by an outstanding dancer of dramatic as well as technical ability - and certainly Filipp Stepin was well cast. He is a fine actor, greatly underrated internationally in my opinion since in Mariinsky company today, he is probably the cleanest academic dancer, with particularly beautiful lines and flow of movement. The first cast Shklyarov now is leaving the company, so I very much hope Stepin will be promoted to principal.

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