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Bolshoi's Giselle: June 2016.


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Hello everyone!

First of all allow me to apologize for delaying my updates on the Mariinsky White Nights Festival, but I will post my experiences gradually. My return to Miami has been full of life events-(all of them happy, BTW)-but time and energy consuming.

I had the most amazing but really exhausting trip to Russia, which I divided in between Moscow and SP. Both cities were AMAZING, but SP was really like a fairy tale. The opulence of the palaces and churches has no comparisson with anything I've seen before, and the architecture of the city is just magnificent. There was so much to see that I really couldn't cover all of it, although I was able to visit the most important landmarks-(churches, palaces, monasteries and cemeteries). One of my most cherished memories was a visit with a dear old friend to the Alexander Nevsky monastery and cemetery, which has the burial sites of Petipa and Tchaikovsky, along with many others-(Dostoyevsky, Borodin, Rimsky Korsakov from the top of my head). At the Novodevichy monastery/cemetery in Moscow I also visited many burial sites, among them Mme Ulanova and Mme. Bessmertnova. During a visit to the Danilovsky monastery in SP I saw no other than Patriarch Kirill coming out of his limousine.

Now, in Moscow I went to see Giselle, starring Anna Nikulina-(Principal)- and Andrei Merkuriev-(Leading Soloist). I will be talking about the theater in its appropriate thread, for which it deserves some analysis. About the ballet production, well...this is Grigorovich, which seems to be the Bible of Russian Ballet in the city. I'm not particularly fond of this productions-(I had seen his Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and Bayadere before), and now Giselle, which seem to be better treated than the others. From the top of my head I remember not being very impressed at either Nikulina or Merkuriev. They executed the choreo without any major incident, although it really lacked luster or excitement. One thing I remember, and this is GENERALLY SPEAKING from all the orchestras and directors of every theater I went in Russia-(4 in total)-is the generalized tendency of their conductors to over slow the tempi to either accomodate dancers' abilities or to feed an over indulgence in the display their famous "lines" and poses. This results many times in a not too appealing breaking of the musical memento, which I firmly believe is an ESENTIAL part of the theater experience. For instance...during the peasant pdd, the female variation's music ough to be fast and crispy-(I always take the 60's film of Fracci/Bruhn as the perfect reference)-but not in Moscow. Something else I noticed is the way the conductors hold last accords at infinitum to wait for an overly prepared and delayed landing after a triple tour en l'air, for instance. It is visible that the dancer doesn't make too many efforts to go along the music. It happens the other way around. The conductor follows the dancers AT ALL TIMES, and in my book, I can tell the ability of a REAL MUSICAL DANCER by the way he or she interacts with the music.

What else...oh, there was an interesting touch during Act II. During the time when Albrecht is following Giselle in the forest and she showers him with lillies, the Bolshoi positioned her on top of a prop/tree that bent towards him, and from up there she dropped the flowers. Many years ago I saw an almost exact silent B/W clip during a visit to the Jerome Robbins dance collection, which showed Alonso, in the late 40's while at BT, on top of a similar prop being filmed from the opposite wing.

Another minus from the Russian productions-(not only Grigorovich, but also at the Mariinsky)-is the cutting of the music during Berthe's mime of the premonition of her daughter's death. ABT has it all, as well as MCB. This is a powerful mime segment that should ALWAYS be kept.

Something I also don't understand is why the Russians keep Albrecht out of sight during Giselle's Pas Seul. It is usually a very nice touching when the ballerinas look at him during the sautees on pointe, and some of them-(the most technically secure)- even blow him kisses with abandon.

On the brighter side, there is the magnificent Corps. They are THE REAL STARS of the Russian Ballet. They are absolutely fantastic...and they dance with an almost military uniformity.

One of the segments I always enjoy from the Russian productions of Giselle is Hilarion's death. In many companies this sequence has musical cuts, but the Russians keep it intact, with all the repetitions, and as I said...watching their phenomenal diagnonal of Rockettes-like willis in that huge stage was really a feast for the eyes.

Ok...so in general, the DANCING is not what has stayed in my mind from being at the Bolshoi's Giselle. It is rather the opulent surroundings...the production, the orchestra sounds, but more than all that... the amazing feeling of sharing such magical moment in such unique place with a very dear friend.

More to come in other threads... ;-)

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Your trip sounds wonderful! Looking forward to reading more about it when you have the chance.

And it sounds as if Giselle was, despite some weaknesses, also just a wonderful experience. When a great corps de ballet is 'on' in a great ballet--well, they can indeed be the star of the show.

St. Petersburg is like a fairy tale (for a visitor anyway).

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