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XVIII Mariinsky International Ballet Festival 2018

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Once again, what the Festival finally distilled down to was the interest, worthiness and enjoyment of the material and the excellence of the artists. If some of it seemed like “the same ol’ same ol’,” the same artists doing what they’ve often done before, well, at the  Mariinsky that’s still just fine. But, it was much more. These artists grow. 

I would honestly say that everyone that I’ve seen do the same or similar performances before was better. In addition to those whom I've mentioned in my previous post, there were many others. This  began with Viktoria Tereshkina and Olesya Novikova doing as well as I’ve seen them do in the ‘restored’ Sleeping Beauty, which in these presentations was a highly interesting, often successful and very beautiful attempt at doing something differently. 

I’ve now seen Yekaterina Osmolkina dance Giselle four times. She did it two years ago at the Festival and this year she was even more artistically commanding. She has a fine and subtle theatrical ability and she’s one of the most beautifully moving beings at the Mariinsky. She’s a petite woman who can sometimes pass by less noticed than others who are more ‘flamboyant’, but she’s a giant of subtle beauty who I feel can hold her own in anything that the Mariinsky presents. And she was partnered very well this year by the charismatic Marcelo Gomes.

Yekaterina Kondaurova, partnered by Timur Askerov in Swan Lake, and Maria Alexandrova, partnered by the brilliant Vladislav Lantratov in Don Quixote, during large parts of their performances reached levels of theatrical artistry that were the finest that I’ve ever seen on a ballet stage. Yekaterina Kondaurova is showing many similarities to the Bolshoi’s (Vaganova graduate) Super-Ballerina, Olga Smirnova. Both are capable of performing most anything. In addition, Yekaterina Kondaurova remains untouchable in her command of modern and ‘alternative choices’ dancing.  

Nadezhda Batoeva and Renata Shakirova were two of my sentimental favorites. They’re young, alive, loveable and so very talented. Nadezhda Batoeva, partnered by the princely Xander Parish, debuted her Swan Lake, the ‘pinnacle’ of ballet, as if she’d been doing it all her life. Renata Shakirova, partnered by the amazing Kimin Kim in Don Quixote, was an absolute joy. She also showed in the Act I Giselle duet that she has fine grace and subtlety. Both these lovely and exceptional artists are well on their way to outstanding and highly beautiful horizons.     

Edited by Buddy
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Thank you very much, Gnossie.

These performances over the years have become one of the joys of my life. They are beautiful poetry and dreams. It’s a pleasure to experience and share them. When I write about them I try to do so in response to my heart. 

Could I add a few more thoughts. This year’s Festival did not necessarily have a ‘super-star’ like last year —- Olga Smirnova. It came very close at times with Yekaterina Kondaurova’s Swan Lake and Maria Alexandrova’s and Vladislav Lantratov’s Don Quixote. These performances, like Olga Smirnova's, were a combination of the finest poetry of motion and dramatic expression. I would hope to see her return, ideally on a regular basis, as did Alina Cojocaru. I consider her to be one of the best on the scene today -- perhaps one of the best ever. If the Mariinsky needs a justification, well, she's a graduate of its own school, an example of its highest standards, always a 'St. Petersburg girl'in her own words and one who also carries the art form magnificently into high theater and artistic exploration.

What the Festival and the Mariinsky always have is Dreamscape. Last year Yekaterina Osmolkina was perhaps its finest example. This year she was again along with the returning Oxana Skorik and Alina Somova. And there are many others such as Maria Shirinkina. Nadezhda Batoeva and Renata Shakirova are standing on the doorsteps. May Nagahisa is just emerging. And the very young, Vaganova graduate, Alyona Kovalyova, may become the Bolshoi's next response. I'd love to see her at future Festivals. They all represent the finest in artistic, ethereal beauty. 

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Maybe I could add one more thought since I’ve mentioned Olga Smirnova and Alyona Kovalyova. This is something that’s not gone unnoticed at the Forum and something that I’ve felt for a long time. Between the Mariinsky and the Bolshoi, it would seem that the Bolshoi possibly has the Top Stars — Svetlana Zakharova and Olga Smirnova. And Alyona Kovalyova may soon be recognized as such. Yet where do they come from and whom do they resemble? For me, Svetlana Zakharova and Olga Smirnova are a fine blend of the two companies, while Alyona Kovalyova is almost pure Mariinsky. They all had roots at the Vaganova-Mariinsky. And from a personal standpoint most of my favorites at the Bolshoi have had strong Mariinsky resemblances starting with Svetlana Lunkina up to Anna Nikulina.

Below Very Top Star level I would say that the Mariinsky has a remarkable depth.

So what does it all mean? For me, more trips to Moscow if at all possible unless they come to the Festival, which Olga Smirnova wonderfully did last year. Yet the Mariinsky is perhaps the Heart of this phenomenon, which I’ll always want to experience as much as possible. The Bolshoi is perhaps the Soul. 

But....I'll hasten to add, whom do I watch most on the internet. Oxana Skorik. For one thing Olga Smirnova for some reason doesn't come over as well for me on tape. Still there's more to it than that. Whom would I make a special trip to see? Probably Olga Smirnova. I really do love them both as artists.

Edited by Buddy
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7 hours ago, Buddy said:

So what does it all mean? For me, more trips to Moscow if at all possible unless they come to the Festival,

Dear Buddy - do join me at the Bolshoy next season. You will soon discover that you get more bang for your bucks there. You'll get "good vibrations", electricity of a kind which simply does not exist at Mariinka. Come over and see for yourself !!

(PS - the only thing attractive at Mariinka for me is that you can see more ballets over a number of days than at the Bolshoy, which you may value as you live far away. I will make 3 trips to Moscow between 20th April and 12th May - I live "close by" and don't mind)

Edited by mnacenani
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Thanks, Mnacenani, for the suggestion. Over my fifteen years or so of ballet watching I’ve generally favored the Mariinsky. I like the slight stylistic difference and I love the Festivals. I always wanted to visit Moscow during the Festivals, but I was waiting for both the fast train and then the theater to be completed. It took quite a while. Often there isn’t anything that I really want to see at the Bolshoi when I’m in St. Petersburg and ticket availability is somewhat of an effort. Ticketing is excellent at the Mariinsky.  

I finally got to Moscow several years ago and I really enjoyed it. I like the city very much and the performances (La Bayadere) were excellent. I’ve never seen the Bolshoi, from top to bottom, do better. And you are correct. There was an electricity, especially for the main star that I saw, Zvetlana Zakharova. Now, with Olga Smirnova and Alyona Kovalyova at the theater I’ll make every effort possible to be there. I’ll probably only be in Europe once a year for awhile, but I’ll certainly try to tie Moscow into my Festival visits or go there direct. I’ll also try to catch both companies when on tour, especially in the US.

As I’ve said, I do tend to favor the Mariinsky ‘style,’ even its resemblances at the Bolshoi.  And I must say that the ballerinas that I saw did have Mariinsky resemblances. They were Svetlana Zakharova, Anna Nikulina and Ekaterina Krysanova, who does have a wonderful dreamlike manner when she choses. But the excellent performances that I saw in Moscow showed the Bolshoi ‘style’ at its finest.

One of the big differences for me is this. With the Mariinsky I sense a dreamlike flow. With the Bolshoi it’s the portrayal. For example, Olga Smirnova’s beauty of motion is undeniable, but her expression and portrayal are outstanding. Oxana Skorik, on the other hand, is pure beauty of motion, which I love, perhaps most. This is the essence of ballet, for me. Yet the Bolshoi does its more theatrical approach so remarkably well that I have to consider it with equal admiration and enjoyment.

This year Yekaterina Kondaurova entered Bolshoi waters somewhat. I’ve often commented on her exceptional portrayal and expressive abilities, which it seems she uses very selectively, so that it can be missed by many. But when I call her the Garbo of ballet, I mean just that. Her first act of Swan Lake was a theatrical masterpiece. She’s probably the best at this at the Mariinsky as she is in versatility. When doing this, she could be the Mariinsky’s best connection to the Bolshoi’s dramatic prowess.

To continue with the Festival for a moment, I always have to mention the absolutely wonderful Corps de Ballet. It did great this year, as usual. And there were so many excellent supporting performances that I would hardly know where to begin.

I would like to briefly touch on May Nagahisa, "Trainee," because she's new to the scene, but seems to be ascending rapidly. I put her in a grouping with Yekaterina Osmolkina and Maria Shirinkina, petite and dreamlike. I appreciated her two brief appearances very much. Weight might become as issue, for me. She's extremely thin. I hope that she doesn't go over the edge. I also believe that MadameP found her arms to be somewhat stiff in comparison to the lovely flow of Maria Shirinkina. I partially agree, but they also have a beautiful expression and articulation, which, for me, makes it all work very well. And she has a fairylike aura that I found to be captivating. 

If anyone has an artist or work at the Festival that they would like to hear more about, I’ll try to respond.  

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It’s a week later

New worlds, new realities

Yet, in the back of my mind something’s still dancing, something’s still warmly embracing 

Dance — our poetry without words

Life continues to dance through our senses

The sun floats across the horizon, the stars twinkle in the sky

Artists will always try to capture its beauty, it’s illusive

But it’s always there to embrace — somewhere, somehow. 

Edited by Buddy
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A Trip Down Memory Lane

“Come with me
To the sea
To the sea 
The sea of love”

Oxana Skorik —  Her feather-light profile of dancing air was all that I could have asked for.  Swan Lake, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act II Duet  2018

The Fairy Doll — The Half Little Children Audience — * Precious ! *   2018

Olga Smirnova  — La Bayadere  2017  I believe that about half the comments that I posted from that Festival were about her.  

Ulyana Lopatkina   Swan Lake  2006  — Probably the most purely beautiful dance performance that I’ve ever seen.  

Alina Cojocaru  The Alinas.  “Is That Really Her?”  “Did She Really Do That?”  Year after year. "Time after time".

Svetlana Zakharova  —  Giselle 2013 —  I wrote that this was ‘possibly the best performance of Anything!’ that I’ve ever seen. 

Alina Somova   The Swan (Fokine)  2014  — Her finest hour ! 

Veronika Part   2014   “I don’t know where, but she sends me there!”   She did some Gala Divertissement as only she can do. It was just great to finally see her on the Mariinsky stage and at the Festival no less.

Yekaterina Osmolkina     “Sail on Sailor”  Giselle 2018, 2016 and on and on….

Yekaterina Kondaurova   Swan Lake 2011  —  The first time that I realized that she could do anything.   Jewels 2013 —- And then she went and did it — all the leads in one evening. 

Diana Vishneva   Cinderella (excerpt) (Ratmansky) 2006?   I saw her do the whole thing in DC in 2004 — twice. It’s the first time I ever went “Wow!” at a ballet performance. 

Yulia Makhalina    To see this incredibly beautiful legend on stage was a dream come true. Most of the time she looked as young as ever. 2013  Marguerite and Armand(?) (excerpt)

Olga Esina   Swan Lake  2013   I thought that this would be the beginning of an amazing career for her at the Mariinsky. I’d been watching and hoping since the first time that I saw her. That didn’t happen, but I believe that she’s still the Queen of Vienna. 

The Big Apple  — The Land of Balanchine  —  Always had fun when these guys showed up and paid tribute to where it all started. As much as I love the Mariinsky’s interpretations, it’s great to see ‘The Real Thing.’

“You put your right foot in
You put your right foot out…
That’s what it’s all about”

Maria Kowroski   The evening before her performance they gave her the front box to sit in. They didn't need lighting that evening. With Damian Woetzel -- The Prodigal Son   Year?

Teresa Reichlen   Prodigal Son 2012   What a delight she turned that work into.  

Ashley Bouder   Doing 'The Villella' -- Tarantella 2011   I don't think that the Mariinsky ever saw anything like that before. Probably never will.

And then there's the rest of NYC.

Gillian Murphy  2008 The Year of the Swans (six Swan Lakes at one Festival) I've always maintained that the Festivals bring out the best in anyone. This was the second in a string of her Swan Lakes that I saw. She just grew and grew. I used to keep what was almost a score card comparing her's and Veronika Part's Swan Lakes.

Hee Seo   Giselle 2014  Sleeping Beauty 2016  I'd like to think that it didn't matter that she came from the States. She put her heart out there and she was pure poetry.

Ballet Imperial 2008  "I did it my way."  Probably the first time that I felt that the Mariinsky could excel at Balanchine. 

Le Parc (Preljocaj)  I felt that the way that the Mariinsky interpreted this was magical.  Year?

Gala for Gennady Selyutsky  2112   I got out of bed after several hours of sleep to retype the entire program so that it could be seen on the internet.

A memory that lingers  --  A little girl walking down the streets of this frozen capital, her arms smilingly, flyingly danced through the air.

One of the last evenings of one of the Festivals there was a near full moon and over the hotel music system came....

"Moon river, wider than a mile
I'm crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you're goin', I'm goin' your way
Two drifters, off to see the world
There's such a lot of world to see
We're after the same rainbow's end, waitin' 'round the bend
My huckleberry friend, moon river, and me"

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34 minutes ago, Jayne said:

You’re not Apollo, I assure you Le Parc leaves many viewers cold. 

Had to sit through this at Mariinka last year - there was no interval and many people just walked out mid-performance. However, if it had been his "New York Pieces" which Mezzo livecast from Montpellier Festival last June I would probably have left "feet first" !  :speechless-smiley-003::speechless-smiley-003:

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1 hour ago, Jayne said:

You’re not Apollo, I assure you Le Parc leaves many viewers cold. 

I have to agree. I had seen it on video and  decided I would see it "live" once to give it a chance, on the basis that maybe video just did not do it justice.  WRONG.  I saw Batoeva "live" in this at Mariinsky and honestly, much as I love Nadia, I could not wait for it to be finished.  At least the Mozart is wonderful though...

Edited by MadameP
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Someone who’s resurfaced from my recent video viewing is Alina Somova. She’s performing the last act duet from The Sleeping Beauty with Xander Parish at this year’s Gala.

Oxana Skorik replaced her in my Festival memories because she did an entire Swan Lake in addition to her Gala excerpt. Yet Alina Somova’s appearance was just as beautiful.

Alina Somova is much harder to categorize. She has bravura and unconventionality as well. But her pure beauty is an fine as there is and it seems to get better. And as she ‘matures’ this seems to be taking precedent.

If you’re ever fortunate enough to catch one of her less frequent performances I would highly recommend it. And I have to say that once again the video distorts the totality, but if you just focus on the beauty of her dance it reveals a lot.

She’s a gem, not to let slip away.

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