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MadameP

St Petersburg - November 2017

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I am in St Petersburg for just a short trip, so will try to write a few reviews.  The first performance I saw, last night, 10th November, was Don Quixote at Mariinsky, with an excellent supporting cast overall .  Olesya Novkova's Kitri showed what a versatile ballerina she is - there is nothing she can’t do, and the fact that she is not a principal is totally ludicrous to me.  She has wonderful clarity of  technique.  I have never seen the first act diagonale of pirouettes done with such speed AND precision of 5ths.  In the grand pas, her bourrees courrus on in her fan variation were SO fast her feet were almost a blur, like a ripple of pearls,  and the retire section had beautiful placement and great use of the fan.  Her balances are rock solid, her turns all so fast - she has fabulous overall technique,   her acting has just such detail and she was a bright, vivacious Kitri.   I loved her - but why doesn’t she do Kitri more often, when others who are totally unsuited to the part are frequently cast??  Well … Fateev of course.  Ridiculous.   Timur Askerov’s dancing showed off his easy jumps and he has good lines and excellent partnering, but for me he is a little staid as Basilio, lacking vivacity. He looks as though no bad thought would ever cross his mind, which is endearing, but not exciting!   The Dream scene showed off the beautiful legato dancing and queenliness of Anastasia Lukina, contrasting perfectly with the speed and lightness of tiny Valeria Martynyuk as Amor - although Martynyuk really should only be dancing Kitri, in my opinion.  Ivan Oskorbin’s Espada was amazing - the height and sideways bend and angle of his legs in cabriole was outstanding and he has tremendous command of the stage -  he DOES have all the pizazz that Askerov lacked.  He got tremendous applause from the audience, as did Tatiana Tkachenko as Street Dancer.  Her opening grand jete was SO springy and high and she had wonderful expressions.  The two flower sellers - Yana Selina and Shamala Guseinova were excellent, despite poor Selina’s unfortunate fall.  Sofya Ivanova=Skoblikova in the third act variation showed an exquisite sequence of arabesque and attitude turns and nice ballon.  I like her very much although she is an erratic turner.  In this DQ, she was on form.  All in all, it was a magnificent Don Quixote! 

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Madame P., thank you for this review. I felt almost like I was there, because you gave so many supporting details! The school where I work is using a Reading program school wide, and even though I am the librarian, I go in and co-teach in a class for 90 minutes, and we are trying to get the children to find supporting details, so when I read your review, I thought, "This is exactly what we are trying to get students to do!" Basically, great review! I love Novikova too! She has range and can do fast work as well as adagio. Her use of arms is magical to me. Wish I could have been there. Tkachenko was probably exciting as the Street Dancer. Too bad she doesn't get many major roles. She has personality and stage presence to me. Please do post more reviews!

I promised my partner and parents I would take a break from Russia after my mugging and have fulfilled that promise (the amount of time I promised) and was ready to return but now I am taking care of my parents, so mainly seeing the Mariinsky on tours when I can. Maybe one day I will return.

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Thank you for the review. The performance sounds terrific, and I also would love to hear about other ballets you see.

In addition to reading about Novikova in particular, I was especially pleased to read your impressions of  Lukina. Queen of the Dryads is a real challenge—ideally it calls for a bona fide ballerina not just a good dancer.  I hope that is what Lukina is becoming. 

I wish I could return to St. Petersburg...not in the cards right now. I keep wondering when they are going to close the historic theater for renovation as I would love to return before that happens.

Edited by Drew

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17 hours ago, Birdsall said:

Madame P., thank you for this review. I felt almost like I was there, because you gave so many supporting details! The school where I work is using a Reading program school wide, and even though I am the librarian, I go in and co-teach in a class for 90 minutes, and we are trying to get the children to find supporting details, so when I read your review, I thought, "This is exactly what we are trying to get students to do!" Basically, great review! I love Novikova too! She has range and can do fast work as well as adagio. Her use of arms is magical to me. Wish I could have been there. Tkachenko was probably exciting as the Street Dancer. Too bad she doesn't get many major roles. She has personality and stage presence to me. Please do post more reviews!

I promised my partner and parents I would take a break from Russia after my mugging and have fulfilled that promise (the amount of time I promised) and was ready to return but now I am taking care of my parents, so mainly seeing the Mariinsky on tours when I can. Maybe one day I will return.

You MUST come back!  You know you want to see Kolegova again!

Edited by MadameP

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11 hours ago, Drew said:

Thank you for the review. The performance sounds terrific, and I also would love to hear about other ballets you see.

In addition to reading about Novikova in particular, I was especially pleased to read your impressions of  Lukina. Queen of the Dryads is a real challenge—ideally it calls for a bona fide ballerina not just a good dancer.  I hope that is what Lukina is becoming. 

I wish I could return to St. Petersburg...not in the cards right now. I keep wondering when they are going to close the historic theater for renovation as I would love to return before that happens.

 

Drew, the front of the historic theatre looks a bit of a disaster area, since they are doing much building work for the new metro station and there is a lot of hoarding and boarding off to the left,  but inside they have done nothing yet, and I haven't heard of any concrete starting date for the reconstruction.  If anyone knows any different, I too would love to know, but I can't see it happening any time soon.    With regard to Lukina, yes, I like her very much.  I have seen her many times, and she is a lovely adagio dancer and a real old-fashioned glamorous St Petersburg ballerina, with beautiful feet and schooling.  Technically she is still gaining in strength, but yes, I think absolutely she is a "real" ballerina!

Last night I saw the Prokofiev triple bill.  First ballet was Prodigal Son, with Kondaurova as the Siren and Sergeev as the Prodigal Son.  Truthfully, I have never cared much for this ballet; notwithstanding, Kondaurova was a commanding siren, looking sculpturally beautiful with her endless legs in white tights, and she unfolded her a la seconde extensions with languorous ease, gripping the unfortunate Sergeev with steely strength.  Sergeev is a fine classical dancer and actor and was moving as the Prodigal Son but unfortunately, he has the perfect physique for the role, and he might just be the skinniest male dancer in Mariinsky - he truly looked emaciated.  Although the ballet was very well received … well, we can’t all like everything and I do not think it was Balanchine’s finest hour.  It's just not my ballet! 

Second ballet on the triple bill was Maxim Petrov’s Russian Overture, which is a very small scale work set for leading couples Ivannikova/Belyakov and Ivanova-Skoblikova/Konovalov, with five supporting couples.  This had a prominent leading role for the virtuosic Vasily Tkachenko.   If you can imagine an even more extrovert jester, with many pirouettes, tours, off-kilter changes of movement and direction, this was his role, frolicking in and out of the other dancers on the stage!  Bravo to him for a fine performance.   The two supporting couples were playful and well suited, and I particularly enjoyed seeing Yevgeny Konovalov, newly promoted to coryphee, and with good partnering and nice lines.  There were a lot of skipping movements, which reminded me of Balanchine’s Rubies.   Also much use of arms and elbows in exaggerated walking movements  - all in all, very quirky and charming, but truly a miniature - only just over 15 minutes long. 

The last piece, and my favourite of the evening was Anton Pimonov’s Violin Concerto No 2.  What a talented choreographer he is and, now that he has gone to Ekaterinburg, I hope he might still come back and choreograph more ballets for Mariinsky, especially since his wife, Nadia Batoeva, is still first soloist at Mariinsky.  Anyway, the ballet features two leading couples - Shapran/Oskorbin and Shakiroa/Stepin and a supporting corps of six couples.  The costumes are beautiful with the leading ballerinas in burgundy and dark blue (velvet I think) bodies to their tutus.  Shakirova and Stepin especially were excellent - there are many complex lifts which they accomplished with ease and Renata does look to have lost a lot of weight - beautiful lines.  Their sections of the ballet were more playful than those for the more elegiac Shapran and Oskorbin.   The corps work contained some gorgeous groupings and patterns for the girls especially, and I noticed in particular Anastasia Lukina and Svetlana Russkikh among them.  This whole ballet was much more in the classical idiom than the other two and I enjoyed it very much.

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Petrov has been invited to choreograph a new work for my local company (Atlanta Ballet) this coming season. Atlanta has fine dancers, some of whom I like a lot,  but of course not remotely in the same league as the Mariinsky dancers—it may prove interesting to see what Petrov comes up with when creating for dancers so different from those at his home company.

I admire Prodigal Son, especially the integration of the Rouault designs with the choreography — exactly the sort of thing Balanchine later rejected (usually) — but I have always admired it more than I actually like it, so I can very much understand it not being to someone’s taste. I would though be very happy to see Kondaurova’s Siren (!) . And the Pimonov sounds excellent. There is youtube video of an excerpt and I had thought it looked appealing, though it was a little hard to tell how much of that was the dancers (Tereshkina and, I think, Yermakov).

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15 hours ago, MadameP said:

You MUST come back!  You know you want to see Kolegova again!

I like many others too! My favorites are Novikova, Osmolkina, and Kolegova!

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So glad to hear that you enjoyed Anastasia Lukina. I saw her debut as Queen of the Dryads last summer on the fourth of July and she was not ready. She messed up the Italian fouettes, but I was still glad to bring her flowers!

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6 hours ago, mtthwbrehm said:

So glad to hear that you enjoyed Anastasia Lukina....glad to bring her flowers!

That was very nice of you. By the way, you should see the amount of flowers that this young lady can accumulate in an evening.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-WoJ0qlcmoPY/VBAiJLyuSZI/AAAAAAAAjKI/e1XAGOvdPbM/s1600/Ekaterina%2BKondaurova.jpg

 

Added comment:

In response to something that Canbelto mentioned at another timely topic, I also thought that David Hallberg was sure to join the Mariinsky. I believe that it was after I saw him dance Swan Lake with Yekaterina Kondaurova in St. Petersburg that I was sure that it would happen.

Edited by Buddy

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10 hours ago, mtthwbrehm said:

So glad to hear that you enjoyed Anastasia Lukina. I saw her debut as Queen of the Dryads last summer on the fourth of July and she was not ready. She messed up the Italian fouettes, but I was still glad to bring her flowers!

She did not mess up the Italians this time!

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16 hours ago, Birdsall said:

I like many others too! My favorites are Novikova, Osmolkina, and Kolegova!

I love Novkova and Osmolkina also.  Also, Alina Somova and Maria Shirinkina.  So it is great to have seen both Novikova and Somova in leading roles this time round!

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I saw two ballets yesterday.   First was the La Sylphide debut of Alina Somova with Alexei Timofeyev as James.  It seems amazing that Alina has never danced this role when she is so ideally suited for it physically - she looks a perfect sylph with her long arms and legs and beautiful flowing port de bras - her beckoning arms to James were exquisite! . This was an excellent debut, with gorgeous floating jumps and perfectly judged extensions and also wonderful clarity of mime and expression.  She was in particular, so affecting in her “death” scene mime.   Her footwork also was excellent.  Timofeyev also was on good form, with great beats and accurate double tours in his variation.  The Effie of Nadezha Gonchar was adequate only  but luckily the bright Nancy of Svetlana Russkikh and Young Girl of Anna Smirnova distracted me from her!  Tiny Anna Smirnova is adorable, and has excellent technique and arms, but since she is well under 5 feet tall, I can’t see her ever dancing anything than the “cutesy” roles - what a shame. I would love to see her in a big role.  I must mention the excellent Gurn of Alexei Kuzmin.  His acting was superb and he was the funniest Gurn I have seen - the part where he is miming “the Sylphide was under the blanket - where has she gone?” was hilarious.  Also, on the  acting side, what a fantastic artist is Elena Bazhenova (Madge).  I know I always talk about her, but truly she is perfection in every role she does - her expressions are superb and  she is so musical.   I think the whole company was on good form, excepting a slightly off par Gonchar, and what a pleasure it was to see the lead sylph of Xenia Ostreivskaya, with her beautiful arabesque.   I don’t think I have ever seen her put a foot wrong in any role, and she is only a coryphee still - but what an example to the younger corps girls, and how much she deserves her position in front of line, leader of shades etc.   It WAS Alina Somova’s performance though, and only her second post-baby, and I so enjoyed seeing this fabulous debut!  She received many beautiful bouquets - and deservedly so.  She’s a  real Sylphide! 

I also saw Le Parc with Nadezhda Batoeva and Alexander Sergeev, Sergeev replacing the originally cast Konstantin Zverev, who I had been hoping to see.  This really is not a favourite ballet of mine, but  the beautiful Mozart music helps.   I have to admit, I find the dragging of chairs, crawling, dancing to no music tiresome, but even though I do not like the electronic sounds the four gardeners “dance” to, they were very good, with excellent movement quality.  I also appreciated the wit of many of the girls dancing as courtiers, in particular Yulia Kobzar, who often dances the Oriental dance in DonQ, and who has the most amazing fluidity of arms and back.  Zlata Yalinich also was excellent among the girls, with very free movement, and she seems to be completely at home with more modern choreography.   The leading couple I have mixed feelings about.  I am a huge fan of Nadezhda Batoeva, and was excited to be seeing her dance this role, and technically she did not put a foot wrong, with beautiful lines, secure positions in all the difficult lifts with the gardeners in the section where she literally hardly touches the ground, and she had good rapport with Sergeev.  However, somehow she just didn’t feel right for me in this role - she looked so beautiful and she did nothing wrong, but I think maybe it is just not her role?  She just didn’t grip me.  On the other hand, Sergeev was much better than I had anticipated - he is another dancer who excels in modern choreography, and he danced with virility,  partnered well, and also acted with vigour and sensitivity where appropriate.  Despite all this though, the final pas de deux, which is really all most people remember of this ballet, was anticlimactic to me, and ESPECIALLY the "swinging kiss,”  which I find ridiculous at the best of times.  It seems even a ballerina I really enjoy watching, like Batoeva, is not enough to make me like this ballet.  Oh well …  

Edited by MadameP

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5 hours ago, MadameP said:

 

 

5 hours ago, MadameP said:

I saw two ballets yesterday.   First was the La Sylphide debut of Alina Somova with Alexei Timofeyev as James.  It seems amazing that Alina has never danced this role when she is so ideally suited for it physically - she looks a perfect sylph with her long arms and legs and beautiful flowing port de bras - her beckoning arms to James were exquisite! . This was an excellent debut, with gorgeous floating jumps and perfectly judged extensions and also wonderful clarity of mime and expression.  She was in particular, so affecting in her “death” scene mime.   Her footwork also was excellent....It WAS Alina Somova’s performance though, and only her second post-baby, and I so enjoyed seeing this fabulous debut!  She received many beautiful bouquets - and deservedly so.  She’s a  real Sylphide! 

 

Great to hear all these names again. I hope that you're having a very good time. I would love to get to the Festival in March, my fourteenth in a row. If I do I'll be traveling all the way from California, a first. That's dedication.....but I consider myself very fortunate.

Alina Somova has always been a favorite. I think that she has even more exceptional potential. It's just a matter of her sitting still long enough to show it all at one time. I do congratulate her on the birth of her second child(?) and their care is what should come first.

About the Mariinsky's "Le Parc."  I've seen Yekaterina Kondaurova and Viktoria Tereshkina perform it and they handled it beautifully. I've seen video glimpses of the Paris Opera's version and I think that the Mariinsky gives it a lovely refinement that makes it an exceptional work.  The "swinging kiss" seems to be a crowd pleaser, but I agree about such things as "the wit of many of the girls dancing as courtiers" being my favorites. I like Alexander Sergeev very much in anything.

Thinking out loud for a moment, it's fascinating to see the Vaganova/Mariinsky presence at the Bolshoi these days, especially Alyona Kovalyova, who based on my very limited video viewing may well be the most beautiful ballerina in the world and perhaps my favorite. And then there's the absolutely amazing Olga Smirnova, whom I hope to see at a gala in two weeks. And on and on the list can go. Both companies are so fortunate to have such great dancers. The Mariinsky seems to have a endless wealth.

 

Edited by Buddy

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I didn't know whether to put this here or on the Mikhailovsky thread.  Anyway, it is here but maybe Helene will move it if she thinks I should?  On 14th I saw Maria Vinogradova and Ivan Vasiliev in Giselle at the Mikhailovsky theatre.  Vinogradova was a very gentle and timid Giselle, looking beautiful and frail - her acting was actually quite muted in the first act, although her mad scene was very touching, Her dancing was superb - she has a lovely light jump, great balances and soft arms.   In the first act variation she was perfect, with outstanding slow controlled attitude turns, and she travelled so far on the ballonnes, she nearly ran out of room!  In the second act, she showed floating grand jetes, and high springy sobresaults and entrechats.  She was a lovely Giselle.  Vasiliev surprised me.  I was prepared for him to embellish the choreography somewhat, and he did, but tastefully!  His second act variation was outstanding, with some superb sisonnes and unusual renverses.   There was one spectacular feat  when to great applause he performed a sequence of FORTY FOUR consecutive entrechat six instead of the brises.  Of course, many now do the entrechat6 instead of the brises, but I never saw that many before.  Also, in the final series of cabrioles where he is dancing to death, he literally FELL to the floor from the height of the cabriole, instead of putting one foot down first.  He partnered his wife to perfection, making her look feather light, and in another interesting touch (and considerable feat of strength), where he did the first two high overhead lifts, instead of lowering Giselle straight to the ground, he lowered HIMSELF to kneeling on one knee with her still held overhead and then lowered her to the ground from there - it looked very beautiful.    His acting was outstanding - this was an Albrecht who was genuinely in love with Giselle and when the huntsmen came back and he realised he was going to be found out, his listless body language showed his unhappiness with his lot.  He was distraught at Giselle’s death, and the ending where he realised he has lost Giselle to the grave was just SO tragic.  Great acting.   

Ekaterina Borchenko was a severe Myrtha, cold and merciless, but technically I thought she was outclassed by Vinogradova and Vasiliev.  In the diagonale of entrechat six de vole, she did not attempt a single beat, and I did expect her as a senior ballerina of the troupe, to do this.  She also suffered an unfortunate and crashing fall in the manege of saut de basques.  Veronica Ignatieva in the peasant pas was bright and turning extremely well, and the corps showed  accurate work, although their pointe shoes were very clunky!

There were SIX curtain calls!   I enjoyed this Giselle very much.    

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