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Royal Ballet "Sylvia" Osipova-Bonelli Thu 30 Nov.


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Hello from TK1985 over Karlovy Vary :D:D . Hope to see Sylvia this evening if I am not refused entry by UK Immigration at Heathrow. Wanted to see Osipova who at my last check was not posted as injured at rehearsal yesterday or something. Sylvia is not a ballet I am too familiar with : watched the dvd of the 2005 staging with Bussell-Bolle ....... not something unmissable is it ??  For some reason I tend to group this in my mind with Balanchine's "Midsummer Night's Dream" but MND has imho infinitely better music, choreo and STORY !!  No or weak story = weak drama, be it comedy or tragedy, and for me (excuse me folks !) no ballet !! See you later .....

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Tchaikovsky said that his own "Swan Lake" couldn't hold a candle to Delibes' score for "Sylvia" and that if he had heard "Sylvia" first, he wouldn't have written ballet music.

I was priviledged to see Yanowsky dance the lead with the Royal Ballet in Ashton's version.  

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14 minutes ago, Mashinka said:

I thought the story line was very clear and not so very dissimilar to Daphnis and Chloe, it's an excellent ballerina role, I'm seeing Osipova later in the run and I've a feeling the role will suit her.

If you give me a couple of hours I will let you know!  :D:D

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39 minutes ago, MadameP said:

I saw Yulia Stepanova's debut as Sylvia at the Mariinsky and also Alina Somova in the role: both were magnificent!  It is technically an extremely difficult role and Osipova has technique, but I am not sure she will have the refinement.   

I'd be more impressed if you'd seen Tereshkina.

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1 hour ago, mnacenani said:

If you give me a couple of hours I will let you know!  :D:D

Someday we'll have to compare miles traveled to see ballets. This year you're probably the world champion !

I've got tickets to see her and it the 16th with my daughter, who's not exactly a ballet fan. Hope it rocks !  :)

Have a great time !

Edited by Buddy
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15 hours ago, Mashinka said:

I'd be more impressed if you'd seen Tereshkina.

LOL!  Well,  you can be impressed then - because I have seen Tereshkina in the role also, as well as Kolegova,, and in my opinion, both Stepanova and Somova were FAR better...  Tereshkina lacked the necessary feminity for the role.   I forgot - also saw Batoeva!

Edited by MadameP
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I saw Alina Somova and Viktoria Tereshkina perform this a few years ago. I thought that they both were excellent — Alina Somova for her long limbed, airy gracefulness and Viktoria Tereshkina for her very fine expressiveness. By the way, Xander Parish, Alina Somova’s very impressive partner, was made a Soloist that evening.

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Well Osipova's debut was quite the evening.  First I should say that she is one of my favourite dancers to watch, but I'm not sure that this was her very finest hour.  Of course the jumps on the first entrance were amazing and her technique in the difficult solos entirely secure, but the combination of a very silly high camp ballet and Osipova's customary very fast, very dramatic style made for some amusing moments.   The diva-ish draping over Orion's shoulder as he carried her off to his island was what the kids would call 'iconic'.  The partnering wasn't great - Bonelli was not having his best night either and the descent from the "torch lift" at the start of the pas de deux was pretty rocky.  And Osipova doesn't (yet) have quite the Ashtonian bend and upper body style that Nunez manages.    But I would happily watch Osipova wait at a bus stop and if you are up for an evening of the very highest drama, I would highly recommend her Sylvia and advise that you sit close enough to fully appreciate her range of facial expressions.   Supremely entertaining!

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10 hours ago, variated said:

I would highly recommend her Sylvia and advise that you sit close enough to fully appreciate her range of facial expressions

Glad that "variated" posted his/her impressions first. I flew in to see Osipova, not Sylvia per se, though seeing a ballet I knew little about was the bonus. This year I was able to see Natasha as Vetsera, Giselle and Sylvia and I don't think I would be making a special trip again to see her as Vetsera or Sylvia. Don't have much to write, the music maybe is more sophisticated, more "symphonic" than Coppelia, with prominent use of brasswinds and "leitmotif" (Wagner influence ?) but after a week or two most people including myself will probably only be able to recall from memory the "pizzicato". Coppelia has considerably more memorable tunes, imho. Am not qualified to comment on the choreo and don't know "Ashton style", am more interested in "Petipa style", and I thought Ashton may have been quite fond of Petipa - would I be making things up if I said I detected references to Raymonda, Corsaire and most obviously to Sleeping Beauty ??

It was an enjoyable evening and seeing Osipova is always so nice, but I would like to catch her somewhere as Juliet this season or next. For me the 3rd act PdD was the high point of the ballet, Sylvia will not be one of my "top five" ballets ..... that Tchaikovsky said he would not have composed Swan Lake if he had heard Sylvia first is hard to believe ..... he must have been seriously depressed at the time. As a composition Swan Lake steamrollers Sylvia flat .... "nolo contendere" !

PS : Hanna Weibye of Artsdesk has posted her review. Ashton cognoscenti should read the last para where she is quite critical of the CdB :  http://www.theartsdesk.com/dance/sylvia-royal-ballet-review-ashton-rarity-makes-delicious-evening

Edited by mnacenani
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On 12/1/2017 at 5:00 PM, mnacenani said:

... I thought Ashton may have been quite fond of Petipa - would I be making things up if I said I detected references to Raymonda, Corsaire and most obviously to Sleeping Beauty ??

Oh yes,..absolutely Ashton relates his work to Petipa -- Sleeping Beauty especially. Cinderella even more than Sylvia I should think. And somehow the closer Ashton's Cinderella gets to Petipa, as in the variations for the four seasons, the more completely it also realizes its "Ashton-ness."

Re the music: I find the music that accompanies the entrance of the amazons in Sylvia very memorable. ABT used it for its radio advertisements of its performances of Sylvia some seasons back.

(If I were to recommend you give another Ashton ballet a shot,  then  based on reading your posts, I would recommend A Month in the Country. It has intense drama and lyrical pas de deux of all different moods to express different kinds of relationships. It is also one of my favorite Ashton ballets. Might not be to your taste, but who knows?)

Edited by Drew
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Sergeyev brought the Stepanov manuscripts to England, and the early Sadler's Wells' (which became Royal Ballet) "Sleeping Beauty" was based on Petipa, while Soviet Ballet had already diverged.

Ashton became entranced with ballet after seeing Anna Pavlova dance in South America, where he grew up, and her virtues were central to his work, as well as the British pantomime tradition.


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15 hours ago, Helene said:

The photo is beautiful!

Yes, it really is.

Thanks for that and your post, Mnacenani.

I don't know that much about Ashton, but was impressed with the interest of style and the poetic/theatrical feeling when I saw the Mariinsky perform this. In a somewhat similar mood the video of the Fille Malgardée, I've always found to be very charming. Its 'dance of the hens' must be one  of the most delightful pieces of ballet that I've ever seen. I tend to like this sort of thing. It makes me feel good. Balanchine and Ratmansky also can have a fine sense of 'whimsy' and pleasure in their works.

I hope to be able to weigh into this discussion myself after I see it the 16th.

I've enjoyed Natalia Osipova from the beginning. She was corps de ballet or something when I first read about her and was prepared when she did some very brief, secondary dancing that took my breath away. I let out a big applause and the Principal ballerina (left unnamed) looked out at me with a "What!" expression. I saw several of her first Don Quixotes when she was dubbed "a force of nature." Lots of Diana Vishneva parallels. Like Diana Vishneva she can't keep the high energy prowess forever, so she's moving more into high theatrical expression and doing a very fine job of it. She does need to find the right material to really win me over with her new direction. Comments about getting close to see her face are very relevant. I always have theater glasses with me for this reason.





Edited by Buddy
typo and spelling correction
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On 12/1/2017 at 4:30 AM, variated said:

I would highly recommend her Sylvia and advise that you sit close enough to fully appreciate her range of facial expressions.   Supremely entertaining!

Sorry for re-quoting variated's remark but it just dawned on me that I quoted it above and then wandered off. Natasha's characterisation was indeed excellent, as variated reported. One really should sit up close if possible to capture her mime unaided. Training must have a part in Russian dancers having supreme characterisation, but I believe there is a large measure of something inborn, innate which Western-born dancers don't seem to have, to my eye at least. The self-assured portrayal of the first act and the mischievious portrayal in Orion's captivity were both spot-on. My trouble is that the silly and weak story lays waste to Natasha's superb characterisation abilities. This is what I meant by saying I would like to see her as Juliet sometime soon.

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I think primarily of 'facial' expression, when I think of what Olga Smirnova, Veronika Part, Diana Vishneva,  Natalia Osipova, Simone Messmer....do so well. The rest of the body reinforces this brilliantly. In some cases, like Veronika Part, it's almost indefinable.

I'm not sure if Russian training is the reason, although it's certainly a factor, but I think that it's more the individual.

Also there's a 'British' style, which seems consistent with England's great literary and theatrical tradition. Tamara Rojo was a real life Odette-Odile when I saw her in St. Petersburg. I expected her to start talking. It was quite noteworthy. Xander Parish brings his 'British' slant very effectively to the Mariisky stage. He has a very fine sense of theatre -- when to project and not project in regard to his featured and more delicate female partner. When he does it's quite fine.

Added: Then there's the Mariinsky's amazing Vladimir Ponomarev. Primarily not a dancer, he's a "Character Artist," he's one of the most remarkable stage beings that I've ever seen. Totally the individual, in this case, not a school of training.    

Edited by Buddy
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Mnacenani mentioned Russian dancers’ faces seem more expressive to him. Can’t argue with someone reporting how things seem to them. But I find the turn in this conversation a little unexpected anyway and would like to underline one aspect of what Buddy says about British theatrical traditions. British ballet has produced any number of first rate dance actors/actresses with extremely expressive faces including Lynn Seymour and among present day dancers Edward Watson to say nothing of astonishing character artists such as Alexander Grant. Kevin O’Hare has spoken of the Royal’s more ‘naturalistic’ style of acting as compared to other companies and I myself cannot imagine ANY company giving more believably expressive performances (including facially expressive) in a ballet like Scarlett’s Age of Anxiety (which requires dancers to look like REAL people in mid-twentieth century New York) than those offered by two different casts of the Royal just a couple of years ago in New York. From the lead dancers to the secondary roles.

I am a Russophile fan myself and love Osipova. I agree about the wonderful expressiveness of many great Russian dancers, including (sometimes) their facial expressiveness — Kondaurova’s Anna Karenina might be even higher on my list of facial expressiveness of authentic human emotion than any Russian dancer yet mentioned.  (I should say I am assuming that in ballet, if facial expressiveness isn’t integrated into dance expressiveness it counts for very little.) And there are British and other Royal Ballet dancers who don’t exactly fit the actor/actress image that the company has developed over the years. But the company that gave the world Mayerling and Winter’s Tale, that positively specializes in complex multicharacter dramatic works, cannot be faulted for lacking its own distinctive expressive traditions that are skillfully reflected in some of today's dancers as well. 

Edited by Drew
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Getting back to what Drew has mentioned, Variated, I'm not sure where Natalia Osipova's developing 'acting' prowess is derived from. Is it from her English exposer? Is it from herself? Again very parallel to what Diana Vishneva, with her worldly exposer, is doing. In both cases I would guess that it's mainly from within being supported by their exposer to the popularity of  the acting arts in the West.

Also I have to mention Alina Cojocaru, who performed some of the best ballet theater and characterisation that I've ever seen. She often mentioned her interest in acting and how much television (especially movies, I believe) she would watch in London. 

And yes, Yekaterina Kondaurova, who when she is focussed in that direction, could probably give Garbo a run for her money. Her husband, Islom Baimuradov, is equally gifted. Both are also fine 'modern' dancers and very versatile at everything. I have to think that some Western influence slipped in there someplace.

Maxim Petrov, the Mariinsky's very fine young choreographer, has a surprisingly good grasp of Western entertainment, although I do sense at times that he's more comfortable with his Russian heritage, not surprisingly. Probably all these artists are more comfortable with their 'Eastern' European heritage, but they do seem to have an exceptional ability to assimilate, to adopt the best of both worlds.

Edited by Buddy
typo correction and last paragraph added to
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A few comments about Ashton's Sylvia.

Much as he did in 1951 with his version of Daphnis and Chloe, Ashton seems to have set out to rehabilitate a great ballet score which did not have a great choreographic text attached to it. In both cases Ashton chose to follow the original narrative which the music had been written to accompany rather than adopting a new story line. It is almost as if he was setting himself a choreographic examination. Sylvia is both a display piece for the ballerina and an affectionate, if somewhat tongue in cheek, tribute to the ballet conventions of the French ballet of the 1870's. I would not be at all surprised to learn that the ballet created by Merante was intended as an affectionate tribute to the POB  of the late  eighteenth and early nineteenth century whose repertoty seems to have been awash with anachreonic ballets and ballets based on classical myths. 

  As far as the ballerina role is concerned it is a real test of technique because while it may not be stuffed full of obvious crowd pleasing technical tricks the choice of steps and their combination is a real challenge which exposes the  technical weaknesses of anyone who attempts to perform it. The dancer has to have complete command of the choreographic text and the role's musicality and be able to use the choreography to display the emotions which Sylvia experiences in each act. The ballerinas who danced Sylvia at the Mariinsky described it as the most difficult role they had ever danced while Yanowsky who gave by far the most successful account of the role in London in 2004  said that it was exhausting to perform as it was like dancing three different ballets in one  evening . Now of course the fact that a role is difficult does not make it a great one but for the audience it is a genuinely rewarding experience to see it performed by a dancer who is in complete command of its every aspect. Created to display Fonteyn's technique and the breadth of her abilities as a  ballerina it still represents a real challenge to the dancer.  

As far as source material and influences are concerned Ashton began his dance training with Massine who used the Cecchetti method. When Massine left London Ashton studied with Marie Rambert for whom he made his earliest works. Then he went to work for de Valois' young Vic Wells company. It is almost certain that it was the presence of Nicholai Sergeyev  staging the five Petipa ballets for the company which de Valois chose to call the classics  which first brought Ashton into direct contact with Petipa's choreography over anything like an extended period. 

Ashton was always very open about the influence that Petipa had on his work. Once when asked why he spent time watching the Fairy variations as he knew the choreography extremely well he described watching them as "Taking private lessons with Petipa". It is interesting that one or two of you have noticed that there seems to be a similarity between the choreography in Sylvia and that of Corsaire and Raymonda. I don't believe that Ashton would have had direct knowledge of, or access to, either of those ballets in performance as they were not among the nineteenth century ballets which de Valois selected for her young company. Remember you could not just hop on a train or plane to travel to Russia to attend ballet performances during the 1930's or 1940's as you can today..  Ashton may have heard about these ballets from Karsavina who was living in London or Violetta Elvin, the Bolshoi trained member of the Sadler's Wells Ballet Company. However I think that it is far more likely that Ashton only knew of them indirectly through his knowledge of the Diaghilev repertory.

We have to remember that Ashton and his 1952 ballet audience had a far more comprehensive knowledge of the Diaghilev repertory than we have today. In 1952 there can have been few ballet goers who had not seen at least one production of Scheherazade staged by former members of the Diaghilev company. Some had probably seen several. Scheherazade was still a viable theatrical work and a staple of London Festival Ballet's repertory in the mid 1970's. If that staging is anything to go by watching a work staged by a  ballet master with direct experience of performing the work in question is a far more theatrically rewarding experience than watching a modern staging by one of Fokine's descendants where everything seems staid. 

It seems to me that the immediate source for the images and the choreography which Ashton created for Orion are Scheherazade,the choreography for the male corps de ballet in the Polovtsian Dances and that for Kotschei's male followers in the Firebird but that it is Fokine who was recycling choreography and images from Corsaire and Raymonda. It is true that Orion's choreography looks like it belongs to a lost Diaghilev orientalist ballet but I am sure that these are deliberate  allusion to Fokine's choreography. In the same way I think that Ashton was alluding to Nijinsky's L'Apres Midi d'un Faun  when he gave the sacrificial goats choreography which includes the occasional flat on movement and pose.

When it is danced with wholehearted commitment and understanding Sylvia proves to be a fine work in performance but it is not, and was never intended. to be a dramatic action ballet. Aminta is not an action hero but a lovelorn shepherd who is rewarded for his devotion to Eros.Sylvia is a nymph who is punished for her lack of respect for the god of love but is nonetheless rescued by him and after her trials and tribulations finds herself transformed in the third act into a Petipa style ballerina.

I think that Clement Crisp's assessment of the ballet as a paper thin excuse for a lot of fine dancing is absolutely spot on. Interestingly audiences seem to be warming to it with each performance. As far as Osipova is concerned her first performance in a new role always gives me the impression of being work in progress. I will reserve final judgment until her final performance when I have no doubt it will look very diffferent. I will simply say that her first two acts seemed to be spot on but that her third act was not as musically brilliant as it needed to be. 



Edited by Ashton Fan
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