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Bolshoi Ballet Summer 2019 ROH London Residency

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Wow, what a disappointment. I was looking forward to Taming of the Shrew. More than that I had really hoped to see the Bright Stream, but it’s going to be hard for me to make those dates work....

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Call me a conservative but I take Spartacus and Don Quixote any time over Taming if the Shrew or A Hero of Our Times, the two Bolshoi’s exclusive ballets. I saw The Shrew for the first time during the cinema broadcast and didn’t like it. I thought seeing it live in Milan would change my perception. I liked it even less. Besides what seemed like constant slapping, smacking and spanking Maillot totally ran out of steam and ideas by the second act. Such a waste of grand Schostakovich’s score to accompany an absolutely dull, unimaginative choreography. Only the energy and abandon of Bolshoi’s dancers made this ballet watchable. 

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The dismal ticket sale in Milan could be explained by the fact that in early September Milanese were still enjoying their summer vacation. And yet La Bayadere sold much better than the Shrew. Interesting that the proximity of Monte Carlo to Northern Italy didn’t make Maillot any more popular with Milanese. At each performance there was plenty of folks with free tickets.  Students from La Scala school were given tickets in the Orchestra section.

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18 minutes ago, Dreamer said:

Call me a conservative but I take Spartacus and Don Quixote any time over Taming if the Shrew or A Hero of Our Times, the two Bolshoi’s exclusive ballets. I saw The Shrew for the first time during the cinema broadcast and didn’t like it. I thought seeing it live in Milan would change my perception. I liked it even less. Besides what seemed like constant slapping, smacking and spanking Maillot totally ran out of steam and ideas by the second act. Such a waste of grand Schostakovich’s score to accompany an absolutely dull, unimaginative choreography. Only the energy and abandon of Bolshoi’s dancers made this ballet watchable. 

Completely agree!  Spartacus and DonQ - love both of them.  Both great vehicles for the Bolshoi ballet.   I dislike both Taming of the Shrew and the truly DIRE in my opinion Hero of our Times.  

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2 hours ago, Dreamer said:

The dismal ticket sale in Milan could be explained by the fact that in early September Milanese were still enjoying their summer vacation. And yet La Bayadere sold much better than the Shrew. Interesting that the proximity of Monte Carlo to Northern Italy didn’t make Maillot any more popular with Milanese. At each performance there was plenty of folks with free tickets.  Students from La Scala school were given tickets in the Orchestra section.

Yes, the restaurants were easy to get into even without a reservation because early September is when the Milanese are away. But from my seats at all the shows the theatre didn’t look empty at all to me. A few seats here and there in some boxes looked vacant but not shockingly empty. So surprised the shows were considered poorly sold. 

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Hero of Our Time isn't being brought--and was never announced as a possibility--I personally would love to have seen it not in place of but in addition to more standard fare. I enjoyed the HD broadcast and also wouldn't have minded a chance to see the array of featured dancers it includes in each performance. Even Anna Karenina might have been valuable in the mix with Swan Lakes etc. -- in contemporary dramatic ballets one gets to see Bolshoi artists show their dramatic and charismatic chops. For me, that's always been part of the Bolshoi mystique and even NOW when the company is quite different than it was, is an important part of who they are.

I don't care for the Grigorovich Swan Lake (which I have seen multiple times with different casts) and have seen Spartacus with an excellent cast recently enough that I'm not that eager to see it again--though I would not mind having a chance to see Zakharova's Aegina.  But I understand what it's doing on any Bolshoi tour.

Mostly I am extremely disappointed about Bayadere. I suspect the fact that the Royal is dancing it this season may have played a role in the decision not to bring it on tour because the ROH and/or Hochhausers may feel ballet audiences interested in Bayadere will have had their fill of it and opt for other ballets anyway. And I assume the company and its presenters judge it safer not to try to bring, say, Raymonda which I would also love to have seen. (With a caveat or two, I quite admire and enjoy Grigorovich's Raymonda.)

Having missed Taming of the Shrew when it was brought to NY and when it was brought to London last I was also looking forward to that for the sake of the performances but I better understand why they didn't want to bring it back when it's a new work, not a classic, and was danced on the most recent London tour. Classics, one feels, should be repeatable, though even there some variety is desirable.  Altogether the wind has rather been kicked out of my summer plans, especially given the expense involved in staying in London. (My hostel-and-standing-room days are behind me.)

Since work is likely to be taking me to the UK I do plan to try to see something unless work plans fall through but I think the "extra" part of my stay--the non-work part--is likely to be shorter than I had thought, though it would be nice to be able to see a performance or two of Bright Stream in addition to Swan Lake and Spartacus.   

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For those of us who cannot make it to London in the middle of summer lets hope to see the Bolshoi during the 2019-2020 season at the Kennedy Center. I wonder what would they bring after Mariinsky's Raymonda, La Bayadere and Le Corsaire. A mixed bill? The Pharaoh's Daughter? Coppelia? Hopefully, no Anna Karenina and no Lady of the Camellias. The Winter's Tale would be a back draw for me.

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25 minutes ago, Dreamer said:

For those of us who cannot make it to London in the middle of summer lets hope to see the Bolshoi during the 2019-2020 season at the Kennedy Center. I wonder what would they bring after Mariinsky's Raymonda, La Bayadere and Le Corsaire. A mixed bill? The Pharaoh's Daughter? Coppelia? Hopefully, no Anna Karenina and no Lady of the Camellias. The Winter's Tale would be a back draw for me.

It a nice hope, but who knows? If there were to be a one week visit then I think they would be very likely to make it Swan Lake and/or Don Quixote. Or perhaps Giselle. Long shot—Flames of Paris. One could still hope for Bayadere though. That is what I would be likeliest to travel to D.C. to see.  Even better would be a two week visit with some variety in the repertory even allowing I could probably only make a weekend.

I believe the National Ballet of Canada has exclusive rights to perform Winter’s Tale in North America — unless that expires at some point. It would not surprise me if NBoC has a similar deal on Anna Karenina (which they just premiered) and the Ratmansky Romeo and Juliet.

What always makes the London tours of Bolshoi and Mariinsky seem so enviable—and I usually can’t travel to see them— is that they are multi-week affairs with a range of repertory. Even this disappointing (to me) London Bolshoi repertory includes one ballet more than they brought to New York in 2014. The more recent failure of Taming of the Shrew to draw audiences in New York means, I fear, that future Bolshoi visits to NY are likely to be ultra conservative fare—in the sense of very familiar fare. Even their fantastic Coppelia may be judged a box-office risk. I love classic rep (some productions more than others), but ideally I like to see more of a mix when I only get to see a company now and then...though of course the great Bolshoi dancers are always a draw.

Edited by Drew

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15 hours ago, Drew said:

I believe the National Ballet of Canada has exclusive rights to perform Winter’s Tale in North America — unless that expires at some point. It would not surprise me if NBoC has a similar deal on Anna Karenina (which they just premiered) and the Ratmansky Romeo and Juliet.

I'm sure Drew is correct. In the "making of" documentary about Ratmansky's R&J, Karen Kain stated quite plainly that she was hoping the production would become a touring vehicle for the National Ballet of Canada. There was really no other reason to replace the Cranko production, which had served the company very well for nearly 50 years. So the company isn't going to give touring rights to anyone else.

The Winter's Tale, as performed by the NBoC, has already played at the Kennedy Center as part of the Shakespeare anniversary year, although most of the performances had to be canceled owing to huge snowfalls. 

And I'm sure the three-way production of Anna Karenina has geographical touring restrictions, although I don't think the companies actually share the physical production. Earlier this autumn the Hamburg Ballet and the Bolshoi were performing the piece almost simultaneously. 

The Bolshoi last visited Washington with Giselle in 2014. In 2012 it brought Coppélia. I can't recall whether it was the tour before that which brought Le Corsaire in 2009. In any event, it's been a while, so nothing would be overly familiar, but it's also been a long time since the Bolshoi brought more than one production to Washington.

I've seen Hero of Our Time six times, and I've seen nearly everyone who's performed the principal roles. (Not everyone listed on the Bolshoi master list has actually done the piece. With one exception, the original "third cast" of Princess Mary never performed the ballet for an audience.) I find "Bela" weak choreographically and unbalanced dramatically. The piece is only 30 minutes long, and about half of it is devoted to exposition, so there's almost no time left over for the relationship of Bela and Pechorin. "Taman" has more interesting choreography, but is very thin dramatically.

But "Princess Mary" in the hands of the right dancers (i.e., NOT Svetlana Zakharova) can be thrilling, and the music, to the extent that it imitates Mahler, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky, is quite attractive.

What also seems pretty clear to the modern dancer in me, but not to the people casting new dancers in Hero, is that the three Pechorins were designed specifically for dancers with low, high and medium centers of gravity respectively. It's hardwired into the choreography. Unfortunately, some more recent interpreters have been assigned choreography that they can't really make work on their bodies.

Edited by volcanohunter

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On 11/21/2018 at 6:34 AM, Dreamer said:

For those of us who cannot make it to London in the middle of summer lets hope to see the Bolshoi during the 2019-2020 season at the Kennedy Center. I wonder what would they bring after Mariinsky's Raymonda, La Bayadere and Le Corsaire. A mixed bill? The Pharaoh's Daughter? Coppelia? Hopefully, no Anna Karenina and no Lady of the Camellias. The Winter's Tale would be a back draw for me.

Dreamer, can I ask about the source of Bolshoi tour at Kennedy Center?

I'm just too excited about this and want to make sure that this is really going to happen. (I've searched the internet but no news about this.)

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9 hours ago, Xiaoyi said:

Dreamer, can I ask about the source of Bolshoi tour at Kennedy Center?

There’s been no plans announced so far but one can always dream, right? Based on the past frequenciy of US appearances the Bolshoi is due to be back in 2020. Should the company make its US tour ut would likely be at the Kennedy Center since the Lincoln Center does not have its summer festivals any longer. Maybe they can also extend the tour to Costa Mesa in Southern California.  Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa planned to bring  A Hero of Our Time this past summer but, alas, this plan fell through.

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43 minutes ago, Dreamer said:

Maybe they can also extend the tour to Costa Mesa in Southern California.  Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa planned to bring  A Hero of Our Time this past summer but, alas, this plan fell through.

The Bolshoi seems to like Costa Mesa, and it sells well. I saw their Don Q there in February 2010. As I remember, they had originally announced La Bayadere and then substituted the Don Q, perhaps so they could show off Osipova-Vasiliev.

https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2010/02/dance-review-the-bolshoi-returns-to-the-orange-county-performing-arts-center.html

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On 11/20/2018 at 11:50 AM, Mashinka said:

Slightly off topic, I'm sick to death of the uninterrupted runs of RB productions, when the Bolshoi can schedule different ballets in one week it highlights the shortcomings on the RB, this tedious programming of ballets in blocks never used to be the norm.

The really big downside is that with the frequent changes in repertoire, the Bolshoi often looks underrehearsed and rough around the edges. That was certainly the case with the performance I saw during the past week. Perhaps because the bulk of recent rehearsal time had been dedicated to the premiere of Artifact Suite, Lady of the Camellias looked ragged and, frankly, not worth the astronomical admission price, for the most part. Though it has to be said that the principals knocked the ball out of the park in the final scene and salvaged the evening brilliantly.

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11 hours ago, volcanohunter said:

The really big downside is that with the frequent changes in repertoire, the Bolshoi often looks underrehearsed and rough around the edges. That was certainly the case with the performance I saw during the past week. Perhaps because the bulk of recent rehearsal time had been dedicated to the premiere of Artifact Suite, Lady of the Camellias looked ragged and, frankly, not worth the astronomical admission price, for the most part. Though it has to be said that the principals knocked the ball out of the park in the final scene and salvaged the evening brilliantly.

 I may have lost the thread of the discussion....I would have thought the block programming Mashinka refers to would make rehearsal time easier to organize adequately? I often wonder how the Mariinsky manages their rehearsal schedule where the repertory seems to be a constant kaleidoscope of changes—even if it is not the most varied rep overall. (Though as a viewer and especially as someone who has to travel to see companies I appreciate that kind of programming.)

Which principals did you see in Lady of the Camelias? Glad to read they salvaged the evening...

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I assumed that Mashinka's criticism was directed at the Royal Ballet's programming, where a ballet can run for a whole month. At the Bolshoi the company typically presents two, sometimes three, programs each week, which isn't quite as daunting as what you'll find at true repertory companies, but having seen 31 Bolshoi Ballet performances in Moscow this year, I can attest that, unfortunately, a lot of them looked far from perfect, and few of them justified the very high ticket prices. (But that also has a lot to do with casting policies, and that's a separate discussion.) 

The last scene of Lady, that is, Marguerite's final visit to the theater and the subsequent trio in her boudoir, was performed by Svetlana Zakharova as Marguerite, Ekaterina Shipulina as Manon Lescaut and Ruslan Skvortsov as Des Grieux, and they delivered unequivocally. People seated around me were weeping audibly. But up to that point I had been bored to death (and no, I don't dislike the work), and the ballet looked decidedly under-rehearsed and much of the dancing awkward, although I have to say that Vitaly Biktimirov as M. Duval was extremely compelling. 

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14 hours ago, volcanohunter said:

I assumed that Mashinka's criticism was directed at the Royal Ballet's programming, where a ballet can run for a whole month.

Yes, it was.  I no longer go regularly to Moscow so am a little out of the loop as to how the company currently works but at one time there seemed to be very much an A team and a B team, but there wasn't necessarily a drop in standards with the 'B team'  even though many of the dancers were older members of the company.  I assumed they rehearsed independently of one another.  I'm not sure if the company still works on that basis or indeed if the numbers are still as great, but it does seem there is a group marked out as suitable for the tours, though frankly on the last tour to London they didn't exactly cover themselves in glory.

The RB has a truly vast repertoire, or at least it did.  There are many great works within it requiring a dozen dancers or less,  I don't think presenting more than one programme a month should be too difficult, I started regular ballet going in the 1960's when they averaged four programmes a month, though the number would be more or less dependant on the opera productions also showing.  If they could manage multi programmes back then. why can't they now?

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Under Vaziev I seem to see the same dancers over and over again. And no, they don't necessarily cover themselves in glory, and I, for one, am sick to death of seeing string-bean demi-soloists wobbling or even falling off pointe.

The Lady of the Camellias program is handy in that, unlike programs for Sleeping Beauty or Giselle, it lists every dancer on stage, including the furniture movers at Marguerite's estate sale. The Bolshoi's Lady is also different from Hamburg's in that the Bolshoi uses several ensembles, rather than having a significantly smaller corps doing a large number or roles and a huge number of costume changes.

Among those who danced in the ensembles of Artifact Suite or Petrushka, 42% of the women and 62% of the men appeared in Lady the following week. A handful of dancers appeared in all three ballets. So it's not entirely surprising that Lady, coming straight after their day off, looked under-rehearsed.

It has to said that this also applies to lead dancers. For example, at the beginning of the "white" duet, when Marguerite and Armand walk to the center with their backs to each other, Zakharova and Denis Rodkin did not touch backs neatly at center stage, but ended a few feet apart, forcing them to shuffle awkwardly into position to begin the duet, and that's the kind of thing I've seen a lot of at the Bolshoi.

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