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Ponomarev vs Makarova vs Vikharev vs Ratmansky

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I will be attending the Berlin production of Bayadere, which as we know is Ratmanky's effort at giving this much tweaked ballet its much deserved original former self back.  

For the ocassion I've been revisiting my videos, as a matter of comparison.  This are Ponomarev -(Komleva/Abdeyev)-, Makarova -( Zakharova/Bolle)-...Vikharev recon-(can't remember now the leads)- and Ratmansky-(Selina/Simkin). Here are some thoughts.

About the Ponomarev we all know its downs.  I don't know if his production was the initiation of the ballet sans act IV and the tweaking of the wedding pas into a betrothal pas, but it was certainly the one that paved the path for the general knowledge of this ballet by XX century audiences-(well...mainly Soviet audiences up until Makarova).  If anything, I guess we should be grateful that there was Ponomarev and Dudinskaya and Chabukiani for many of the details we might enjoy today-(fierce variations and codas, former miming passages now made into dancing ones etc...)...oh, and Gamzatti's fouettes-( 😉 ). I believe he's mostly at fault with his reworking of the wedding Grand Pas into the engagement nemesis.  The pas basically loses all its dramatic power, the whole Nikiya's ghost interrupting is erased and Solor's smiley face while dancing with Gamzatti feels out of place.  In every other version I've seen after Ponomarev-(mainly Makarova's at ABT)-, little, if anything, is given as a matter of clues about Solor's possible regret at getting married with Gamzatti.  Ratmanky particularly works wonders on this in his Grand Pas.  Solor looks very confused and distraught, even more with the logical re insertion of Nikiya's ghost at all times. 

Makarova then tries to fix some of this mess by the creation of her own act IV.  Big round of applause for her, for at least giving due respect to the original libretto and for educating audiences in the real finale of the ballet-(wedding, interrupting ghost, fury of the gods, temple destruction, lovers reunited in the afterlife).  I'm willing to bet that the generalized complaint on her production is the lack of Minkus score for the last act and maybe Lanchbery's re orchestration choices.  But still...I think it is Makarova the one that really gave Bayadere its missing limbs for the XX century, even with Lanchbery's musical aditions and inventions. 

Vikharev is next, truly restoring the Grand Spectacle element of the ballet, re inserting many "lost" miming sequences and group dances and of course, his brand "new-old" grand Act IV which this time is very close to what the audiences saw back in Petipa's times.  Sets and costumes are his big pluses, his recreation of the lost act with the real music-(or some of it)- and then the icing of the cake being the pas de deux a trois, with Nikiya's ghost in and out of the sequence and the temple destruction.  For the first time we get the Grand Pas in its original place. Still, Vikharev seems to still be unable to totally break with Ponomarev. There's still a Golden Idol, there's still an initial dancing duo in the first Solor/Nikiya encounter and there's still Ponomarev choices for the Grand pas' Gamzatti and Solor's variations and final coda.

Ratmanky's big bang is the restoring of many original miming sequences and his reworking of the last act , which goes even more true to the original as he re inserts the two variations that were danced by Gamzatti and Solor by the time the ballet was notated.  Gamzatti's being Dulcinea's variation for DQ and Solor's being lifted back then from Le Papillon.  Ratmanky's Pas de deux a trois/quatre-(with the introduction of Gerdt's substitute for the difficult sequences due to his age at the time)- looks excellent this time, and we even have which I believe is the original music for the coda.  So that leaves the question of where the music for Ponomarev's staging for both Gamzatti's  and Solor's variations and final coda came from.

Now a comparison of the three temples destruction.  Makarova's, Vikharev's and Ratmansky's.  To be honest...the one that looks more powerful is Makarova's.  The bootleg I have of Vikharev's is very grainy, so I guess the sequence might look better at the theater than on video.  Ratmanky's  is more visible according to my video.  But  Makarova's is definitely more effective.   Also...the concept of the final tableaux with Nikiya and Solor reunited in the afterlife is better presented in Makarova's.  Both Vikharev's and Ratmanky's have Nikiya's appearing in the temple and sort of reviving Solor in human form in the middle of the massacre.  In Makarova's one can tell in the final pose that they are together in spirit somewhere out of this world.  

Generally speaking, I give Ratmanky's version the big prize.  I can't wait to see it in Berlin.

Edited by cubanmiamiboy
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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for this, cubanmiamiboy.

I’m also in Berlin and wanted to read a bit about all other productions there are (I watched the first act of Vikharev, but didn’t get around to finishing it). Looking forward to my second viewing tonight!

Edited by Lidewij
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5 hours ago, Lidewij said:

Thanks for this, cubanmiamiboy.

I’m also in Berlin and wanted to read a bit about all other productions there are (I watched the first act of Vikharev, but didn’t get around to finishing it). Looking forward to my second viewing tonight!

I am LOVING the production ! Aren't you...?

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Oh, definitely! 

I love the footwork and the extra details, and most of all I love that the story makes sense! 

I wish I could've seen 2 different casts, but honestly all dancers are doing such a wonderful job that I don't mind seeing them twice.

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I just finished watching a recording of the Vikharev version. I’m surprised that it’s so much less radical (many Ponomarev elements are retained including the entire Shades scene - aside from 1 phrase in Nikiya’s coda) AND so much less effective.

Especially the appearances of Nikiya in the fourth act. In the Ratmansky version it feels a lot like the party scene from La Sylphide, but in the Vikharev it doesn’t.

I really love this production by Alexei Ratmansky, and I do hope there will be a professional recording some time. I’m so glad I made this trip to Berlin!

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I agree with all above that the Ratmansky edition of Bayadere is fantastic in every way - steps, musical arrangement, decors. The corps may not be the strongest around but they are well served by the simpler Petipa choreography, an example of "less is more." 

Having seen both the Vikharev and Ratmansky versions several times, it's obvious that Vikharev felt pressure to retain large parts of Ponomarev. As I mentioned in another thread, the long article by his associate P. Gerzhenson in a 2002 issue of Ballet Review gives a complete listing of the numbers that Vikharev restored and intended to set on the Mariinsky troupe. Half of what's listed never made the light of day but we see them fully realized in Ratmansky. [Gerzhenson's interview predates the Mariinsky premiere of Vikharev's Bayadere on May 31, 2002.]

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