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Festival ó3 - BAYADERE II, or 'Tsiskaridze Evening'- Feb. 23, '03

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Mariinsky Theater – St. Petersburg, Russia

February 23, 2003

Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet


Nikiya – Daria Pavlenko

Gamzatti – Ekaterina Osmolkina

Solor – Nikolai Tsiskaridze (Bolshoi Ballet)

Tonight’s performance of Marius Petipa’s 1900 version of ‘La Bayadere’, with a change in the casting of the three principal roles, allowed interesting comparisons with the dancers who performed those roles at the opening, last Friday. However, this was a very different sort of performance because of the unique personalities of the leading performers. Whereas, on Friday, we experienced the story of this ballet, and the love between Nikiya and Solor, tonight we were sitting in the audience watching a star and analyzing his expressions and interactions with others on the stage. Same wonderful corps de ballet – same excellent soloists – but a totally different sort of evening.

The audience was every bit as enthusiastic as that on the opening night, mainly due to the appearance of Nikolai Tsiskaridze of Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater, who has an enormous following here.

I’ll get to Daria Pavlenko’s Nikiya soon…but she was so overpowered by the Tsiskaridze Personna that we must deal with him first. In a way, Pavlenko, triumphed simply by overcoming the challenge of being paired with a Solor whose flamboyant temperament is at odds with the restrained elegance of this tsarist-era production.

Now, I am on record as a long-time admirer of the Tsiskaridze Personna…but in Bolshoi, not Kirov-Mariinsky, productions. From the moment of his walk-in entrance in Act I, he was like a fish out of water. One could tell that he was struggling to rein-in his temperament. There is so much mime in this Petipa-Era version, and so little in the Bolshoi-Grigorovich version, that one can understand why he was not ‘getting it.’ For example, when:

• The Rajah unveils his daughter, Gamzatti, Tsiskaridze’s Solor did a little jump, and mouthed “oooh!”

• Atop the elephant, as it crossed the stage during the Act II/sc ii procession, Tsiskaridze could not just stay sitting on the beast; he had to lift his arm in florid fashion as he disappeared into the palm trees…waving at his fan club, perhaps?

• At the end of Act III, when his attendants show him his wedding apparel, Tsiskaridze flings himself onto his opium-den couch & hides his head among pillows

The audience around me was snickering lightly at these, and many other similar, “NT Moments” tonight.

This production’s Solor cannot show-off his jumping technique until Act III’s ‘Kingdom of the Shades’ scene. We cheered his amazing past-180-degree split-jetes…then he made a mess of his double-tours, doing them, but landing every one sloppily. His Act IV Pas d’Action solo fared much better, with soaring cabrioles. Pavlenko may be a sprig of woman but, watching Tsiskaridze struggling to hold her aloft in a Swan Lift, you would think that she weighs a ton. [You could see her counting the seconds until she could get off his shoulder alive!]

In the end, one must commend Tsiskaridze, an established ‘superstar’ of Russian ballet, for taking a chance with a foreign style, in which even his manner of walking – with heavy-ish steps – was at odds with the Petersburg style…especially ‘Petersburg 1900.’

Daria Pavlenko is a lovely dancer with an exotic face that brought gasps of admiration from the audience when the High Brahmin lifted her veil during her entrance-scene. With her dark features and long earrings, she looked so much like the late Inna Zubkovskaya, it was truly eerie.

I can see huge improvements in Pavlenko’s rendering of Nikiya, compared to the unfortunate premiere outing, in this role, in May 2002. Her acting was elegant, carefully rendered, but still on one level – icy cold. (Isn’t Nikiya supposed to have some charm, enough to have both the High Brahmin and Solor go gah-gah for her?).

At this stage in her career, Pavlenko lacks the subtle emotions and physical powers of Vishnyova. Most of her solos were performed slightly behind the beat of the music…jetes were low…arabesques in the Act II dance with vina (lute) were barely held…the coda with the basket was performed in ‘low-key manner’ with barely a swivel of the hips, which is such an essential feature of this dance…yet the total-picture is one of a true artist in the making. Like Tsiskaridze, Pavlenko improved her technique as the night went on, with a spot-on solo in the Shades Scene, including a series of clean finishes in the pirouettes as she holds onto the white silk scarf held aloft by Solor. That was nice indeed…and we even saw a glimmer of a charming smile on her face as she took her bows, following that solo!

In fairness to Daria Palenko, her icy emotions, even in the Act I flirtations with Solor, probably had something to do with the partner assigned to her. I bet that, if paired with a Jose-Manuel Carreno or Ethan Stiefel some day, her Nikiya could truly ‘melt’ and fall in love! Then we would be able to lose ourselves in the story and enjoy Pavlenko’s artistry to the fullest.

As Gamzatti, Ekaterina Osmolkina was fine in her Act IV dancing solo and the coda with 32 fouettes…although these traveled a bit across the stage. This production’s Gamzatti is mostly a mime role and, here, she was not quite up to the clarity and distinction of Friday night’s Elvira Tarasova.

All other solo and demi-solo roles tonight were ‘repeats’ from last Friday and these were all fantastic, from the High Brahmin to the kiddies in the Lotus Dance of Act IV! Let it be noted that, with the exception of Tsiskaridze’s claque, the evening’s biggest ‘bravos’ went to the Infernal Dance, once again performed with gusto by Galina Rakhmanova, Islom Baimuratov and the tom-tom-drum boys.

Jeannie Szoradi

St. Petersburg, Russia

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Thanks, Marc. But my point is that this was one heck of an ODD night, atypical of any 'Bayadere'performed anywhere else, at any other theater. I would have prefered to compare Pavlenko-with-usual-partner against Vishnyova/Fadeyev. Vishnyova had the chance to dance with a Solor who complemented her temperament and style. Pavlenko did not stand a chance with NT.

At least NYCB's Maria Kowroski will get to dance with, IMO, a partner who can complement her Odette/Odile...Danila Korsuntsev.

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Whenever Tsiskaridze appears on stage, he always steals the show. It's interesting that even Vishneva was overshadowed by him. (I saw them danced in the 3rd movement of Balanchine's Symphony in C). And he made an ultra-supple Golden Slave with Nioradze. His dancing was stunning and seductive. Errrr...probably

even more than Zobiede's! :eek:

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NO7, I saw Tsiskaridze w/ Nioradze in 'Scheherazade,'at last year's festival. He was fantastic and appropriately flamboyant then. He is wonderful in ballets that are tailor-made for him, like Petit's 'Pique Dame' at the Bolshoi or the hero in Lacotte's revision of 'Doch Faraona. And you can imagine what he makes of Petit's Quasimodo in 'Notre-Dame de Paris''? I haven't reviewed that one yet but he manages to upstage Svetlana Lunkina with his ape-like movements and grotesque -- almost hilarious -- make-up and hair. Wait 'til all of you see it, someday...

I remember when, in Washington, DC, he stole the spotlight as Mercutio in the Lavrovsky 'Romeo & Juliet'. It was his one role on that tour and he made the most of it, come hell or high water. LOL!!

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I saw Nicolai Tsiskaridze in French production of la Bayadere besides of Marie-Agnès Gillot, he was wonderful, he danced with his russian style some variation but try to have french style and he arrives very well to this. Gillot and Tsiskaridze were a true couple on stage, and never Nicolai steals the "vedette" to Marie-Agnès or to Stéphanie Romberg who danced Gamzatti.

French audience was completely under charm and wait for one thing, that he comes back to POB to dance, because when he dance, he has something so exciting, so "charming" :rolleyes: .

I know that he was completely charmed by POB and want to stay with our etoile. I'm happy that Bolchoi came next year in Paris and I hope we will see Tsiskaridze more often in Paris.

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If Tsiskaridze could exchange places with Pavlenko, may be we will have better performance that night. Not she, who was cold and powerful, not he, who was hysterical and clumsy, suited well for their roles.

I saw the premiere of the old/new "Bayadere" year ago. I didn't make any comments that time, because the performance was very raw- costumes weren't ready, dancers didn't know where to go, the machinery didn't work well. Now everything is working fine, but my impression is even worse. Boring, dated performance, which proved to me that all reconstructions of "original" choreography has to be stopped immediately. All great choreographers, Petipa and Balanchine included, did change choreography, costumes, even music with every new staging of their (and not their) ballets, adapting it to the new time, new artists. The current version of "Giselle" in Mariinsky doesn't have even one (!) scene similar to the first production in Paris. So what, go back to "original' and forget all brilliant innovation, which made this ballet still alive? I don't think so.

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I think the historical reconstruction issue could make for interesting discussion, and I hope we have it. If it looks dead, it's not good, but if the dancers believed in it and were coached, it might not look so dead :)

I would quibble, though, with the comment that there's not one scene remaining from the original "Giselle." There are quite a few scenes, and actual dances, remaining from the French production; there are sketches from the first performances, not just of stage action, but of dances -- Giselle's solo, Albrecht and Giselle's pas de deux -- that match what we see today. I think we know what the changes were (There's an excellent book out now, "Ballet and Opera in the Age of Giselle" that details them.) Hordes of mime has been cut, and Giselle's final solo is Petipa's, as well as the grand pas of the Wilis. But there's a lot that remains.

That doesn't have anything to do with the validity or stage interest of this Bayadere, of course.

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Why should ALL reconstructions 'be stopped immediately', Andrei? It would be too coercive, dictatorial and, sorry, undemocratic. I know many people who admired the Vikharev's "Sleeping Beauty" and although I prefer to see the Lilac Fairy and Prince Desire dancing much more, yet I can appreciate the certain aestetic aspects of his reconstruction. It was a wise decision, in my opinion, on both versions to be retained in the Mariinsky's repertoire. Admirers of lavish and tasteful pageantry can opt for seeing the Vakharev's "Beauty" while I, when given a personal choice, would go to see the version with the 'brilliant innovations'.

You are absolutely right to say that these innovations kept classical ballet alive throughout the 20th century. The new/old "Bayadere" seems to be an example of when the loss of those innovations is too tangible.

Now I have to pluck up my courage to 'march', on my own, against three opponents who wrote about "La Bayadere". See the next posting.

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Sorry, folks, I found Nikolai Tsiskaridze to be the only true Solor amidst four casts, which I had a chance to see in this reconstruction. What a pity, Jeannie, that we could not meet during the festival! I would have loved to have a chat with you about Solors, Nikiyas and the rest. Although it is not surprising but still fascinating to observe how two people can have a different view of the same visible object/subject at the same time. You found wrong for this Solor to mouth "oooh!" on seeing Gamzatti. I think it's all right since the idea is of him being torn between two beauties. Why should he be sitting stone-faced on the elephant? He is not the Golden Idol. Arriving for his betrothal he raised his arm to greet his fiancee. And why shouldn't he throw himself in despair on the cushions? What are they there for? I could not sit closer to the stage than I was sitting but I haven't seen a single problem with his partnering. Moreover, one of the ballerinas, with all respect, was doing no more than two turns and it was Nikolai who made her complete the rest of her rotations every time.

I agree that Tsiskaridze 'was struggling to rein-in his temperament'. Nothing new, he often has to do it. Fadeyechev as his coach and Roland Petit admitted more than once that Nikolai is both an excitable and exciting dancer. He is a spontaneous, impulsive artist, - this quality sometimes deprives him of stability (oh, those double assemblés!) but at the same time makes him so interesting and appealing. For occasional slips he compensates lavishly with such upward flights which others can not produce in their lifetime. I agree with Clement Crisp who wrote about this performance that "Tsiskaridze's opulent, ecstatic view of Solor nearly tore the ballet to pieces, but he has such conviction, such frenzy in his playing that you believed for the moment in the drama as in the extravagant dance."

For those who have not seen it yet:


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I'm sorry to have missed you, too, Coda...have no idea what you look like, real name, etc.

Sorry but NT was a real clown -- I could use less-politically-correct terms -- during that performance. There were many of us in parterre biting our tongues to stifle guffaws whenever he would make one of his hokey faces.

Francoise et al inParis - I happened to see a tape of one of NT's POB performances & he was TONED DOWN considerably then...nothing likewhat he did at Mariinsky, where he was a total HAM...or, as I joked with a French friend during one intermission...LE JAMBON!!!!

All this said, I am a long-time NT fan and was quite sad to see his quirky hystrionics during this particular performance!

- Jeannie

p.s. - I've been out on a family emergency but will post my final reviews when I return to Moscow. I have LOTS MORE to write about 'Pirlipat' and the final three performances. Thanks for all the feedback, reactions, etc.

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I agree Jeannie, compared to Tsiskaridze’s other performances his appearances with the POB were probably one of the weakest of all. The choice of partners was, shall we say, most unfortunate. Marie-Agnès Gillot as well as Stéphanie Romberg were new to their roles, and moreover were much too tall and heavy for Tsiskaridze. In the duets they looked uncomfortable and limited. Tsiskaridze undoubtedly made a vivid Solor, but the ill-fated partnership killed his last hope of investing the role with the proper nobility and grandeur. His solos looked strained and it was not by any means his most memorable performance.

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