Posts Tagged ‘Mikhailovsky Ballet’

Review – Two Nacho Duato Mixed Rep Programs (Multiplicity; Forms of Silence and Emptiness; Without Words, Nunc Dimittis; Prelude) – Mikhailovsky Ballet at the London Coliseum 2013

April 13, 2013

The Mikhailovsky’s visit to London had on offer the kind of varied items you would expect at a restaurant in a tourist town. There was the house specialty done to excellence (Don Quixote with Osipova and Vasiliev); the tired old regional dish that everyone in town has to have because it’s expected (Laurencia); and then the last two programs of the visit, which featured something the chef added to keep the menu up to date for the locals, and then one special dish that he had lavished all his care and attention on knowing that only one or two diners might order it …but he wanted to do it to challenge himself, and because one fantastic ingredient was in season.

Multiplicity and Forms of Silence and Emptiness were done to be popular, taking well-known classical music (Bach) and setting dance to it that was intellectually unchallenging. I cringed a bit when the curtain went up, because, it turned out, I had seen it before (I call it “the ballet with the chair”) and disliked it. It’s kind of crushing because I love Bach, but for Duato to use the same trope over and over again – of dancers as musical instruments – just made me want to claw my eyes out. If he had done it once (the harpsichord duet would have been my choice) I could have handled it, but instead it was a whole damned ballet of cutesiness. Bleah. Bonus points for the hot shirtless men in panniers but otherwise the entire thing was a trial.

Next up was “Forms of Silence and Emptiness,” which I had also seen before, way back when it was new and Duato brought it to Seattle. Why, why have Bach as a character? Why “embody” inspiration? It all just seemed a way to ham-fistedly find a way to make modern ballet “accessible.” At least there was some gorgeous singing (Svetlana Moskalenko, thank you!) which coincided with my favorite bit: a gorgeous little duet to the aria “Seufzer, Tränen, Kummer, Not” in which Victoria Zaripova ans Rishat Yulbarisov lost and found each other again. It was plotless and perfect pure dance, but before I knew it, the spell was over and Duato was back with his wooden bat of obviousness. At least it was a short program, and my half-priced tickets in the front row gave me the opportunity to really enjoy the dancers in a way I normally never can.

The final evening completely made up for it with a work of breath-stealing amazement. No, not “Prelude,” which seemed to be designed to please the locals (in Saint Petersburg) by showing them “oh look, I can make pretty, classical-esque dances that are modern but not so much that you can’t relate to them, don’t worry about having me run this group, everything is going to be fine;” but “Nunc Dimittis,” which took the amazing music of Arvo Part (and David Azagra) and built a work of art that completely engaged the eye while showing of the talents of Ekaterina Borchenko. Watching this work, a perfect unison of movement, costume, lighting (the little cavern of red at the back of the stage!) and music, I couldn’t believe this was the same company that, just a few days ago, left two thirds of the corps dancing in the murk for Don Quixote. Is Duato going to pizazz up the rest of the repertoire? I certainly hope so. The dancing was equally lovely for Without Words, an older piece I found hypnotic in its endless partnerings and repartnerings and mysterious entrances and exits. It’s a pity they didn’t ditch Laurencia in favor of a third modern bill; and I’m a bit miffed that Vasiliev and Osipova were too grand to make a showing for either of these evenings. Maybe they just haven’t been with the company long enough; maybe they’re too rigid in their views of what kind of dancing they’re willing to do. At any rate, it was wonderful to end the Mikhailovsky’s visit with this excellent evening of dance, and I look forward to their return. But next time, can they announce it before I book my holidays? I don’t want to have to miss two shows next time!

(This review is for performances that took place on Friday, April 5th, and Sunday, April 7th, 2013.)

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Webcowgirl’s Best of London Theater 2010

January 1, 2011

Wow, what a year it has been. After resolving to see less shows in 2010, I wound up seeing more – 143 total versus last year’s 116. What was I thinking? Actually, this year I really upped the number of dance performances I saw (helped, as ever, by Sadler’s Wells’ fine programming), and though, at the end 2009’s 116 shows I was feeling grumpy and ill-treated, 2010’s cornucopia left me feeling exhilarated about all the fun to be had in London, even when you’re on a budget. The dance helped; it also means that my numbers of “shows seen” misses many of the shows my my more prolific show-seeing friends have attended. On the other had, I have more people to see shows with now, and I thought it was a year well wasted, so that’s what counts, right? Anyway, my list is based on what I saw, and not what I should have seen or what all is out there. Of all of the shows I went to, I paid for all but three of them, so there are limits to what I could manage. (Note: I’m waiting for my free tickets to The Children’s Hour as there is no way I can afford decent seat to this show.)

Best play performed entirely in a foreign language: this was almost Shun-Kin, a truly spectacular work of theater in the pared-down (Empty Space) vein I enjoy so much. But in fact, I walked out of the door of Sadler’s Wells babbling and giddy after seeing Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees. I mean, come on, fox spirits and slow-motion sword fights! I was so glad that whoever ponied up the money to bring this production here from Japan (the Japan Foundation?) did so; I felt extremely lucky to get to see it. Kabuki rocks!

Most magical theatrical production of the year: When I go to a show, I pray a little prayer (just like Man in Chair) that it will take me away – make me forget I’m in a theater, let me overlook plot holes or cheap sets, just make the magic happen. This is what I hope for and it really only rarely happens. Sasha Regan of the Union Theatre must take baths in the stuff, though, because her threadbare rendition of dusty old Gilbert and Sullivan staple Iolanthe won me over all of five minutes into the show. And this, mind you, was with me sat behind an iron pillar. Take that, National Theater and your wastefully overproduced Men Shall Weep. Less really is so very much more.

Best play of the year: nominees are 11 and 12, London Assurance, All My Sons, One on One Festival, Shunkin. While London Assurance had the advantage of both a top-notch cast and a hysterical script (and was so good I saw it twice, the only show I did this for all year), and would deserve the best “play” of the year, the winner for this is the Battersea Art’s Center’s One on One festival, which was a game-changer for me, a theatrical experience I’ve been talking about ever since. Thank you to all of the people who worked so hard to make this event come together; next year I will try to come as many times as possible – if it happens again.

Most “so close and yet so far” play of the year: an hour into Earthquakes in London, I thought I was seeing the most original theater likely to hit the London stage in 2010. Two hours in, my ass had gone numb, and yet we were barely past the halfway mark. At some point between these two moments I realized I’d just been locked in a room to listen to a three hour long art school lecture on climate change, complete with dancing nannies, bad science fiction, and a fanatical devotion to the pope. Well, the last one wasn’t there, but you know what I mean, and God knows the show had no concept of a sense of humor about its topic. Mike Bartlett proved himself still a most competent playwright later in the year with Contractions, but this show had a lot to answer for, not the least of which was leaving a third of the audience on their feet for way, way too long. Of course, this wouldn’t have mattered nearly enough if it hadn’t also been preachy and dull. Please save me from this kind of self-indulgent, self-righteous clap-trap in the future: and please, let’s get the outstanding production values going for a more worthy show.

Best dance of the year: nominees are Maria Pagés and Company (part of the 2010 Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival), the Bolshoi’s Giselle, Bolshoi’s “Russian Seasons” mixed bill (Russian Seasons, Petrushka, Paquita pas de deux, not written up as I was gorging on dance and had no free time), Pointes of View (Birmingham Royal Ballet at Sadler’s Wells, also didn’t write this show up), and the Royal Ballet’s October Mixed Rep (La Valse / Invitus Invitam / Winter Dreams / Theme and Variations). This is a hard one because I saw so much great dance this year. Natalia Osipova totally sold me on the Bolshoi and made me willing to play the pauper for the rest of August and September (summer holiday? what summer holiday?) so that I could see her dance as often as possible. Nearly every mixed bill had one weak point, but despite the loathing I felt for “Winter Dreams,” the Royal Ballet’s mixed bill for fall 2010 was so strong I wanted to get right back in line and have another ride. This was impressive given that I’d just seen about five shows by New York City Ballet and found myself yawning. The Bolshoi brought the most exciting program of dance to London that was available this year, but on this one night the Royal Ballet showed its dedication to the past and the future of dance in a way that really, really worked.

Most “I don’t get why people like this so much” play of the year: seriously, why did people think Clybourne Park was so funny? Is racism amusing? The joke passed me by, I’m afraid. Makes me think Scottsboro Boys might go over better in London than it did in the US …

Worst scheduling catastrophe award: initially I thought of this category as my way of venting about The Mikhailovsky Ballet coming to London as the same time as the Bolshoi and then Carlos Acosta squeezing in a week of performances while the Bolshoi was still here but as it turns out, this was only hard on my wallet – eventually I gave in and bought far more tickets than I planned – and proceeded to enjoy myself tremendously. So, at the end of the year, this award actually goes to the Living Structures/Old Vic for the Cart Macabre fuck up, which meant that I was booted out of a show I had tickets to … and then was never able to reschedule in part because they had to cancel all of the last week of their shows. They never said why. I never got to see it. I am resentful.

Biggest barking dog award: there were the shows I walked out of at the interval (Maurice at Above the Stag, A Rat’s Tale at Lyme Regis’ Marine Theatre, the Sellador Dracula at the Greenwich Playhouse, none of which I reviewed), the shows where I would have walked out had there been an interval (Ingredient X at Royal Court, Pieces of Vincent at the Arcola, Headlong Theatre’s Salome, Passion at the Donmar, that misbegotten Nutcracker I saw at the Pentameters Theater), but I guess for true disappointment, you have to be willing to come back – or be kept from leaving – all the while desperately hoping you will get back the value of your ticket. Thus, the nominees are: Paradise Found, Carlos Acosta’s Premieres, and Punchdrunk’s The Duchess of Malfi. Net hit? £140 for three tickets. Net joy? Zero, other than the pleasure of trashing them here.

Biggest loser? While there were many worthy contestants, the most shocking failure of these three was doubtlessly Paradise Found. With a cast of such high quality and so many worthies involved with the show, you really just couldn’t have seen this one coming – especially if you saw it early in the run. Seriously, THANK the bloggers that give you a chance to steer away from icebergs like this – if we weren’t sounding an early warning system, you, too, might have been dunked for a fat wad of cash AND a bad night out. As it was, we headed off a Broadway production and probably saved the investors rather a lot of money. The rest of the people, their careers won’t be too stained by this disaster.

This leaves me wondering where this blog should go in 2011 – should I make more of an effort to review the dance I see? Should I do more essays? One way or another, I’ve discovered there are limits to how much writing I can do – limits caused by having a day job *sigh*. Ah well, it keeps me in tickets at least, and that’s what counts.

Mini-review – Laurencia – Mikhailovsky Ballet at London Coliseum

July 21, 2010

After seeing last night’s London debut of the 1939 ballet Laurencia, I can’t in good conscience recommend it. I can accept that with my devotion to flamenco, this ballet’s pseudo-Spanish dance scenes were doomed to displease me (in fact, the castanet playing was so flaccid it made me giggle); but the choreography (Vakhtang Chabukiani as revived by Mikhail Messerer) was so broadly uninspiring and the mime so heavy-handed – and the overall feeling so very Snidely Whiplash – that I found it too low quality to be worth a watch, much less a revival.

The best dancing, to me, was the groomsmen’s duet (possibly Andrei Yakhnuyk and Nikolay Korypaev) in the wedding dance; their unison was good, their leaps strong, the energy high. Laurencia (Irina Perren), however, seemed painfully two dimensional; too cutesy early on, too obvious with her pointing fingers and waving fists in act two, and just generally not exciting dancing. Her friend Pascuala (Sabina Yaparova) actually had better choreography, and we switched to watching her dance during the wedding scene as, well, it was more interesting. I think she was a better dancer than Perren, but perhaps she was just focused more on dancing than acting. Male Lead Denis Matvienko showed unchallenged talent during his time onstage; he seemed to be capable of so much but the unimaginative choreography didn’t push him. His two wedding solos were just … flat. I’ll keep him in mind for another show. It was sad, really, to see so much talent so poorly used. At least it was short and I was able to get home in time to do some dishes. Overall, it also left me with a bit of a bad feeling about the Mikhailovsky – they don’t really seem to be in the “world class” level of companies, rather just in the “merely good” zone. Ah well, it was a nice week anyway.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesdya, July 20th, 2010. The show will be repeated on Wednesday, July 21st. For an alternate review, please see Ismene Brown.)

The plot is as such: in a cute Spanish town in “the distant past” (I’d guess 1600ish as the bad guy was dressed like a cross between Cortez and Caesar), Laurencia flirts with her admirer, Frondoso (Denis Matvienko). The happy villagers dance (as they always do). Eventually the army arrives with baddy Don Fernan “The Commander” Gomez (Mikhail Venshchikov, who looked ready to tie the heroine to the railroad tracks at any minute). He decides he’s going to have not just the proffered glass of wine, but Laurencia. She and Frondoso escape to the woods (scene 2). The other town girls appear and wash their laundry. They all leave, then a girl (Jacincta, Oksana Bondareva) appears chased by Fernan’s guards; he appears and allows them to ravage her (offstage thankfully). The villagers return and are suitably shocked by Bondareva’s dance of dismay. (Total time for these scenes: 45 minutes.)

Act 2 starts in the village, where Laurencia and Frondoso are celebrating their marriage. (This is the best scene in the ballet, with lots of fun dancing despite the horrid, posey, fake flamenco.) The Commander interrupts the fun, however, and takes both Laurencia and Frondoso away. The villagers follow them to (scene four) Don Fernan’s castle exterior, where, after some time, the newly ravaged bride emerges, crushed and disoriented, but then, in a scene straight from Les Miserables, incites the men to take their knives (and the women, their pitchforks) and rush the castle. Then a brief movie plays on the curtains (while the set is changed) shows the crowd rushing around inside, attacking guards and setting things on fire. It all ends (scene 5) in Don Fernan’s castle’s main hall, where the peasants appear, catch Fernan (after Laurencia refuses his offer of treasure) and kill him. Then they do a dance of triumph which seems to be a bit of a Russian exhortation to hold strong against the forces of oppression – very telling with the German invasion just around the corner. (Total time for this act approximately one hour.) Note that this ballet is based on Lope de Vega’s story “Fuente Ovejuna.”

Review – Cipollino – Mikhailovsky Ballet at London Coliseum

July 18, 2010

While the Bolshoi’s pulling the big prices with a summer of reruns, the Mikhailovsky’s actually making an attempt to give something back to London audiences by giving us two different, unique ballets: Cipollino, a children’s ballet, is a UK premiere of a ballet originally choreographed in 1973 (and based on an Italian children’s book); Laurencia is billed as a “world premiere” but is actually a revival of the 1939 original (meaning I can’t call it a world premiere by any stretch). (Details of both on the Mikhailovsky site).

Today was the opening day of Cipollino, which, per Wikipedia, is “a children’s tale about political oppression” but as done by fruits and vegetables. I was prepared to be highly amused despite further rather gloomy promises that “the main theme is the struggle of the underclass against the powerful;” it all seemed to promise a play that would hinge on the tomato, which could be either depending on your point of view, and with all of the trouble caused by a little green onion-boy (the “Cipollino” of the title). Glorious revolution ho!

Sadly our day got off to a dreary start with an extremely long plea for donations for a children’s cancer care charity, which, no matter how worthy, couldn’t help but bring the mood down with its evocation of a room full of people many of whom would be unpleasantly and too soon dead. (Sorry, Ms. Narrator, but 1/4 of the room WAS children, you must not tarry in the maudlin lest you lose the momentum.) However, when the curtain opened and the cheery painted drop of 70s psychedelic Russian folk kitsch appeared, all was forgotten. We were introduced to the lead characters: Cipollino, the little green onion boy (Alexey Kuznetsov, laboring under the most unattractive wig this side of Little Lord Fauntleroy and making it even worse with his terrifying grin) and his family; his girlfriend Radish (Sabina Yapparova) and her family; the various proletariat members of vegetable town (Mr. Pear, a violinist, Master Grape, the cobbler, and “old Mr. Pumpkin,” who is apparently 1) old and 2) homeless). Then it was the key members of the oppressive fruit caste: Signor Tomato (big handlebar mustache and quite a bumbling policeman look to him – will credit when I get the cast sheet) and Prince Lemon (hysterically over the top foppish, again can’t credit at present).

Then the ballet itself starts. We have our happy little vegetables in their baskets and dancing in their village. They are, thank God, dressed in charming balletic peasant clothes rather than in eyeball-burning, painfully obvious actual vegetable costumes (no Tales of Beatrix Potter here). Cipollino’s status is designated merely by a green sprout coming from the top of his head; everyone else just goes for the right colors for their role (or maybe a tasteful print of grapes or flowers on their clothes), generally speaking. It’s all set against a backdrop that seems to be vaguely Italian town, which, you know, is fine.

Our villains appear. Signor Tomato is a blustery, angry fellow with a black admiral’s hat on and a large mustache; he comes off like a vicious Major General. He’s accompanied by a group of four men whom I could only think of as elves escaped from Santa Land. This caused me considerable mental distress as I quickly saw the elves “kettling” the happy villagers for the crime of stepping on Prince Lemon’s toe; later I saw the same elves engaging in a “little bit of the old ultra-violence” with the same Prince Lemon. I kept expecting them to hand out presents or make toys; the red and green suits simply couldn’t read any other way. Elf prison guards, what has the world come to?

Prince Lemon has a much bigger contingent of accompanying toadies, all solidly dressed per “children’s ballet” standards of brights, striped, and polka dots. My favorite were the yellow guards, four young women in Tour De France winner’s gear of bright yellow with black trim, nicely accented by bicorn hats and glossy black toe shoes. They got some good choreography (footwork-wise) which made them even more fun to watch. My companion and I both got a kick out of the ballet’s heavy-handed depiction of the flattery exacted by Prince Lemon.

As for the rest of the actual so-called plot, I’ve dropped the synopsis below. In short, Cipollino must both rescue his father from his prison at Prince Lemon’s castle and successfully rebel against the fruit aristocracy so that poor Mr. Pumpkin can have a place to live and the vegetables can live in peace. This requires a long visit to the castle, giving us an opportunity to introduce two secondary characters Count Cherry (Nikolay Korypaev) and Magnolia (Irina Kosheleva) who perform the cruelest trick of all: they steal all of the good dancing away from the lead vegetables.

So really: how about that dancing? Cipollino himself gets almost no exciting choreography, save for his acts 1 and 2 fights with Signor Tomato. Instead, as in all good Panto, the villains totally steal the show. With their incredible high kicks and leaps, Tomato and Lemon really made me want to see them set loose to show off their stuff, as they appeared to be great athletes with very good timing, as well as good actors. Really, the way their legs snapped up in the air about to their noses was quite remarkable. Perhaps they were supposed to be showy, but I couldn’t help but wonder: couldn’t Cipollino just get a little better stuff to dance, and maybe a different wig?

His girlfriend Radish was sprightly and fun, but her charms were washed away when Magnolia came onto the stage, seemingly from an entirely different ballet. She was light, she was airy, she pirouetted like a dream, she flirted and seduced and totally stole the second act. Her duet with Count Cherry was the best dancing of the ballet; second best was the immediately following trio in which Cipollino joins the mix and the two men kind of show off to her and take turns partnering her. If it hadn’t been for this bit, I think I would have just not believed Alexey Kuznetsov could really dance at all.

In short, although the choreography of this ballet (by Genrikh Mayorov) isn’t of the sort that’s going to be making its way into the gala repetoire any time soon, it was still enjoyable on a variety of levels and I consider it worth seeing, especially if the half-priced day of seat tickets are available from the TKTS booth (as they were today). I had a great time from my stalls seats and was pleased by the two hour start-to-finish (with interval) running time. If you are considering bringing children, I’d suggest seven to eleven as the right age range; don’t bring younger unless you’ve already got a ballet fan on your hands as I saw a few four or five year olds just looking too worn out to manage through the show. But do go; you may never have a chance to see this fun work again.

(This review is for a performance that took place at 2 PM on Saturday July 17th 2010. This show will be repeated on July 24th.)

Synopsis of Cipollino from Mikhailovsky site (for those who don’t have Flash):
Act I

A square in a fairytale town. It seems there are only vegetable baskets and fruit cases. But in fact those are big and small houses where fruits and vegetables live. And all the fruits and vegetables resemble people so much.
The family of the Radishes meet the family of the Onions. Mother Cipolla and father Cipollone are trying to cope with naughty Cipollino who is tired of nursing his little sister Cipolletta. Master Grape is mending shoes. Mister Pumpkin is looking for some bricks to build a house for himself. Professor Pear is playing the violin and all the citizens of the town are dancing. Suddenly Signor Tomato appears on the square and announces the visit of Prince Lemon who’d like to talk to his citizens. Prince Lemon has just issued a new law: the sunshine, the wind blow, and the rain must be paid for. Vegetables and fruits are indignant.
In the stampede Cipollino has inadvertently stepped on Lemon’s foot. The guards are outraged: Prince Lemon has been insulted. The ‘rebel’ must be punished. But Cipollino has vanished and the guards arrest his father, the old Cipollone.
The Onions are grieving. But other families have problems too. Mister Pumpkin on his own cannot build a house. All the citizens united by Cipollino are helping him. No sooner than the house has been built, Signor Tomato appears. He’s nearly bursting with anger: the Pumpkin’s house has been built on the land of Countesses Cherries. It’s private property and nobody can use it. The Guard of Prince Lemon destroy the house. The poor old Pumpkin is desperate. Cipollino sets for revenge.

Act II

Cipollino and his friend little Radish are going to the palace to find the place where old Cipollone is kept. On the way they meet young Count Cherry who is very lonely in the palace. Cipollino, Radish, and Cherry make friends. Trying to find the imprisoned Cipollone they are nearly caught by Signor Tomato but manage to escape. The Countesses Cherries are throwing a feast in honour of Prince Lemon. While everybody is busy dancing the friends manage to set Cipollone free.
Lemon’s Guard and the police are looking for the runaways. Cipollino hides his father and Radish but gets arrested.
In the gardens of the palace Count Cherry meet Magnolia. Together they find Cipollino incarcerated. Magnolia with her fragrance sends the guards to sleep; Count Cherry ties them up and sets Cipollino free.
Prince Lemon comes to the prison to punish the ‘rebel’ but finds only the guards tied up.
The enraged Prince orders to fire the cannon into the townsfolk but Cipollino and his friends manage to push the Prince into the cannon. When the smoke rolls away there is no Prince Lemon, no cannon, and no guards. From now on everybody will happily live in the fairytale town. There will be a new town under the clear blue sky — a town of friends!

Casting for 2010 Mikhailovsky London Coliseum visit

July 13, 2010

Tonight’s the start of the Mikhailovsky’s summer visit to London, with five different ballets on offer and a wide variety of performers scheduled to perform. This cast list is copied from the Ballet forum for wider dissemination as I’ve also struggled with the English National Opera’s website (flash doesn’t work on my work computer or on my phone, so useless!) and have been wondering if I would be getting a chance to see any of the ballerinas I’d enjoyed seeing before. I was already feeling peeved about Zakharova’s disappearance from the Bolshoi’s summer tour (making me glad I actually still haven’t bought any Bolshoi tickets as I would have been outraged to have spent so much money and not have got what I was promised), so I wanted to cross-check and see just what it is I’m going to be experiencing at the Coliseum the next two weeks. I’ve starred the ones I am going to see. With luck I’ll end with new dancers to fangrrl over.

Swan Lake
July 13*, 14, 23, 25 – Borchenko, Shemiunov
July 17 (eve), 22 – Rojo, Phkhachov
July 24 – Perren, Semionov

Giselle
July 15 – Perren, Matvienko
July 16 – Perren, Pykhachov

Cipolino
July 17*, 24 – Kuznetsov, Yapparova, Korypaev, Kosheleva

Triple bill
July 18* – Perren, Shmiounov, Ploom, Arbuzova, Lomachenkova, Yapparova, Kochetkova, Korypaev, Yakhnyuk

Laurencia
July 20* – Perren, Matvienko
July 21 – Borchenko, Shemiunov

Ballet Summer 2009 – Mikhailovsky and Diaghilev program at Royal Opera House!

April 25, 2009

I finally flipped through the Royal Opera House program last night and was very pleased to see that we’ll be getting some Russian ballet this summer! The Mariinsky/Kirov is coming to the Royal Opera House from 3-15 August and presenting four different programs. However, I was disappointed at the rather unimaginative seat-fillers they’ve got on offer – Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty. I mean, GAH, could they pull any chestnuttier chestnuts out of the chestnut case? (Oh, wait, they’re not doing Nutcracker, so I guess they could have pulled one more out still.)

Now, it’s Leonid Lavrovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, and Petipa’s Sleeping Beauty, so it should be substantially different from the Royal Ballet productions people would be more likely to be familiar with. (Note that the Swan Lake is choreographed by Konstantin Sergeyev off of Petipa and Ivanov, so again a different version.) But I’m just really disappointed at the lack of really different productions, like when the Bolshoi brought Spartacus and The Pharaoh’s Daughter to the Royal Opera House five years back. They weren’t just different versions of the same old stuff (Look! A cheese sandwich with relish on it!) but just entirely different worlds of ballet to what I was used to seeing (rather like chicken mole’ after a lifetime thinking Mexican food meant tacos). And that is what I would like to see – or, better yet, some really modern choreographers, the Mariinsky doing work especially choreographed for it, a chance to see something truly new! But no, all we get is Balanchine, and it’s Balanchine war horses to boot. I mean, come on, Serenade and Rubies, not only have I seen them before, but they will have both been done in London earlier in the yeah, and even on the stage of the Royal Opera House.

Wah. On the other hand, there’s this wacky little “Tribute to Diaghilev” thing happening on June 7th, directed by Valeriy Ovsyanikov, with various Russian dancers and Royal Ballet members doing some real classics I’ve never even had a chance to see (Le Spectre de la Rose and The Dying Swan being particularly notable holes in my ballet experience), and while the tickets seem a bit painfully priced, I think I’m going to make the effort – 30 quid is more than I’ll normally spend for a ticket, but, well, you know, a few times a year I can let myself splurge. And, inevitably, it’s for ballet, and it’s in the summer, and it’s the shows that, with luck, I’ll spend the rest of my years talking about “that one time I saw that really great production of that wild XXX” and I won’t regret spending the money one little bit.

(Booking for these shows opens on April 28th, 2009. Gentlemen, start your engines!)

Review – Giselle – Mikhailovsky Ballet at the London Coliseum 2010

July 26, 2008

I’ve realized there’s little point in posting a review of a show that’s already finished up as most people look for them to help determine whether or not to go, but I will say just a bit about this show, sparing you the details about trying to find someone to go with me when my date for the evening said, “But … but … I totally forgot about you buying me those tickets for my birthday!” (Grr!)

Last night we saw the Mikhailovsky Ballet performing Giselle at the London Coliseum, part of a five night/three show visit by this group. I’m not sure if they’ve ever been to London before, but I was pretty eager to check them out … I’ve enjoyed the visits by the Bolshoi and was quite sad when I found out they weren’t coming to London this summer. The prices were quite high (again), so I decided against seeing more than one show, but I’ve noted that they’ve had tickets available at the half price booth everyday so some concessions have been made to keeping ticket costs in the breathable part of the atmosphere. I guess part of the issue is also that the Coliseum is really just such a barn – it’s hard to fill every seat, and, really, many of them aren’t that good; still, I suspect there are far few crappy seats at the Coliseum than there are at the Opera house (and let me tell you, when they say “standing room, restricted view,” they mean “enjoy the music because for between 60 and 40 percent of the time, that’s all you’re getting). The Coliseum also just has more damned seats, but this is good as it means less sell outs (which is how I wound up in lame standing side seats at the ROH).

At any rate, due to having most of the rest of the week booked (notice the near daily postings here, and, truth be told, I’m actually a day behind as I’ve already seen another show but not had time to write about it yet), Giselle was the winning show. I had seen this done by the Cuban National Ballet in Seattle some years ago and loved it; the story is quite fun (young girl falls in love with prince and then dies of a broken/faulty heart; ghost of young girl finds prince in wood and tries to KILL KILL KILL him – or something close enough to that, basically act two has evil fairies, which is enough for me to love the show) and the music is good. The surviving 19th century ballets are really just quite good and since every company plays them differently, it never gets old to see them (especially when they have great scores).

The show starred Anastasya Matvienko, who is apparently famous. I, of course, didn’t know her, because I am not up to date on dancers around the world; I just try to learn the ones in the local groups. She was really just extremely good – light hearted and lovely as a young woman; beautiful and powerful as a Wili (evil fairy). I was really amazed by how expressive she was with her feet – watching her dance during the second half, after the prince has been caught by the Wilis, was really impressive. She also brilliantly captured the “mad scene” after the prince’s identity (and non-availability) was revealed. Suddenly with her big eyes and her thin face she looked every bit the broken hearted, out of control, sickly teenaged girl who really just wasn’t going to make it past the end of act one. So Matvienko pulled off the thing I rarely see in Russian dancers – great acting married to the (expected) excellent technique – and she didn’t show off so much that it distracted from the story being told. I applaud her, and add this: I could not take my eyes off of her when she was on stage. What a treat!

She was paired with Denis Matvienko, who did a good job of being both arrogant, fearful, and, finally, tender and loving. His bravado leaps in the first act (which I always tend to think of as “showing off to the girl to prove how virile he is”) were high and sharp, including the ones with the half-turn in the air (God, can I please talk to somebody who can actually help me learn more about ballet so I can describe what’s going on with the right words?), but he also seemed to really understand how his dance conveys character and situation, so when he’s being forced to dance by the Queen of the Wilis (Oksana Shestakova), the smoothness and, well, lack of passion in his dancing – a bit hard to convey when you’re also trying to show that you’re being forced to dance very hard – really nicely conveyed the idea of being bewitched. Good on you, Denis, and as a side note, very nice work by Roman Petukov in the role of the the man who does have to dance himself to death. Actually, I’m a bit amused, because both Giselle and “The gamekeeper” die, but instead of feeling moved at the tragedy, instead I was excited by how good their dancing was. It seemed morbid, but, what can I say, I loved watching them and they gave great performances!

Anyway, in short: gorgeous. My only complaint is the lighting design – it was irritating to watch the dancers walk from light into shadow when merely going across the stage, and some places in which the dancers were standing were positively dark. The follow spot operator also did a poor job of keeping the light on the person who was the center of attention in any given scene, something which would have helped overcome the deficiencies in the lighting of the set. And, truth be told, I preferred the choreography that the Ballet Nacional de Cuba used, which had much more forceful Wilis – I just didn’t get the kind of shivers up my spine that I did when watching theirs (though I was happy to say goodbye to the cheesy 70s sets). That said, I am sorry I am not going back to see the triple bill tomorrow but my wallet failed to make the grade. With luck we’ll see them again next year!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, July 25th, 2008.)