Posts Tagged ‘Svetlana Zakharova’

Review – Serenade and Giselle – Bolshoi Ballet at Royal Opera House

July 27, 2010

Last night I busted the piggy bank and went for a last-minute return ticket (in the stalls!) to see the Bolshoi Ballet perform Giselle at the Royal Opera House. I hadn’t planned on seeing Giselle: Bolshoi ticket prices have been just too high (three times my normal amphitheatre prices) and I prefer to see new and interesting programming rather than the same old warhorses. But then, well, first Zakharova was going to be performing, then she dropped out but Osipova jumped into her place – and suddenly I had the possibility of seeing (or missing) a truly outstanding Giselle – well, my resistance dissolved with that dangling carrot and off I trotted like the ballet groupie I am.

However, my unexpected treat for the evening was the triumphant version of “Serenade” presented as an amuse-bouche to our main course. The orchestra’s opening bars made the hair stand up on the back of my neck – it sounded so gorgeously modern and lush and sad. And the curtain rose, and there stood a flock of gorgeous ballerinas clad in white, glowing against a blue backdrop. The piece started, and it was just the simplest of gestures, gentle transitions into standard ballet positions – but all so much more. This piece is Balanchine at his greatest – paring ballet back to pure, simple movement that all comes together into so much more, in no way lacking in emotional content because of the lack of story. I compared it to the “Apollo” I’ve seen revived so many times and can’t believe how much more depth this has – one man and several women come together but the (male) ego has gone, and instead we have gorgeous lines of arms and legs, and the heartbreaking reach of Ekaterina Krysanova for a man who, with another ballerina draped over him, seems doomed to never be able to meet her grasp and support her as she needs. Krysanova was brilliant throughout this – pliable, weightless, fully present – and as she was carried off at the end with her back arcing seemingly impossibly far back, I felt that she was being borne away to her death – while she, as a dancer, appears to be headed to greater heights. This performance will be the benchmark against which I shall judge all future “Serenades” (and many future Balanchine performances, no doubt).

Then it was on to Giselle. This was described as a “Russian staging,” and I’m not entirely sure what that means – less mime, certainly (which is good as Giselle can leave me a bit lost), but different dances in act one. A truly new bit was the dance of the engaged “peasant couple” (Anastasia Stashkevich and Viacheslav Lopatin) – dramatically creating a model against which Giselle’s disappointment with Albrecht’s duplicity can be measured. I also seemed to recall the royalty (Bathilde and her father, and, I think in some productions, Albrecht’s mother) sitting down to watch the various dances leading toward the end of act one – but other than the peasant pas de deux above and some sousing around with a keg of beer and tambourines, there was little in the way of group dancing in this production. Bonus tacky points for Bathilde’s necklace, which doubtlessly left a Christmas tree naked, and for the courtiers’ stuffed “falcons,” which I loved but were as fake as the dancing mice in the Nutcracker.

But what this was really about was Giselle. And Natalia Osipova, wow. I have never seen such perfection in the creation of character in ballet. Aside from her amazingly expressive face, which was so much more than the cartoon of acting most ballerinas pull on stage, she had the body movements down to unconscious perfection – a little head lean against Albrecht said so much – and her dance steps really illustrated the character – the way she just barely moved her feet when she was struggling created more of an impression of illness than any “fist clenched to heart” I’d seen before. This subtlety is to me what made this a great performance. I loved her brilliant whirl onto stage as a freshly risen ghost in Act 2 – her newfound strength but lack of control seemingly perfect for Wili-Giselle but an interpretation I don’t seem to have seen before. I was also blown away by her great death scene – it was as if I could see her heart exploding just before Albrecht caught her in his arms, and she was gorgeously, hopelessly dead when she landed. But these moments were merely capital letters in a long essay of an ideal performance – it was the whole of it, the words, the sentences, the thoughts – that made it all come together in a way that’s convinced me that I must, now and forever, attempt to see Ms Osipova in any story ballet she ever deigns to perform in. How lucky we were to have had her come to visit!

However, I find my enthusiasm for the rest of the show more reserved. It seemed that it just generally lacked in brilliant dancing, the kind of showcase stuff I always expect the Russians to toss in just because they can’t help but make a spectacle of themselves and their talent. I’m sure I’ve seen Myrtha look less like a tanned version the evil queen from Snow White; but Maria Allash made this character a panto villain, more like an insect than a creature with thoughts. The Wilis danced nicely but not memorably; both Albrecht and Hilarion’s “dance to the death” were lacking. This is particularly sad for Ruslan Pronin, who, as Hilarion, was utterly denied the opportunity to show his brilliance during his star turn on stage (as Roman Petukov did in the Mariinsky version). I felt Ruslan Skvortsov also missed out, as Albrecht’s last scene, dancing for his life with the Wilis, just didn’t feel nearly like he was being forced to drip every last ounce of energy out of his body (to our benefit!). So ultimately, this will not go down as the best Giselle ever, but, in fact, a lacking Giselle – except for our actual Giselle, Ms Osipova, who has given me a performance against which I think I will be judging all dancers in the future, not just performers in this role.

(This review is for a performance that took place on July 26th, 2010. The production continues today and July 27th – casting for today here and Wednesday here.)

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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

Review – Homage to Nureyev – various dancers at the London Coliseum

March 21, 2010

Ah, the gala. What are they all about? For me, they’re a chance to see dancers I might not ever see performing the peak elements of works I might know – or be completely unfamiliar with. It’s a chance to celebrate teh best of ballet. Or, rather, it celebrates certain aspects of ballet, pushing showy technique over story telling. Despite it’s shortcomings, I’ve been finding galas well worth attending to expand my knowledge of the world of dance.

Tonight’s “Homage to Nureyev” featured a lot of the typical elements – a horde of imported dancers, an audience full of preening plutocrats, a late start, an overly long interval, recorded music (not all, thank goodness), and 32 fouettes (though thankfully no dying swan). It also had an original pieces (“Elegy”) and two male solo pieces (“Adagietto” from La Muette and “A Picture Of” by Patrick de Bana) that I had not seen before.

The quality of the evening was, again typically, mixed. Unfortunately, the Adagietto (or “A man and a chair”) took an opportunity for some really acrobatic dance and turned it into a tortured set of poses and stretches, and “A Picture Of” managed to do even less – an hour later and both are already fading from my memory. Sadly, “Elegy” is memorable due to the Olga Esina being dropped on the floor by Vladimir Shishov. Celebration of Nureyev and Fonteyn? More like a celebration of the need to rehearse before performing.

In retrospect, the thing I enjoyed most about this night was the chance to see two truly outstanding women performing: Uliana Lopatkina (Russkaya and Trois Gnossiennes) and Svetlana Zakharova (Tristan and Isolde). Zakharova was fluid, willowy, with great extentions and … well, she just reminded me of a naiad in a painting by Waterhouse. Lopatkina came on for an amazing solo in Russkaya which actually gave me the giggles as it started with her holding a white hanky that I couldn’t help but think she’d found from “The Moor’s Pavane” (a retelling of Othello). But her footwork – I just don’t know how to describe it. On pointe, she was so in control that it looked to me like she might just have casually done calligraphy with her feet. Then she flung herself into some Russian folk dancing that was lively and energetic and amazing. She came back with a much more modern “Trois Gnossiennes,” which had her displaying beautiful positions, angling her feet in ways that seemed impossible and unnatural. I’m not sure if either of these women are coming back to London any time soon, but I’m going to make an effort to see them.

Unfortunately, due to the late start(s) and then the video, I wasn’t able to stay for the entire show – I’ve seen Afternoon of a Faun twice already this year, and while I was curious to see “Black,” what I wanted to do even more was to get a full night’s sleep for the start of my work week. And so what am I doing? Writing this up instead. Still, I managed to do most of it while I was on the train. Verdict? This one was probably missable, but then, I didn’t stay until the end, so who knows how much better it might have got? Still, I’m glad I went. (Full program here. Info on ENO site here. Their ad is a bit off as it mentions “La Bayadère, Romeo and Juliet, Manon, Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, and Le Corsair” as possible ballets in the show and only Swan Lake was excerpted. Shame!

This review was for a show that took place on Sunday, March 21st, 2010. Other reviews: Zoe Anderson in the Independent, and Sarah Crompton in the Telegraph.)