Signature showbiz spectacular
July 19, 2004 -- The Royal Opera House, London
This was the first time I’ve seen the Bolshoi, if you discount the rather odd truncated versions of their repertoire I saw at the Albert Hall some years ago, and their "Don Quixote" showed me a company that lived up to all my expectations. "Don Quixote" is one of their signature ballets and the production and the dancing was big, strident, confident and vigorous, and incredibly well performed by the whole company.
Spectacular dancing is the point of "Don Quixote" (it certainly isn’t the plot, is it?) and this production had bucket loads of it. The company dance a version of Gorsky’s 1900 production, staged by Alexei Fadeyechev in 1999. This production does attempt to make more sense (which obviously isn’t saying much) of the rather thin story of the ballet and foregrounds Don Quixote more than in other productions I’ve seen. The tavern scene comes before the gypsy camp and doesn’t feature Kitri and Basil, for example. It also looks extremely handsome with the sets and bright costumes adding to the light heartedness of the ballet.
But for me, the evening was perhaps a touch long, though that could just have been because I was standing. While the character dances were brilliantly danced and exhilarating to watch, the many, many deep backbends were beginning to pall a little by the end. No disrespect intended to these dancers though who were truly fantastic, particularly Yulianna Malkhasyants in the Gypsy Dance.
I was very much looking forward to seeing Maria Alexandrova, newly promoted to Principal and about whom I’d read a lot, and she is indeed a real talent. I thought she had a lovely stage presence and charm and brought a great sense of fun and cheekiness to Kitri. She’s a very strong dancer with a huge jump and high extensions. But, she did sacrifice technique for effect a bit too often for me, with some untidy attitudes, bent legs in jetes and arabesques, and messy arms on occasion. She was also rather tense in the neck and upper body (nerves perhaps?). It’s great to see dancers really go for it even if it knocks them off balance sometimes, but occasionally the effort she was making jarred somewhat.
No such problems for Sergei Filin who was a charismatic Basil and showed us polished stylish dancing. Ekaterina Shipulina as Queen of the Dryads was gorgeous with a lovely creamy, controlled quality to her dancing and beautiful line. Nina Kaptsova as Cupid was wonderfully light and sweet without being cutesy, Ksenia Tsareva showed off her beautiful jump in the 1st variation in Act III, and Kitri’s friends, Irina Semirechenskaya and Anastasia Yatsenko, were very impressive.
The depth of talent and strength in the company was what impressed me most about the performance. There were no weak links with the soloists, and the Corps were strong, well schooled and looked to be having a great time. Which, of course, is what "Don Quixote" is all about.
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