by Patrizia Vallone
July 31, 2004 -- Royal Opera House, London
To me "Spartacus" is a mixture of memories and nostalgia. When Russia still was the Soviet Union and in Italy there was still a Communist Party there was a so called 'Italy-URSS Centre' in Rome which worked as a cultural link between the two countries. They were extremely active and efficient in promoting any sort of Russian culture in Italy and of course ballet was part of that. They showed many historical Russian ballet movies and "Spartacus" was one of the first I saw in the late 70s (time flies!). Wladimir Vassiliev dancing the honourable hero Spartacus and Maris Liepa as the arrogant Crassus were absolutely unforgettable, even on screen.
I used to think of "Spartacus" as the trademark of Bolshoi style, as over the top, loud, show-offish and also a bit vulgar. Even the music by Khachaturian always sounded cunning to me. Legend has it that the composer spent some time in Rome after the score had been commissioned, in order to get proper inspiration. What did he see if this is the result?
Attending some live performances of this ballet through the years have not changed my mind but I have to say that this work is marvellously captivating like a thriller movie. The scenes follow a pressing rhythm, ensemble, solo, pas de deux , and so on. You never get bored and are always in suspense. In this context Khachaturian's music is like a Hollywood sound track.
"Spartacus" is a mostly male ballet so on this occasion gentlemen come first. Let's forget the past for a while and look at the present. Yuri Klevtsov was an energetic Spartacus with good jumps and mighty lifts. Vladimir Neporoshny as Crassus did not seem very at ease in the role. He was too polite and missed some legato in the steps. Inna Petrova was a sweet and delicate Phrygia and Maria Allash an intriguing Aegina. The rest of the company was in very good shape.
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