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Bolshoi Ballet

'The Pharaoh's Daughter'

Lacotte's Bolshoi daughter

by Patrizia Vallone

August 7, 2004 -- Royal Opera House, London

London's Bolshoi season ended on Saturday 7th August with "The Pharaoh's Daughter", a ballet never before seen in London and actually not seen around until a few years ago.  The present production is a reconstruction of an early Petipa work, his first success, by Pierre Lacotte.

I am quite familiar with the work of Pierre Lacotte since he was invited quite often in the '80s by the Rome Opera Ballet. The French choreographer is an expert in the reconstruction of lost romantic ballets, working accurately from old sources. In Rome he mounted Marco Spada for Rudolf Nureyev - maybe his first demi-character role - and for his own wife, Ghislein Thesmar, one of the most elegant ballerinas I have ever seen on stage. Marco Spada was a big success, although it was a bit too long (I remember I left the theatre at 1 o'clock in the morning), so it was re-staged the following year in Rome and in Paris. Lacotte was then invited again to mount his Taglioni's "La Sylphide" with Thesmar and Nureyev again in the principal roles. Later Lacotte came to Rome once again to stage his version of "A Midsummer night's Dream" which I did not see at the time.

Watching "Pharaoh's Daughter", I am wondering how much of Petipa is left and how much of Lacotte is in there. Although Petipa had been in Russia since 1848 he was still at the beginning as a choreographer in 1862, having worked as a dancer before, so he may not have developed his own style yet. This ballet is very French in style; Petipa was French after all - never forget!- very graceful, delicate, a bit coquettish. The port de bras is small and rounded, the feet perform all sorts of batterie - just the opposite of Bolshoi style -- bold and big.

The story is of no importance, a good excuse for a long divertissement with lots of variations, solos and pas de deux. The Bolshoi has quite a lot to do, there are always lots of people on stage, nobody is idle. It is a pleasure to see how the dancers have mastered a style that is so different form their own - generally Russian dancers are not so much at ease with batterie. Svetlana Zakharova and Sergei Filin were the brilliant principals on Saturday night, they get along very well together. The rest of the company with the many soloists dances very well too.

The painted sets were delightfully old fashioned and the costumes were all splendour and many (Zakharova alone wore 7 different costumes), all desigend by Piere Lacotte himself. All in all a ballet I loved and wish to see again.

Edited by Jeff.

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