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Kirov Ballet - 'The Fountain of Bachchisarai'

by Catherine Pawlick

October 31, 2004 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg

Based on the libretto by Nikolai Volkov after Alexander Pushkin’s poem, the four-act “Fountain of Bachchisarai” is one of the ballets rarely (if ever) performed in the West. A Soviet ballet, according to program notes, its main theme centers around “the regeneration (if not brightening) of the human soul through high feelings of love.” There were challenges in dividing up the events of Pushkin’s poem for the ballet, and still maintaining the spirit of his work. According to Volkov, the libretto was created after locating the Polish act of the poem, which was necessary for the starting point of the actions, for its dramatic justification. Maria, Girei and Zarem, the three main characters uphold the story line, which culminates in a tragical collision at the end of the ballet.

A brief synopsis for those unfamiliar with the libretto: Maria, the fair daughter of Grand Duke Adam, the Polish magnate, is celebrating her birthday at the family palace. Her fiancé is there, and they are happy together. The aristocratic guests dance, and later a group of Tatars storm the palace, killing everyone, including Maria’s father and fiancé. She is taken hostage back to the harem of Khan Girei in Bachchizarai. At the harem, it becomes clear that Girei has fallen out of love with his wife, Zarem, and in love with Maria. Maria, alone, shy, and distraught, resists his advances. The jealous wife visits Maria and kills her. The Khan Girei appears and slits his wife’s throat. The ballet ends as it begins with the Khan Girei alone, mourning the memory of Maria.

Tonight’s performance featured the return of Maya Dumchenko to the stage, in her first post-maternity leave performance. Dumchenko is a fair-haired beauty, long of arm, thin of frame, ever graceful and pleasing to watch. Her Maria was innocent, gentle, the epitomy of a princess. Her wide smile evoked the joy of her birthday celebration in the first act; likewise her bowed head and pleading glances transmitted the sorrow she felt while being held captive in the harem. Her fiancée was the quite youthful Maksim Chashegorov, a dark haired, slim young dancer. He partnered with enthusiasm if not always with strength; and if his lines were not as complete as some of the more polished dancers in the troupe, his dramatic abilities were stronger than some.

Khan Girei was danced by Alexander Kurkov. The role is more dramatic than classical, and involves more pantomime than actual dancing. Nevertheless, with the help of costume, he managed to present a tormented Khan, harsh and unfeeling towards his wife, but pained by his unrequited love for Maria.

Other dancers of note were Ivan Popov and Anna Sisoeva in their very lively presentation of the Krakovic dance, and the two young sword-wavers, Alexander Sergeev and Aleksei Timofeev. Valeri Obsyanikov conducted.

Edited by Jeff.

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