by Catherine Pawlick
November 7, 2004 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia
Some things never change, or even improve with time. Virtuosic ballerinas are, in that way similar to a good wine – open the bottle and it is just what you expected – perhaps even better due to the anticipation of its flavor, knowing it is of a good year.
Sunday night’s performance of “Manon” at the Mariinsky exemplified this phenomenon. Those of you who have read prior reviews already know this reviewer’s opinion of Natalia Sologub’s rendition of the role. One might assume that yet another viewing would dull the impression, but it did not. Following repeat viewings, one might even say this performance gets better with time. Or perhaps Sologub’s Manon is simply ever-fresh and therefore doesn’t wear on the viewer, so that each time it seems like a debut performance. Sologub appeared on stage the image of happy femininity, light and playfulness. Fresh, lighthearted and teasing, she was every bit the flirt until De Grieux came into view, and then love struck her, visibly, tangibly.
Andrei Mercuriev as De Grieux was a cooler student, the more reserved type, but clearly no less infatuated with his mistress than Ilya Kuznetsov has been in the role. He was less expressive facially but more so choreographically in his amour for Sologub. Their pas de deux together was liquid, and Mercuriev is a very strong partner despite his smaller (comparatively) build. His pirouettes are certain and grounded – he seems to turn from somewhere internally first, and although at times one thinks he will falter, he doesn’t. His passion was more visible in act two’s ballroom approach. And his jetes following the murder of the port authority were wrought with angst.
Yana Serebryakova was Lescaut’s lover, energetic, confident, exuding French chic at every glance. Lescaut was danced reliably by Ruben Bobovnikov, and although his lines aren’t as pleasing as some others’, his dramatic ability --whether dancing drunkenly or abusing his girlfriend -- was noteworthy.
The rape scene with the Port director, danced by Ivan Popov, was even more sexually suggestive than before, clarifying his role in the ballet’s plot.
Sergei Kalagin of Tatarstan, laureat of the all-Russian Competition, again conducted.
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