'The Prodigal Son', pas de deux divertissements, 'Diamonds'
A Balanchine sandwich
December 29, 2004 -- Festspielhaus, Baden Baden
The closing performance given by the Kirov in Baden Baden was a special gala, but given with one complete ballet and an entire act of a full-length, both by Balanchine. Sandwiched between were the predictable Don Q. pas de deux and several gala numbers that kept being changed almost up until the day of performance.
The evening began with a performance of Balanchine’s “The Prodigal Son” with Andrei Merkuriev in the title role. I saw Merkuriev dance this at Covent Garden a couple of years ago and since then he has sharpened his interpretation into that of a young romantic yearning for experience and becoming a gullible prey for the unscrupulous denizens of the world outside his home. Daria Pavlenko was the siren, more of a bad girl than an out and out villainess; she isn’t quite the man-eater I’ve seen other dancers portray in the past. Merkuriev was very moving as the repentant sufferer gathered up in his father’s arms in the final scene.
The diverts opened with the pas de deux from “The Sleeping Beauty” danced by two young hopefuls Ekaterina Osmolkina and Vladimir Shklarov, they danced nicely enough but couldn’t give the piece the sense of occasion that it requires. This was followed by the Auber “Grand pas Classique” with Victoria Tereshkina and Anton Korsakov, two dancers with the ‘Wow Factor’. This pas de deux is something of a rarity presumably because it’s so fiendishly difficult: perfect timing and control are what is needed for this one. There is a video of the Grand pas danced by Yuri Soloviev and Gabriella Komleva and it must rate as one of the most outstanding pieces of dance on film in existence. If you want to see classical ballet at its most perfect, you watch that video and it goes without saying that they are an impossible act to follow, and yet… these dancers had a pretty good go, with Korsakov’s immaculate turns and Tereshkina’s precise pointe work making them worthy heirs to their illustrious predecessors. For me, this was the highlight of the evening.
More Balanchine followed, with a careful rendering of the “Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux” by Olesia Novikova and Andrian Fadeyev. Nicely danced, but not enough oomph. The next item was “Le Spectre de la Rose” with the appealing casting of Irina Zhelonkina and Igor Kolb. Zhelonkina’s lightness and refinement meant the role of the young girl fitted her like a glove and Kolb responded to her fragility by portraying the rose as a disembodied being, a gentle spirit conjured up from her dreams and dancing with a softness and suppleness that complimented Zhelonkina’s delicacy perfectly. I’ve seen this work many times over the years, but I feel it is only Russian dancers that actually understand the inspiration behind this ephemeral piece.
Inevitably we finished with the “Don Quixote” pas de deux danced by Sophia Gumerova and Yevgeny Ivanchenko. I was surprised to learn it was to be Gumerova’s first crack at Don Q. and was interested to see what she would make of the role of Kitri as I’ve always considered her more of a lyrical dancer than a soubrette, but she had some attractive moments, especially in the solo with the fan but her fouettés wandered about a bit towards the end. An impressive first attempt though.
Back to Balanchine for the finale, with the beautiful Lopatkina dancing the lead in “Diamonds” with the self effacing Ivanchenko. Over the years Lopatkina has made this role her own, by turning something that I’ve always considered quintessentially American into a Russian flavoured version of this glittering masterpiece. Watching her dance is to be transported to the Russia of old as she has the bearing of an imperial ballerina but blended with an individual warmth that makes her beloved by so many. Although “Diamonds” is very much a complete work in itself, I still felt myself pining for a complete performance of “Jewels”, I find it odd though that although “Diamonds and “Rubies” are often given on their own as separate ballets, the beautiful “Emeralds” is not.
After the performance there was a “meet the Dancers” event held in the Festspielhaus’s spacious main foyer with a number of company members chatting to the audience and posing for photographs over a glass of wine or two. Among those participating I spotted Gumerova, Pavlenko, Tereshkina, Fadeyev and Kolb surrounded by their many admirers. A nice touch to finish off such an enjoyable week.
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