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Kirov Ballet - 'The Sleeping Beauty'

by Catherine Pawlick

May 19, 2006 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg

No one does the classics like the Maryinsky, at least not when the proper combination of talent, coaching and maturity combine to form a promising young star in one of the theater’s repertoire staples. Friday night’s performance of the reconstructed version of “The Sleeping Beauty” did just that, attesting to Olesya Novikova’s place in the company and the Kirov’s own hold on classical traditions.

The “1890” as many call it, is a reconstruction of the original version of Petipa’s “Sleeping Beauty” based on historical notes housed in the Harvard Theatre Collection. It differs significantly from Konstantine Sergeev’s beloved version in both choreography and sets. The restored version is almost like the shift from black and white to color, so lush are its hues and so vibrant the contrasts in the palette.

For this performance, Olesya Novikova’s Aurora was the perfect depiction of refined royalty, youthful grace and yes, beauty, alongside Andrian Fadeev’s ever-consistent Prince. Her superb coaching under the strong eye of Olga Moiseeva was apparent through the perfection of her port de bras, adjusted to reflect the style of an old epoch. Softly dipped elbows and delicate fingertips met an erect carriage in Novikova’s stage presence which, combined with her flawless legwork, created a young ballerina in every sense of the word. Her dramatic delivery was exemplary: the first entrance on her 20th birthday displayed innocence and near disbelief at the fanfare around her. When the suitors were presented to her, with a confused look she asked her mother (through gesture) what she was to do. Relieved that only dancing was required, she engaged the four gentlemen equally. Likewise, technically Novikova is beyond reproach. Of note were the promenades, in which she managed to lift her arm completely overhead to fifth en avant after each suitor, and, confirming her strength, needed very little support before the allonge extensions into arabesque on her own.

Andrian Fadeev’s Prince is, as mentioned before, as perfect as they come. His mime in the first act made clear the emptiness in his heart as much as his first encounter with the vision of Aurora imported his feelings of love at first sight. Even after Aurora awakened from her long sleep, his eyes did not leave her, so completely entranced was he with this new princess bride. Technically Fadeev offered fireworks, especially in the last act. (Indeed, it is not until then that we’re able to enjoy his real dancing in this longer version of the ballet.) Here he paused after each perfect double tour, looked at the audience, and repeated the sequence again. He also partnered Olesya faultlessly. Would that every Prince were a Fadeev.

As much as the Novikova-Fadeev partnership pleased the audience, Yulia Makhalina as the Lilac Fairy both frightened and disappointed them. Despite this being her second performance of the role this month, and despite its comparative lack of serious technical challenges and the preponderance of mime, Makhalina was ill-placed in the role. While her upper body was acceptable, no amount of smiles – and this ballet requires four hours of them – could compensate for her weak legs. Both visually and technically, she was an abhorrence to behold, her legs absent of any normal musculature that would indicate recent movement. Technically she could not stand on pointe, her feet seemingly devoid of arches, which interrupted rather than continued the line of an extended leg. Moreover, even when straightened, her legs appeared continuously bent. One hopes that this is not a sign of a significant health problem – from the waist up Makhalina was every bit the gracious fairy. But at the Kirov the standards are higher.

Luckily, there were other fairies in the ballet ready to confer upon us their impish charms. Of the five fairies bestowing gifts on Princess Aurora, Daria Vasnetsova drew the most attention as Flair de Farin for her quick footwork, bright expression and accurate style. Yana Selina incorporated her usual sparkle and flair as the “Canary” fairy, her flashes of leg always articulately placed. Ksenia Ostreikovskaya portrayed the Fairy Candide languorously, her movements lush and purely classical. Only Yulia Kasenkova and Elena Vaskiovitch appeared slightly less up to par, both with stiff port de bras.

The final act offered some unexpected delights as well. The Jewels section is always a snappy beginning for the parade of dancing to follow, and here Ekaterina Osmolkina led the way with Yana Serebriakova (Sapphire), Yulia Kasenkova (Gold) and Ksenia Dubrovina (Silver) alongside. While not as cold as a diamond, Osmolkina was just as sharp – with added grace. Of the three gemstones Serebriakova stood out from the rest for her own expression and poise.

As Princess Florina, Yulia Bolshakova enchanted with her light touch, self-confidence and accuracy. Here, although the enveloppes en pointe were performed at half time, no wobbly footwork was to be found. Despite claiming perhaps one extra bow, Bolshakova’s performance proved that someday she may rise within the ranks of the company. As her partner, Bluebird Anton Korsakov appeared only slightly winded after his variation, his brisés nonetheless bright. He finished with a triple pirouette although typically is capable of much more.

Finally, an under-accoladed Igor Petrov as Carabosse deserves mention for indulging both the audience and himself with his evil role, loving every minute of his sinister malevolence, and we loving him for it right back.

Pavel Bubelnikov conducted.

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