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Raymonda Trilogy - The Kirov Ballet in "Raymonda"

Part 2

by Catherine Pawlick

January 31, 2007 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Russia

As the music from Glazunov’s luscious overture wafted through the Mariinsky Theatre on Wednesday night, an over-full house eagerly anticipated Uliana Lopatkina’s second performance of “Raymonda” in four days. Extra chairs had been placed in the aisles of the orchestra to accommodate additional patrons. No one left disappointed.

Like Saturday night’s performance, Alexander Sergeev appeared on stage as the Troubadour Bernar(d), the guest list in hand. Ekaterina Osmolkina entered, flirting, while Maxim Zuizin, the second Troubador, wooed Ksenia Ostreikovskaya. These two ladies along with two ladies of the court placed the four roses on the floor just before Raymonda’s first entrance.

In her almost religious approach to this and other roles, Lopatkina recalls the centralism of the ballerina to both stage and the libretto with her very presence. Neck erect, chin slightly raised, her aura was one of regality and grace from this rose strewn diagonal. Bourrée-ing through the roses, and picking each one up into a relevé attitude derrière, the effect was one of seamless, endless line.

Details that I may have failed to note in Saturday’s review here stood out quite clearly. As the tapestry of Jean de Brienne was carried in, Lopatkina’s face was filled with rapture. Her immediate response to his image was one of true love, as silly as it may seem, and one was convinced that he was the only suitor for her. In contrast to her love-filled breast, the brutal entrance of Abderakhman, again danced by Dmitry Piikachev, provided stark contrast. One could immediately see her anticipation crushed with hidden fear. His every move rough, he stood out like a sore thumb in the medieval ballroom, and yet Lopatkina’s Raymonda never did less than smile at him or nod. Sneers or snickers were absent. But we knew what she was thinking.

The six girls in pink tutus entered with their own bouquets of flowers, and then six more for the waltz that culminated ultimately in 12 couples interweaving. One is reminded of le Jardin Anime (the animated garden) of Le Corsaire, both by the pale pink costumes, the flowers and the waltz. Lopatkina’s variation in this section displays a pas de chat, développé devant écarté, piqué arabesque sequence that is sublimely musical. At the end of the short sequence (ballone, coupé, piqué into retire passé, and piqué endehors turn) she performs some hops in demi-pointe and finally four en pointe. It is a variation that, choreographically, speaks of French precosité – delicate and refined.

Following the scene with the harp, Lopatkina seemed in greater control of the white scarf during her variation. As the sets shifted into Raymonda’s Dream, she presented the distinct impression of a ballerina in purest form.

In Act II on the palace veranda, Ekaterina Osmolkina and Ksenia Ostreikovskaya, now clothed in their requisite pale pink and blue tutus respectively, each danced her variation with clarity and energy. Osmolkina light in her brisé-sissones and grand jetés, and Ostreikovskaya displaying a beautiful line across her back in the port de bras facing upstage. 

Lopatkina’s variation here featured some unique challenges in the step sequences: fouettés, and piqué turns but with the lifted leg behind the knee rather than in front. This step appears more than once in this choreography. She finished the dance with a series of quick soutenues, stopping on a dime, to the mostly silent audience’s growing warmth.

Both troubadours get solos in this act as well, and again both impressed. Zuizin met the challenge of some serious cabrioles and sissones with light landings, and Sergeev won quick applause for the height of his jumps, the assemblés moving downstage and the tour jetés moving upstage. He is already an audience favorite.

Following the duel, Raymonda’s father, the Count, played by the expert Vladimir Ponomarev, dubbed Jean de Brienne with his own sword twice before sending him towards Raymonda to be crowned. These little details are the genius of “Raymonda”s libretto.

In Act II, there was one new addition to Wednesday night’s cast. Galina Rakhmanova replaced Elena Bazhenova in the Panderos, or Spanish Dance. Here, with teasing expectation in her eyes, Rakhmanova lent emotion and spice to the dance.

Act III also brought a few replacements. Instead of Anton Pimonov in the line of four male courtiers, Vladimir Shklyarov appeared. Pimonov and the other two men danced in all of the other sections, partnering in the ensemble work, which made this casting replacement – simply for the one interlude – a strange choice. It seems Shklyarov danced only for those few minutes during the entire performance. The other three men danced repeatedly throughout the evening.

Viktoria Kutepova also appeared in the grand ensemble finale along with the other 8 or more couples, her arms higher than the rest in many cases.

Impressive as one of the courtier-partners in the Grand Pas was Maxim Chashegorov, his polite manners evident even in his brief interlude with the new bride. Valeria Martinouk reappeared in the “relief solo”, this time equally spunky.

For the famous third act variation, Lopatkina offered exacting precision, admirable epaulement, and an aura of imperialism. Her stately gestures were nonetheless infused with fluidity, and Danila Korsuntsev once again accompanied her with royal pride. His dancing here was inspired with breath, though sadly little applause came in reply.

Once again Alexander Polyanichko conducted. A final “Raymonda” will be performed on February 6.

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