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Kirov Ballet

2008-2009 Season Opening

by Catherine Pawlick

25 September 2008 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia

By all typical measures, the September 25th opening of the ballet season might be considered unremarkable. With two ballets that had last been performed on separate evenings in July – “Serenade”, followed by “Symphony in C” – at first glance, the program, at least, seemed to be repetitive. But anyone who drew that conclusion based on the evening’s playbill would have been greatly mistaken. A new era, a new season, and the Kirov (Mariinsky) look fresh indeed.

With former director Makharbek Vasiev now departed from the ballet, and rehearsal coach Yuri Fateev in his place, the company launched the new season with verve, diving into two neoclassical Balanchine works and leaving their signature Vaganova mark: tidy, accurate, academic, but still lyrical.

“Serenade” never fails to please.  Alexander Sergeev’s pinpoint accuracy in his partnering and execution almost outshone the ever reliable Ekaterina Osmolkina in their double work. Sergeev appears to have matured even more over the short summer break, and Osmolkina’s polish was a nice compliment to his efforts. Yulia Kasenkova might have appeared a good casting choice for the jumping-turning soloist role, however her grand jetes barely left the ground, and her fingers, pressed flatly together throughout the dance, seemed awkward. Daria Vasnetsova, meek but graceful in her dancing, did justice to her demi-soloist role and also appeared in the Dark Angel sequence with Denis Firsov, an old hand at this part. As Osmolkina was lifted overhead in the final sequence, it seemed as if both death and rebirth were occurring simultaneously:  the mystery of “Serenade” is unarguably eternal.

“Symphony in C” crowned the evening with four brilliant movements. Its single eyesore was Alina Somova in the First Movement, and in particular her right hand, which sported hyper-extended spread fingers and a constantly bent wrist. More than one audience member was overheard at intermission discussing this oddity. Poor Maxim Zuizin, left to partner the towering Amazon whose flirtatious gaze into the orchestra distracted from the classicism of the piece. Yana Selina and Maria Shirinkina were the two saving graces as demi-soloists in this section; their lines perfectly synchronized and their smiles gleaming throughout. With Alexander Sergeev and Maxim Khrebtov as their gallant cavaliers, they had much to smile about indeed.

Cool smoothness was provided in the form of Ekaterina Kondaurova, partnered by Evgeny Ivanchenko in the Second Movement. As she had done in July, Kondaurova epitomized seamless fluidity in this famous adagio section. The petite Elena Chmil and Elena Vasiokovitch partnered by Dmitry Pikhachev and Alexander Klimov fulfilled the demi-soloist roles.

In the Third Movement, Olesya Novikova and Leonid Sarafanov burst on stage with bright energy. Sarafanov was intent to toy with the audience’s attention in his signature manner, a clean double tour to the knee, finished with a grin, “Tadah!” Olesya found breath in the pauses between steps, lending a grace to the otherwise vivace nature of this section. Behind them Alexei Nedvega and Vasily Scherbakov partnered Evgenia Dolmatova and Elena Androsova (who was mistakenly listed as Ksenia Dubrovina in the program).

Nadezhda Gonchar appeared in royal purple in the final movement, her dancing consistent and reliable as ever. Anton Korsakov, replete with a strangely fluffed out hairstyle, seemed in a world of his own despite his partner’s presence nearby. They were accompanied by Denis Firsov and Karen Iohanessen who partnered Daria Vasnetsova and Anastasia Petushkova, respectively.

Pavel Bubelnikov led the orchestra admirably this evening. From the song that is “Serenade” through the last notes of “Symphony”, one was reminded once again why the Mariinsky is an oasis of artistic wealth inside Saint Petersburg. The home season is off to a good start.

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