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Stars of the White Nights Festival

'Carmen Suite', 'Symphony in C'

by Catherine Pawlick

June 8 , 2011 -- Mariinsky Theatre, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Saint Petersburg’s Annual “Stars of the White Nights” festival, which this year encompasses four stages, three cities, nine weeks and over one hundred and fifteen performances, opened locally on May 23 with several nights of operatic bliss, but the best of the ballet offerings did not come until more recently. Following the presentation of Yuri Grigorovich’s The Legend of Love in Moscow on May 26, the home-based performances are now underway.

The expected highlight of June 8th’s mixed bill, featuring both Carmen Suite and Balanchine’s elite Symphony in C was decidedly the latter, where a range of soloists and principals outfitted all four movements of the gorgeous score with classical purity. Variations in nuance, each perfectly fitting the respective musical section, came with each soloist’s personal signature. Victoria Tereshkina’s virtuosity rightly suited her to the first movement, where her brilliant mastery of Balanchine shown through every step. Tereshkina is a neoclassicist in every sense of the word, and her easy delivery, and innate understanding of the off-balance ecartés make her perhaps the company’s best interpreter of such roles. Cavalier Maxim Zuizin was no less polished, his partnering work and in particular his pirouettes executed with care and exactitude. Ekaterina Osmolkina, just several months out of maternity leave, led the third movement with particular joy, her smiles filling the far reaches of the house with each of the almost too numerous jetés and saut de basques. Vladimir Shklyarov’s over-exuberance led him to miss the placement on a few of the partnering sequences and a pirouette, but Osmolkina managed to remain above the fray. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so, Maria Shirinkina appeared in the final movement with dedicated partner Alexei Timofeyev. While her technique and physique are both beyond reproach—her pas de bourrée/fouetté en diagonal in fact declared her better suited for Balanchine, and perhaps a successor to Tereshkina, than a future story ballerina-- Shirinkina’s dramaticism still has room for growth.
Glowing above the rest of the dancers, however, was Uliana Lopatkina alongside Danila Korsuntsev in the second movement. Her fluid grace in the epitomy of legato sections spoke of slow perfection unraveled like an endless ribbon of silk. Even in the allegro finale section Lopatkina’s sharpness of attack and musicality stood out, her dignity and clean schooling evident; but the vision here presents four soloists flanked by the entire corps de ballet, all in pristine white, and perfectly synchronized. It is the way that ballet should be.

The first half of the evening was Carmen Suite, featuring Irina Golub, a replacement for the initially listed Irma Nioradze, with Ilya Kuznetsov as Jose and Ruben Bobovnikov as the “Korrekhidor”. With traces of the sultry Viengsay Valdez’s still hanging in the air from this April’s festival, it is difficult to envision anyone else doing Carmen justice, or inhabiting the role so perfectly. Golub fulfilled everything adequately, but conniving cleverness replaced Spanish sexiness in her version. Kuznetsov, ever the passionate and jealous lover, proved a good choice for his role, although the choreography seemed to cut short his verve with its restrained, straightened movements. The “White Nights” festival continues until July, and in the coming weeks the presentation of other ballets will have something for nearly every age group and taste.

Alexander Repnikov conducted for the evening.

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