CriticalDance Forum

Kirov in the USA 2003 - La Bayadere
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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed Oct 15, 2003 7:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Kirov in the USA 2003 - La Bayadere

As tonight is opening night, and -- even as I type this -- the first performance is well under way, I wanted to start a new thread. I can't wait to hear about it!

<small>[ 17 April 2005, 05:43 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Azlan [ Wed Oct 15, 2003 9:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA 2003 - La Bayadere

I was planning to head down tonight but something came up. So, LA folks, please report back pronto! :)

Author:  Jeff [ Thu Oct 16, 2003 12:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA 2003 - La Bayadere

Some quick, random impressions of the Kirov Ballet’s opening night at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood…

Tonite the grand Kirov Ballet began their 7 performance run of that old Mariinsky warhorse, “La Bayadere,” before a well heeled crowd at the Kodak. Is it possible for southern California to have become jaded by the veritable parade of “Bayaderes” these past years – Paris Opera Ballet, the Bolshoi, and Universal Ballet? Judging from this production, I doubt it.

The program credits “restaging” by Vladimir Ponomarev, Vakhtang Chabukiani, Konstantin Sergeyev, and Nikolai Zubkovsky. This version ends with the “Kingdom of the Shades” act which is to say it ends on an upbeat note – Nikiya forgives Solor and the curtain falls on Solor supporting Nikiya on pointe in that most balletic image, an arabesque. Personally I wonder if this example of the Soviet penchant for upbeat endings might explain their deletion of Balanchine’s 1976 coda, the pas de sept “La Morte de Melisande,” from “Emeralds.”

The design credited to Adelph Knapp, Konstantin Ivanov, Pyotr Lambin and Orest Allegri is tasteful and evocative – in everyway a great improvement over the virtually proletarian sets the Bolshoi sported last year though not anywhere in the same class as the Frigerio sets of the Paris Opera Ballet. Likewise, the costumes by Ponomarev looked appropriately expensive.

The glamorous Diana Vishneva was cast as Nikiya, Igor Zelensky as Solor, and Tatiana Tkachenko as Gamzatti. Vishneva’s Nikiya was standard pained ballerina fare – victim of love, of fate, of society, etc. It was only in the Act III “Kingdom of the Shades” where her Nikiya came alive (so to speak) – pure, ethereal, and positively brilliant. Nikiya was polished to a brilliant shine if not a particularly warm one. I’d love to see Vishneva cast in “Diamonds” sometime. (I'd also like to see her put on a few kilos but that's a subject for a different thread.)

Zelensky’s Solor was magnetic in his virtuoso variations. Tkachenko’s Gamzatti was appropriately cold and her technique bravura, but her Gamzatti lacked some little sense of charisma. Gamzatti should be the Bad Girl we love to hate – not the Bad Girl we love to ignore. But, in her white Betrothal tutu with silver pinstripes, she looked positively delicious.

Manu the Pitcher Girl was danced with great charm by Elena Yushkovskaya with 2 children – bayaderettes, I suppose (unnamed as far as I can tell from the program). Drum Dance still puzzles me since I can’t for the life of me devise some interpretation for casting Xena, Tarzan, and Mowgli in a telenovela of sex and death among the royals in a fabled India.

O well, that’s all I have to report tonite. I’ll be back for more this upcoming weekend.

<small>[ 16 October 2003, 02:39 AM: Message edited by: Jeff ]</small>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Oct 16, 2003 1:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA 2003 - La Bayadere

Thanks for the description of the Kirov's "short" production of "La Bayadere", which, unsurprisingly, appears to have many similarities to Makarova's version for the Royal Ballet.

One comment of yours puzzled me Jeff:

I wonder if this example of the Soviet penchant for upbeat endings might explain their deletion of Balanchine’s 1976 coda, the pas de sept “La Morte de Melisande,” from “Emeralds.”
I certainly agree with the first part of the statement and the Soviet era happy ending of Konstantin Sergeyev's "Swan Lake" is a clear example. Rumour has it that the authorities also tried to get a happy ending for the first production of Prokofiev's ballet "Romeo and Juliet", but the artistic team and good sense prevailed.

However, "Jewels" was introduced into the Kirov rep in the post-Soviet 90's. Are you suggesting that a similar aesthetic has carried over from the earlier period?

<small>[ 16 October 2003, 03:27 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  art076 [ Thu Oct 16, 2003 1:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA 2003 - La Bayadere

Finally got back from the Kodak Theater at 12:30 a.m. The ride home took less than 15 minutes, but I spent over an hour after the show waiting in a giant line of cars to get out of the Kodak’s ridiculously inefficient parking structure. It kind of ruined the mood I was in after the show. But anyhow, I'm home and happy, and here are some thoughts on the show:

Kirov Ballet
“La Bayadere”
Wednesday, October 15
Kodak Theatre, Los Angeles

The Kirov opened its week in Los Angeles with a great “La Bayadere,” highlighted in large part by a glorious performance of the Act 3 Kingdom of the Shades scene. At least at this performance, they might as well have skipped straight to Act 3, for while the other two scenes provided for some amusing entertainment, nothing really compared that final scene. The Kirov’s unmatched corps de ballet pulled off the famous Shades entrance and opening movement virtually flawlessly; it was like blissful meditation to see them arabesque-ing their way down those ramps and across the stage. The white costumes and the soft lighting make for a dreamlike vision – the intended effect, of course, but its extremely powerful every time. Diana Vishneva, as Nikiya, positively sparkled here. The slower tempo for Nikiya’s first adagio in the Shades scene drew out the notes on the violin and allowed Vishneva to show off her impressive control, along with a startling ability to hold poses on pointe – without shaking – for extremely long times. She also possessed that “it” quality about a ballerina. It’s that quality when you know the star has arrived, and all she has to do is walk onto the stage. And the corps – the marvelous corps de ballet: Each movement was perfectly timed, and their cohesiveness was breathtaking.

The “La Bayadere” that Los Angeles seeing is, for the most part, the Soviet staging that dates from around 1946. The choreographic scheme and the libretto is from the 1946 production, but the sets, costumes and a few production details are transplanted from the company’s recent, much talked about reconstruction. Most significantly, the corps dances in Act 1 don’t use pointe shoes as they would have been in the Soviet production, and but instead use heeled character shoes the way the do in the reconstruction. These dances included the dance for the bayaderes around the fire in Scene 1 and the dance for the girls with the sashes in Scene 2 (the Rajah’s palace). Gamzatti also appears throughout her first scene sans the pointe shoes and the ballet bun – her role is essentially a mimed in this scene. The mime scenes have also apparently been extended from the original Soviet scheme. This information was confirmed with the help of the Kirov's LA publicist during intermission.

The production also ends immediately after the Kingdom of the Shades scene, with Solor and Nikiya reunited in his dream. The program notes say he “leaves his dream world to join them in their dance,” so one supposes that he dies somewhere along the line and rejoins Nikiya in the Kingdom of the Shades. It’s a weak ending dramatically, but the preceding scene is so beautiful that no one particularly cares – plus, at that point, the running time has extended beyond 3 hours and many in the audience were ready to go home. I do prefer something that neatly ties up the story, however. In the Bolshoi’s production that toured to Orange County last year, there was a brief denoument, in which the temple collapses on a praying Solor, he dies, and then rejoins Nikiya as a shade. It’s a much shorter method than the Reconstruction and also shorter than Natalia Makarova’s version of the final scene, and it does the job well. But, then again, it matters little here since the dancing is so fantastic.

The sets and costumes from the Reconstruction production work quite well here. Sets in Act 1 and 2 seemed to make the stage space much smaller, however, with the side borders extending the scenery sometimes very far onto the stage. Thus, there isn’t much space for Act 1 Scene 2 (the Rajah’s palace), and in the Act 2 betrothal scene, the trees on the side take up a good amount of space, as well. When the stage clears to its full width and depth for the Kingdom of the Shades, however, the effect is breathtaking. And using the Himalayan Mountains as the backdrop, and having the shades essentially climb down out of the mountain made for a stunning visual effect. The costumes looked really great overall. Nikiya did her flower basket dance in Act II in a white costume that looked a lot like her costume from the first scene, however. The posters show her in a new version of that “traditional” red costume with the pants all over the posters and in publicity photos – I was a bit puzzled as to why it was not used in its normal place here.

Performance wise, the rest of the cast did a mostly great job. The corps de ballet was fine in each of their moments, dancing with great unity and precision (especially in Act 1 Scene 1). Though there were a few moments where some company members bumped into each other, they were probably still getting used to the Kodak Theater stage at that point. The Act 2 betrothal scene solos were nicely danced but not particularly noteworthy at the same time. Ruben Bobovnikov (an unannounced change to the printed casting) was the Golden Idol, but danced it with little flash or charisma. The audience applauded his athletic feats, however.

Igor Zelensky was an able Solor, turning out the flashy virtuosity in each of his solos. He didn’t make much of an impression otherwise, however. He seemed to go through the motions quite dutifully, but his melodramatic acting did little to create a lasting impression. Tatiana Tkachenko was a physically beautiful Gamzatti, and though she showed technical flash and proficiency in the Act 2 Grand Pas Classique she was weaker as a character. It especially showed in Act 1 scene 2 – the Nikiya-Gamzatti cat fight, if you will. Vishneva was more forceful and dramatic – Tkachenko made all the right moves but didn’t seem to throw herself into the role the way Vishneva did.

The two were, of course, out shadowed by Vishneva’s sinuous portrayal of Nikiya. Her first solo showed a strong commitment to Nikiya as a character, and the first pas de deux showed Vishneva’s lyrical dance capabilities. The flower basket dance was stirring, with Vishneva dancing the range of emotions from extreme sadness to sudden, almost overflowing happiness. And, as mentioned earlier, her Kingdom of the Shades was simply mesmerizing.


<small>[ 16 October 2003, 03:45 AM: Message edited by: art076 ]</small>

Author:  art076 [ Thu Oct 16, 2003 1:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA 2003 - La Bayadere

Re: Stuart's and Jeff's comments above:

However, "Jewels" was introduced into the Kirov rep in the post-Soviet 90's. Are you suggesting that a similar aesthetic has carried over from the earlier period?
I seem to remember reading somewhere (I'll have to look it up - it is far too late right now) that they just ran out of time when they were staging "Jewels" on the Kirov. The Trust then just allowed them to proceed without Balanchine's added ending for Emeralds. A few Western critics have complained about this - but the production continues without that part.


Author:  mehunt [ Thu Oct 16, 2003 2:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA 2003 - La Bayadere

I don't know any of the details about that of course, but the EMeralds ending is something Balanchine added later anyhow. I know there are many versions of Apollo to choose from (for instance, with or without birth scene). Is it possible there are different versions of Emeralds to choose from, which may or may not include the apotheosis?

Author:  mehunt [ Thu Oct 16, 2003 2:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA 2003 - La Bayadere

Also, I just had a word from my sources down in LA that Vishneva and Zelensky are not dancing tonight and that it will be Gumerova. Can anyone confirm?

Author:  art076 [ Thu Oct 16, 2003 2:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA 2003 - La Bayadere

That was the word at last night's performance; that Gumerova was dancing Thursday. No word yet about casting changes for the rest of the weekend, although Nioradze is still supposed to dance Friday.

Author:  mehunt [ Fri Oct 17, 2003 9:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA 2003 - La Bayadere

From Lewis Segal at the LA Times. As usual, it requires a subscription, but if anyone has a better link, please feel free to post.

Truly transcendent
The Kirov prove they remain an indispensable treasure with their performance of "La Bayadère" at the Kodak Theatre.
October 12, 2003
By Lewis Segal, Times Staff Writer

The first local Kirov Ballet engagement in more than a decade didn't exactly open as planned, Wednesday at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. The originally scheduled prima ballerina quit to join the Bolshoi. Flu reduced the female corps from 32 to 24 in "The Kingdom of the Shades," one of classical ballet's most celebrated tests of ensemble excellence. A late arrival led to a last-minute replacement in a major male showpiece.


But don't expect a disaster report on the Wednesday performance — not after the Kirov's triumphant reassertion of its Petipa heritage, not after Igor Zelensky's imaginative fusion of danseur noble majesty and bravura pyrotechnics and, most of all, not after Diana Vishneva's glorious reminder that ballerina greatness is what 19th century ballet was created to enshrine.

Also, re: Zakharova leavingThis is the first mention I've seen of it in print.... Yikes!

<small>[ 17 October 2003, 11:09 AM: Message edited by: mehunt ]</small>

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Fri Oct 17, 2003 5:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA 2003 - La Bayadere

From the Orange County Register:

Friday, October 17, 2003
Kirov offers performance for the ages
The troupe shows it deserves every bit of its reputation in 'La Bayadere,' a technical and visual feast.

Special to the Register

Kirov Ballet
WHERE: Kodak Theatre
WHEN: Wednesday
NEXT in L.A.: 8 tonight; through Sunday at 7 p.m. (Saturday 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday 2 and 7 p.m.)
In Orange County: Oct. 21-26; Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
How much: $25-$100
Information: (714) 740-7878 or

"Amidst such splendor, it seems almost miserly to complain. Still, such brilliantly clear articulation, like fine crystal held in bright light, can't but hurt to look at after a while. Russian perfection can seem cool and remote, and the imperious Vishneva, every inch the star ballerina, tends to feel wrapped up in her own mystique. By the final act, when Nikiya is a ghostly presence, the chill of Vishneva's easy execution was palpable."

<small>[ 18 October 2003, 01:43 PM: Message edited by: Catherine Pawlick ]</small>

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Fri Oct 17, 2003 5:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA 2003 - La Bayadere

That should be cause for some conversation on this thread ;-)

<small>[ 17 October 2003, 07:50 PM: Message edited by: Catherine Pawlick ]</small>

Author:  art076 [ Sat Oct 18, 2003 12:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA 2003 - La Bayadere

Kirov Ballet in “La Bayadere”
Friday, October 17
Kodak Theatre, Hollywood

The third of the Kirov Ballet’s seven Hollywood performances of “La Bayadere” showed the company much more settled into its surroundings at the Kodak Theatre, but just as majestic as it was on opening night.

The most noticeable difference was the larger corps de ballet in the Kingdom of the Shades scene; a good portion of the company reportedly took sick with the flu on Wednesday night, lowering the number of shades significantly for opening. They were all back on Friday, and they impressed just as much.

Irma Nioradze was a capable Nikiya, though she sometimes seemed to be more concerned with virtuosity than emotion or depth. In the flower-basket dance, for example, she sent razor-sharp kicks flying into the air with speed and precision – but during the opening adagio passage, where Nikiya is supposed to be despairing the loss of her lover. At opening Wednesday night, Diana Vishneva stretched out every movement as if in slow motion, perfectly matching the music and accentuating the intended emotion of the scene, meanwhile showing off just as much virtuosity for her skill with adagio work.

Nioradze was better in quicker motion, sometimes faltering a bit if movements took too long. Similarly, in the Kingdom of the Shades, Nioradze showed similar flair but less flowing lyricism. Admittedly, after seeing Vishneva, one couldn’t help but constantly compare Nioradze to Vishneva; Vishneva was so spectacular in every one of her scenes – especially the Kingdom of the Shades – that the memory could not be erased.

Leonid Sarafanov made as much of Solor's limited role in this production as he could, showing off some spectacular leaps and an impressive knack for spinning. He does not get much to do here except dance a few very flashy variations and cart his two women around, but his solos were astounding. Elvira Tarasova was stronger in the mime scenes than Wednesday’s Tatiana Tkachenko, though Tarasova took a bit of time to warm up to her ultimate sparkle in the Act 2 Grand pas Classique. Otherwise, Gamzatti gets a far smaller role in this production as well – she does not appear on pointe in Act 1, only getting pointe work for the Grand pas Classique.

The second viewing brought to attention just how long this production really is. It's a mix of the old Soviet version and the new-old reconstruction, with more mime here. Act 1 seems to take forever to complete, with a ton of mime and comparatively little dancing. By the time the Kingdom of the Shades arrives in Act 3, we suddenly feel overwhelmed with classical dancing - suddenly tutus and classicism is everywhere, whereas the previous two acts were heavily weighted towards character dancing plus mime, mime, and more mime.

In Natalia Makarova's production for the Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theatre - despite the fact that it cuts a lot of things and is of dubious Petipa-authenticity - takes all the business of the first two acts, keeps the best parts, and condenses them into one giant act. Thus, the material leading up to the Kingdom of the Shades takes considerably less time than the 2 hours it takes in this version, and the audience's attention does not wane. Furthermore, the three main characters get more dramatically coherent and weighty roles when everything is more condensed. I personally do not miss many of the divertissement dances that are cut away when I watch the "shorter" version. And the Kingdom of the Shades comes much, much sooner.

In this production, Act 2 also has the somewhat odd inclusion of black face dancers as part of the betrothal scene crowd (an element thankfully absent from Makarova's version). It reads a bit disturbingly in the United States, especially with our embarassing history with black face in vaudeville, and its inclusion may be uncomfortable for American audiences - especially as this production tours to Detroit and Cleveland. I went with an African-American friend on Wednesday, and she was extremely distracted whenever the black face dancers showed up on stage in Act 2. Even if they do not have the same meaning in a production from 1900, modern American audiences respond to it very differently.

Ultimately, black face aside, the Kirov makes their longer version work by simply being marvelous dancers. Even if Nioradze failed to impress on the same level as Vishneva, it was never a disaster. Mikhail Sinkevich conducted the orchestra in a lush and heartfelt playing of the Minkus score.


<small>[ 18 October 2003, 03:17 AM: Message edited by: art076 ]</small>

Author:  Jeff [ Sat Oct 18, 2003 12:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA 2003 - La Bayadere

Thank you, Art, for such comprehensive notes. Therefore, here are my quick notes of a 2nd look at this run …

It is commonly taught, I believe, that Petipa’s most important ballets preceding the epochal Tschaikovsky works (“Swan Lake” and “Sleeping Beauty”) were “La Bayadere” and “Daughter of the Pharoah.” Yet, only “La Bayadere” persists into the contemporary repertory – no doubt the reasons for this have been debated endlessly. “La Bayadere” certainly does not aspire towards the aesthetic concentration of “Swan Lake” nor towards the narcissistic formalism of “Sleeping Beauty.” This ballet about the travails of romantic intrigue among the religious and imperial elite of a make believe Oriental land is simply too busy and dramatically klunky to succeed, yet it does despite its artistic baggage because of its belief in its dancing.

Dancing – or lack of it – constitutes the severe trial of Act I: exposition, in other words. Precious little can withstand such a narrative burden. The mind quickly begins to wander: the illicit love of holy men for their acolytes, the pomp and circumstance of religion, the revolutionary threat to the state’s welfare of such love … soon one begins to pray for ambitious re-stagings. Could Act I be re-staged in the wake of scandals of Church pederasty– priests for Brahmins, nubile male youths for bayaderes, cardinals for condoning Rajahs? Perhaps a job for Matthew Bourne and Adventures in Moving Pictures? Enough said…

The dancing in the betrothal divertissement of Act II rescues us from such reflections. The promenade of foot soldiers, priest novitiates, dancers with parrots, dancers with fans, the Rajah on a VW Bug sized palanquin, Solor (Leonid Sarafanov looking like a Gen-X male demi-god) on a mini-van sized elephant, etc is in every way an improvement on last year’s Bolshoi Ballet bargain basement parade of pedestrians. Today’s Golden Idol (Andrey Ivanov) seems somehow bigger than on opening night – perhaps it’s because tonite his dance is set off by little black face munchkins (child dancers) rather than the corps fan dancers who presumably pinch-hitted on Wednesday.

The bethrothal act’s “grand pas classique” is a marvel of the melding of upper crust romance and imperial prerogative – the romantic union as state spectacle. But when (like Odile) Elvira Tarasova’s obedient Gamzatti seduces the hapless Solor with her fouettes, you see that's it's much more evil than just 'state spectacle' -- it's state conspiracy. In this way, the ballet refers to an entire symbology of vixens of state: Mata Hari, maybe, Princess Caroline, Princess Stephanie, Sydney Bristow of "Alias," and an entire subculture of Bond girls. In any case, Tarasova's dancing was fairly spectacular – her fouettes featured single turns and double turns accomplished with aplomb.

The Act III “Kingdom of the Shades” reveals the dans de Ecole in all its purity: bayaderes are all in pristine, virginal white tutus. Again, Nikiya comes alive in this act: Irma Nioradze as Nikiya conquers space and time. Magnificent. The veil or scarf dance was tender and nostalgic as it should be. The Three Shades, Irina Golub, Irina Zhelonkina, and Tatiana Amosova, reveal the pleasures of virtuosity without smiling once (or, perhaps, it only seemed that way).

O well, that’s all I have right now … it’s getting late …

<small>[ 18 October 2003, 11:22 AM: Message edited by: Jeff ]</small>

Author:  Azlan [ Sat Oct 18, 2003 12:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov in the USA 2003 - La Bayadere

Wow, guys, just got home from the show? Thanks for the fresh posts! I feel like I'm there with you.

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