CriticalDance Forum

Kirov Ballet at Covent Garden 2002
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Author:  Emma Pegler [ Sat Jun 01, 2002 2:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet at Covent Garden 2002

Debra Craine's comment on the overacting of Makhalina reminded me of when I saw her dance Scheherazade. The precision in her dancing was excellent but she over-acted and I cringed. Then I saw her dance "le Jeune Homme et La Mort" with Zelenksy and the dead pan cold face hinting at passion underneath was incredible and just right. It was some of the best dancing I had ever seen -not just for the skill in execution but she was just SO right and so compelling. It sticks in my mind as literally one of my greatest nights at the ballet. The occasional hammy faces must be blinding people so that they miss her great talent, don't you think? Maybe it's the older style Kirov ballerina - Irma Nioradze also has very dramatic faces when she dances. Yet at the Mariinsky Theatre itself the audience goes wild for her and the drama. Each to his own.

Author:  Kevin Ng [ Sat Jun 01, 2002 1:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet at Covent Garden 2002

Emma, I agree with you about Makhalina's over-acting at times. I also saw her in Le Jeune Homme et La Mort this past March, and thought her absolutely right for the role. <P>I've written a review of this week's galas on <P><A HREF="" TARGET=_blank></A> <p>[This message has been edited by Kevin Ng (edited June 01, 2002).]

Author:  djb [ Sat Jun 01, 2002 1:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet at Covent Garden 2002

I'm in the USA, so I didn't see Makhalina in <I>Scheherezade</I>, but perhaps she has overreacted to criticism she got in her early days for her lack of expression. I have the video of the Kirov <I>Swan Lake</I> with Makhalina and Zelenski, and I have to say, in that performance she had the least expressive face I've ever seen. I also read several reviews a couple of years ago (by Russian critics) that mentioned her lack of expression.<p>[This message has been edited by djb (edited June 01, 2002).]

Author:  djb [ Sat Jun 01, 2002 8:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet at Covent Garden 2002

Correction -- I guess it's Makhalina in <I>Spartacus</I> that I didn't see because I'm in the US. (But I also didn't see her in <I>Scheherezade</I>.)

Author:  Joanne [ Tue Jun 04, 2002 12:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet at Covent Garden 2002

Article in The FT.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>The Opera House was, though, bright with affection and delight on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. A 300-strong contingent from the Mariinsky had arrived, bringing mixed opera and ballet performances as a banner to proclaim the tercentenary of St Petersburg in 2003. We warmed our hearts at a prodigal display of Petersburg's art.<P><HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><A HREF="" TARGET=_blank> <B> MORE </B> </A><P>And in The Independent.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Over at the Opera House, fans of the Kirov – which we now really ought to be calling the Mariinsky, in line with Russia and the rest of the world – were treated to two gala evenings of opera and classical dance. Seeing that the company would not otherwise be setting foot in the UK this year, it was a bright move of the British Friends of the Kirov to bring them over for a "Celebration of 300 years of St Petersburg", albeit six months ahead of the actual tercentenary.<P><HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><A HREF="" TARGET=_blank> <B> MORE </B> </A><p>[This message has been edited by Joanne (edited June 04, 2002).]

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Jun 04, 2002 2:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet at Covent Garden 2002

Acouple of small niggles with Jenny Gilbert's review;<P>- my understanding is that the Mariinsky people have deliberately chosen to continue marketing the Company outside Russia as the Kirov.<P>- the introduction to the Kirov section, talks about the two Gala performances, but the main text only discusses the first. The second Gala ballet was anything but '...predominantly lollipops...' <p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited June 04, 2002).]

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Jun 04, 2002 7:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet at Covent Garden 2002

<center> Image </center> <P><B>300 – A Celebration of St. Petersburg – Gala at The Royal Opera House, May 29 2002</B><P>Despite the post-Communist looting of Russia, the Kirov has found ways to cope with the new economic fragility and this Gala showed the Company on very fine form. Hats off to the Mariinsky Theatre Trust for organising this event, which I hope makes lots of money. This second of the two Gala evenings showed bold planning, as all the items were post-1900 with glorious music by Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Stravinsky. My main overall impressions were of wonderful dancing, dynamic orchestral playing and superb voices especially the Russian basses.<P>In the first half, most of the choreography was interesting due to its rarity value rather than intrinsic qualities. Ratmansky’s ‘Middle Duet’ from 1998 shows the Kirov commissioning new work, reflecting the changes that have occurred in the West in the past 20 years. Natalia Sologub and Islom Baimuradov danced beautifully, but the choreography, a mixture of humour and awkward movement a little reminiscent of Forsythe’s ‘In the Middle etc’, seemed more a step on the road of creative exploration rather than the end of the journey. <P>The pas de deux from ‘Spartacus’ was danced to the only tune in the evening that most of us knew – Khatchaturian’s music having been borrowed for the theme to the TV series, ‘The Onegin Line’. We saw the rare, original choreography by Leonid Jacobson, rather than the later version by Grigorovitch, which is still regularly performed by the Bolshoi. This pdd has some charm, but the relatively pedestrian steps mean that the dancers have to emote strongly to achieve any effect. It was good to have seen it, but I feel no need to rush to see the complete version. <P>The balletic high spot of the first half was Belsky’s ‘Leningrad Symphony’ to the gloriously martial 7th Symphony of Shostakovich. In the programme, alongside the glittering stars of today’s Kirov there was a startling image of a skeletal faced man clutching some bread. The memory of those times and the 900,000 who died in the siege of the City between 1941-1944 clearly remains vividly strong in St Petersburg. The ballet paints a very black and white picture of the conflict with none of the ambiguity of ‘The Green Table’ or ‘Dante Sonata’. <P>One could say that the Hitler/Stalin pact, the Katyn Massacre and the imprisonment of so many Russian prisoners of War when they returned to their mother country, paints a much less clear moral picture. However, the choreography does capture the spirit of the ordinary people of this City who resisted the Nazis in such terrible conditions. In 1943 this resistance made it possible for the Soviet Union to win the War on behalf of the Allies at the almost unknown battle of Kursk on the Eastern Front. Eight months before D-Day, when the Germans lost the largest tank battle that the world will ever see, their eventual defeat was decided. <P>The huge leaps of the male defenders, the arrogant goose-stepping of the invaders and the sorrow of the Russian women, particularly in the stillness of the final scene all make for a great emotional sweep reflecting the scale of the conflict, the sacrifices and the suffering. For it to work, you have to give yourself up to its operatic quality, but I was very happy to do so. Daria Pavlenko was very moving in the lead female role, without ever going over the top.<P>After the interval, the choreography was always interesting. We saw ‘The Waltz of the Snowflakes’ from Simonov’s new version of ‘The Nutcracker’. This production has already upset traditionalists and at one stage the Snowflakes lie on their backs and kick their legs in the air. Their motion capture style black tops and tutus with small white blobs like Ping-Pong balls and black lower legs and feet mean that your attention is drawn to the upper body and produces an unusual visual effect that I enjoyed for its rebellious nature. <P>The high spot of the evening was Balanchine’s ‘The Prodigal Son’, the second full one-Act ballet on show – an unusual event at a Gala. This work from 1929 contained the oldest and the most innovative choreography on the programme. I have only seen it once before, danced by BRB at Sadler’s Wells in the early 1990s. Then it seemed very odd to me with the Siren and her long cloak and her strange bald-headed acolytes. Here, with the benefit of a few more years of watching dance and the artistry of the Kirov, it was electrifying. This avant-garde work opens with some dynamic jumps for the Prodigal, which the young Andrei Merkuriev used to good effect to express his longing for freedom from the constraints of the family home. In the next scenes, the choreography for the Acolytes has nothing to do with ballet and Balanchine presumably must have drawn on the movement language of Laban and perhaps the Russian experimentalists of the early-20s to produce their disturbing, scuttling movement, sometimes bobbling across the stage back to back with arms entwined. <P>The crowning glory of the piece was Daria Pavlenko’s Siren. This ravishingly beautiful woman and dancer executed the steps with an icy eroticism that was spellbinding. The sequence where she pirouettes, with her free leg wrapped around the waist of the Prodigal, must rank as one of the most X-certificate moves in all of ballet. She can have my golden trumpets and ewers of wine any day. Merkuriev convincingly made the transition from confident and naïve youth to bewildered and crushed awareness. The final scenes show how adept Balanchine was at story telling when he wanted to be. What a wonderful ballet, to be put alongside ‘Apollo’ and Nijinska’s ‘Les Noces’ as the epitome of 1920’s avant-garde, none of it liked much at the time.<P>The final dance section was an excerpt from the ball scene of Ratmansky’s 2002 version of ‘Cinderella’ with Prokofiev’s wonderful waltz tune played with panache by the Kirov orchestra under Valery Gergiev. They set an example for all orchestras throughout the evening. The choreography is elegant and Diana Vishneva was in superlative form enjoying the high lifts and bringing the music to dynamic life. I hope we see the full version when the Kirov visits next year.<P>At four hours with one interval it was a great evening and set an example as to what can be achieved in a Gala setting. I was particularly pleased to see that the standing places had been sold to enable more dance fans to enjoy the experience at reasonable cost. Let’s hope that this becomes the norm at ROH Galas. I also hope that the Kirov mounts two more Galas to celebrate the 301st Anniversary. <P><BR><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited June 04, 2002).]

Author:  Cassandra [ Wed Jun 05, 2002 1:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet at Covent Garden 2002

Stuart, I was one of those people standing on the second night of the Kirov galas. I was on my feet for four hours - not an experience I will rush to repeat!<P>It was interesting to read the very diverse views of the critics over the two nights. I was very impressed by Leningrad Symphony. It was danced in London many years ago, but some changes seem to have been made to the costumes of the men, as I discover looking at some old photos that they originally wore German helmets with little horns attached, I'm sure the uniform slicked back hair is an improvement. I don't know much about Igor Belsky at all, but would be happy if the Kirov included Leningrad Symphony on their next visit to London.<P>Jacobson is also a rarity, though I understand he is still highly regarded by Russian dancers and is the only Russian choreographer to get a kind remark by Plisetskaya in her recent book. I have the same Spartacus pas de deux on a video off Russian TV and with a less histrionic Phrygia, the work looks more impressive.<P>As to the issue of what to call them, changing brand name is always a bad move, they may prefer Maryinski in St.P. but they will always be the Kirov to the London fans.<P>Finally a question for our French posters: Is Ratmansky, the choreographer of Nutcracker and Cinderella, the same Ratmansky who dances in Giselle with Nadezhda Pavlova in the French video of the Imperial Russian Ballet? Russians don't have the same Equity rule as the UK that requires its members to change their names if they have the same name as an existing member. For example on that same video there is an Ilya Kuznetsov, but he is not the Ilya Kuznetsov who until recently danced with the Kirov. So I would be interested if anyone knows whether the dancer and the choreographer are the same person.<BR>

Author:  Nino [ Wed Jun 05, 2002 6:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet at Covent Garden 2002

Cassandra, I too was standing...four hours...and on the first night too. What we do for the pleasure of seeing the Kirov - and keeping the bank manager happy at the same time!

Author:  Joanne [ Thu Jun 06, 2002 12:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Kirov Ballet at Covent Garden 2002

Another review from The Independent.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Preparing for St Petersburg's tercentenary next year, Valery Gergiev brought a vast selection of the Mariinsky (once Kirov) Theatre's opera, ballet and orchestra to London for two special programmes at Covent Garden: more than 250 performers plus support staff. What an enterprise, but their aim was no less than to celebrate the story of that great theatre and its predecessors, from an opera commissioned in 1787 by Catherine the Great right through to a ballet created this year.<P><HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><A HREF="" TARGET=_blank> <B> MORE </B> </A>

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