CriticalDance Forum

Kirov in London, July 2006
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Author:  KirovFan [ Sun Jul 16, 2006 7:37 am ]
Post subject:  Vishneva?

Hello: Does anyone know if Vishneva is still coming to London? I have tickets to see her in "The Young Girl and the Hooligan" and wanted to be know who would be dancing...

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Jul 17, 2006 1:30 am ]
Post subject: 

Hi Kirovfan and welcome to CriticalDance. Your enquiry whether Vishneva will be dancing is appropriate, but I'm afraid we can only wait for official announcements. We have a rule about gossip that includes cast changes, so it won't be possible for people to respond unofficially to you on CriticalDance.

In addition, both dancers and management can get very upset when unofficial announcements about cast changes are announced on the Internet. Thus to be fair to the companies, we prohibit gossip in our courtesy rule:

Author:  Cassandra [ Mon Jul 17, 2006 3:11 am ]
Post subject:  Kirov vs Bolshoi

The football sequence in the Kirov's upcoming Golden Age seems to have inspired a couple of footballing references in this BBC journalist's piece concerning the supposed rivalry between the two companies:

Author:  kurinuku [ Tue Jul 18, 2006 5:46 am ]
Post subject: 

London dances to Russia's tunes
by ISMENE BROWN for the Daily Telegraph

More heated and intemperate debates have been held about the Soviet Union's master composer than any other: about whether this symphony glorifies Stalin or whether that string quartet is code for fierce dissidence. You'd think it impossible to listen to a note of his music without an Enigma machine at your side.

Valery Gergiev, the director of the Mariinsky (formerly Kirov) Theatre, has come up with a grand plan to rebut these fatuities, commanding, on the centenary of the composer's birth, a fabulous spread of Shostakovich's work to be set before the world's cities.

published: July 15, 2006

Author:  kurinuku [ Tue Jul 18, 2006 6:12 am ]
Post subject: 

Clash of the titans
by HUGH CANNING for the Sunday Times

At the heart of this clash of the Russian operatic and balletic titans — apart from the long- standing rivalry between the St Petersburg- and Moscow-based companies — is the confrontation of artistic values and commercial necessity. The Hochhauser organisation has made money from promoting classical music, opera and ballet for decades, without any subsidy or much in the way of sponsorship, while Gergiev has founded a reputation, particularly of the Mariinsky/Kirov Opera, on big artistic statements and costly large-scale projects.

published: July 16, 2006

Author:  Cassandra [ Tue Jul 25, 2006 3:59 am ]
Post subject:  Shostakovich and the Ballet

The big moment has finally come and the Kirov ballet begins its weeklong London season today. Too much has been made of the rivalry between the Kirov and Bolshoi in the London press, strictly speaking the ballet companies don’t overlap at all as the Bolshoi Opera Company is playing in opposition to the Kirov Ballet company for just this week. A problem more for the Russophiles among us rather than the hardcore ballet fans; though it’s going to prove an expensive four weeks.

Shostakovich composed music for just three ballets: “The Golden Age”, “The Bright Stream” and “The Bolt”, the latter concerned with the unlikely subject of industrial sabotage: none of these was considered successful. Of the three “The Bright Stream” (goings on at a collective farm) was regarded as the least unsuccessful but it offended Stalin; “The Golden Age” was lumbered with a useless libretto that was actually written by the winner of a Kirov Theatre competition for a story for a new ballet. These works were created early in Shostakovich’s career and after their premieres it seems they were shoved in a drawer and forgotten for decades, with only a concert suite as a reminder of their existence.

When Grigorovich decided to produce his own version of “Golden Age” some years after Shostakovich’s death, retrieving the score was a problem as it seems the three scores had become mixed up and even musicologists were unsure as to which pieces belonged to which ballet, and no less an authority than Benjamin Britten was roped in to help. Grigorovich’s “Golden Age” used a completely different story line from the original and with a more romantic plot to accommodate he used the slow movements from Shostakovich’s two piano concertos to provide music for the two big pas de deux. I suspect there were other interpolations too as I recognised the music Grigorovich used for a chase scene when I recently saw the operetta “Moscow, Cheryomushki”. The new version of “The Golden Age” that we will be seeing in London is a variation on the original theme featuring sportsmen and Soviet delegations, the initial libretto that Grigorovitch rejected. Because of the short space of time allotted to the creation of this new version, choreographer Noah Gelber considers it still ‘a work in progress’ and consequently the ballet may well contain differences from the St Petersburg premiere.

The second programme is a triple bill of works utilizing other music by Shostakovich. “Lady and the Hooligan” may be remembered by those who saw a condensed version danced by the Panovs back in the 1970’s. It was created for Panov and for those of us that saw him in the role he’ll be a hard act to follow; there is also a video available in Russia of a studio version with Irina Kolpakova no less, dancing as The Lady. The work’s chorographer, Boyarsky, used a wide selection of music from a number of sources to create this ballets score including what is arguably Shostakovich’s most widely known melody, the romance from “The Gadfly” but arranged for clarinet rather than the usual strings. My favourite is the theme for the Hooligan himself, which I’m told is actually called the Dance of the Draymen, almost certainly from one of the ballets but sadly I have yet to discover which one, though I once heard it played in a brass arrangement as an encore by a Russian Orchestra; I think I was the only member of the audience able to identify it.

The second work in this triple bill is “The Bedbug” choreographed by Leonid Jakobson, a choreographer whose work has rarely been seen in the UK but who is held in high esteem by the Russians. This is the one ballet in this programme that I have never seen at all and can only report that it was created in 1962 which is the same year as “Lady and the Hooligan” and that it is based on a play by Mayakovsky – as is the “Lady and the Hooligan”.

The Final ballet is “Leningrad Symphony”, danced to the famous seventh symphony inspired by the harrowing siege that that city suffered in WWII. This ballet has been seen before in London and is both powerful and memorable but this time around the illustrious Lopatkina will dance the female lead.

Shostakovich was a composer who suffered countless setbacks under the Soviet regime and was forced to re-invent himself over and over again in the face of persecution though his spirit was never wholly vanquished. On one of my visits to Moscow I visited the Novodivichy cemetery where Shostakovich is buried. It is a cemetery reserved for the great and the good and it is very telling that although he was considered worthy enough to be laid to rest there, he was interred in a plot against the furthest wall, so that one can’t just come across his grave by accident as I did that day with Chaliapin and Ulanova’s graves, but you must make a real effort to find its location, in my case with the help of a cemetery guide. I took him flowers and was pleased to see the faded floral tributes of others that had found his out of the way resting place. In this year that marks the centenary of Shostakovich’s birth we Londoners owe a debt of gratitude to the Kirov for presenting so much of his work for the theatre. Go and enjoy.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue Jul 25, 2006 8:58 am ]
Post subject: 


Actually, the London version of "the Golden Age" will *definitely* contain differences from the version that was shown here in St. Petersburg in late June. He has reworked much of the ballet upon request. I will be curious to hear what people think of it in London.

Author:  kurinuku [ Wed Jul 26, 2006 1:26 am ]
Post subject: 

Manic, flapping choreography makes Shostakovich sound weak
by ZOE ANDERSON for the Independent

An all-Shostakovich opera season makes sense but though the composer wrote various ballet scores, few stagings have established themselves in repertory. This triple bill of early 1960s ballets poses a lot of questions. How can such manic choreography be so listless? How can such simplistic works be so hard to follow? Why did Gergiev think this would do Shostakovich any favours?

published: 26 July 2006

Author:  kurinuku [ Thu Jul 27, 2006 3:45 am ]
Post subject: 

Shostakovich triple bill
by JUDITH MACKRELL for the Guardian

Historically confusing as some of the material may be, however, this programme has to be seen - simply for its uniqueness. The Young Lady and the Hooligan delivers what looks like pure moral propaganda, with no ethical or choreographic grey areas ...

A similar Russian sense of moral mission gives Leningrad Symphony its distinctive energies, with exquisitely grieving groups of women pitted against the seething jack-booted army that encircles them. And it also animates the absurdities of The Bed Bug, Jacobson's fantasy of a petit-bourgeois who is launched into the future and finds himself in a world gone mad with the frenetic itch of self gratification.

published: July 27, 2006

Author:  kurinuku [ Thu Jul 27, 2006 4:34 am ]
Post subject: 

Shostakovich majors on nostalgia
by CLEMENT CRISP for the Financial Times

Both ballets are inspired by Mayakovsky plays. For The Bedbug, which Shostakovich called “a fairly lousy play”, the composer produced a score that includes part of his first symphony and other quotations. For The Lady and the Hooligan the music is an adaptation of a score for a film of the piece.

published: July 26, 2006

Author:  Cassandra [ Thu Jul 27, 2006 5:26 am ]
Post subject: 

Shostakovich Triple Bill
Kirov Ballet
London Coliseum
25th July 2006

This Shostakovich triple bill showed a completely different side of the Kirov Ballet in roles that gave them the opportunity to display acting skills that generally remain hidden; the middle work, “The Bedbug”, is in many ways the most interesting and the only ballet in the triple bill totally unfamiliar to London audiences. Leonid Jakobson was a choreographer revered by dancers but with a history of clashes with authority so it is interesting to watch a work that contains some of the elements that during his lifetime were considered subversive. It is based on a satire by Mayakovsky about a sailor who gets mixed up with the bourgeoisie and dumps his rather gauche girlfriend for the daughter of a ghastly middle class family. Mayakovsky himself is one of the characters in the ballet, mostly standing apart from the action but occasionally getting more involved, a bit like a master of ceremonies; he is the only one who looks relatively normal with the rest looking and behaving like caricatures. Andrei Ivanov as randy former sailor Prisypkin was nothing less than a human dynamo throwing himself into each new situation with child-like impetuosity and preternatural vigour: a staggering performance. After witnessing the final scene when a wedding day punch-up takes place among the guests on the vast honeymoon bed, Mayakovsky, played by a wryly amused Andrei Naumov, finally loses patience with the characters he has created and setting light to the crimson bed sheets, sends the lot of them to hell. I enjoyed this ballet no end, but from remarks I overheard in the interval, I may be in a minority over this one.

By the way, although no synopsis of this ballet is given in the programme, the short story line given on the ENO and Maryinsky Friends web sites about travelling into the future is completely wrong. Anyone reading it will be totally confused as to what is happening on stage as it is nothing to do with time travel at all and I notice that at least one of the national critics was taken in by this curious piece of misinformation.

It was Svetlana Ivanova who took the honours in Boyarsky’s “The Lady and the Hooligan” with her portrayal of a kind, tender young girl who attracts the attention of a rough ne’er do well. As the Hooligan Igor Zelensky looked a tough customer, but perhaps too much of a hard case to really fall for the gentle Ivanova. I remember Valery Panov, the role’s creator in this part and he had a kind of innocence beneath his bravado, a good guy forced by circumstances to become something he was not. Unlike Zelensky’s hooligan Panov wore rags and looked like a street kid grown up in contrast to the more obvious delinquent that Zelensky portrayed. The Hooligan and his mates are controlled by someone identified in the programme as ‘The Guide’, which is surely a mistake: head gangster, crime boss or ringleader perhaps, but ‘Guide’? Though this character possess the inclinations of a Fagin with his dependent young criminals, he is quite the dandy and in this interesting role Sergei Popov poses elegantly with an air of refinement that disguises his innate viciousness. Tatiana Tkachenko had great fun as his good-time-girl love interest. It all ends in tears of course with the gangland boss knifing the Hooligan when he shows signs of reforming thereby giving him the chance of dying in the Lady’s arms.

Maestro Gergiev himself stepped up to the podium to conduct the final ballet, Igor Belsky’s “Leningrad Symphony”, conducting with relentless vigour in this work that seeks to encapsulate some of the suffering of the Russian people during the war. Beginning with scenes of those everyday pleasures that conflict puts an end to, the ballet moves on to depict the terrors of invasion and the courage that was born out of suffering. In the leading female role Yuliana Lopatkina was less dramatic than ideal but nevertheless seemed to embody the indomitable spirit of an everywoman living through adversity. As her lover Igor Kolb was impressive and moving by turns as he soared across the stage before falling victim to the Nazis only to rise again to overcome his enemies in a supreme battle of wills. Nikolai Zubkovsky, in the role he inherited from his father, was the panic-stricken coward turned traitor. The corps de ballet dances with the utmost conviction and looks beautiful in frozen sculptural groups: a grieving Greek-frieze of woman and muscular heroism for the men. As Gergiev took his call at the end the audience roared, a fitting tribute to Shostakovich’s music.

Author:  kurinuku [ Fri Jul 28, 2006 3:37 am ]
Post subject: 

Shostakovich sold short
by ISMENE BROWN for the Daily Telegraph

The triple bill looked a good bet, with three choreographers taking on music that is generously entertaining, often so tuneful as to make Dvoržák weep, and nicely chopped up into numbers for ease of use.

published: July 27, 2006

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Fri Jul 28, 2006 7:41 am ]
Post subject: 

Cassandra, thanks for the great report. And Kurinuku for all of the news reviews.

Cassandra, I think 'The Guide' must have been a mistranslation in the English programs. When they dance "Hooligan" here, the word in Russian is "божок" which can translate to god, idol, young/little god, etc.

I am very anxious to hear how "The Golden Age" will be received!

Author:  AnaM [ Fri Jul 28, 2006 8:36 am ]
Post subject: 

I went to see the performance of the Triple Bill yesterday and I have to agree with most of Cassandra's comments.

First of all, I cannot stop admiring the Russian dancers' commitment to give their best in whatever they happen to dance. It seems as if whenever they are given a chance to dance something new -or old as in this case!- they just put so much sincerity in their performances, that the works simply come to life.

I particularly enjoyed "The Bedbug" I guess because of its rarity. I am intrigued by Jacobson's work -especially after seeing his "Vestris" and I am grateful to the Mariinsky for bringing his work to London.

I also enjoyed "The Lady and the Hooligan" and, not having seen the piece before, I cannot compare it to Panov's performance, but I can see the point Cassandra is trying to make. Thanks for sharing your memories of the ballet with us!

For me, "Leningrad Symphony" was breathtaking. Lopatkina is a beautiful dancer, and though I agree she is not the most dramatic one, she has a very deep sense of line and this spoke volumes on stage. Igor Kolb was magnificent.

I am really glad the Mariinsky has brought these ballets to London. I know the sales have not been great, but it is wonderful to see the company reviving their artistic heritage with so much passion, understanding and with such outstanding performances.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sat Jul 29, 2006 12:24 pm ]
Post subject: 

Ana, thank you so much for your post. As always it is very interesting to hear the views of those who see the Kirov outside their home town!

Did you see the premiere of "The Golden Age"? I am waiting with bated breath for first impressions from whoever attended. By default, since the members of the first and third casts are here in St P, I know that Pavlenko will be dancing the leads in all three performances ( three in less than 24 hours!). Very interested to hear feedback from those who attend!

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