“Shannon Rose”, 23 November 2006, Estonian National Ballet, Estonia Opera House, Tallinn
This is the third season that “Shannon Rose” has been in the repertory of the Estonian National Ballet and it gets better with every viewing. The programme tells us that it: “...encompasses many facets - war, isolation, community, betrayal, religion, sex and infidelity - however it is mostly about love...,” and the passionate music of Sibelius provides an excellent accompaniment to these themes.
Set in Ireland under British occupation, the Hungarian choreographer, Youri Vámos, has a knack for succinct and clear story telling. By using ballet for the central characters and vibrant contemporary dance for the villagers, there is a wide movement vocabulary. Further, the two acts are contrasted with the first dominated by ensemble dancing and the second by a series of varied solos and duets. Overall, a powerful and accessible example of ballet theatre.
This season sees new role premieres and the chance to enjoy fresh interpretations. Marika Muiste, an expressive dancer with strong technique, is rarely off-stage as Rose the spoiled girl longing for escape from the boredom of village life. As the story unfolds, she is convincing as a dreamer, a disappointed wife, a passionate lover and finally a tragic heroine and the audience rewarded her with loud applause at the final curtain.
Andrei Mihnevits is only a few years out of ballet school, but is already an assured and accomplished dancer. He conveys the boyish charm of the schoolteacher convincingly and can be forgiven if he cannot add 20 years to his age, as the teacher marrying his ex-pupil. His anguished solo in the second half left me keen to see him in a range of principal roles.
Anatoli Arhangelski has made rapid progress over the past two years: his dancing is more supple and he manages the complex partnering here, with apparent ease. Most important, his acting is more expressive and, playing the emotionally scarred British officer, he and Mairika Muiste set sparks flying in their visceral duets.
In the key smaller roles, Heidi Kopti and Daniel Kirspuu as revolutionaries, Vladimir Klepinin, the village idiot and Juri Mihjevev, an all-controlling priest, make the most of their well-drawn characters.
When you add imaginative, expressionistic set and lighting design by Michael Scott and Klaus Gärditz, respectively, “Shannon Rose” is a ballet that would grace any European opera house, and Estonians have the good fortune to be able to see it for the same price as a ticket to a film at Tallinn's Coca-Cola Plaza. For lovers of accessible drama as well as ballet fans, “Shannon Rose” is a must-see and returns for two performances in March, 2007.