The eagerly awaited Bolshoi season of 2013 has now come and gone and left perhaps fewer enduring memories in its wake than those of the past. The repertoire was something of a let down to start with featuring a substantial number of Grigorovich Swan Lakes, in addition we saw a newish La Bayadere featuring different sets that were no improvement on the old and a new two act version of Sleeping Beauty that was musically cut to ribbons and with designs that were almost a carbon copy of those at La Scala. Two performances of Jewels lifted the spirits somewhat, but with Diamonds danced by Smirnova, the Bolshoi’s officially designated new wonder girl on both nights, those of us who had booked for both performances felt a bit short changed. Only Flames of Paris, entirely new to London but rationed to a mere three performances, showed us the exciting face of the company that we have come to love.
The new faces in London this year were more interesting than the rather restricted repertory with Sergei Filin’s four new acquisitions very much to the fore. Evgenia Obraztsova is of course an audience favourite in London and it appears her relocating to the Bolshoi has been a seamless exercise. Also to be applauded was the decision to relocate Kristina Kretova and Semyon Chudin from the Stanislavsky company as both dancers are clearly major stars in the making, she with her effortless dancing and sunny personality and he with a prodigious leap and strong stage presence. Olga Smirnova who was elevated above all others in a barrage of publicity turned out not to be the matchless prodigy we had been promised but rather another hyper-extending, un-smiling product of the Kirov production line. Many degrees above the Somovas and Skoriks to be sure, but way off the finished article with imperfect épaulement and ‘broken’ wrists. On a more positive note another new to London dancer, Artem Ovcharenko, was mightily impressive as were two other male dancers promoted through the ranks and dancing leads this time around: Vladislav Lantratov and Denis Rodkin.
Of the established stars, tragically Maria Alexandrova was seriously injured whilst dancing the role of Gamzatti and was rushed home to Russia for treatment. Equally tragic was the loss, both for sinister reasons, of Svetlana Lunkina and Nikolai Tsiskaridze. These two had in the past contributed so much to the success of Bolshoi seasons that their absence was sorely felt. The excellent Dmitri Goudanov was also listed as injured by the time Flames of Paris came round although Alexander Volchkov bravely battled through injury in early performances before having to bow out.
There were many notable individual performances especially in Flames of Paris where Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev made guest appearances and on the evening they appeared together were greeted with near Fonteyn/Nureyev length applause, lasting almost a quarter of an hour. Kristina Kretova as Mireille De Poitiers had some cheeky last night fun with a temperamental brazier in her ballet scene whilst in an alternative cast Denis Rodkin deserves mention for managing to look so gorgeous in his brief Grecian tunic and curly wig.
Company stalwarts such as Alizade, A. Leonova and Biktomirov were outstanding and as eye catching as ever, but some sort of award should go to the highly versatile Denis Medvedev who on the one hand gave us an elegantly precise pas de trois from Emeralds and at the other end of the spectrum was sublimely absurd as the idiot Louis XVI in Flames of Paris. But if I have to name the balletic equivalent of ‘(Wo)Man of the Match’ it has to be Ekaterina Krysanova who danced in every production and impressed in them all. If I had to pick her best role this time around I’d be hard put to choose between her wit and vitality in Rubies and her zealous interpretation in the role of Jeanne in Flames but I’m sure others would choose differently amongst her roles as she truly excelled in them all. To sum up: disappointing rep but some glorious dancing; nice to see that even under new management the company still reigns supreme.