Below is Anna Kisselgoff’s (New York Times) review of Kudelka’s Firebird. I’ve provided translation for those sections
which seemed to suggest Kudelka’s Firebird was not up to snuff.
I was truly amazed Kisselgoff would be this critical of a Kudelka work—Albeit in a sneaky way. Kisselgoff didn’t come right out and say this ballet stinks but I think this could be interpreted as a thumbs down. I think it fair to accuse Kisselgoff of being a bit too kind to Kudelka in past reviews. If you look back at my review and those of others, you will see many points we brought up in Kisselgoff’s critique. <P>Amazingly, the NBoC laminated the below review and enlarged it for all to see in the main lobby. I have no idea what they were thinking. Perhaps publicity ballerinas Julia Drake and Belinda Bale hated it as well.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>
All that glitters looks like gold
in the dazzling new version of "The Firebird" that James Kudelka has just choreographed for the National Ballet of Canada. <P>"The Lion King" meets Serge Diaghilev in this
but persuasive staging, which will also be presented in the United States as a co-production for American Ballet Theater and the Houston Ballet. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Translation: This ballet is fool’s gold for the eyes and very artificial.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR> The American designer Santo Loquasto outdid himself at the production's premiere here on Friday night at the Hummingbird Center when the National Ballet of Canada, under Mr. Kudelka's direction since 1996, opened in peak form. <P>When the company appeared in a little-publicized season at City Center two years ago, it had been absent from New York a decade too long to attract the audience it deserved. Nor did the City Center stage prove wide enough for the expansive dancing the company needed in "The Four Seasons," Mr. Kudelka's setting of the Vivaldi score. <P>On Friday and Saturday afternoon, the audience sprang to its feet to applaud magnificent performances in the same ballet. Never has a work looked so different, depending upon a stage and the level of technique. There is no doubt now that Mr. Kudelka's "Four Seasons" is a masterpiece for our time. <P>
His "Firebird," however, will have to be seen as what used to be called a darn good show.
It is synthetic in the sense that his treatment of Stravinsky's full ballet score (not the suite often used in other versions) assembles disparate influences. He retains much of the scenario of the 1910 original ballet choreographed by Michel Fokine for Diaghilev: an enchanted Firebird gives the hero, Prince Ivan, a feather after he has captured and freed her. With this talisman, he can defeat the power of Kastchei, the evil wizard who is immortal so long as his soul is preserved in an egg. [quote]<P>Translation: This is not a masterpiece; only a darn good show. <P>[quote]
Something gets blurry in the National Ballet plot, where Kastchei's huge egg cracks open by itself and the wizard steps in to die a presumably yolky death.
His retinue has some cute lizards that scurry on toe, contrasting with the friezelike slink of the prince, often in profile — all the better to recall Fokine's or Vaslav Nijinsky's antiquity-inspired ballets. <P>
Along the way the Firebird loses her dominant place. In part, this is because Mr. Kudelka's choreography is unusually good for the prince.
Fokine and others give him a walk-on and partnering role, but this prince is noble as a classical dancer.
Unfortunately, the Firebird suggests his equal rather than a magic creature with supernatural powers.
She flutters and darts rather than flies. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Translation: Kudelka has egg on his face for changing the death scene and giving so little stage time to the Firebird. The Dark Prince of the NBoC also stiffed the Firebird with inferior choreography.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>
She also has to go up and down terraced steps to a catwalk in Mr. Loquasto's bamboo version of a Mayan or Aztec pyramid.
Like the princess with whom Ivan falls in love and her retinue of 12 maidens, the ballerina in the Firebird role is a classically trained dancer.
That is, she waddles up and down the steps with feet turned out. A pity.
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Translation: Once again, The Dark Knight gave very little for the Firebird to work with. The steps and catwalk do very little for the ballet.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR> Nonetheless, when the Firebird gets to the top, she seems to light amid the foliage that frames the stage. There are three points to retain: the choreography is very good, the costumes are resplendent, and this production does not bore. Among ballets that have a stronger place in history than on stage, the 1910 Fokine "Firebird" might take pride of place. Stravinsky's score no longer shocks, and the exotic value of the work has worn thin. <P>Andris Liepa's spectacular staging, seen in New York in 1995 with the Kirov Ballet, harked back successfully to the Fokine choreography. But when Ballet Theater attempted the Fokine original, it fell flat. George Balanchine, like many others, felt more at home with a shorter version; he used the 1945 suite that Stravinsky fashioned for the third time out of the full score. <P>The Houston Ballet, which will present the Kudelka version in February, and Ballet Theater, which will do so in the spring of 2001 at the Metropolitan Opera House, have opted for what can work as a family show. Mr. Kudelka's hodgepodge can be seen as the direct descendant of the hodgepodge scenario that Fokine and Diaghilev put together from unrelated Russian fairy tales. Commenting on this composite plot, Prince Peter Lieven, a member of Diaghilev's circle, once wrote that the original had no meaning for a Russian: "It was as if Alice of `Alice in Wonderland' were partnered by Falstaff in a Scotch jig."<P>In this new version, animal figures inspired by Mayan ruins do not mean a "Firebird" transferred to Central America: the maidens dance Russian chain dances and flatten them into Greek reliefs. <P>There is something better, a lyrical production that has a flow of fantasy. Some of this effect comes with the score as it is played with a muted texture under Ormsby Wilkins's masterly baton.<P>There is a dreamlike luster from the moment Prince Ivan plows into his jungle. Aleksandar Antonijevic on Friday was highly noble, and Guillaume Côté was more in wonder on Saturday afternoon. Both hung on engagingly to the back of the Firebird's tutu as they captured her. <P>Greta Hodgkinson was a brilliant and dynamic Firebird on Friday, while Chan Hon Goh was more poetic on Saturday.
Mr. Kudelka has given them too many poses reminiscent of Odette in "Swan Lake,"
but the Firebird gets her own solo and pas de deux as expected.
Her lullaby at the end, however, is too brief, as the attention shifts to a shamanlike wizard and the knights he has petrified (Ivan's legs begin to go numb). Kudelka-style Kastchei acquires a nymphomaniac wife who has a two-second affair with one of his generals.
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Translation: Kudelka liberated too much from Odette in “Swan Lake.” The Sleeping Beauty like-lullaby was way too short. What’s a nymphomaniac wife doing in a children’s ballet? <P>[quote]
Back to the sublime, which is the allegory of a man's life that Mr. Kudelka has made of "The Four Seasons."
Rex Harrington was stunning as the protagonist on Friday night, when he and Ms. Hodgkinson brought the house down in their duet in the "Summer" section. Only Mr. Kudelka can infuse passion into virtuosity in this way. On Saturday, William Marrié made his debut as the hero, more tormented but equally impressive. Somebody should bring this ballet back to New York in a proper setting. [quote]<P>Translation: Kudelka’s Firebird was the weaker of this 2 for 1 evening of ballet. Below is my rating for Firebird.<P>Performance of Dancers: 18/20. Story: 8/20. Choreography: 6/20. Ballet Magic: 11/20. Sets and Costumes: 16/20. Rating: 59/100. <P><BR> <BR><P>------------------<BR>Michael Goldbarth