The Kirov - that's Opera and Ballet companies - returned to Covent Garden tonight (28 May) for the first of two evenings to kick off the celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the founding of the city of St Petersburg. Yes, strictly speaking the anniversary falls due next year. But any excuse is just fine if it means that Gergiev brings these superlative companies back to London.
The programme for both evenings are mixed opera and ballet (as already discussed in a separate thread under UK news). And there were some magnificent arias this evening in particular from operas Eugene Onegin, The Tsar's Bride and Boris Godunov with Gergiev conducting. But it's the ballet that we're all really interested in, right?
First ballet piece was Don Quixote Act III pdd, with Diana Vishneva and Andrei Merkuriev. Perhaps a slightly odd choice to open with, Vishneva was nevertheless on characteristically strong form exuding assurance. Unfortuently, Merkuriev seemed a touch tentative - perhaps first night nerves. Towards the end of their first pdd, he failed to get Vishneva fully aloft in preparation for the fish dive. But a spot of improvisation (and sheer professionalism from Vishneva) just about saved the day. She carried on for the rest of the Act with her usual panache in this role - a lovely string of double fouettes, fan held high, for example - while Merkuriev decided to play safe and completed his variations without further mishap. A pity not to see him dance full out - he's obviously a talented dancer.
The next ballet was a meltingly beautiful performance of Balanchine's Serenade with Natalia Sologub, Veronika Part and Irina Golub plus Daniil Korsuntsev. A fabulous example of the Kirov style illuminating Balanchine's work, and deservedly appreciated by the audience.
Next was the ensemble piece "Danse Hongroise" from Raymonda - classic stamping feet and twirling moustaches Ruritanian style with Polina Rassadina and Andrei Yakovlev (1) as lead couple. This was followed by the Bluebird variation from Act III Sleepng Beauty. The wonderful Irina Golub was a delicate, sweet-natured Princess Florine with Vassily Scherbakov as the Bluebird coping admirably with the famous entrechats. The evening ended with both operatic and balletic extracts (Polovtsian Dances) from Prince Igor. The whole stage, ringed by the operatic chorus, became a whirling mass of dancers. Clearly neither Borodin nor Fokine were the sort of people to let a fact like the non-existence of any "Polovtsian people" to get in the way of a good theatrical spectacle.
<small>[ 06 December 2003, 08:00 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>