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 Post subject: Bolshoi - The Met and US Tour 2005
PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2005 10:19 pm 
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I just returned from The Bolshoi's opening night at the Met, with Zakharova leading the company in Don Q. A thorough review will follow, but the noteworthy aspect of the night was not Zakharova's performance (which was fine, albeit a bit forced when it needn't have been, but her extraordinary Guillem-like extensions are still a wonder of the world), but the depth of the company. From what I saw tonight, gone are the days when the Bolshoi was populated tp a large extemt by, well, dancers who had seen better days. From what I saw tonight (and notwithstanding the rather thin-looking company roster), there are a number of superb young dancers who handled soloist roles brilliantly, including Irina Zibrova (Mercedes and the Bolero variation), Anna Antropova (Gypsy), Kristina KKaraseva (Spansh variation), and two young corps dancers with extraordinary promise beyond character roles: Natalia Osipova and Nelli Kobakhidze.

The casting for the remaining Don Q performances are: 7/19 - Maria Alexandrova/Sergei Filin; 7/20 - Galina Stepanenko/Yuri Klevtsov; and 7/21 same as tonight (Zaharova and Andrei Uvarov. It is a much longer production than ABT's - don't expect it to end before 10:45.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2005 8:12 am 
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Thanks, balletomaniac. I'm pretty excited about going Friday night to Spartacus, and I'm going to try to getting standing room for Pharaoh's Daughter. Especially looking forward to (hopefully) getting a glimpse of the very controversial Nikolai Tsiskaridze at some point.

The red and black motif of the posters and banners in front of The Met looks kind of intense - for a better word. No question about who's in town, is there.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2005 6:37 pm 
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The Bolshoi Ballet
Metropolitan Opera House, NYC
July 18, 2005: “Don Quixote”



I missed seeing Svetlana Zakharova when the Kirov was last in New York. I did see her, however, as a guest last year with ABT in La Bayadere, as Nikiya. I recall her being strong as iron and projecting larger than life, with jaw-dropping extensions and leaps. Abetted by her personal costume, or lack thereof, she was also drop dead gorgeous.

Everything I observed in Zakharova last year seems to still be accurate. In her opening-night performance as Kitri in the Bolshoi’s disjointed production of “Don Quixote,” she looked radiant, and still displayed impeccable technique. But, having only recently seen Diana Vishneva’s Kitri with American Ballet Theatre, Zakharova’s Kitri is not quite on the same level. Where Vishneva seemed to inhabit Kitri, Zakharova’s characterization seemed pasted on. She came across as vivacious, but not naturally fiery. And nearly every time she came to the end of a dance/music passage, particularly in Act I, she’d punctuate it with an overblown hand flourish and/or head snap that bragged: ‘Look at what I just did!’ Perhaps this is Bolshoi style, and each of their Kitris does the same thing. Regardless, the vamping distracts from the brilliance of the dancing. The few times when Zakharova completed a passage and didn’t mug, she was perfect. Huge jetes (way over 180 degrees); dizzying fouettes (but not quite as dazzling as, say, Gillian Murphy’s); slow, sensual Guillem-like extensions that provoked ‘wows’ from the largely unsophisticated audience (and awe from the cognoscenti); and a natural effervescence that required no artificial emphasis. [Although she didn’t do the “fan variation” in the Act III Grand Pas, few seemed to mind.] Finally, although she seems to have lost some weight since defecting to the Bolshoi, Zakharova still looks spectacular on stage.

Zakharova’s capabilities, however, were no surprise. What was a surprise was the improved level of the company as a whole since I last saw them, and of the supporting soloists in particular. Based on last night’s performance, gone are the days when the Bolshoi consisted to a large extent of dancers past their prime. Under Artistic Director Alexei Ratmansky, the Bolshoi dancers (at least the women – it is premature at this juncture to assess the men) appear, as a group, to be younger, better trained, and more winsome than their recent predecessors. To be blunt, they now look more like ABT dancers. And their character soloists were superb. As the gypsy girl (who handles the bulk of the gypsy dancing in this production), Anna Antropova, (listed as a simple Soloist, rather than First Soloist or Leading Soloist), was spectacularly earthy and torrid. Irina Zibrova, a First Soloist, was both Mercedes and the girl in the “Bolero” variation. Her Mercedes was well done; her Bolero variation, with repeated rubber-spine deep backbends, was extraordinary. And Kristina Karaseva, a member of the Corps, was sultry and sensual, as well as technically accomplished, in the Spanish variation. But little Natalia Osipova and not so little Nelli Kobakhidze, both members of the Corps, displayed precocious (and prodigious) talent in their respective variations during the Act III Grand Pas. Osipova in particular promised to be the baby ballerina starlet from the moment she appeared on stage, and she delivered on the promise. Of course, it’s too early to tell whether she can do more than what she showed in this variation, but her self-confidence and obvious ability (including leaps that came close to orbiting) herald a bright future.

In the more “standard” supporting roles, Nina Katpsova was an engaging Cupid (Amour in ABT’s production), and Timofey Lavrenyuk danced a very capable Estrada. Initially Andrey Uvarov as Basil seemed a mismatch for Zakharova. A relatively bland stage persona, compared to Zakharova’s ebullience; a rather tame dancer, compared to Zakharova’s radiance. He was a Basil who actually looked like a barber. But he emerged in Act III, and, although not as clean as New York balletgoers are used to seeing, he suddenly became supersized as his long legs and body devoured the stage.

The Bolshoi production of “Don Q”, however, is not up to the standards of its dancers. It makes no narrative sense (even given that the story itself makes little sense), and often seems to have been stitched together by a choreographic committee. The opening prologue, with Don Quixote playing Cervantes playing Don Quixote, is deadly dull and unfunny. Act I, which looks a lot like an Iberian "Napoli," moves very fast and then repeatedly stops dead. Instead of Act II beginning in the gypsy encampment, proceeding to Don Quixote’s dream sequence, and ending in the tavern, as it does in the ABT production, the Bolshoi’s Act II begins in the tavern (and includes Basil’s staged death and Lorenzo’s blessing of Kitri’s marriage to Basil), but then segues uncomfortably to Don Quixote and Sancho coming upon the gypsy encampment and the dream sequence. And then after Don Quixote returns to what passes for his senses, he encounters a duke and duchess, who invite him to Kitri’s wedding, which is taking place in their castle. Even taking into account that this is staged absurdity, the scenic sequence makes no sense. On the other hand, the character choreography that is not in the ABT production – specifically, the Spanish, Gypsy and Bolero variations danced in the gypsy camp -- is wonderfully exciting to watch.

But although the production itself is uneven, the largely touristy (and sold out) audience came to see The Bolshoi, not Don Q. Whether the story pieces fit together, or whether the dancers were doing anything that dancers in home companies don’t do and do better, didn’t matter in the least. They saw a colorful production, excellent, bravura dancing, and can tell their friends that they saw The Bolshoi. The standing ovation at the end, while not undeserved, was preordained.


Last edited by balletomaniac on Sun Jul 24, 2005 8:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2005 7:01 pm 
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For those interested, the rest of the Bolshoi casting (and no, I don't know what the occasional second listing for a particularly role means):
Spartacus: 7/22 - Belogolovtsev (Spartacus), Antonicheva (Phrygia), Vlochkov(Tsiskaridze) (Crassus), Allash (Aegina).
7/23M - Vorobiev, Lunkina, Neporojny, Shipulina
7/23E - Klevtsov, Petrova, Volchkov, Stepanenko.
Bright Stream: 7/25 - Yatsenko (Zina), Neporojny (Pyotr), Alexandrova (Ballerina), Filin (Dancer)
7/26 - Petrova, Klevtsov, Shipulina, Tsiskaridze.
7/27 - Kaptsova (Lunkina), Arifullin, Stepanenko, Godovsky.
Pharaoh's Daughter: 7/28 - Zakharova (Aspicia), Filin (Lord Wilson), Alexandrova (Ramze)
7/29 - Alexandrova, Tsiskaridze, Yatsenko
7/30M - Lunkina, Gudanov, Yatsenko
7/30E - Zakharova, Filin, Alexandrova.

Also, note that the Bolshoi, at least as of yesterday, had a unique standing room policy. The wouldn't sell standing room unless the performance was sold out. So, yesteday, standing room didn't go on sale until 6 p.m. I was told that the Spartacus and Pharaoh's Daughter performances are essentially sold out (partial view only), so standing room for those performances should be sold at the usual time, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2005 10:12 pm 
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In tomorrow's NY Times, Gia Kourlas interviews Zakharova backstage at The Met. Great photo, too.

A Young Ballerina Learns to Walk Through Open Door
By GIA KOURLAS
Published: July 21, 2005
Quote:
When Svetlana Zakharova was 10, her mother took her to an audition at a Kiev ballet school. Ms. Zakharova wanted none of it. She had no taste for ballet, positive or negative; her dread had more to do with the prospect of leaving her family, who lived in Lutsk, a town in western Ukraine.

click here


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 21, 2005 1:48 am 
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Quote:
Bolshoi's Mission: Broaden Its Ballets
by ANNA KISSELGOFF for the New York Times

There is no doubt that a Russian-born and acclaimed Russian-trained choreographer who occasionally choreographed for the Kirov and the Bolshoi but had experience abroad appealed to Russian cultural authorities, who had been busy dismissing former Bolshoi dancers as artistic directors. "Sometimes the fact that I am an outsider helps me a lot," Mr. Ratmansky said in a recent interview in New York.

published: July 15, 2005
more...


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 21, 2005 1:52 am 
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Quote:
Upcoming
Bolshoi Ballet

by ELIZABETH ZIMMER for the Village Voice

"It was such a great success that it was called to the Bolshoi," says Ratmansky. "Stalin didn't like it at all. The next day all the newspapers that had praised it published terrible reviews, Shostakovich never wrote another ballet, Lopukhov was dismissed, and the librettist was killed in the gulag.

published: July 12, 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 21, 2005 7:58 am 
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balettomaniac,
sorry, but you gave a wrong cast.

The correct cast:
Spartacus:
7/22 - Klevtsov (Spartacus), Antonicheva (Phrygia), Volchkov (Crassus), Allash (Aegina).
7/23M - Vorobiev,Kaptsova, Neporojny, Shipulina
7/23E - Klevtsov, Lunkina, Volchkov, Allash.
Bright Stream:
7/25 - Lunkina (Zina), Neporojny (Pyotr), Alexandrova (Ballerina), Godovsky (Dancer)
7/26 - Yatsenko, Klevtsov, Alexandrova, Tsiskaridze.
7/27 - Yatsenko, Arifullin, Shipulina, Godovsky.
Pharaoh's Daughter:
7/28 - Zakharova (Aspicia), Tsiskaridze(Lord Wilson), Alexandrova (Ramze)
7/29 - Alexandrova, Gudanov, Yatsenko
7/30M - Lunkina, Neporozhny, Yatsenko
7/30E - Zakharova, Tsiskaridze, Alexandrova.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 21, 2005 8:22 am 
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I posted the cast list they gave me at the Met box office on Monday, and typed it correctly (I triple checked). Guess they changed it since then. It looks better now - thanks for posting it.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2005 5:12 am 
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Quote:
Bolshoi Opens, Riding a Tried and True 'Quixote'
by JOHN ROCKWELL for the New York Times

The Bolshoi uses a version of the ballet from 1999 by Aleksei Fadeechev, himself a former artistic director for a short while. The Fadeechev "Don Quixote" is longer than Ballet Theater's version, with more mime and character dancing. It uses rather wan sets and lavish if glitzy costumes based on 1906 originals.

published: July 20, 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 22, 2005 6:16 am 
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Quote:
A Young Ballerina Learns to Walk Through Open Doors
by GIA KOURLAS for the New York Times

For seven years, Ms. Zakharova was the brilliant young face of the Kirov Ballet, in St. Petersburg, where she spent one year in the corps before being promoted to principal dancer; in 2003, she surprised the dance world by defecting to the Bolshoi. "Maybe I just wanted to change many things in my life," she explained. "It was very difficult for me to leave the Maryinsky. I grew up there. But kids, at a certain point, have to leave their families, build their own home and find their own views."

published: July 21, 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2005 12:29 am 
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Just back from the Bolshoi’s opening of Spartacus. What a wonderful, wonderful evening. I hardly know where to start.

The Met Opera House was packed. In this city, the Russian/Georgian community supports its performing artists like no other community. Whether it’s the Bolshoi Ballet or Hvorostovsky singing at the Met or the Russian National Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall, the community comes out in droves. Tonight I saw what looked like three generations of some families there together. And many more wheelchair attendees than usual. It was a very full house with many, many seniors.

The Bolshoi Orchestra was superb. The brass sound was huge, and the clarinet soloist made my heart sing. The Playbill listed the names of 14 of the soloist musicians on the cast page. A nice touch of class. Speaking of the Playbill, the cast page identified the evening’s performance by The Bolshoi Theatre of Russia in the largest print with the Bolshoi Ballet in much smaller print. What we saw tonight was, indeed, very big theater.

Spartacus, of course, is an evening length contemporary ballet. I can imagine how it must have rocked the ballet world when Grigorovich introduced his version, his vision if you will. It was so contrary to what preceded it, so in-your-face unconventional. It still looks imaginative, even after decades of seeing subsequent choreographers’ efforts which may have been born from Grigorovich’s ideas. My only complaint is that there were too many renverses for everyone.

This evening I really wasn’t in the mood to see a drama about the violence of insurgents rising up and being beaten back down. Were it not for the fact that I’d spent $60 on the ticket, I may have stayed home. However, eight bars into the Khachaturian score I was hypnotized. I just cannot describe how wonderful this orchestra’s music was.

The principals this evening were Yury Klevtsov (Spartacus), Alexander Volchkov (Crassus), Anna Antonicheva (Phrygia), and Maria Allash (Aegina). I’d never seen any of them perform before and therefore, have nothing with which to compare their performances. I thought they were all wonderful, especially Klevtsov. His drama-infused dancing was so powerful. He and Antonicheva were beautiful together, especially in some of their spectacular one-armed lifts which literally threw me to the back of my seat. Volchkov was fabulous as Crassus. One knew that the character was cruel and dangerous, but there was something about him that made one want to like him. Maybe it was his blondish curls, but I suspect it was his skilled portrayal. Allash was a very strong Aegina. She really threw her heart and soul into the role, and very effectively. However, she has those knees that have a tendency to not look straight even when they are straight, and not particularly appealing feet. Therefore, when she performed a grand jete or threw her leg up to 180, it was less than pretty. Antonicheva, on the other hand, looked quite wonderful at 180 and in every other position. I truly enjoyed her every minute on stage in this contemporary format, and would love to see her in Petipa. All of the dancing--the corps, the soloists, the principals--was super. What a wonderful company!

I noticed a couple of other interesting things. One was that the Bolshoi opened up the back of the Met stage and used about 20 more feet than was covered by the huge dance flooring! The dancers had no problem using the entire space. Another thing I noticed was that none of the dancers wore double ribbons or tons of elastic to hold their shoes on. I saw two or three corps members with a very thin piece of elastic sewn at the heel, but certainly nothing like what you see in this country - mile wide ribbons, four on a shoe, with multiple elastic bands.

Finally, as I was going down the escalator on my way out of the Met, one of the soloists (a Shepherd with an infectious grin and spectacular temps de fleche up to his forehead) came bounding up the steps in the opposite direction with his curls sticking out from under a baseball cap. Some people in front of me recognized him as one of the dancers and shouted “Nice job.” Then others on the escalator said the same thing. He was surprised and delighted to be recognized, and skipped up the steps and out the front of the Met into the crowd.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2005 5:27 am 
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Many thanks - I enjoyed your description a lot, Poohtunia. It strikes me that "Spartacus" is one of those works you either give yourself up to or not. Unfortunately I'm in the latter camp; those guys stomping about just don't do it for me. But the pdds are touching and the individual performances can make it an evening with enjoyable elements, even for me.


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 Post subject: WOW-WOWZERS!
PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2005 5:41 pm 
I totally share Poohtunia's emotions! Spartacus is larger than life. I attended July 23 matinee performance. My own story follows...

Saturday Afternoon. July 23
Spartacus. Ballet in 3 Acts

Music by Aram Khachaturian

Spartacus: Alexander Voroviev
Crassus, Roman general: Vladimir Neporozny
Phrigia, Spartacus’ beloved: Nina Kaptsova
Aegina, courtesan: Ekaterina Shipulina

Conductor: Pavel Sorokin

There is probably no other ballet in my memory, save for Swan Lake and La Bayadere that had such an emotional impact on me and I suspect on much of the audience as well. Free at last from faded ideological motives and innuendoes, Spartacus presented itself for what it meant to be: a powerful fusion of drama, classical choreography and penetrating music that haunts you long after the orchestra played the last note of Khachaturian's magnificent score.

To begin with I was frankly surprised by what I thought was unconventional interpretation of Spartacus by Alexander Vorobiev. His was not just a warrior, but warrior-philosopher. After the initial excitement from the first victories over the Romans faded, he starts to realize how slim are the odds to ever defeat the Roman war machine, represented by Crassus-Vladimir Neporozny. But go on he must, because he would rather die a free man than live as a slave. Particularly touching was the adagio of Spartacus and Phrigia of the 3rd act. There was so much tenderness, great passion and pain… and tragic foreboding as they would never see each other again. My heart skipped a beat. It was one of the finest moments.

If there was one disappointment in the otherwise perfect performance, then it was Ekaterina Shipulina in the role of Aegina. She was the least convincing of the four main characters and her 6-o’clock extensions did not impress me in the least – alas she doesn’t have Zakharova’s amazing legs and arches to make them look beautiful.

The finest moment that heightened the tension, drawing the audience’s emotional involvement was the scene where Roman soldiers pierced the body of Spartacus with their spears as they raised him up in the air. There was a sigh of pity towards the hero and at the same time the amazement at the esthetic beauty of the scene.

As I went outside and into the bright sunlight and hustle and bustle of New York streets, I experienced that sharp feeling of sadness and emptiness that tends to follow almost every encounter with the great work of art, as you realize that that unique moment of beauty could neither be repeated or replicated.


Last edited by fedora on Mon Jul 25, 2005 7:13 pm, edited 13 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2005 5:37 pm 
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Oh, Fedora, I wish I'd been at the matinee as well. I really wanted to see Vorobiev as his picture is plastered all around town in the Bolshoi posters. What a hunk! And to think that he is currently at the lowest level of soloist. I wish it were possible to buy that poster. Too bad that the Met Opera Gift Shop is closed for renovation. I'll bet a lot of people besides me would have bought that poster. Think of the added income for the house and presenters. Oh, well.

One thing I forgot to mention was how beautifully sculpted the women's upper bodies were. There was an instance when all of the women turned their backs and moved upstage, one could see identical V-shapes in their backs. Their shoulders and upper arms looked so strong yet delicate -- not emaciated as tends to be the current fad elsewhere. Later, I thought to myself, I'll bet they eat meat and drink milk.


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