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PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2006 1:28 am 
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Hi NataliaN,

Yes, based on what you say, I have to concur. DC audiences will (we hope) love Possokhov's version. It sounds much more "full length classical ballet" genre than Ratmansky's, which is a plus. I know Washington Ballet used to (not sure if they still do) have an annual "family" ballet -- like Hansel and Gretel -- which was usually quite successful given the number of families in DC... My guess is Possokhov's Cinderella will be "fairytale" enough to fit the interests of that same audience cross section.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:56 am 
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This is a placeholder for my review of Lopatkina, 9/30/2006 performance. To be posted soon! :-)

++

Here it is:

‘Swan Lake’
Kirov Ballet
Mariinsky Theatre
St. Petersburg, Russia
30 September, 2006

By Catherine Pawlick

In just over two weeks, California audiences will get a glimpse of perhaps the purest representative of inveterate Mariinsky style when Uliana Lopatkina opens “Swan Lake” in Costa Mesa’s Orange County Center for the Performing Arts on October 20. As the beginning of a North American tour that will take this production filled with white Russian swans to several cities, the casting choice for opening night on the tour’s first stop is not haphazard. Lopatkina has come to represent the traditions of Vaganova-based Kirov style, exceptionally refined technique and artistry, and has a following in St. Petersburg that is almost unparalleled among leading ballerinas.

Lopatkina’s genius lies in her unwavering attention to detail. It seems rather scientific to describe a living artist in this manner – Lopatkina is nothing if not an artist – but it is her precision that in many ways defines her, imparting perfection to roles and steps, a level of flawlessness that not all professionals can achieve. Her own discrimination within her repertoire –refusing to dance Aurora, for example, because, in her mind, the role is meant for a small, compact ballerina – attests to the presence of careful consideration and evaluation, not only of how she dances, but of what she dances, and why. Lopatkina’s approach to her art is intellectual, and perhaps therein lies some of its attraction. Nothing is left to chance, and yet her renditions are never stale, cold or programmed.

In Saturday night’s performance, in which she appeared to a completely packed house, Lopatkina danced sublimely, from her first bourree onstage in Act I, through the skyward-bound embrace with Siegfried before the final curtain in Act III. Upon her first encounter with Siegfried in the lakeside meadow, Lopatkina’s movements depicted a nervous, fluttering, innocent, shy and tender being, demonstrated by her emotive gaze and fluid port de bras. She excluded the grand jete after the arabesque from the initial entrance, clearly a decision made during the rehearsal period, and strangely, the musicality of the entrance was not only unaffected by the omission, but in fact improved by it. At the end of the sequence, when Rothbart calls her to return to her swan form, Lopatkina’s steps clearly explain the transformation. Bourreeing backwards towards the wings, she first reaches towards Siegfried with her entire body, only her legs pulling her away from him, clearly against her own will. Gradually her torso joins her legs and finally, in a touch of interpretive genius, her Swan Woman is “struck” by Rothbart at the crescendo in the music, at which point her longing glance towards Siegfried shifts into a blank stare towards the audience. She then moves her arm wings and bourrees offstage, in a trancelike state, once again completely a swan. While these movements adhere to the choreography and are not her invention, few ballerinas emphasize them accurately enough to clearly depict this transformation that is key to the libretto.

Such are the details of Lopatkina’s genius, though others, arguably even stronger, abound. Her strength of interpretation is perhaps most evident in Act II. For Odile, from as much as one can judge in watching Lopatkina dance, or reading interviews she has given, is in nearly every way the ballerina’s polar opposite, and yet Lopatkina’s rendition portrays a believably despicable seductress.

This time in testament to Lev Ivanov’s genius, the steps echo those in Act II. A soutenue, followed by a releve in attitude is now accented differently, the seasoning has changed. Gone is the fluid languor of the white swan. In its place are sharp edges, quick turns of head and sly glances.

I noted in a previous review, and will note again here, one central component of Lopatkina’s Odile that encapsulates her characterization of the role. In Act II, following the brief appearance of Odette in the window that causes Siegfried some momentary confusion, Odile assumes swan-like stance and bourrees towards him. These steps epitomize the wolf in sheep’s clothing: Odile is turning herself momentarily into the innocent, vulnerable swan that Siegfried truly loves in order to seal his decision. As planned, his memories of Odette then immediately fall to the wayside in the presence of this tempting, voluptuous female who simply must be his true love, for she looks and even moves like Odette. Never have I seen a ballerina make the distinction between the two swans more clearly. In Lopatkina’s delivery of these steps, there is no doubt that Odile is bent on ensuring Siegfried’s betrayal of his oath to Odette. For the moment Siegfried turns his head away, she is instantly the evil seductress again, her gaze burrowing into him in silent determination, her arms lifted at the prospect of impending triumph.

Topped off with 32 perfectly musical single fouettes that were accompanied by applause given in time to the music, a Russian ode of appreciation and participation in the performance, Lopatkina’s Odile clearly had seduced not only Siegfried but the audience as well. Then a gracious bow, as the mercurial Odile continued to play with the spectators.

If Lopatkina’s repertoire is not large, her accomplishments in this dual role, the ultimate test of a purely classical ballerina, more than compensate for it. Here her subtleties find expression in both adagio and allegro, where, in both cases, her tempi have been carefully considered and planned for. Lopatkina tends to lean more towards adagio, which is no surprise given her long limbs and height, and this preference lends continuity to the movement, especially in “Swan Lake”. Here, this is an achievement, for not all ballerinas can produce a slowly flowing line that moves without stopping, which is a necessity for the characterization of the Swan Queen. But she carries out the speed of the second act without impediment, which hints at the range of her technical and artistic capacity.

As her Prince, Ilya Kuznetsov displayed a strong acting ability and equally polished technique. His partnering efforts were delivered with smooth ease, his jumps lofty. Halfway through the evening he had difficulties with pirouettes to the right, stopping short twice during the Act II variations, but these troubles were more than compensated for with his dramatic projection and attentive duet work.

Of the four large swans, Ksenia Ostreikovskaya, Ekaterina Kondaurova, and Yulia Bolshakova all exhibited long lines and uniform musicality, while Viktoria Kutepova’s movements appeared stilted and out of synch with the others. In their solos as the two swans, both Ostreikovskaya and Daria Sukhoroukova epitomized delicacy and grace, leading one to wonder how each would fare in the leading role.

For the Act II national dances, Valeria Martinouk replaced the usual Yana Selina in the Neopolitan Dance, alongside Maxim Khrebtov, and the pair were bubbling with energy and smiles throughout. Anna Sisoeva and Yulia Slivkina danced alongside Andrei Yakovlev (1) and Alexander Sergeev for what was a very spicy Spanish dance. The refreshed costumes were again notable for their brighter colors and slight difference in design from the previous versions.

Perhaps the only disappointment came in the initial pas de trois in Act I. While Daria Sukhoroukova’s slim neck and endless limbs were a pleasure to behold (limbs which, it should be noted, were kept to tasteful heights), and her musicality was continuously accurate, Yulia Kasenkova’s tightness made one nervous to watch. Kasenkova’s step-up pique turns were done onto a bent knee, and despite her natural turning ability, the overall impression raised question marks in one’s mind. To boot, the ends of both of her pointe shoe ribbons were not tucked in, leading to a sloppy appearance during her solo work. Luckily, Alexei Timofeev, a relative newcomer to this section (although this was not listed as his debut in the program), impressed with his crisply defined beats in the male variation. While his transition work (walking and posing) requires a bit more articulation, his jumps had both strength and potential.

With attention to detail that matched Lopatkina’s, Boris Gruzin conducted the evening. North American audiences will be lucky to partake of such visual wonders as this "Swan Lake" later this month.


Last edited by Catherine Pawlick on Mon Oct 02, 2006 12:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2006 5:15 am 
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Wanted to add, that since July, the company has been working with Pandourski on three short ballets set to premiere November 14-15. (I cannot find my original post to this effect). The ballets involve groups of dancers although I haven't yet seen rehearsals. Details can be found on the Mariinsky web site and are as follows:

"Megapolis" - three metaphysical ballets

1. Metaphysics (ballet in two scenes to music by S. Prokofiev, the Symphony no.2 in C minor, Opus 40)

2. Short Girl (? "Korotkaya" in Russian) (ballet in three scenes to music by S. Rachmaninoff, Symphony No.2 Opus 27)

3. The Rite of Spring - Scenes from the life of insects (ballet in two scenes to music by Igor Stravinsky).

Mikhail Chemiakin is creating the libretto and costumes, and Pandourski doing the choreography, the same setup as for "The Magic Nut" and "Princess Pirlipat." I imagine this to be a Kafka-esque set of works, but we will see.


Last edited by Catherine Pawlick on Mon Oct 02, 2006 12:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2006 8:12 am 
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Catherine, did you catch Somova's debut as Nikiya, last Wednesday? I'm wondering if the performance -- particularly the partnered sections (Sarafanov as Solor) -- were as shaky as were reported to me by a friend who attended. Somova would be an especially tall Nikiya for Sarafanov, I'd gather. On the other hand, I heard that Islom Baimuradov stole the show in the Indian Drum Dance. Please feel free to confirm/deny/enhance.

Definitely looking forward to that review of Lopatkina on the 30th!


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2006 8:30 am 
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Somova as Nikiya? Is someone having a joke?


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 02, 2006 9:55 am 
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Cassandra -- (i'll refrain from editorial remarks) but, nope, no joke. It was indeed Somova's debut as Nikiya.

NataliaN -- alas, for better or worse I did not attend, but Islam has more than once stolen the show in the drum dance, so I'm quite confident he did so this time as well! The casting you noted was correct, that much I can confirm. On pointe then, Somova would be taller than Sarafanov...


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 03, 2006 9:50 am 
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As I write this post, Alexander Sergeev is debuting in the role of the Prince alongside Evgenia Obratsova in a special performance of Ratmansky's "Cinderella" for schoolchildren of the Leningrad Oblast. On Thursday another performance will be given for schoolchildren of the city of St. Petersburg.

Unfortunately, although performed at the Mariinsky, these performances are closed to the public. I would personally have liked to have seen Sergeev's debut, but I nonetheless wish them all "merde" and hope it all goes well.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 03, 2006 2:20 pm 
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Interesting, Catherine. With the departures of Merkuriev, Sishov & Semionov -- not to mention the near-departure of Zelensky (new Director of Novossibirsk Ballet) and winding-down of Ruzimatov -- the Kirov seems to be accellerating the grooming of its young male soloists to leading roles. I see more and more "leading hero" opportunities for people like Sergeev, Shklyarov, G. Popov and the 'veteran' Ilya Kuznetsov, who recently returned to the role of Siegfried in 'Swan Lake' after years of dancing the villain Von Rothbart.

I am particularly delighted with Ilya being cast in princely roles, at long last. :) He's also a fine Romeo, although he usually ends up playing Tybalt (in that ridiculous orange wig).


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 03, 2006 10:12 pm 
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Hi Catherine,

One of the most amazing and beautiful things that I've seen this year has to be Ulyana Lopatkina's performance of Swan Lake in March. Thanks for this very fine 'reminder'.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 9:09 am 
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NataliaN,

You're right, Ilya K. is a very strong actor. I love him as Romeo, as Tybalt, as the Hooligan...and he even 'works' in a more subdued role like Siegfried, although one might not expect it at first glance. His overall flexibility and high insteps don't hurt on the technical side either :-).

Further to my last post, tomorrow night Maxim Zuizin (for the second closed performance) will debut in the role of Drosselmeyer in Chemiakin's The Magic Nut.

It *is* good (as you noted, NN,) that these younger dancers are being given the possibility to branch out. The company needs them, and in theory should have been cultivating them more all along. Case in point: Shishov was out injured for much of 2006, certainly for the White Nights section of the season. I recall him dancing with Lopatkina for her gala in 2005, but if he danced in fall of 05, I can't recall the performances, and/or they were few and far between. That would have been a time to grab one of these other young men (Sergeev, Zuizin, the list at this point is lengthy) and start to hone them...

Natalia, do you have further news on Zelensky? If he were to become director, would he relocate permanently? Any ideas?


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 7:40 am 
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Catherine, as director of Novossibirsk, Zelensky must spend much of his time in that city during its regular season. I'll try to locate a newspaper article that I read a couple of weeks ago but I'm pretty certain that he is already out there in Siberia.

Nonetheless, to help with "Kirov marketing" on major tours, he is making himself available as guest star overseas; for example, he will dance some of the 'Swan Lakes' on the upcoming US tour (partnering Lopatkina in the her opening night, Costa Mesa, and in Ottawa; Somova & others elsewhere). I find it a bit odd, though, that the Mariinsky is 'minimizing' this very major career-change of Zelensky.


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 Post subject: Igor Zelensky
PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 8:13 am 
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Don't forget that Zelensky will be appearing in London for the second time later this year in a series of peformances with Darcey Bussell.

These two danced together very successfully a few years back and now that Ms Bussell has loosened her ties to the RB somewhat, it gives her the opportunity to appear in these kind of programmes. I predict it will totally sell out for the entire run.

http://www.sadlerswells.com/whats_on/20 ... darcey.asp


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 10:42 am 
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Zelensky is definitely in charge of the Novosibirsk troupe at present. The season is well under way. Here's a link to its website (Russian lang.) but one can see that Zelensky's name is at the top of the list of staff:

http://www.opera-novosibirsk.ru/names/balet.php

I find it a bit disconcerting that the director of a major ballet troupe -- among the top ballet-theaters in Russia -- doesn't seem to be taking his 'day job' seriously & is traipsin' round the globe doing independent gigs. Maybe he's doing it to earn hard cash for his new company? Can't say that I blame him, if so.

By the way, the troupe has some fantastic dancers, including the recent winner of the national ballet award Golden Mask, Anna Zharova. Their conductor, Teodor Kurenzis, is considered the great up-and-coming ballet conductor in Russia. Their resident choreographer is Alla Sigalova, who created the solo 'Concerto Grosso' for Zelensky, seen at last March's Mariinsky Festival. The theater is THE largest theater in all of Russia, I've been told. It seats more spectators than the Bolshoi or the Mariinsky. So this is no little fly-by-night touring company. Zelensky is in charge of a very grand enterprise.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 11:06 am 
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Disconcerting indeed. And, this is very big news. I knew Zelensky was cast against Lopatkina in Swan Lake opening night in Costa Mesa...which is why I found this potential (and now confirmed) news strange, as you mention, Natalia. Knowing Russians as I do, I would doubt he is doing this to earn money *for the troupe* per se, but one can have high expectations, so let's hope you're right. I don't know him personally... he could be as generous as you portray.

However, I don't find it surprising that this hasn't been advertised, at least not in St. P, for two reasons.

1) If the question is regarding MT advertising Zelensky's news,
a) why would they want to advertise one of their major stars leaving (no matter how rarely he dances here)?
b) business wise it is a separate company, so no reason to advertise another troupe's info (at a very basic level).

2) if he wants to continue dancing at all, it's going to be a case of wearing two hats...Ithe dual artist/director usually isnt looked upon very welcomely. Not sure why that is, but it seems to be the case.

As a separate issue, however, I am sure he will make a great director. He has his experience from dancing in NYC, and I'm sure watching how a NY ballet co is run was educational, compared to how it is done in Russia -- really different systems. So he has experience/exposure. Given the size of this undertaking, it sounds impressive (now I really DO have a reason to visit Siberia!) :-)


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 11:20 am 
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I can't claim to know Zelensky personally but I have met him 'in passing' and know several of his friends and colleagues. He *is* an especially kind and generous person, from all accounts. He had a very kind reputation at NYCB, too.

Now I ask myself: What happened to the last director of the Novosibirsk troupe, Sergei Vikharev (of Petipa-reconstructions fame)? Is Vikharev back in St. Petersburg and, if so, will he be staging some of this season's 'new' Petipa reconstructions on the Vaganova Academy (Flora's Awakening, Coppelia, etc.)?


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