Raymonda runs more along a gradient: the gaiety of the girl, the curiosity of the young woman, and the mystery of the bride--another facet in another light, but always human and always about the Woman. So, very little room for extreme shapes and characterizations, or ogling at one's foot next to the ear.
Hi Madigan. I agree: Raymonda is a role for a prima ballerina's prima ballerina. You simply can't cast "hey you, bun-head" in this role. This ballet was the valedictory of Marius Petipa, the last testament of his genius. IMO, I think he poured the remains of himself into the steps for "Raymonda." He put the period on the end of the sentence of his life's work with this ballet.
. . . (In contrast, Swan Lake has gone through some kind of casting inflation in the Russian troupes: even young second soloists could be dancing O/O.)
"Some kind of casting inflation?"
Well, if we're talking about the Mariinsky, that's putting it mildly. Like Raymonda, O/O is just one of the classical roles that separate the merely good ballerinas and "wanna-bes," from the great ones. At the Mariinsky, some
O/O casting (and most other casting) decisions devolve into try out/political decisions in favor of the management's personal favorites. Unfortunately, for prospective
O/Os, physique - meaning height, limb length and one's professional and/or personal association(s) - not technique, artistry, authority or native talent determines who dances the Swan Queen. To put this in perspective, if Altynai Asylmuratova or Gabriella Komleva were starting out, they wouldn't get O/O - not in today's Mariinsky. By the same token, if height
was one of the criteria for O/O during the Soviet era, (which it wasn't), the late great Maximova, (deceased now one year to the day), wouldn't have ever danced O/O at the Bolshoi - but she did.
In spite of the current aesthetic, the Mariinsky's creme de la creme, regardless of their physiques continue to toil, persevere and rise to the top. Katya Kondaurova is getting her due. She made a successful debut as Medora this past Fall. She created a featured role in a brand new ballet this past Friday night during the Festival. Also, in addition to being an excellent O/O in regular rotation, she will be making two milestone debuts next week: Anna Karenina on May 1, and Nikiya on May 8. Obrastzova is also doing very well. In addition to increased guest appearances abroad, she danced Kitty in the Mariinsky's first cast of "A.K," and was also the first performer of the Ballerina in the revival of "Petrouchka" during the recent Maslenitsa Festival. She made her debut as Tsar Maiden in "LHH" last October, and she's also the company's latest recipient of Russia's "Ballet Magazine" Spirit of Dance "Star" Award . Katya Osmolkina finally made her debut as O/O in January 2009 - ten years after she joined the company. Principal, Dasha Pavlenko is at least
Lopatkina's equal in terms of breadth and scope of her interpretation, and Tereshkina's technical equal - especially as Odile. Tereshkina continues to excel, having won the Ms. Virtuosa award in St. Petersburg on April 2. In contrast, Daria Vaznestzova made her O/O debut at the MT about a little over a year ago and hasn't returned to the Lake yet; but neither has Osmolkina, for that matter. Vaznestzova has also made her debut this year as Medora, but Osmolkina hasn't made her debut as Medora yet and she's an excellent Gulnara. I might understand the reason for Vaznestzova not coming back to O/O, but Osmolkina? No.
It also would be tailor-made for Olga Chenchikova,
Chenchikova was one of the best Raymondas in the Mariinsky. She, along with Komleva, Mezentseva, Terekhova and Kunakova were among the best Raymondas of their generation. However IMO, the purest, most academically flawless, peerless, delicate and serene Raymonda I ever saw was Irina Kolpakova.
. . . but her former pupil, Somova has yet to take on the role despite the fast rise.
Now, the $100 Trillion question is 'Why?' If she has the great abilities that Fateev believes (and his predecessor believed) she has, what are they waiting for? Who are they waiting on? Her? Somova has been Terekhova's pupil since Fall 2008, and she's been a pro for 7 years come this June. She'll be starting her 8th season this Fall, and her second season as a Principal. Vaziev gave her pride of place and preferential treatment for five straight years. With warp speed, Fateev promoted her to Principal - just after Vaziev departed for La Scala in 2008. Between them, they gave her countless opening nights. They've force fed the world with her, keeping her in heavy rotation both at home and abroad. She continues to have the shortest study list of roles for any female Principal or soloist - not just in this company, but in any major company anywhere in the world. And yet, even after all the warnings, omens and evidence to the contrary, she was elected to accomplish what was the crowning achievement of her career: A Covent Garden debut and opening night as Juliet. Her 2009 Covent Garden summer season included an also ran O/O, an engagement closing Aurora, and everything else in between - all without one ovation, let alone six. Yet and still, all of these ridiculous management decisions, cynical maneuvers, contrivances and p.r. contortions haven't changed the international consensus. Noted and esteemed dance critics' collective opinion on Somova hasn't dissuaded Fateev or the management. Even the Moscow Times, no less, has questioned Somova's Golden Mask win over Osipova and the other nominees.* And mind you, the critic's askance appraisal wasn't sour grapes in favor of the hometown ballerina.
Alas, I believe that a Somova Raymonda is inevitable. I also submit that the technical, academic and artistic demands of this role are light years beyond her, over her head, and that Raymonda is as out of her league as the rest of Petipa's canon. This fact hasn't stopped the managers before, and it won't stop them as long as they're running the company. However, there are certain variables in play that may slow down the inevitable. First and foremost is the fact that the national icon, Lopatkina reigns as Mariinsky Raymonda #1. After Uliana there's Tereshkina, who is a close second, and (gasp), I consider Pavlenko to be in this triune frame too, (even though the odds are she may not ever dance either role again). Of Somova's generation, Olesya Novikova has made a successful Mariinsky debut as Raymonda, as has Tatiana Tkachenko. Yevgenia Obrastzova has already guested and succeeded as Raymonda, but she hasn't yet been granted a debut in her home theatre. Obrasztova made her successful Raymonda debut two years ago and repeated three times with the Bashkir Theatre Ballet during their Bangkok engagement. Kondaurova is another future Raymonda to watch out for. These four ladies, superior dancers all, are Somova's subordinates on the company org chart.
I think Somova can handle the first two acts, but the last two might become more problematic.
Please see paragraphs above.
The mature Raymonda is quite a different species from the mature Aurora: just compare the music of the clapping variation to that of Aurora's violin solo. For Raymonda, much, much more had happened between sweet sixteen and the nuptials, more than a long slumber. It might also explain why Lopatkina was willing to dance Raymonda but not Aurora.
True. Lopatkina also went on record that she believed she was too tall for the role. There've been great tall Auroras in the past, namely Cynthia Gregory and Martine Van Hamel. In her day, Plisetskaya (miscast), was also a 'tallish' Princess Aurora; but she was a superior and flamboyant Raymonda, as this role was more her temperament. However, both Uliana (and Maya) excelled as Lilac.
One cannot get away with a perennial grin in the role.
In theory, that's true. But footlight flirting and limb flailing go a long way in today's Mariinsky.*Most honorable mention: Victoria Tereshkina, Ratmansky's choice as the creator and opening night ballerina of the Tsar Maiden role in his ballet "Little Humpbacked Horse."