London Coliseum; March 30, 2013
Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev in Don Quixote. Photo The Mikhailovsky Theatre.jpg [ 37.76 KiB | Viewed 1949 times ]
“Don Quixote” is usually presented as a rather clunky Soviet-era warhorse; all too often, a dull, rather silly story that is only bearable because the audience knows that the fireworks of the famous sections, such a staple of galas and competitions, will enliven the tedium. This is not a great ballet; the music is no more than adequate, it bears scant resemblance to Cervantes' story and it probably only survived as a full length work for historical reasons. The white act is far from the finest example of ballet blanc and would not stand up as an extract out of context.
The Mikhailovsky production has found a way to make it relevant and even exciting, although there is not much than can be done with the plodding score, however well it is played. This “Don Q” is a joy throughout: a breath of warm air and vibrant colour that brought to life a dull, cold, late spring evening in London. Mikhail Messerer sets the pace as fast and furious. The storyline is clear and logical, the characters clearly and well defined and one hardly has chance to draw breath as scene follows scene apace.
The pallette is one of pulsing reds and glowing oranges tempered by some fabulous costumes for Mariam Ugrekhelidze as the gypsy soloist, especially her finale dress in black and silver. Sets are naturalistic, effective and well-lit.
But there is no question that Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev were the good, old fashioned stars of the evening. They were quite literally breathtaking. Their phenomenal jetés, turns and lifts elicited gasps from the rapt audience, but never did it overwhelm the production or become an ego-fest.
This was reminiscent of visits from the Bolshoi in Soviet Union times with flung flowers and numerous curtain calls; all utterly deserved. It is remarkable that Osipova does not get whiplash from the speed of her tours, pirouettes and fouettés. Vasiliev, at times so like his namesake in the role, the great Vladimir Vasiliev, has more than just a jump like a gazelle; his control over pirouettes was astonishing to watch and never, at any point, did the characterisation lapse. One-handed lifts lasted for ever and Osipova's balances made one long to see her Rose Adagio.
Mikhail Messerer has informed this production with intelligent, extensive research that showcases the best of several generations of Soviet and Russian choreographers whilst melding it into a cohesive whole.
This was one of those rare evenings that will remain in the memory until death, the like of which I never expected to see again, and certainly not in “Don Q”. What a pity that there were only two performances, but it at least gives us chance to experience the full range of this Company who have gone from strength to strength.