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Kirov Ballet's Saison Russe: A Window Into Ballet History
By Patricia Boccadoro
de la Rose, staged by Isabelle Fokine, the choreographer's
granddaughter, was devoid of that very special atmosphere so intrinsic
to it. Set in a bed-room with pink-flowered wallpaper, it was
interpreted by Viacheslav Samodourov, miscast as the spirit of the
rose, as he was quite unable to convey the essence of the dreamlike
sequence. The Young Girl, beautifully danced and interpreted by Zhanna
Ayoupova, was unfortunately wearing shiny, tight -fitting gown; was it
really a copy of the original design by Léon Bakst? Where was
the rest of the programme was more what the public had been expecting.
Shéhérazade, Les Danses Polovsiennes,
and L'Oiseau de Feu, works which have rarely been seen in the
French capital in recent years were a great success, even though I had
to return another evening to get the cast I wanted.
first time round, had Youlia Makhalina as Zobeide, the Shah's
favourite concubine, consorting with the masterful, eternally
glamorous Faroukh Rouzimatov as the golden slave, inciting the rest of
the harem to an orgy while her master's back is turned. It all ends in
a massacre, since the Shah himself had laid the trap, and Zoebide
stabs herself to death to the delight of those watching. Much of the
audience's good humour, it should be said, was due to the lushness of
the oriental costumes and setting, and to the richness and grandeur of
Rimski-Korsakov's score. The orchestra was applauded accordingly.
on Russian folk-tales, Firebird tells the story of Prince Ivan
who catches the magical bird of fire while out hunting , but gives her
her freedom back in exchange for a feather. In gratitude, the firebird
returns to save the prince who is about to be turned into stone, and
at the same time frees the girl Ivan is in love with from the clutches
of the fearful monster, Kostchei, who holds her prisoner.
staging, credited to Isabelle Fokine and Andris Liepa, was on my
second visit, an absolute enchantment. Spoiled the first time I went
by the grimaces of Irma Nioradze, almost like a caricature despite her
brilliant dancing, I much preferred Diana Vishneva who became the
Firebird. Each glimpse of the ballet was like turning the pages of a
Russian picture -book for children. Vladimir Ponomarev as Kastchei
l'Immortel , made to resemble a cadaverous giant vulture was utterly
frightening. At over fifty now, he is a superlative artist. There was,
however, excellent dancing from all the troupe, which left a desire to
see them at their true value in a full-length classical production,
which after all is what they are famous for.
theatrically entertaining, but frustrating version was the brain-child
of Russian artist Mikhail Chemiakin, responsible for both decor and
costumes, in all the colours God and man gave us. Chemiakin, who has
illustrated children's books since childhood, saw the opportunity to
give free reign to everything that was grotesque, bizarre,
nightmarish, and absurd in his desire to remain close to Hoffmann's
world. What he forgot, as did choreographer Kiril Simonov, was that
they were creating a ballet for one of the world's most beautiful
classical companies. Let lesser troupes mess around with this kind of
show. The Kirov should concentrate on preserving their Petipa
by Serguei Vikharev, a team of at least eight people had worked on
Petipa's 1900 version, restoring the fourth act set to the original
music recently found in the Mariinsky Theatre Central Library. Not
seen since 1919, the inclusion of the last act where the temple
collapses as Solor breaks his vow to Nikiya and all are buried in the
ruins produces a consistent, dramatically convincing work.
Choreographically speaking, the complete work was indeed an
interesting discovery. However, the decor, copied from the original
and presumably authentic, was musty and outdated, reflecting the means
at the time, while many of the costumes were cumbersome, ugly and
virtually impossible to dance in. Technique has advanced, and costumes
must be adapted. No wonder Rudolf Nureyev discarded the doubtful
glories of half a tiger round his loins for one of his own design, but
then, in the "authentic" version, the role of Solor was
mimed. As was a good bit of the first part of this work. Since the
ballet was created in 1877, when does "authenticity" start?
is visually exquisite with her purity of line, sublime arabesques
resolutely of today, and her lyrical, ecstatic ports de bras. She
touched by the beauty and refinement of her movements, for
artistically she danced in a world of her own. Rare were the occasions
she looked at Solor, excellent Igor Kolb, as she went from temple
dancer to unearthly spirit with scarcely a change of expression. She
is, as yet, just twenty-two. Maturity will follow, as no doubt for
another of the evening's revelations, the lovely Ekaterina Osmolkina
as Gamzatti, light and lyrical in her pas de deux, but less credible
in the mimed passages.
Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She contributes to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms. Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque.com.
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