Posts Tagged ‘Drigo’

Don Quixote, with Osipova and Vasiliev, Mikhailovsky Ballet, London Coliseum, March 2013

1 April, 2013

For classical ballet in glorious costumes with plenty of bouncy music it is hard to equal Don Quixote, and the Mikhailovsky Ballet did us proud with the feast they served up at the London Coliseum. The feel-good music by Minkus, plus some additions by Drigo, is a favourite of pianists in ballet class, and Lanchbery used parts of it in Tales of Beatrix Potter.

Osipova and Vasiliev, all images © Mikhailovsky Theatre

Osipova and Vasiliev, all images © Mikhailovsky Theatre

This dance-pantomime is not a recent favourite of British companies, though Carlos Acosta is staging a new version for the Royal Ballet in October 2013. That aside we have tended to rely on the Russians to bring it over, and they never fail to please. Originally created by Minkus and Petipa for Moscow in 1869, they expanded it for St. Petersburg two years later, and in 1900 and 1902 Alexander Gorsky restaged it in both cities. What we see here is due to Petipa and Gorsky.

2.Don Quixote. Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev2_The whole company gave a vivid portrayal of the choreography, led by the peerless Natalia Osipova as Kitri, who doesn’t merely use the music as background but feels it in all the small movements of her body. Ivan Vasiliev as her lover Basilio showed sensational leaps en tournant, hugely dramatic if sometimes untidy and his smaller jumps sometimes lacked classical poise. His strong partnering allowed him to perform an arabesque while holding her up with one hand, the orchestra falling silent for effect, and when they enter the tavern and he catches her as she flies horizontally through the air, he almost allows her head to sweep the floor. Wonderful fun.

Excellent solos from other dancers such as Nikolay Korypayev as the toreador, and Veronica Ignatyeva as Cupid in the dream scene. This white section, where Quixote dreams of his beloved Dulcinea in her enchanted garden of dryads, was beautifully performed and Natalia Osipova as Dulcinea was a delight.

Her exemplary dancing and musicality raised this joyous 2012 production to a seriously high level, and the Company responded in superb style. The glorious set and costume designs by Vyacheslav Okunev even had a horse and pony for the entrance of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in Act I. No expense spared, and the Mikhailovsky orchestra conducted by music director Pavel Bubelnikov played with great panache.

This London visit of the Mikhailovsky Ballet is a treat, and I look forward to their production of Laurencia on April 2. A Soviet era ballet, first danced by the Kirov in 1939, this is a village love story with a peasant rebellion against the wicked Commander who abducts the girl and imprisons her lover.

Performances of Laurencia take place on April 2 and 3, followed by other productions until April 7 — for details click here.

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Le Corsaire, Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, August 2010

3 August, 2010

This ballet, like Verdi’s opera Il Corsaro, is inspired by Byron’s poem The Corsair, but although the names of the main characters are the same, the plot of the ballet is very different. The poem inspired several choreographers and composers until in 1856, Joseph Mazilier presented it at the Paris Opéra to music by Adolphe Adam. There were later additions by other composers, and in the 1860s, Marius Petipa produced a new version, which towards the end of the century included some excellent music by Riccardo Drigo for an Act III pas-de-deux by two slaves.

The slave pas-de-deux but with other dancers, photo by Elena Fetisova

In 2007 the Bolshoi brought forth this new production with Petipa’s choreography partly recreated by Alexei Ratmansky and Yuri Burlaka, and extra music by Uncle Tom Cobley and all: Tchaikovsky, Delibes, Minkus, among them. Some of this music was part of Petipa’s 1899 version, but most was surely not, and the trouble is that it lacks focus. The whole evening lasted until 10:55, but if you’re inclined to leave before the end, I recommend staying for the very effective final scene of Act III, which shows the pirate ship in a storm. In the midst of a fight on board, the ship breaks up, but Conrad and his lover Medora do not die — this is a happy ending as they make it to shore, looking wonderful.

As for the dancing, some of it was very good, and I liked Vitaly Biktimirov as the rebellious Corsaire, Birbanto. He was absolutely on the music, as was one of the three girls in the pas-de-trois of the odalisques — I think it was Anna Leonova — but being on the music is not one of the Bolshoi’s strong points. The conductor Pavel Klinichev could have helped by keeping up the tempo, but he frequently went at a snail’s pace, particularly in the solos, and Act II was dire in this respect. Lovely costumes and sets, but when I sit at the ballet I want to see dancing, not a series of poses. Excitement was sadly lacking, and the soloists seemed to expect more applause than they received during the performance. Although I liked the sets they did not suit the Covent Garden stage, leaving less than an ideal space for dancing, even with the proscenium arch widened to its full extent. The stage is very deep but the sets seemed designed more for width than depth.

The main roles of Conrad and Medora were danced by Nikolai Tsiskaridze and Maria Alexandrova, with Marianna Ryzhkina as Gulnare, and the slave pas-de-deux was danced by Ivan Vasiliev and Nina Kaptsova, so it should have been terrific, but the slow tempo of Kilinichev’s conducting did not allow it.

After seeing an excellent Spartacus when the Bolshoi opened their London season, this was a let-down, but I look forward to a thrilling Don Quixote, which I have seen this company do before to great effect.