Posts Tagged ‘Natalia Osipova’

Laurencia, with Osipova and Vasiliev, Mikhailovsky Ballet, London Coliseum, April 2013

3 April, 2013

Soviet Realism meets Don Quixote, with the good Don replaced by an evil Commander whom the peasants destroy. He abducts the beautiful Laurencia, imprisoning her lover Frondoso, and there is a nasty sexual assault by two soldiers on a peasant named Jacinta. The women are both badly used and emerge with dirty torn skirts, but there is plenty of wonderfully happy dancing by the peasants, choreographed by famous Georgian dancer and choreographer Vakhtang Chabukiani.

Frondoso and Laurencia, all images ©MikhailovskyTheatre

Frondoso and Laurencia, all images ©MikhailovskyTheatre

As a powerful presence on stage himself, he wrote steps for a strong male dancer in the leading role of Frondoso, and Ivan Vasiliev made the most of it. With his extraordinary ability to perform multiple pirouettes that slow down and come to a perfect stop, his brilliant leaps en tournant, and his fine stage presence, Vasiliev was well matched by the technical brilliance and musicality of Natalia Osipova. Did I see a quadruple fouetté en tournant? Certainly there were some triples, but it is her dramatic commitment and attention to detail that make her so exciting to watch. The two of them together are a marvel.

2.Laurencia. Natalia Osipova and Ivan VasilievYet the whole company gave this huge sparkle, and Sabina Yapparova as Pasquala was a delight. It was she and Osipova who cleverly scuttled away from the soldiers in Act I, and her classical dancing in Act II, when the village celebrates the union of Laurencia and Frondoso, was outstanding. At the other end of the pleasantry spectrum, Mikhail Venshchikov portrayed the Commander as a thoroughly nasty piece of work, and he stayed in character for the curtain calls to receive the welcoming boos.

If you want to see an old Soviet ballet, this one from 1939 is well worth the ticket, and if you want to see some spectacular male dancing this is a must-see, with Vasiliev and Osipova giving a second performance on April 3. Set and costume designs by Vadim Ryndin are lovely, and Valery Ovsyanikov in the orchestra pit gave a strong impetus to Alexander Krein’s music. This composer seems to have adapted rather well to the Soviet system, and his music serves its purpose, but the reason to go to this, and it’s an excellent reason, is to see Chabukiani’s choreography performed with enormous panache.

Following a second performance of Laurencia with Osipova and Vasiliev on April 3, the Mikhailovsky Ballet will perform other productions until April 7 — for details click here.

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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.

Giselle, with Osipova and Vasiliev, Mikhailovsky Ballet, London Coliseum, March 2013

27 March, 2013

What a pleasure this was. I’ve not seen the Mikhailovsky Giselle before, but it’s a fine production created in 2007 by Nikita Dolgushin, with excellent designs by Vyacheslav Okunev well lit by Mikhail Mekler. And the orchestra under Valery Ovsyanikov played with huge spirit, giving a performance far better than some of his work with the Royal Ballet. The dancing on the first night was led by Osipova and Vasiliev, who were both lured away from the Bolshoi in December 2011.

© Mikhailovsky Theatre

© Mikhailovsky Theatre

Natalia Osipova as Giselle was extraordinary. Her control, her wonderful jumps with gentle unhurried beats, and above all her musicality. Every tiny movement of her body showed how she felt the music. Of course, this is how it should be, but it so rarely is and even with some of the most brilliant dancers the music may be nothing but background. Here it is the essence. Yet it should not be supposed that Ms. Osipova is merely a very musical dancer with perfect technique — she is an actress, and her death in Act I following her shock that her lover is the Count, already betrothed to another, was heartbreaking.

As the Count himself, Ivan Vasiliev also showed fine dramatic talent, so sure of himself at first, yet horribly uncertain when the Gamekeeper, who adores Giselle, summons the hunting party to unmask him. In his powerful Act II solo, as fine fortissimos from the Russian orchestral brass demanded he dance to death, he showed himself to be almost exhausted before dawn rose at stage rear and the wilis power faded. The two of them together showed her to be a mere wisp, floating in the air as he moved on the ground, and her ability to float already showed itself with her solo dancing in Act I.

The other dancers gave fine support to these two principals, with good ensemble work from the corps in Act II, and full engagement by all dancers with the action in Act I. Ekaterina Borchenko as Queen of the Wilis in Act II performed fine jetés, and her borrées as she glided around the stage were a delight. Vladimir Tsal as the Gamekeeper was wonderful in his mime and his forceful interaction with the Count, and Anna Novosyolova as a rather young looking mother of Giselle showed grief at the end of Act I reminiscent of a Lady Capulet. And in the Act I peasant pas-de-deux, Sabina Yapparova showed glorious control and her musical dancing was a delight.

Altogether a terrific performance, and though you may not get the same two principals, this is a lovely production. Beautiful costumes, and the sets give a feeling of a world beyond, with a winding road to the castle in Act I, and a moonlit stream in Act II. The performance itself shows attention to detail that seems to have been lacking in some London shows by big Russian ballet companies in recent years. A great success for the Mikhailovsky ballet.

Performances of Giselle continue until March 29, followed by Don Quixote and other productions until April 7 — for details click here.

Swan Lake with Osipova and Acosta, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, October 2012

11 October, 2012

For those lucky enough to have tickets for last night’s Swan Lake, Odette/Odile was danced by Russian ballerina Natalia Osipova partnered by the Royal Ballet’s Carlos Acosta as Prince Siegfried. They were terrific together.

Natalia Osipova and Carlos Acosta, all images ROH/ Alice Pennefather

Osipova was in the news recently when she and Ivan Vasiliev quit the Moscow’s Bolshoi and joined the Mikhailovsky Ballet in St. Petersburg, one reason being frustration with the Bolshoi’s casting policy. This enabled her to replace Tamara Rojo in this performance, Rojo having recently left to become artistic director of the ENB. Despite having barely danced the role before, Osipova gave a wonderful characterisation of Odette/Odile: a suitably frail Swan Queen with beautifully fluid movements in Act II, a seductive Odile in Act III, and finally showing great emotional and spiritual strength as she faces Von Rothbart’s entrapment in Act III. There was excellent chemistry between her and Acosta, and his dancing showed huge strength, precision and emotional commitment to the role. He performed magnificently in his solos, and his deft partnering allowed her full rein.

Among the rest of the cast, Gary Avis was a dramatically perfect Von Rothbart, and though the swans danced well, the female corps in Act I seemed a bit ragged. In the pas-de-trois from that act, Itziar Mendizabal and Hikaru Kobayahshi were excellent as the two girls, and Act III showed some fine character dances. The Spanish dance and the Mazurka were excitingly performed, Ricardo Cervera was outstanding in the Czárdás, performing with enormous attack, and Yuhui Choe and Paul Kay were sheer delight in the Neapolitan dance.

This production has seen several small improvements over recent years but I still find the supers a clumsy irritation at the start of Act III, and the dappled lighting in Act IV can look a bit odd when there are only four swans on stage with one in darkness. Overall however the Company did a great job under fine musical direction from Boris Gruzin in the pit, who started slowly and built up well to the dramatic highlights.

Future performances of Osipova with Acosta on October 13 and 25 are a sell-out, but the present run of Swan Lake continues until November 24 — for details click here.

Ashton’s Romeo and Juliet, Peter Schaufuss Ballet, London Coliseum, July 2011

12 July, 2011

Frederick Ashton choreographed Romeo and Juliet for the Royal Danish Ballet in 1955, and it was on a smaller scale than the 1965 Kenneth MacMillan version familiar to Covent Garden audiences. Schaufuss’s mother and father danced Juliet and Mercutio in the original, so Peter Schaufuss is very much involved in this work, and he worked with Ashton on a new production for the English National Ballet in 1985 when he was artistic director. At that time they included ensemble pieces that enlarged the ballet, but in this production Schaufuss claims to have gone back to the original, including original costume designs by Peter Rice, which are wonderful.

Vasiliev and Osipova, photo by Charlotte MacMillan

He has also pared it down to fairly minimal sets by Luciano Melini, showing a large foreground with steps at the rear to a slightly higher level. This has the effect that the front curtain can remain open during scene changes, which are aided by clever alterations in the lighting and changing backdrops. Despite the London Coliseum’s large stage this production has a small cast, enlarged for the Gala on Tuesday, by including Lynn Seymour and David Wall as the Montague parents and Wayne Sleep as Peter the Page — this is what most of the press will review.

Vasiliev and Osipova in rehearsal, photo Tristram Kenton

However, the main couple, Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova, dance all week, and they’re outstanding. She shows huge emotion in the second part as she rejects Paris, flying around the stage in agony before going to see Friar Laurence, very calmly played by Peter Schaufuss himself. Vasiliev is equally terrific, dancing with perfection. His characterisation of the role shows real feeling, and his sword fight with Tybalt was superbly done. In fact the sword fights, to Ashton’s original choreography, are wonderful. Choreographically this has some glorious moments, and Vasiliev was well supported by Alban Lendorf as Mercutio who danced with great vigour and panache, and Peter Schaufuss’s daughter Tara as Mercutio’s girlfriend. Stephen Jefferies gave an immensely strong and cool portrayal of Lord Capulet, with Zoe Ashe-Browne as his wife.

If you’re looking for the balcony scene and those lovely bustling scenes in the square you’ll be disappointed, but this is a must-see for two reasons. One is that Ashton’s Romeo and Juliet is seldom performed in London, but the main reason is that Vasiliev and Osipova are incredible. How they will manage to dance every performance I don’t know, and their first night on Monday was spoiled by technical faults with an unmovable front curtain, adding an extra half-hour or more to the interval, while audience and orchestra remained patiently seated. But it was worth waiting because the English National Ballet Orchestra played Prokofiev’s music superbly under the direction of Graham Bond, so if you can get tickets, do go.

Performances continue every day with Vasiliev and Osipova as Romeo and Juliet — for details click here.

Don Quixote, Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, August 2010

7 August, 2010

This thrilling spectacle of classical dance was first performed at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 1869, choreographed by Marius Petipa, who had just become artistic director of the Maryinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg. More than twenty years earlier he’d spent three years in Spain and learned to love Spanish dance — much celebrated in this ballet — though he left Spain rather suddenly to avoid a duel against a French marquis, a member of the French embassy, with whose wife he’d been having an affair. Petipa was quite a lad as a young dancer!

Don Q was revised by Alexander Gorsky in 1900, the year he became manager of the Bolshoi, and is a staple of their repertory. In fact it’s arguably their jewel in the crown, endowed with a mass of glorious costumes, and sets that allow ample room for the ballet’s choreographic pyrotechnics, which were on brilliant view here.

Vasiliev and Osipova, photo by M. Logvinov 2006

The main roles were danced by Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova, who were spectacular three years ago when the Bolshoi came to the London Coliseum. At that time Vasiliev was a mere 18 and Osipova 21, so both are still very young, and this time they were even more sensational. They are stars of the first magnitude. Not only can Vasiliev do corkscrew turns at 45 degrees and land perfectly into a half-kneeling position, he dances absolutely on the music. So does Osipova and her fouettés en tournant were superb, with repeated doubles, and even a triple. These two dancers have the flamboyance and technical wizardry that this ballet requires, and the one-hand overhead lift, with both dancers in arabesque, was quite remarkable, particularly when Vasiliev went up on demi-pointe at the end of it. They have to be seen to be believed, and it’s no surprise that on the way home, carrying a programme, I was greeted by other audience members saying, “Wasn’t that amazing!”

Natalia Osipova as Kitri, photo by Damir Yusopov 2009

Vasiliev and Osipova were out of this world, but they were only part of the story, and the whole company did a superb job. Just to mention a few, I thought Alexei Loparevich was wonderful as Don Q himself, and in the gypsy dance of Act III Anna Antropova was extraordinarily supple and admirably musical. Nina Kaptsova was an excellent Cupid in Act II, and Olga Stebletsova and Victoria Osipova were very good as Kitri’s friends in Act I, as was Anna Balukova as Mercedes. It’s difficult to apportion praise accurately because the cast-list was a little confusing — the main couple in the Act III Spanish dance were presumably two of the three people listed, but which two?  I hope the Bolshoi improve the casting information on their next visit.

The other problem was the music. This is great stuff by Minkus, only overshadowed later when Tchaikovsky came along, but the conducting in Acts I and II was a bit lifeless — I’ve heard excerpts from Act I done far more vivaciously by pianists in ballet class. The cast-list showed Pavel Klinichev as the conductor, but at the end of Act III, which was musically far better, the conductor who took the bows was Pavel Sorokin. When he conducted Don Q three years ago, he filled the music with vibrant energy, so did they switch conductors for Act III? Puzzling. Some people say they come for the dance not the music, but for dancers who are very musical — and Vasiliev and Osipova are certainly in that category — the conductor makes quite a difference.

Finally, dancing and music aside, this is a wonderful production of Don Q, with very effective designs by Sergei Barkhin. The costumes, based on sketches from 1906 by Vasily Dyanchkov, realised by Tatiana Artamonova and Elena Merkurova, are glorious, with fine lighting design by Mikhail Sokolov.