Posts Tagged ‘Pavel Klinichev’

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.

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.