Posts Tagged ‘Petipa’

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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Coppélia, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BRB, London Coliseum, March 2012

16 March, 2012

London Coliseum audiences who went to Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann recently saw one version of Coppélia in the first act of that opera. It involves a young man who falls for a mechanical doll built by Dr. Coppélius, based on an 1816 tale by E.T.A. Hoffmann himself.

Franz and Swanilda, image Roy Smiljanic

This ballet was created in Paris in 1870 less than two months before the Franco-Prussian war started, and during the siege of Paris later that year the ballerina who created the main role, Swanilda died of smallpox on her seventeenth birthday. But the ballet with its glorious music by Delibes survived, and in 1884 Petipa re-choreographed it in St. Petersburg. Most later versions are based on his, and this is Peter Wright’s third. With glorious sets and costumes by Peter Farmer, lit by Peter Teigen, it is a sight not to be missed.

The mime element is strong and very well performed by the company. The ear of corn scene — if it rattles, his love is true — is well portrayed by Swanilda and her friends, and in this version her fiancé Franz is strongly portrayed as a ladies man (in the original ballet it was a travesti role). Chi Cao performed superbly as Franz, and his solos in Act III were terrific — those wonderful beats, particularly on the cabrioles, were a sight not to be missed. Nao Sakuma also exhibited fine technique as Swanilda, and suitable playfulness in the Act II scene in Coppelius’s workshop. Among her six friends, Maureya Lebowitz was in a class of her own — surely a dancer destined for principal roles.

The ensemble dancing was very good, and in Act I this ballet was the first to include the Hungarian Czárdás, which should be more stylishly portrayed, particularly in the slow courtly first section. Angela Paul, who also danced Dawn in Act III did well here, but in general the frisson of pride was missing. The interactions of the characters in Act I, the apparent coming to life of the doll in Act II, and the dance of the hours in Act III were all charming, and as the evening ended with a glorious pas-de-deux by Chi Cao and Nao Sakuma, the applause rang forth.

The conducting of Delibes’ music by Koen Kessels was wonderful, from the start of the prelude to the end of the ballet, and the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s visits to London are always a great pleasure.

Further performances of Coppélia at the London Coliseum continue until March 18 — 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.

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.

Sleeping Beauty, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BRB, London Coliseum, April 2010

21 April, 2010

Sleeping Beauty is a glorious union of music and dance with Tchaikovski’s score matched by Petipa’s choreography, and Peter Wright’s production for the Birmingham Royal Ballet does it full justice. The designs by Philip Prowse are excellent — the gold of the sets, and the black in some of the male costumes give a rich feel without the overwhelming pastel shades found in some other productions. The Prologue comes off very well, with the Lilac Fairy’s variation being taken by the sixth of six fairies, named here as Beauty, Honour, Modesty, Song, Temperament, and Joy. Their short tutus are all of similar colours, while the Lilac Fairy herself, gracefully portrayed by Andrea Tredinnick, is in a long tutu befitting a more calming and nurturing role. All the soloists did well, and Marion Tait as Carabosse was superbly musical as usual. Worth noting also that David Morse as Catalabutte, the master of ceremonies, showed fine stage presence and suitable angst, mortified by his omission of Carabosse from the guest list to the Christening.

Marion Tait as Carabosse, photo Bill Cooper

This production has some wonderful moments, and I particularly liked the way Carabosse reappears in Act I as a shrouded old woman, apparently willing to be arrested after giving Aurora the spindle, yet suddenly throwing off her disguise and creating havoc. Her disappearance in mid-air is very effective thanks to excellent lighting by Mark Jonathan. In fact the lighting was part of the glory of this production, giving a contrast between good and evil, particularly when both are on stage at the same time in the form of the Lilac Fairy and Carabosse. Also in Act I there was some slightly unfriendly competition between two of the four princes, played by Tyrone Singleton and Robert Parker, and it’s little vignettes like this that help to make the production come alive.

Nao Sakuma as Aurora, photo Bill Cooper

Nao Sakuma danced well as Aurora, and was very hansomely partnered in the later acts by Iain Mackay. He did a fine job as her prince, stepping in for Chi Cao, who was unable to get back into the country due to the recent absence of air flights. It was the first time they had danced these roles together, and they did it perfectly. This is a company that obviously works well together, producing excellent soloists and a fine corps de ballet. In Act III, Mathias Dingman and Alexander Campbell were brilliantly matched in the pas-de-quatre, as were Carol-Anne Millar and Angela Paul, who showed magnificent sparkle. Joseph Caley and Momoko Hirata were excellent in the Bluebird pas-de-deux, and I loved Sonia Aguilar as the White Cat — she was utterly charming.

If you want to see Sleeping Beauty, this production is terrific, and musically it was better than the recent run by the Royal Ballet. Paul Murphy conducted and drew exciting sounds from the orchestra, making the journey to the enchanted wood in Act II sound . . . well, enchanting. The choreography too, at that point, is delightful, and now includes the Awakening pas-de-deux.

Performances continue until Saturday, 24th April.