Posts Tagged ‘Vadim Muntagirov’

Ecstasy and Death, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, April 2013

19 April, 2013

This intriguing triple bill is the first programme artistic director Tamara Rojo has put together for the Company, and she even dances in it herself.

Rojo and le Riche, all images ENB/ David Jensen

Rojo and le Riche, all images ENB/ David Jensen

The second item Le Jeune Homme et la Mort is worth the whole programme, and on the first night Rojo was the coolly callous young woman, with Nicolas le Riche, star of the Paris Opéra Ballet, as the young painter driven to madness by her strangely cold attraction. Roland Petit’s gloriously expressive choreography shows him to be in a state of nervous tension and exhaustion, and le Riche gave a riveting portrayal of his emotional despair. Two other performers will dance the role in the present run of performances, guest artist Ivan Putrov and Company member Fabian Reimair. As the girl, Tamara Rojo in her yellow dress, and later the mask of death, showed superb manipulation and indifference.

This extraordinary 1946 work, to a libretto by Jean Cocteau, formed an electrifyingly creative collaboration in post-Liberation Paris. For the music, he and Petit finally settled on Bach’s Passacaglia in C minor — at the dress rehearsal! The Bach was very strongly played under principal conductor Gavin Sutherland who gave fine musical direction to the evening, with Chris Swithinbank at the piano in Mozart’s Concertos K488 and K467 for the first item Petite Mort.

Petite Mort

Petite Mort

The French term la petite mort is an idiomatic euphemism for sexual orgasm, and the rapiers in Jiří Kylián’s choreography suggest a dichotomy between assertiveness and oblivion for the six couples. The men performed superbly with their rapiers, setting them in motion on the stage as if moving in unison of their own accord. Excellent rehearsal preparation must have led to this precision, and the unusual and very physical choreography was crisply and energetically performed by the twelve dancers.

Etudes

Etudes

The Company is at the top of its game, and the final Etudes was beautifully danced. Choreography is by Harald Lander, director of the Royal Danish Ballet, who created this work in 1948 to orchestral music by Knudåge Riisager, based on Czerny’s renowned piano exercises. It reveals a ballet class with a difference, as it starts with twelve girls in black tutus at the barre forming four sets of three, then three sets of four, each set in unison but different from the others. It then slowly opens out to other dancers, ending with nearly forty on stage. As the leading girl, Erina Takahashi showed lovely gentle movements, and her partners James Forbat, Esteban Berlanga and Vadim Muntagirov danced with fine precision. Muntagirov in particular showed a relaxed nobility of posture and line that was very attractive.

This  triple bill shows the Company to perfection, and performances continue until April 21 — for details click here.

Advertisements

Sleeping Beauty with Rojo and Muntagirov, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, January 2013

10 January, 2013

Kenneth MacMillan’s production of Sleeping Beauty, with its glorious costumes by Nicholas Geogiardis, is a joy to watch, the sets by Peter Farmer reflecting a mistiness in the world beyond the action like some famous Renaissance paintings. The expression of the action is crystal clear in its use of mime, and for anyone unfamiliar with the conventions a helpful article in the programme is worth reading before seeing the Prologue.

All images ENB/ Patrick Baldwin

All images ENB/ Patrick Baldwin

In this classical Russian take on the fairy tale, the nasty fairy Carabosse is inadvertently omitted from the guest list for the christening, and as the king checks the list and is reassured it is complete, this was beautifully mimed to say nothing of what follows. The orchestra in the meantime gave a fine rendering of Tchaikovsky’s wonderful score under the baton of Gavin Sutherland, who allowed the music to swell with emotion at appropriate moments.

Already in the Prologue some of the solos were terrific, and those fairy variations where they endow the baby with beauty, wit, physical grace, vocal grace, and musical perfection, were a delight. Adela Ramirez showed musicality and beautiful control in the second variation, Laurretta Summerscales was magically musical in the slow third, and Nancy Osbaldeston performed exquisite jumps in the fifth. I could quibble with slightly slow tempos in two of the variations, including the sixth one for the Lilac Fairy, but overall the musical rendering was wonderful and Daria Klimentova was an elegant and eloquent Lilac Fairy throughout the ballet.

Carabosse and attendants

Carabosse and attendants

In the nineteenth century when this ballet was first produced the tradition was to have characters like Carabosse played by men, and James Streeter gave a wonderful portrayal, showing huge emotion and anger rather than the one-dimensional nastiness one sometimes sees. And in this production she remains on stage in Act II to counter the magic of the Lilac Fairy, until finally the prince kisses the princess and Carabosse falls to the stage. Glorious theatre.

Good magic versus dark

Good magic versus dark

As the prince himself, Vadim Muntagirov also gave an intriguing portrayal, showing at his first appearance in Act II ennui, frustration and a need for something he doesn’t yet quite grasp. As the music changes, the backdrop of a dense wood comes down, the Lilac Fairy appears and the prince can start to feel his own emotions. By Act III Muntagirov showed himself so full of joy he looked two inches taller, and his main solo was thrilling. The pas-de-deux with Tamara Rojo as the princess was perfect, and her pirouettes beyond compare. For the artistic director of the company to take on this huge role is quite an achievement, and she was superb if somewhat joyless.

Muntagirov and Rojo

Muntagirov and Rojo

But whatever dancers you see in this production, the costumes, sets, orchestra and corps de ballet remain the same, and there was fine dancing from the corps with some excellent solo work. In Act III, Anjuli Hudson, Senri Kou and Laurretta Summerscales were a very strong trio in the silver variation, Anjuli Hudson and Nancy Osbaldeston were both delightful as The White Cat and Red Riding Hood, and Yonah Acosta was a very fine Bluebird with Shiori Kase as his princess. The woodwind was terrific, with Gareth Hulse making wonderful sounds on the oboe for the White Cat episode.

This production, first performed by the ENB seven years ago, is as good as you will see anywhere, and the Prologue, which can be a bit camp in some productions, is very well judged. Wonderful conducting by Gavin Sutherland kept the tension up throughout — a super performance.

Performances at the London Coliseum continue until January 19, followed by the New Theatre, Oxford from February 19 to 23, and the Southampton Mayflower from February 26 to March 2 — for details click here.

The Nutcracker with Klimentová and Muntagirov, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, December 2012

15 December, 2012

The clever concept behind English National Ballet’s Nutcracker is not that the toy comes to life, but that in Clara’s mind he takes on the form of Drosselmeyer’s handsome nephew, seen in a blue uniform at the party in Act I. After the death of the Mouse King, which occurs in Act II of this production, the nephew becomes the Nutcracker, and towards the end, in new costumes, he and Clara dance the Sugar Plum fairy pas-de-deux.

Mouse King, ENB image Patrick Baldwin

Mouse King, ENB image Patrick Baldwin

The way this concept is really brought to life by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling is to have two Nutcrackers. The one with a painted mask on his face is the toy come to life, the one without a mask is Clara’s vision of him as the Nephew. They interchange for the first time after the snow scene in Act I, and the masked Nutcracker only finally disappears in early Act II after killing the Mouse King, who survived Act I and hung on to the balloon taking Clara, Drosselmeyer and the Nutcracker to the land of Sweets.

ENB image Annabel Moeller

ENB image Annabel Moeller

Having the final battle in Act II is unusual but Wayne Eagling’s production is otherwise entirely standard, starting and ending with Clara’s bedroom and skaters on the ice outside the house. The party scene in Act I is a spontaneous medley of dancing, action, and conjuring tricks from Fabian Reimair as a fine Drosselmeyer. He twice alters the hands of the clock, the second occasion being when the young Clara, beautifully played by Annabella Sanders, gets out of bed after the party to go downstairs. Drosselmeyer turns the time to midnight, and the magic starts.

Clara and Nutcracker, image Patrick Baldwin

Clara and Nutcracker, image Patrick Baldwin

Fine performances by James Forbat and James Streeter as Nutcracker and Mouse King, and the grown-up Clara was Daria Klimentová with Vadim Muntagirov as the Nephew. They were superb together, a real treat to watch.

Nephew as Nutcracker Prince, image Baldwin

Nephew as Nutcracker Prince, image Baldwin

In the Arabian dance Clara joins in to release the prisoner, none other than her own grown-up brother Freddie, who also appeared earlier to help battle the mice. In the Mirliton variation, which in this production is for one girl as a butterfly partnered by Drosslemeyer, Ksenia Ovsyanick was beautifully fluid in her movements. It was a star turn of the evening, but there was fine dancing all round and Esteban Berlanga as one of the Cavaliers in the Waltz of the Flowers was wonderfully precise and on the music.

Lovely designs by Peter Farmer, well lit by David Richardson, and good musical direction by Gavin Sutherland from the orchestra pit, always sensitive to the tempos for the dancers.

Nutcracker not to be missed, but performances finish on January 5 and tickets are now few and far between — for details click here.

Apollo/ Jeux/ Le Train Bleu/ Suite en Blanc, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, March 2012

29 March, 2012

The second part of ENB’s spring programme Beyond Ballets Russes has a charming middle section comprising Jeux and a solo from Le train bleu, sandwiched between two glorious works in white: Apollo and Suite en Blanc.

Apollo, image Annabel Moeller

Apollo was choreographed by the 24-year old Balanchine in 1928, though he later revised it, cutting out the birth of Apollo at the start. Even without that prologue the backdrop is the deep blue of the night at the beginning, quickly changing to the lighter blue of the day. Against this background, Zdenek Konvalina was a fine Apollo, with his three muses dancing perfectly together. Daria Klimentova in particular as Terpiscore showed huge musicality, and Gavin Sutherland drew clean musical lines from the orchestra suiting the clean physical lines of the dancers. A wonderful performance making a serene start to the evening.

In the second part came the premiere of Wayne Eagling’s clever new take on Jeux, originally a 1912 creation by Nijinsky to music composed by Debussy in the late summer of that year. Eagling’s staging was fun, with wonderful performances by the seven dancers, and great lighting design by David Richardson. Then from sporting games to solo endeavour came a brief scene from the 1924 ballet Le train bleu. The blue train was the Calais-Mediterranean express, so named for its dark blue sleeping cars, and this was a piece of brilliant solo dancing by Vadim Muntagirov as le beau gosse in his swimming suit.

Finally the pièce de résistance was Maina Gielgud’s re-staging of Serge Lifar’s Suite en Blanc, to music by that remarkable nineteenth century French composer Edouard Lalo. This neo-classical showpiece, performed by Festival Ballet in the 1970s, was revived by the ENB in 2011 and it really is super. Most of the dancing was outstanding, and Elena Glurdjidze was incredible in the cigarette variation, which Ms. Gielgud originally learned from the choreographer himself. Ms. Glurdjidze showed glorious control, and those very fast entrechats six were a wonder to see.

Suite en blanc, image Annabel Moeller

From the three girls in the Sieste at the beginning to the excellent pas-de-deux between Erina Takehashi and Zdenek Konvalina, followed by her solo and the ensemble at the end, it was a feast of fine dancing. Yonah Acosta in the mazurka showed huge control and panache, the three girls at the start were fascinating to watch — the one in the middle in particular being supremely musical — and thepas-de-trois was performed with great classical style.

All praise to Wayne Eagling again for his artistic leadership, and how strange that the board of trustees care so little that they want to replace him. Great pity, but these performances of Beyond Ballets Russes II are worth every penny, and continue until April 1 — for details click here.

Romeo and Juliet, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, January 2011

6 January, 2011

Just to make sure we understand the fateful denouement, four figures of fate appear at the beginning and end, but apart from this, and the final reconciliation between Capulets and Montagues, it’s Shakespeare with Prokofiev’s glorious music. The choreography by Rudolf Nureyev lacks the understatement of Kenneth Macmillan’s version, but fully makes up for it in masculine strength and bravado, coupled with sheer inventiveness that helps define the characters of Juliet and her cousin Tybalt, along with Romeo and Mercutio on the Montague side.

Daria Klimentova and Vadim Mutagirov, photo by Annabel Moeller

The dancing was superb indeed. Vadim Mutagirov made a wonderfully elegant Romeo, and danced like a god. Daria Klimentova as his Juliet played the role to perfection, and her evident dislike of Daniel Kraus’s anxious and clingy Paris came over very well, particularly her distress with the wedding dress in Act III. Juliet’s fondness for Tybalt is expressed in a brief pas-de-deux in Act I, and Fabian Reimair was the kind of Tybalt one could almost feel sorry for — a fiery impulsive young man whose skill with the sword is insufficient to match his angry intentions. Juliet’s shock and lamentation at his death was wracked with emotion. Max Westwell danced strongly as Benvolio, and Juan Rodriguez was superb as Mercutio in a role that is played partly as a comic act but with an added sense of drama when he is mortally wounded by Tybalt, and his friends see his death throes as mere play-acting, which they applaud. Rodriguez — a last minute replacement for Yat-Sen Chang — was entirely convincing in the role, and Paul Lewis was outstanding as Lord Capulet, showing perfect timing and fine musicality. The whole cast danced beautifully, both in the solo parts and the ensemble pieces.

Nureyev’s choreography gives a real edge to the fight scenes, and the punch-up in Act I sets the stage for the extraordinary enmity we witness between two feuding families. He first created the production for this company — known then as the London Festival Ballet — in 1977, dancing the role of Romeo himself. This revival is staged by Patricia Ruanne and Frederic Jahn, who were the original Juliet and Tybalt. It has a thrilling energy, just like Nureyev himself, and is only slightly undermined by the frequent changes of scene, and the dream sequences. The dancers are all utterly committed to acting their roles, and I only wish the Company would get rid of those supers who appear front-stage at the sides in Act II, spoiling the body language expressed by the rest of the cast.

Prokofiev’s music has been slightly rearranged, partly so that additional parts of the story can be expressed, such as the attack on Friar John who carries Lawrence’s letter to Romeo in Mantua. The news of Juliet’s apparent death is brought to Romeo by Benvolio, and the arpeggios that express Juliet’s frenzied frustration in Act III before she consults Friar Lawrence, reappear here to express Romeo’s appalling distress, along with very physical choreography between him and Benvolio. There is much to enjoy and absorb in this fine production, and Gavin Sutherland brought out the power and beauty of the music after a sluggish start during the introduction.

Performances continue until January 15 — for more details click here.

Nutcracker, English National Ballet, ENB at the London Coliseum, December 2010

11 December, 2010

Nutcracker is based on a story by E. T. A. Hoffmann that beautifully interweaves the real world with the magical world, all under the enchanting influence of Clara’s godfather Drosselmeyer. On the other hand Tchaikovsky’s ballet creates a greater distinction between the two worlds, and linking them more intimately is a potential challenge for any production. This one by Wayne Eagling involves some interesting ideas. For example, the mouse king is not killed in Act I but lives on into Act II, clinging to the carriage of a balloon that takes Clara and the Nutcracker away from the snow scene at the end of the first Act. He’s then killed during the second Act in a small theatre on stage, which serves as a background for the character dances.

In the Hoffmann original the Nutcracker is a magical version of Drosselmeyer’s nephew, a feature represented in Eagling’s production by having the two characters interchange on stage several times. For instance during a pas-de-trois for Nutcracker, Drosselmeyer and Clara, the Nutcracker transforms into the nephew and dances with her alone. And rather than having Clara as an onlooker during the festivities of Act II, she is a participant, coming on during the Arabian dance to release a prisoner from bondage, and later dancing with her prince as if she were the sugar plum fairy. The Spanish, Chinese, and Russian dances, along with the dance of the flowers, are of the usual type, but the dance of the mirlitons becomes a pas-de-quatre for three boys and a girl who represents a butterfly that eventually falls prey to Drosselmeyer’s net. These aspects of the production help to link the real and the magical, but I missed any representation of the Mother Ginger episode whose music I love. I also missed the final bars at the end, which were cut to leave everything quietly as it was in the prologue, with the exterior of the parents’ house on stage, and Clara and her brother creeping out for some fresh air.

The prologue — during the orchestral overture — started very well with ice skaters in front of the parents’ house, but Act I didn’t really gel on the first night. Things warmed up in Act II and the pas-de-deux between Daria Klimentova as Clara, and Vadim Muntagirov as her prince, was terrific. His lines were beautifully clean and their dancing had real élan. There were also some wonderful performances in the character dances particularly Shiori Kase in the Chinese dance, and the leading flowers Begoña Cao and Sarah McIlroy with their partners Daniel Kraus and James Forbat danced beautifully.

The designs by Peter Farmer gave a sense of solidity to the real world, and a lightness of touch to the magical. The Christmas tree grew while the mice were dancing and then transformed itself into a snow-covered tree for the rest of Act I. This is a Nutcracker interweaving the real and the magical, though the first night may not have shown it to best advantage, and the orchestral playing under the baton of Gavin Sutherland seemed a little uneven. It will surely settle down later, and performances continue until December 30 — for more details click here.

Cinderella, English National Ballet, ENB at the London Coliseum, August 2010

12 August, 2010

This is a very welcome revival of Michael Corder’s production, with beautiful dancing by Daria Klimentova as Cinderella, very well supported by Vadim Muntagirov as the prince. She showed a charming strength and serenity, and he was a danseur noble with elegant gestures and superb entrechats and pirouettes. They made a wonderful couple.

Muntagirov as the prince, photo by Pedro Lapetra

Michael Corder’s choreography is very different from Ashton’s version for the Royal Ballet. Among a host of differences, two things stand out. One is that the stepsisters are girls, rather than en travesti roles, and Ashton’s cuts are rescinded, so the start of Act III involves the prince being tempted by other women, including Spanish, Egyptian and Oriental princesses. The sisters were brilliantly performed by Adela Ramirez and Sarah McIlroy, who also danced the Spanish and Egyptian princesses in Act III. They showed a pretty bitchiness they obviously got from their mother, who is very much present in this production. She was well portrayed by Jane Haworth, with Michael Coleman as a seriously hen-pecked husband.

An interesting aspect of this production are the vision scenes. When Cinderella is being mercilessly teased and abused by her stepsisters and stepmother in Act I, the fairy godmother, danced by Begoña Cao, appears to her alone — this is different from Ashton’s version where an old crone arrives to beg for food. Then there is a second vision scene in Act III when Cinderella appears to the Prince, but eludes him. These visions are a fine aspect of Michael Corder’s version, as is the transformation at the end when the old house vanishes, though I missed the midnight transformation when her costume turns to rags. Here she simply runs off in her finery, but this does fit with the concept of Cinderella creating her own transformation, embodied in her early conjuring up of a fairy godmother.

Sarah McIlroy, Juan Rodriguez, Adela Ramirez, photo by Annabel Mueller

It’s a huge cast, and the dancing was very good indeed. I particularly liked Juan Rodriguez as the dancing master, who had excellent stage presence, and his gestures were wonderful. Prokofiev’s music was beautifully conducted by music director Gavin Sutherland. He gave it warmth and spontaneity, and I liked Paul Pyant’s lighting design, which allowed us to feel as if we were present at an evening where dreams become reality.

Performances continue until Sunday, August 15, including a celebration of the English National Ballet’s 60th birthday on Saturday the 14th — for more details click here.