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Bolshoi in Paris

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#1 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 08 December 2003 - 09:14 AM

January 7 through 24, 2004 the Bolshoi Ballet is performing at the Palais Garnier in Paris. The company has last been there in 1991. There are three programmes:

"Swan Lake" (version by Grigorovich), Jan. 7-11: Svetlana Zakharova, Nadezhda Gracheva, Galina Stepanenko and Anna Antonicheva are sharing the lead; Andrei Uvarov and Sergei Filin alternate as Siegfried.

"La Fille du Pharaon" (Lacotte): Jan 15-18: Svetlana Zakharova, Nadezhda Gracheva or Maria Alexandrova as Aspicia; Sergei Filin or Ruslan Skvortsov as Taor; Gennady Yanin or Denis Medvedev as Passiphonte; Maria Alexandrova or Elena Andrienko as Ramze.

"The Bright Stream" (Ratmansky): Jan. 21-24: Inna Petrova or Anastasia Yatsenko as Zina; Yuri Klevtsov or Rinat Arifulin as Piotr; Maria Alexandrova or Ekterina Shipulina as the ballerina; Sergei Filin or Yan Godovsky as the dancer.

Info courtesy of the press service of the Palais Garnier. All casting information subject to change of course.
Not a bad programme with 2 premieres for the West ("Fille" and "Bright Stream", the latter replacing the initially scheduled Tsiskaridze vehicle "Queen of Spades" and "Chopiniana".) Zakharova is definitely pushed as the company's main attraction and will likely dance opening nights.

#2 Guest_Tatiana_*

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Posted 10 December 2003 - 03:44 AM

I'm a particular fan of Galina Stepanenko and recommend to see her in "Swan Lake". Her Odile is fantastic - both in technique and temper!

#3 cygneblanc


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Posted 31 December 2003 - 02:21 AM

Article (in french !) on the Bolshoi in Paris

#4 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 04:06 AM

Now that the casts for the Bolshoi tour in Paris are online http://www.opera-de-...u15janvier19h30, bad news is out that Sergei Filin is ill and most likely won't be able to dance in "Swan Lake" - nor indeed in any of the other productions. Belogolovtsev is said to replace him in "La Fille du Pharaon".

#5 jorgen


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Posted 11 January 2004 - 07:49 AM

No reports from Paris yet???

#6 traviata



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Posted 13 January 2004 - 04:13 AM

I will see "La Fille du pharaon" next saturday. Promise, I will write a report! It seems people enjoyed Swan Lake a lot, especially for Zakharova and Maria Alexandrova.

Edited by traviata, 13 January 2004 - 04:15 AM.

#7 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 19 January 2004 - 06:34 AM

A couple of more French reviews about the Bolshoi in Paris: René Sirvin, online at Imagidanse and Rosita Boisseau in Le Monde.

Just a few remarks. Both articles give the impression that "La Fille du Pharaon" was created while Boris Akimov was AD of the Bolshoi. From there on it's a small step to think that the initiative was more or less his. Which it is not correct - it was done under Vasiliev and Fadeyechev. The fact that Rozhdestvensky nearly dumped the ballet while Akimov was director seems to be a completely forgotten 'detail' now.

It's also beyond me why Sirvin says that under Vasiliev the Grigorovich ballets were taken out of the repertory. Again, this is not correct. "Swan Lake", "Giselle" and "Legend of Love" disappeared, but all the others were still being performed. And in the case of "Swan Lake" and "Giselle", they disappeared because Vasiliev staged his own versions.

Finally, I don't see what's so radically changed about Rothbart's role in Grigorovich's "Swan Lake", slightly revised for the occasion of its return to the Bolshoi in 2001. He always had a variation before the Black Swan and which variations for Siegfried were added? Maybe some of the Moscow people can enlighten us here.

#8 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 20 January 2004 - 02:52 PM

I put up a selection of photos from the Bolshoi in class and in rehearsal. Follow this link and enjoy!

#9 Alexandra


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Posted 20 January 2004 - 03:37 PM

Thanks for the links and the commentary on the reviews, Marc -- that's very helpful. (And thanks for the photos, too!)

#10 traviata



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Posted 21 January 2004 - 09:19 AM

Here's my report :sweating: !
I have seen « La Fille du pharaon » last Saturday night. The opera house was crammed! The cast was: Svetlana Zakharova as Aspicia, Dimitri Biologolovtsev as Taor, and Elena Andrienko as Ramzé.
This Fille is a huge production (just as can be “La Bayadère”) in eight parts, enclosing parades, a lot of variations for every kind of soloists, exoticism, false tropical animals… and a real horse on stage!
This ballet was recreated by Pierre Lacotte, who offered us two hours of pure dancing, with only short mimer scenes. Zakharova’s Aspicia is brilliant and attaching, despite the fact Aspicia isn’t such an interesting role.
In the first act, I enjoyed the first appearance of the corps de ballet: the huntresses. The audience laughed a lot at the appearance of a monkey on a liana :D .
The highlight of the second act was the Pas d’action, in which I especially liked Anastasia Yatsenko and Anastasia Goriatcheva, with beautiful red and white costumes :) .
Part of the third act takes place under waters of the Nile. Three dancers embodied three rivers (Anastasia Yatsenko: Guadalquivir, Ekaterina Shipulina: Congo, Maria Allash: Neva) that join in the Nile. Each of them danced a variation, and I especially liked Ekaterina Shipulina, who offered us a lively and sparkling interpretation.
Besides, I was stunned by the homogeneity of the corps de ballet, all the dancers having more or less the same size (maybe is it an illusion). I also did appreciate their smiles and their enjoyment to be on stage.
As regards Pugni’s music, I did enjoy it. In my opinion, that is real ballet music, fresh, light, and unpretentious.

#11 silvy


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Posted 21 January 2004 - 09:35 AM

Thanks so much for the photos, Marc. Truly enjoyed them, though they made me feel so inadequate.... :)

A little bit of curiosity: the last one is called "soloilst's row". Does it mean that dancers are placed in the ballet barres according to their rank in the company?

#12 Viviane


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Posted 21 January 2004 - 10:57 AM

Since I discovered the Kirov, I'm intrigued by the Bolshoi : what has that other famous Russian company to offer ?.
Given that they appear in both Paris and London this season, comparison of the repertoire made me travel to Paris : I felt I absolutely needed to see their "La Fille du Pharaon".
This ballet, being a reconstruction of Marius Petipa's ballet of 1862, consists of 3 Acts, 8 scenes and is based on a novel by Th.Gautier..
This production was created for the Bolshoi in 2000 by France's best choreographer : Pierre Lacotte.

I couldn't guess that a cold and grey Paris-on-Sunday and a fully packed Garnier would be the background of a heartwarming first encounter with the Bolshoidancers. I hardly can find the right words for it, they bowled me over completely !
So, I even don't know where to start.

Maybe I take the story, the most feeble element of this ballet (not that you hear me complaining !).

"Seaking shelter for a storm in one of the piramids, Lord Wilson (an English tourist) shares opium with Arab merchants and thanks to his hallucinations that follows we have a wonderful ballet !
He became Tahor and meets the Pharaoh's Daughter, Aspicia (resurected from her sarcophague), and they fall in love. A love with all the complications and misunderstandings one can have in a ballet. In an heroic act he rescues her from a lion - becomes arrested by the Pharaoh who don't understand the situation and is later guided -in triumph- to the palace. His servant Passiphonte (John Bull) follows his master's adventures in despair.
Alas there is already a diplomatic marriage (with the King of Nubia) arranged for Aspicia, which she rejects. With the help of her servant Ramzé both lovers escape to a fishermens-place along the river Nile. When discovered by the King of Nubia, Aspicia sees only an escape in drowning herself in the river. Tahor and Passiphonte are taken into prison.
The God of the river Nile welcomes her in his kingdom but Aspicia's mind is still with Tahor. After seeing his image appearing here and there, the Nile-God fulfills her wish to return to the earth.
When the Pharaoh was just about to order the death of Tahor (by the bite of a sacred serpent), his daughter returns and can explain the betrayal of the Nubian King and her profound love for Tahor. After another menace to kill herself, the Egyptian Pharaoh accepts the unison of Aspicia and Tahor.
Instead of ending with a joyfull party, we find Lord Wilson awakening from a deep sleep : a smile on his face because of his marvelous dream !"

If you ever saw Lacotte's "Paquita", you can imagine what joyful ballet and great dancing was on offer. (btw, "Paquita" is now available on DVD).
Pierre Lacotte not only signed for the choreography, he also designed the costumes and scenery. And I can't deny he masters this part of the art too ! The scenery is simple but very effective, well balanced but eyecatching too, thanks to it's contrasts. Here I'm thinking f.i. of the contrast between the underwaterworld and the bright scene and colours of the piramids-environment. I had the reaction to close my eyes for the burning sun :) The costumes are splendid, not some strange, odd 'reconstructed' ones but made with a great reminiscent to the era, fitted for dazzling dancers of today.

I have to think hard to find another ballet with so much harmony and continuity.
The numerous scenes ask for many scenery-changes but everything went smoothly : I saw this ballet nearly in one breath, it was all over too quick. The light-hearted story has enough room for a laugh and a wink, not at least with the monkey who appeared in the wood, the fight with the lion, Aspicia's descent into the underwater-Kingdom, the funny 'deadly-snake' and for surprises : the -immaculate white- real horse on the stage.
The harmony and continuity was even more prominent in the dancing ! "La Fille du Pharaon" is jam-packed with fine dancing, little steps from numerous feet that never seem tired. You can't find 'dead points', solo's evolve into pdd and ensemble-dancing seamlessly.
The role of the corps and demi-soloists is delicately intertwined with these of soloists and principals : all these layers of creativity give a massive support to the ballet and make it a real "grand ballet".

I have to think hard to find another ballet with so much detail and delicacy.Detail in the costumes of course, but even so in attributes : the arches and spears in the hunting-scene -all perfect in line. The different, impressive tableaux they made at the end of a scene. Detail also in the 'scene-in-scene' : sometimes you hardly knew where to look !
The so important "mime" in this ballet was of an unseen quality : strong and fine at the same time with a cristal-clarity.
The dancing was crisp, clean ...fast and with -unseen for this part of Europe- such delicate arms and upperbodies !

I was more than lucky to find Maria Alexandrova in the role of Aspicia : what a wonderful and beautiful dancer ! Her dancing is very strong and powerful although with the necessary delicacy. I couldn't believe I found her as a soloist in 'le programme !'. I don't know if she can be seen as an example of the 'Bolshoi-style', but she seems to me one of those scarce vivid dancers with a real stage presence : I love her.
Rouslan Skvortsov as Tahor was impressive as well. Fast (very fast !) legwork to die for !
This must be a hell of a ballet for the dancers, at some moments hardly any chance to find some recuperation, so I forget about some small imperfections.
I was rather disappointed with Elena Andrienko in the role of Ramzé, not technically but a blank performance such a stark contrast with Alexandrova !

Some other names I'll learn by heart : Anastasia Yatsenko (a lovely dancer) offered us together with Anastasia Goriacheva a fine Pas d'Action in Act II, although the boys were not of the same quality.
Ekaterina Shipulina and Dimitri Gudanov as the fisherscouple for their natural dancing in act III.
I adored the whole scene and the variations in the kingdom of the God of the Nile, again Yatsenko (as river Guadalquivir) and Shipulina (as river Congo) were eyecatching.

This ballet was a perfect way to start a new 'ballet-year' : hat-off for Mr.Lacotte and the whole Bolshoi-company.

#13 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 21 January 2004 - 11:21 AM

Thanks Viviane and traviata for sharing your reports. Paris is indeed lucky to have seen La Fille du Pharaon - it's a shame they won't bring it to London this summer.

Silvy, no they aren't placed according to their rank. It was just a coincidence to find several soloists here together.

#14 coda


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Posted 24 January 2004 - 03:40 PM

I am afraid, Marc, that the class arrangement at the Bolshoi looks like a scale of ranks. When, during his interview on a Russian TV programme “The Night Flight” last year, Nikolai Tsiskaridze was asked the same question as Silvy asked here he replied:
“When a 10-y-o child comes to a ballet school, he can see in his class a mirror and wooden bars along the walls, on both sides and in the middle. All depends on the spot the child is placed at. The hierarchy of the class is determined by the distance from the centre. One who stands in the centre is the best. And each child learns his place pretty soon. The situation is changing from time to time, somebody is moved closer to the centre, someone is moved off. I was somehow lucky as I was placed in the centre from the beginning and stayed there throughout all 8 years.
When, after the graduation, I joined the Bolshoi and was placed almost by the door, my aspiration to get back to the centre where I have got used to stand :) for 8 years kept pushing me on. After finding themselves in the the back row some people sadly ‘crack’ but I was lucky, my drive was forcing me to move forward.”

#15 Jean-Luc



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Posted 01 February 2004 - 06:53 AM

Sorry for this long delay!! :wacko:

SWAN LAKE in Paris.

A demonstration of style!

Ballet in line with the finest Russian classical tradition, Swan Lake was first created at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1877. Despite Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music, this production was unsuccessful, Julius Reisinger’s choreography having been judged of second rate. This ballet only acquired the notoriousness it has today thanks to Marius Petipa’s and Lev Ivanov’s intervention in 1895 at the Mariinsky Theatre.

Y. Grigorovitch’s “new” production of 2001
Not so new! The sets and the costumes are the same as the ones from the creation in 1969, and 90% of the choreography is unchanged. This production has unavoidably aged, the sets and the costumes of the first and third acts are quite old fashioned except a few pretty costumes. The differences that I have noted in the production presented this evening concern Odile’s entrance, placed in the middle of the 24 swans, all gathered to the centre of the stage behind a curtain symbolising the duality between the White Swan and the Black Swan. This change takes away all the magic of Odile’s entrance, and also of the swans’ entrance, which, in Ivanov’s (or Nureyev’s) version is more interesting. Indeed, for the first time in the performance, one discovers the swans, and the magnificent idea of discovering the Corps de Ballet little by little is stronger than presenting it at once. The second change concerns the end of the ballet: Grigorovitch has decided to adopt a sad ending in which Odile is killed by the Evil Genius. I suppose the version of 1969 with a happy ending for Odette and Siegfried corresponded better to the soviet ideology, but did not correspond to what Grigorovitch wished.
The staging is much simpler than Nureyev’s production. There is no tutor which takes Rothbart’s place, but an Evil Genius. One only wonders if the latter truly exists of if it only exists in the prince’s mind.

The Corps de Ballet
Whatever the classical production presented, the quality of the Corps de Ballet contributes greatly to the success of the performance. Even though it was sometimes not as precise as the Corps de Ballet of the Paris Opera, the Bolshoi’s Corps de Ballet is still of high standing there is no doubt about that! In the first and third acts, the men dance well together, whilst the women are light with many smiles. In the second and fourth acts, some younger dancers already have nice arms, but the ones with more experience show an incomparable style. One can see that the work of the back shoulders and arms is a long process and that it seems very difficult to acquire this style: this is what makes the company’s strength. The lightness of the dance together with soft and smooth arms brings a priceless character to this interpretation of Swan Lake. In addition, I was glad to notice once more that the foot work is cleaner than ten years ago…

The semi-soloists
Pas de trois from the first act (Maria Allash and Maria Alexandrova)
This pas de trois is danced with the prince. The choreography, very different from the one by Petipa/Nureyev, brings a certain lightness and casualness, maybe the indication that the prince is not yet tormented.
Maria Allash in the first variation has not amazed me, I found her very tense. She dances well, but when one has just seen the apparently relaxed corps de ballet, it contrasts a lot.
On the other hand, I liked very much Maria Alexandrova, she dances with ease, liveliness, neatness and a disarming smile!

The character dances from the third act
The fiancées from different countries replace the traditional character dances one sees in the Mariinski’s or the Paris Opera’s version. In any case, I was impressed by the demonstration of style they all show in their entrance in beginning of the third act. The port de tête, the intentions of their glances, everything was very accurate.
Maria Allash in the Hungarian dance did not convince me for the exact same reasons as the pas de trois from the first act…
Olga Suvorova in the Russian dance was (to me) extraordinary as far as the style was concerned. A variation in which everything takes place in the arms, the port de tête and the shoulders… A delight!
Maria Alexandrova in the Spanish dance was also very accurate in her variation, dynamic, playful, bright and precise with a very subtle reserve which makes one understand she is a young aristocrat and not Kitri!
Anastasia Yatsenko in the Neapolitan dance was charming, very smiling as usual, very precise also (what entrechats!), but also keeping a simple yet elegant style.
Ekaterina Shipulina in the Mazurka did not convince me as much. I found her technically good, but a bit tense.

On January 7th, 2004 (the opening night), the dancers were Svetlana Zakharova (Odette/Odile), Andrei Ouvarov (Siegfried), Dimitri Belogolovtsev (the Evil Genius) and Guennadi Yanin (the Fool).

Svetlana Zakharova(Odette/Odile)
She had already come to dance with the Paris Opera in 2002 Nureyev’s version with Jean-Guillaume Bart, and was an excellent Odette this evening, particularly in the Adagios. She has beautiful arms, nice cambrés, and a way of dancing which reminds one more of the style of the Mariinski, rather than the style of the Bolshoi. She is a touching Odette, very gentle and very lyrical.
On the other hand, I was not very convinced by her Black Swan. In Grigorovitch’s production, there is a pas de trois between Odile, Siegfried and the Evil Genius added before the Black Swan. This pas de trois takes place as if time were suspended. S. Zakharova was very good in this, having chosen to be serious and haughty. However, the traditional Black Swan was an alternation of arrogant and alluring expressions (even towards the audience, which I found quite amusing :wink: !). What I mean is that in this part, she did not seem totally at ease as far as the acting is concerned, and I get the feeling that therefore, she overacted a little.
Technically, she was perfect throughout the whole ballet. The only little reproach would be on the way she executes her fouettés, but started at a vertiginous speed…

Andrei Ouvarov (Siegfried)
He presents an elegant and refined prince, sometimes not very concerned, but in the whole, I was rather convinced by his interpretation. His technique is clean, his jumps were high and light, but he is not a “spectacular” dancer. I also had the feeling that he felt uncomfortable and cramped on the stage of the Palais Garnier, but this should improve along with the performances.

Dimitri Belogolovtsev (the Evil Genius)
His interpretation of the Evil Genius is not unforgettable. The intentions are very strong, but I do not know why, he has not convinced me (lack of presence?). His dance is quite energetic, which is rather appreciated, and however, the balance during the pas de trois with Zakharova and Ouvarov is fine. I believe this role needs a lot of energy and jumps, and someone like Nikolai Tsiskaridze should have been far superior, even though D. Belogolovtsev is fine in this role.

Gennadi Yanin (the Fool)
This small dancer of semi-character has very high and beautiful jumps and a speed of execution which are appropriate to this role. Meant to amuse the prince, he even gives his hand to the Prince when they are presented to the prince who has refused all of them.

For this first performance in Paris, I have been conquered by the quality of the dancers (soloists and Corps de Ballet), an evening where the theatre was full, with un undeniable success for the Bolshoi Company, obviously accentuated by the presence of Svetlana Zakharova.

On January 9th, 2004, the main parts were danced by Galina Stepanienko (Odette/Odile), Andrei Ouvarov (Siegfried) and Dimitri Rykhlov (the Evil Genius).

Galina Stepanienko is a much more reserved Odette than Zakharova. However, she is not less interesting, on the contrary. She seems sometimes very much in love with the prince, sometimes very curious to know who he is, sometimes very frightened when he approaches her, especially at the beginning. This interpretation is quite stylised because if this alternation of feelings can be seen in her glance, it can also be seen in her dance and in the movements of her arms. With this very clear conception of the role, one understands perfectly what arguments the prince has to present to finally manage to approach her. During the Adagio in the second act, she finally gives herself up in total confidence. Of course, this is the conventional interpretation for Odette, but here, I found the acting very clear. Technically, she does not have Zakharova’s extensions, nor does she have her feet, but she is still correct. Her arms are not as lyrical as Zakharova’s, but I would say she puts much more in the way she moves her shoulders and hands (a technical conception closer to the Bolshoi’s) which brings more expressivity than lyrism. She was very fine and fast in the coda, but also still keeping her arms very smooth.
Her Odile was much less arrogant than Zakharova’s, her Black Swan was much more cruel and less caricatured. Her variation was very good technically, with some fouettés followed by a grand rond de jambe where the balance was kept right to the end with an “iron foot”! However, it is a pity that in her fouettés in the coda, she added (at the beginning only) some slow tours à la seconde, which are very difficult technically, but do not bring anything here and tend to break the rhythm. It is even more of pity since her fouettés are very fast and steady. She also demonstrated an amazing technique in the manège at the end of the coda, where she literally jumped onto her piques, which rather impressed the audience.

Andrei Ouvarov was far better than on the first night. His technique is still very clean (except for a very slight stagger at the end of his variation of the Black Swan), his jumps also seemed to me larger and higher. I also noticed some magnificent portés with the White Swan. About the interpretation, he seemed more involved and concerned.

Dimitri Rykhlov also seemed to me a better than Dimitri Belogolovtsev as far as the interpretation is concerned; he is darker and more theatrical in his playing, but his jumps were not as high. Even with a slightly inferior technique, he convinced me better.

The Orchestre Colonne does not have the same quality as the Bolshoi’s Orchestra, and the interpretation varied from one evening to the other.

This production has undeniably aged badly, and seems to me too conventional with a very dull lighting, costumes which are not always well adapted to a production presented in 2004 in front of a French audience (except the ones of the fiancées and the Queen which I find rather good), and certainly a lack of poetry… It is really a pity, because it is not due to the quality of the dance which is excellent.

There is a life on stage in this company that I would be unable to explain with words… B)

Edited by Jean-Luc, 01 February 2004 - 07:27 AM.

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