I went for the latter part of the Mariinsky festival and I also caught a couple of performances at the smaller Mikhailovsky Theatre.
Peter Martins was in St Petersburg to coach this performance of Jewels which was danced on the vast stage of the vast auditorium that is Mariinsky 2. Emeralds felt slightly flat, as indeed it often does, but it was interesting to see some of the newer, younger dancers with whom I’m less familiar. I’ve found Rubies the ballet that sits most awkwardly on Russian companies but Philipp Stepin and Nadezhda Batoeva were superbly playful and technically exciting. I agree with Beaux Arts above about Maria Khoreva in Diamonds, I’d say this performance did not come close to those I’ve seen from the Bolshoi’s more experienced Smirnova and Chudin both live and on screen. Unfortunately I also thought the corps de ballet looked scrappy although my impression here may have been influenced negatively by being quite close to the stage. The use of mobile phones during the performance was extraordinary - recording and constant flash photography. A couple sitting close to us couldn’t have watched more than 5 minutes of the entire performance and even made a phone call.
The following evening Don Quixote played to a full house in the historic theatre. From the off Vladimir Shklyarov and Elena Yevseyeva were determined to have a ball and their sensational performances deservedly brought the house down. It was the highlight of the week. Shklyarov has more charisma than the rest of the Mariinsky male principal roster put together and he danced as well as I’ve ever seen him do. He and Yevseyeva, a delightful, petite and elegant First Soloist, were ideally matched and no one who held on to their ticket after Osipova’s withdrawal could have reasonably felt short changed. Although Yevseyeva began her fouettes with a minor loss of control she quickly retrieved them and went on to finish with incredible insouciance holding the border of her tutu with one hand as if to issue a challenge to the detractors on the Russian forums. Alexander Sergeev was a remarkable Espada, he’s such a refined classical dancer I wish we’d seen more of him. The Mariinsky production is one of the best and I’m afraid for me it really served to highlight the shortcomings of the RB version, in particular the over cluttered stage and the Act 3 pdd.
The following evening was the performance of Sleeping Beauty that Lauren Cuthbertson was sadly unable to dance due to illness. Her last minute replacement, Olesya Novikova, a quietly elegant dancer, inexplicably not a principal, turned in a beautiful performance. The story of Xander Parish’s ascent at the Mariinsky is a remarkable and well known one and he gave a good account of the Prince’s solos, his tours were well executed and well landed. May Nagahisa another non-vaganova trained, non-Russian seemingly destined for stardom (she has already made her debut in the title role in Giselle) danced Princess Florine with great delicacy although to my eye she looks even younger than her young years. The divine Ekaterina Kondaurova is a true Mariinsky jewel; the most supremely luxurious dancer with beautiful epaulement and a stunning back. Her Lilac fairy glowed warmly and the tricky Prologue solo was executed with outstanding control. This huge Sergeyev production looked splendid on the Mariinsky 2 stage. At just under 4 hours it’s a marathon of an evening and it is a testament to the dancers that it didn’t feel like an endurance test.
The next evening was back again to Mariinsky 2 this time for Swan Lake. The guest Prince Siegfried was Daniel Camargo whom I had recently seen in London at the RB and I had enjoyed his warm stage presence as Fumi Kaneko’s Basil. In St Petersburg he was sharing the stage with the current queen of the Mariinsky, Viktoria Tereshkina, and he looked far less comfortable. There were no major problems in the partnering and he delivered a reasonable black act solo but it was a chilly performance with not a shred of chemistry between them. I couldn’t help feeling that Vadim Muntagirov would have been a more suitable partner for the refined and technically superb Tereshkina.
On Sunday we were lucky that there were 2 performances at the small gem of a theatre that is the Mikhailovsky. We bought tickets not knowing the casting so we were thrilled to see Leonid Sarafanov dancing James in La Syphide. He follows in a long line of outstanding Russian male dancers and at 36 his fabulous technique is as fine as ever - IMO the Mariinsky have not filled the gaping hole created by his departure 10 years ago. The production which was lovingly and carefully danced by the entire company is as authentic and charming as the theatre itself which feels like the most appropriate venue. His Sylphide, Angelina Vorontsova, danced with such allure no wonder James fell for her.
Our final performance in the evening was Giselle. The lead couple were the charming husband and wife team of Viktor Lebedev and Anastasia Soboleva. He has a quiet stage presence but is a gorgeously plush dancer with a beautiful line, the most incredible backbends and enormous, soaring jumps. He was the star male graduate of his year (2010) at Vaganova so it is somewhat puzzling that he isn’t at the Mariinsky where the larger stage would have given the space his excellent technique demands and he would surely have enhanced the principal ranks.
The orchestras at the Mariinsky and Mikhailovsky were of the very high standard you would expect and the acoustics at Mariinsky 2 were excellent.