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Mariinsky Ballet, Romeo and Juliet, London 2014

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I am a keen RB follower, nevertheless an amateur spectator.  Would be interested to hear others views of tonight's opening night performance.

 

For myself my review is mixed.  It is a very different R & J - pacy and colourful, more Cuban Carnival than Downton Abbey.  Immensely strong corps de ballet and marvellous performances from the males dancing Tybalt and Mercutio.  Vladimir Shkylarov delights with his leaps and strong presence - this is Romeo as stud muffin - but Konstantin Zverev dancing Paris had so  much sheer presence and charisma, he dwarfed the others.

 

I adore Diana Vishneva and loved her Anna Karenina the last time they visited, despite a lukewarm critical reaction.  Tonight she didn't disappoint - lithe and elegant, technically superb.  But for me she isn't Juliet.  She is too polished, too much the older woman who's been around rather than a vulnerable virginal young girl.  And I couldn't find much chemistry between her and Vladimir Shkylarov, the relationship not seeming to develop at all.  

 

However, neighbours to the left of me thought the dramatic tension was wonderful, so...

 

Packed to the rafters with an enthusiastic audience who gave a warm welcome.  

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As a comment from one amateur spectator to another, I love how much perceptions of the same performance can differ - I barely remember Paris, though that could be because I was watching Vishneva. I thought both her and Shklyarov were superb (and would love to see what Shklyarov would make of a MacMillan Romeo)

 

I couldn't quite see the chemistry between them either, but was wondering whether that also has to do with the production. There were a few scenes were Juliet was looking up at the ceiling instead of looking at her beloved, eg during the wedding, and it felt like a different idea of how an enraptured female would behave than my 'modern' view of lovers behaviour would lead me to expect

 

Does anyone know whether the production has remained mostly unchanged since it's first outing in 1940 or have there been changes and tweaks over the years?

Edited by Coated
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I went with low expectations, being steeped in MacMilan & consequently hating the L production when the company brought it in 2009. But time marches on and I've watched so many MacMillan in the intervening years that this early L version has a refreshing quality to my eye. Yes, the big pdd lack MacMillian's naturalism which is so appealing to a contemporary

eye but there are compensations, not least the absence of dancing harlots. The Russian style seems to require a certain level of hamming up the bit parts but if that's remotely ludicrous at times it all becomes insignificant when the lead couple are as toweringly good as they were on opening night. At last, in Shklyarov and Vishneva I'm watching a partnership of equals: a Romeo and Juliet who are matched in dramatic intensity, ability to execute the steps superbly and whose appearance requires no suspension of disbelief. Terrific !

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It was once theatrical lore that you had to be forty to play Juliet.  You don't hear that said anymore but I understand exactly what is meant by it, that only when you are older can you look back and appreciate the sheer intensity of early passion.  I thought Vishneva was superb, a dancer who over the years has grown in stature; her mature understanding of the role is what makes her a Juliet to remember.

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The production didn't appeal to me, although it really improved in the last act. The frequent lowering of the curtain or that strange semi-circular curtain, sometimes for cast members to parade or vaguely dance across the front of the stage, didn't help matters. The street scenes seemed very staged rather than naturalistic, as did the fights with the exception of the Romeo/Tybalt one, which was very exciting. It took a while to work out who Mercutio (very good), Tybalt (a bit hammy) and Benvolio were. I thought that Vishneva was a gorgeous Juliet and Shklyarov was very good as well, although for me he didn't appeal as much as Friedemann Vogel (whom he slightly resembled) in Derek Deane's recent R&J. Having just seen that production, I felt that some of the music in the Mariinsky version was 'wasted', if you know what I mean. I was a little disappointed by the orchestra. To my ears, the sound was not as lush as I would have expected and there was some less than stellar playing by the woodwind. It was worth going just to see Vishneva alone.

 

My heart sank when I saw the word 'jester' on the cast sheet. Is it a law of Russian ballet that you have to have a jester? Last night the jester had some jester friends as well and Tybalt's rather strange costume had something of the jester about it.

Edited by aileen
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Foteini Christofilopoulou was at the photo call - here are some sample photos from DanceTabs:

 

14772045742_acfa9cf7a9_z.jpg
Xander Parish  & Viktoria Tereshkina
© Foteini Christofilopoulou. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

14585739108_4e2a61d12c_z.jpg
Juliet's friends and escorts
© Foteini Christofilopoulou. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

See more...

Set from DanceTabs: Mariinsky Theatre's Romeo & Juliet
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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So agree about the orchestra. And with the choreography not making the most of the music.  Perhaps I too am too steeped in Macmillan to really appreciate the Marinksy version.  Yes, I also thought that awful moth-eaten flimsy curtain that kept coming down distracting, although it did give the production a certain paciness.  Good to hear people's views.

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Well, the ENB's orchestra can pat itself on the back for its faultless rendition of Prokofiev's score, because last night there was actually some rather poor playing in certain passages.  Very disappointed with the music - expected better.

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I thought that the dancing last night was superb but for me nothing can beat MacMillian's version of this ballet. Diana Vishneva was very expressive and her Romeo was wonderful too - very impressive leaps, but every time i see a different version of Romeo and Juliet, i fall in love with the Macmillian one even more (if thats possible!!). 

 

I was also a little disappointed with the orchestra and thought that some of it was played too fast.

 

I am looking forward to seeing Diana Vishneva and Vladimir Shkylarov in Marguerite and Armand in a few weeks time.

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Some more pictures from Monday's rehearsal of Act 1 with our own Xander Parish as Romeo with Viktoria Tereshkina as Juliet.

 

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Juliet - Viktoria Tereshkina and Romeo - Xander Parish 
 
Mariinsky+-+Romeo+%2526+Juliet+2014_113_

 

 Juliet - Viktoria Tereshkina and Romeo - Xander Parish 
 

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Well, Xander Parish looks very handsome and very elegant in these photographs. I look forward to hearing reports of his performance.

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MacMillan's R&J must be one of the least original versions in existence, a clear rip off of Cranko's version.  If we are going to vote for favourite versions my vote would be for Ashton's and Vasiliev's.

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How wonderful to be reacquainted with the Lavrovsky R&J.  Decades ago - in my relative youth - when I first saw it I,too, found it to be a tad dull but now I am aware just what a revolution it must have been in its own time. Certainly I found much detail to marvel at.  I loved the Shakespearean sense of communal structure which is therein more often clearly defined in some parts than in other later crafted versions.  To wit: Paris,the Prince, appears in the first scene - depicting his previous association with the Montagues.  I also appreciated that in the Capulet ball the social order was made clear with the servants collecting the knelling cushions.  I also hugely enjoyed the opportunity to glean in the light of Verona here illustrated.  Indeed, this production is flooded with Italianate light until such a time as when fate herself has gathered up storm clouds and pushed them towards overwhelming darkness.  (That, too, is,of course, made vivid in the Bard's text.)  One can well see why MacMillan said that the Lavrovsky was his overwhelming inspiration.  

 

There is no question but that now Vishneva chooses her vehicles with abundant (and wise) care.  Here she needed practically no upper leg strength whatsoever.  Most appropriate for a senior artist.  Indeed she did not have an unsupported arabesque until well into the third act.  That said, she was prudently ornamental in the true - and carefully decorous - 1940's sense.  One could appreciate the precision of her circumspect placement within the light.  Cecil B. DeMille might well have beckoned for a close-up.  .Let there be no doubt:  At this performance it was very much the glorious - and equally glamorous - Vladimir Shklyarov who did the yeoman's share of the work ... AND THEN SOME!!  Talk about dead weight in the tomb .... and then - on top of such (e.g., a vertically prostrate but nonetheless pristine Vishneva) - a Bolshoi one-handed lift was thrown in to boot.  At no point did this fine lad's back tremble during any one of those heaving vertical lifts.  It would have shattered a lesser partner surely.  Ah, youth!  What a fantastic cavalier this oh, so very young Romeo is.  His careful and loving manipulation of his ballerina - much as in the vivid stealth of his own solos - was a masterclass in precision and artistry.  

 

I found myself giggling at the first act curtain call of the two leads.  Vishneva was more animated here than she was perhaps anywhere else in the entire performance - and make no mistake that too WAS a performance.  Her head was - as usual - carefully positioned against his (here Shkyarov's) breast and then her doleful (and not to mention doe-like) eyes burned upwards - as if lit by her glowing smile - in a rabid mark of appreciation for all that he has done for her.  This I know has been well rehearsed.  She does EXACTLY the same motions each time she dances with Marcello Gomes in,say, Bayadere or Giselle or Oneign with ABT (where she is also a principal) at the Metropolitan Opera House in NYC.  The only difference there - having done this a million times - or so it seems - is the fact that this turn is framed by a spotlight special.  (Sadly that was missing at THIS Covent Garden outing.  Perhaps they hadn't got the appropriate instruction.)  Then at the VERY end of each performance she looks out to the front of House as if to say:  'What?  Flowers for me?  Oh, you are too kind.'  This studied decorum is every bit as much a conscious slice of her own tradition as had been her positionings in the overall - and much appreciated - artifact of the (modest by comparison) Lavrovsky production in its deliberate whole.  

 

I for one of but a burgeoning many can't wait to see what spontaneity Xander Parish might bring to the same proceedings tonight in tandem with his younger Juliet.  If one is in London and a balletomane it feels as if it is almost a patriotic duty to attend.  I have every confidence that his entrance applause will at very least have been well earned.  Here's to the boy from Hull!

Edited by Bruce Wall

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MacMillan's R&J must be one of the least original versions in existence, a clear rip off of Cranko's version.  If we are going to vote for favourite versions my vote would be for Ashton's and Vasiliev's.

 

And my favourite R&Js are the Ashton (as it used to be performed by LFB/ENB) and Massimo Morricone/Christopher Gable's for NB.

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Yes, that one handed lift was impressive. And so was his fall down the stairs at the end; it looked pretty dangerous to me. I'm sure that you're right that the production was revolutionary at the time as it's quite naturalistic. Others have taken the naturalism a step further since and so it looks like a bit of a historical relic now. Has the choreography not been revised since 1940?

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I too was pleased to be reacquainted with this production last night. I checked and my previous viewing was 1997, with the luminous Asylmuratova as Juliet and Viktor Baranov as Romeo. In Yesterday's performance the principals were better matched. The sword fights were exciting and I found it very moving but very different to the RB production. I loved the "kneeling lifts" - don't know the correct term for them but I am sure that you know the ones! Shklyarov has great strength - I was worried that he might drop Vishneva in the one handed overhead lift!

 

I enjoyed the orchestra too - maybe from the amphi the sound I'd different.

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Just back from Night 2 and I defer to The Bard's dying Mercutio: "A plague on both your houses" as portrayed in this dreadful production.  Other opinions are no doubt available.

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Just back from Night 2 and I defer to The Bard's dying Mercutio: "A plague on both your houses" as portrayed in this dreadful production.  Other opinions are no doubt available.

Here, here!

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Dear Anne and Ian, I was at last night's outing and I entirely agree with your estimation.  It was a very different showing from the night before.  The frail delicacies of the Lavrovsky suffered as a result.  Indeed it made me wonder - at least based on that leaden showing - if the Mariinsky does perhaps no longer have strength in its numbers.  Certainly it made me appreciate the strength of the Juliet Friend/Troubadour combination of the previous evening (Nadezhda Batoeva and Vasily Tkachenko).  Their performances were a world apart from what we saw but 24 hours later as were the detailed commitment of so many of those portraying the leading characters which managed to hide a menagerie of other excesses in this later show which sadly DID survive but had earlier not appeared so prominent.  (If there is 'something of the night' about Michael Howard there is I think an overabundant amount of the early morning surrounding Vladimir Ponomarev's shudder inducing etchings.  The disquiet produced by such is loud in the extreme as were the mistakes rendered by the all too frequently sloppy Mariinsky orchestra.)  

 

Even now I fear for the glory that is Ratmansky's DSCH.  It is a very fine work which has never been seen in London previously.  If its delicacies were to be mauled as so many of the previous night's historic attributes had been I fear for those (i) who may never have had the privilege of otherwise seeing this work in the hands of its creators, in DSCH's case NYCB - (and I type this realising that I, myself, have never previously seen that fine work without its leading female creator, the radiant Wendy Whelan, in tow) - or (ii) other internationally worthy/deserving interpreters and/or (even worse) (iii) depart the otherwise unsuspecting venue cursing the original creative artistry for being execrable simply because the viewers themselves were not (understandably) able to look beyond its shoddy execution.  There is, of course, no reason why the latter attribute should be called upon EVER.  That is AS EVER the true crime against balletic nature such CERTAINLY as was exercised by the Mariinsky Ballet IMHO last night.   

Edited by Bruce Wall
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I didn't think the production was that different, but it didn't have the fire added by Vishneva/Shklyarov.

 

I thought Mr Parish acquitted himself well, partnering didn't always work perfectly  ( I'm also not sure about walking down stairs whilst in possession of a ballerina is the best of all ideas....) but there were some really nice small intimate interactions and by act III they were off. I really liked Parish's 'grief solo' prior to the funeral scene - it was more subdued than the night before which made it more real to me and I might even have teared up a little this time.

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I had not planned to say more but Bruce Marriott of DanceTabs has, I think, summed up the position quite neatly on Twitter:

 

"@DanceTabs: Only 3 years age difference between Parish & Tereshkina but their R&J felt like The Graduate at times. He ought to run off with Paris's page"

 

Frankly, Mr Parish did his best but was not helped by Ms Tereshkina who, for me, showed no interest in anyone but herself.  (As for Paris, after a brief moment of dutiful grief by Juliet's tomb, he took off smartly with that female Page who always looked ready to offer all the comfort he might require.)

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This production has been here in London before. I had forgotten just how eye-poppingly awful Tylbalt's costumes are. 

 

I do understand that the company remains powerfully loyal to its productions, but surely they can get better quality wigs these days ? It's a distraction.

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Yes, Tybalt's costume is awful and quite bizarre. Does the Mariinsky want to preserve the production in its entirety and that includes all the costumes?

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