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So the Bolshoi is back in Brisbane, six years after their earlier visit. I have no idea what brings such stellar companies to Brisbane, and nowhere else. La Scala, Royal Ballet, POB, ABT and now Bolshoi again. It is true that Brisbane is a delightful city with a winter not dissimilar to a standard European summer, but is that all? Anyway, the Bolshoi is here, with Spartacus and Jewels. Let's start with Spartacus. I'm sorry, but I did not warm to Spartacus. I did not care one scintilla for Spartacus or his wife; nor did the ever emoting Crassus or his lady do anything for me. My under thirties nephew commented about fillers, all those Roman soldiers marching around illustrating a) how invincible and b) how trully nasty they were. I hadn't seen things this way, but it gave me a useful filter for viewing the bits before and after the astonishing leaps and bounds produced by Mikhail Lobukhin as Spartacus and Artemy Belyakov as Crassus. And the techical level of the dancers, and especially Lobukhin and Belyakov, was extraordinary. The women, Yulia Stepanova (!) as Aegina and Anna Nikulina as Phrygia were also fantastic: it's a pity that the women tend to get forgotten because of those extraordinary leaps. Anyway, I'm glad that I saw Spartacus but also glad that I don't have another ticket. Jewels, but, was a very different kettle of fish. Brilliant. Fantastic. Wonderful. Supply your own adjective. The confidence displayed in Emeralds was breathtaking. Every extension, every lift, supported or unsupported, perfectly placed, perfectly executed. Anastasia Denisova was amazing, but so were others too numerous to mention. Rubies was less successful. Not enough sass. The best way I can think of expressing it is to say that the dancers gave the impression that they would go to a high-class wine bar before taking the train home. What I wanted to see (more sass) was a group that would go to an underground bar and after more cocktails than was generally recommended end up at his place. But technically supperb. Finally, Diamonds. Brought it all together. Capybara suggested I look out for Alena Kovaleva, and she, with Jacopo Tissi, danced the leading couple. What can I say? Beautiful. Such a distillation of classical Russian dance. Diamonds indeed. So now I have to wait with bated breath to see who's coming next year.
The Australian Ballet's 2019 season has undergone a revision. It was announced today (on Facebook and Instagram) that due to "unexpected health concerns of choreographer Graeme Murphy" the anticipated The Happy Prince would be postponed into 2020. Céline Gittens, Birmingham Royal Ballet Principal, is guesting with the company in the Wheeldon Alice as the Queen of Hearts; she is currently in Melbourne but no announcement has been made as to whether she is performing in Brisbane or Melbourne. 2019 now looks like this: Brisbane 25 Feb - 2 Mar: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Wheeldon) Melbourne 9-28 Mar: Cinderella (Ratmansky) - replaces The Happy Prince Sydney 5-25 Apr: Verve mixed bill - Constant Variants (Baynes), Aurum (Topp), Filigree and Shadow (Harbour) Sydney 1-18 May: Giselle (Gielgud after everybody else) - replaces The Happy Prince Melbourne 8-22 Jun: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Wheeldon) Melbourne 27 Jun - 6 Jul: Les Ballets de Monte Carlo with Lac (Maillot) while Australian Ballet is in Paris Melbourne 31 Aug - 10 Sep: Sylvia (Welch) Melbourne 17-28 Sep: The Nutcracker (Wright) minus Hans-Peter Adelaide 8-12 Oct: The Nutcracker (Wright) minus Hans-Peter Sydney 8-23 Nov: Sylvia (Welch) Sydney 30 Nov - 18 Dec: The Nutcracker (Wright) minus Hans-Peter
Well, it's been quite a year .... Firebird, two of them, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Leila and Majnun, Spartacus. Good thing there's no mandated maximum to the number of highlights you can have, because I don’t know what I'd drop from the list. And there's still TAB's Cinderella to come. But right now there's Teatro alla Scala's Giselle and Don Quixote in Brisbane. First, Giselle. With David Hallberg. Which I didn't know when I purchased the ticket. And Nicoletta Manni. There has been criticism, elsewhere in this forum, of David Hallberg's performance. With respect, I largely disagree. It is true that his performance, particularly in Act 2, lacked fireworks. Great partnering, but no fireworks. But his presentation of the character of Albrecht was wonderful. At the beginning an arrogant aristocrat bent only on seduction, he became more and more enamoured, his gaze seeking out Giselle, and softening, even when she was on the opposite side of the stage. When confronted with the Duke, he froze; then Bathilde appears and the horror of the situation breaks over him. Only with difficulty is he able to pull himself together and greet her. Then Giselle intervenes and the rest is history. It occurs to me that Giselle could be seen as a study in the consequences of ignoring the law of cause and effect. Giselle falls for a completely unknown young man, someone with no ties to the village. I am sure that her over-protective mother must have warned her about the dangers of unknown and unattached young men. (Yes, I know that with Giselle herself, I'm drawing rather a long bow, but hopefully less so with Hilarion and Albrecht.) Giselle has clearly indicated to Hillarion that she does not love him, but he clearly believes that he only has to get rid of Albrecht and he will be home and hosed. Giselle's own wishes don't seem to register in his mind at all. He appears sublimely unaware of the possible effect on Giselle herself of exposing Albrecht's deceit. As for Albrecht, well, he has clearly no concern about the effects of his seduction (what else are attractive peasant girls there for?), until he falls in love, ending up in far deeper water than he had previously experienced. He is consequently shocked to the core when Bathilde (Emanuela Montanari) appears, and watches Giselle's disintegration with impotent horror, aware of his responsibility, but unable to intervene in events. This sets up Act 2, where Giselle intervenes discisively, rather nicely. Whatever, in Act 2, Nicoletta Manni is a feather-light Giselle, flying across the stage, rarely touching the ground. In Act 1 she had been a quiet, even shy girl, coming to life as she fell more and more under Albrecht's spell. Now she is loving, mourning, pleading for his life. The fireworks are provided by Christian Fagetti. His Hillarion is a far more sympathetic character than is usually the case, and his terror, his desperation, his pleading results in a brief but spectacular burst of dance before he is hustled off the stage and out of this life with unusual rapidity. Overall, this Giselle was very different from the TAB presentation I saw in August, a presentation also featuring Hallberg. Don Quixote was a very different kettle of fish. This was an exuberant, colourful ballet, and Nicoletta Manni a vibrant, cheeky Kitri, one who knew her own worth and was not about to settle for second best (BTW, Nicoletta Manni danced Giselle on Friday night, Kitri on Saturday and Giselle on Sunday. How she did it, I don't know, but thank you, Nicoletta; you were great. 😊) Basilio was danced by Leonid Sarafanov of Moscow's Mikhalovski Theatre, and I didn't know that he would be dancing either. Anyway, he provided fireworks aplenty, as well as being a worthy foil for Kitri. His dancing was technically assured and the chemistry between him and Manni convincing. Special mention needs to be given to Giuseppe Conte's Don Quixote, a characterisation second only to that of Robert Helpman in Nureyev's 1972 film with Lucette Aldos and TAB, and anyone who has read my previous posts on DQ will know that I have no higher praise. His DQ was elderly and deluded but eternally dignified. Great costumes and wonderful sets, especially the wonderful woodland setting of Act 3. Overall, two memorable performances and a great trip to Brisbane.