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  1. Mum died on Sunday and I'm at the ballet on Tuesday. She would have approved but, particularly as it was Natalia Osipova's Pure Dance, with (be still my beating heart ), David Hallberg. The evening consisted of 6 individual works, starting with the main pdd from Antony Tudor's The Leaves are Fading. The program says the pdd explores 'reminiscence of love and the bittersweet beauty of the passing of life'. That is not how I saw it. For me, it was a glorious celebration of love. Osipova was electric, Hallberg right there with her. Next up was Ivan Perez' Flutter and we were suddenly in a different universe of movement. Osipova was partnered by Jonathon Goddard, but I really didn't like the piece, so cannot do either him or Osipova justice. This was followed by a moody solo from Hallberg, Absentia. Great. Hallberg seemed to withdraw into himself, silent and alone. He was 'partenered' by a huge shadow of himself, a shadow which he completely ignored, increasing the absence of the title. After interval, Osipova danced Six Years Later (Roy Assaf) with Jason Kittelberger. Superb. We do not learn exactly what happened six years ago, but the dance was tender, forgiving, reaching out for the future. It was followed by Yuka Oishi's Ave Maria, which I found a little bland, in spite of Osipova's dancing. And then the finale, Alex Ratmansky's Valse Triste. A triumph, Osipova and Hallberg together creating all the ups and downs of a relationship ... tender, passionate, furious ... overall a great conclusion to a wonderful evening. Which I needed. Thanks
  2. 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.
  3. The drought is finally over. (I thought long and hard about using 'drought' because we have a very non-metaphorical drought, possibly the worst ever, that is bankrupting farmers, killing lifestock and starving wildlife, but I couldn't think of an appropriate alternative). So my metaphorical drought is over ... no live ballet since the beginning of May and even then, I've had to come to Melbourne for Giselle. This was my first live Giselle; I've seen many performances on DVD DVD, but never a live performance. And what a performance it was. David Hallberg (now TAB resident guest artist) gave us an interesting Albrecht, initially an aristocratic adolescent who has never come across the idea that actions have consequences. He starts with only seduction in mind, (hardly the first adolescent with this attitude). We see his increasing fascination with Leannne Stojmenov's sunny and open Giselle. At first confused and shy, she rapidly regains her confidence and sense of fun. Albrecht however is still mentally about 15. When Giselle shows him the necklace Bathilde (Natash Kusan) has given her, we see his horrified recognition of the gift before he pushes the thought away. Giselle is here and her friends like him so nothing to worry about. Once his deception is revealed and Giselle goes mad with grief, we see his appauled recognition that this is the consequence of his actions, and that, in spite of his high state, he cannot rectify the situation. Act 2 opens with a fore-screen (sorry, I don't know the proper word) behind which is a terrified Hilarion (Andrew Killian). Unfortunately the moon on the fore-screen does not correspond to the moon on the backdrop, resulting in two moons in the sky. Well might Hillarion be terrified. But for me, given that I was focussed on Albrecht, rather than Giselle, the principle interest of Act 2 relates to whether, and how, Albrecht continues the moral dvelopment begun so catastrophically in Act 1. And here is my one niggle with the performance. I remember seeing a Youtube clip of Baryshnikov as Albrecht as he retreats, under Giselle's protection, to the sanctuary of the cross. As he does so, he looks at Giselle, a look mixing astonishment, relief and guilt in equal parts. Astute psychology. Of course in Act 2, Albrecht is primarily concerned with staying alive, there is little room for moral development, but Baryshnikov showed how to do it. I would have liked something similar this time. Finally, however, Albrecht is left bereft, and all too aware of his responsibility. Great performances, Hallberg and Stojmenov especially. I loved the lightness that Stojmenov brought to Act 2, floating or flying across the stage and hovering protectively over Hallberg even as she was forced to urge him again and again to get up. Love and anguish, and then relief as the bell sounds, rapidly replaced by grief as she takes what she knows is the final farewell. The final conundrum relates to Giselle. Can you imagine her emerging again from her grave to harry other young men to their deaths? I can't. I am not even sure she was a real willie in the first place. But that's for another performance.
  4. The Osipova/Hallberg production. Ampitheatre Left A42 - amazing view. Limited legroom. As of now the first four rows of the amiphitheatre for this production are SOLD OUT. Selling for £36 (face value) plus £3 for signed postage/paypal fees = £39 in total.
  5. It was a privilege and a pleasure to witness David Hallberg's return to the stage last night at the Sydney Opera House. Franz in Coppelia is a role he had never danced before and he danced it with his customary generosity, expansiveness and warmth. His time at the Bolshoi shows in his presentation and in the development of his musicality and phrasing. Not ideal casting but no one cared. A wonderfully attentive but earnest partner for the delightful Swanilda of Amber Scott, he was only limited by the tiny stage - one leap and he is in the wings. Clearly the rehabilitation has been long but successful and we can only hope that he can return to his former roles at both ABT and Bolshoi. Some excellent work from the men and women of the corps de ballet showing a unanimity of style often lacking in more important companies. Bravo David Hallberg!
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