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Mariinsky residency Cardiff, 2016


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I saw Programme 1 last night at the fabulous Wales Millennium Centre and it was very good.

Five Tangos - Hans Van Mannen

Infra - Wayne McGregor

In The Night - Jerome Robbins

 

Not in order of performance, but my order of preference:-

 

For me the best piece of this short evening was In The Night with just 3 couples and beautiful dancing set to a solo of Chopin piano music. Can't ask for much more really! The first (lilac) couple was Anastasia Matvienko/Philip Steppin,

Followed by (burnt orange couple) Ekaterina Kondaurova/Konstantin Zverev and finally (black couple) Viktoria Tereshkina/Yuri Smekalov. They all danced beautiful individual pdds and then came together for the finale (if memory serves me correctly). I have never seen ITN before and would like to see it again to fully appreciate all the moves and nuances.

 

I had not seen Five Tangos before and this was good, and I especially enjoyed a solo danced by Vladimir Shklyarov he was superb. The lead couple was Viktoria Tereshkina with Vladimir Shklyarov.

 

Infra was, well, McGregor at his pulling, stretching, gymnastic best. It was quite good if you like that sort of "dance". It was the first opportunity that evening to see the wonderful Ekaterina Kondaurova who can do no wrong in my eyes.

 

The music was a mix of recording and live so no conductor as such. All the musicians went on stage for the curtain call after Infra. For some reason the live music was amplified I felt there was no need for that especially the piano in ITN.

 

Programme 2 tonight is Concerto DSCH and Rite of Spring. Maestro Gergiev is expected to conduct...we shall see. I hope he does as I have long admired him!

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There certainly wasn't a huge crowd on Thursday. I had booked front row tickets for the upper circle but they decided to close that section and I was not best pleased to be moved to row C of the side block in the circle. It will be even worse tonight as we have been put in row F which is considerably further back. I must have been one of the very first people to book tickets so I had quite a conversation with somebody in the box office, but all to no avail. The theatre is absolutely lovely but customer services leave a lot to be desired.

 

Anyway, rant  over and on to the important part! The dancing was super on Thursday. I agree with DQF that they had saved the best until last with In the Night. Such a contrast the the lack lustre rendition we saw at the RB a couple of years ago. It  sounds as if they had the same casting for Friday (presumably it saved printing another set of cast sheets) and we too were very impressed by  both Kondourova and Shkylarov. I also thought Anastasia Matvienko stood out in both Infra and In the Night.   

 

Not quite sure what to make of FiveTangos. I think I would need a second viewing before voicing an opinion.

 

Infra is one of my husband's favourites so he was just happy to see it again. I thought it had lost its edge. The dancers didn't really have the essential angularity and speed that characterises so much of McGregor's style. To my mind it was too smooth, too pretty and had somehow too classical. What really amused me was that each dancer had a 'character' assigned to them in the programme. We worked out these were the names of the original cast on which the ballet was created. I hope the dancers concerned realise they all now have immortality!

 

Overall a good evening and worth the trip. Looking forward to seeing if Gergiev conducts with a tooth pick!

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Friday night was not sold out I sat front circle right as it was £40 cheaper than central seats(!) Quite a few of which were empty.

I was miffed at theatre for not allowing fans to wait at stage door, but we still managed 4 autographs.. Vladimir Shklyarov, Konstantin Zverev and Yuri Smekaliv and Ekaterina Kondaurova were all charming!

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...What really amused me was that each dancer had a 'character' assigned to them in the programme. We worked out these were the names of the original cast on which the ballet was created. I hope the dancers concerned realise they all now have immortality!...

 

Excellent!  :lol:

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Back in my hotel room after tonight's brief but wholly satisfying evening with the Mariinsky Ballet and the full might of the Mariinsky Orchestra under Gergiev.  There were more there than last night but like last night they closed the Upper Circle so it maybe looked better than it actually was, which is a shame  :mellow:

 

So, just two works on the programme.  First off, Alexei Ratmansky's Concerto DSCH set to Shostakovich's 2nd Piano Concerto neatly played by Vladimir Rumiantsev.  This is Shostakovich at his most delightfully playful, a million miles away from the Leningrad Symphony.  This playfulness was well captured by the choreography, especially that for the trio, in which Kimin Kim stood out as the outsider in an unusual threesome, and the lead couple, Svetlana Ivanova and Konstantin Sverev, portraying their love for each other in a way that was an interesting counterpoint to the way Jerome Robbins portrayed love in yesterday's In The Night.  From beginning to end I watched with a smile on my face.

 

Sasha Waltz's Sacre, set to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and premiered 100 years to the day after the stormy first performance in Paris of Nijinsky's original choreography for the Ballets Russes, was a very different affair.  Before watching it I read some of the reviews of the first UK performance at Sadler's Wells a couple of years ago and it was fair to say that they were somewhat lukewarm.  Having watched it today I wondered whether that was due to some extent to the fact that it was danced then to a taped accompaniment.  Today it was danced to the Mariinsky orchestra at full throttle - definitely one of the most violent and earthy performances of this work I have heard.  It was danced on a bare stage except for a pile of ash in the centre which gradually got spread across the whole stage as the dancers slowly trashed it.  There was also an icicle which slowly descended during the course of the piece as if to spear the Chosen One as she danced her last breath.

 

The choreography, like Nijinsky's original, was uncompromising and and at times downright dirty (helped in no small way by the ash!), sometimes ritualised, sometimes seemingly random.  It felt to me like a community attempting to exorcise its demons before settling, as sadly we all often too, on a scapegoat to sacrifice, and silently watching as the chosen scapegoat danced herself to death.  It wasn't clear from the cast sheet who was dancing the Chosen One, (hopefully someone more au fait with the Mariinsky's dancers will enlighten me!) but she fully deserved the cheers at the end, as did the whole cast for a work that must have been for many well out of their comfort zone.  Anyway, there wasn't a riot, but their was riotous applause at the end.

 

I haven't much to add to the comments above about Friday night's programme except to echo it.  In The Night seemed more cohesive than it did when I saw the Royal Ballet dance it last year.  I especially loved the Taming of the Shrew-style attitudes of the third couple.  Infra was as exciting as I was hoping it would be.  I too spotted that each character had the name of an RB dancer.  I spent the first five minutes trying to spot who was portraying which dancer but soon decided that was fairly pointless and sat back to enjoy the rest!  Five Tangos was quirky and fun.  It struck me that it was a sort of anti-tango piece, playing with and slightly mocking the macho  tendencies of the tango.  To go back to the comment about the Rite of Spring, I felt it was a pity that it wasn't danced to a live accompaniment - there really is no substitute for hearing Piazzolla live.

 

Congratulations to the Wales Millennium Centre for getting the Mariinsky over for these dates.  I'm glad they didn't compromise with the choice of works - it would have been easy to programme some instant crowd-pleasers and ensure a full house - but I hope the relatively poor houses won't work against future visits.  

 

 

P.S. I noticed that there was a performance by the Mariinsky of Don Quixote in St Petersburg on Friday night.  Does anyone know if that meant the orchestra (and maybe some of the dancers) will have flown in today for tonight's performance?

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I loved Concerto DSCH tonight and agree with ChrisG's comments and the music was great. I'm afraid Rite of Spring just was not my cuppa at all. I'm just not into anything much without a pointe shoe really. I dare say it was danced well but I couldn't help thinking Ekaterina Kondaurova's talents could have been put to better use. I should mention how good the 2 children were in it.

The programme was extremely short tonight and I thought they could have thrown Rubies in there to give it a bit more body.

The highlight for me tonight was finally being in the presence of Maestro Valery Gergiev. He was exceedingly humble at the curtain call barely taking the front of the stage but rather keeping to the side and pushing the dancers forward rather than himself, like a proud father, which in some ways he is. The orchestra under his baton was great tonight. Ironic that tomorrow's lunchtime Peter and The Wolf/Nutcracker concert is nearly sold out unlike the ballets!

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Rite of Spring did not appeal to us either. We both absolutely love the music but the choreography left us cold. The husband reckoned it was very much in the style of  Night of the Living Dead. I shall have to take his word for it as that has no appeal  for me either. I have to admit the only 'Rite'  ballet I have thoroughly enjoyed was the one the Ballet Boyz did for TV back in 2010 with the hip-hop, ballroom and pole dancers!

 

Concerto was a joy and it is a shame that they did not perform the two pieces the other way around. 

 

Lovely to meet Don Q Fan and Trog. I couldn't see from our seat but Trog assured me that Gergiev conducted using a very small baton!

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Lovely to meet you too! I agree if the running order had been the other way round would have been better. I caught sight of the baton with my opera glasses in a gap between the screens it was about 6 inches long. There are upper circle seats for today's concert am tempted....or do I go home?

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I caught sight of the baton with my opera glasses in a gap between the screens it was about 6 inches long.

 

That reminds me of the time I sang in a performance of Messiah with Stephen Layton and he conducted it with a pencil. Simple but effective!  I have to say I was impressed by the orchestra - there is an obvious synergy between them and Gergiev that makes the music fly.  I had never heard Gergiev conduct before, and I notice he's conducting the Munich Philharmonic in a Prom in July on the night before our choir tackles the Beethoven Missa Solemnis.  I think I'll definitely now come down south early to catch that and actually see him conduct!

Edited by ChrisG
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Serious mistakes on the cast list last night for DSCH.  I complained to a member of staff, but I imagine the mistake wasn't the theatre's.  Not fair on the dancers.  There was a bad mistake in the glossy programme too with two dancers having the same picture above their bios.  A bit sloppy that.

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The other reviewers are far more eloquent than yours truly, and I can't add much to what they have already said.

Five Tangos is beautiful to watch. The dancers are elegant and the steps graceful. It is in the repertoire of the BRB and I've always like it.

Infra is a piece that left me cold. I found it ungainly and watching the dancers contort their bodies boring. The music is OKish and IMO, is the only thing going to it. Sitting in the front row, I did what I do when the ballet is boring - watch the orchestra. They seemed a bit bored.

The evening finished on a high with In The Night. There are several little stories in this. It is lovely to look at and the costumes enhance it.

I could watch Viktoria Tereshkina all day.

Concerto DSCH is very fast and great fun. It is well suited to Kimin Kim.

I liked Sacre, although I felt the costumes let it down. These are rather drab split dresses for the women and non descipt shirt and trousers for the men. The original art deco costumes would be out of place but something more exciting is called for. Aprt from that, I found the ballet quite exciting.

The orchestra was huge and loud - five double basses, nine cellos and two sets of timpani. The opening solo bassoon was miked though; I guess it would have been lost on the cavernous Donald Gordon Theatre. The pit is very deep and almost nobody could see Gergiev. When he took his opening bow, it is too a blank wall. I could see him though the gap in the curtains.

I think it wonderful that the Mariinshy chose not to tour Swan Lake/Sleeping Beauty/Don Quixote/Raymonda/other war horse and go on the road with an interesting mixed program.

It was very nice to compare notes with Don Q Fan and Mummykool during the intervals.
 

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I was very glad to nip over to Cardiff yesterday to see the last day of the Mariinsky residency.  The stalls seemed pretty full, but I was not sure about elsewhere.  My feeling is that the pre-publicity was pretty non-existent.  Had I not happened to glance at the Guardian Guide on the previous Saturday, I would not have been aware of these performances at all, and I am usually pretty up to speed with what is going on around the UK.  It's been a long while since I last saw the company (a Christmas trip to Baden Baden in 2009 I think) and I am not in a position to recognize many of the artists now.  There were no programmes left and I couldn't get hold of a cast sheet.  But I think I spotted Konstantin Zverev in "Concerto DSCH" who has developed into a fine dancer, after last seeing him as Espada in DonQ.  The central movement of that piece was really very good, with gorgeously musical choreography.  The work itself seemed, to me, very Balanchine-lite, and I was not taken with those little hints at narrative and suggestions of relationships that never seemed to be followed through to a meaningful conclusion, but it was engagingly inventive and I would certainly want to see it again.  "Sacre", I found tedious with too much meaning layered upon layer: for me it became a simply a game of "spot the sacrificial virgin".  Who I think was Kondaurova, magnificent as ever.  What a remarkable artist she is with the company!  I was amazed that Gergiev allowed the score to be played around with so much, for the benefit of the choreography, as that is not usually his style at all.  The orchestra was superb.  Overall, it is always a pleasure to see Mariinsky artists, who even when presented with grit, turn it to pearl.

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Not surprised the programmes sold out at £4 a bargain in London they would easily have charged £10!

 

On Sunday I decided after all to stay on in Cardiff for the lunch time concert of Nutcracker Suite and Peter and The Wolf - the concert was 25 minutes late starting (not good for all the parents who had settled their kids who then became restless)!  It was conducted by Gergiev again and he narrated the P&W story which I found a bit distracting.  I moved from my allotted seat to the very back row in the middle of the Upper Circle so I had 3 empty rows in front of me and nobody either side so it was great (no distractions) and the sound was superb.  
The Nutcracker Suite was the highlight it was sublime and so beautifully played.  The sound was just divine - I could have cried it was so lovely.  The orchestra was on the stage so it was great for once to actually see all the musicians and instruments, especially the charming little celeste piano which came into its own for the Dance of SPF.  Peter and the Wolf was played beautifully but with Gergiev narrating over the music it felt a little messy to me, but I understand it is a good way to get children into classical music.
However, for the Nutcracker Suite alone it was a very well spent £8.50!!
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... I am not in a position to recognize many of the artists now.  There were no programmes left and I couldn't get hold of a cast sheet.  But I think I spotted Konstantin Zverev in "Concerto DSCH" who has developed into a fine dancer, after last seeing him as Espada in DonQ.  The central movement of that piece was really very good, with gorgeously musical choreography.  The work itself seemed, to me, very Balanchine-lite, and I was not taken with those little hints at narrative and suggestions of relationships that never seemed to be followed through to a meaningful conclusion, but it was engagingly inventive and I would certainly want to see it again.

 

First of all, many thanks for your interesting comment.

Are you sure the one you spotted was Zverev? The WMC site shows some other cast for Sunday, April 17th (the last day of MT residency). Just curious. Thank you.

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yes, probably, but IPalmer definitely talks about Andrei Yermakov who was in the lead with Svetlana Ivanova during  the second Concerto DSCH on Sunday, April 17, 2016. Svetlana Ivanova had to replace Shapran who was supposed to do the second Concerto, but she din't go on tour and Svetlana did both Concertos, but with different partners.

Thanks.

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 My feeling is that the pre-publicity was pretty non-existent.  Had I not happened to glance at the Guardian Guide on the previous Saturday, I would not have been aware of these performances at all, and I am usually pretty up to speed with what is going on around the UK.  

 

Shades of previous non-London trips by the company?

 

 I have to say I was impressed by the orchestra - there is an obvious synergy between them and Gergiev that makes the music fly.  I had never heard Gergiev conduct before, and I notice he's conducting the Munich Philharmonic in a Prom in July on the night before our choir tackles the Beethoven Missa Solemnis.  I think I'll definitely now come down south early to catch that and actually see him conduct!

 

And probably rather better prepared than some of his other concerts have appeared to be, I'd guess?

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This time last week I was heading down the M4 for something pretty special, two programmes of modern works by the Mariinsky Ballet one being entirely new to me.  

 

Foremost in my mind was how would such a classical company dance McGregor?  Would the choreography be a good fit for the dance world's aristocrats?   Well, it was a little different, with tiny shards of emotion visible in a work I associate with alienation.  Perhaps listing the original Infra cast's names next to the dancers wasn't the greatest idea, calling someone "Ed" or "Eric" when  no one remotely possessed the singular physicallity of those two dancers makes it tough on a subsequent cast.  It was charismatic Ekaterina Kondaurova that consistently caught the eye dancing the "Lauren" role, clearly the audiences fave at the curtain calls too, but it was Vassily Tkachenko who latched on to McGregor's style most naturally.  If there is ever a vacancy at Random Dance, I can see young Vassily getting head-hunted.

 

The opening work, Van Manen's Five Tangos, was thrilling on the first night, but on the second night Victoria Tereshkina seemed on fire, one of the company's most versatile dancers she always displays a natural affinity with every one of her roles and with every style too: the mark of the true ballerina.  On the whole the girls seemed to enter into the tango spirit more enthusiastically than the boys,  though eye catching Alexey Tyutyunik danced with real Argentinian passion.

 

The closing work was In the Night, almost sedate after Infra.  Beautifully danced by all three couples including lovely Anastasia Matvienko in the first duo, Kondaurova danced the the mazuka better than I've ever seen it before and Tereshkina's tortured portrayal of a woman in a turbulant relationship illustrated how love can hurt.

 

 

 

The second programme gave me another chance to admire Ratmansky's Concerto DSCH, with it's hints of jolly soviet youth wholesomely flirting and competing in a good natured fashion.  Those steps he gives them, so fast!  Kimin Kim first blurs in his chaîné  turns and immediately follows up with impeccable double assemblés - wow.  Batoeva and Shakirova alternated as the girl in the blue dress and I honestly couldn't chose between them, they were both so fleet and sure footed.  The biggest treat though, was Svetlana Ivanova displaying the treasured  'Old Kirov' style.  Much admired but infrequently seen in leading roles, with her yellow hair and pale green dress, she was as delcate as a daffodil on the Brecon Beacons, so achingly beautiful in the second movement pas de deux that I wanted it to go on for ever.

 

 Hard not to compare this ballet to MacMillan's work to the same music, but I think Ratmansky's version has the edge in inventiveness especially in the third movement where I was never happy with MacMillan's line of corps dancers waving their arms in what looked like semaphore.  Conducted by Gergiev himself I never heard this concerto sound so good.

 

 

Rite of Spring has always transcended choreographic interpretations and I believe the score will always remain the greater element in any version.  A paradox when you consider it was actually conceived as a ballet.  This version by Sasha Waltz follows the set pattern of ritual and sacrifice and presents a pimitive society of distrust and animosity alongside frantic couplings and casual friendships.  Some groupings were totally random and others more  symmetrical, with the girls in particular dancing at times in a more formal manner, almost like a Greek freize.  Eventually the sacrificial victim is chosen: Kondaurova.  She dons a purple dress to mark her status and flings herself into her dance of destruction as a long metal stiletto descends from above, as it touches the ground she falls dead.

 

An astonishing tour de force performance from Katya who was greeted with storms of applause.  The maestro himself made a feeting entrance stepping out from the wings to acknowledge the ovation and then modestly stepping back leaving his dancers  to enjoy the thunderous appreciation, although I imagine a  good proportion of the audience was there to hear the world famous conductor.   Reactions among the fans I spoke to were mixed, perhaps the seemingly chaotic nature of the choreography didn't appeal to everyone but all were impressed by Kondaurova's Chosen One.

 

 

It wasn't the first time I had seen the company in this wonderful theatre, wouldn't it be marvellous if the Millennium became a regular venue for them?

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Did you see their performances of your favourite ballet there a few years back?  Ruzimatov was amazing as Basilio.  It's such a wide stage it cries out for the major dance companies.

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Foremost in my mind was how would such a classical company dance McGregor?  Would the choreography be a good fit for the dance world's aristocrats?   Well, it was a little different, with tiny shards of emotion visible in a work I associate with alienation.

Interesting you should say that, MAB. I've never found the RB's performances of Infra lacking in "shards of emotion" either :)

 

Thanks for the report: I wasn't able to make the trip, unfortunately, so it's good to hear people's views second-hand.

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