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Bolshoi Ballet: The Taming of the Shrew, Royal Opera House, August 2016

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What a glorious night at the ROH, I didn't want it to end.

 

Lantratov's performance was once again a revelation. He seems to pack a veritable armoire of personas he can just pick and choose at will. He transformed himself from the 'tenderness and gentleness' displayed in Monday night's Swan Lake to the 'Polunin-esque' cad required of him in this role. He exuded passion with every move, and proceeded to tame the fiery dragon that was Krysanova tonight - no mean feat. Ekaterina stormed on stage like a tornado, creating mayhem along her path. The sweat visible on her striated back, demonstrating the physical and emotional efforts involved in her superb portrayal of Katharina.

 

The highlight for me was the scene at Petruchio's home, where he continued to subdue Katherina's feistiness. Once accomplished, the four-play and love scene ensued. Tumultuous and passionate, I was lost in the moment, awe struck.

 

I could go on.

 

The only disappointment for me was Chudin as Lucentio. Although technically proficient, his characterisation was more of a library assistant than anything else. He seemed out of his league courting the wonderfully coquettish Smirnova.

 

Tonight was one of those performances I'll lock into my memory bank as a future reference point of excellence.

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Fan-bloody-tastic!  That's what Jean-Christophe Maillot's TAMING OF THE SHREW was tonight as performed by the Bolshoi Ballet with its original cast.  Here is a contemporary choreographer that CAN choreograph for ballet (as opposed to letting the dancers add the balletic bits for themselves amongst many grunts and chiding groans); one who knows how to move a company - an entire company - and - at one and the same time - is able to build character for ALL.  This is a contemporary choreographer who can apply a narrative - through BALLET - with obvious internal quotes to his literary source material - while never having to be doggedly driven by a linear line - yet still honouring such.  Tonight Maillot built a fulsome picture for today of one of the Bard's most idiosyncratic plays - and ended up by celebrating for today a stage riddled with appropriately charged and oh, so very current individuality.  It was stunning.  I ran into that wonderful British actress, Sheila Reid, on the way out and Sheila enthused:  'I haven't seen anything as good in YEARS!'  'Here, Here' I thought.  

 

From top to bottom this was supreme - and refreshingly there wasn't a moment where applause was EVER begged for.  Thus at the end the explosion of joy from the converted throng (and, yes, I certainly saw that not all present were taken - a very English couple in front of where I was standing rudely pushed their way out at the end boisterously tutting.  Perhaps today this fine presentation will best be served with the balletically knowing and knowledgable Parisian audience.  Certainly this work is VERY French.  There is no question of that)  Still I felt the outburst of joy that erupted at the end of tonight's performance at the ROH was sincere in its extremity..  (Queue the mesmeric Vladislav Lantratov taking the rose from his leading lady in his teeth!)  

 

Tonight you could see why Krysanova (Kate) was propelled as a principal after this creation.  Throughout she was doggedly riveting as was Lantratov (Petruchio).  Never has this charming prince of the most witty legato line currently being swung been better.  You could see that both of these dancers enjoyed dancing those two THRILLING - and fantastically balanced PDD every bit as much as the audience thrilled at watching them.  The same was true of the two PDD (with the same glorious balance of character in each) between Smirnova (Bianca) - and she hasn't been better on this tour than here - but then it was created for her - and that prince of ALL current Bolshoi partners, Chudin (Lucentio).  What a joy!  

 

But then there was so, SO much to admire:  The outright 'saucyness' of the exquisite Tikhomirova's Housekeeper ... The dazzling line of sultry Igor Tsvirko's Hortensio - and I'm so pleased that this fine dancer replete with his Valentino-like charisma has been - at long last - yanked from the shadows of the corps where he resided for so long). The exact precision of the exquisite Vyacheslav Lopatin's Gremio (and - on another turn - he was quite the most exquisite Fool in this run of the Bolshoi's fadding and faded SL); Artemy Belyakov - so keenly aware in his telling depiction of Baptista and the MAGNIFICENT Georgy Gusev - who had already been so mighty in his trilling rendition of the DQ jig - here brought his full comedic force through dance to fore as a resplendently humane Grumio. I have never seen balletic confusion made oh, so wittily pointed.  .  

 

I'm convinced that this will be the highlight of the 2016 Bolshoi run in London ... because this BALLET - for that is what it most assuredly is - without apology - fits them like a glove and lets us share in the glory of their own immediate joy in a very intimate (and, yes, ) contemporary fashion.  This will be the one I'm convinced which speaks most loudly in, of and for our time - and yet this will have been seen as the item of 'greatest risk' I'm sure by the presenters.  

 

Bless you, Mr. Maillot.  Your SHREW is a GIFT.  

 

(P.S:  What a joy it was to see this performance live.  The Bolshoi cinema relay - with exactly the same cast - had had SO MANY close-ups you realise now how it - i.e., the camerawork - in and of itself - managed to stifle so much of the thrilling ballet on view.  Surely this glorious production - with this original cast - and never-need-to-squint lighting - needs to be filmed again.  This will have surely EARNED its cinematic repeat with a freshly informed cinematographer.  Surely!)   

Edited by Bruce Wall
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What a joy it was to see this performance live.  The cinema relay had SO MANY close-ups you realise now how it - in and of itself - managed to stifle so much of the thrilling ballet on view.

 

Oh?  Perhaps that's why I didn't warm to it.

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You are quite right it was most enjoyable and fun. Even at the rehearsal earlier today. Sadly there are only the two performances. Here are some pictures from the rehearsal.

 

Bolshoi%2BBallet%2B-%2BThe%2BTaming%2Boft

 

Katharina - Ekaterina Krysanova and Petruchio - Vladislav Lantrafov

 

 Bolshoi+Ballet+-+The+Taming+of+the+Shrew

 

Anna Tikhomirova - The Housekeeper

 

Bolshoi+Ballet+-+The+Taming+of+the+Shrew

 

Olga Smirnova - Bianca and Semyon Chudin - Lucentio

 

More pictures on www.johnrossballetgallery.co.uk

 
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Oh?  Perhaps that's why I didn't warm to it.

 

Yes, Alison.  It became progressively clear to me as I watched tonight just how distorted the cinema relay was.  So much better was that youtube live relay from the initial performances (courtesy of one of our Russian audience friends) which was - quite rightly - rapidly removed by Maillot for breach of copywright.  That amateur effort was so much more fair to this fine work.  

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I loved it. More tomorrow, but suffice to say that I have been rerunning it in my head over and over again to try and ensure that it remains in there forever!

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Thumbs up from me too, from what we saw at the rehearsal - really looking forward to seeing the performance Thursday evening (whatever the cast).
Here are some more photos of this rip-roaring fabulous piece!
 
28675215971_fec23ba769_z.jpg
Olga Smirnova, Ekaterina Krysanova
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

28720854406_865a47eca8_z.jpg
Ekaterina Krysanova, Vladislav Lantratov
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

28468386710_f56b19a0fc_z.jpg
Artemy Belyakov, Anna Tikhomirova
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

See more...

Set from DanceTabs: Bolshoi Ballet - The Taming of the Shrew
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Even though I did not get  to my daughhter's house until after midnight as I had to retrieve my car from Luton Parkway where I had left it yesterday evening than risk being snared in rush hour traffic I felt compelled to rush out a quick review. Exhausted though I was I would not have slept otherwise. 

 

In short I was delighted. Of all the screenings from Moscow last season Taming of the Shrew had been the one that I enjoyed the most. I enhoyed it even more upon seeing it live. As I said in my blog I think the Bolshoi has always been respected in this country but until last night I don't think it has ever been loved. Or if it has I have not seen it and I have attended at least one performance from most of the company's previous visits to the UK. 

 

Yesterday there was a lot of love for the Bolshoi. The interraction with the audience was quite different from that at Saturday afternoon's Swan Lake and for good reason for it seemed to be a different company.  They danced superbly with energy and vivacity.  As much like a new world company as the Bolshoi. When Maillot took a bow the house exploded particularly when Lantratov clowned with a flower in his teeth. 

Cranko's Shrew had always been my favourite ballet and having seen it again recently in Birmingham it was fresh in my mind. There are actually aspects of Maillot's version that I like better. The plot is tighter.  It is very funny from the moment the housekeeper strolls onto the stage, files her nails and puts on her pointe shoes to the final "Tea for Two". Above all I love the score.

Talking of whcih I note that a lot of subscribers to this forum were in the House last night. I would love to have met you.  I did put out a tweet just before the show inviting subscribers to Balletco Forum to  join me for "Tea for Two" (or somehting stroner) during the interval.  Logistics and the demands of my job prevent my coming to town for every show that I'd like to see so when I do come down mid week it is usually for something that I think will be special such as last night.

Edited by terpsichore
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The only disappointment for me was Chudin as Lucentio. Although technically proficient, his characterisation was more of a library assistant than anything else. He seemed out of his league courting the wonderfully coquettish Smirnova.

 

 

I felt that was the point of Chudin's character - to be a complete contrast to Petruchio ? I thought Chudin and Smirnov were terrific together and their 2nd act pdd was beautiful. 

 

In short I was delighted. Of all the screenings from Moscow last season Taming of the Shrew had been the one that I enjoyed the most. I enhoyed it even more upon seeing it live. As I said in my blog I think the Bolshoi has always been respected in this country but until last night I don't think it has ever been loved. Or if it has I have not seen it and I have attended at least one performance from most of the company's previous visits to the UK. 

 

Surely the Bolshoi is/has been loved by UK audiences for it's world class dancing of the classics : there have always been standing ovations for performances in the opera house and the DQs this week were no different. Where this was different I think was firstly, in the the audience appreciation of the opportunity to see the Bolshoi in a very different work - huge thanks to the Hochhausers for bringing something that might be regarded as more risky at the box office (I hope it will encourage them to do it again) - and secondly, in Maillot's tremendous skill in create something unique that fits the company superbly. It demonstrates that expensive sets and commissioned music are not required if to produce a modern gem in the story ballet genre. I look forward to seeing what Maillot does next with the company. 

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What can I say - I feel very differently to most of you about the Maillot Shrew and left at the interval. The music is a jumble, the costumes don't seem very helpful (other than for Bianca), the storytelling not so clear... I just didn't find it very funny really. The Cranko version is much clearer and I suspect the ROH Bolshoi audience (rather different to the normal RB audience) would have found it more obviously rewarding. I like that the Bolshoi is looking to the future of ballet, but as we know with RB, and elsewhere, the future is littered with wrong turnings and rather dull dead ends.

 

I've seen Maillot's Romeo a couple of times and find it rather cartoonish (not in a good way) and that is in Shrew as well. Thank goodness that Jann Parry is reviewing for DanceTabs and I have no idea what she will say!

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Just for the record: the Bolshoi had the Cranko "Shrew" for some years, the premiere was in 1996.

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I can't say I'd be surprised if this turned out to be quite a marmite production, but I absolutely loved every moment of last night.  I genuinely don't want to single out any single performer (they were all incredible).  It was a company piece where the entire cast worked as one, interacted, communicated and breathed together and the dancing was their purely natural language.  The energy level was incredible. But why only two nights?

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What can I say - I feel very differently to most of you about the Maillot Shrew and left at the interval. The music is a jumble, the costumes don't seem very helpful (other than for Bianca), the storytelling not so clear... I just didn't find it very funny really. The Cranko version is much clearer and I suspect the ROH Bolshoi audience (rather different to the normal RB audience) would have found it more obviously rewarding. I like that the Bolshoi is looking to the future of ballet, but as we know with RB, and elsewhere, the future is littered with wrong turnings and rather dull dead ends.

 

Bruce's response is pretty similar to mine on seeing the cinema production, I'd say: "superficial treatment" was the phrase which came to mind at the time.  Yet I'm quite prepared to believe that the live relay did it a disservice.  And Bruce Wall, with his Shakespeare background, loved it - as did a lot of other people.  So yes, perhaps it *is* a "Marmite" production.

 

Not that I've been a fan of the Cranko production in the past, either ...

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I went along to this performance not knowing what to expect, as I hadn't seen it in any of the cinema relays, and am pretty unfamiliar with Maillot's work (although I haven't been too enamoured of what I have seen).   As luck would have it, it was one of those evenings where the unexpected turned into the sublime.  

 

Having seen most of the lead dancers onstage in Swan Lake on Saturday and Monday, I was fascinated to see how they all totally transformed, in a way you would expect from the RB or BRB but not necessarily the big Russian companies.  Given the chance to act, to have fun, and to do something different sat very well on all of the dancers last night.  

 

Ekaterina Krysanova was a Kate to be reckoned with, and not to be messed with.  She was funny, she was scary, she was erotic, she was contrite.  The confidence with which she ruled that stage was really impressive, as was her depiction of Kate's multi-faceted character, and her journey from wild woman to wife.  As for her dancing, it is pinpoint accurate, fleet-footed and strong, as you would expect of a Bolshoi dancer.  She gave as good as she got, and by the end of the evening she had tamed Petruchio just as much as he had tamed her.  

 

I think I am falling in love with Olga Smirnova.  She is such an expressive artist;  I was very taken with her swan on Monday night.  She has the most beautiful arms and hands, lovely feet....and oh, those eyes.  She uses them to full advantage, whether she is depicting dark or light.  They flash, they brood, they speak volumes.  Last night was no exception;  hers was a lovely performance of Bianca, a girl in her wild sister's shadow, but fully coming into the light by the end of the ballet.  It is very hard to take your eyes off her when she is onstage, no matter who else is on it with her.  Only 24 years old, I think she could be one of the great stars of the company.

 

I agree with AnnaMK that Chudin's portrayal of Lucentio should be in stark contrast to that of the wild Petruchio.  Bianca and Lucentio represent the more quiet, refined side of the human condition, whereas Kate and Petruchio are feral and fun.  I thought that this contrast between the two couples was very clearly done through the choreography.  

 

I saw Igor Tsvirko as Rothbart/Evil Genius on Saturday and I loved his dancing and his portrayal.  I was sitting very close to the stage and he was terrifying!  So it was wonderful to see him in a comedic role last night, and still dancing his ballet shoes off.  I can say the same for Slava Lopatin, who was a brilliant Fool on Monday night.  

 

As for Vladislav Lantratov....wow.  He has really given us a masterclass in how to interpret two completely different roles in the space of 48 hours.  On Monday night he was a sensitive, gentle, very caring Siegfried.  Last night, the transformation was amazing;  I couldn't believe it was the same dancer! Wild hair, wild abandon in his dancing and in his portrayal of Petruchio (every bit as uncontrollable as Kate), an excellent gift for comedy and oh so erotic.   I must say that he can tame me anytime....   :)  He was having a great time out there, and boy did we know it.  What a star he is.  

 

As for the choreography, Maillot has created steps for dancers of the Bolshoi.  What I mean is that he has ensured that they have the freedom to do what they do best....big jumps, whip-crack turns, and full use of the space they have.  But he has also made some lovely, gentle pdd on them, so that there is always a contrast going on, which makes the action move at both a cracking pace and then a slow, gentle one.  The pdd clearly show what is going on between the couples;  not only the main ones, but the others onstage as well.  Maillot is particularly clever when it comes to Kate;  he freeze-frames the action at one point so that she can explore Petruchio's face and body, and give him a kiss, without looking like she is capitulating to him.  Similarly, the pdd in the lead-up to the 'bedroom scene' is wonderful....a slow, exploratory start, and then a build-up to the final act of 'taming'....Maillot manages to make this poignant, erotic and funny all at once.  

 

As has already been pointed out, the whole cast was loving being in this ballet, and that love was infectious.  The audience loved it, and the curtain calls (including a bow from Maillot himself) capped off a wonderful evening.  They really danced as an ensemble, and it was lovely to behold.  I so wish they had done it more than twice, but maybe they used this visit to test the waters, and if we liked it then maybe next time they will perform it again, with a couple more shows.  I do hope they get a favourable reaction so that they bring it back next time.  I for one will be at the front of the queue to buy tickets.

 

Thank you Bolshoi for bringing us something so refreshing, and for showing us the range that your dancers have when they are given such varied choreography.

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Sim, I love your review even though I'm with Bruce in my reaction to the ballet itself. I did stay for Act 2, though.

 

But...... Lantratov - WOW!; Krysanova - WOW!

Edited by capybara
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As for Vladislav Lantratov....wow.  He has really given us a masterclass in how to interpret two completely different roles in the space of 48 hours.  On Monday night he was a sensitive, gentle, very caring Siegfried.  Last night, the transformation was amazing;  I couldn't believe it was the same dancer! Wild hair, wild abandon in his dancing and in his portrayal of Petruchio (every bit as uncontrollable as Kate), an excellent gift for comedy and oh so erotic.   I must say that he can tame me anytime....   :)  He was having a great time out there, and boy did we know it.  What a star he is.  

 

And then there was his Basilio.  And of course you'll have missed his astounding Crassus in the cinema relay of Spartacus :)  As you say, I keep having to check that he hasn't been cloned, because the physical differences seem so ... different.

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But...... Lantratov - WOW!; Krysanova - WOW!

 

I'll admit that was pretty much my reaction to the cinema broadcast too, capybara :)  How great it must be to have a role like that created on YOU.

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Lantratov is a real star, not just a terrific dancer-actor, but someone who can really engage with an audience.  Always liked him but he seems to have grown in artistic stature in the last couple of years. 

 

On a sourer note, could some audience members learn a little consideration for others please.  Last night four women at the front of the side stalls circle decided to stand up the better to film the curtain calls, blocked a lot of peoples views and totally ignored the pleas of a number of people to sit down. I could see past them but a number could not.  That is not acceptable behaviour.

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The only disappointment for me was Chudin as Lucentio. Although technically proficient, his characterisation was more of a library assistant than anything else.

 

 

Just to say that some of the wildest and most romantic people I've known have been library assistants... :)

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I must remember to tell that to my friend who's a library assistant :)

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Last night was absolutely stunning, even better than the cinema performance with the same cast, Lantratov in particular is such a star now !!!

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I was going to ask how Maillot's ballet adaptation addressed the more problematic elements of the play, but the four star reviews in The Guardian, Telegraph & Evening Standard have answered my question. This sounds like a Taming of the Shrew I'd enjoy seeing, also going by the enthusiastic & evocative reviews posted here  :)  

(As there are a number ways to interpret this play, I'm very wary after seeing a production which got the balance completely wrong & came across as more of an endorsement of misogynistic & abusive behaviour :angry: ).

 

If the Bolshoi do bring Maillot's Shrew back on their next tour, I'll be booking a seat...

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Just for the record: the Bolshoi had the Cranko "Shrew" for some years, the premiere was in 1996.

 

Right, Angela, they did it very well then.

Marianna Ryzhkina was a revelation as Katarina with Alexander Vetrov as Petruchio.

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Only limited access to wifi at the mo but just to say I really loved the performance last night! What a treat to see four of the best dancers altogether on the same stage!!

I just loved the music the dancing .....wonderful. Costumes a bit surreal at times but what a joyful performance ....positively skipped to the bus stop!!

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Just in case don't get a proper review in in time I loved both Chudin .....who was new for me and Lantratov equally but Lantratov apart from being a brilliant dancer is definitely particularly fanciable!! Wouldn't mind a whirl round the stage with either of them though.

No more wifi so sorry this in bit of trivial vein but had just such a lovely evening.

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Just back from watching the second London/Bolshoi performance of Maillot's Shrew - with an entirely different set of principals.  I do think last night had the upper hand in terms of its electric frisson (understandable as the roles were all created on them) but there was again much to admire.  Kirstina Kretova is just SO beautiful ... and stunningly toyed with Kate's mindset especially in that second act PDD - where she was  delicately revealling.  Kretova enticingly revelled inside the very uncertain terms of her own character's brain.  She successfully scratched on the humane shield of her audience and in turn we felt the ever questioning tug of this creature's own attraction towards (and, yes, under) the (darkly literal) circumstances.  

 

Once again you could sense the entire evening's build envelop.  This was a joy ride and within those rich bounds Ovcharenko as Lucentio partnered exquisitely - most especially in his own glorious second act PDD.  Throughout Igor Tsvirko - via the consistently exciting detail of his own Hortensio - once again dazzled.  What an extraordinarily fine dancing actor this young man has become.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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Tonight was my first acquaintance with "The taming of the shrew", so I had nothing to compare it with, and I just liked everything enormously, both choreography, dancing, costumes and lights! Kristina Kretova is a superb, intelligent and indeed very beautiful dancer! True Katarina! She was a jewel of this performance, assisted of other great performers, Nina Kaptsova and Artem Ovcharenko were brilliant as well, I got the impression of a flawless performance, 2 hours just slipped away as one moment and I left with a strong wish to see this ballet again!

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My expectation of how Lucentio was supposed to be characterised was from the Bolshoi's own synopsis.

I can't copy it all here but the descriptions that jarred for me the most with respect to Chudin's performance are the following:-

 

1) 'Well read and very charming' . Well read I don't doubt, charming he was not, he seemed like a geek, a neophyte in matters of courtship and real love.

2) 'As Juliette Greco once sang: "Let's marry them, let's marry them, I think they are very much alike"' He was very much not alike Smirnova's Bianca, they seemed like such an odd couple. It appeared to me that if in character, they were allowed to meet unscripted, he would have been but a fly in her ear and dung between her toes!

 

http://www.bolshoi.ru/en/performances/714/libretto/

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I just loved it last night.  The dancing, the music, the interpretation - I found it magical and the time just flew.

 

While I did feel uncomfortable with the how the "taming" was portrayed and even the programme synopsis says that at the end everyone is pleasantly surprised by how submissive she is, everything else was perfect.  I would definitely see it again if they tour it in future.

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