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It's far too late to be writing on the forum but I still haven't come down from seeing the first performance of Spartacus tonight (or rather, last night!)  It was superb.  It's a long while since I saw it (with Irek Mukhemadov in the nineties) and this production seemed very different.  I was expecting to be dazzled by the quality of the dancing but was surprised at how moving it was.  Denis Rodkin was not only bold, brave and athletic but also tragic and convincing in his love for Phrygia, played with vulnerability and passion by Anastasia Denisova (of whom I've not heard before).  Belyakov enacted Crassus in an appropriately bombastic manner, and took full advantage of being able to snog Svetlana Zakharova at every opportunity :)  Zakharova was just wonderful.  I always think of her as rather sweet, dignified and virginal (as in her Aurora) but here she embodied a cruel and cunning courtesan with every well-honed muscle.  She was probably the oldest dancer on stage but also the most lithe.  


Of course, this ballet is a typical Bolshoi warhorse and suits their style perfectly.  The production is ageing well - I think Virsaladze's design still looks fresh (whereas his Swan Lake could do with an update maybe).  The orchestra was seriously good.  Every male dancer looked extraordinarily handsome - especially Denis Rodkin!  And he seemed to enjoy his time on stage so much.  He was captivating.  The whole evening was beautiful and worth the ticket price (£180 something pounds!) as I will remember it for the rest of my life.

SZ and AB small.jpg

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Spartacus is never going to be my favourite ballet -a lot of the choreography is fairly awful really. But it can be thrilling to watch, and  you couldn't fault the sheer gusto of the performers last night- and Rodkin and Zhakarova were on great form and very impressive, not to mention very beautiful indeed, to watch. I agree maryrose that she was amazingly lithe.

The gusto and attack applied equally to the orchestra and it was very good to experience that Russian verve, and a sense of 'no holding back' that is very exciting in a live performance.

Monica Mason gave a short, but perfectly pitched and excellently presented few words in tribute to Victor Hochhauser, dedicating the season to his memory.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Mary said:

Spartacus is never going to be my favourite ballet -a lot of the choreography is fairly awful really. But it can be thrilling to watch,

 

I’m not fond if the expression “guilty pleasure” - why feel guilt about it? - but I think the sentiment behind it fits Spartacus exactly.

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I feel no guilt whatsoever Lizbie1. it was superb fun!

There are always those moments when it is impossible not to giggle ( the silly walks...a good few stifled giggles around me) but, there were so many moments of gasping with admiration too.

 

 

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I saw tonight's performance, both my first time seeing the piece & my first time seeing the Bolshoi live. The piece itself I found did tend to be rather over-blown & bombastic in places, and at a couple of points almost felt like parody, but also had some very impressive parts. It must be great for the male corps to have so much to do. Anyone who thinks male ballet dancers are effete should be made to watch it!

 

I was very impressed by the performances, especially Tsvirko in the title role who seemed to spend nearly as much time mid-air as on stage. The sheer number of jumps he had to get through was deeply impressive. I know Crown Prince Rudolf is often cited as one of the most demanding roles for a male dancer but Spartacus must be equally so. Vingradova, who I'd not even heard of before, I thought was lovely as Phrygia. The Act 3 pdd was breathtaking, especially one lift where she was doing full splits upside down over Tsvirko's shoulder. Ovcharenko was very powerful as Crassus. Smirnova was the only one of the 4 leads who I'd seen on video, in the livestream of Bayadere earlier this year. In that I found her excellent technically but glacial emotionally, so I couldn't really imagine her as the courtesan Aegina. However tonight I thought her acting was very good & convincing.

 

There were a couple of minor glitches with Act 2 lifts - one per couple - but other than that I thought the technical side of things was excellent from all.

 

Does anyone know whether there being 12 soldiers who refuse to fight with Spartacus is a deliberate reference to Jesus' betrayal by the Disciples?

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I saw Spartacus for the first time last night. Perhaps a little trapped in a time warp, taken at face value it is a thumping, audience pleasing, testosterone fuelled, all guns blazing, booming production. The powerfully athletic and yet subtly nuanced dancing will be remembered for a long time.

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I know that Spartacus has a lot of repetitive choreography for the corps and some longueurs but, 50 years after it was made, it still packs a powerful punch, emotionally as well as physically. And I felt as well that some of the choreographic language was ahead of its time and remains ‘modern’ in feel - some brief passages even made me think of Khan and Pite.

 

The Bolshoi can be relied on for some stellar performances and, across the two casts I saw, I was especially struck by the ardour of Tsvirko as Spartacus, the beauty of Vinogradova’s portrayal of Phrygia and the seductive allure of Zakharova’s Aegina.

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11 hours ago, Dawnstar said:

 

 

I was very impressed by the performances, especially Tsvirko in the title role who seemed to spend nearly as much time mid-air as on stage.

I couldn't believe my eyes when he just remained suspended in mid air, defying gravity for seconds....very impressed by Tsvirko's technical prowess but also by his emotional, dramatic portrayal of Spartacus. 

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11 hours ago, Dawnstar said:

The Act 3 pdd was breathtaking, especially one lift where she was doing full splits upside down over Tsvirko's shoulder.

 

I saw opening night cast - Rodkin/Denisova - and if we're talking about the same lift, the thing that made me gasp was when she brought her lower leg up to meet her upper leg (at an angle of maybe "one o'clock") with no apparent signs of effort!

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1 hour ago, Ian Macmillan said:

Might this be the completed lift?  (The Times has a different pic in today's print edition from the one in the online version.)

 

I don’t think so - impressive though it also was, I think the one in the picture was early in Act 2, whereas the one I commented on was in Act 3.

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3 minutes ago, BeauxArts said:

Apologies - I am not able to send one photo, but I think " the"  lift is the 6th photo down via this link:

 

https://www.gramilano.com/2019/04/photo-album-osiel-gouneo-as-spartacus-with-the-bayerisches-staatsballett/

 

 

Yes, I’m pretty sure it’s the one I’m referring to! Though I now suspect Dawnstar’s post may have been referring to the second of those.

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1 hour ago, RuthE said:

 

Yes, I’m pretty sure it’s the one I’m referring to! Though I now suspect Dawnstar’s post may have been referring to the second of those.

 

Yes, it's the second one down that I meant. Although it looks slightly different to how I thought it was done last night as I thought he was holding her body rather than one of her legs. I may be mis-remembering though.

 

In case anyone is interested:

 

 

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19 hours ago, maryrosesatonapin said:

Given the ballet's background I hardly think this is likely.

 

By "background" do you mean the Soviet society in which it was composed being anti-religion or is Grigorovich known to have been personally anti-religion? If the latter then yes that would rule it out but if the former then maybe it could have been him subtly disagreeing with the official line? The staging at the end of the ballet, with Spartacus lifted up "on the spears" and then the final tableau also seemed to be to reflect religious imagery of the Cruxifiction & Ascension, but that may just be my interpretation.

 

Having seen Spartacus at the ROH, I've been musing on what it would be like if the RB took the piece into its rep. While I can imagine quite a few of the RB's female dancers in the 2 leading female roles, I'm not so sure about how the RB men would be suited to the leading male roles. The best fantasy casting I can come up with would be Bonelli as Spartacus & Hirano as Crassus. Anyone else got any fantasy casting ideas?

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1 minute ago, Dawnstar said:

 The best fantasy casting I can come up with would be Bonelli as Spartacus & Hirano as Crassus. Anyone else got any fantasy casting ideas?

 

Bonelli as Spartacus is exactly what I said to my friend on Tuesday night!

 

Personally not a huge fan of this ballet or the choreography though. 

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9 minutes ago, Dawnstar said:

 

By "background" do you mean the Soviet society in which it was composed being anti-religion or is Grigorovich known to have been personally anti-religion? If the latter then yes that would rule it out but if the former then maybe it could have been him subtly disagreeing with the official line? The staging at the end of the ballet, with Spartacus lifted up "on the spears" and then the final tableau also seemed to be to reflect religious imagery of the Cruxifiction & Ascension, but that may just be my interpretation.


I don't know much about Grigorovich's personal life but because he was born well after the Revolution, it struck me that Biblical images wouldn't necessarily be the first that would come to his mind.  I agree there was a bit of a 'crucifixion' impression in the dramatic ending of Spartacus' life, but surely Grigorovich would be more likely to be thinking of (for example) his compatriot Bronnikov's well-known painting of some of Spartacus' fellow slaves, which had nothing to do with Christianity but was both powerful and appropriate.


 

bronnikov.jpg

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12 minutes ago, maryrosesatonapin said:


I don't know much about Grigorovich's personal life but because he was born well after the Revolution, it struck me that Biblical images wouldn't necessarily be the first that would come to his mind.  I agree there was a bit of a 'crucifixion' impression in the dramatic ending of Spartacus' life, but surely Grigorovich would be more likely to be thinking of (for example) his compatriot Bronnikov's well-known painting of some of Spartacus' fellow slaves, which had nothing to do with Christianity but was both powerful and appropriate.

 

I had a vague idea that the Russian Orthodox church still had a certain amount of underground activity during the Soviet era but I suppose any contact with it would depend on an individual's family background. I've not seen that painting before & if I'd seen it without explanation I would have assumed that it was depicting the Crucifixion (though with more victims than usually depicted). I suppose that the Crucifixion is so iconic to Christianity that one forgets it was a generally-applied Roman death penalty.

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22 minutes ago, Dawnstar said:

 

I had a vague idea that the Russian Orthodox church still had a certain amount of underground activity during the Soviet era but I suppose any contact with it would depend on an individual's family background. I've not seen that painting before & if I'd seen it without explanation I would have assumed that it was depicting the Crucifixion (though with more victims than usually depicted). I suppose that the Crucifixion is so iconic to Christianity that one forgets it was a generally-applied Roman death penalty.

 

I'm very much not an expert on the subject but I believe Stalin reached an accommodation with the Orthodox church during WWII as it was seen as a unifying force in difficult times. (Old habits die hard!) Thereafter it was tolerated - while I remember maps from my childhood showing the USSR shaded as "Atheist", that only told the official story.

 

Though the subject of the painting above is not overtly religious I find it hard to believe that both artist and viewers weren't aware of the Christian resonances.

Edited by Lizbie1
Thought of a better word
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I don’t think the Soviets were necessarily unwilling to appropriate Christian imagery to secular ends.

 

I was very lucky to be in London Monday and attended opening night. I had a great time and was especially impressed by Belyakov as Crassus. For me, although I enjoyed all the dancers, his was the single most exciting performance of the evening.

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34 minutes ago, Dawnstar said:

I suppose that the Crucifixion is so iconic to Christianity that one forgets it was a generally-applied Roman death penalty.

 

Surely one obvious link is that Crassus is alleged to have crucified six thousand of the survivors one by one along the Appian way - though I can't find the source for this - certainly not in the section on Crassus in Plutarch's Lives. Maybe in Appian of Alexandria's Roman History? Or in Raffaello Giovagnoli' novel 'Spartoco', supposedly drawing on Plutarch and Appian,  which I understand was Grigorovich's main source?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Act 2 just finished: the dancing is wonderful, even if the dance isn’t always my favourite. 

 

I can’t shake the feeling  of a Benny Hill/Monty Python vibe to the Romans that seems a bit heavy handed.

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  • alison changed the title to Bolshoi Ballet: London 2019 - Spartacus

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