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Bolshoi Ballet: Swan Lake, London 2019


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Foteini Christofilopoulou was at the photocall for the Bolshoi Ballet Swan Lake...

 


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Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin in Swan Lake
© Foteini Christofilopoulou/ROH. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr
 

 

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Ksenia Zhiganshina and Jacopo Tissi in Swan Lake
© Foteini Christofilopoulou/ROH. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr
 

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Foteini Christofilopoulou: Bolshoi Ballet in Swan Lake
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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3 hours ago, HelenLoveAppleJuice said:

I am going tonight. I believe their version has Russian Princess in the ball act right? Really eager to see and hear that music.

 

Yes, the Russian Dance is included in the National dances, wish it was more often!

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There are some great YouTube clips of Russian dancers performing this dance ...even one of the great Lopatkina .....I don't know why it isn't performed more often other than Swan Lake can be a bit long of course  

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Just back from this afternoon's performance (Kovyalova/Tissi).

A few plusses first:

  • nice to have the Prince on from the 'get go' and dancing the pas de trois
  • no Benno (and the Fool/Jester neatly danced, well acted and not too dominant)
  • national dances associated with the Princesses (did Grigorovitch give Liam Scarlett the idea?)
  • Acts 3 and 4 joined together (as are Acts 1 and 2) so only one interval
  • some fabulous work from the female corps

But, oh dear, the production felt dated (the stylised entrances for courtiers were verging on the laughable) and the performance seemed so lack lustre  that it felt like a different company from the highly energised one seen earlier in the week in Spartacus.

I particularly wanted to catch Kovyalova as she has seemed so impressively lovely when rehearsing Diamonds in last year's World Ballet Day (and I had seen the other Odettes/Odiles before) but both she and Jacopo Tissi  danced as if they had nothing inside them: one basic facial expression (however beautiful the face) and movement without 'soul' just does not produce characters of the substance that Swan Lake requires. And it didn't seem as if the audience connected  with their dancing either as Kovyalova was often  left mid stage 'milking' applause which had already died away. The one exception was after her Act 3 pas de deux fouttees but those concluded a strangely unexciting rendition of the Black Swan pdd  which was, at times, technically less than good on Tissi's part. [Incidentally, the male solo here used the music many of us are more familiar with in the context of the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and the female solo was the one most of us are less accustomed to.] I didn't think that I would ever have cause to say that The Royal Ballet gave something more 'oomph' than the Bolshoi but the RB Principals (most of last year's casts) certainly win outright over what was on show in Act 3 this afternoon.

I'm not sure that this production tells the story all that clearly either and the way the ending is played out is a complete let-down.

 

Disappointing in too many respects I'm sorry to say.............

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Agree with ALL that Capybara says about this afternoon - and wanted also to join in the celebration of Grigorovich's Russian Dance in this production - which - for me at least - has always been its highlight.  This afternoon - as last night - the music was played for this particular segment with ravishing sensitivity.  This afternoon the joy was heightened by the entrancing performance of Maria Vingradova (Mrs. I Vasiliev) who was as stunning in this as she had been as Phrygia opposite a Spartacus of humane stealth enacted by Igor Tsvirko on Tuesday.  

 

Seeing the clip embedded here reminded me of Balanchine's  (and Stravinsky's) "Scherzo à la Russe".  I'm not sure when it was last done by NYCB but I remember seeing it happily opening a goodly number of apt bills in the 80's.  How cleverly Balanchine moved on the drama and wit of the Russian folk dance (which he frequently used in so many of his works - vividly by the RB in Diamonds) in this piece of less than five minutes.  (See the clip below which features the stunning Helene Alexopoulous.  Can anyone tell me if she ever danced in London?  I used to adore her.  I took a peek to see what she was doing now and it seems she is selling high end real estate ... and looking as glorious as she ever did.  What a cv

 

 

Edited by Bruce Wall
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I went yesterday evening and to the matinee today. I remember really disliking the production last time so I was surprised to feel that, apart from the very dated sets and costumes, I enjoyed it. 

 

I agree with Capybara's pluses above but not really about the central performances of the young couple this this afternoon which, unexpectedly, I enjoyed more than I did the first cast evening.

 

IMO Tissi's height, long limbs and looks take him a long way in a ballet like Swan Lake. To me he looked elegant and commanding on stage and although his solos were certainly not executed at the level of say Vadim Muntagirov I thought his dancing was more than respectable, as was his partnering, excepting the high overhead lifts which were heroic (Kovalyova is 5ft 10"). He had a more vivid stage presence than that of Chudin on Friday evening who seemed rather oddly muted. Kovalyova is, I think, only 20 and her youth gives her an appealing vulnerability as Odette but her black act was impressively steely (unlike Smirnova who rather faded in the black act). The final scene was a highlight in Kovalyova's performance, she used her extraordinary body to show us Odette's sorrow & despair. Tissi's entrance at the lakeside was tremendous, reminding me of Bonelli in his prime (and no one ever ran on stage like Bonelli in that final scene).

 

The corps were commendably synchronised although maybe they lack the lyricism of the Mariinsky. I was impressed with Zhiganshina in the pd3 and she, Vinogradova, and Severnard in the character dances. 

 

I think Siegfried's choreography in this version requires incredible stamina. 

 

The audience seemed very appreciative, the curtain calls were enthusiastic with many in the back part of the stalls standing. 

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I would really have liked to have seen these Swan Lakes but I’m not anywhere near London. I’m hoping to see them when they come to Chicago in June next year.

 

From my preference for lyrical beauty in dance, the Mariinsky’s Oxana Skorik is probably the finest, including the finest Odette. Olga Smirnova, capable of very similar beauty, but choosing a more expressionist direction since leaving the Vaganova/Mariinsky, is probably the most compelling. She’s the one that I’d love to have seen.

 

Alyona Kovalyova would be second. She has the Vaganova loveliness of Oxana Skorik but not yet the maturity. For me, this is fine because as Annamk has written, “her youth gives her an appealing vulnerability” as well as the other precious beauties of youthfulness.

 

Svetlana Zakharova, although around 40, remains a standard. I’m glad to hear that she’s doing so well.

 

I also would look forward to seeing Anna Nikulina as she has lyrical loveliness that resembles the Mariinsky. Do I prefer the Mariinsky? Not necessarily, but many of the Bolshoi’s top ballerinas do come from the Vaganova/Mariinsky. At the Bolshoi they seem to fit in very well with the Bolshoi’s more dramatic and probably just as compelling emphasis.

 

I’ve seen many more Mariinsky Swan Lakes than I have Bolshoi ones. For me, the Mariinsky ones revolve around the spell of the White Swan duet. (By the way, I’m just fine with happy endings). At the Bolshoi I pay more attention to character development. What I like about the Grigorovitch production is that it moves along while keeping the essential beauty, such as the White Swan duet. I also like the character dances, such as the lovely Russian one discussed above, being done as pure ballet.

 

I hope that everyone enjoys very much what they see this year in London.

Edited by Buddy
spelling correction(s) and a minor wording change
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Saw Fridays opening Swan Lake. Where has the Bolshoi I know and love gone? Very lacklustre performance, especially as I had expected Chudin and Smirnova to really knock it out of the park!  Smirnova didn't even manage a full set of fouettes and the Jester barely raised any oohs and ahs as in the past. No one stood out except perhaps Anna Tikhomirova as one of the Princesses. No buzz, no atmosphere of excitement. The orchestra got the biggest cheers at the end. Really disappointing especially after Spartacus which was good but in no way sparkling the night before. Never seen The Bolshoi so subdued before.

 

 

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8 minutes ago, Don Q Fan said:

Saw Fridays opening Swan Lake. Where has the Bolshoi I know and love gone? Very lacklustre performance, especially as I had expected Chudin and Smirnova to really knock it out of the park!  Smirnova didn't even manage a full set of fouettes and the Jester barely raised any oohs and ahs as in the past. No one stood out except perhaps Anna Tikhomirova as one of the Princesses. No buzz, no atmosphere of excitement. The orchestra got the biggest cheers at the end. Really disappointing especially after Spartacus which was good but in no way sparkling the night before. Never seen The Bolshoi so subdued before.

 

This mirrors the way I experienced it on Saturday afternoon. Mention has been made above of Zhiganshina, Sevenard and Vinogradova as princesses and they were all fine; but I was left  wondering whether Anna Tikhomirova might have danced 'the Spanish' on the opening night as she usually manages to light up the stage whatever her surroundings - and you have now answered that for me, thank you!

 

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Anna danced the Neapolitan Princess on Friday.

 

Hungarian - Ana Turazashvili

Russian - Viktoria Yakusheva

Spanish - Daria Bochkova

Neapolitan - Anna Tikhomirova

Polish - Eleonora Sevenard (who was Phrygia the night before in Spartacus!!) 

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Well, I'm glad I read Jann Parry's review for DanceTabs (see today's Links page): it was certainly most helpful in explaining some bits of the narrative which weren't at all clear to me without a programme.  Perhaps I should get out my previous Bolshoi programme - after all, it's bound to cover Swan Lake, I presume.

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Review of Saturday evening performance. 

---------

Cast

O/O - Svetlana Zakharova

Prince Siegfried - Denis Rodkin

The Evil Genius - Mikhail Kryuchkov

Fool: Georgy Gusev

Act 1 pas de trois (as the prince's friends in this production) - Daria Khokhlova and Ana Turazashvili

 

Princesses (called Brides on the cast sheet)

Spanish: Margarita Shrainer

Russian: Anastasia Denisova

Hungarian: Olga Marchenkova

Neapolitan: Maria Vinogradova

Polish: Alexandra Trikoz

 

Big Swan:

Ana Turazashvili

Anastasia Denisova

Antonina Chapkina

 

Small Swan:

Yulia Skvortsova

Svetlana Pavlova

Daria Lovtsova

Maria Mishina

--------

The cast is brilliant. There are still some flaws.  But the choreography is very difficult. I appreciate that they continue to perform difficult and challenging choreography. 

 

Someone before has mentioned that their Act 1 pas de trois  is between the prince and the prince's 2 friends. It fits into this production. In RB's version, the prince is not very happy and focusing with a heavy burden in Act 1. So Benno dances for him instead. Actually I prefer RB's PDT story line. 

 

The character dances of Princess is a triumph, technically astonishing. Maria Vinogradova was really really brilliant as the Neapolitan princess. The Spanish dance is very good chereography. I heard that in Bolshoi's production, the Spanish princess is the 2nd important female role in Swan Lake and usually choose the future star of the company. But I have to say that I don't get Margarita Shrainer that much. 

 

Svetlana Zakharova is beyond something I can describe. She has the best control of the body of all the ballerinas I have seen so far. But I have to say that her fouette and piqué turns is not in the best of her skill set. Osipova did a better job (piqué turns in last year Swan Lake and Fouette in this year DQ).

 

--------

I don't like, or frankly I really hate the production. Although the dancing and the technical demonstration of the cast is more than satisfying for me(only Zakharova is worth the ticket), I doubt I will bring someone who is not familiar with ballet to see this production. 

 

I had never watched the full recording of this production of Bolshoi before yesterday. I watched clips from their ball act and white act before. After last night performance I was so confused by the narrative. When I got home,  I opened the souvenir book I purchased on Monday to look for answers...  And I watched the DVD recording today.

1. There is no real lake. The lake represented "the hidden landscape of the hero's soul". "Only the prince is real." Okay.... I cannot get this idea. Yes the swan lake has an underlying conception like La Sylphide. But in this production, the white scene has the lighting of Don Quixote dream scene and is not real. It is an imagination (or dream) of the prince. The idea of using the panel of a coat of the arm to switch the scene is funny... And in the middle of the ball scene, when Odile arrives, the panel comes done and covered the rest of the party, the light switches and Odile dances with the prince as if it is the prince's imagination... Quite like what Don Q did... Very confusing. 

2 And during the scene changing between Act 1 and Act 2, the prince and the evil dance in parallel.... It looks okay in the recording. But in person it is really funny....

3 The lighting, costume and staging is out of date. The only part I like is the the court is dressed in yellow/gold theme in Act 1. In RB 2018 version, the walz is in white which makes it a little boring followed by the white act. In Bolshoi production, the court is dressed in Renaissance style. It looks quite luxury in the DVD recording but not good in person. Perhaps it looks better on Bolshoi's own bigger stage? I prefer RB's romantic style.

4 Siegfried is quite different, quite gloomy. During the performance I did not feel the deep love of Siegfried to Odette. At first I thought Denis did not execute well. 

I cannot get it. What I see is... Act 1 he jumps jumps jumps.... Act 2 he got a new girlfriend, jumps and jumps... Act 3 jumps jumps ... Act 4 oh white swan dies. He jumps jumps....

Maybe someone in the first 2 row on the ground may have some clue. But from my seat (front row in Balcony), I cannot tell any difference from his jumps....

 

I watched their DVD recording today and some other clips of this production... It claims to reflect the inner mind of Siegfried as a hero (and also representative of Tchaikovsky)...

Now I feel that it is more of the problem of this production...

 

Well in RB 2018 production you can see clearly how Siegfried feels and thinks. Fully understand why Vadim won the awards for his Siegfried. RB's story really fits Vadim well and loved by the audience! 

 

5. I have to say that I like the quick speed of the ball scene. I think in RB version, the entrance of the party is too long. Bolshoi's party is quick and almost immediately goes the character dances ( I like it). But where is the Prince during those character dancing? The princess all dressed in white as "brides" in the cast sheet. It does not make sense of all. In the ball scene the prince needs to choose a bride. I doubt any princess will dress in bride clothes before being chosen... It looks all right in individual dance. But not well when all princess dance together. You cannot hardly tell who is who.

 

6. The orchestra is ... just so so. The brass section and some of the violin went out of control at times. I checked the DVD recording. They have bigger orchestra at home. 2 harps in the DVD and only 1 last night. They were probably tired as the 2nd performance in a single day.

 

---- 

 

 

Edited by HelenLoveAppleJuice
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This is actually a reprint of what I posted here almost two year’s ago. I’m thinking kindly of John Mallinson, who so sadly just passed away. My only correspondence was when I emailed asking an opinion about the nature of a certain post. His response was intelligent and understanding. I might have done so again in regard to this one.

 

“Alyona Fever”

 

Since things are a little slow here at the moment could I please offer this. Remember when the Beatles hit the US shores in the mid-sixties. Well this was Alyona Kovalyova’s reception by two not-that-easy-to-impress American reviewers.

 

(She appeared as Odette/Odile at Saturday’s Matinee and will do so again Wednesday 14 Aug 2019, 7.30pm.)

 

 

I don’t believe that I’ve ever read two more enthusiastic reviews.

 

Alena Kovaleva — Diamonds

 

“Yet everything in this performance paled in comparison to the ravishing splendor of 18-year-old Alena Kovaleva in the lead role.

 

“The audience had never heard of her, but from her first moment, there was a collective holding of breath, and at the end, a wild, heartfelt ovation; really, a burst of love.”

 

Robert Gotlieb

http://observer.com/2017/07/jewels-lincoln-center-review/

 

 

“Alena Kovaleva, a member of the Bolshoi Ballet’s corps who joined the company directly after graduating from the Vaganova Ballet Academy in 2016 (last year!), assayed the lead ballerina role in Diamonds at the Lincoln Center Festival’s five-performance Jewels celebration yesterday afternoon, and delivered one of the finest portrayals I’ve seen. Ever.” 

 

Jerry Hochman

http://criticaldance.org/lincoln-center-festival-jewels-gems/

 

https://www.balletcoforum.com/topic/15319-performances-in-the-usa/page/2/?tab=comments#comment-219778

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I went tonight to see the Stepanova and Ovcharenko cast, having only bought a late return a few days ago. I'd say my expectations were suitably lowered by comments here and in the press! But overall I had a fantastic time! I do understand the misgivings about the production, but viewed as a slightly alternative telling of the story, with plenty of really wonderful dancing, it was well worth seeing.

 

Stepanova danced beautifully throughout - perhaps a little frantic in the fouttés. Tikhomirova really stood out in the Spanish dance. Ovcharenko made a decent go of a slightly less involving Prince Siegfried part. The ending felt a bit rushed but otherwise I had a very enjoyable evening!

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There have been reports that other Bolshoi primas (Zakharova & Smirnova) also had uncharacteristic problems controlling their fouettés on the ROH stage.  Is it that different from the Bolshoi stage, I wonder?  

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Stepanova seemed to almost falter after the first one, and then sped through the rest extremely quickly. Maybe there was something different about the contact for her. Although I assume she would have rehearsed on the stage?

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I also just got back from the performance mentioned above and agree with DanJL.  I love Stepanova anyway but was impressed at how nuanced her presentation of the white swan was - showing the frustration of being trapped, (although why she is trapped is never explained) and giving a fairly wild, precarious, full-on performance.  She was excellent as Aegina too last week.

 

On the whole, I'm really shocked this Swan Lake production is still going - the story makes no sense to me, and I have read the programme notes.  I find the jester getting in the way all the time very annoying, although tonight's Georgy Gusev was virtuosic. I mainly hate the supposed 'Evil Genius' whose awkward gestures and pointless interference can be difficult to tune out.  However, I managed to more successfully tonight.  What a thankless part - presumably, Grigorovich wanted more male roles in the show.  I also think that the Liam Scarlett version has borrowed too much from this and I preferred the Dowell RB production.

 

The settings are so drab too - everything gloomy, broad brush, greenish grey with no romance.  I don't see the appeal of the Grigorovich/Virsaladze pieces really, they seem very flawed - apart from that they must be cheap to put on (or too expensive to re-stage).

 

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the cheery soviet Bright Stream and Don Q for a bit of light relief.  

 

 

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I saw the three Swan Lakes performed over the weekend and enjoyed them rather more than posters above, though I agree with reservations about the production--and also agree that Tikhomirova was a stand out Friday night when she danced the Neapolitan Princess. When I compare the company (not the leads, but the corps and featured dancers in all the Acts) with how they looked dancing this production in New York five years ago, I'd say they looked just as strong and in some respects stronger with the exception of the dancers performing the Evil Genius.  In New York, too, Tikhomirova -- who was dancing the Spanish bride the nights I attended in NY -- was the stand out. (The jester never does much for me, but I suppose it's possible the jesters were better in NY--can't say.) 

 

I find Chudin's aristocratic bearing and pure classical style a profound pleasure--it's not old-school Bolshoi dancing by a long shot, but poetic and dreamy. He sort of floated through his variations Friday. Smirnova remains a bit of a puzzle to me: for now I will say only that I think I admire her dancing more than I like it. Kovalyova is just a baby ballerina. She was cast as Odette-Odile and on tour in London no less, so it's fair game to criticize her, but I hardly expect much depth of any 21-22 year old in this role--I look only for promise. She has a stunning physique, great personal beauty, and tremendous charm. I found even her Odile rather likeable. She was a villainess with a twinkle in her eye as opposed to the hardened vamp we so often get. Her dancing was uneven in some ways but had great moments and interpretively her Odette had real tenderness as well. Depending on how she develops, she could be rather wonderful one day. 

 

All that said, I thought Zakharova on Saturday night was in an entirely different class from either Kovalyova (as one would expect) or, for my taste, Smirnova. And she and Rodkin made the ballet considerably more exciting than it was either Friday or Saturday afternoon. Five years ago in New York (where I missed her) Zakharova was lambasted in the press (and online among some fans) for giving what was described as a "cold" performance; here in London opposite Rodkin she gave a performance I found both tremendously moving and thrilling. Rodkin is not the seamless stylist Chudin is. Also, though his leaps are impressive, when it comes to turns, a double pirouette seems about as much as he can muster and he sort of fakes his way through the chaine turns through which Grigorovich has Siegfried express much of his agitation in the final scenes. Not just Chudin Friday night, but Tissi at the matinee was able to do more with these. But in other respects not only did he dance very impressively, but he seemed to me a much superior actor to either Chudin or Tissi and his dancing also carries much more of a sexual charge than theirs -- the result was genuine chemistry with Zakharova and a deeply romantic performance of the ballet insofar as Grigorovich's approach allows for it. Apparently no-one told Zakharova that the souvenir program describes her as primarily a specter in Siegfried's mind. And thank goodness, because when she looked up into Rodkin's eyes towards the end of the first lake scene you could believe she was in love with him. Overall, unless one values an Odette-Odile solely on whether she makes it to 32 fouettes (I counted Zakharova at 27 with the last one a double) her performance throughout was profoundly engaged and engaging. At any rate, I found it articulate, fluid, soulful, exciting--with a coda to the black swan pas de deux that I thought well worthy of her coach Semenyaka -- shooting across the stage like lightning and closing with a strong balance.  

 

At all the performances I attended I also thought the corps did itself proud.

 

It may be I am less critical than others because these days I see rather less ballet. I do wonder if that isn't the case. But anyway I thought I would register my thoughts.

Edited by DrewCo
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38 minutes ago, DanJL said:

Stepanova seemed to almost falter after the first one, and then sped through the rest extremely quickly. Maybe there was something different about the contact for her. Although I assume she would have rehearsed on the stage?

As Odile, Stepanova generally does really fast fouettés, but a rough start would make it difficult to get in synch with the orchestra, I would imagine. 

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Quote

 

All that said, I thought Zakharova on Saturday night was in an entirely different class from either Kovalyova (as one would expect) or, for my taste, Smirnova. And she and Rodkin made the ballet considerably more exciting than it was either Friday or Saturday afternoon.

 

 

Zakharova was, indeed "in an entirely different class". I am puzzled by some of the dance writers not being able to see through Smirnova's mannerisms and deformations she embelishes her dancing of classics with, as means to draw away attention from the fact that she simply has atrocious shoulders and wrists.

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  • alison changed the title to Bolshoi Ballet: Swan Lake, London 2019

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