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Sofia National Ballet - UK Tour - Summer 2013


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The Sofia National Ballet tour started in Liverpool last night with Giselle, which I could not attend.

 

I saw Don Q tonight.  It is a pleasant but not exciting production and some elements look a bit simplified to me.  There was absolutely no indication whatsoever that Basilio was a barber.  Many of the corps scenes were long but without a huge amount of dance content.

 

Marta Petkova was an attractive and spirited Kitri and Nikola Hadjitanev as Basilio was a decent dancer with some nice acting flourishes.  In act 1 he did a one-handed lift that went on forever!

 

Georgi Asparuhov was superb as Sancho Panza and he had some wonderful interactions with Ivan Georgiev as Lorenzo. I particularly liked where Sancho Panza had tried to steal a giant fish and Lorenzo was chasing him!  Kiril Ivanov was a dignified Don.

 

What made the whole evening worth it for me was the hilarious scene in Act 3 where Basilio pretends to have killed himself - it really was laugh out loud stuff - in a good way!  The GPDD was well danced.

 

Escada had a bigger role than one would have expected - the highlight of his performance being his use of the castanets.

 

There were some positive and enjoyable parts of the production but please do not expect the thrills of a BNC, Bolshoi or Mariinsky performance.

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Have to agree with what Janet says re the DonQ performance...it was a curtailed version - no prologue to set the scene, but I enjoyed it more than the Nureyev version but it was not like a Russian performance!  Yes the use of castanettes by the dancers - Espada in particular - was brilliant.   Basilio was good and that Bolshoi lift was amazing...I think he is a dancer with potential.

I went to Giselle on the opening night - again a fair performance and very nicely done but no fireworks.  However of the 3 performances - Swan Lake last night was by far and away their party piece - the corps de ballet did some really super formations - danced to precision (with the aid of some quite visible lines(!)) but their lines were perfectly straight and they moved pretty much as one...it really was rather good.  Add to this the fabulous court Jester he was really good - probably the best dancer of the run.The costumes in the Black Act were very pretty.  The performance received lots of applause at the end. Odette/Odile and the Prince were danced by Monday's Giselle and Albrecht (I haven't got the cast sheet to hand sorry).

Just one thing that bugged me was the violins in the orchestra - they sounded really out of tune every night - like a child learning kwim?!  Not quite sure what was going on with the sound from the pit!!   I enjoyed my evenings with SNB but I am glad to have a night off today!!

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Thanks for the reviews both. Glad to hear their Swan Lake is good as I am seeing them at the end of July at Milton Keynes and this will be my first live Swan Lake (rapidly followed by the Bolshoi). Am I correct in assuming the SNB version has low mime content and has the happy ending?

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the corps de ballet did some really super formations - danced to precision (with the aid of some quite visible lines(!))

 

Reminds me of the Kirov some years ago at the London Coliseum - dancing Symphony in C, I think - where the line markings were so heavy they looked like an airport landing strip :)

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We saw Don Quixote in Aylesbury yesterday with a "non ballet" friend whose comment was  "It's very jolly!" As indeed it was - Petkova seemed a bit out of sorts in the first (long) Act but was really sparkling by the end, and Hadjitanev was pretty good, I thought! The final pdd was just as exciting as any I had seen. Impressed by the corps, too - plenty of individuality without being mannered in the crowd scenes, and fine (if a bit squashed against the backdrop) in the dances. The comments about the castanets are true - hours of practice, obviously! - and Espada was a real stand-out in all sorts of ways, including his forward-thrust hips! Sod's law means that we shall not be able to see any of the other ballets anywhere, but we have booked to be jollified by Don Q again when they hit Woking. It's a very taxing tour, by the look of it. They are here, there, and everywhere.

 

Slightly off topic (but only slightly, honest) : we were stranded in Sofia for a week during the Icelandic volcano affair a couple of years back .... saw the National Ballet several times there, and during the first perf (Giselle) had cause loudly to shush a chap in one of the boxes behind the Stalls who was talking throughout to his lady companion and shuffling papers constantly. He was CROSS with us. We found out later, when he appeared for a curtain call, that he was a Big Cheese who had been taking notes about the performance. We then had to creep around avoiding him in the foyer on successive nights ....

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Thanks for the reviews both. Glad to hear their Swan Lake is good as I am seeing them at the end of July at Milton Keynes and this will be my first live Swan Lake (rapidly followed by the Bolshoi). Am I correct in assuming the SNB version has low mime content and has the happy ending?

Yes and yes!  Enjoy.

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We saw Don Quixote in Aylesbury yesterday with a "non ballet" friend whose comment was  "It's very jolly!" As indeed it was - Petkova seemed a bit out of sorts in the first (long) Act but was really sparkling by the end, and Hadjitanev was pretty good, I thought! The final pdd was just as exciting as any I had seen. Impressed by the corps, too - plenty of individuality without being mannered in the crowd scenes, and fine (if a bit squashed against the backdrop) in the dances. The comments about the castanets are true - hours of practice, obviously! - and Espada was a real stand-out in all sorts of ways, including his forward-thrust hips! Sod's law means that we shall not be able to see any of the other ballets anywhere, but we have booked to be jollified by Don Q again when they hit Woking. It's a very taxing tour, by the look of it. They are here, there, and everywhere.

 

Slightly off topic (but only slightly, honest) : we were stranded in Sofia for a week during the Icelandic volcano affair a couple of years back .... saw the National Ballet several times there, and during the first perf (Giselle) had cause loudly to shush a chap in one of the boxes behind the Stalls who was talking throughout to his lady companion and shuffling papers constantly. He was CROSS with us. We found out later, when he appeared for a curtain call, that he was a Big Cheese who had been taking notes about the performance. We then had to creep around avoiding him in the foyer on successive nights ....

Good for you shushing them - they are not exempt and should have know better!!   Enjoy DonQ again - i am seeing it again in Manchester woohoo and yes I agree SNB certainly are her there and everywhere for sure!!

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I saw Swan Lake last night and Giselle the night before.

 

They were good - I didn't book Swan Lake until I had seen Giselle, as some of the Eastern European touring companies I have seen recently have been terrible (and some even taking the piss - I can't remember which company it was now, but I saw one recently where the corps de ballet were trying to make each other laugh, chatting and pushing each other - on stage!)  this is not fair on those serious diligent companies that tour and tour and work hard and try to be professional as possible.  

 

But I really enjoyed Sofia Ballet, especially Swan lake (and I have seen a few of those in the past year!), but they are a very professional company and orchestra, with much better quality costumes than are usual with such companies.

 

They got a great reception from the audience in Bristol.

 

The only thing that was a bit odd was that I was up in the upper circle, and the markings on the stage were very visible from up there and it was quite distracting - it may have been ok from lower down.  I think someone else said it looked like the runways at Heathrow, and this was just for a flock of swans.

 

But don't let this put you off, as I said I have seen quite a few Swan lakes this year, and this was a jolly good one!

 

 

 

 

 

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Well I had my second bite of the Don Q cherry tonight in Manchester and thoroughly enjoyed the performance!  I realised during the performance that where the dancers had sometimes seemed uncomfortable at the Empire earlier this month it was probably because they were more used to raked stages.  Tonight the whole company's dancing looked more assured.

 

The sections I enjoyed most in Liverpool were still excellent tonight - the interaction between Sancho Panza and Lorenzo, the hilarious faked death and the gpdd which really sparkled tonight.  I must say that the company really looked as though they were enjoying themselves - good to see at the end of what must have been a gruelling 3 weeks of yomping around most of the UK.

 

What made the evening even nicer was joining up with fellow balletcoers Don Q Fan and Joan Hopton!

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Janet - the yomping continues . . . I hope they're not too blistered for the Don Q on Thurs and Giselle on Fri in Woking. Very much looking forward to the second look at these, and in complete agreement with you about anticipating the faked death - it was excellent in Aylesbury!

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I second what Janet has said about DonQ on Monday - this second viewing was way better than their Liverpool performance.  Kitri got her 32+ fouettes right - I think we only got 16 in Liverpool(!)  I also took more notice of the hilarious antics of Sancho Panza he was so good!  Espada was still fantastic on the castanettes and the orchestra sounded a lot better from the Palace pit.  Also here at Manchester the Company Director took a bow with the cast at the end which did not happen in Liverpool.  All in all a great evening with lots of balletco-er company too -thank you ladies!  I have some lovely curtain call pics again if only I could manage to post them here!!

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I echo what Janet and Don Q fan just said. it was great meeting up beforehand and having a good ballet chat and the ballet itself was very enjoyable too. Did rather miss Ivan's spectacular leaps; Don Q doesn't seem the same without them now, and the way Natalia dominates the stage with her personality and bravura technique. But it was a very good effort by the company, especially the matador and his castanets!  Joan

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I saw Giselle and the Swan Lake matinee, both with Vesa Tonova and Emil Yordanov in the lead roles. Unfortunately I think they lacked chemistry although she was better in Swan Lake, noticeably as Odile but he was fairly flat and some of his solos lacked polish. The orchestra was pretty bad both times. 

 

 The first act of Giselle was nice, the corps were the highlight. Ivanka Kassabova did quite well in the peasant pas de deux. The corps de ballet did well in the second act as well as did Myrtha. I think the second act suffered from the staging. The lighting was quite soft for the most part and combined with the wings on the Wilis made them look like Sylphs though Myrtha's entrance through the dry ice was impressive.

 

   They opened Swan Lake with a prologue showing Odette's transformation into a swan, which was interesting. I generally hate Jesters but the urge to murder him was quashed by Todor Angelov who managed quite an amusing portrayal, trying to balance a cup on his nose and hiding behind the queen's skirt as he caught sight of Von Rothbart. Vesa Tonova seemed more at home with Swan Lake than Giselle and she was good as Odile. I prefer the sad ending and felt Act 4 suffered from dull choreography as a whole but the corps were spot on at all times. Act 3 was definitely the stand-out of the evening, the national dances were well done. 

 

   I don't think I'd rush to see the Sofia National Ballet again but I definitely enjoyed their Swan Lake. The female corps de ballet were very very good, they must have been utterly exhausted but it didn't show. The company as a whole seemed more comfortable in Swan Lake than Giselle. 

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I  really really enjoyed the Sofia Swan Lake at Milton Keynes last night. I don’t yet appreciate the finer points of ballet but technically they seemed pretty good and as an emotional experience it was captivating. I really got immersed in the performance of Odette/Odile (Marta Petkova) and was happy to have a happy ending (it’s nice to see a ballet where everyone doesn’t die!).

 

The Corps were superb and I liked the Mexican wave type bow they did at the final curtain call  (I’m pleased to say they got plenty of applause).

 

As noted above the national dances were good and I also enjoyed the Act 1 pas de trois very much. The four cygnets were well synchronised too.

 

All-in-all very pleased with my first live Swan Lake and I’ll be interested to see if  I enjoy the Bolshoi as much.

 

I looked out for the stage markings but didn’t find them distracting, maybe they have only one roll of sticky tape and the stand out-ishness depends on the stage colour? The MK stage is grey and with grey tape it seemed fine. I watched the Mariinsky ballet blu-ray a few days back and the stage markings are very similar.

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