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As Vadim Muntagirov and the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre seem to have been mentioned on several links, I thought I should start a new link to amalgamate his performance that I saw and the Paris Opera Ballet's "Onegin" under one heading:


I was delighted to see Vadim Muntagirov as guest artist with the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre during my brief trip to Paris last week.  With his aristocratic elegance, he is perhaps the perfect choice for Prince Siegfried, especially as his artistry is improving all the time to almost match his prodigious technique.  His own natural charm is now projected very well to the audience and his smile lights up the stage.  Sadly, this production of “Swan Lake” was the old-fashioned kind where the ballerina is everything and her cavalier is reduced to not much more than a porteur.  The large, glossy 12 Euros souvenir brochure did not include a cast list so the Jester who leapt and spun across the stage at every opportunity in Acts I and III must remain anonymous.  He danced well but I did find his continual antics irritating, especially as they detracted from the ending of Act III, trying to turn it into a comedy (not his fault but that of the anonymous director).  So it was only in the Act III pas de deux that Muntagirov got to display his astonishingly high jumps, landing in the softest of pliés, and his beautifully controlled multiple pirouettes. 

When Daria Klimentova told me a few weeks ago about these performances, there was a possibility that she would be replacing the indisposed Irina Kolesnikova but sadly it was not to be. Instead, we had the Ukrainian ballerina, Natalia Matsak.  With her long limbs, she was very well matched physically with Muntagirov but she had none of the vulnerability that makes an Odette so appealing and she did not seem to be that interested in her prince, preferring to concentrate on her own performance while he partnered her very sympathetically.  Her thirty-two single fouettés were remarkable for staying almost on the same spot but the shine was taken off this for me by having the music stopped so that she could walk downstage to take several bows before the coda was allowed to continued, rather diminishing Muntagirov’s set of faultless pirouettes à-la-seconde which followed.

As I mentioned, the director of this production remained anonymous with the choreography being solely credited to Petipa and Ivanov although little of what we know can be attributed to them remained.  However, I did enjoy the familiar choreography of the Spanish dance for two couples, in particular one of the ladies who demonstrated considerable flair and possibly the deepest backbends I have ever seen, with her head almost grazing the floor behind her! Being used to the immaculate precision of the English National Ballet swans, I was rather alarmed by the lack of synchronisation in Acts II and IV, with even the four cygnets being at odds with each other.  The Palais des Congrès is a barn of a place which unfortunately meant that the orchestra had to be amplified which made it sound rather tinny.  This was a shame as they skilfully negotiated the savage cuts and awkward harmonic changes demanded by the production although it did amuse me that the harpist seemed to be improvising on anything but Tchaikovsky while waiting forever for Odette to appear in Act II! Whatever faults I may have found with the production, I have to say that it was danced with great enthusiasm by all concerned, which is more than I can say for the performance of “Onegin” that I saw the night before by the Paris Opera Ballet.

This was a revival of the production first danced here in 2009 and unfortunately the corps de ballet put little effort or precision into their dances, in particular the dance for the young couples in Act I which I remember being danced with such vitality by London Festival Ballet in the 1980s. The wonderful finale, in which the boys run across the stage with the girls in supported split jetés, first on one diagonal and then on the other, always brought the house down but here, although there was applause, the frisson of watching something spectacular was missing.  Due to injury, the second cast gave this first performance and I was disappointed that the Olga and Lensky were so sketchily performed.  I have been very fortunate to see the original cast of Haydee and Cragun as Tatiana and Onegin and to have seen Makarova guesting with London Festival Ballet and a heartbreaking performance by the company’s own Janette Mulligan as Tatiana so the benchmark has been set very high for me.  Karl Paquette was eminently likeable as Onegin although he has not yet got to grips with Onegin’s character and seemed most comfortable in the ‘dream’ pas de deux when he was charm personified.  He also gave the most magical moment of the performance when he held Tatiana aloft at the beginning of this pas de deux – a breathtaking moment for both her and the audience.  It was left to Ludmila Pagliero as Tatiana to give the most rounded performance, excelling as the shy, bookish girl who becomes obsessed with Onegin and then is crushed when he destroys her letter, visibly maturing as she and Olga try to persuade Lensky against the duel and shattering in her rejection of Onegin only to crumple in the last seconds of the ballet.  The great thing for me about this performance was rediscovering the genius of the choreography and I look forward to seeing what the Royal Ballet of Flanders makes of it when it enters their repertoire in October.

I had hoped to be able to report back on Nicolas Le Riche rehearsing Cullberg’s “Miss Julie” which my friend is currently staging for the Paris Opera Ballet but the current Artistic Director does not operate the same ‘open door’ policy as during Nureyev’s tenure when I was privileged to watch rehearsals in the rotundas at the top of the Palais Garnier during my ‘ballet’ trips in the 1980s. So I shall be interested to hear what the dancers and the audiences make of this rather dark programme which also includes Agnes de Mille’s “Fall River Legend”.

On my return to the UK, I was delighted to read Daria Klimentova’s message on the thread about her retirement and hope it puts paid once and for all to the unfair speculation about Vadim Muntagirov.  When this lovely young man was one of the participants in ENB’s Emerging Dancer Award a few years ago, I well remember that in his video clip he said it was of paramount importance to him to be a nice person and he has remained faithful to this aim and no doubt will for the rest of his career.




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  • 3 weeks later...

I saw a wonderful performance of Onegin with Isabelle Ciaravola and Herve' Moreau on Sunday. She, in particular, was mesmerising. The audience was very receptive and enthusiastically applauded the  Act 1 finale which Irmgard mentions. At the end there was a hush, it was almost possible to hear the last note before the applause broke out which is unusual these days.

Although Mlle Ciaravola's formal farewell is next month, it did seem as though she was saying goodbye to her fans at each performance which made the whole thing even more poignant. This was definitely a goosebump event  :)

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Isabelle Ciaravola's farewell is February 28th so not next month.  (it was previously scheduled on March 5th but moved to 28th) I wished I could see her farewell performance, it should be so emotional.


I also watched the performance of Onegin with Isabelle Ciaravola and guest Evan McKie on February 4th and 8th. Herve Moreau had an injury so he had to be replaced for the first two performances but good that now he is back. The performance I saw was also so magnificent, I saw Isabelle's Tatiana when she was promoted etoile 2009 but she has matured so much since then, very sweet and adolescent at first and really lost into her emotions at the last pas de deux, torn between her two loves. And Evan McKie is the best current Onegin in the world, embodying the spirit of Pushkin.   


A little review of that performance by me here.


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And Evan McKie is the best current Onegin in the world, embodying the spirit of Pushkin.  


Dear Naomi,

it's always hard to say something like that if you have not seen all the other Onegins who dance the role nowadays. And there are many of them.

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I also saw the 8 Feb performance. It was good but not the best Onegin I have seen. Admittedly I seem extremely hard to please at present...too much ballet?.....but the performance that sticks in my mind currently was Thiago Soares playing Onegin opposite his wife as Tatiana...he may not be THE best dancer in the world but his acting skills are pretty good he was such a heartless Onegin!! Horses for courses.

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