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DiAGHILEV FESTIVAL at the Coliseum

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I was very suspicious of this Triple Bill of Petrushka, Les Sylphides and Polovtsian Dances at the Saturday Matinee as, in the past, Andris Liepa's promotions have promised much but delivered nothing of great value. Petrushka lived down to my expectations. It was supposedly choreographed by Fokine but it contained steps which Fokine would not have countenanced - particularly steps of virtuosity for Petrushka which were a vulgar travesty of what Fokine was trying to do. There were even new characters introduced into the Fair scenes just to enable two dancers to show off their (limited) virtuosity. The characters in the fair emoted wildly to little effect and the Coachmen seemed to think that if they shoved their hands up the nursemaids' skirts at every opportunity they would be displaying character. The sets for scenes 2 and 3 were a travesty of Benois' designs. Horrible.

Things improved greatly with a beautifully produced "Les Sylphides" and The Polovtsian Dances are rarely seen nowadays so were rather a treat, though it was the fabulous Opera Chorus and the Orchestra rather than the dancers, who generated the excitement. It was interesting to see how repetitive and sometimes rather desperate Fokine's choreography could be.

The standard of dancing was of a level that failed to ignite excitement and relied, in The Polovtsian Dances on a lot of grimacing and flourishes to make an effect.Georgi Smilevski was rather good as the Poet in Les Sylphides and the three female soloists and the Corps had genuine style and fluidity.

The audience, largely new to ballet as far as I could tell, were whipped into enthusiasm by the Polovtsi and, in the end, my bad temper, created by Petrushka, was assuaged. But Mr Liepa really needs better dancers than these to attempt to live up to what Diaghilev achieved.

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Hello, barnes2, and thank you for posting.  I pretty much agree with your assessment of Petrushka, although I get to see it so infrequently that I'm never very sure what is actually authentic and what isn't.  Was this the production (or staging, at least), which ENB borrowed last year, to the disappointment of some of the critics?  Chopiniana was certainly much better danced and performed, although a little moonlight rather than a general lilac tinge to the lighting would have been welcome.  I generally enjoyed the selection from Prince Igor - as you say, much helped by the opera - which did indeed appear to have some Fokine-like choreography in it (there were visible links to Firebird), but was surprised to see that (I think - I was in the back row) some of the shorter "Polovtsian warriors" actually appeared to be female!

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Vis a vis the matinee .... thought the orchestra and its very fine conductor a DEFINITE plus to the overall proceedings.  That was a HUGE improvement on the tiny recorded music of last season's RUSSIAN SEASONS; output.  However, how they afford the loss (both the balcony AND upper circle were completely closed) is BEYOND ME!!  Charity must, methinks, begin at THEIR home.  In that sense we are in their debt.  (Must confess:  Missed the Petrushka as was at the RBS performance at the ROH.  Glad I was present for that second act ... There were some truly lovely ideas being suggested in Scarlett's CLASSICAL SYMPHONY.)  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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