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Mariinsky Balanchine Evening, ROH, August 2014


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The Mariinsky's Balanchine evening was the Company's finest outing thus far in their 2014 London season IMHO.  This is I think entirely understandable given the embracing magic woven inside both pieces selected as created by the master dance maker of the 20th Century.  

 

While not yet scaling the heights of, say, (Peter) Martins, Boal, Hubbe, Chase or Carreno as Apollo, the exemplary Vladimir Shklyarov was impetuously incisive in his depiction of a young God finding his way in the world.  (Is there a one act ballet with a more inviting narrative that Balanchine and Stravinsky's APOLLO?  I think not.  I only wish that the music had been better played on this occasion.  Methinks that Maestro Gergiev has kept all the best Mariinsky instrumentalists at home under his own baton.)  After attending more than a few of the performances by the Mariinsky team of balletic performers fielded for this particular London sojourn, I have come to believe that Shklyarov and the incandescently gleaming Viktoria Tereshkina (whose Titania in Balanchine's MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM brought to rapid mind the glories of Krya Nichols in the same role - from the warmth of her glittering smile down) are by some distance the strongest on show.  Both did nothing but build on the incisive radiance of their truly outstanding SL performances.  One sees well why Kevin McKenzie has selected them as ABT's 'exchange artists'. The enormity of their skill reaches engagingly beyond time; beyond any geographical boundary.  Both understand and precisely relate the application of their artistry as embellished both off (as well as on) balance as well as adorn their virtuosity by moving 'through rather than 'on' music much as Balanchine dictated.  Sadly a goodly number of their peers do not and struggle to render the 'Balanchinian' magic routine.  Balanchine happily sees that they fail.  Still there is NO question but that Shklyarov and Tereshkina stand out from that crowd. Without hesitation Tereshkina's artistry is a far cry from the uncertain centre of Oxana Skorik, who almost (but not quite) managed to mangle the stunning glory of that masterful pas de deux which beats at the heart of the second act of Balanchine's DREAM, itself but a thrilling extended divertissement in celebration of the impending nuptials.  I, myself, felt naught but sorry for the hard working Konstantin Zverev as her cavalier. 

 

Nancy Goldner in Balanchine Variations quotes the progenitor of ballet as we now understand it as writing:  "It was in studying Apollo that I came first to understand how gestures, like tones in music and shades in painting, have certain family relations."  These could well be appreciated in the rich sharing between Shklyarov and the finely animated Kristina Shapran in what may well be her (very fine) Mariinsky debut. (London audiences have previously appreciated her animated skill at the Coliseum in the title role of Coppelia with the Stanislavsky Ballet aside their current 'guest artist' Sergei Polunin, a former RB principal.)  The stunning central Apollo pas de deux sang through Shapran's guiding limbs as Terpsichore.  It was suffused with a much appreciated adroit finesse.  I was also taken by the bouncing excitement of Nadexhda Batoeva's Polyhymnia and very much look forward to her Cinderella (again in the more than capable hands of Shklyarov) at the final performance of this particular Mariinsky season.   

 

I confess I prefer Ashton's DREAM to Balanchine's (even though the latter does more fulsomely address the Bard's work itself).  That said, I MUCH prefer Balanchine's finely dramatic La Valse to our British master's take.  Horses for courses and all that.  Still it was wonderful to be able to revisit the Balanchine via the splendour of this far more than merely handsome physical production.  I so appreciate that the Mariinsky design team never appear to clutter their stages with scenery, allowing the dance itself to set the scene.  While never touching the diabolical glee of Damian Woetzel's resplendent performance, the talented Vasily Tkachenko rightly glorified in Balanchine's Puck.  Xander Parish came into his own I felt as Demetrius and Anastasia Matvienko (an artist we have previously enjoyed in London with the Mikhailovsky) rendered her stealth - if not her smile - on Hypolita, a role that for me will FOREVER have the name of Monique Meunier emblazoned on its heart.  (Sadly London -  that 'mecca of world dance' according to Sadler's Well's Alistair Spalding - was never given an opportunity to sample Meunier's heady flair.)  What came close to making me cry, however, was the approximations of Timur Askerov's Oberon in that MASTERFULLY extended variation created for Villella in 1962.  How well I remember attending a free seminar at the NY Public Library (Lincoln Center Branch) where Villella himself choked up at watching a film of his performing the same and then spent an unforgettable hour relating details behind the alchemy of its creation.  Last night's audience rightfully applauded Balanchine's genius in the construction of this devilishly difficult feat ... but, oh, that the virtuoso that was Peter Boal could have been been reawakened to show this deserving crowd just how those steps might dazzle in the full flight of their undisputed magic.  Still, one must be grateful that a likeness was there at all I suppose ... and there was - as I said - much in the overall evening to admire throughout.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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The Mariinsky's Balanchine evening was the Company's finest outing thus far in their 2014 London season so far IMHO.  This is I think entirely understandable given the embracing magic woven inside both pieces selected for presentation and as created by the master dance maker of the 20th Century.  

 

While not yet scaling the heights of, say, (Peter) Martins, Boal, Hubbe, Chase or Carreno as Apollo, the exemplary Vladimir Shklyarov was impetuously incisive in his depiction of a young God finding his way in the world.  (Is there a one act ballet with a more inviting narrative that Balanchine and Stravinsky's APOLLO?  I think not.  I only wish that the music had been better played than it was on this occasion.  Methinks that Maestro Gergiev has kept all the best Mariinsky instrumental artists at home under his own baton just now.)  After attending more than a few of the performances by the Mariinsky team of balletic performers fielded for this particular London sojourn, I have come to believe that Shklyarov and the incandescently gleaming Viktoria Tereshkina (whose Titania in Balanchine's Midsummer Night's Dream brought to rapid mind the glories of Krya Nichols in the same role - from the warmth of her glittering smile down) are by some distance the strongest on show.  Both did nothing but build on the incisive radiance of their truly outstanding SL performances.  One sees well why Kevin McKenzie has selected them as ABT's 'exchange artists'. The enormity of their skill reaches engagingly beyond time; beyond any geographical boundary.  Both understand and precisely relate the application of their artistry as embellished both off (as well as on) balance as well as adorn their virtuosity by moving 'through rather than 'on' music much as Balanchine dictated.  Sadly a goodly number of their peers do not and struggle to render the 'Balanchinian' magic routine.  Balanchine happily sees that they fail.  Still there is NO question but that Shklyarov and Tereshkina stand out from that crowd. Without hesitation Tereshkina's artistry is a far cry from the uncertain centre of Oxana Skorik, who almost (but not quite) managed to mangle the stunning glory of the masterful pas de deux which beats at the heart of the second act of Balanchine's DREAM, itself but a thrilling extended divertissement in celebration of the impending nuptials.  I, myself, felt naught but sorry for the hard working Konstantin Zverev as her cavalier. 

 

Nancy Goldner in Balanchine Variations quotes the progenitor of ballet as we now understand it as writing:  "It was in studying Apollo that I came first to understand how gestures, like tones in music and shades in painting, have certain family relations."  These could well be appreciated in the rich sharing between Shklyarov and the finely animated Kristina Shapran in what may well be her (very fine) Mariinsky debut. (London audiences have previously appreciated her animated skill at the Coliseum in the title role of Coppelia with the Stanislavsky Ballet aside their current 'guest artist' Sergei Polunin, a former RB principal.)  The stunning central Apollo pas de deux sang through Shapran's guiding limbs as Terpsichore.  It was suffused with a much appreciated adroit finesse.  I was also taken by the bouncing excitement of Nadexhda Batoeva's Polyhymnia and very much look forward to her Cinderella (again in the more than capable hands of Shklyarov) at the final performance of this particular Mariinsky season.   

 

I confess I prefer Ashton's DREAM to Balanchine's (even though the latter does more fulsomely address the Bard's work itself).  That said, I MUCH prefer Balanchine's finely dramatic La Valse to our British master's take.  Horses for courses and all that.  Still it was wonderful to be able to revisit the Balanchine via the splendour of this far more than merely handsome physical production.  I so appreciate that the Mariinsky design team never appear to clutter their stages with scenery, allowing the dance itself to set the scene.  While never touching the diabolical glee of Damian Woetzel's resplendent performance, the talented Vasily Tkachenko rightly glorified in Balanchine's Puck.  Xander Parish came into his own I felt as Demetrius and Anastasia Matvienko (an artist we have previously enjoyed in London with the Mikhailovsky) rendered her stealth - if not her smile - on Hypolita, a role that for me will FOREVER have the name of Monique Meunier emblazoned on its heart.  (Sadly London -  that 'mecca of world dance' according to Sadler's Well's Alistair Spalding - was never given an opportunity to sample Meunier's heady flair.)  What came close to making me cry, however, was the approximations of Timur Askerov's Oberon in that MASTERFULLY extended variation created for Villella in 1962.  How well I remember attending a free seminar at the NY Public Library (Lincoln Center Branch) where Villella himself choked up at watching a film of his performing the same and then spent an unforgettable hour relating details behind the alchemy of its creation.  Last night's audience rightfully applauded Balanchine's genius in the construction of this devilishly difficult feat ... but, oh, that the virtuoso that was Peter Boal could have been been reawakened to show this deserving crowd just how those steps might dazzle in the full flight of their undisputed magic.  Still, one must I suppose be grateful that a likeness was there at all ... and there was - as I said - much in the overall evening to admire throughout.  

I echo your praise for Shklyarov's Apollo, and for his and Tereshkina's performances generally. This Balanchine double bill is terrific. On first sight I much preferred the Ashton Dream but on a second viewing I appreciated the Balanchine version far more and with it's glorious Act 2 dancing it is pitch perfect for this brilliant company. Last night casting was outstanding at every level and it's heartening to see a number of younger dancers who demonstrate great promise for the future. 

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I agree with all the comments so far, this was the programme I was most looking forward to and it more than lived up to my expectations, had only seen MND on DVD and it looked wonderful from high up, masterful Balanchine and so much humour too, Tereshkina radiant!

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I found Apollo a little flat personally.  Although I thought Shklyarov was wonderful, I'm not sure the cast generally (in particular the three women) brought enough character to the performance.  My own experience of viewing Balanchine is that the performers need to bring a lot of personality and a sort of spark to make it work, which I thought was missing here.  It came across as technically excellent, but a little bland.

 

Midsummer Nights Dream, on the other hand, I really enjoyed.  It was charmingly and superbly performed, and amazingly the Mariinsky even managed to be funny, which was a surprise after the rather stiff Russian performances I've seen so far.  I'm not sure if I prefer this version or the Royal Ballet's - possibly slightly leaning towards RB, as the memory of Bennet Gartside rubbing his backside against a tree as Bottom kept popping into my head while watching the equivalent scene last night.  However, the Balanchine choreography is fantastic and the company performed it wonderfully, from the principals to the little fairy children.  

 

Overall the programme really worked well - my favourite of the performances so far.

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I was lucky enough to be in attendance at the dress rehearsal. Here are a few sample photos. Very different from the version many of us are used to (the Ashton one that is) - less comedy, and a second act that is almost pure Balanchine (so my cup of tea!)

14862153365_bc6d0b7a7a_z.jpg
Viktoria Tereshkina as Titania
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

14842798376_e66a3bf13f_z.jpg
Ulyana Lopatkina (Titania), Andrey Ermakov (her Cavalier)
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

14865421452_c1bfdb294d_z.jpg
Kimin Kim & Nadezhda Batoeva (act 2 pas de deux)
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

See more...
Set from DanceTabs: Mariinsky Ballet - A Misummer Night's Dream
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Stunning pictures, Dave.  

 

I made an error in my notation (the first above).  It should, of course, read 'Finlay' and not 'Chase' (although that is his first name).  He is probably the finest interpreter of Balanchine's Apollo extant (e.g., dancing) today.  Here you can see him taking a curtain call having just finished dancing the role he was born to portray as a guest with the Mariinsky in a gala performance.  How lovely to see two of the ladies who appeared last night amongst that Apollo's number as well as the RB's own Vadim Muntagirov (then I assume an ENB leading principal) fresh from a different assignment a tad later on in the clip.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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Dave, lovely photos ! Your second photo above is Andrei Yermakov (Titania's Cavalier) not Filipp Stepin. 

 

Thanks - have made the correction. Someone else pointed out the error, quoting his name as 'Andrey Ermakov' (and appears to be a fan of his, so I've gone with their spelling)

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Although I think both versions are acceptable, my spelling comes from the cast sheet which is the same as the Mariinsky website ! I believe the difference is whether the name is translated "phonetically" or not.  The cast sheet translation means that english speakers pronunciation would be closer to the Russian pronunciation :) 

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Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos Dave. I cannot attend the performance but at least I can enjoy the photos! 

 

Are those kids Royal Ballet School pupils? or Russian?

Some are Royal Ballet Associates and the others come from the Susan Robinson School of Ballet

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"It was in studying Apollo

that I came first to understand how gestures, like tones in music and shades in painting, have certain family relations."  These could well be appreciated in the rich sharing between Shklyarov and the finely animated Kristina Shapran in what may well be her (very fine) Mariinsky debut. (London audiences have previously appreciated her animated skill at the Coliseum in the title role of Coppelia with the Stanislavsky Ballet aside their current 'guest artist' Sergei Polunin, a former RB principal.)  The stunning central Apollo pas de deux sang through Shapran's guiding limbs as Terpsichore.  It was suffused with a much appreciated adroit finesse. 

 

Bruce W, thanks very much for your review. I’m focusing on your comments about Kristina Shapran in Apollo for the moment.

 

Having watched only video clips, dating back to 2012, I was impressed enough to start a topic on the Balanchine evening by discussing her. It can now be found under her name in “Performances seen and general discussions”.

 

Each time I watch these internet videos, in particular her Giselle, it becomes almost a revelation. My feelings evolve as she and her remarkable artistry subtly reveal themselves. You mention her “adroit fineness”. This is the first thing, and perhaps the primary one, that I noticed. Her ‘classical articulation’ is possibly without equal. What you’ve also zeroed in on is something that’s taking me longer to appreciate, but is becoming more and more apparent and loved. It’s her poetry.

 

You wrote:

 

“ “It was in studying Apollo

that I came first to understand how gestures, like tones in music and shades in painting, have certain family relations."  These could well be appreciated in the rich sharing between Shklyarov and the finely animated Kristina Shapran….”

 

“The stunning central Apollo pas de deux sang through Shapran's guiding limbs as Terpsichore.”

 

In my personal opinion, good for you, in recognizing this as soon as you did. It’s been taking me awhile.

 

I’ll also mention that the ’soul’ of George Balanchine’s  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for me, is the Act II Divertissement Duet. Your evening, it was danced by Oxana Skorik, who is supposed to dance it again tonight and may have  performed Titania, the lead, last night. (The casting has disappeared so there might be changes). I would love to see her do this duet (and Titania). I’ve seen it danced by the Mariinsky’s Maria Shirinkina and she was beautiful. Also if you can get a look at the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s dvd of this work, you can see a wonderful performance, perhaps a definitive one, of the duet by Louise Nadeau.

Edited by Buddy
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In my post above I got my A Midsummer Night's Dream dates mixed up.

 

This is the way that It should have been.

 

Friday, August 8 : Tereshkina / Askerov / Skorik / Zverev 
Saturday, August 9 (M) : Skorik / Askerov / Batoeva / Kim 
Saturday, August 9  (E) : Lopatkina / Stepin / Skorik / Zverev 

 

And by the way, I was hoping for a very fine Apollo from Alexander Sergeyev and from what I read on one forum he did just that. Bravo !

 

"Tonight's Apollo with Alexander Sergeyev was fantastic! He is every bit as good as Robbie Fairchild or Chase Finlay."

 

(posted by Amour)

http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/38590-july-aug-2014-at-the-royal-opera-house/page-7#entry341983

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Attended both of the performances of the Mariinsky's Balanchine programme on the second Saturday of their three week 2014 London Tour at the generous behest of the Hochhausers' commercial interests.  All seats were - as far as I could see - filled.  Sadly the two performances of APOLLO were stung by a collection of Russian instrumentalists and their slovenly leader - one Gavriel Heine - who insisted on homogenising the aliphatic musical mysteries of Stavinsky's glorious drama.  Those sitting in front of the position in the upper amphitheatre from which I stood shifted uncomfortably in their seats as the insistent sawing rendered their ears ever more leaden.  Even Ms. Shapren who danced all three of the weekend's Terpsichores was not shielded from such effects.  (I must confess given the lack of additional interpreters of that major role - (I, myself, would have loved to see the luminous Ms Tereshkina) - and given a desperate need to find some/any respite from the barbarous musical massacre being wrought - I begun to wonder if this particular lack in notable casting variety might in some covert fashion be a signal as to the diminishing depth of strength in the current Mariinsky soloist and principal ranks on London show.  Then suddenly another sour horror was struck from the pit and I was interrupted from even that contemplation.  One of course prays that the combined Mariinsky forces will continue to wave and not drown.  History happily shows that this will be the most likely course.)  That said - and In all events pertaining to Stravinsky yesterday - as much as Balanchine's indomitable Apollo Musagete such as is danced by this Company, it proved hard - neigh, almost impossible at times - to 'hear the dance' when - at almost every (frequently unsteady) turn - we were clouded in our efforts to emphatically 'see' the staggering score of the 20th Century's master music maker.   T'was a shame. 

 

The matinee of Balanchine's MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT DREAM - much as had been the case with the previous Saturday's SWAN LAKE - proved to be but a rehearsal for an enhanced evening repast (short in this instance for the very delicate turn in the second's act vigorous adagio by the ever appealing Nadezhda Batoeva).  Even Oxana Skorik,who had, herself, been a Ttiania of limited largess in the afternoon, found second breath in the evening's Divertessment (certainly when compared with her rather forced efforts in that role the evening before).  During this last London performance of Balanchine's take on Shakespeare's insightful frivolities Skorik allowed an enhanced grace to flower in her stunningly elongated extensions.  A renewed relaxation too was to be found in her smile as it began now to consistently unfold in the the ever hardy hands of her industriously stolid - sorry, solid - cavalier, Konstantin Zverev (again on repeat from the evening before).  Uliana Lopatkina - although not perhaps a Balanchine dancer born - sprinkled the radiance of her glowing sincerity - a rarefied entity we have long been privileged to cherish - over all.  She made the many happy faces of the talented British children beam within the girth of their second act circle's approbation.  (Bless Balanchine for never being patronising in his choreography for these [or indeed any] youths.)  Even the entirely endearing changeling child's enhanced grin (surely well worth the price of any familial feud) was wrought even more emphatically delicious as he did his level best to copy Lopatkina in her theatrical grace during the first act curtain call. (Strange as it may sound that, I think, may well prove for me to be one of the highlights of this particular Mariinsky run).  Definingly - if proof was EVER needed - Lopatkina gave deafening lie to the song title:  'Nobody Loves a Fairy When She's Forty'.  With abundant validity she was here adored by all.  The female quotient of the Bard's lovers (again repeated from the previous evening) were on particularly fine form I thought.  Viktoria Krasnokutskaya's emotional variation as Hermia was most especially vivid and garnered enhanced and well warranted applause.  ABOVE ALL, however, what set this performance apart from the other two sometimes saddened occasions was performance of Oberon.  The misery of those previous missed opportunities suddenly evaporated as Filipp Stepin stepped - or should I say - leaped - into the role with refreshing conviction.  While not approaching the informed majesty of Peter Boal, Stepin (in the pejorative)  'went for it' and gave more than joy in his elevating execution.  Bless him.  The audience was rightly buoyed and no one could I think have asked for more on this occasion.  Yuri Smekalov's Puck was here left to rise to a happier place in the end.    

Edited by Bruce Wall
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Agree about the music, a crisp work that sounded sluggish I'm afraid, and it was so drawn out, I have a recording almost five minutes quicker if the printed timings are accurate. 

 

I've seen too many stellar performances of Apollo over the years to have been impressed, many of them on the opera house stage, and the Kirov has fielded a far more impressive trio of muses in the past.

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Every time I think I couldn't love the Mariinsky any more than I already do, they pull something else out of their hat. Each of the Dreams was wonderful (I like 1920-style design, I like fairies, I like Balanchine - it was always going to end well), not just the leads, but the whole cast down to the tiniest child.

 

There was something about Tereshkina as Titiana that struck me as perfect and I suspect I'll remember her as my perfect Balanchine Titiana in years to come. Askerov, who seemed a little bland in Swanlake, made a nice Oberon. Skorik might need a little more stage command to make a perfect Titiana, but her dancing was beautiful. I loved her cast in the act II pdd, I possibly gasped at a 30sec sequence where she and Zverev were so elegant and connected, finishing with her draped over his arm in a perfect bow.

I'm a bit star-struck by Lopatkina, so I spare you any further of my ramblings about her stage presence.

 

Saturday nights Apollo was possibly the first Apollo where I got a connection to the story instead of just watching the dancing. Sergeyev's colt-like, delicate baby step when first unwrapped didn't make me wonder whether they were intentional or whether the dancer is accidentally stumbling - it was a God taking his first steps, no question in my head. Shapran was a beautifully serene muse, at times I found myself watching her expression instead of her dancing. It'll clearly take me few more years to really get Apollo (and decide whether I like it) , but I think I had my first glimpse thanks to Saturday night's cast.

 

Bruce Wall and I seem to have watched different performances at times (the Skorik/Zverev pdd looked very good to me on both nights, and most bizarrely I barely remember Stepin ) but his statement below pretty much summed up Saturday night for me:

 

"The audience was rightly buoyed and no one could I think have asked for more on this occasion"

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I went to this Saturday's matinee and thought it was lovely.

 

I thought Apollo had a very young feel and the atmosphere in the auditorium was electric. Xander Parish couldn't have looked more perfect for the role if he tried. He has lovely lines and looks every inch the consummate professional. He brought youth and exuberance and I have never heard so many people comment similarily about an individual dancer, as I bought ice cream at the interval.

Kristina Shapran put her all into her performance and what a pleasure it was to watch her interpret her part with perfect finesse and dedication. I would also like to pay compliment to Nadezhda Gonchar and Alisa Sodoleva. I wish I could visit St Petersburg and see this company again and again. I sat next to the stage so had a better view than most, although only when the dancers were on the right side. A6 is definitely a restricted view. From where I was sitting Kristina Shapran looked superb and very expressive.

 

Last year I saw two different casts perform this from the Royal Ballet and was not particularly impressed. I preferred this, and unlike those performances I will remember this.

 

A Midsummer Night's Dream was beautiful. Again I have seen this recently performed by the Royal Ballet, and I can't remember a thing about it, as it made no impression on me at all.

In comparison I will remember this performance for a long time. I was totally mesmerised by Oxana Skorik, and so impressed by the faultless and emotive dancing of Andrei Yermkov, Timur Askerov, Evgeny Konovalov and Nadezhda Batoeva, and the totally lovely Yulia Stepanova not forgetting Kamil Yangurazov.

The sequence where we are sat in semi darkness and the children are flying as fairies around the stage literally transported me to another place, and I was so impressed the overall effect. The whole production was beautiful and I wish I had booked to see the evening as well, as I loved every second of this very atmospheric piece.

 

Like dancers in every company worldwide it was obvious how much rehearsal had gone into the production, and how hard the dancers work to produce such a lovely show, and I really appreciated that. I can't wait to see this company again.

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Enjoyed the matinee of Apollo and MND yesterday - beautfiully danced and lovely costumes.  I found the music OK but then I have not a trained ear.  Sad to hear the matinee was restrained compared to the evening bit naughty when we paid the same price for tickets.  I thought Xander Parish was a creditable Apollo and his muses were lovely.  MND was so much better than the Ashton short version - Balanchine did a lovely job and I really enjoyed Act 2 corps de ballet work just lovely.

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  MND was so much better than the Ashton short version - Balanchine did a lovely job and I really enjoyed Act 2 corps de ballet work just lovely.

 

Funny isn't it how we all see things differently.  I saw the Balanchine MSND some years ago at Edinburgh (PNB?) and ABSOLUTELY LOATHED IT!!!  If I had been coming to London this summer this would have been the last programme I would have chosen.  Sir Frederick Ashton's Dream, for me, is utterly sublime.  It's not that I have not seen other versions - I adore David Nixon's for NB and I also loved the version Robert Cohan did for Scottish Ballet but the Balanchine left me totally underwhelmed.

 

It's just as well we are not all the same or the world would be a very boring place indeed!

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but the Balanchine left me totally underwhelmed.

 

 

Me too when I saw his MND in St. Petersburg last year so I didn't book for it during this Mariinsky Tour.

 

But, as you say Janet, we all see things differently and it has been nice to see such enthusiastic posts about it on here.

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It is the structure of the Balanchine that I find strange.  He tells Shakespeare's story pretty completely in the first act and then tags on a typical abstract ballet to form a second act.  Ashton tells the story more concisely and with a clearer narrative.  Having said that, I appreciate the actual choreography and liked very much his treatment of the characters of Puck and Bottom and loved Titania's pas de deux with her cavalier, but for me that second act felt like another ballet.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream was beautiful. Again I have seen this recently performed by the Royal Ballet, and I can't remember a thing about it, as it made no impression on me at all.

 

Clearly not, or you might have noticed that it was totally different from what you saw yesterday :)

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It is the structure of the Balanchine that I find strange.  He tells Shakespeare's story pretty completely in the first act and then tags on a typical abstract ballet to form a second act.  Ashton tells the story more concisely and with a clearer narrative.  Having said that, I appreciate the actual choreography and liked very much his treatment of the characters of Puck and Bottom and loved Titania's pas de deux with her cavalier, but for me that second act felt like another ballet.

 

It is my belief that Balanchine meant his MND second act (much like,say, Coppelia*'s third act which in Balanchine's version is even more protracted and, again like in his MND has additional music) to BE an entirely different ballet.   I'm confident he felt this was for very good reason.  It is - as he himself noted - a divertissement in celebration of the nuptials (much along the lines of what you get in the last act of Raymonda and a goodly number of other 19th Century works including of course Sleeping Beauty.)  In the Shakespeare the young lovers - aristocratic all - go to a wedding feast organised by the newly united Theseus and Hippolyta.  Much is made of their tedium at the special presentation (in their honour) of 'The Lamentable Tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe' by the mechanicals.  (Perhaps Balanchine was forecasting your own dislike in his ballet, Janet - THAT'S A JOKE!) .  Balanchine's beautiful adagio (well, I think it is - for me it is the highlight of the entire piece) takes the place of the mechanical's theatrcial efforts - themselves abstracted from the narrative of the rest of the play (i.e., being a play within the play per se).  In the Balanchine this is faithfully set up by having the newly wedded mortal lovers give reverence to Theseus and his new bride - who themselves enter last.  The final follow up in the Fairy Kingdom (again as in the Bard's work) occurs ONLY once the aristocratic mortals have themselves shuffled off to (seeming) slumber.  Does that help at all, Alison and the poster calling (herself?) MAB?  Please let me know if that makes no sense for you.  It may, of course, just be me.  (Again, I'm not saying this in defense of Balanchine on the MND score.  His work must speak for itself.  I say it thinking - as I said at the very start of this forum listing - that Ashton's overall MND economy is preferable..  After all Shakespeare, himself, declared that 'brevity was the soul of wit'. I'm sure Balanchine would agree.  Look at HIS (one act) Swan Lake (sadly not seen in LOndon for over half a century); his Bournonville Divertissements; Concerto Barroco and oh, so, SO many other glorious pieces out of his canon of 420 works.  Certainly I don't want to give the impression that I don't HUGELY admire Balanchine.  I, myself, would consider that to be personal sacrilege.  (Indeed I would, myself, find it VERY hard to do so and still be able to hold an appreciation for 20th century ballet.)   Ashton was, of course, hugely admiring of Balanchine much as the Russian-American master was of the Peruvian's master works.  It is most fitting and greatly appreciated that the Mariinsky is including both in their London season.  Most admirable.  

 

* Has Balanchine's truly lovely production of Coppelia - rife with children dancing aside the adults in the full adult choreography - ever been seen in London?  I would love to know your take on that.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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