Russian Companies

Frothy

The Nutcracker”
Ballet of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Moscow, Russia

December 30, 2022 (matinee)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “The Nutcracker” by Y.Possokhov, Stanislavsky Ballet 2022 © K.Zhitkova This winter, the Stanislavsky Ballet replaced Vasily Vainonen’s 1995 “Nutcracker” with Yuri Possokhov’s – not a brand-new rendering, but an adaption of the “Nutcracker” that Possokhov created for the Atlanta Ballet in 2018 (new designs included). Since its premiere in Moscow at the end of November, tickets have been in high demand. Given Possokhov’s good work on the Bolshoi Ballet’s “Nureyev” and an “Anna Karenina” for the Joffrey Ballet & the Australian Ballet, I was curious what approach he’d take to this iconic ballet – and it was clear within seconds that he had given this Nutcracker a strong update.

Sergey Rylko’s dazzling videos hurl us through flurrying snow to a spinning astrological sign. From there, a golden ram gallops off towards and through a faceless white town, flying in low over rooftops, an ice-rink, and a carousel. We land at the workshop of Drosselmeyer (danced by Jonah Cook, a former principal of the Bavarian State Ballet and the Zurich Ballet), who is heaping presents onto a sleigh together with his nephew (Andrey Kirichenko). Drosselmeyer’s wall-sized astrological clocks, their faces rotating mysteriously, are presumably tools that control the ticking of the universe. (more…)

Transcendent

“The Nutcracker”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
December 29, 2022 (matinee and evening performance)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Bessonova (Colombine), “The Nutcracker” by Y.Grigorovich, Bolshoi Ballet 2022 © Bolshoi Ballet / M.LogvinovAfter meeting him at a guest performance with Les Ballets de Monte Carlo six years ago, the Bolshoi’s Semyon Chudin suggested that I see their “Nutcracker” in Moscow. Year after year, one thing or another has prevented me from getting to the Bolshoi at Christmastime. Finally, this year, it happened: on the edge of New Year’s Eve, I watched a matinee and an evening performance.

The Bolshoi’s “Nutcracker” dates back to 1966 – qualifying it neither as trendy nor hip by today’s standards. Perhaps Makhar Vaziev, the company’s artistic director, has kept it in the repertoire for a number of reasons: out of respect for tradition; out of respect for the ballet’s choreographer – Yuri Grigorovich – one of the company’s formative figures; and out of respect for the crowd-pleasing nature of the piece that leads to sold out performances now as ever. (more…)

What a Mess

“The Order of the King”
Ural Opera Ballet
Ekaterinburg State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre
Ekaterinburg, Russia
May 02, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Klekovkin (The King) and ensemble, “The Order of the King” by V.Samodurov, Ural Opera Ballet 2021 © O.Kerelyuk / Ural Opera Ballet “The Order of the King” – choreographed in 2018 for the Ural Opera Ballet by its artistic director Vyacheslav Samodurov – won two Golden Mask awards last year. Samodurov was awarded the prize for Best Choreographer and set designer Aleksei Kondratiev the prize for Best Designer in Musical Theatre. The ambitious two-act production marked the bicentennial of Marius Petipa’s birth and was staged according to his templates, augmented by additional historic analysis and scientific research. (more…)

Let’s Party!

“Brahms Party”
Ural Opera Ballet
Ekaterinburg State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre
Ekaterinburg, Russia
April 2021 (video)

 

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Brahms Party” by A.Pimonov, Ural Opera Ballet 2021 © O.Kerelyuk / Ural Opera Ballet Last season, two of the Ural Opera Ballet’s programs were nominated for Golden Mask awards in several categories: “Walpurgisnacht” by George Balanchine (which was shown in a double bill with “Brahms Party” by Anton Pimonov) and “The Order of the King”, a full-evening piece by the company’s artistic director Vyacheslav Samodurov. Though the pandemic halted the festival the first time around, the company brought both productions to the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre as part of this season’s festival in mid-April. (more…)

Leader(s) and Followers

“Five Years and Three Days With Makhar Vaziev”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
February 26, 2021 (documentary)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. I.Tsvirko and M.Vaziev after a performance of “Ivan the Terrible”, “Ivan the Terrible” by Y. Grigorovich, Bolshoi Ballet 2019 © Bolshoi Ballet / G.Uféras This year marks the fifth season with Makhar Vaziev as head of the Bolshoi Ballet. Upon this occasion, the Bolshoi Theatre released the TV documentary “Five Years and Three Days with Makhar Vaziev”, which is also available on YouTube (and includes English subtitles). For three days at the end of January, a film crew followed Vaziev from meeting to rehearsal to performance and back again, conducting several interviews along the way. Despite COVID-19, everyday work has continued at the Bolshoi. We witness the company’s preparations for two revivals: a performance of “Nureyev”, supervised by its stage director and set designer Kirill Serebrennikov, and a re-run of Sergei Vikharev’s version of “Coppélia(more…)

Weighty

“The Winter’s Tale”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
April 06, 2019 (matinee and evening performance)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E. Svolkin, L. Timoshenko, O. Smirnova, and D. Savin, “The Winter's Tale” by C. Wheeldon, Bolshoi Ballet 2019 © Bolshoi Ballet / D. YusupovThe Bolshoi Ballet recently added Christopher Wheeldon’s “The Winter’s Tale” to their repertoire – and what a fortunate choice that was! It is a co-production of the Royal Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada, and premiered in London in 2014. It’s strange that such a strong piece of work is only now being performed by a third company.

The ballet is based on Shakespeare’s play of the same name – one of his intricately-plotted later works, which is classified as a comedy despite its (more…)

In the Running

“Ekman / Goecke / Naharin”
Ballet of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Moscow, Russia
March 23, 2019

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E. Mikirticheva and ensemble, “Tyll” by A. Ekman, Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre 2019 © S. Avvakum No fewer than three pieces of the Stanislavsky Ballet’s repertoire were nominated for this year’s Golden Mask award: “Tyll” by Alexander Ekman, “Lonesome George” by Marco Goecke, and “Minus 16” by Ohad Naharin. On top of that, the company’s senior principal, Oksana Kardash, is nominated twice for her performances in “Tyll” and “Lonesome George”.
The Golden Mask Festival is in full swing in Moscow, presenting the most significant productions of all genres of theater from all over Russia. The winners will be announced on April 16 at an awards ceremony in the Bolshoi Theatre. (more…)

Growing With the Legacy

Coppélia”
Bolshoi Ballet

Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
March 23, 2019 (matinee)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A. Loparevich, “Coppélia” by M. Petipa and E. Cecchetti, revival and new choreographic version by S. Vikharev, Bolshoi Ballet 2019 © Bolshoi Ballet / E. FetisovaWhat would Sergei Vikharev have thought of his “Coppélia” if he had watched the matinee on March 23? For one thing, he wouldn’t appreciate my calling the work “his”, as it is Petipa’s and his assistant Cecchetti’s 1884 choreography that Vikharev, together with ballet scholar Pavel Gershenzon, meticulously revived from Nicholas Sergeiev’s notation. Vikharev’s reconstruction premiered in 2009 with the Bolshoi Ballet with an updated revival planned for 2018/19. However, fate struck in the summer of 2017 when Vikharev, only fifty-five years old, died from an adverse reaction to anesthetic during a dental treatment. As a result, the company re-staged the 2009 version. (more…)

Pipe Dreams

“La Fille du Pharaon”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
March 08, 2019 (matinee and evening performance)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E. Obraztsova, “La Fille du Pharaon” by P. Lacotte, Bolshoi Ballet 2019 © Bolshoi Ballet / D. Yusupov Aspicia, the heroine in Petipa’s “La Fille du Pharaon”, was a highly coveted role among ballerinas. Carolina Rosati, an Italian ballerina whose insistence propelled the ballet to creation, danced Aspicia at the world premiere in St. Petersburg in 1862. Mathilde Kschessinska, the unofficial queen of St. Petersburg’s Imperial Theatres, claimed the role as hers at the 1898 revival – meaning that it was like a revolution when the role was given to Anna Pavlova in 1906. “La Fille du Pharaon” was Petipa’s first significant choreographic success. Pierre Lacotte’s take on the ballet for the Bolshoi Ballet in 2000 was a tribute to Petipa and to the famous ballerinas who had shared their knowledge about Aspicia with Lacotte: Lyubov Egorova, Mathilde Kschessinska, and Olga Spesivtseva.

The ballet’s rambling narrative is loosely based on Théophile Gautier’s 1857 novel “The Romance of a Mummy”. Fueled by opium, an English explorer imagines a slew of adventures with Aspicia, the daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh. Aspicia, a mummy, resurrected from her sarcophagus, goes hunting and is saved from a lion’s wrath by the heroic Egyptian Taor (the Englishman), with whom she naturally falls in love. The duo, contending with Aspicia’s forced marriage to the King of Nubia, elopes to an idyllic fishing village. There, they are met by further hazards: suicide attempts, a detour to the underwater realm of the God of the river Nile, and more. Finally, Aspicia and Taor are reunited and happily married – until at the height of the rejoicing, the Englishman awakes from his dream. (more…)

Topical

“La Esmeralda”
Ballet of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Moscow, Russia
March 07, 2019

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. O. Kardash, “La Esmeralda” by V. Burmeister, Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre 2019 © A. Klyushkina Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” – which features Notre-Dame’s deformed bellringer Quasimodo and the compassionate, kind Esmeralda – has long been popular material for stage and film adaptions. The first ballet adaption premiered in London in 1844, with choreography by Jules Perrot and music by Cesare Pugni. In 1950, Vasiliy Tikhomirov and Vladimir Burmeister produced a new libretto for their version with the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre. As in the novel, their production is set in the 15th century and has a frame narrative that explores Esmeralda’s childhood background. For this iteration of the tale, Tikhomirov and Burmeister brought back Esmeralda’s tragic death while eschewing several secondary characters. In addition, Pugni’s score was newly orchestrated and supplemented with music by Reinhold Glière and Sergei Vasilenko. The three-acter is still in the company’s repertory and – more than 500 years later it is (regrettably) still highly topical. “La Esmeralda” exposes the Catholic church’s sickening hypocrisy and rotten ethics, which have made and continue to make international headlines to this day.

At the heart of the story is Esmeralda, who was picked up and raised by the Romani after they (wrongly) deemed her mother Gudule to be dead. (more…)

A Conversation With Guillaume Côté

Moscow, Russia
December 16, 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Landgraf

1. G.Côté rehearsing “Frame by Frame” by R.Lepage and G.Côté, The National Ballet of Canada 2018 © The National Ballet of Canada / A.AntonijevicGuillaume Côté, principal dancer of the National Ballet of Canada, had just made his debut as a guest dancer with Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet the previous evening, dancing Romeo in Alexei Ratmansky’s version of “Romeo and Juliet” alongside Evgenia Obraztsova. The role was originally created on Côté in 2011. We met early in the morning – a couple of hours before Côté would return to Toronto – to talk about Romeo, love, his career, and Russia. The first topic we touched upon was dance critique.
Côté’s answers are in italics. (more…)

All That is Called Love

“Romeo and Juliet”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
December 15, 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Obraztsova and G.Côté, “Romeo and Juliet” by A.Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet 2018 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.FetisovaI saw the Bolshoi Ballet in Alexei Ratmansky’s “Romeo and Juliet” for the first time in November 2017, though the choreography premiered in Toronto at the National Ballet of Canada in 2011. The piece is intense, seething with emotions and laden with turmoil. If there is a moment of peace and tranquility it is swiftly swept away by the rush of events. The story feels like a river-boat ride: once you’ve boarded, there’s no stopping or changing course. Instead, the passengers quickly find themselves carried from placid waters to heavy currents and towards a torrential waterfall. (more…)

From “Ballet Falsity” to Long-Runner

“The Bright Stream”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
February 10 and 11, 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Front Curtain, “The Bright Stream” by A.Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / D.Yusupov“The Bright Stream” was Shostakovich’s third score for ballet. After his previous ballets, “The Golden Age” (1930) and “Bolt” (1931), were banned from the stage, Shostakovich attempted to create a new composition that would please everyone. Fyodor Lopukhov (1886 – 1973) was in charge of the choreography, the libretto was by Adrian Pyotrovsky and Lopukhov, and indeed, “The Bright Stream” was enthusiastically received at its premiere in Leningrad – today’s St. Petersburg – in 1935. (more…)

It’s Done

“Nureyev”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
December 09, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Lantratov, “Nureyev”, chor.: Y.Possokhov, dir.: K.Serebrennikov, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / M.LogvinovAfter the Bolshoi Ballet’s July premiere of “Nureyev” was canceled at the last minute, officials doubled down on security efforts for the rescheduled performance on December 9th. Although guards lined the theater’s entrances and the curtain rose behind schedule, the performance was a smooth ride from start to finish.
And yet only those who attended the dress rehearsal this summer can truly asses whether or not the initial version was tweaked to comply with requests from the authorities. One might have noticed, for instance, that Richard Avedon’s photo of the naked Nureyev was not used as a backdrop, but rather was only projected on a screen for a quick second. But given the fact that the work was finally seen by the public – do these minor changes matter?

Choreographer Yuri Possokhov, stage director and set designer Kirill Serebrennikov, and composer Ilya Demutsky are the artistic core team behind “Nureyev”. Interviews with the trio, who had previously collaborated on the Bolshoi’s ballet “A Hero of Our Time”, were printed in the program booklet, which also contains Serebrennikov’s libretto.

(more…)

Universal Love

“Romeo and Juliet”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
November 25, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Lopatin and A.Stashkevich, "Romeo and Juliet" by A.Ratmansky, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Ballet / E.Fetisova Last week the Bolshoi Ballet added a second version of “Romeo and Juliet” to its repertoire. By Alexei Ratmansky, it premiered at the National Ballet of Canada in 2011 and is being performed on the New Stage of the Bolshoi Theatre. As during recent years, Yuri Grigorovich’s adaption will be shown on the Bolshoi’s Historic Stage.
Ratmansky cast three leading couples: Ekaterina Krysanova & Vladislav Lantratov; Anastasia Stashkevich & Vyacheslav Lopatin; and Evgenia Obraztsova & Artemy Belyakov; however the pairings switched in the course of the first run. I saw the fourth performance after the premiere; Stashkevich was Juliet alongside Lopatin’s Romeo. (more…)