Tag Archive: Anton Savichev

A Grand Spectacle

“La Fille du Pharaon”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
February 16, 2024

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Mishina (Ramze), E.Kokoreva (Aspicia), and ensemble; “La Fille du Pharaon” by P.Lacotte, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / D.Yusupov The Bolshoi Ballet’s La Fille du Pharaon is about an Egyptian pipe dream—and it felt like a dream indeed. I was already impressed in 2019 when I watched it for the first time. Five years later, the cultural landscape has changed so much that its magnificence seems surreal. It highlights the extent to which the paths of Western and Russian cultures have diverged. While European culture finds itself on shaky grounds, the Bolshoi stands firm as a rock. The critics who argue that Pierre Lacotte’s recreation of Marius Petipa’s La Fille du Pharaon (1862) is like unearthing a dusty ballet mummy are wrong. True, the piece’s libretto (which is based on Theophile Gautier’s 1857 Le Roman de la Momie and was edited by Lacotte) is flimsy. Hearty drags on an opium pipe transport a traveling Englishman and his servant to the pyramids during the reign of a mighty pharaoh. This pharaoh has a daughter who instantly falls in love with the Englishman. After some adventurous trouble (including the dispatch of a lion, a last-minute escape, a nearly murderous assault, a suicide attempt, and the hero’s near execution), the lovers are happily united. But – alas! Upon awakening, it turns out that it had all been nothing but a dream. It’s a well-trod and thoroughly implausible plot. But who cares given the superabundance of (French style) 2. E.Kokoreva (Aspicia), M.Mishina (Ramze), and ensemble; “La Fille du Pharaon” by P.Lacotte, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / D.Yusupov dance that Lacotte incorporated? It was dancing of a complexity that only the Bolshoi can deliver. That’s why he recreated this ballet in 2000 just for them. It deepens the company’s roots in the legacy; it has the vibes of the Imperial Russian Ballet and the glorious ballerinas who excelled in the leading role, Kschessinska and Pavlova among them. Lacotte’s recreation of the splendid set design (a lush oasis, a gargantuan Egyptian palace hall, a fisherman’s hut, the realm of Neptune at the bottom of the Nile, and the courtyard of the palace) and the no less magnificent costumes recall the 19th century’s fascination for the ancient Orient’s exoticism.

The evening’s cast was stellar. As the pharaoh’s daughter, Aspicia, Elizaveta Kokoreva sailed effortlessly through a seemingly never-ending array of pas de deux, turning each one into a marvel. After having watched her on stage several times, I started to believe that she was sent from heaven. However, I didn’t know the other leading dancer, Dmitry Smilevsky. He played the Englishman, Lord Wilson, who turns into the Egyptian Taor in his dream. Similar to Kokoreva, Smilevsky graduated from the Moscow State Academy of Choreography in 2019 and joined the Bolshoi in the same year.
3. E.Kokoreva (Aspicia) and ensemble, “La Fille du Pharaon” by P.Lacotte, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / D.Yusupov 4. A.Loparevich (Pharaoh), “La Fille du Pharaon” by P.Lacotte, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / D.Yusupov There, he soared through the ranks like a rocket. Last year, the company’s artistic director, Makhar Vaziev, doubled down, promoting Smilevsky to first soloist and – soon after – to principal. That suggests that Smilevsky is brilliant—and that’s exactly how his Taor was. I didn’t spot the slightest flaw. He is a freshly promoted young dancer who already delivers top-notch quality. Where might that lead?

Unlike Petipa, Lacotte gave almost all supporting characters a chance to dance. Georgy Gusev turned some merry rounds as Lord Wilson’s, and respectively Taor’s, servant, Passiphonte. As Ramze, Aspicia’s Nubian slave, Maria Mishina chaperoned her mistress and also a group of children. Her complicity helped the lovers to elope. Another slave (Anton Savichev) played a rather inglorious role in the escape and came to an ill end.

Olga Marchenkova and Egor Gerashchenko portrayed the hospitable fishermen who welcome the refugees. Unfortunately, their hut turned out to not be the safest place to hide. The King of Nubia (Yuri Ostrovsky), struck to the core by Aspicia’s refusal to marry him, found her there with his dagger ready in hand. His treachery later cost him the friendship of the pharaoh (Alexey 5. D.Smilevsky (Taor) and E.Kokoreva (Aspicia), “La Fille du Pharaon” by P.Lacotte, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / D.Yusupov Loparevich). Aspicia saved herself with a plucky jump into the Nile, at the bottom of which she was greeted by the River God (Nikita Kapustin) and his court, including representatives of other major rivers. The castanets that Kristina Petrova clattered during her solo marked her as Spain’s Guadalquivir; the pings of a triangle accompanied the solo of the river Congo (Angelina Vlashinets), while the Russian Neva (Antonina Chapkina) flew gently like a reverie. Alexey Matrakhov played the bouncy monkey who was eager for oranges. Of the other animals on stage, the white horse that pulled the pharaoh’s chariot behaved professionally, the (stuffed) lion was quickly captured, and the venomous snake was kind enough to stay in its basket.

Pavel Klinichev and the Bolshoi Orchestra ensured that Cesare Pugni’s score and the performance on stage merged marvelously.
6. D.Smilevsky (Taor), E.Kokoreva (Aspicia), and ensemble; “La Fille du Pharaon” by P.Lacotte, Bolshoi Ballet 2024 © Bolshoi Ballet / D.Yusupov

Links: Website of the Bolshoi Theatre
“La Fille du Pharaon” – Rehearsal
“La Fille du Pharaon” – Revival
Homage to Pierre Lacotte
Photos: 1. Maria Mishina (Ramze), Elizaveta Kokoreva (Aspicia), and ensemble; La Fille du Pharaon” by Pierre Lacotte, Bolshoi Ballet 2024
2. Elizaveta Kokoreva (Aspicia), Maria Mishina (Ramze), and ensemble; La Fille du Pharaon” by Pierre Lacotte, Bolshoi Ballet 2024
3. Elizaveta Kokoreva (Aspicia) and ensemble, La Fille du Pharaon” by Pierre Lacotte, Bolshoi Ballet 2024
4. Alexey Loparevich (Pharaoh), La Fille du Pharaon” by Pierre Lacotte, Bolshoi Ballet 2024
5. Dmitry Smilevsky (Taor) and Elizaveta Kokoreva (Aspicia), La Fille du Pharaon” by Pierre Lacotte, Bolshoi Ballet 2024
6. Dmitry Smilevsky (Taor), Elizaveta Kokoreva (Aspicia), and ensemble; La Fille du Pharaon” by Pierre Lacotte, Bolshoi Ballet 2024
all photos © Bolshoi Ballet / Damir Yusupov
Editing: Kayla Kauffman

 

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…)

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…)

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…)