Tag Archive: Yuri Grigorovich

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…)

Boris Akimov – Half a Century for the Bolshoi

Bolshoi Ballet
Moscow, Russia
March 10, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. B.Akimov, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / D.YusupovDid you watch the Bolshoi Ballet’s live broadcast last October on World Ballet Day? If so, you must remember the lean, white-haired man who taught morning class: Boris Akimov. The motivation he spread was contagious, his vigor stupendous. Akimov demonstrated the exercises, had an eye on everyone and, simply with his charisma, kept everyone’s attention focused. Katerina Novikova, head of the press office, had just revealed in her introductory words that Akimov has been working at the Bolshoi for fifty years, and yet no one could have imagined that he was seventy years old at the time.

Akimov danced with the company, directed it artistically and for decades since has been teaching, rehearsing and coaching not only dancers of the Bolshoi and other companies abroad, but also students of the Russian University of Theatre Arts. He has been honored and recognized for his artwork extensively, including receiving the “People’s Artist of the USSR” in 1989, the highest title Russia can bestow on an artist.

I met Akimov on March 10th at the Bolshoi Theatre to find out more about his career and artistic vision. Novikova kindly interpreted from Russian to English and vice versa.
Akimov’s answers are in italics. (more…)

Grigorovich’s “Giselle”

“Giselle”
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre
Moscow, Russia
February 18 / 19, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. O.Smirnova and S.Chudin, “Giselle” by Y.Grigorovich after J.Coralli, J.Perrot and M.Petipa, Bolshoi Ballet 2017 © Bolshoi Theatre / E.Fetisova“Giselle” is in the core repertory of almost every ballet company, whether in a modern interpretation or a traditional one. The Bolshoi even holds two traditional versions, one by Yuri Grigorovich, the other by Vladimir Vasiliev. Vasiliev’s 1997 “Giselle” follows the earlier versions of Leonid Lavrovsky and Alexander Gorsky. Earlier in 1987 Grigorovich had instead traced the choreographic lineage directly via Marius Petipa to Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli’s 1841 original. In honor of the 90th anniversary of Grigorovich’s birth, the Bolshoi presented three performances of his “Giselle” as part of the Grigorovich ballet festival, of which I saw two matinées with different casts. (more…)

Spartacus versus Crassus

“Spartacus”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
January 03, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. O.Gouneo and ensemble, “Spartacus” by Y.Grigorovich, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2017Yuri Grigorovich’s “Spartacus” has four leading characters: Spartacus, the heroic fighter for freedom, his antipode, the Roman consul Crassus, and the two men’s lovers, Phrygia and Aegina. The dynamics between the four characters varies depending on the dancers. Having already seen the ballet before Christmas, I was curious as to how the dynamics would be re-balanced by another cast. This time Cuban-born Osiel Gouneo danced Spartacus alongside Ivy Amista as Phrygia. Erik Murzagaliyev replaced the injured Matêj Urban in the role of Crassus. Prisca Zeisel was Crassus’s concubine Aegina.

Gouneo’s Spartacus melded feline suppleness with focused power. He is a fine jumper and turns with elegant ease. With confidence and natural pride, his chest cut through the air like a stately ship’s figurehead. His Spartacus was driven by inner visions, by an intense desire which the flash of his eyes also strongly expressed. Gouneo’s acting, be it when protecting Phrygia, uniting his fighters or struggling as a captive, was credible throughout. He made Spartacus a charismatic, likeable leader. (more…)

Munich’s Heroes

“Spartacus”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
December 23, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Shklyarov and ensemble, “Spartacus” by Y.Grigorovich, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2016Since last Thursday, shortly before Christmas Eve, heroic fighters have commanded the stage of Munich’s National Theater. Hordes of men together with a few women all of them representing characters of either Thracian or Roman lineage, dance “Spartacus”, the epic about a Thracian man who, after having been enslaved by the Roman consul Crassus, engineers a revolt. What will happen, happens: Spartacus dies a hero’s death.

Big doses of fierce fighting and repeated displays of valor need a strong portion of the erotic in order to make them palatable to the audience. That is supplied by two women – Phrygia, Spartacus’s faithful mistress, and Aegina, Crassus’s conniving courtesan. The ballet’s action is based on the novella “Spartaco”, penned in 1874 by Raffaello Giovagnoli, who likely took liberties with historical material from before the Christian era.

There are plenty of “Spartacus” ballets in existence. Budapest, Vienna, Hong Kong and Cape Town have their own productions. Russia has seen four versions: the most recent is Georgy Kovtun’s for the Mikhailovsky Theatre. Aram Khachaturian had composed the music in 1954, and the first staging, by Igor Moiseyev for the Bolshoi in 1956 was short-lived. It was given only two performances, perhaps because it contained much pantomime but too little dancing. (more…)

The Bavarian State Ballet Prepares for the Slave Uprising

“Ballet Extra: Open Rehearsal for Spartacus
Bavarian State Ballet
Ballet Rehearsal Premises, Platzl 7
Munich, Germany
December 16, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Urban and P.Zeisel, “Ballet Extra: Open Rehearsal for Spartacus”, chor.: Y.Grigorovich, Bavarian State Ballet © N.Rodboon 2016Yuri Grigorovich’s “Spartacus” premieres the day before Christmas Eve in Munich. Since September the Bolshoi’s Oksana Tsvetnitskaya and Ruslan Pronin have been rehearsing the troupe. Grigorovich also arrived from Moscow to supervise the production. He didn’t attend Friday evening’s open rehearsal, but Tsvetnitskaya and Pronin were present.

Compared to the last “Ballet Extra,” the queue in front of the company’s rehearsal premises in Munich’s city center was shorter, certainly not because of a lack of interest or Christmas shopping, but due to the limited space in the Bosl-Studio where the event took place. (more…)

Tracing the History of the Bolshoi

Simon Morrison:
“Bolshoi Confidential”
512 pages, b/w illustrations
W.W. Norton & Company, October 2016
ISBN 978-0-87140-296-7
November 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. “Bolshoi Confidential”, book cover © W.W. Norton & Company 2016Prompted by the abominable acid attack on Sergei Filin in early 2013, Nick Read and Mark Franchetti put the spotlight on what was going on behind the scenes of the Bolshoi Ballet. Their film “Bolshoi Babylon” was followed by a substantial book this October: “Bolshoi Confidential”, penned by Simon Morrison, professor of music at Princeton University focusing mainly on Russian and Soviet music. Morrison is an assiduous writer and the author of a number of books, two of them about Sergey Prokofiev. As it was for Read and Franchetti, the assault on Filin is also Morrison’s springboard. Yet he considerably widens the perspective on his subject.

The history of the Bolshoi, initially called Petrovsky Theatre, began in 1776, when Catherine the Great granted the Russian Prince Urusov exclusive rights for theatrical presentations. Urusov teamed up with the Englishman Michael Maddox, “either a mathematician or tightrope walker during his youth”, but financial straits forced him to surrender the reins to Maddox. Morrison takes us from there through almost 250 years of meandering, tumultuous evolution.

A stupendous amount of details and anecdotes illustrates how the Bolshoi overcame Napoleon’s invasion, then artistically prospered under imperial reign before being massively restricted in its artistic vitality by the Russian Bolsheviks. Three times destroyed by fire, the theater building has always been reconstructed on nearly the same place. It became bigger, more imposing and, though slowly, was equipped with the technical innovations of the time. Since 1825 it was commonly called the Bolshoi – meaning “Grand” – Theatre. (more…)

Behind the Scenes at the Bavarian State Ballet

“Ballet Extra: A Day of Rehearsals”
Bavarian State Ballet
Ballet Rehearsal Premises, Platzl 7
Munich, Germany
September 10, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Ryzhkova and O.Gouneo rehearsing “Giselle”, Bavarian State Ballet © S.Ballone 2016Igor Zelensky’s directorship at the Bavarian State Ballet kicked off for the public last Saturday with a “Ballet Extra”. The doors of the rehearsal studios in Munich’s City Center were open from 9:45 AM well into the afternoon. The company – or more precisely its principals, soloists and demi-soloists – rehearsed “Giselle”, the season’s first production, and “Spartacus”. Corps dancers weren’t involved.

People queued up in front of the entrance that morning and it seemed a sizeable crowd although, according to new press spokesperson Annette Baumann, it was slightly smaller than last year’s. Given that it was a lovely late summer day, people may have preferred to spend their free time outdoors rather than in stuffy studios full of hard working dancers. (more…)