(A scene from “The Nutcracker”)
Really nice to see this calibre of classical ballet again in Durban. (Review by Mary Ann Salvage)
What a lovely evening out to the ballet it was on Saturday night at the Playhouse! Thinking we would arrive early so as to enjoy a pre-show drink, my partner and I were pleasantly surprised to see that everyone else seemed to have had the same idea. It felt like old times again, with the Foyer packed with a buzz of Balletomanes eagerly awaiting the start of the performance.
Where did all these people suddenly appear from? And how did the Playhouse Opera Theatre manage to fill a sold-out Matinee and an almost sold-out evening performance? It just goes to show there ARE ballet lovers out there. We just have to provide the shows for them! I’m sure that the reasonably priced tickets contributed to the wonderful turn out too. Excuse the pun.
The programme was a Tribute to the Great Russian Composers, Sergei Rachmaninov, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Aleksander Borodin.
Act 1 began with Paganini, a one act ballet choreographed by Anatoly Emelianov. The curtain went up on a simple yet striking set of violin strings suspended vertically in front of a backdrop of a large violin painted as the central piece. These “strings” were cleverly used during the piece as Paganini and his Muse moved between them. Paganini was performed by Principal Dancer Dmitri Kozhemiakin whose interpretation of this role was superb. It is a dramatic ballet based on the memoirs and ideas of the great musician, his life and creativity. It consists of seven chapters of Paganini’s life and Kozhemiakin managed to portray the nemesis and passion of the piece, fighting his inner self, enemies, loneliness, despair, love, creativity and death. His Muse/Inspiration was beautiful danced by Principal Dancer Natalia Odinokova and she opened the piece with Rachmaninov’s beautiful Vocalize. The Pas de Deux was choreographed to the glorious Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43, written by the composer in 1943. Artists of the corps de ballet were well rehearsed and contributed to the drama of the piece.
After an Interval of 20 minutes, we were treated to the Black Swan Pas de Deux from the ballet Swan Lake with dancers Elizaveta Lobacheva and Aleksander Petrichenko. Lobacheva’s Odile was very seductive and she commanded the role with aplomb, her beautiful black tutu glittering with the exquisite headdress. What was puzzling though, were the two black feathers sticking up at the back of her head, behind the headdress. Furthermore, the famous 32 fouetté pirouettes were somewhat marred by the fact that after the first 16 bars of music and 16 fouettés, the music was speeded up hence fewer fouettés were executed. This was disappointing and a total cheat. I felt robbed. Some of the technical aspects of her solo were also a bit touch and go. This is a very challenging role at the best of times and is very difficult to perform out of context. This, however, was not expected after the promising start. Petrichenko was grand as the Prince and performed his solos well.
Excerpts from The Nutcracker were a welcome delight and distraction and I thoroughly enjoyed them. The introduction of all the National dance characters, the Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, French were delightful with the Russian Dance (Trepak) being my favourite. There were even guest appearances of children from the Russian Ballet Academy of SA. Marie (Clara) performed by the lovely Natalia Odinokova, a true ballerina, was partnered superbly by her Nutcracker Prince Dmitri Kozhemiakin. The final Pas de Deux, an all time favourite together with the Finale which included all 11 dancers, brought the house down. It is such a happy, delightful, bright ballet which should have and could have ended the evening on a high note. I would quite happily have seen even more excerpts performed from The Nutcracker.
Instead we had another Interval of 20 minutes which brought us to Act 3 and the Polovtsian Dance from the opera, Prince Igor. While this was very well choreographed by Anatoly Emelianov with interesting floor patterns and the use of whips as well as other props, I felt it totally inappropriate to end the evening with. Borodin’s dramatic, haunting and at times sad music showed the contrast between the masculinity of the men and the vulnerability of the slave girls. However, I believe this dance should stay where it belongs, in the context of the said opera Prince Igor. It was a very powerful piece and ended rather abruptly leaving the audience in shock with understandably, not much applause following.
Having said this, overall the evening of dancing was enjoyable and it was really nice to see this calibre of classical ballet again in Durban.
Royal Moscow Ballet next perform at the Guild Theatre in East London on March 13 at 19h00, at the Port Elizabeth Opera House on March 14 and 15 at 19h00 and end their tour in Gaborone on March 18 at 19h00 at the International Convention Centre. Tickets R200, R250, R300. Book at Computicket. - Mary Ann Salvage