The performances reviewed were given in the week of 13th Nov 2000. The company are touring the standard fare of Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker depending on where you are. There have been a number of these Russian companies presenting similar programs over the last few years; sometimes it is tricky to know which company is which. This one used to be
known as the Moscow Festival Ballet.
The stage at the Grand is quite small, and fitting an entire corps on is difficult.
Very lacklustre; the dancers lacked soul and life. During the opening sequence they looked very bored. The costumes were quite nice, looked in good order and generally fitted the production well. Carabose did not look menacing enough in his mostly purple costume. I felt I was watching a panto dame. He was carried on by two very bad mice and two Frankenstein monsters. This is a new touch I guess. The production has a very purple look to it.
The fairies were quite variable. None were really bad but the performances were nothing special. Things improved a little with the big waltz (Valise on my cd). The corps looked very together in this, although I did not like the men's 10 gallon grey hats. Aurora danced the Rose Adagio well enough, not outstanding but the audience naturally liked it. She uses her eyes very well, flirting with the suitors and being shy and coy when appropriate. Obviously some extra rehearsal has gone into the "best" bits of the ballet.
The first pdd with Aurora and Prince Desire was very controlled; they both worked very hard during this. I also thought the Prince's opening solo was well danced, but the audience weren't that impressed. Maybe because he looked very serious and one could really see the concentration in his face. The Puss in Boots pdd was well played by the orchestra; I felt this was probably their best bit. The dancing was a bit out of time, but the audience mostly liked it. The orchestra leader was a women in both of the ballets that I saw; nice to see some traditional boundaries being broken down.
For me the Bluebird pdd was the real highlight; very together and I felt the chap gave a lot to the audience. They audience really liked him but were not so taken with her. This was on a par with any Bluebirds that I have seen. The final grande pdd with Aurora and the Prince contained a couple of minor errors but was generally very tidy.
Some noted errors (which Trog liked!)
The conductor audibly telling the flute player off; I couldn't tell if this was because he was off key, using the wrong flute or just playing badly.
For the return of the Lilac Fairy and her six attendants, three entered stage left but only two stage right. I could see in the wings a very embarrassed looking lady who missed her cue. It really didn't matter; the piece merely lacked symmetry.
The curtain coming down (literally!) on Aurora during the final bows. The house staff where very quick to switch the lights on; the conductor didn't have time to take a bow.
This time we were given a proper cast list. I see the Jester will make an appearance, which I like. Also it is going to be difficult for me to be objective in this review, as I Swan Lake is my favourite ballet, and I tend to like the productions no matter how bad.
During the opening scenes, I was onceagain taken with the costumes. They look right and are not OTT like some costumes user by less well known companies. The backdrop featured something that looked like a large mountain lake. The Jester gave a good account of himself in the opening scenes, with some very strong leaps and excellent fouettes. The first act moved along very tidily.
During the second act, the backdrop is changed for a close-up view of the scene. The scenery looks a bit to rugged for swans to be swimming in. (See my review of Shakti's Swan Lake for some thoughts on swans.) Rothbart appears in a nice short cape instead of the usual flowing one. The bit where he mirrors Siegfried's dance was very well done; the syncronicity was almost perfect. The 18 swans on the corps looked pretty well together too, but this could be bias on my part. I always feel a little rush when the corps run on, and in Swan Lake I am always especially excited by this bit.
Dance of the Cygnets was far from perfect; in fact two of the ladies had their arms crossed incorrectly. Also there were a bit out of step with each other, but the audience liked it a lot as they usually do. Personally I have always preferred the big swans, and this time was no different.
Odette remained fairly stone faced throughout; she was technically quite good, be I would have liked to have seen more soul. The small Wolvo stage was very cramped with all the swans on.
The Jester again gave a very good performance in the second act, smiling throughout and dancing well. The four brides looked very elegant in their white costumes, pick out with details of black, gold and silver.
The Orchestra played the Spanish dance a little too fast. The chaps lacked life but the lady was very good. The audience liked her a lot. Naturally the audience loved the fouettes; I didn't count them but it was a bit short, so we didn't see all 32. We got to see the happy ending, although it was a little unclear how Siegfried and Odette vanquish Rothbart.
The only mistake I saw in this performance was during the exit of the swans in Act 3. The last one almost ran into Siegfried; her shuffle to get around him was most inelegant! Also I had a lovely view of a pair of wooly boots and some hands waving in the air in the left hand wing. This was probably the ballet master giving some live directions.
It is probably unfair to judge the company on single performances, but I felt that while not the worse performances I have ever seen, they were far from the best. I certainly wasn't knocked off my feet by what I saw, but I didn't dislike it either. Worth a look if they are in your area and you need a fix of classical ballet.