Music: Rachmaninov; Wagner; Mussorsky
Choreography: Boris Eifman
Set: Slava Okunev
Igor Markov (Alexei); Albert Galichanin (Ivan); Yuri Ananyan (Dmitri); Oleg Markov (Fyodor);Elena Kuzmina (Katerina); Vera Arbuzova (Grushenka)
This is not a new work in the Eifman Repertoire, but new to San Francisco, where it opened to a predominantly Russian audience. The program was printed in English and Russian, back to back, and there was a man selling Russian books and videos of all kinds in the lobby.
Once more I was absorbed by Eifman's ability to translate the turgid history of Russian culture in movement, but this time English spoken was required when Dmitri lands in prison.
The set is remarkable if its usage reminded me a little of Matthew Bourne's prison scene in "The Car Man" although Eifman's
work may have preceeded Bourne's chronologically.A circular stair was one of the differences and a general level of deliberate seedy quality in costuming, whether for the brawling or the haunting elements in the works.
Igor Markov, with his large luminous eyes and fair coloring, makes for an appropriate novice monk. Through out the highly acrobatic ballet he is called upon to witness one emotional outrage after another, and if one can be in the physical peak of condition and sustain that much, Markov certainly was 'it'. Yuri Ananyan, who was Catherine's accomplice in Russian Hamlet last year, was an effective, leonine-looked Dmitri. Oleg Markov certainly gave good cause for his dramatic demise as Fyodor.
I don't know where the Eifman performs in St. Petersburg,but I was assigned a seat much too close to the stage. While the dancers executed a seemingly number of grand jetes, some of them frontally delivered like a split, one could admire the technique but at the expense of feeling. This seemed particularly true for Kuzmina and Arbuzova in the women's role. Kuzmina's suppleness and consistency were both breathtaking. However, this is not a ballet where women are independent doers. They are objects of masculine passion and caught in the tangled web of their significance for the men; their roles are more reactive than responsive.
Some groupings Eifman created for the corps are truly impressive, particularly those for the inmates from "the house of the dead" whom Alexei later releases. Everyone in a while a method of balancing in a pas de deux,one place where the woman's foot secures the balance on the side of a man's head, made one gasp a bit. Virtually everything was accomplished with large doses of trust and the feeling of long familiarity amongst the cast members.
Fyodor is done away with by means of multiple ropes,a breathtaking passage to watch, but even more exciting further back in the auditorium.
I have found myself hearing Mussoursky's interludes from Pictures at an Exhibition more than once and some of the phrases of Wagner as well. When Yoko Tahara and I emerged from the theatre surrounded by the crowd commenting in Russian, I had the sudden sense of what it felt like to be there. Perhaps that is the highest compliment I can give to the spirit Eifman can project.