LAST EDITED ON 23-Oct-99 AT 05:40 PM (GMT)
La Scala fielded three guest stars in Nureyev's sumptuous production of "Don Quixote" last week - Sylvie Guillem, Thomas Edur (whose celebrated partnership with his wife Agnes Oaks is a glory of the English National Ballet), and Jose Martinez from the Paris Opera Ballet. This version, which Nureyev produced for a number of companies worldwide in his lifetime, is superior to Kevin McKenzie's production for the ABT, which I saw in its Paris season two weeks ago, in terms of dramatic logic and dance contents. I first saw it in the early 1980s danced by Nureyev himself and the Boston Ballet during a Nureyev Festival in London one summer.
Thomas Edur first guested with La Scala back in 1994 in the role of Des Grieux in Kenneth MacMillan's "Manon", and partnered Alessandra Ferri for one of the performances. In July this year, he was invited back by La Scala and made his debut as Basilio in this Nureyev production. His Kitri for that debut and for his performance last Friday (8 October 1999) was Beatrice Carbone, a junior dancer of La Scala.
Edur's Basilio was superb throughout, and he brought out every nuance of humour and fun of the character. Edur's solo in Act 1 was delightfully exuberant; his upraised arms embellishing his strong legwork in those split jumps, double tours en l'air, and double assembles en tournant (a signature step of Nureyev). And his two one-handed lifts of Kitri were firm.
In Act 2, Edur's noble classical style reached a high point in the pas de deux added by Nureyev in the beginning of the gypsy scene (to music that Makarova used in the last act of her production of "La Bayadere" for the Royal Ballet and ABT). I had seen three casts of the Paris Opera Ballet last Christmas in this same production, but I do not recall seeing this pas de deux being danced as heart-meltingly as in this performance by Carbone and Edur. In the adage, Edur's expressiveness had a ravishing snow-white purity. He also illuminated Nureyev's choreography with his nice hands and arms.
And in his variation in the last act's grand pas de deux, Edur's clean effortless virtuosity was exhilarating. I wish however that he could have partnered a better Kitri than Miss Carbone, whose dancing was uneven. Carbone merely sketched some of the difficult steps such as those equilibres en pointe in the grand pas de deux. Her characterisation lacked depth.
But La Scala's supporting performances were outstanding. This is the first time I have seen this company which I find quite impressive. (It is to tour Japan next summer.) The corps de ballet of Dryads was well-schooled and uniform in line, led by Marta Romagna as the Queen of the Dryads. Brigida Bossoni was a bubbly Cupido; Salvo Perdichizzi was an exciting gypsy soloist; and Sabrina Galasso and Francisco Sedeno dazzled in the Act 3 Fandango.
Earlier in the week, Edur also danced Albrecht in La Scala's production of "Giselle" by Patrice Bart, the associate director of Paris Opera Ballet. (I hadn't seen his Albrecht since his memorable first season with English National Ballet back in 1991 when he danced with the Kirov's Yelena Pankova.) Edur had a finer partner here in Gilda Gelati, a soloist of the company making a debut in the ballerina role in this performance.
In Act 1, Edur was an epitome of good grace. His restraint early on in this act made his emotional outburst after Giselle's death at the end all the more touching. His solo showed off his lacy legwork in the intricate series of jumps.
And in Act 2, Edur was most poetic as the repentant Albrecht with his head buried in his hands. He seemed possessed with his face as white as marble. To see Edur in the beginning of this act inhaling into the white lilies, running eloquently on the stage with his black cloak, his arms raised up to the heavens as if in a prayer was like being intoxicated by those dizzy night mists in this act.
Sparked off by Edur perhaps, it was no surprise that Gelati's Giselle suddenly became so much more alive both emotionally and technically in this second act, after her rather lacklustre Act 1. She brilliantly executed the series of entrechats in her solo. It was an impressive debut by Gelati, well partnered by Edur.
As a contrast to his lyricism, Edur dazzled with a series of curvilinear jumps in the coda of the pas de deux (which in this version replaces the entrechats done by Albrecht in other productions). His ending was moving - strewing the bundle of white lilies onto the ground as he gradually moved forward to the curtain.
Beatrice Carbone, who made less of an impression on me as Kitri, was an imperious Myrtha in this performance. I was again impressed by La Scala's corps de ballet. The peasant pas de deux was excellently danced by Monica Vaglietti and Maurizio Licitra.
Patrice Bart's production (also in the repertory of the Paris Opera Ballet) has a fine choreographic text, which is faithful to the authentic Coralli/Perrot choreography. I am glad to see Berthe's mime scene retained for instance. The sets and costumes were reproduced from Alexandre Benois' original designs by Angelo Sala.
David Garforth conducted the Orchestra Lirica "I Pomeriggi Musicale" for both performances.