I had an opportunity to see a special gala performance to celebrate 10th anniversary of Bayerisches Staatsballet at Nationaltheater Munich on 9 Oct. It was my first visit to the theatre well-known for its world-acclaimed opera company. In fact, I had little knowledge on the ballet company – except that they are still very young yet has been quite active in recent years. The very reason I was there that night was to catch a glimpse of Uliana Lopatkina of Kirov amongst other international stars.
Guest stars included (in order of appearance) : Evelyn Hart/Vladimir Derevianko; Susan Jaffe/Ethan Stiefel; Uliana Lopatkina; Carlos Acosta/Aurelie Dupont; Elisabeth Platel;, Octavio Stanley Nahuelt, Igor Zelenski/Uliana Lopatkina
The gala comprised of 12 pieces – a mixture of both classics and contemporaries of which half was performed by Bayerisches Staatsballet. I must admit I couldnft adapt myself well the way the evening progressed at first; they did classical and modern pieces by turns so you had to constantly switch the mode. In any case I should be a last person to comment on modern works so here are some thoughts on classical pieces mostly done by guest artists.
When Uliana Lopatkina started Dying Swan I could barely recognize it was her. In other words the way she entered the stage was not very impressive – port de bras at the entrance, if successfully done audience could easily indulge themselves in this otherwise obvious illusion, was rather mediocre; not as eloquent as I hope them to be. Back in summer of 1997 when I first saw her in Swan Lake – the minute she entered into the scene in the 2nd act, it felt as if the entire Coliseum stopped motions. For the next twenty or so minutes I simply couldnft take my eyes off her; she was such a perfect swan I couldnft believe what I saw. Unfortunately same magic didnft work here. Two minutes is cruelly short time to recover from the initial impression – the rest of the performance didnft bring much excitement. I only wished this was not her one and only performance of the evening. Thankfully she came back later in a better shape.
It was without doubt Carlos Acosta who stole the first half of the evening. He appeared in gDiana & Actaeonh pdd. with Aurelie Dupont of POB. From the very beginning his star quality bursted; technically flawless, stage presence more than desired - but it was the elegant manner he maintained through to the end that I was impressed most. Audience applauded thunderously literally at his every movement and I was reminded what I was there for – to see outstanding performances by exceptionally gifted dancers. On the other hand, his Diana – Aurelie Dupont was unworthy partner. In short, in this pdd. she lacked both technical strength and aura of a prima ballerina. It was the second time I saw her (previously as Kitri at Garnier shortly before she was promoted to Etoile) but on both occasions I couldnft get better of her. The biggest problem it seems to me is lack of emotions and little bit of boldness – itfs as if she was too busy bothering not to make any mistake and cared mostly about the tiny details thus failed to deliver a sheer excitement, which is desired more than anything else in a ballet like Don Quixote. On stage contrast was painfully clear; he immensely enjoyed dancing and getting attentions; she looked nervous and less happy. It may be an unfamiliar partner or she may simply have not been in a good condition; in any case I expect nothing but best from Etoiles of POBc. (Incidentally another British troop –Bussell & Cooper, who were publicised to appear in a modern piece, seemed to have pulled off at the last minute. )
After intermission, my frustration for a young French Etoile was eased greatly by another French ballerina. Elisabeth Platel, who had retired from POB a few months ago opened the second half of the evening dancing The Kingdom of Shades pdd. from La Bayadere. I wouldnft call her technically intact, but she proved technicality should only come as a secondary force here after interpretation and expression of the role, to create a Spirit, that is. Her Nikiya was more feminine and human in nature than unreachable, supernatural being. It was a joy to see her dominating the stage gracefully with dignity of a true ballerina. She was partnered with Bayerishe Staatsballetfs very own Oliver Weher, who turned out to be a delight of the evening. His clean style and technical consistency was something to see. Later he stood out in the Balanchine piece where his excellent musicality was also revealed.
Climax of the evening came with dancers with pure classical style in a popular pdd. from Le Corsaire – a must-have piece for gala concerts. Kirov principals Uliana Lopatkina and Igor Zelensky displayed a classic example of 19th century ballet – as far as a style is concerned, their performance was perfect, almost triumphant - you couldnft have more than this. However I couldnft help feeling they could have added something extra more than a style to bring a life to the ballet (I know my expectations for Lopatkina was higher than a mountainc). Zelensky, who somehow reminds me of a reliable and industrious businessman who does what he is expected to do rightly, did just that. Someday I hope to see him explode on stage, giving his whole self abondoning a stoical approach. Lopatkina proved to be a most promising candidate for the inheritor of Russian balletfs centuries–old traditions; she is from head to toe an authentic classical dancer. In this pdd. I was intoxicated by her statuesque pose and flawless movement. With the next millenium nearing what I expect from her next is developing a style of her own based on the strong classical roots.
Justifiably audience gave the biggest applause for a real thing. The excitement was somewhat calmed down by the following piece of Balanchinefs Temparament, which closed the gala evening. Bayerische Staatsballet did a good job, with beautiful interepretations from some of the dancers. Nevertheless doubt remained if this abstract (and rather long) piece was a good selection to end the gala concert.
It was a magnificent sight all the dancers appeared together at the grand finale. If you regard revelence as a part of the performance then ballerinas loyal to this rule were Lopatkina and Platel – their elegant manner and grace never dissappeared through curtain calls; they looked just beautiful.
Lastly a brief note on Bayerisches Staatsballet: The company was in a pretty good shape, it seemed, one of the biggest advantage may be uniformity in physique of the dancers – Corps had a beautiful line thus the Balanchine piece escaped from being marred (at least) by aesthetic reasons. They did have strong soloists as well – besides Oliver Weher female principals were pretty good (among them was Lisa-Maree Collum – once at ENB?) and for die-hard classical roles they were armed with dancers with strong schooling background; Elena Pankova and Kirill Melnikov, both originally from Kirov.
Orchestra (Bayerische Staatsorchester) led by Andre Presser did a heavenly job; rich and smooth throughout the evening. I was filled with enormous happiness when they played Waltz from Swan Lake (for the companyfs modern piece) - I would come back to the theatre if only to listen to the orchestra.