Kirov Ballet

Article excerpt

KIROV BALLET METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE JUNE 28-JULY 10, 1999

A lot of water has flowed along the Neva since St. Petersburg's Kirov Ballet of the Maryinsky Theatre--a cumbersome title from which the subtle might extrapolate a pocket-history of Russia in the twentieth century--was last here. The company is substantially changed with a whole new generation of young ballerinas. During those four years, the then-new regime of Valery Gergiev, artistic and general director, and Makhar Vaziev, director of the ballet company, has had time to settle down. And what were they bringing us as its latest novelty? The Sleeping Beauty.

Now, the Kirov has offered The Sleeping Beauty many times in New York, but this time it was with a profound--one might say revolutionary--change. For earlier this year, it had decided to turn back to the Czarist era and to remount a facsimile of the Maryinsky's most celebrated historic production, the Marius Petipa-Tchaikovsky Sleeping Beauty of 1890. So did this new/old Sleeping Beauty awaken with a magic kiss? Yes, but she was a little shaky, even dozy, from her 109-year-long nap.

I consider the history, the methodology, the validity, and the authenticity of the production in this month's "Attitudes" column in this magazine [see page 122]. Here I concentrate on the performances, although I must say that, decoratively and choreographically, this production with the restaging supervised by Sergei Vikharev was indeed historically fascinating. The choreography, although a fair remove from any Soviet version and much fuller, is not all that different from that used by Britain's Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, or the New York City Ballet.

The dancing was stylish and generally excellent; the Kirov has always lavishly demonstrated the Petipa style even when it skated over or changed the Petipa choreography. However, on the first night neither Svetlana Zakharova nor Igor Zelensky seemed to be dancing at the top of their form, and certainly Zakharova's "twelve o'clock high" extensions looked stylistically out of place.

During the first three days of the season there were four different ballerinas, including Zakharova, as Aurora. The new Kirov management is clearly placing enormous emphasis, especially for this New York engagement, on the company's youngest entries. It seemed ironic that it was its peerless senior ballerina, thirty-nine-year-old Altynai Asylmuratova, who gave the most delicately nuanced and well-rounded portrayal of Aurora at the Wednesday matinee, partnered by the smiling, effortlessly suave competence of Andrian Fadeyev. Diana Vishneva had coruscated during the second performance, but at the production's fourth and final showing of the season, the technically adequate Irma Nioradze glimmered rather than sparkled, although admittedly she elicited more vibrancy from her partner, Zelensky, than he had shown earlier with Zakharova.

Highlights among the rest of the casting were Islom Baimuradov's melancholy and brooding figure of the wicked fairy Carabosse at all performances, and Daria Pavlenko's charming and beautiful Lilac Fairy. The very young Anton Korsakov (who became a clear audience favorite during the season) and Irina Zhelonkina proved the best pick in the Bluebird pas de deux.

At all these Sleeping Beautys, in the pit the Kirov's Italian conductor Gianandrea Noseda handled the company's orchestra in a manner animated enough to qualify as a dance performance in its own right.

The push toward youth typified by its Sleeping Beauty was equally evidenced by the season's six performances of Giselle--each with a different eponymous heroine. The only performance I missed during the season was Asylmuratova's Giselle, but I am sure she was as stylishly poetic as ever. I did see the five debutantes. These were Vishneva and Maya Dumchenko, both partnered by Fadeyev, Zakharova with Zelensky, and Natalia Sologub matched with Viacheslav Samodurov. …