Magazine article The Spectator

Tribute to a Legend

Magazine article The Spectator

Tribute to a Legend

Article excerpt

Maya Plisetskaya 80th Birthday Tribute Royal Opera House

Living ballet legend Maya Plisetskaya might be 80, but she does not look it.

Her first entrance on Sunday evening, at the end of the first part of her 80th Birthday Tribute at the Royal Opera House, electrified the audience. Oozing charisma, the tigress of Russian ballet engaged immediately with her star-studded audience in a game of dance seduction set to Ravel's Bolero, a ballet she is remembered for. Clad in a flashy evening gown, she moved as if to claim total ownership of the performing space, celebrating herself in no understated way. Later on, she elicited thunderous and deafening ovations with Maurice Béjart's solo 'Ave Maya' and with an encore based on Carmen, one of her most remembered and most acclaimed roles.

As for rest of the evening, this was a typical ballet gala with the usual mix of memorable and not so memorable moments and a fairly impressive line-up of stars and artists. I have always had a problem with dance numbers extrapolated from larger dance works, for I find that such treatment detracts greatly from their narrative and artistic essence. This is particularly true in the case of duets from dramatic ballets such as Kenneth MacMillan's Manon. Still, on Sunday evening, Leanne Benjamin and Federico Bonelli, recreated beautifully the pathos of the so-called 'bedroom' pas de deux, thus providing an ideal start to the programme. The grand duet from the Romantic classic Giselle is no party piece either, even though it keeps being used in galas all over the world. Royal Ballet stars Roberta Marquez and Ivan Putrov, however, evoked the magic vibrancy of the entire ballet in the opening section. Their performance was sadly truncated when Putrov had an horrific-looking accident a few seconds into his solo. The evident agony of the injured dancer affected the general atmosphere, so that when the curtain went up again on the duet from Schéhérazade, it was a while before the not so subtle choreographic eroticism of the piece started to have any effect on the audience. Farukh Ruzimatov, as the Golden Slave, looked in terrific form and cavorted around statuesque Ilse Liepa with the prowess he is much admired for.

The rather camp duet -- it is about time to admit that what survives as Schéhérazade looks like a cheap music-hall turn -- was followed by another oddity, namely a duet from the little-known Snow White. …

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