Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Bolshoi's 'Esmeralda' Is Grand

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Bolshoi's 'Esmeralda' Is Grand

Article excerpt

For those attendees of the Ballet in Cinema series who didn't care for Roland Petit's contemporary rendering of Victor Hugo's Romantic novel, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," last month, have I got a ballet for you.

The Bolshoi Ballet's "Esmeralda" is an entirely different animal. An inexorably Russian reinterpretation of the same material, it harkens back to the ballet's beginnings in 1844, with the original music (Cesare Pugni), period costuming (Yelena Zaytseva), and Petipa choreography (modified by Yuri Burlaka and Vasily Medvedev).

Petit's version whittled Hugo's tale to just four primary characters, three of whom -- the villainous archdeacon Frollo, the handsome captain Phoebus and the crippled hunchback Quasimodo -- vie for the affections of the beautiful gypsy girl, Esmeralda. The whole affair ends darkly, with Esmeralda lying lifeless in the devastated hunchback's arms.

The Bolshoi's take, with its happy ending, is decidedly more old school. The focus is all on Esmeralda (Maria Alexandrova), Phoebus (Ruslan Skvortsov) and Phoebus' (eventually betrayed) fiancee, Fleur de Lys (Yekaterina Krysanova).

Frollo (Alexei Loparevich) and Quasimodo (Igor Tsvirko, with a grossly deformed left leg and augmented nose) are largely non- dancing roles; indeed, Quasimodo barely enters into the fray at all. And a bumbling poet, Gringoire (Denis Savin), provides Esmeralda with an amusing boy-toy, but does not figure largely in the plot.

Lest you think this diminishes the action, fear not. I stopped counting the corps, secondary dancers and supernumeraries at about 75, and they are given plenty of opportunity to exhibit the Russian flair for character dance, bravura turns and mime. (Let us not forget the tambourines ... lots of tambourines.)

The Bolshoi is one of the few companies today which still performs this ballet in its three-act entirety, more than three hours of dancing. …

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