Maestro Gergiev will be conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra in two concerts at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, an annual event since 1986 in the region of the same name in northern Germany which is one of the world’s greatest classical music forums
Maestro Gergiev will be conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra in two concerts at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, an annual event since 1986 in the region of the same name in northern Germany which is one of the world’s greatest classical music forums. This year the festival runs from 5 July to 31 August. The festival was initiated by the German pianist and conductor Justus Frantz, whose intention was not only to organise a celebration of music for the people of Schleswig-Holstein but also to introduce foreign visitors at the festival to the beauty of this region of northern Germany. This is why festival events take place throughout the region, with concerts being held in castles, mansions, churches and even wharves, stables and airport terminals. In addition to concerts of classical music, audiences are offered literary and music programmes, jazz evenings and special events for children.
This year the Mariinsky and Valery Gergiev will be giving two performances at the festival – in Hamburg on 21 August and in Lübeck on 22 August. The concert programmes include Dmitry Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto and symphonies by Johannes Brahms – the Fourth (in Hamburg) and the Third (in Lübeck). On both evenings the soloist will be Argentinean cellist Sol Gabetta, whose performances form a focal point of this year’s Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival (she is appearing in seventeen festival concerts).
The mid-September general release of a recording of Sergei Prokofiev’s legendary ballet is already available to preview on the website of the Mariinsky label.
The Mariinsky label’s twenty-sixth disc is a video recording of Romeo and Juliet featuring Leonid Lavrovsky’s choreography in HD format for the first time. Lavrovsky’s version, premiered at the Kirov (Mariinsky) Theatre in January 1940, was a de facto world premiere (the first performance of the piece in Brno in 1938 had been considered a failure). The main task the production team faced was to bring the work as close as possible to the Shakespearean play. Prokofiev’s score is generally recognised as a perfect musical epitome of Shakespeare’s tragedy. This is equally true of Lavrovsky’s version with regard to the dance embodiment of the drama in ballet theatre.
The recording of the ballet was made at the historic Mariinsky Theatre in February and March last year. The lead roles were performed by Diana Vishneva (Juliet), Vladimir Shklyarov (Romeo), Alexander Sergeyev (Mercutio) and Ilya Kuznetsov (Tybalt) with the Mariinsky Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev. It was this production that opened the Mariinsky Ballet’s recent three-week tour to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in London. British critics lavished praise on the performance, referring to Diana Vishneva and Vladimir Shklyarov’s appearances as “captivating” (The Telegraph).
The release forms part of a series of discs in DVD and Blu-ray formats.
The Mariinsky Ballet’s three-week tour to London has come to a close.
People are still talking of the St Petersburg productions and British critics are already eagerly awaiting the return of Mariinsky Theatre dancers. “Showing young stars, and old legends; ruffling feathers, and being predictable; winning new audiences, and helping old fans fall in love all over again – that was the Mariinsky in London in 2014. Now, when are they coming back?” wrote the internet portal The Arts Desk.
Stressing the significance of the recent tour, the portal referred to the fact that “the Mariinsky have to stand for the state of Russian cultural politics, the past, present and future of ballet, and their presence in town becomes as consuming as the Olympics to dance fans, who become temporarily conversant with the names of Mariinsky second soloists in the manner of football fans mugging up on Costa Rican goalkeepers during the World Cup.”
The final note of the tour programme came with Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella. The reviewer for The Arts Desk commented on the choice of this production to bring the tour to a conclusion, stating that “it was good to end the season with the Ratmansky – a vision of the new work (like it or loathe it) a company needs to go into the future.”
Most of all, the critic of The Telegraph was impressed by Diana Vishneva as Cinderella: “Vishneva, whose grave incandescence perfectly echoes Prokofiev and who communicates emotion without fear or restraint, is nothing short of a goddess.” The critic also wrote of how “Zverev has the pure lines of a dancer trained in the Vaganova Ballet Academy style.” Meanwhile, the reviewer for The Independent was impressed by the dancers’ duet – “Vishneva and Konstantin Zverev make an enchanting pair of lovers, both tender and vulnerable.”
The Arts Desk wrote of the “fabulous performances from Nadezhda Batoeva and Vladimir Shklyarov as Cinderella and the prince. Young Batoeva, still only a second soloist, is a quietly exciting dancer: she has a soubrette’s quickness in the feet, a pliant, graceful upper body in lyrical passages, and an expressive, likeable face. There’s not much character development over the course of the evening in her shy, eager, dreamy Cinderella, but she’s easily appealing and charismatic enough to get the audience rooting for her. Shklyarov has already won hearts on this tour, and with reason: he’s a fine dancer, a chivalrous partner and a versatile actor.” Summing up the results of the three-week marathon – which put the current potential of the Mariinsky Ballet on prominent display – the critic for The Telegraph stated that “Diana Vishneva, together with Uliana Lopatkina and the British dancer Xander Parish, were the stars of this season, embodying ballet at its timeless best.” The reviewer of The Arts Desk commented on “rising stars” Kimin Kim, Alexander Sergeyev and Vasily Tkachenko, advising that they are more of the “boys to watch.”
Such was The New York Times columnist’s response to yesterday’s London evening performance of a programme of one-act ballets including Michel Fokine’s The Firebird, Frederick Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand and Alexei Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH.
“Sold-out houses, lines of people waiting for returned tickets, and palpable audience buzz,” commented the journalist of The New York Times on the atmosphere prior to the performances at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, stating that “Why this program, and the Balanchine double bill that preceded it, were only offered for two or three performances is a mystery, since it suggested that they were among the most eagerly anticipated of the season. That’s partly because mixed bills offer a number of opportunities to showcase principal roles and the Mariinsky has plenty of stars to show off.”
The New York critic named Alexei Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH the highlight of the programme. Familiar with the choreography of the production since its premiere with the New York City Ballet, the reviewer asked somewhat rhetorically “Is Alexei Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH the best ballet to date of the 21st century?” And, inspired by the performance by Mariinsky Ballet dancers, she answered her own question: “It certainly felt like the most exhilarating one.” The New York Times wrote how the “Russianness of the work – its evocation of Soviet optimism in its bounding athletes, its simultaneous comedy and pathos – feels touchingly alive.” “But the Mariinsky dancers were more than equal to its demands, with blazingly good performances from Kimin Kim, Filipp Stepin and Nadezhda Batoeva as the opening trio, and Viktoria Tereshkina and Mr Yermakov as the principal pair. The commentator of the Financial Times noted the countless cries of “Bravo!” to which “Nadezhda Batoeva relished her saucy pas de trois, flanked by Filipp Stepin and Korean boy wonder Kimin Kim, who played in the air like a starling.” According to The Telegraph, Ratmansky’s ballet “shows off the Mariinsky’s sharp strength in depth.” The performance, an impression of which the correspondent of The Telegraph compared to feelings about the last day of summer, filled with joy but also reminding one of impending autumn, also centred around the powerful technique and beautiful shapes of Viktoria Tereshkina and the ideal partnering qualities of Andrei Yermakov, “one of the discoveries of this London visit.”
“Best of all was the unexpected pleasure of Andrei Yermakov’s Tsarevich hero” in The Firebird, commented the internet portal The Arts Desk. Meanwhile, the Financial Times praised Andrei Yermakov for his combination of “elegant technique and manly manners with the looks of a young Steve McQueen.”
Praising the Mariinsky Ballet’s performance of The Firebird, the reviewer for The Guardian commented that “I must have seen dozens of Firebirds, and few match this for fairytale shock and awe. Even more powerful, though, is the playing of the Mariinsky Orchestra, who render Stravinsky’s score in magisterial Technicolor, and the dancers themselves, who bring an ardent storytelling energy to Michel Fokine's choreography.”
The Russian dancers’ performance of Frederick Ashton’s ballet drew well-expected interest among British audiences. The correspondent of The New York Times stated that “Diana Vishneva is perfect for the role” ... “and Ms Vishneva is certainly a ballerina to make the most of wild love, a tragic death and gorgeous dresses by Cecil Beaton.”
“The beauteous Vishneva looked sumptuous in Cecil Beaton’s dresses, giving the slender choreographic fabric the full prima swish,” noted The Arts Desk.
The respected ballet critic of The Telegraph Sarah Crompton, paying due tribute to every appearance by Ulyana Lopatkina in the performances, wrote that she “conveyed the profoundest emotion through the tiniest details as Marguerite The moment when she first sees him, and unfolds towards him in a kind of hazy slow motion, was utterly lovely. At 40, this may be her last appearance on a British stage – if so, it was a fitting farewell
Sarah Crompton’s opinion matches that of famous British critic Judith Mackrell, who wrote in The Guardian that “Uliana Lopatkina is a revelation. Her grand classical line makes Marguerite unquestionably queen of her own court, yet her body looks hollowed by illness, her happiness a fragile puff. Both exquisite and ravaged, this performance opens up fascinating views of Lopatkina's artistry in this late phase of her career.”
The Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra’s three-week season continues at the Royal Opera House in London. The second week of the tour concluded with George Balanchine’s ballets Apollo and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the homeland of William Shakespeare marked four hundred and fifty years since the birth of the great dramatist. British audiences, more familiar with another interpretation of this Shakespearean play – a one-act ballet by Frederick Ashton – gave a warm welcome to Balanchine’s two-act production as performed by dancers of the Mariinsky Ballet. The correspondent of The Telegraph awarded A Midsummer Night’s Dream five stars. Meanwhile, The Times considered that Balanchine’s ballet after Shakespeare’s plot was “a gleaming showcase for elegant, aristocratic dancing, just the ticket for these St Petersburg dancers.” Among the performers of the lead roles, the British critic noted Viktoria Tereshkina as “an extra marvel as Titania” as well as Timur Askerov who was “noble and accomplished as Oberon” and Vasily Tkachenko’s “eye-catching Puck”; Anastasia Matvienko’s “dazzling pirouettes” and leaps as Hippolyta also drew the critic’s attention. London reviewers loved the “illumination of the stage with sensuous radiance” that filled the theatre in the Act II duet with Oxana Skorik and Konstantin Zverev in addition to stating that “Kimin Kim and Nadezhda Batoeva are radiant in the floating lifts and dreamy phrasing.”
Critics spoke of all three performers of the title role in Apollo; The Independent noted the “elegance of the dancing” and that “Parish has pure line and a high jump”, while the critic of The Times related how “Alexander Sergeyev had the stature and charisma I associate with the best Apollos” and the reviewer for The New York Times wrote how “Mr Shklyarov is an immediately engaging performer, technically powerful, alertly musical and tenderly responsive to Ms Shapran, Nadezhda Batoeva as Polyhymnia and Viktoria Krasnokutskaya as Calliope.”
Kristina Shapran who performed the role of Terpsichore was forecast a great future by The Financial Times. Clement Crisp, one of the most influential critics in Great Britain, spoke of how “Here is a very rare talent” with regard to the young soloist and referred to her appearance in Apollo as “dancing of astonishing promise”, going on to say that “She is young, has exquisite feet, an ideal physique, is musically alert and technically assured (...) But Shapran seems to give each step, each action, an inner life that is revealed to us as she moves.”
“Ulyana Lopatkina shows other ballerinas what it is all about” was the headline of a London review following the performance by the Mariinsky Theatre’s prima ballerina in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
London audiences will see a further two performances of Swan Lake by the Mariinsky Ballet, though the critic of The Telegraph has already made up her own mind, commenting that “Dance fans are unlikely to ever see an Odette as otherworldly and magical as Ulyana Lopatkina.” “She turns Petipa’s steps into a kind of liquid poetry,” the review went on to state, calling Ulyana Lopatkina’s performance as Odette in the “white” adagio with Yevgeny Ivanchenko as Prince Siegfried “a masterpiece within a masterpiece”, while as the black swan Odile Lopatkina has “exact shaping, exhibiting Lopatkina’s almost surreal ability to find space in the music to make different inflections, new sense.”
The internet portal The Arts Desk explains the unusual refinement of Lopatkina’s dance, stating that “the exquisite flow of her dancing has been produced by the physical intelligence of a girl built on grandly architectural lines, watered by her theatrical sense of musicality and awareness of the poetic space of ballet.” Commenting that “Her Swan Lake iconography is so extraordinarily potent that she has become embalmed in popular imagination in these classical otherworldly tutu roles,” the author of the publication comments on the dancer’s wit as Titania in Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – “But oh boy, can Lopatkina tickle, and her Titania gave Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream a laughing wit that – I don my tin hat here – is sorely needed in this ballet.” The critic goes on to say that as Titania, Queen of the Fairies, “She seemed to tread without weight, as if stepping on leaves on trees, or perhaps on the air. I suspect that it is that Lopatkina simply decided to be a fairy in a parallel world, and so she did the hard technical work to become this fantasy creature who cheats gravity.”
The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has hosted the first performances of Swan Lake by the Mariinsky Ballet
The main focus of admiration of the London press was the Mariinsky Theatre’s corps de ballet. The “sublime magnificence of the Mariinsky corps de ballet” inspired the reviewer for The Times to write that “Their exquisite clockwork precision is worthy of Fabergé.” The “aristocratic assurance” of the corps de ballet was commented on by The Independent, while the London Evening Standard noted that “The famous corps of Mariinsky swans are perfectly aligned as ever.” Enchanted by the fact that “The corps de ballet is magnificent, the troupe of swans gliding on their aquamarine lake like the very essence of ballet,” The Telegraph’s reviewer did not stint in her praise, stating that “No performance of Swan Lake has ever been perfect, but the Mariinsky came close.”
In its first performances, the Mariinsky Theatre presented a new generation of dancers of the lead roles. Naturally, the British critics focussed their attention on the performance by “Russian Brit” Xander Parish. Numerous publications have related the story of the career of their compatriot who, after graduating from the Royal Ballet School and several years in the corps de ballet at the Royal Opera House, was invited to join the Mariinsky Theatre where he now performs lead roles in ballets in St Petersburg. Noting Xander Parish’s “graceful, male masculinity” and also his skills as an “exceptional partner” and his musicality, The Times considered the dancer worthy of the title of “danseur noble”.
The critic of The Guardian commented that as Siegfried “Timur Askerov is very watchable, with a handsome elevation and line.” The Financial Times gave a flattering appraisal of Oxana Skorik: “She possesses exquisite line – eloquent for Odette; dazzling for Odile – and an intriguing air of mystery, of an inner passion.”
The press also commented on the performers of other roles. The internet portal theartsdesk.com described Andrei Yermakov as “sinister and explosive, his fey, spiky jumps crackle with energy” as von Rothbart, while The Guardian commented on the “exceptionally expansive line” of the “mesmerising” Kimin Kim as the Prince’s Friends.
Please note the special working hours of box-offices from 22 July to 15 September 2014.
Mariinsky Theatre box-office in Bolshoi Gostiny Dvor
Corner of the Nevskaya and Perinnaya Lines, mezzanine floor
Daily from 11:00 to 21:00, closed from 14:30 to 16:00.
The Mariinsky Theatre box-office at the service centre of the Central Railway Ticket Office will be closed from 22 July to 7 September.
Ticket sales reopen on 8 September.
Mariinsky Theatre box-offices will be closed from 25 August to 15 September.
Ticket sales reopen on 16 September.
Box-offices at the Mariinsky II will be closed from 11 to 24 August.
Ticket sales reopen on 25 August.
Box-offices at the Concert Hall will be closed from 1 August to 15 September.
Ticket sales reopen on 16 September.
From 16 September all box-offices will operate as usual.
Paying tribute to this “production of great historical weight” by Leonid Lavrovsky, British critics – used to their own British version of Romeo and Juliet with choreography by Kenneth MacMillan – spoke with reserve of the Mariinsky Theatre’s production, though performance levels drew unanimous praise from the press. “The quality of the dancing, acting and musicianship, as well as the sheer passion, displayed by the visitors from the Mariinsky Theatre is easily compelling enough to fall in love with,” wrote the portal The Arts Desk.
The “indelible chemistry” between the performers of the lead roles – Diana Vishneva and Vladimir Shklyarov – enchanted the reviewer from The Times, while according to the critic from The Guardian the pairing was “nearly flawless”. The author of the publication commented that “Diana Vishneva’s Juliet is exquisitely responsive”, while the ballerina reminded the reviewer from The Arts Desk of Margot Fonteyn. And not so much in terms of physical appearance as their acting abilities: Vishneva, just like the greatest star of 20th century British ballet Margot Fonteyn, “is completely Juliet”.“It’s easy to see why Vishneva is an international star,” wrote The Independent. “With her dark eyes, flowing line and a vivid sense of drama, she makes an innocently eager Juliet. Lavrovsky gives Juliet a signature low arabesque position: with Vishneva, the step shines out, clear and lyrical.”
High praise also came from The Guardian’s critic concerning Vladimir Shklyarov’s work, referring to the dancer as “a near flawless Romeo, with clear buoyant lines in his dancing and selfless romantic intensity in his acting.” The newspaper London Evening Standard, praising the dancer for the quality of his leaps, noted that “The excellent Vladimir Shklyarov plays Romeo with youthful sincerity.” The first newspaper reviews also focussed on the performers of other roles in the ballet: the press noted the “hawk-eyed Vladimir Ponomarev as Lord Capulet” (the portal The Arts Desk) as well as Alexander Sergeyev’s “very fine Mercutio, full of boyish zest but with moments of compelling gravitas” (The Telegraph).