The Maryinsky at Zellerbach, October 11, 14

22 Oct

While extremely fortunate to witness two performances of The Maryinsky Ballet’s Swan Lake at U.C.’s Zellerbach Hall October 11 and 14, I was underwhelmed save for the caliber of the orchestra. Led by Mikhail Agrest , who lived in the United States during his formative years  and has traveled back to Russia and elsewhere for further study and performance, the musicians gave the Tchaikovsky score full flavor and depth.  There were  particularly affecting solos by harpist Bezhena Chornak, Lyudmila Chaikovskaya on violin and Alexander Ponomarev with his cello.  All three soloists realized fully  the tender, plaintive qualities of the Tchaikovsky score that supports the dancers.

The St. Petersburg-based company provided the audience with Konstantin Sergeyev’s revisions to the original choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.  Translated, that meant some effective tableaux, one particularly striking when the curtain rose on Act IV  where  the swans were gathered by the lake, the setting now illumined by dawn as it was dimmed by late night in Act II.  The crisp white tutus, the carefully recumbent swans and their placement were picture perfect in this act Sergeyev revised to convey a happy ending.

Tall men, costumed in brown and white, negotiated the Zellerbach stage with grace in Act I, considering the constraints of space.  There was the usual drinking, and the women were in off pink, wearing square head dresses.  A jester was omnipresent, displaying  endless  pirouettes, saut de chats and circling tours.  Danced by Ilya Petrov October 11, compact, dynamic, he seemed entirely independent.  Dancing in the October 14 matinee Alexander Romanchikov was tall, elegant, quite the flirt. Both were costumed with white tights, a jester’s cap of black with gold touches. a tunic of black with strips of cloth hanging from the waist ornamented with gold braid.  There was no program identification for the pas de trois.

Soslan Kulaev was the tutor for both performances, tall, black clad, a well positioned other worldly nerd.  Elena Bazhenova provided us with the Princess Regent, an interesting variation on the name of Siegfried’s mother.  Comporting herself with dignity, she also displayed a touch of a knowledgeable model displaying rare fur belts.

October 11 Vladimir Schklyarov danced Siegfried, mid-height, composed if slightly tense, but capable of several soaring jetes.  As with quite a few of the Russians there was a tendency to hit an arabesque hard, a little overstretched and to reach for height in a jete, rather than to aim for a smooth arc.  The problem may have lain in adapting to stage size. For the October 14 matinee Maxim Zyushin was cast as Siegfried, dancing very correctly, but never achieving any chemistry with Anastasia Kolegova, his Odette/Odile.  Schklyarov’s Odette/Odile was Oksana Skoryk, whose wily Odile struck fire.

When it came to Act II, the lighting was excessively dark.  Andrey Solovyov and Alexander Romanchikov were enveloped in murk as much as they were menacing October 11 and 14 respectively.  Romanchikov was the taller of the two, both  handsome and elegant. As with the men, the solo swans seemed to reach too hard in jetes or achieving arabesques.

The noted pas de deux and Odette’s solo variation were robbed of the mime to explain Odette’s situation. While the pas de deux remained familiar, some  detail in the variation like the passes into arabesques were almost totally missing.  The movement of the corps also amazed me;  the gestures had become more ecole port de bras than suggesting preening. Odette’s working foot never came near passe opening into attitude in her variation. The result ,  sculpturally handsome,  did not win over my penchant for old school detail.

Drama finally got its due in Act III where the ruling seats were placed upstage center, flanked by a backdrop of  dusky brown, tapestry-like courtiers moving out in either direction.  It also affected the  formality; just one ensemble bowed to the throne occupants in both performances. There were overhanging boxes stage left and right housing part of the royal retinue flourishing trumpets at appropriate musical phrases, making Von  Rothbart and Odile’s entrance  visibly even more exciting.

Drama first arrived when six young women came tripping in, wearing identical vapid pastels, from upper stage left, forming a diagonal line, stopping with left toe pointed and hands daintily crossed. (Given the extreme climate, pinks and light blues must bear trembling  spring significance  for Russians.) Whereupon the Princess Regent arose, moving down stage left, pausing to flip her right hand to indicate the young ones before pointing to the wedding ring finger and gesturing to Siegfried to take his pick.  While familiar with dynastic necessity, you couldn’t blame the young man for jerking noticeably at the sudden command. Schklyarov October 11 was nearly knocked off base; Zyushin at the October 14 matinee seemed merely to ponder the problem.

When the malevolent duo made their appearance, Skoryk’s Odile held  my attention; the ensuing pas de deux was exciting.  Schklyarov overshot himself a little in his variation, but the two built the necessary excitement.  Zyushin and Kolegova never managed chemistry together or in their variations, although the audience went wild at the 28 fouettesr by both women.

The happiest costumes in the production were those of the Spanish quartet, white merging into brown, brown merging into white for the women, mostly brown for one man, mostly white for another.  The skirts moved with style and one could admire both design and construction.  The variation itself featured many backbends by Anastasia Petrushkova and Yulia Stepanova, and
floor bound  petit allegro for Kamil Yangurasov and Karen Ionessian.

Act IV  I saw only at the matinee; October 11 the F bus schedule necessitated leaving at the end of Act III. The opening tableau and corps assignment was entirely winning; I felt I was finally registering the vaunted Maryinsky reputation, which impressed me in 2008.  While still not reconciled to the happy ending, the struggle was suitably theatrical as Von Rothbart lost one wing, though Zyushin seemed to follow stage patterns instead as Siegfried struggling for his beloved.

Both audiences was enthusiastic.   I cannot be accused of being blase,  but I did have expectations of the Maryinsky Ballet; aside from that glorious orchestra, these were not fulfilled.  Believe me, I ardently wanted to float out to AC Transit’s F bus for San Francisco.

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