Lincoln Center Festival
The Bolshoi Ballet
Ballet in Two Acts
General Director of the Bolshoi Theatre: Vladimir Urin
Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Ballet: Sergei Filin
Ballet Master/Choreographer: Yuri Grigorovich
Bolshoi Ballet Managing Director: Galina Stepanenko
Bolshoi Conductor: Pavel Sorokin
In Performances at the David H. Koch Theater
At Lincoln Center
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 17, 2014
Swan Lake (2001, originally 1877): Choreographic Version and Libretto by Yuri Grigorovich, Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, After the scenario by Vladimir Begichev and Vasily Geltser, Scenes in Choreography by Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov, Alexander Gorsky, Design by Simon Virsaladze, Lighting Design by Mikhail Sokolov, Conducted by Pavel Sorokin, Performed by Svetlana Zakharova as Odette/Odile, David Hallberg as Prince Siegfried, Kristina Karasyova as The Princess Mother, Vladislav Lantratov as The Evil Genius, Alexei Loparevich as The Tutor, Igor Tsvirko as The Fool, Kristina Kretova and Maria Vinogradova as Friends to the Prince, Alexander Fadeyechev as Master of Ceremonies, and the Company as Brides, Three Swans, Four Swans, Waltz, and Stage Ensemble.
Although I was looking forward to the visiting Bolshoi Ballet, I knew they had so many problems, financial, leadership, etc. Sergei Filin, Artistic Director, was attacked last year by thugs hired by a member of his own Company, a story worthy of a film that would make the 2010 Darren Aronofsky Black Swan film pale in dramatic comparison. The stage set, of Yuri Grigorovich’s 2001 revised version of the 1895 Petipa revival, seems like it was plucked from a scenery warehouse basement. It’s dull and one-dimensional. Yet, from my 4th Ring, second row, aisle seat, the scenery was secondary to the choreography, with sets ephemeral and impressionistic. I had never been seated in an upper Ring, but this event was almost sold out. After all, Ballet Theater’s Principal, David Hallberg, was starring as Siegfried, in his New York debut as a Principal dancer in the Bolshoi, as he splits his time between Moscow and New York. This was a first opportunity for most (other than those who traveled recently to Moscow) to see Mr. Hallberg in the Russian Swan Lake with a Bolshoi partner.
His partner tonight was Svetlana Zakharova, as Odette/Odile, and they are well suited to each other physically. Plus, they’re both impassioned, regal, tall, taut, and renowned for audience accolades. The difference, right up front, was in the Black Swan Pas de Deux, which, for the first time in my viewing history, stopped the Pas de Deux AND the orchestra mid-performance, for Odile to take multiple bows and greet the audience, before Siegfried performs his round-the-stage wide leaps. I had seen Ms. Zakharova in previous programs, and she’s prone to mid-performance, show-stopping curtain calls, but I never expected one to interrupt the momentum of the Ballroom Pas de Deux. However, this was the only mishap, and perhaps it’s not even a mishap, as it’s a Bolshoi de rigueur practice, a sign of success. With Mr. Hallberg, who had just been out on injury during Ballet Theater’s Spring Season at The Met, his wide leaps, after Ms. Zakharova’s curtain calls (many in the audience were Russian Bolshoi fans), were not elevated or rapid or even that wide. He may have over-exposed the injury on opening night, as this was his second Siegfried of the week.
As for the wonderful surprises and high points of this production and performance, Igor Tsvirko was The Fool, or one might call him a one-man Greek Chorus. He’s ebullient and hugely talented. His role was to mimic or reveal the mood, as it was or should be, and he danced with stunning prowess and pizzazz, never campy, always purely entertaining. His leaps offstage were astounding. Vladislav Lantratov, as The Evil Genius, aka von Rothbart in most productions, was also spell-binding and virtuosic, in a more athletic role than in most Swan Lakes In the McKenzie, ABT version, there are two von Rothbarts, and the second has a showcased solo dance. But he’s dressed as royalty in that role, not in a black monster costume. Mr. Lantratov whipped about in film noir demonics. Rather than Princesses, the foreign women who seek to snag Siegfried as a husband, during his Birthday Ball, are Brides in white here, something new, as if they’re prepared to rush down the aisle, before he changes his mind. There are still partnered dances of each of the representative countries, with requisite music, like Spanish, Neapolitan, Polish, etc., but the dancing figures and combinations of characters are different from what we’ve seen. There are also Three-Swan and Four-Swan dance interludes, not just the usual Four Cygnettes, for double the entertainment. Plus, Siegfried has two female friends, rather than his companion, Benno, and, in addition, a full Waltz is added.
The Corps was outstanding in all the full-Corps music and spectacle. What was extra special tonight was realizing what a fantastic view is accorded in the 4th Ring. Watching the Company choreography was like watching a Busby Berkley kaleidoscopic dance film. The regal Birthday Ball, Swan Corps, Swan lines around both Lake Pas de Deux, and other Corps and ensemble choreographies were breathtaking from this extra-high vantage point. Rather than feeling dizzy, this lower level of the 4th Ring gives one a quasi-helicopter view of the stage proceedings, in a way one would not experience within an orchestra seat. There’s no audience obstruction, and the quality of choreographic timing and design is uniquely observed. Plus, with the enhanced sound system, the orchestra is heard throughout. Speaking of the Bolshoi Orchestra, conducted by Pavel Sorokin, there was only one flaw tonight, and that was in the first lake scene, with an out of tune violin. Simon Virsaladze’s stage design needs a refurbishing, and Mikhail Sokolov’s lighting was a bit dim and bluish. But, overall, I was very happy to have witnessed The Bolshoi in its 2014 New York Swan Lake performance. Kudos to Sergei Filin, and wishing him a full and speedy recovery. Kudos to The Bolshoi.