Petrushka etc (Bolshoi Ballet/Covent Garden) 29 July

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Petrushka/Russian Seasons/Grand Pas from Paquita

This time we had even invested £45 (each!) in seats in a slightly less remote part of the Upper Amphitheatre.  I was interested in seeing Petrushka the ballet, since I was familiar with the music and I remembered the story from some ‘music and movement’ thing when I was in primary school a very long time ago (but all the same, some time after the invention of radio).

Well the music was certainly well-played, and Nina Kaptsova was impressively precise as the Ballerina, but otherwise it didn’t really do what I wanted from a ballet.  There were two scenes with too many characters bracketing three scenes with too few, and there was too much static display of elaborate sets and costumes–in fact the lighting left the no doubt fearfully expensive costumes in darkness for quite a lot of the time.  We couldn’t see Petrushka’s ghost  at the end from where we were sitting either…

You *can* see the costumes (and indeed Nina Kaptsova) here

We had no idea what to expect from Russian Seasons (music by Leonid Desyatnikov, choreography by Alexei Ratmansky) and we were well impressed.  The groups of dancers forming and reforming, the soulful melancholy of the solo violin, the simply-set songs, the music that encompassed romantic minimalism without lapsing into drivelling idiocy, the transfiguration of  the yellow-clad characters into white at the end…I was transported t0 another  world of feeling, except that I wanted to know what the words were.  Some of them sounded like the refrain from a folk song, others like заумь (nonsense words resembling Russian), the one at the end was presumably Church Slavonic…In fact I’ve now largely worked the words out here (they were in Russian dialect!)

Dancers dancing in unobstructed space, that’s what we want–when the ballerinas had their caps on, their costumes did rather resemble Aeroflot air hostess uniforms of a certain era (especially the acidic orange and green ones), but never mind.  My companion said that she kept on being afraid of missing something through not looking at the right part of the action, but we agreed that this was part of the excitement of seeing something new, for the first time, without the encrusted layers of memory and expectation.

Then the Grand Pas from Paquita, which the very well-informed lady sitting next to us said she’d never seen before.  It was like being force-fed several boxes of chocolates, all of them strawberry cremes, or like an end-of-term show where everyone does their party piece, but with far too much padding as well.  45 minutes of going nowhere musically, dramatically or choreographically…

Still, the middle item was worth the price of admission on its own, and we set off home well pleased with our evening’s entertainment.  Once again, the orchestra (conducted by Igor Dronov this time) played very well, and Irina Blank’s solo violin contribution to Russian Seasons was exquisite.

Another friend writes:   So agree – loved Russian Seasons, was concerned that parts of Petrushka were in danger of verging on having what I dread most : celebratory rustics dancing (even of they had been displaced to an urban context). Almost fell asleep in Paquita.

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