Les Saisons Russes du XXI Siecle–Programme 2, Coliseum 15 April

**

Tamar

We had managed to reach our seats without programmes or castlists, so I tried to call up the spirits of the vasty deep on my Nokia.  They didn’t appear with any great alacrity, and I only managed to find out that the Independent had given Programme 1 one star.

Tamar/Thamar

Anyway, a guy appeared in front of the curtain and told use he was Andris Liepa.  He explained that the original  choreography had been lost, and they were using new choreography by Juris Smoriginas.  The production had been restored from Bakst’s originals by Anna Nezhnaya.

Restoration meant projecting a green sine wave on the stage.  Otherwise, the production concept came down to a box of Quality Street.  My companion said it compared unfavourably with a pantomime she had been to in Croydon at the age of eight.

I had never heard a note of Balakirev before, but I was impressed by how closely–after some loud oriental pastiche at the beginning–it matched my prejudice of inoffensive ineffectuality.  I doubt that I’ve ever heard ballet music so devoid of eroticism, or indeed affect in general. My companion felt that the choreography combined the worst of an end of the pier show and Spearmint Rhino.  I said she didn’t know about Spearmint Rhino.

Link to original poem by Lermontov here; not-very-good translations here and here.

Sheherazade

Sheherazade/Scheherazade

So after the interval, Andris Liepa appeared and thanked a wide variety of Russian oligarchs for their support.

This time the chocolates had been supplemented by a box of old toys, and the assembled oriental potentates dancing-girls and slaves were all very white.  Beforehand I had thought that the Rimsky-Korsakov music would be less boring if you had something to look at to take your mind off it, but I’m not so sure now.

Some flashy and pointless dancing from Nikolai Tsiskaridze as the Golden Slave drew very loud appreciation from the house, and whoever it was doing Zobeida turned out to be a very good milker of applause even by Russian standards, and almost on a level with Maria Ewing.

And then we got let out, hurrah!

Later:  I think that webcowgirl’s sightless taxidermist idea explains quite brilliantly what’s wrong with the season as a whole.  But I must say it wasn’t quite the worst corps de ballet I’d ever seen…

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