Maryinsky Ballet

December 21, 2010

Maryinsky (Kirov) Ballet
“Stars of the Maryinsky Gala�

Festspielhaus Baden-Baden

Baden-Baden, Germany

December 21–28, 2010

Reviewed by Laura Cappelle


Ulyana Lopatkina in
Carmen-Suite. Photo by N. Razina, courtesy Maryinsky.


Few would picture Ulyana Lopatkina, the Maryinsky’s hieratic queen, as Carmen, and yet her turn in Fernando Alonso’s Carmen-Suite was the one fully realized performance of the Gala that closed the Maryinsky’s traditional Christmas tour to Baden-Baden. Her defiant lines when the curtain rose on her still body set the tone for an unusual corrida, a game of bullfighting with passion at stake. In place of lust, Lopatkina’s is a deliberate, merciless sensuality, shrewdly tailored to her style. Both torero and prey, her Carmen has learned to use her arresting legs for power or pleasure, and she is caught in her own game.


Alonso’s 1967 ballet seemed better for her rich portrayal, and the simplicity of most variations and pas de deux is a welcome change from today’s trends. Complex lifts are few and far between, and what the production lacks in fluidity it makes up for in metaphors, from Carmen’s expressive feet, flexing and stabbing into the floor, to the arena delineated by the sets. Danila Korsuntsev’s José may not look Spanish, but all the soloists did justice to this underrated work.


The rest of the Gala was all stylish pastiches and unabashed virtuosity, and proved a tall order for the company at the end of a long tour. Scotch Symphony was the first Balanchine ballet the Maryinsky ever performed. Nearly 20 years later, however, few on stage look at home in this 2009 revival. The very young corps de ballet seemed to hesitate between a traditional reading and what they were taught of the Balanchine style, and neither they nor the efficient leads, Anastasia Matvienko and Alexander Sergeyev, made the Sylphide references come alive. Matvienko’s weak arms and catch-all style, in particular, paled after Valerya Martinyuk’s witty turn as the Effie-like figure in the red tartan who could teach the men a thing or two about petite batterie.


Harald Lander’s Etudes was no doubt scheduled for the Mariinsky to go out on a technical bang. The corps de ballet is as exposed as the three main soloists throughout this brutally difficult “classroom� ballet, and everyone, including the orchestra, sadly seemed to be running out of steam. From the initial barre exercises, Etudes at least gave food for thought on the modern Vaganova school, with weaker placement than expected among the women and a clear lack of finish in their center work.


Viktoria Tereshkina’s old-fashioned authority stood in firm contrast in the lead role. Even on a bad day, she launches into fouettés and other feats with alluring glee. In Baden-Baden though she was at her best in Etudes’ brief Romantic homage, where the nuances of her pliant upper body underlined what was missing in Scotch Symphony. The high-flying Vladimir Shklyarov and Denis Matvienko, who can still turn like the devil, were her uneven consorts. But ballet devotees will forgive much for the chance to see one-act ballets usually only performed in St. Petersburg—the high point of an otherwise conservative Baden-Baden engagement.


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