Homage to Balanchine, Mariinsky Ballet, Royal Opera House, August 2009


In this triple bill the first item was Serenade, to Tchaikovky’s Serenade in C major for strings. It was Balanchine’s first composition in America, which he created at a series of evening classes in New York, and it starts with seventeen girls because that was the number that came to the first class. One girl arrived late, another fell over, and these incidents were incorporated in the ballet. The main couple, Viktoria Tereshkina and Evgeny Ivanchenko, were the principals in Swan Lake last Saturday evening, and here they danced well together, with excellent partnering from Ivanchenko. The other dancers also did a fine job, but while some ballets can be seen with pleasure innumerable times, this, for me, is not one of them, so let us move on to the next item.

Rubies is the second part of a full evening ballet called Jewels, and I’d prefer to see it in context. The music is a Capriccio for piano and orchestra by Stravinsky, and the ballet is a racy piece. The main couple was Irina Golub with Vladimir Shklyarov, who was a fine Romeo on the Mariinsky’s opening night last week. The second woman was Ekaterina Kondaurova, and she and the lead couple take turns to dance with the ensemble. It all worked well enough, but I felt no buzz, and the audience was lukewarm. What really made the evening work, however, was the third item.

Symphony in C. This ballet in four movements is to Bizet’s Symphony No. 1, and is a blaze of action, with colourful tutus for the soloists. It is designed to show off a classical ballet company, and its original title, when Balanchine created it in 1947 in Paris, was Palais de Cristal. In each of the four movements there is a principal couple, two male and two female soloists, and a corps de ballet. At the end all dancers appear in a final tableau. This evening the main couples were Viktoria Tereshkina with Denis Matvienko, Uliana Lopatkina with Daniil Korsuntsev, Elena Evseeva with Filipp Stepin, and Evgenia Obraztsova with Alexei Timofeyev. The soloists were not named. The whole thing went off to great effect, and I thought Uliana Lopatkina and Daniil Korsuntsev were outstanding. But to pick out one couple seems unfair when it was such a fine team of dancers, and more musical than anything I have seen so far.

The orchestra was very well conducted by Pavel Bubelnikov, and the piano solo in Rubies was played by Ludmila Sveshnikova. It is good to hear Stravinsky sound like Stravinsky, which has sadly not always been the case with one of the Royal Ballet conductors, and a particularly egregious example occurred in Apollo during a triple bill from March 2007.

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