Sunday, January 22, 2012
The Mariinsky Ballet was ecstasy at the Kennedy Center
The Mariinsky Ballet's The Firebird/guardian.co.UK
If I had been able to find a ticket for a second consecutive performance of Les Saisons Russes, I would have snarfed it up, but all I could locate on the Web Friday were two $252 seats for the Sunday matinee. A bit out of my range.
The performance was that outstanding.
On stage and presented in almost three hours of dance were sex, passion, mayhem, music, magnificent costuming and perfect sets.
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Had there been no dancers on stage, the music by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra would have been enchanting enough.
The placement of Chopin's Chopiniana at the beginning was a smart spot since it would have been overwhelmed by the passion of Stravinsky's The Firebird and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade which followed. Michel Fokine crafted the choreography for all ballets about 100 years ago.
Chopiniana was a harmless romantic poem, without plot or much controversy, but nevertheless, vastly entertaining. The ballerinas wore cream-colored calf-length dresses with scooped necklines and danced in front of a Watteau-like landscape, an elegant backdrop to prepare the audience for what lay ahead.
The Mariinsky has danced The Firebird for 18 years, and The Firebird (Alexandra Iosifidi) was spectacular in resplendent orange with yellow streaks and a red-feathered headdress (or, from the ceiling, that's what it looked like). Her resistance and fight with Ivan-Tsarevich (Alexander Romanchikov) were skillfully portrayed, but the stand-out, as least for costuming and horror, was the awful Kashchei the Immortal (Soslan Kulaev) and his minions. Not to demean the Russian artisans in any way, but it was Ballet on Broadway with all the theatrics.
For the third ballet, Scheherazade, the audience became peeping Toms, able to gaze stealthily inside a harem and learn what happens when body guards and gatekeepers depart. It was as wild a scene as one could hope.
Throughout the night, the cymbals, harp, horns and strings got a sound workout. After the performance, Russians were heard discussing the impossibility of obtaining Mariinsky tickets in the motherland.
Run, if you can, and sign up for a ballet subscription next year, and do not miss another Mariinsky which should leave you days later with beautiful imagery of its majesty.