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From Russia With Love
By Paul Joseph Walkowski
The Russian National Ballet Theatre of Moscow is relatively new. Formed in 1999 by Vladimir Moiseev, a soloist with the Bolshoi Theater, and artistic director Evgeny Amosov, the company boasts a corps-de-ballet of 55 dancers, comprised of artists ranging in age from 17 to 25-years old. While the company may be only six years old, its soloists bring with them a wealth of experience. Many, according to the production notes, "have already won international recognition and are winners of prestigious competitions."
When Jenny Kelly, President of International Classical Artist Management, Inc. the exclusive booking agent of the company in the United States, asked if I would be interested in attending the company's Boston premiere of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" at the beautiful Cutler Majestic, I gladly accepted. The last time I saw this ballet performed live was when I was in grammar school, and my class was taken to the ballet as part of our art education experience. I have to admit I wasn't all that impressed, although the swan girls in ballet outfits did pique my interest. It was a long time ago and of that performance I remember something else, as I think back on it -- the cool blue color of the Swan Lake scene. I was intrigued. It was the first time I had seen a live performance of anything and the sight of the stage, cast in a pale blue light, set off against white scenery and snow -- and even some artificial snow sprinkled from above -- did speak to me in a way that nothing I had seen on TV or at the movies did.
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since those early recollections, and while I have not attended ballet since then, this opportunity and my memories of what I saw, coupled with a story that is almost too romantic to ignore, compelled me to attend now.
This is the tale of a young princess, Odette, doomed by an evil sorcerer named Rothbart to live out her life as a Swan Queen, able to take human form only between the hours of midnight and dawn. To break the spell she must find a good man willing to swear eternal love -- an almost impossible task, until Prince Siegfried comes along, or so she believes. The young Prince tries, but at a Ball in honor of his 21st birthday he is placed under the spell of and is attracted to the black swan, Odile, confusing her with Odette. When Odette sees the two together she runs away to the forest. The Prince, realizing what he has done, pursues her to the edge of the lake where he confronts Rothbart to win her back. Love conquers evil and Rothbart falls as the prince and his Odette embrace in eternal love among the swans.
Personal recollections of a ballet -- then and now.
Special: The Russian National
Ballet Theatre of Moscow's, Swan Lake. Now the Moiseev Russian Classical Ballet.
The connection between ballet and opera has roots that go back to the first operas, as was explainied by Alan S. Gordon, executive director of AGMA, in one of our earlier articles, "The role of ballet in opera". You can review that article here and then read our comments on the performance of Swan Lake by the Russian National Ballet Theatre of Moscow.
Bringing the ballet to stage
General Director, Vladimir Moiseev says that when the audience sees the Russian National Ballet Theatre of Moscow's production of Sawn Lake in Boston it will see a performance that is both traditional in the sense of the story and technical aspects of dance but new in the way it is interpreted by the tour's dancers. "The interpretation of our ballet," he says, "is different from many others. It keeps as a base the old version, but is presented in a more modern style." If you want to look for the difference, he suggests you look for the emphasis on "more emotional and sensitive expression." Moiseev says that finding the right dancers for the roles is the key. "[We look for]
"dancers who can successfully work in different styles of classical and modern choreography." When you find that special dancer, he says, you can expect "to bring a lot of fans to our production."
Achieving the level of perfection that this grandson of legendary Russian ballet-master Igor Moiseev expects can be daunting for the performers. On average, dancers, who are all full time employees, practice a minimum of five hours a day, and can expect to survive in the business if they escape injury for up to fifteen years -- maybe. But for those who persevere, the rewards are great. Five to six months out of a year the company is on tour, visiting such places as the United States, Moscow, during the city's ballet season, France, Italy, Poland, China, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong, to name a few. To be successful, he stresses, you have to love the art form, have a lot of talent, and love the public. Anything less, and you won't make it.
Behind the performers on stage there is a small army of workers who keep things working: coaches, technical and administrative personnel, scenery, lighting, costume and stage crews.
Interestingly while the corps travels without an orchestra of its own, Jenny Kelly said she "decided to have a live orchestra accompany them [on this tour] to make the event more exciting and interesting." That orchestra is the Sofia Symphony, created by Giorgio Lalov in 1990. It is the same orchestra that performs with all Teatro Lirico performances. It's conductor is Sergie Kondrashev of the Bolshoi.
When asked if the company has ever encountered any conflicts with resident ballet companies, Ms. Kelly says the response to the tour has been favorable. "The sales for the ballet are excellent in Boston," she says, noting that "the show will be sold out." As for any professional conflicts, she says, "there is no conflict in any of the other major cities where I have booked the Russian National Ballet Theatre. Since this is a tour, the communities and the local ballet companies are not in any way threatened. We come in for one show to share the talents of the company."
And that's where we pick up again with . . .
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