Tuesday, 29 October 2019

"Raymonda" from Moscow

Standard YouTube Licence

Bolshoi Ballet Raymoda  Streamed from Moscow to cinemas worldwide 27 Oct 2019 15:00

Although Act III of Nureyev's production is in the current repertoire of the Royal Ballet, Raymonda is not a ballet that we see very often in this country. That is a pity because it has a pretty score by Alexander Glazunov and plenty of exciting choreography. It was after all created for Pierina Legnani who pioneered the 32 fouettés in the seduction scene in Swan Lake. Also, Sergei and Nicolai Legat, Olga Preobrajenska and Giuseppina Cecchetti were all in the first show. It was one of Petipa's last ballets and it has a fin de siȅcle feel to it. By that, I mean that it is close to the border in artistic as well as chronological terms between the age of the Imperial Ballet and that of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.

The action is set in medieval Europe at the time of the Crusades. The male lead is Jean de Brienne who was a real historical character. He was king of Jerusalem for a while and even took over Constantinople but none of that features in the ballet except in so far as he follows Andrew II of Hungary on crusade. I can find no reference to a historical Raymonda, Abderakhman or even Castle Doris where the ballet is set.  But then I suppose Lidiya Pashkova, who wrote the libretto, would have claimed to be writing historical fiction rather than history.

As ballets go, it is quite a good story. Raymonda is betrothed to Jean de Brienne who visits her in Castle Doris just before he is due to go on crusade. After he has left she falls asleep and dreams of an eastern prince called Abderakhman who declares his love for her.  She wakes up in a cold sweat and finds that it was all a nightmare.  In the second Act, however, the real Abderakhman appears and offers to carry her away.  She politely turns him down but Abderakhman will not take "no" for an answer. He and his followers try to adduct her but are interrupted by de Brienne. They fight each other with swords and de Brienne kills his rival. In the last Act, Raymonda weds de Brienne and they all enjoy a long Hungarian divertissement.

On Sunday's transmission, Olga Smirnova was Raymonda, Artemy Belyakov was de Brienne and Igor Tsvirko was Abderakhman.  All performed well as did the rest of the cast.  I particularly liked Tsvirko who was the most realistic of the leading characters. I have seen him several times in London as well as on screen. Ekaterina Novikova who is an excellent interlocutor switching effortlessly between her own language and English and French interviewed him while he was still in costume in the second interval. Tsvirko showed real emotion when Raymonda rejected him.  It seemed he was tearing out his heart - a gesture that his followers echoed by waggling their shields. There was some great jumping for Belyakov and some moves that must have required considerable stamina as well as skill from Smirnbiva.

The costumes were gorgeous but I was not taken with the set design.   The orchestra played well under Pavel Klinichev, their conductor.  Apart from a couple of seconds when the sound was lost temporarily the transmission was good.  Altogether it was a successful start to the Bioshoi and Pathé Live's new cinema season which is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary. 

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