Thursday, 4 August 2016

Bolshoi's Triumph - The Taming of the Shrew

Ekaterina Krysanova as Katharina.
Vladislav Lantratov as Petruchio
Photo: Mikhail Logvinov
(c) 2014 Bolshoi Ballet, all rights reserved
Reproduced by kind permission of the company

Bolshoi Ballet, The Taming of the Shrew, Royal Opera House, 3 Aug 2016, 19:30

The Bolshoi Ballet has always been respected in this country but until last night I don't think it has ever been loved. There are many reasons for that, not least the fact that the company was seen as an instrument of Soviet soft power during the cold war coming to London as it did in the year the tanks rolled into Budapest. That may have changed with the London premiere of Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew for the audience really warned to the show. Standing ovations are quite rare in the Royal Opera House but when Maillot appeared to take a bow several members of the audience (including yours truly) felt compelled to rise.

I had seen a screening of this ballet earlier this year and of all the ballets that had been streamed from Moscow last year The Taming of the Shrew was one I had liked best (see Competition for Cranko: The Bolshoi's Taming of the Shrew streamed from Moscow 25 Jan 2016). I enjoyed it all the more upon seeing it live.

The cast that I saw last night was very much the same as in the cinema trnsmission. Ekaterina Krysanova danced the title role. Her Petrucchio was Vladislav Lantratov. Olga Smirnova was her sister and Artemy Belyakov was their dad. Georgy Gusev who had impressed me as the court jester in Swan Lake made an exceppent Grumio.

Although Cranko is my all time favourite choreographer and his Shrew had always been my favourite work there are features of Maillot's production that I think I prefer. It is an amusing and very fast moving ballet. The plot is tighter than Cranko's and the score is definitely more memorable. I love "Tea for Two" in the final scene. Cranko's work and Maillot's are very different but each has its strengths.

Seeing it on stage I was struck by the similarities with Northern Ballet's Romeo and Juliet  which had also been created  by Mailot. The sets were similar (not surprising as they were both designed by Ernest Pignon-Ernest) as was the lighting. I had not noticed those similarities when I saw The Taming of the Shrew on screen.  Audiences in the UK will have a chance to see what I mean when Northern's Romeo and Juliet goes on tour next month,

One of the pleasures of World Ballet Day is comparing the style of The Australian Ballet with the Bolshoi as the latter follows immediately after the former.  The Russians are usually strong on technique and the Australians on energy and vivacity. In yesterday's ballet the company danced like Australians as much as Russians and I can't think of  a better compliment than that.

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