Wednesday, 10 August 2016

International Mariinsky Far East Festival in Vladivostok

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On the 31 March 2016 I wrote about The Mariinsky Theatre's Primorsky Stage which appears to be a little bit of that famous opera house 4,067 miles from St. Petersburg. That theatre came to my attention a few days ago when I learned through Facebook that Xander Parish and Hannah O'Neill were there. They have been taking part in the International Mariinsky Far East Festival in Vladivostok which ends today which ends today with a concert featuring  Leonidas Kavakos and Yeol Eum Son and the combined orchestras of the Mariinsky Theatre and the Primorsky Stage  under the direction of Valery Gergiev.

Vladivostok is one of those places that I have always dreamt about but never quite got round to visiting. I must add that I have not yet been to Russia even though I have long admired its literature, music and. of course, its ballet though not always its governments - particularly not during the cold war. I hope to put that right some day while I am still able to travel. I had always imagined Vladivostok to be a rather romantic city though descriptions in Wikipedia, Wikitravel, Lonely Planet and even the local tourist board website suggested that it might have a lot in common with Hull as it is a major fishery or perhaps Portsmouth as it is an important naval base. This YouTube video by two local students show some interesting architecture that reminds me a little of both San Francisco and Vancouver while the surrounding hills look very much like those on the coast of Northern California.

Returning to the Festival it appears from the Primorsky stage website that there have been 25 operas, ballets, and concerts over the last 12 days featuring
"the most brilliant soloists of the Mariinsky Theatre as well as leading guest artists from Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Mongolia, Germany, Greece, The United Kingdom, The United States, and Puerto Rico."
For some reason the website has omitted New Zealand, the country of O'Neill's birth, and France, the land where she now works, from that list.

Be that as it may, O'Neill danced with Parish in Giselle on 6 Aug 2016 and again on 8 Aug 2016 in a Ballet Gala with Ulyana Lopatkina, Soo Bin LeeEkaterina KondaurovaKonstantin Zverev, Danila KorsuntcevOksana Skorik and Renata Shakirova in a programme that consisted of works by Ilya ZhivoiMaxim Petrov, Eldar AlievAnton Pimonov and Asaf Messerer as well as the pas de deux from Petipa's The Talisman which is not well known in this country. Interestingly. it is not based on Sir Walter Scott's novel but is set in India like La Bayadere. Another example of Russia's fascination with India that I mentioned in La Bayadere - where it all took place on 24 July 2016. More familiar works in the programme were the pas de deux from Swan Lake, Fokine's The Dying Swan and Lavrovsky's Romeo and Juliet which Parish danced with O'Neill. I should mention in passing that I saw Parish dance that role in London with Viktoria Tereshkina two years ago and he was jolly good (see Reet Gradely: Romeo and Juliet, Mariinsky Ballet, Royal Opera House 29 July 2014 31 July 2014).

As the score to Romeo and Juliet was written by Sergei Prokofiev it is also worth mentioning that the Festival was dedicated to the 125th anniversary of that composer's birth. His opera Betrothal in a Monastery (which I have to confess I do not know) was performed on 30 July 2016. If you click the link I have just given you, you will find a recording of some great music. I believe that opera would go down very well here if only someone would stage it.  Also in honour of Prokofiev, the violinist Clara-Jumi Kang and pianist Sergei Redkin played his Violin Concerto No 2 in G Minor, Op. 63 and his Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26 in concert on 1 Aug 2016.

Kondaurova and Lopatkina also took part in a triple bill on 3 Aug 2016 called Ballet Stars of the Mariinsky Theatre which consisted of Alicia Alonso's Carmen Suite, Jerome Robbins's In the Night and Balanchine's Symphony in C. The blurb on the website states:
"Diversity of talents of the Mariinsky Ballet Company will be presented at the festival with the program of one-act ballets. In the legendary Carmen Suite by Bizet-Shchedrin that was created specifically for Maya Plisetskaya by choreographer Alberto Alonso, today’s dancers create their own version of independent Carmen.
Choreographic stories of love, united in In the Night by Jerome Robbins, present three totally different by temperament pairs of soloists. Hypnotic thoughtfulness and tenderness of a first date in the adagio, performed by first couple is followed by restrained manifestation of feelings of the second duo. And third pair shows true culmination of love passions.
Evening’s final piece Balanchine’s Symphony in C is perfectly suited to demonstrate the best assets of the company: four parts of the ballet are shared by four pairs of soloists. This ballet allows the company to display its multivalent talents, from the most technically demanding movements in the allegro, to the proud and regal grace required in the adagio."
It must have been lovely.

Alonso's Carmen Suite and Balanchine's Symphony in C were performed the next time in Ballet Stars of the Mariinsky Theatre but in this programme Hans van Manen's The Old Man and Me was substituted for In the Night.  The programme notes state:
"Hans van Manen’s ballet The Old Man and Me is a story of the emotional turmoil people experience when they are drawn to one another but cannot be together. The tenderness of this story is revealed by the dancers’ remarkable transformation into the characters they portray, and the depth, with which they feel their partner's every movement."
 Kondaurova danced Carmen as she had the night before but in this triple bill she was joined by Diana Vishneva, Vladimir Malakhov, and Yekaterina Osmolkina.

Vishneva also attended a screening of a documentary on her life after which she answered questions from members of the public and signed autographs in a special Evening with Diana Vishneva in the chamber hall on the 5 Aug.

The last ballet of the Festival was  Sergeyev's Swan Lake which was first staged in 1950. I am pleased to note that in this production Rothbart is called Rothbart and not the "Evil Genius" as in Grigorovich's version which the Bolshoi have performed in London on their current tour.  When I complained gently in Grigorovich's Swan Lake in Covent Garden on 31 July 2016 that this renaming was change for change's sake though not on the same scale as David Nixon who created an entirely new libretto. introduced new characters such as Simon, Anthony and Odilia and opened with chaps riding bikes somewhat unsteadily onto the stage (see Up the Swannee 17 March 2016) I was put firmly in my place by Amelia of BalletcoForum. She wrote:
"Poor Yuri Grigorovich has been rebuked enough for many “sins” committed by him against “Swan Lake”. Please allow me to clear him of the "Change for change's sake” charge.
Dear Terpsichore, as long as I remember there were no German names in the Bolshoi’s cast lists since 1940s.
Ziegfrid was called Prince and Rothbart was Evil Genius. The reason for that was that German names stirred strong negative feelings at that time. No need to remind about what the German army did on the Russian soil. The worst abusive word to a person at that time was not an ‘idiot’ or ‘bastard’ or… but “Fritz”, an allied name for Germans, like “Jerry” in English. The Russians were shuddering from German names for a long time after the end of the 2WW.
Grigorovich was still at school then. So let’s exonerate him from changing the names."
I had not heard that explanation and I thanked her for it.  I added that I thought that the Bolshoi had missed a trick. The code name for the German invasion was Barbarossa which means Red Beard in Italian which is almost the translation of Rothbart from German. St Petersburg, which was besieged for nearly two and a half years had even more reason than Moscow to dislike the Germans but the Mariinsky (or Kirov as it would then have been called) does not appear to have changed the names of the characters in its version. Anyway, getting back to the ballet Skorik was Odette-Odile, Yevgeny Ivanchenko was Siegfried and Sergei Umanetc was the wicked baron.

There was lots of other good stuff which I don't have time or space to discuss:
Apparently this is the first such festival by the Mariinsky in Vladivostok. If they ever do it again I shall save my kopeks and take the Trans-Siberian Railway.


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  2. What a great post and great insight. I have seen some photos of Xander and Hannah on Twitter. I do wish such festivals were performed in the UK - I know we get full tours by the companies and should be grateful for that (and I am!) BUT I do love the galas with a mixture of dancers from different companies - Russian Icons is the only one we get here. I really miss Vladimir Malakhov at Berlin as he used to do an "V M And Friends Gala" and they were always fab. I saw The Old Man and Me - which is one he often performs nowadays as he is no longer as young as he used to be. It is a perfect piece for semi retired dancer.
    I very much admire Hannah O'Neill after seeing her Gamzatti in La Bayadere last year in Paris she was sublime. Xander Parish is a lovely dancer too so I imagine the two together must have been terrific!
    I would love to visit Russia again one day - my first ballet experience was at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg of all places - can you imagine?! It was a fabulous triple bill which was a perfect intro to the world of ballet. Moscow is next on the list for Russia!

    1. Thank you Helen. I hope to see the Kariinsky, Bolshoi and other companies in their own theatres one day.

    2. Sorry, should read Mariinsky