|Danila Korsuntsev in Swan Lake. Photo courtesy Mariinsky Ballet|
January can be a long, cold month, but here’s some heart-warming news: the Mariinsky Theater is in residence at BAM from January 14 to 25 with three ballet programs and an opera. We’ll get a quenching fix of both the seminal early work (Swan Lake) and its contemporary offerings. The company performs Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella, in addition to the three-part program Chopin: Dances for Piano, with choreography by Benjamin Millepied and Jerome Robbins, alongside Michel Fokine’s Chopiniana. In addition, the Mariinsky Opera will perform the rarely-seen The Enchanted Wanderer by Rodion Shchedrin. Maestro Gergiev will conduct select performances by this legendary St. Petersburg institution renowned for its emphasis on artistry and musicianship, and now in its 232nd season.
Rodion Shchedrin’s The Enchanted Wanderer takes the opera house stage on January 14, directed by Alexei Stepanyuk and conducted by Valery Gergiev. This 2002 production, based on the novel by Nikolai Leskov, animates several characters of deeply Russian provenance—a horse trainer/monk, a gypsy, and a prince—amid graphic and evocative thrushes of reeds. The music, which evokes both the mystical and the carnal and employs traditional Slavic instruments, has been praised for its sensitive orchestral and choral passages, brought to full expansiveness by Maestro Gergiev’s renowned conducting.
|The Enchanted Wanderer, Kapustinskaya. Photo by V. Baranovsky, courtesy Mariinsky Theatre|
The Mariinsky is also known for its purity of line and crystalline technique, imbued in the dancers throughout their training at the company’s fabled Vaganova Ballet Academy. Interestingly, the Mariinsky’s Swan Lake—which premiered in 1895, with revised 1950 choreography and stage direction by Konstantin Sergeyev—ends on an optimistic note, in contrast to many other versions. The lead role will be danced by some of the most lauded ballerinas, such as Ulyana Lopatkina, Viktoria Tereshkina, Alina Somova, and Yekaterina Kondaurova.
Alexei Ratmansky, who was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, is a luminary on New York’s ballet scene. He is artist in residence at ABT, and has created a number of highly praised and popular ballets for both ABT and New York City Ballet. His Cinderella, which premiered in 2002 at the Mariinsky, opens at BAM not long after his Nutcracker for ABT ends its fifth holiday season in the Howard Gilman Opera House. (It heads to the West Coast next year.) He brings the beloved rags-to-riches fairy tale into a more modern era, with casts led by Diana Vishneva, Vladimir Shklyarov, Yekaterina Kondaurova, and Daria Pavlenko, and striking sets by Ilya Utkin and Yevgeny Monakhov. Ratmansky—whose remarkably fresh vocabulary is dotted with folk dances and humor—is known as a superbly musical interpreter of Russian composers, including Sergei Prokofiev’s lush, lyrical score for Cinderella.
Frédéric Chopin’s music is redolent with romance. His sensitive piano compositions accompany Fokine’s homage, Chopiniana (1908), replete with ankle-length white tulle skirts and floral garlands. Jerome Robbins’ In the Night (1970) features three pairs of lovers moving with a furtive urgency to a selection of nocturnes. And in Without (2011), Millepied sets five couples in dramatic proximity, dancing to a slate of preludes and etudes—music he grew up hearing and dancing to in the ballet studio. This program of old and new work demonstrates not only the company’s deep roots, but the enduring relevance of the Mariinsky to the form.
This is a historic partnership between two storied institutions, with a collective 385 years of presenting cultural treasures. Now’s your chance to take part in the legend.
Valery Gergiev conducts Mariinsky Ballet performances on Jan 15, 17, 18, and 20, in addition to The Enchanted Wanderer on Jan 14.
Reprinted from Dec 2014 BAMbill.