Kirov Ballet

Fokine Classics, including 'Chopiniana,' 'Scheherazade,' and 'The Firebird'

by Art Priromprintr

October 23, 2003 -- Orange County Performing Arts Center, Costa Mesa

Thursday night's performance of the Fokine program was – like Tuesday's performance – anchored by strong execution from the Kirov's marvelous corps de ballet and the truly phenomenal orchestra (conducted by Mikhail Agrest).

The orchestra was in many ways the star of the show. Their performance of "The Firebird," Stravinsky’s roller-coaster ride of a ballet score, was thrilling, to be rivaled by any great orchestra in a concert hall without the ballet on stage. The music in "Firebird" is glorious even when it stands on its own. It tells the story just as much as the stage action does. And, with such powerful music, the emotional response to the aural is stronger than to the visual. It is even more true when there is a great orchestra on hand. One place where I always remember an orchestra making a huge difference is "Romeo and Juliet" - the music is so poetic and dramatic that an orchestra's strong playing can sometimes make up for lackluster performing on stage. But here with the Kirov, both the aural and visual came together magnificently in "Firebird." It was fantastic.

There was, too, the corps de ballet. It didn’t really matter what the corps seemed to be performing, whether it be the delicate pointe work of "Chopiniana" or the aggressive jumping of "The Firebird;" each time they took the stage, they commanded attention. They moved as a single body, and each individual performer had a total commitment to the piece being performed. So, the hard work put into the wispy arms of "Chopiniana" was a real-life dream, the almost cartoonish exoticism of "Scheherazade" was vividly brought to life, and the creatures in "The Firebird" were otherworldly.

As for the pieces themselves, "Scheherazade" – the second work of the evening – was tiresome on second viewing. The central pas de deux seems even longer and more out of place the second time, with the action grinding to a halt for what seems like twenty minutes. It could have been done in far less time (it is my understanding that the pas de deux was added to a later "Scheherazade," to give a showpiece to the ballerina role). There were strong performances, however. Irma Nioradze was sinuous and sensual as Zoebiede; she often embellished poses and movements with an extra sliver of her hips and belly. Danila Korsuntsev was the Golden Slave, capturing the audience with the role's requisite virtuosity. The pair got far more sensual during the pas de deux, fully touching each other when it was merely suggested with the Lopatkina/Zelensky pairing on Tuesday night.

If "Scheherazade" was wearing the second time around, "The Firebird" was just as thrilling – if not more thrilling – than the first live viewing. Tatiana Amosava was far more commanding in the title role on Thursday, the same role she danced Tuesday. She was also supported Thursday by a better partner: Andrey Yakovlev. The partnering in the first pas de deux secure, and Yakovlev's mime were even stronger during the rest of the ballet. He and Yana Serebriakova, as the Princess, gave the ballet a strong dramatic foundation during their scenes together. With a huge cast storming the stage and dancing brilliantly, it was an all-around intense spectacle of a performance. And, of course, there was the aforementioned great orchestra.

"Chopiniana" – the program's opening piece – belonged to the corps de ballet. There were particularly strong performances by Daria Sukhorukova in the Prelude and Anton Korsakov as the young man. Irina Zelonkina and Yana Selina danced the Mazurka and Valse Op. 70, respectively.

Edited by Catherine Pawlick.

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