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With the ballet Giselle on the historical stage of the Bolshoi Theater, the Golden Mask …

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With the ballet Giselle on the historical stage of the Bolshoi Theater, the Golden Mask ...

The Golden Mask Festival has finally begun to present the performances nominated for the highest National Theater Award in a live format. Although the selection of nominees this year turned out to be small. Due to the pandemic, most of the premieres were postponed, so there are only three works in the nomination “ballet performance” in the mask shortlist. All performances are traditional ballet classics: the Bolshoi Theater just these days gave the block “Giselles”, “Stasik” (Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theater) will show “Don Quixote” in Nureyev’s edition in a week, and the Samara Opera and Ballet Theater in March will bring to the capital a performance of the era of the Soviet drama ballet “Bakhchisarai Fountain”.

At the same time, if the artists of the Bolshoi, Mariinsky and Samara theaters in the corresponding nominations were fully noted, then the Stanislavsky-Nemirovich Danchenko theater in the male nomination was bypassed – only the prima ballet troupe Oksana Kardash will fight for the victory with other performers here, since none of the premieres of “Stasik” was not nominated for the award. Although the new dance technique for our ballet, once cultivated by Nureyev at the Paris Opera, strikes the imagination even today.

Nureyev put on the part of Basil, applying the “higher ballet mathematics” to his outstanding abilities. The super-complicated and sophisticated steps, the abundance of the most intricate small techniques, were especially cleverly overcome by two brilliant premieres of this troupe, Denis Dmitriev and Ivan Mikhalev, but the selection committee of ZM experts in a strange way did not notice. Apparently because there were no representatives of this theater among the members of the respected commission. However, such myopia is not uncommon for the experts of “The Mask”: last year the “mask” commission overlooked the amazing performer of the ballet “Parisian Fun”, Alexei Putintsev, nominating for the main role in this ballet a dancer who was significantly inferior to him in interpreting this image of a dancer the first composition – obviously, this fact played a major role in such an unfair decision.

But if for the world ballet theater Nureyev’s choreography, despite its continuing (especially for Russia) relevance, is still a long passed stage (for the first time in the West Nureyev’s “Don Quixote” in 1966, and he appeared in the repertoire of the Paris Opera 14 years later), the importance of Alexei Ratmansky’s work, nominated by the Bolshoi Theater, cannot be overestimated. At the same time, only this theater can afford to make such a luxurious, large-format and costly performance, with a huge number of artists, significantly exceeding the number in the “traditional” versions of Giselle (more than 50 in the scene of the festival of winegrowers). In the performance, even white-maned horses are used on stage, as in fact it was in the original source (there were four of them at the Paris Opera) …

Created at the Paris Opera in 1841 by choreographers Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, the ballet Giselle is considered the best-preserved of the old ballets of the classical heritage, but its original appearance was significantly different from what we are used to today. The new Giselle is already the 14th (!) Version of this ballet at the Bolshoi in its entire history, and it will now coexist with the version of Yuri Grigorovich, also preserved in the repertoire.

Ratmansky made the performance close to the ballet of Coralli and Perrot, which was called in 1841 – “Giselle, or Wilis”. To distinguish it in the playbill from the ballet edited by Grigorovich, it would still be reasonable today to call it what it was called once. Indeed, in fact, we have two completely different performances, with different characters, which not only have a completely different character, but also call some of them in their original version (but, unfortunately, not in Ratmansky’s play) in a slightly different way: the forester Ilarion, instead of Hans; the main character himself is Albrecht, not Albert, and he is not a count, as is now customary, but a duke (or even a prince) of Silesia. The two ballets even have two completely different endings …

Actually, Ratmansky himself, as a scrupulous and conscientious researcher, does not consider his edition to be a reconstruction, although he uses a lot of curious historical documents. For example, dance recordings from the Harvard archive of Nikolai Sergeev. In the case of Giselle, Ratmansky draws on one more unique source in his work – the notation of the ballet Giselle, discovered at the beginning of the new millennium in Germany and published in 2008, recorded in the 1850s and 1860s by the French ballet master Henri Justamant. In addition, the director takes into account many other little-known rarities in his work, but he emphasizes that this is a new, albeit document-based, version. So he, probably on purpose, ignored some of the details that were originally present in the ballet “Giselle, or the Wilis.” So, in the second act he omits the scene of the Vilis chasing the peasants who were returning from the holiday in the forest. On Giselle’s head in this act we do not see the Wilis wreath, and in the first act he does not emphasize either Giselle’s attempted suicide with a sword (since he does not support the now popular version of the suicide of a peasant girl), or Albert. Now there are technologies for special “aging” of paintings in order to pass them off as original, and these details would undoubtedly have given Ratmansky’s ballet such additional “antiquity.” However, Ratmansky deliberately rejects them, but instead re-composes the lost choreography of “fugue wilis” …

Prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theater Anna Nikulina and leading soloist of the Bolshoi Theater Jacopo Tissi in the ballet Giselle (revised by Alexei Ratmansky)



Ratmansky’s performance is also distinguished from the original performance by its design, for which the stage designer and costume designer Robert Perdziola was nominated for The Mask. All the beauty that we see on the stage, he recreated not from partially preserved sketches and paintings depicting a masterpiece of the era of romanticism, but from the sketches of Alexander Benois, who designed the performance both for the Paris Opera in 1924 and for the legendary Diaghilev season of 1910. It was then that he created a scandalous and indecent costume in the style of the early Renaissance artist Vittore Carpaccio for the “God of Dance” Vaslav Nijinsky. It was for this costume that the next day after the show in 1911, the dancer was fired by order of the Empress Dowager, who later denied this. But the modern viewer, of course, will not find anything scandalous in him.

The overly bright colors costumes designed by Benoit the Duke (in the original version of the Prince) of Courland, as well as his daughter and bride Albert – Bathilda – also have their own meaning. To justify the scene in which a peasant girl tries to touch the fabric of a dress of a duchess who came to hunt, it must have an unusual bright turquoise hue and amaze the modern viewer, just as it struck Giselle …

As for the performers, the Bolshoi Theater has nominated entirely worthy names for the Golden Mask: in the female nomination it is the most poetic and melting like a cloud Giselle – Olga Smirnova, as well as the strict, technical and clear-cut lady of the Wilis Mirta – Yekaterina Shipulina; and as the best dancer – the magnificent Artemy Belyakov, hovering in flight jumps. But he danced this part just as well on Valentine’s Day, and the next morning after his birthday, the Italian Jacopo Tissi, who was in this role not only bewitchingly perfect, but also the most beautiful of all the performers, reproduced ancient male technical tricks.

It is extremely difficult to understand the logic behind the awarding of the highest National Theater Prize. As always, there are many underwater and not entirely artistic in their meaning currents and calculations, lobbying certain interests, and finally, the personal preferences and tastes of the jury members … I know that this “Giselle” is strongly disliked, and even irritates some traditionalists (however , as well as Nureyev’s “Don Quixote”). But I will be very surprised if this outstanding performance is not evaluated by the jury at all …

Published in the newspaper “Moskovsky Komsomolets” # 28480 dated February 16, 2021

Newspaper headline:
The Golden Mask started with Giselle

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Source: www.mk.ru