What an extraordinarily unresponsive crowd to greet the opening of the newly restored Bolshoi Theatre. Ten seconds of timid clapping and then the television director honed in on bored faces, while bangs and scrapes came from the unlit stage during the scene changes.
The whole approach, from lighting to graphics, was rather like that of a child discovering a room full of sweets and wanting to try them all: the director just couldn’t hold back. Just as the dancers went for a lift so the camera lurched towards the stage from under a violinist’s armpit. While Svetlana Zakharova was emoting touchingly as a white swan, we were treated to another drunken remote-controlled shot from behind the chandelier. And the back projected animations wore a little thin.
The director didn’t get it all wrong however. After Angela Gheorghiu, clutching her score which she stared at throughout, finished Liza’s aria from The Queen of Spades, he zoomed in on the disapproving face of Galina Vishnevskaya. There was also a beautiful close-up of 85 year-old Maya Plisetskaya looking regal and radiant. The choreographed flower-basket carriers, yes the real ones who bring on the floral tributes at the end of a performance, managed to wake up the audience more successfully than the international artists.
The défilé on a giant white staircase was gloriously effective with chorus, corps, orchestra, and soloists all together in black and white, with a stylised image of the Bolshoi’s façade crowning the final pose.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.