The ballet world was surprised when Nacho Duato (ex-director of Spain’s Compañía Nacional de Danza) was headhunted by St Petersburg’s Mikhailovsky Theatre, maybe enticed by the fat wallet of general director Vladimir Kekhman. He has now been at the company’s helm for a year. When Mariinsky star Leonid Sarafanov jumped on board a couple of months later fans were perplexed at him leaving the classical company par excellence to join the relatively unknown Mikhailovsky with a contemporary choreographer as its director. When towards the end of 2011 two of ballet’s hottest new stars, Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova, left the Bolshoi company to be part of Kekhman’s group, jaws hit the ground.
Luke Jenning’s in today’s Observer asks “Who’s pulling the strings in Russia’s ballet revolution?”. He was also present two weeks ago for the première of Duato’s Sleeping Beauty:
On 16 December, Duato’s new Sleeping Beauty had its premiere. To present this work in St Petersburg, where, in 1890, Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa created the original production, was a provocative decision. Sitting in the Mikhailovsky’s pretty apricot and silver-gilt auditorium among the Russian critics and invited guests, you could feel the tension. The curtain rose. The sets and costumes created by the Serbian designer Angelina Atlagic were charming and the score was conducted with sweeping lyricism by Valery Ovsyanikov. The choreographic text, however, was less engaging. While adhering to the original template, Duato had altered the steps to the point where only a ghostly echo of Petipa’s choreography remained. Gone were the jewel-like divertissements, the subtle layers of allegory, the sophisticated use of leitmotif, all replaced by bland pastiche.
In the interval, I joined Messerer and Kekhman for a drink. Unshaven and brutally suave in a suit of ivory silk, Kekhman waxed optimistic about the company’s future. Messerer asked what I thought of the production and when I said that Perren and Borchenko were dancing beautifully, but that I missed certain passages which Duato had cut, he looked melancholy. Afterwards, there was a party on stage, at which Danilian gave a speech, calling Duato the successor to Petipa. The Russian critics disagreed. The new choreography, wrote Anna Gordeeva of the Moscow News, was “a pretty sad sight” and Duato seemed “deaf to Tchaikovsky’s score”. This seems unlikely to be the production with which the Mikhailovsky will conquer New York.
via The Observer
Photo: rehearsals for The Sleeping Beauty