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Culture news
Mariinsky Scores a Hit in Hong Kong With ‘Don Quixote’
03.29.2010 18:03

Mariinsky Scores a Hit in Hong Kong With ‘Don Quixote’ For the final weekend of this year’s Hong Kong Arts Festival, the Mariinsky Opera will open its short tour on Friday under the baton of Maestro Valery Gergiev with Benjamin Britten’s opera “The Turn of the Screw.” On Sunday, Gergiev will star again on the closing night of the Festival conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra in another concert.

Last Saturday, the Festival also presented the Mariinsky Ballet returning for a third tour to Hong Kong. The story of “Don Quixote”, the classic given six performances here, is about Kitri being in love with the barber Basilio instead of a rich man that she has been betrothed in a marriage arranged by her innkeeper father. She finally succeeds in marrying him thanks to the help of the knight Don Quixote.

“Don Quixote” is a perfect showcase to display the huge 200-strong company’s achievement in classical dance. This Mariinsky production is simply the best in the world. It is entirely based on pure dancing, instead of theatrics, and radiates an irresistible delight in dancing. It’s more satisfying than the Paris Opera Ballet’s Nureyev version shown in an earlier Hong Kong Arts Festival in the 1990s.

The character dancing was stylishly performed too. The dances of the matadors in Act 1, the Gypsy dance in Act 2, and the Fandango in the last act were exhilarating as usual. Unfortunately some dances have been cut for this tour. The need to omit the puppet’s dance by the Vaganova Academy students, who couldn’t be flown to Hong Kong as well, is understandable. But there is no reason to cut the wonderful Oriental dance in Act 3 which is always a highlight of this production. Also, why was Basilio’s Act 1 solo also excised for this tour?

On the other hand, the local audience was excited to see a live horse ridden by the Don on his entrance, supplied by a riding school in Hong Kong which was as good as the Mariinsky’s own horse in St. Petersburg. Pity there wasn’t also a donkey for the Don’s servant Sancho Panza! The first two nights in Hong Kong won the loudest applause heard from a ballet audience here for a while. The audience even clapped enthusiastically when the curtain rose in the Don’s dream scene in Act 2 revealing the sumptuous floral backdrop depicting the Dryads’ kingdom.

The opening night’s Kitri, Alina Somova, was technically dazzling. This ballet suits her better than a purer classic such as “The Sleeping Beauty,” which I saw her dance in the London tour last summer. She flew like a javelin in her spectacular jumps. Vladimir Shklyarov looked perhaps a shade too young, and perhaps smiled excessively. His solo dancing was strained and something of an effort on this occasion, his form in performances in St. Petersburg was better.

The second night’s cast was actually better matched with an appearance by the golden couple, Denis Matvienko and his wife Anastasia Matvienko. The temperature in the auditorium rose even higher than the opening night. Anastasia Matvienko demonstrated formidable technique and far greater allure. Denis Matvienko, who joined the Mariinsky a year ago from the Mikhailovsky as a principal dancer, is an asset to the troupe. His solo was danced with amazing power, his jumps and turns were sensational. And his hilarious “suicide” scene drew loud laughter from the audience.

The printing deadline prevented the third cast of Elena Yevseyeva and the talented coryph?e dancer Alexei Timofeyev, who was due to make his debut as Basilio, on Wednesday night, from being reviewed.

The Mariinksy’s female corps de ballet, still the best in the world, has in recent times lost some of the unrivalled upper-body uniformity which made it look so glorious in the past. Karen Ioanissyan was a dazzling Espada, though not on the same level as Andrei Merkuriev, who had left to join the Bolshoi. Oksana Skoryk was impressive as the Queen of the Dryads. And above all, Vladimir Ponomarev was a most dignified Don Quixote.

Is there another ballet company in the world that tours as much as the Mariinsky? After this Hong Kong tour, they won’t have much rest this weekend, as there will be another tour to Helsinki next week from March 31, featuring “The Little Humpbacked Horse” and “Jewels.”

News source: The St. Petersburg Times
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