Thursday, December 14, 2006

Kilts in Kiev

well, sort of kilts. Today is the office Christmas party. I hate these things, and was relieved that a week ago (working on another project and not knowing about the party) I had bought a ticket for La Sylphide at the Kiev Opera House. I had often heard the title of the ballet, but never heard of the composer, one Jean Schneitzhoeffer, or the choreographer, Filippo Taglione. It was created in 1832, and it seems the choreography has not changed a bit since then. There is also something called 'Les Sylphides' about, a ballet created in 1907 based on Chopin's piano pieces orchestrated by Glazunov and choreographed by Fokine. All very bewildering.

Anyway, I was delighted to spot guys in kilts on the stage. Wow! Apparently it's about a farmer, James (wee Jimmy) who dreams of a sylphide (fairy) as he is about to get married to Effie, the neighbour's wean. He has a party in his rather baronial hall, or the Big Hoose, with lots of lads and lasses in kilts and checked skirts. The kilts are not quite kilts, the sporrans are attached to wide belts, and some of those kilts are far too long! (Kilts always do things for men's legs, regardless whether they are skinny or very well built chaps, but it really helps to see those bonnie knees). Also in this case, it seemed, something was worn underneath. Anyway, during the party the neighbour Gurn (Gurn???) and his maw, Madge arrive. Madge, being something of an old crone, not to say a witch (what does that say about old women?), who tells fortunes from reading hands, has bad news for Effie and indeed wee Jimmy. The sylphide flits about during the party and the dancing, only visible to oor Jimmy and finally nicks the wedding ring and floats off. Bad news! Wur Jimmy runs after her, leaving his bride in tears.

The second act opens in a woodland glen where Madge does a Macbeth act, boiling things in a cauldron, with a few handmaidens attending. Wur Jimmy and his sylphide are happily dancing about in love, when Madge appears again and gives Jimmy a scarf to help him keep the sylphide forever. As it happens, she poisoned it, and when he wraps it round his lass, she dies, and later so does he - with the witch triumphant.

'Tis but a short ballet of 1.5 hours including interval, rattling rapidly through the storyline. There is lots of nice dancing, including hints at highland flings, 8some reels (more like 24some reels) and sword dances, and there is no lingering about being soulful or even doleful. The witch (danced by a man) was wonderful! The two main characters did well - there was not a great deal of inspiration but all the steps seemed to be in the right places - a bit insipid, though. The synchronicity of the corps de ballet left a few things to be desired, particularly when small groups of sylphides danced. The orchestra had its rough edges here and there, but also got through the piece. But overall it was a fun and interesting evening. Another choreography I have seen.