Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bells ...and Belles

Even at the ripe old age of 82 and a bit, the legendary Russian ballerina assoluta Maya Pliseckaya still has legs up to her armpits, a ramrod straight back and a posture people half her age would envy her for. I bet she still works out at the barre every day.

No, she did not dance last night, but attended, with her husband, Rodion Shchedrin, 75 recently, the Lithuanian Opera and Ballet Theatre's performance of his ballet 'Anna Karenina'. Maybe the ballet was written for her? Though she would have been 46 at the time - but she's tough. And of course the audience love her. If her husband had come on stage without her they might have been disappointed. So she came on first, to a collective 'Aaaaaah'. It was great!

But this package does not come with every performance. The production in Vilnius is one from the Royal Ballet, Copenhagen, and everything about it is wonderful. A mixture of classical and (restrained) modern dance, a simple set on which different backgrounds are projected, a huge train moved by remote control....

Anna Karenina was danced by our Egle Spokaite (our prima ballerina), perhaps in appreciation of the evening's guests. I was wondering if Egle was getting a tiny bit stiff? Her spine did not seem as plastic and malleable as it used to be (there was a moment in 'Zorba the Greek' where she withdrew ever so slightly from the touch of her lover - breath-taking stuff), but there were many wonderful moments, like when she is struggling with her feelings for her young lover, and spikily tries to withdraw from his advances. Egle's 'speciality' seems to be women who descend into madness (she dances several ballets in this role, eg 'Red Giselle', 'Desdemona'), and this always happens at the moment that her hair becomes undone.

Her Alexey, to whom she was drawn, but she was also drawn to her child, was the delightful Nerijus Juska, dancing beautifully as always. Could he have shown more agony? I'm not sure.

Miki Hamanaka, who now dances many of the main roles, had a tiny part. I thought she, too, was a bit all elbows and angles last night.

The star of the show, I thought, was Vytautas Kudzma, who danced the role of her elderly, long-suffering husband. He's not actually an active dancer any more, but a dance trainer in the opera house. In any case, the role does not require much dancing. But the moment when he discovered his wife's affection for young Alexey was so full of pain, and agony...In other places, where he had to dance in parallel to young Nerijus Juska, you did feel a little challenge or two, but then, an elderly husband would feel a challenge or two with a young rival on the scene. So all perfectly in order.

The conductor - I don't think I have seen him before, but it seems I have written about him before here, was Valerij Ovsianikov from Russia. Young guy, seemed to be perfectly in charge, and everything worked as it should be.

Oh yes, the bells. Seems to be something about Russian programmatic music, that sooner or later you hear that peal of those thin, high church bells. And nearly always someone is dead or getting buried at that moment. If it's got a bell, it's Russian?