Friday, May 16, 2008

One (?) gay pas-de-deux?

I was told that in last night's double bill of 'Firebird' and 'Diaghilev's Fantasies' (I'd say!) at the Vilnius Opera and Ballet Theatre the second one was a 'gay pas-de-deux'. The first one was not far off it!

'Firebird', to Stravinsky's music, was an entirely German production. Reading the Lithuanian text about it (with some difficulty) it's about an angel who comes down from heaven (on a rather stunning little platform lit up by a line of red neon lights going into the sky) and who is androgynous...he has a bit of trouble with gender identity (don't we all?). So the male Firebird falls for him, a girl falls for him, there's some weird blue 'Planet of the Apes' character, supported by 10 blue-headed chaps, winding him up - but in the end the guy (the Angel) gets the gal (who herself is supported by about 10 diaphenous lasses in sailor caps). Would have been much more interesting if he had got the 'Firebird'. The Firebird, Eligijus Butkus, has a stunning physique (why did he need bottom-enhancers in the back of his spray-on red running shorts?) and an amazing stage presence. He could lift off higher, though, in his jumps..... Poor Aurelius Daraskevicius was stuck with the rather daft role of the ape (or whatever he was) character. I had not realised how lyrical most of the music is of this piece; somehow I was just thinking 'Rhythm is it', but actually it is very easy on the ear.

Diaghilev's Fantasies is a ballet about a ballet, floating around various corners of Venice, where the Diaghilev 'Ballet Russe' may have been performing. It contains the obligatory children (those ballet school kids need to be occupied), and is about Mr Diaghilev himself who falls for one of his young male dancers, much to that one's dismay. Are we talking child abuse, or abuse of position? Probably. However, the young one manages to escape his clutches, falls for a girl, D. gives up with reasonable grace, and continues life floating away in a gondola, surrounded by his dancers. It's a mixture of tender pas-de-deux ou trois, though the word 'victim' is clearly written across the young dancer's brow, and bits of dances (perhaps from Diaghilev's ballets?), with absolutely stunning costumes, including some that could be straight from Mondrian. Some of the other costumes, appearing to show naked spotted people (think Friesian cows), had the sewn-on pubic hair anywhere between the right location and the belly-button - and do the costume designers not know that children, tend to lack this?

It's a fantastic visual spectacle, and the guy who dances Diaghilev (also Butkus???) is wonderful, as is the one dancing the vulnerable young dancer (who also used bottom enhancers - what is the opera house coming to?). Daraskevicius (A, there's also a Daraskevicius M in the show) is not really the kind of guy to dance happy clowns - that was a bit of miscasting. He's better at 'baddie'. Sometimes the different bits of ballet occurring all over the stage seemed a bit of a guddle, and coordination could have been a bit more precise.

The music for this was much more happy thumpy 19th century ballet music, including a bit of Rossini, than in the first piece. That and the nice costumes made the audience in the packed opera house very happy.

The orchestra.....hmmm. The pit was full to bursting. I was very surprised to spot a couple of female French horn players in the band; that's quite unheard of in Lithuania. The band has played better....the conductor was lathered in sweat more so than usual; the music was quite challenging, technically, and there were a few unexpected solos or late entries. But overall it's a nice evening out to a ballet that is a bit different and yet not too challenging.

And here endeth the season of the Vilnius Opera and Ballet Theatre.


granny said...

well well and I'd always seen Firebird as a -relatively - classical ballet. As for Mr D....