The Diaghilev Festival, Coliseum, London
Thursday 14 April 2011
Critics often complain that Ballets Russes's revivals are inauthentic. A century on, many works by the world's most influential ballet company have been lost or smudged. Most complaints concern steps and designs. This season of Diaghilev tributes adds "giant glitterball snake that shoots green lasers" to the list.
Arranged by the Maris Liepa Charitable Foundation, Les Saisons Russes du XXI Siècle is a festival of works created for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. It's danced by the Kremlin Ballet and guest stars. The three programmes are mix of surviving works, such as "The Firebird", with reinventions of lost ballets.
The Blue God, which opened this season, was an opulent flop in 1912. The new version draws on Bakst's spectacular original designs, with new choreography by Wayne Eagling. It also drops Hahn's commissioned score in favour of music by Scriabin.
It's a meandering Orientalist pageant, with young lovers rescued by the intervention of the gods. Eagling's weak choreography makes few concessions to Fokine, the original choreographer, and beefs up the role of the Goddess when the ballet was originally a vehicle for Nijinsky. Nikolai Tsiskaridze is a preening Blue God, with Ilze Liepa as a coy Goddess.
The designs are recognisably Bakst, though Anna Nezhny's recreations are skimpy, with lightweight fabrics and weaker colours. Scriabin's score is generic, giving no shape to the ballet.
And then the snake turns up. With its lurching movement and lasers, it suggests Godzilla rather than the Ballets Russes. It vanishes halfway through the pas de deux – overcome by divine grace, or possibly boredom.
"The Firebird" is a more solid production, though the Kremlin Ballet performance lacks style. Maryinsky guest star Ilya Kuznetsov makes a hammy Prince Ivan. As the Firebird, the high-jumping Alexandra Timofeyeva dances with attack.
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