The Golden Age, Coliseum, London
Tuesday 01 August 2006
Seeing the Mariinsky Ballet's new production of The Golden Age is like watching television with the sound off and the radio playing. Shostakovich's delightful score canters along, swinging into foxtrots or building up dramatic tensions, but Noah D Gelber's choreography rarely responds.
The omens weren't good. This Age was made in haste, with a last-minute change of choreographers. Igor Markov left after artistic differences with Valery Gergiev, director and chief conductor of the Mariinsky theatre. Gelber was an inexperienced replacement, given little preparation time.
Gelber has fitted his own scenario to the 1930 score, but keeps the footballing theme. Here, Soviet footballer Alexander meets Western gymnast Sophie at an event in 1930. They fall in love, but are separated by their countries' politics. In a modern-day framing device, the two meet again.
There's little dancing in all this. The old Sophie and Alexander (former Kirov principals Gabriela Komleva and Sergey Berezhnoy) reminisce by looking at photographs, which are projected on to the backdrop. As their younger selves, Daria Pavlenko and Mikhail Lobukhin mime eagerly at each other, even through Shostakovich's most danceable moments, including his setting of "Tea for Two". Alexander, the clumsy footballer, doesn't know the steps; Sophie teaches him, but they still spend most of the number bumping into each other. They can't do much with this material.
Gelber gives the lovers two duets, both untidy and (on the London first night) under-rehearsed. Steps are fitted to Shostakovich's notes, without following the shape of his phrases and rhythms. It's the same with the other set pieces. Worse, the score can't support the new plot. Gelber's third act shows the cast suffering through the Second World War; the music has an edge, but it isn't harsh enough. Zinovy Margolin's set designs add to the incoherence.
At least the composer comes out well; the music is the one reason to sit through the show. Conducted by Tugan Sokhiev, the Mariinsky orchestra zip gleefully through the cabaret numbers, then find a shimmering beauty in the adagios. The playing has infectious energy and bite.
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo shot dead at war memorial
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Taylor Swift, 1989, album review: Pop star shows 'promising signs of maturity'
American Horror Story season 4, Fox - review: Silly, sensational and sensitive
The Apprentice 2014: Nurun Ahmed and Lindsay Booth fired in double elimination
Breaking Bad season 6 hoax: Vince Gilligan has not confirmed a new series
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'