Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema
December 3, 2017
The film of the original cast of Yuri Grigorovich’s production of The Nutcracker shows a charming, Gogol-like, Russified version of the now phenomenally popular German tale. Now, more than half a century later, the production has matured into glorious grandeur. Grigorovich’s production sees the Nutcracker as a giant, grotesque, clownish doll; but one that Masha loves.
This was a premiere for Denis Rodkin and could not be more of a contrast to his recent London performances with Svetlana Zakharova. Handsome, youthful and virtuostic, Rodkin is the perfect noble prince. In his interview with Katerina Novikova, Rodkin revealed that seeing this production on television when he was just five years old was his inspiration for training as a dancer and the prince and Spartacus were his main influences. Fortunately, the desire of a new generation of dancers to dance the great Grigorovich ballets meant that the production have stayed in the repertoire and developed, even after the choreographer fell out of favour for a while.
The ballet’s Marie, Anna Nikulina, was coached by the late Ekaterina Maximova. It shows. Whilst making the role her own, she has the same sweetness but with a deep understanding that makes her transformation from child to woman deeply moving.
The aptly named Andrei Merkuriev is a mercurial Drosselmeyer, never exactly sinister, slightly comical at times in his yellow cross garters, but definitely a man that straddles the magical and the real world. His yellow-gloved fingers running over the top of the theatre before he produces the first of his life-like dolls is decidedly creepy. Making the Nutcracker doll an actual dancer, similar to the other dolls is an improvement on the original and makes dramatic sense too. When Fritz ‘breaks’ him, it can then be paralleled with his ‘death’ at the hands of the Mouse King and transformation into the prince as the spell is broken.
The mouse battle is carried into the second act and the vanquishing of Vitaly Biktimirov’s Mouse King is reprised, trap door and all. The prince hands his crown and purple veil to Marie as a pledge of his promise to keep her safe from future harm.
Marie and the Prince dance with the gorgeously pom-pommed snowflakes which again, makes perfect dramatic sense as they are absorbed into the magical, snowy kingdom. The sweets of the original are dispensed with and replaced by character dolls as in Coppélia.
Once Marie makes her entrance for the grand pas de deux, she has left the dolls of her childhood behind and is now a fiancée, but not before her first adult ball where the waltz of the flowers as danced by elegant, lilac-clad partners. Indeed, this ballet is all about pairs: brother and sister, prince and Marie and the dolls, including of course the lovely shepherd and shepherdess who seem to have leapt down from the mantlepiece to dance with their lamb, now a firm favourite at galas.
Marie is whirled round in the arms of her prince, now in a bridal veil, and her dream vanishes. The little girl awakes at the end of the Christmas party with now an inkling of her future life.
The whole provides a frame for the beauty of Simon Virsiladze’s designs and Tchaikovsky’s semi-tragic score, one of the last things that he would ever compose.
On January 21, watch as Alexei Ratmansky, former artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, stages the Bolshoi premiere of his Romeo and Juliet. His detailed adaptation set to Prokofiev’s romantic and cinematic score, reignites the story of literature’s most celebrated star-crossed lovers like no other classical ballet choreographer today.
Visit www.bolshoiballetcinema.co.uk for details.