January 14, 2016
Just when you thought Christmas was over, along comes a late Nutcracker. After a Giselle with more than a few high spots (especially in Act II) three nights earlier, hopes were high for an excellent production. With the notable exception of the second act divertissements, it was rather lacklustre however.
The first act is dogged by the problem that many Nutcracker productions face: how to portray the children. Natalya Romanova is a delightful Clara, once you ditch the idea that she’s a ten-year old or so. She could get away with being a teenager (indeed initially that’s what you think she is supposed to be), so why not make her one? The same goes for the other ‘children’, who just look ridiculous trying to act a third their age.
Drosselmeyer (Evgeniy Silakov) is heavily involved in almost everything, although he is a figure who leaves one uneasy. He seems to take delight in leading the children’s dancing and finds time for all the ladies, yet strikes as someone you might not want to be alone with. The party dances are unmemorable. The puppet show showing the Mouse King, and prince and princess is delightful, though, and neatly sets up what is to follow.
In Clara’s dream, the mice are initially about as weak and unfrightening as they come. Things pick up when battle commences, though. Smoke and red lights help enormously, the canon firing is one of the best and loudest I’ve ever seen and heard, and the swordfight with the soldiers is well done.
All the dancers in the Act II divertissements pulled out the stops. Yuliya Yashina (so good as Myrtha earlier in the week) sparkled and fizzed in the Spanish dance, all fast footwork and sharp turns alongside her matador of a partner, Dmitriy Popov (a stark contrast from his ineffective Mouse King of earlier). Marina Burliai and especially Christian Lunyov ripped through their Russian dance, Fujise Kana was a seductive presence in orange in the Arabian, and Mikhail Bogomazov and Alina Volobueva brought smiles to everyone’s faces as they bounced and turned through the Chinese.
Sadly the Mirlatons were left on the choreographic cutting room floor, so after a pleasing Waltz of the Flowers led by the excellent Anastasia Chava, it was straight into the Grand pas de deux. Only it wasn’t, the first half being danced as a pas de six, four additional male cavaliers assisting the Nutcracker Prince (Vadim Lolenko). Having said that, once they left, the dance felt strangely muted with none of the usual fizz and crackle.
The sets are serviceable, although as with many smaller-scale Nutcrackers (and some large-scale ones), the transformation scene is very disappointing. The costumes are excellent, however. The ladies ballgowns are a feast for the eyes, and both the Snowflakes and Flowers (in carnation pink) are as pretty as a picture.
As with Giselle, the Hungarian Sinfonietta added much to the evening, Conductor Vadim Perevoznikov taking things at a cracking pace that kept everyone on their toes.
The Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet tour continues to Crawley, Jersey and Bath. Click here for dates.