The Bolshoi Theatre of Russia: Spartacus at the Met
-Onstage with the Dancers
The Bolshoi Theatre of Russia
Ballet in Three Acts
Alexei Ratmansky, Ballet Artistic Director
Anatoly Iksanov, General Director
Alexander Vedernikov, Music Director and Chief Conductor
Scott Klein, Keith Sherman & Associates Inc. - Public Relations
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 22, 2005
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Spartacus (1968): Music by Amar Khachaturian, Libretto by Yuri Grigorovich after the novel by Rafaello Giovagnoli and a scenario by Nikolai Volkov, Choreography by Yuri Grigorovich, Sets and Costumes Designed by Simon Virsaladze, Conductor: Pavel Sorokin, Orchestral soloists: Alexander Kalashkov, violin, Dmitry Miller, cello, Alexander Poplavsky, flute, Sergey Vlasov, clarinet, Sergey Lysenko, oboe, Yury Rudometkin, bassoon, Andrey Klevtsov, trumpet, Evgeny Gurev, cornet, Konstantin Semenov, Gennady Butov, Igor Prokopov, Sergey Vetrov, Anatoly Kurashov, percussion, Irina Pashinskaya, harp.
Performed by Yury Klevtsov as Spartacus, leader of the Gladiators, Alexander Volchkov as Crassus, leader of the Roman Army, Anna Antonicheva as Phrygia, Spartacus' beloved, Maria Allash as Aegina, Courtesan, Yury Baranov as a Gladiator, and the Company as Mimes, Three Shepherds, Four Shepherds, Shepherdesses, Courtesans, and the Roman Army and Gladiators.
Crassus and his Roman Army in the midst of conquering and capturing, take Spartacus and Phrygia as slaves, who are separated in the slave bazaar. Aegina, a courtesan, leads a bacchanalian dance of passion and drinking, and Crassus demands a spectacle of two gladiators fighting to the death. Spartacus was forced to kill a comrade and vows to revolt and help the gladiators escape, which they do.
Spartacus garners help from the shepherds, who call him a leader. At Crassus' villa, Spartacus finds his Phrygia, but they need to hide from patricians and Aegina, who wants to seduce Crassus and become nobility. Crassus is celebrating here, but soon flees with Aegina, when word of comes that Spartacus' gladiators are near. Crassus and Spartacus fight one-on-one with swords, and Crassus is defeated. Spartacus lets him go, and the gladiators celebrate. Aegina persuades Crassus to regain his honor, and he leaves for another battle, while she creates havoc in Spartacus' camp, to keep Crassus viable for her rise into nobility.
At Spartacus' tent, Spartacus and Phrygia are one, but Spartacus loses part of his army at the news of the approaching Romans. Aegina seduces and gives wine to Spartacus' traitors, who are given to Crassus, who seeks revenge for dishonor. Spartacus is outnumbered by Romans, and his small army is destroyed. The Romans crucify Spartacus on spears, and Phrygia asks the heavens to remember him. (Program Notes).
An old ballet is re-born in New York. And, four stars are born as well. The Bolshoi introduced Spartacus to New York, with Yuri Gregorovich's dynamic and driven display of male lead and male corps virtuosity, one of the most passionate love stories with a series of sweeping, sensual pas de deux, a sexy, seductive courtesan, a Bacchanalian orgy, sets in combinations of hard stone and stage-size, draped silks, descending and ascending in whites and reds, swords and spears, helmets and shields, choreography that combines people and props into incredible art work, a brassy, percussive score that sounds just right, and four lead dancers/actors that remain in my mind, scene by scene. In fact, overt, obvious violence in ballet has often been seen as an oxymoron. Yet, in the ballet Spartacus, the spectacle of danger and tension reminded me a bit of the exquisite Russian film, Alexander Nevsky, just a bit.
Yuri Klevtsov, as Spartacus, a principal with the Bolshoi, is a must-see-again performer, with extreme, solid muscularity, more so than we are used to seeing in New York or in visiting companies. His spins and wild leaps seemed all the more daring, due to his massive strength. His partnering of Anna Antonicheva was breathlessly rapturous, so quiet and still, as he lifted her with one arm (a Bolshoi trait), walked with her flung over his shoulders, embracing at various stage levels. Mr. Klevtsov's solos exuded so much passion and power that one forgets this is a dance, as the dramatic effect was so thick. Ms. Antonicheva's solos in wispy silks on her tiny, thin frame seemingly flowed with her torment and tears. Her multiple leaps exuded abandonment of reality, as she wildly clung to her doomed lover.
Alexander Volchkov, as Crassus, a lead soloist, should be soon ready for promotion, with his tour de force performance as the proud, obsessed, yet vulnerable Roman leader. At the ballet's riveting opening, Mr. Volchkov commanded his stage and his audience amidst a crashing, dark, foreboding score. His long, muscular frame gave him presence and possession of each moment onstage. His seduction by Maria Allash, as Aegina, the courtesan (who bore a striking resemblance at times, although taller, to Nina Ananiashvili, Bolshoi-trained dancer, recently of ABT) was mesmerizing. Ms. Allash is also a featured lead soloist and certainly as talented as any principal in recent memory. Her leg splits both sideways and front to back were amazing to behold, as her elongated frame and cropped hair gave her an ethereal demeanor. Yury Baranov, as a fighting Gladiator, showed split-timed energy and skill.
The company, as shepherds, courtesans, mimes, and soldiers, was in lock-step timing in the marching sequences, some of which reminded me of Ballet Russe styled angularity in dance. There were arched back male jumps as a repetitive motif that require strength and balance. There were military leg-kicks and a Bacchanalian orgy, both requiring quite different levels of force, with a wide range of versatility. Pavel Sorokin kept the orchestra full and dramatic, with some of the most romantic (and occasionally jazz-evoking) solos by violinist, Alexander Kalashkov, flautist, Alexander Poplavsky, clarinetist, Sergey Vlasov, oboist, Sergey Lysenko, and cellist, Dmitry Miller (See full list of soloists above).
Kudos to Alexander Ratmansky, and kudos to the four lead dancers.
Although Spartacus will be presented just three times in this series, Alexander Ratmansky, Artistic Director, has brought with him two additional productions, The Bright Stream, and The Pharaoh's Daughter. Bolshoi Ballet performances extend at the Met Opera House through July 30, 2005.
Belogolovtsev performs "Spartacus" with The Bolshoi Ballet
Photo courtesy of The Bolshoi Ballet