Oxana Skorik and Andrei Ermakov in Raymonda, Mariinsky Ballet (photo by Valentin Baranovsky)
Alexander Glazunov's Raymonda is not a familiar score on this side of the world. Russian friends, however, speak of it in glowing tones, music synonymous with the idea of ballet, as well as the choreography that goes with it. The Mariinsky Ballet is showing its Soviet-tinged production, from 1948, for which Konstantin Sergeyev revised the original choreography by Marius Petipa, this week at the Kennedy Center Opera House. Seen on Tuesday evening, it is a museum piece, old-fashioned but nonetheless an often enchanting work, featuring what dance scholar Jennifer Homans has called "a wealth of jewel-like dances."
The libretto is a tale of crusaders, Saracens, and princesses, with a dash of Gothic ghost story, the mysterious White Lady, who is expunged in the Soviet updating. The eponymous princess is courted by a knight named Jean de Brienne, who ultimately foils the plan by a visiting Saracen to abduct Raymonda. The Muslim lord, who showers the princess and her family with slaves and other gifts to the accompaniment of Middle Eastern-tinged music later imitated by Hollywood composers, ends up slain in combat for his trouble, after which a third-act apotheosis shows the wedding of Raymonda and de Brienne.
Alastair Macaulay, Mariinsky Ballet in ‘Raymonda,’ Searching About for a Perfect Suitor (New York Times, February 24)
Sarah L. Kaufman, Mariinsky Ballet’s ‘Raymonda’ comes slowly to life (Washington Post, February 24)
As Jean de Brienne, Timur Askerov was earnest and technically accomplished, while Kristina Shapran (Clémence) and Sofia Ivanova-Skoblikova (the second variation in The Dream) stood out in supporting roles. The Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra sounded unfamiliar with the score, but there were some lush sounds from the strings and outstanding violin solos, overseen by Mariinsky conductor Gavriel Heine. Glazunov's gorgeous interludes were accompanied, somewhat emptily, by video of clouds on a scrim.
This production continues through February 28, at the Kennedy Center Opera House.