CD Reviews | CTD (Briefly Noted) | JFL (Dip Your Ears) | DVD Reviews


St. Petersburg's 'Paquita' makes U.S. debut at Kennedy Center

Paquita, Mariinsky Ballet (Photo: Darian Volkova/ State Academic Mariinsky Theater)

Paquita was the first ballet that Marius Petipa adapted from a French source when he arrived in St. Petersburg. Hardly a surprise, then, that it is not a great work. The Mariinsky Ballet's new adaptation of the ballet, which opened Tuesday night in the Kennedy Center Opera House, is one of the few productions from this esteemed company that you can pass on seeing. A rather long night in the theater, it made one understand why Paquita disappeared from the repertory, except for a few "bleeding chunks" like the Pas de trois and the Grand Pas and divertissement, the latter performed on its own by the Mariinsky in 2015.

The ballet was first created in Paris, with music by Édouard Deldevez, before being expanded into its better-known form by Marius Petipa in St. Petersburg. As was the usual practice, Petipa augmented the work over the years with new music by Ludwig Minkus and some pieces stolen from other composers. Other companies and directors have been trying to revive Paquita in recent years, too, including a restoration from the Stepanov notation by Alexei Ratmansky in Munich and an adaptation by Pierre Lacotte in Paris.

This production, premiered at the Mariinsky in 2017, is mostly new. Rather than reconstructing Petipa's work, Yuri Smekalov has created a new libretto and new choreography, using a reordering and reorchestration of the music. That new work has been grafted on to Yuri Burlaka's painstaking restoration of the Grand Pas, which constitutes most of the third act. The story remains basically the same, concerning a noble girl stolen away by gypsies. She falls in love with an officer who gives up his commission to live among the gypsies, a sort of variation on the story of Bizet's Carmen twenty-five years later.

Other Reviews:

Sarah L. Kaufman, Mariinsky Ballet’s ‘Paquita’: Glittering dancing but a skimpy story (Washington Post, October 9, 2019)
The result is dramatically inert, mostly a series of rather empty pantomime scenes. In particular, the ending of the second act was curiously anti-climactic. The scenic design (Andrei Svebo) and costuming (Elena Zaitseva) are both handsome, including a humorous use of moving shrub trees during one transition. Most of the music, played ably by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra under the baton of the Mariinsky's Gavriel Heine, is not worth a second listen. Some of the more elaborate variations, including extensive solos for violin, flute, and harp (many times), created appropriately dreamy moods in solo dances.

The main reason to see Paquita is for the company's dancers. In the title role is Viktoria Tereshkina, in many ways a cold, steely ballerina (last seen in 2017) who has warmed considerably in this character. Her technique was impeccable, handsome lines and poise that gave her exceptional confidence. Even better in some ways was the Andres of Timur Askerov, a tall, elegant partner for the long-limbed Tereshkina. The Grand Pas of the third act features mostly lower-rung dancers: best among them was Yekaterina Chebykina, also featured to flattering effect as the third wheel in the Pas de trois of the second act.

Paquita runs through October 13 at the Kennedy Center Opera House.

No comments: