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About the Change

Kirov Ballet

Neumeier Programme: ‘Sounds of Empty Pages’, ‘Spring and Fall’, ‘Now and Then’

October 2001
St Petersburg, Maryinsky Theatre

by Kevin Ng

'Sounds of Empty Pages' reviews

'Spring and Fall' reviews

'Now and Then' reviews

Kirov 'Manon' reviews

'Manon' reviews

Zakharova in reviews

Vishneva in reviews

recent Kirov reviews

Four months after the Kirov Ballet's memorable Covent Garden season, it was a joy to see the company again in their beautiful Maryinsky Theatre at home in St. Petersburg, in a programme which was different from their London repertory. The mixed bill programme, which premiered in St. Petersburg in April 2001, consisted of three works by John Neumeier, the director of the Hamburg Ballet. It consisted of a ballet special created for the Kirov entitled "Sounds of Empty Pages" based on the composer Alfred Schnitke, as well as two earlier pure dance works of Neumeier created for other compannies - "Spring and Fall" (1994), and "Now and Then" (1993).

"Spring and Fall" which commenced the evening is set to the five movements of Dvorak's Serenade for Strings. A corps de ballet of four couples framed Natalia Sologub (who was the first-night Aurora in London last June) and Andrei Merkuriev (a dancer from the Maly Theatre who just joined the Kirov) as the main couple. In the fourth movement Larghetto they had a pas de deux which was full of anguish. Sologub's fine classical style shone through in Neumeier's choreography which however abounded in non-classical steps.

Neumeier's choreography for the ensemble, which was full of lifts, was rhythmically sharp and full of liveliness. Neumeier showed an ease in filling the stage space with interesting groupings. In the beginning of the ballet the bare-chested male dancers traversed the stage with lots of 'jetes' jumps. The third movement for the male ensemble was exciting with different formations into doubles and trios. The final movement ended on a high note with exhilarating runs across the stage.

The second work "Now and Then" was also grandly danced by the Kirov dancers. Set to Ravel's G major piano concerto, this ballet featured Svetlana Zakharova and Danila Korsuntsev as the main couple. The corps de ballet was attired in red, echoing the red backdrop. Natalia Sologub and Maxim Krebtov was the second couple in cream-coloured outfits. Like the first ballet, Neumeier's choreography consisted of many non-classical positions, e.g. contractions and turned-in steps. The steps in the first movement seemed deliberately jagged. In the second movement the dancers' arms stuck out in an awkward manner at one point.

Zakharova, the focus of the ballet, looked soulful and had plenty of scope to show off her beautiful long line and her high extensions in the lengthy passages of sustained arabesques and attitudes.

I am less happy with the new Schnitke work "Sounds of Empty Pages" which starred the pure classical dancer Andrian Fadeyev as the composer Schnitke. I found the work slightly too long and repetitive, and too relentlessly gloomy for my taste, and the movement vocabulary lacking variety. The ballet started puzzlingly with Schnitke drawing a line on the white wall. The other main characters were his muse (Irina Golub), his music (danced by the black-clad Veronika Part), and an ensemble of evil forces headed by Ilya Kuznetsov who persistently tormented Schnitke.

Fadeyev was on stage throughout the ballet. Early on he was stripped of his white suit by the sinister Ilya Kuznetsov. The only respite from the gradually intensifying gloom was a tender duet for Schnitke and his muse which was full of lifts. The climax saw Schnitke break through a white screen into another world and later reunited with his music. All the main roles in this undeniably theatrical ballet were superlatively danced.


The previous night I saw "Manon" led by Diana Vishneva and Igor Zelensky. Vishneva, a refined actress, was splendid in the title role, and convincingly portrayed Manon from her innocence to her final downfall. She was ecstatic in the bedroom pas de deux. Who could forget her glamour when she was lifted by the three gentlemen in the brothel scene, and her withering weakness at the end before her death. Igor Zelensky was a compelling des Grieux and partnered her strongly. Natalia Sologub repeated her outstanding performance in London as Lescault's mistress.

Peter Farmer's sets looked better on the more spacious stage of the Maryinsky Theatre than at Covent Garden, and the Kirov company was truly at home in this MacMillan ballet.

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