Mariinsky Ballet’s Tribute to Maya Plisetskaya-the Bolshoi prima ballerina assoluta who died in 2015-presented in four programs at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Thursday through Sunday had a strange mix of repertory without cohesion, often having the feel of a gala put together at the last minute. The level of dancing was uneven, with some great performances, but some not up to the high level expected of the Mariinsky.
Thursday’s program featured Uliana Lopatkina and Diana VIshneva with no other dancers listed in the program (a great disservice to the dancers) in a short program originally listed at 1 hour and 20 minutes. The program consisted of two live performances, Carmen Suite and The Dying Swan, and one film of Plisetskaya in Boléro. The 1975 film featuring the then 50-year-old Plisetskaya choreographed by Maurice Béjart was my favorite part of the evening. The work starts slowly but builds to a dramatic finish as Plisetskya at times seems possessed as her body sways to the pulsating music. However, I could have watched it at home. Here is the video:
Carmen Suite (1967) is a one-act ballet created by Cuban choreographer Alberto Alonso set to music by Rodion Shchedrin (Plisetskaya’s husband) after Georges Bizet. Plisetskaya had the idea for Carmen Suite and after Shostakovich turned down her offer to compose a ballet, she turned to Shchedrin.
Diana Vishneva was a sultry Carmen Thursday and Saturday, gracing the stage with great confidence and expressiveness. Unfortunately, this version is difficult to follow and lacks cohesiveness; dancers move in and out of the action without much purpose. The corps dancers seemed disjointed but maybe it was the choreography that was the problem. Overall, Carmen fell flat Friday and Saturday. I liked Edward Ellison’s version more, performed by his students last May as it was more compelling in telling the story.
Uliana Lopatkina danced the short Fokine 1905 work The Dying Swan. Fokine choreographed the work for Anna Pavlova, who performed it about 4,000 times. The four-minute piece follows the last moments of a swan. I enjoyed Lopatkina’s interpretation, with her expressive arms and supple back. I’ve never seen her in Swan Lake, but she must be remarkable if her Dying Swan is any guide.
Friday’s program was a disjointed affair with nine separate dances, most clipped from longer ballets (one dance was deleted from the program). I don’t know how this related to Plisetskaya, particularly when photos of Russian stars like Anna Pavlova, Enrico Cecchetti, Vaslav Nijinsky were flashed across the screen in opening segments.
Act I (short at only 25 minutes) consisted of the insignificant Russian dance from Swan Lake (to the music of Rothbart’s solo in Act II of the ABT version), Le Spectre de la rose, and Pavlova and Cecchetti. Maria Shirinkina and Vladimir Shklyarov were enjoyable in Rose, led by Shklyarov’s high leaps (although there was no window to leap out of the room as is customary). Pavlova and Cecchetti, a 1971 work by John Neumeier, featured Lopatkina and Roman Belyakov. It is a sweet piece that takes place in a ballet studio as Cecchetti teaches and dances with Pavlova.
The second act consisted of the 7th Waltz from Chopiniana, Bluebird Pas de Deux from Sleeping Beauty, Golden Slave Pas de Deux from Scheherazade, Firebird and Prince Ivan Pas de Deux, Giselle Pas de Deux, and The Dying Swan. Chopiniana was fine with Lopatkina and Andrey Ermakov. The Bluebird Pas de Deux was forgettable, with Alexander Sergeev struggling on a turn section with just an adequate beat section. I’ve never seen Scheherazade and it was difficult for me to get invested in the pas de deux with Ekaterina Osmolkina and Maxim Zyuzin. It looked like a Romeo and Juliet version of the Arabian dance in Nutcracker.
The Firebird pas de deux was fine, but it is difficult to react to a five-minute dance from a full-length ballet. Maria Shirinkina and Shklyarov danced the pas de deux from Giselle. The last time I saw Shklyarov in the role was his ABT guest artist appearance with the magical last-minute pairing with Stella Abrera last June. This time Shklyarov was not in his usual top-flight form, struggling on a turn section. The performance ended with The Dying Swan by Lopatkina.
Saturday’s program consisted of Carmen Suite and Woman in a Room (2013), a 40- minute dramatic solo work for Vishneva. Carolyn Carlson choreographed and designed the scenery for the work set to recorded music by Giovanni Sollima and René Aubry. The work opens with Diana sitting on a stool in front of a large table. She is distraught for some reason. After minutes of agony, the mood brightens and she changes into a dress with high heels. Later she chops lemons on the table and, at the end of the work, runs down the aisle handing out lemons to audience members (a surprised attendee took home a Diana Vishneva chopped lemon one aisle away from me). My guess of the strange piece: a portrayal of a manic-depressive women reflecting on her life and what might have been. Who knows. There was nothing in the program to provide guidance.