Last evening was a great evening and also a sobering one for ballet fans here in Rome. Because of budget cuts we were denied a revival of a piece of Soviet dance history but given the opportunity to see a current Russian dance legend. And the presence of that legend make us acutely aware of the weakness of our resident company.
When she was forced to delay the revival of The Red Poppy until next February, company director Carla Fracci pulled several rabbits out of her toe shoes. Yes we were going to see added performances of the already scheduled umpteenth revival of Swan Lake but several were to star Svetlana Zakharova the reigning Queen of Russian ballet. And for the two of the performances she snagged the Feijoo sisters Lorena and Lorna , who are stars in their own right, to alternate the roles of Good Swan/Bad Swan.
I attended Zakharova's final performance last night and was blown out of my palco by the incredible technique and charismatic stage presence that have made her the idol of balletomanes around the world. Not since Maya Plisetskaya - in my first Swan Lake back in 1959 - have I seen a dancer who made me so so aware that Odette is a woman trapped in a swan's body or that Odile is a cold reflection of that sad woman. The movements for each though similar had a subtle difference - the White Swan's soft and lyrical, almost liquid when danced by the Black Swan were sharper, more brittle with the cold brillance of a diamond.
Here she is partnered by a talent the equal of her's, Roberto Bolle, in the Pas D'Action from Act 2.
In this performance from Rome in 2003 she is partnered in the "Black Swan" pas de deux by Eugene Ivanchenko.
Many of the commentors on various ballet blogs seem to find her performance of the 32 fouettes lacking but certainly last evening she whipped them off with aplomb and finesse. Again here she is in 2003 and we even get a bit of Carla Fracci grandstanding it as the Queen Mother.
Unfortunately last evening she was not partnered with the same elegance or presence that certainly Bolle and to a certain extent Ivanchenko brought to the role of the Prince. The Rome Opera Ballet uses Galina Samsova's choreography which turns the Prince into pretty much a human barre for the prima ballerina and gives all the spectacular stuff to his friend Benno. Andrei Uvarov seemed to be sleep walking through much of the performance and had little of the prince about him. Although he is a product of the Russian school he is more in the stolid old-fashioned Bolshoi style as opposed to Zakharova's more lyric Kirov style. Fortunately Vito Mazzeo was dancing the Benno and brought some of the air of a Premier Danseur to the stage. Also of note was the Foreign Princess variation of Alessandra Amato. Both these young dancers had performed the lead roles earlier in run.
I am almost tempted to attend tonight's performance to see the twins however the problem of bringing in stars of the caliber of the Feijoos and Zakharova is that it throws the limitation of our home company into stark relief. This was the first time my companion for the evening, an alumni of the National Ballet School of Canada, had seen the Rome Opera Ballet. She commented that there seemed to be little common style and that many of the dancers behaved if though they were still in the rehearsal studio rather than on stage in what is purportedly a major Italian theatre. And I have to agree with her - with the exception of Amato and Mazzeo the general level of performance by the company is not what should be expected of a major dance company.
And though I adored her in her days as Prima Ballerina Assoluta and admire much of what she has done as Director of the Company it really is time that Carla Fracci unstrung the slippers and stopped trying to hog centre stage. The ballet is called Swan Lake not The Queen Mother Gives a Ball. One questions why, when she does not appear in Act 4, she needs to take a curtain call at the end of the performance when everyone else had taken theirs at the end of Act 3. And why does she have to take a call at the end of every performance I have seen in the past two years whither she is dancing or not? I am as nostalgic as the next theatre/dance/opera/concert nut but there does come a point when it is necessary to say: Basta! Enough!
And there was one ungracious gesture during the final calls that was totally unwarranted and almost insulting to the guest artist. An unnecessary and unworthy action!
02 decembre - Santa Bibiena