Thursday, 24 December 2009
This Xmas - explosions of ballet
Someone once told me that you have to know Russia to really appreciate Russian art. Outside, life's grim, dark, gloomy and deprived. Inside, it explodes in golden, glowing light. You don't want the magic to end. I thought of this while watching The Tsarina's Slippers (Tchaikovsky's Cherevichki) from the Royal Opera House broadcast on BBC TV2 today.
"Don't take the children" said Rupert Christiansen in the Telegraph, "they'll be bored rigid and never want to go near an opera again". True, it's a long three hours, but quite pleasant if you think of it as an escape from reality rather than an opera in the usual sense. If it's snowbound St Petersburg outside, this would be a kind of paradise.
Ignore the plot and focus on the riotous colour. Peasants in gaudy costumes, in gingerbread houses alive with folksy stencils. The palace is a confection of white and yellow, with a gold-plated statue of the Tsarina centre stage, from which emit dancers in red velvet and ermine, and brightly attired cossacks. Even the devil looks cute, against a blue and green backdrop (nice water spirits, too). It's possibly even better on TV where you get close=up details, like the courtiers' costumes with images of the palace embroidered on their hems and in their head-dresses.
Off the wall fantasy is just the right thing this year with snowstorms everywhere. The fun thing about a lot of ballet is that it's escapist, and works even when it's not mentally taxing. So I did enjoy The Tsarina's Slippers, perhaps because I was in the right laidback mood. Later on tonight on BBCTV4, there's Swan Lake at the Mariinsky. In complete contrast I'm off to Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake on Saturday at Sadler's Wells. Yesterday there was an interesting Rite of Spring on TV, with bondage gear and break dancing. A man pirouetting on his wrist, doing backflips. The audience, not the usual ballet crowd, loved it. Tomorrow there's La Bohème on BBCTV2 at 1610 GMT. Netrebko and Villazon, Bertrand de Billy and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Follow the links to view online (no repeats) Short intervals - no ads !!!!!
photo credit :Marije van Moerkerk