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October 27, 2019


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If I didn't have to work for a living, I'd go again to see the encores--it was stupendous. Pins and needles throughout the second act. Now, Hagland, I KNOW you don't approve, but after seeing Olga Smirnova as Raymonda, I will be first in line to see her dance Nikiya with ABT next summer. Fear not: I always see multiple Bayaderes so I will be supporting the company artists too.

By the way, ABT hasn't done Raymonda since 2005, have they? How on earth could they cast it today? (I have some ideas, but will keep them to myself.)

Golden Idol,

Olga's Nikiya in the Bolshoi cinema presentation last January was good -- a massive improvement over what we saw her do at the Met several years ago. No punched out ribs, mostly tidy extensions -- okay, her face was quite frozen -- overall it was a very enjoyable performance. However, when she showed up last April at YAGP to dance the Black Swan PdD with Kimin Kim, she was a complete disaster - such that I couldn't imagine ever buying another ticket to see her.

Today Olga was often lovely -- never grotesque. The flubs in Act III I'll credit to fatigue -- she had practically danced a full week of ballet by the time she got to Act III. There is a lot of dancing in Grigorovich's ballet for Raymonda.

Yes, Olga was beautiful, and I enjoy Belyakov even if some of the partnering was hairy.

I'm sure you noticed that she didn't make her entrance for the coda in the dream scene, leaving the corps on its own She got there in time for the manege, but that was bizarre.

It was a little strange, MRR. She was having some headpiece problems, also. And then in the 3rd Act she was way off the music when she and Belyakov were doing the same choreography as the corps all around them. Then they kind of messed up the shoulder sit which she moved out of a couple of counts before all the other couples. Still and all she did a good job. Olga is not a joyful dancer but she certainly forced herself to be joyful quite a bit today.

Hi Haglund,

I saw the entire Raymonda for the first time, and while I agree that the dancers were beautiful, don't make me watch it again. I've never seen such an overstuffed ballet, with lots of movement but not much drama. The two main characters interact in only the most stylized way. I hated the flying capes and sleeves, and all other appendages that obstructed the dancers' lines. Smirnova's performance was heroic if flawed; as you say she is not a joyful dancer and often her face looks frozen. Both Belyakov and Tsvirko were very good and I thought Savenard [if that's who it was] in the second variation in the dream sequence was wonderful. It was interesting to know that the piano music for Raymonda's Act 3 variation was inspired by Glazunov's love of Lizst.

Marta, it's true that there isn't a lot of deep drama in Raymonda -- in any Raymonda -- but I'll take the old fashioned overstuffing any old day over what's being created today in the name of "relevance," "cutting edginess," and "political correctness." Maybe the lack of drama is one reason ABT hasn't danced their full Raymonda since the days of Dvorovenko, Beloserkovsky, and Gomes.

I hope the Jewels broadcast would feature Alena Kovaleva as the Diamonds ballerina. She was a highlight of the Lincoln Center multi-company Jewels a few summers back. It would be great to get her performance on film.

Re: Raymonda - ABT's was a co-production with the Finnish National Ballet in Helsinki. It was returned there after its two-year run with ABT and, unfortunately, it was allowed to fall into a state of disrepair that resulted in its disposal. It was a traditional staging (except for the questionable decision of merging Acts II & III to shorten the run time) and it would be nice to have a new, traditional production. It's certainly one of the greatest of Petipa's masterpieces.

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