St David’s Hall, Cardiff, Fri 21 Dec
The season is upon us of fir trees, mince pies, ornaments, bells, good cheer and The Nutcracker. Adults may think they’ve outgrown this wondrous ballet, but banish that
thought! This work, with magical music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (based on a story by E.T.A. Hoffmann) tells of a Christmas night of dreams where we’re transported to a fairyland of dancing snowflakes, flowers and dolls from exotic lands.
The Russian State Ballet & Orchestra of Siberia have been shaking festive presents out their bag here since 2002 and this year was no exception. For this
performance, Anastasia Belonogova gave us a graceful and elegant Marie – a mix of innocence, bravery and blossoming womanhood – for she went from a girl having a nutcracker gifted to her from her godfather Drosselmeyer to falling in love with his handsome human counterpart. Belonogova demonstrated beautiful and precise en-pointe footwork and lovely extension. Statuesque Yuri Kudriavtsev partnered her sensitively and strongly and showed prowess in his solo technique as well.
This version, with choreography by Vasily Vainonen and the company’s Artistic Director Sergei Bobrov, is not as violent as Hoffmann’s original tale and casts adults as Marie and the Nutcracker/Prince. Stagings I’ve seen from NYCB and ABT have children and adults playing the roles, although the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier were missing tonight. I particularly liked the performance, too, of the lead soloist during the Arabian Dance; she was very expressive in the seductive piece, but all the dancers were impressive and praiseworthy.
Christina Fyodorova’s costumes were very pretty, especially for the enchanting waltzes of the snowflakes and also of the flowers. Instead of dancing candy canes and marzipan in the divertissements, we had the corps de ballet resplendent in Russian folk and French court finery. I did find the set design lacking in that it didn’t have the extra ‘wow’ factor that the show deserved. I understand that because the TRSB & OOS are touring, the cost and logistics of bringing a tree, furniture and other props would be prohibitive, but I just didn’t care for the video backdrop. It looked ho-hum, especially in the second half with washed-out colours and a cartoon-ish castle. There was little variation, and the animation brought a modern touch that looked out of place in a 19th-century Germany.
That said, it was grand to have a terrific orchestra under the very capable baton of Music Director and Chief Conductor Anatoly Tchepurnoi instead of a recording. The Russian State Ballet & Orchestra Of Siberia, with their presentation of this classic, brought out the child in all of us.
words RHONDA LEE REALI