Ballet + Poetry + Art = ?

I adore ballet. Not that I am an expert – far from it! – but when I watch it it touches something in my heart… the combination of wonderful music, beautiful dancing and admiration for the great talent of the dancers and their enormously hard work – all this makes ballet an enchanted spectacle for me.

I have written about my love for poetry already, but then it doesn’t need any explanation anyway.

Now, I lam a sucker for old photos! Honestly, I can spend hours looking at them. What were these people (who are long since dead) thinking at that particular moment of taking that photo? Were they happy, sad, preoccupied, carefree? What was going on in their lives? Old photos are irresistible!

And now – what if we combine all three? 

Look:

And there… ethereal… resplendent,

Poised to the magic bow attendant, 

A throng of nymphs her guardian band, 

 Istomina* takes up her stand. 

One foot upon the ground she places,

 And then the other slowly twirls, 

  And now she leaps! And now she whirls!

Like down from Eol’s lips she races; 

Then spins and twists and stops to beat 

Her rapid, dazzling, dancing feet. 

The greatest russian poet Alexander Pushkin dedicated this little abstract from a poem to a great XIX century ballerina Evdokia Istomina whom he admired.

But recently I stumbled upon some photographs of Tamara Karsavina, one of the greatest Russian ballerinas 

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As soon as I saw these photos I thought about Pushkin’s poem!

It was said about her: “Karsavina is like the dancing flame,  in the light and shadows of which the warm bliss lives … her dancing  is like gentle tones and drawings of  an ethereal pastel”

I think it is the case when the “ballet + poetry + art (of photography)” = magic.

To heaven and back

I went to Barbican last night to get my much needed fix of classical music.

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Barbican Centre, London

Two pieces – Beethoven, Piano Concerto No3 and Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony.

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Well, what can I say? I can’t exactly describe MUSIC. Nobody can. You don’t need words for Beethoven. Suffice to say that it brought me to tears at some point. Seriously, I cried (a little) 🙂

What did surprise me was Rachmaninov’s music.

I mean, of course, I knew Rachmaninov, who doesn’t, right? And yet I must confess I had not been able to recall it exactly…

Ok, I forgot!

Rachmaninov

I was absolutely stunned. 

His music was like a feast… like fireworks… like an ocean…

It washed over me like a huge beautiful wave leaving no space for any earthly feelings… just the emotions of love, happiness, sorrow, sadness, joy – all of them combined. I was in a different dimension altogether.

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Do you know what? The only justification of human race inhabiting the Earth is their ability to create music.

PS: I am proud to be Russian… 🙂

 

 

“The Nutcracker” – was it a miracle for me?

Who doesn’t know The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky’s most celebrated ballet? Who didn’t hear it’s music on numerous occasions? I did too, and admired it so much (but then for me Tchaikovsky is the best composer of all times anyway 🙂 )

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So, yesterday was THE DAY. I went to watch the ballet at the Royal Opera House in London. The theater was full to the brim, not a single empty seat!

Royal Opera House Covent Garden

Here are my reflections on the night. I am not going to talk about the plot or the history of the ballet,  I just would like to pen down my chaotic thoughts in order to organize my immediate impressions.

First, the positive ones.

And of course, I have to start with the music. Oh, the music! Unsurpassed! The almost unbearable beauty of it! How can you even start to describe it? You can’t so I am not going to try. I had been a bit apprehensive that because of it’s extreme popularity (especially in the mass culture) I would find it a bit too “popular” but it didn’t happen. It was still magic and heavenly.

Second, the stage set and the scenography. Magnificent!

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Beautiful stage decorations, very clever use of various curtains and lightening, wonderful costumes (apart from the ridiculous hats in the Russian Dancers’ costumes but then probably I, being Russian, was the only one who found them funny).

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So, what was wrong? Why don’t I feel entirely satisfied?

One thing which surprised me was this. Clara and the Nutcracker are the main characters of the ballet, the leading parts, right? Well, it didn’t seem to me that they were especially “main” or “leading”. They didn’t dance that much… or that was my impression.

The Sugar Plum Fairy and Her Cavalier had much bigger opportunity to showcase their dancing talents. And I think the public agreed judging by the amount of applause.

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And even their dance numbers varied in density – some were energetic and complex and others – just kind of lukewarm.

In the second act, where arguably the most celebrated numbers are – Spanish Dance, Chinese Dance, Russian Dance – the Arabian Dance was such a disappointment that I didn’t even clap at the end… They were just walking around making “Arabian” gestures with their arms and carrying the girl, very occasionally leaping a bit.

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Waltz of the Flowers  and the Pas de deux were wonderful though! (Or was it the music playing me up again? No, it was good)

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Generally I would say that the choreography was  quite “uneven”  –  lively and lovely in some numbers and quite …errm… lame, lacking of energy or charm, in the others. Sorry! This is only my very inexpert opinion.

Phew, got it off my chest!

But… the music… Oh, the music!

Tchaikovsky

My 100th post today! And it is about beauty, of course.

The beauty of music, to be exact.

I was in London’s Barbican today, at London Symphony Orchestra’s concert. During the interval while having a cigarette in the courtyard I was thinking about the wonderful music I had just heard. And I thought: this music was composed by the Russian composers almost 200 years ago… And yet people all over the world still listen to it and  still love it and feel the beauty of it. It is the most amazing miracle, if you ask me!

Several impressions of today’s concert.

First – the hall was absolutely full again, not a single empty seat.

Second – when there was a pause in the music you couldn’t even hear people breathing, the atmosphere was so intense.

Third – about the music itself. The first piece was Mussorgsky’s “Night on the Bare Mountain”. I knew the name Mussorgsky, of course I did! I remember listening to his “Pictures from the Exhibition” when I was a child… But I hadn’t known what to expect from tonight’s piece. I had read strange things about the composer

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Modest Mussorgsky, aged 32, 1870

 

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Mussorgsky 10 years later, painted just days before his death. Alcoholism killed him at 42

He was erratic, a bit mad, all for “Russian music free from the Western influence”, he was an alcoholic; a lot of his music was not finished or was in a “unplayable”state and was finished by his friends.

But it was just wonderful! The sheer raw strength and magnitude of it was mind blowing!

The second piece was the Violin Concert by Tchaikovsky. Well, Tchaikovsky is my Greatest Composer anyway.

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Pyotr Tchaikovsky, the Great Composer

But this particular piece was a  tiny disappointment, may be because last time I heard his 5th Symphony and it was… wow. I read that when the Violin Concerto was first performed it was met with a severe critique. The composer never wrote a violin concerto again. I have to say that it was still very beautiful and the soloist was incredible but something was not quite … enough for me tonight.

Now, as for the third piece, Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” – alas, it was just not my cup of tea at all, unfortunately.

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Igor Stravinsky

May be because it was originally music written for a ballet staged for Dyagilev’s “Russian Seasons” in Paris in 1910. Although the music was undoubtedly powerful I couldn’t help feeling that it SHOULD be a ballet with all the stage appearances, dancing, costumes, etc. Especially when I imagined how it looked then – with Fokin dancing, Bakst’s costumes and decorations… I am sure it was just magnificent!

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“The Firebird”< the Prince’s costume designed by Bakst

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Another of Bakst’s costume for the ballet

 

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“The Firebird” – the ballet

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But played as a concert piece – it just didn’t do it for me…

 

And this is all I’d like to say about my awesome date with the essence of beauty – Music.