Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Prokofiev - The Stone Flower / Nicolai Dorokhov Lyudmilla Semenyaka Nina Semizorova Yuri Vetrov Aleksander Kopilov Bolshoi|
Actors: Lyudmilla Semenyaka, Dorokhov, Semenyaka, Kopilov, Bolshoi Opera Ballet
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Cheesy, fluffy, enjoyable bit of Russian folklore
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 04/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's easy for American balletomanes, who've been spoonfed the austere, abstract neo-classicism of George Balanchine, to be snobby about a work like "The Stone Flower." This ballet, set to a tuneful but unmemorable score by Prokofiev, is more of a Russian folktale spectacle than anything else. It was choreographed in 1957 by Yuri Grigorivich, who ran the Bolshoi Ballet with an iron fist from 1964 to 1995. Grigorivich's choreography ranges from the terrible (his truly horrifying Nutcracker) to impressive (the energetic, inevitable crowdpleaser Spartacus). On that scale, I'd put "The Stone Flower" on the higher end. I did enjoy every minute of it, although I wouldn't for a moment call it a masterpiece.
The story is basically a mythical love triangle between the mortals (Katerina and Danila) and the supernatural (Mistress of Copper Mountain). The supernatural Mistress at first tears the mortals apart, but in the end she bestows her benevolent powers for a Soviet-approved happy ending. Danila (Nikolai Dorokhov) the artist, is engaged to the lovely Katerina (Lludmilla Semenyaka), but he's drawn to the mysterious, powerful Mistress of Copper Mountain (Nina Semizorova). And then there's a bad guy to stir the pot, Sereyan (Yuri Vetrov). Like a lot of works created during the Soviet era, The Stone Flower is not very subtle. Sereyan isn't just a villain -- he's a villain who proves his villainy by constantly stomping around the stage, leering and sneering and beating his chest. Katerina defends herself against the loathsome Sereyan by wielding a sickle at him. (Imagine how much the Communist government would have loved that!) If I were to describe The Stone Flower in one sentence, it would be, "A longer and cheesier Firebird."
But still, watching The Stone Flower is a bit like peering into a whole other culture. For one, it's wonderful to see Russian folkdances so seemlessly integrated into a classical ballet, and danced with such gusto and panache. The second scene of Act II is basically one gigantic folk dance spectacle. This is something American ballets companies could never pull off. Visually, the ballet is often a treat -- the scene when Danila first discovers the Mistress of Copper Mountain and her abode is a symphony of green -- green backdrops, green costumes. The loveliest scene of the ballet is when the Mistress of Copper Mountain and her maidens (???) dance a tuneful, lilting waltz to end Act 1.
As for the dancing, it unfortunately caught the Bolshoi Ballet during a rough transition period. The superstars that had catapulted the Bolshoi to worldwide acclaim (Maya Plisetskaya, Vladimir Vasiliev, Galina Ulanova, Ekaterina Maximova) had all semi-retired. But fortunately, three of the four main roles of The Stone Flower don't require ballet virtuosos. The choreography for both Danila and Katerina is eminently uninteresting. Katerina has little more to do than look innocent and melancholy. Except for one charming scene in which Katerina has to mirror the steps of a Fire Maiden, there isn't much interesting choreography. If there's a role that's similar to Katerina's, it's that of the Princess in Fokine's Firebird. Look beautiful and innocent, and you'll be fine. Ludmilla Semenyaka does no harm, but it's hard to judge how great of a ballerina she is in a role that doesn't require much dancing at all. She does have that Russian ability to infuse every little leap and jump with a wonderful springiness. Nicolai Dorokhov -- how shall I say this -- is, uh, overweight. Dolokhov looks unattractive dancing with a bit of a beer gut. The role doesn't call for much extended dancing, but one longs for the handsome Vladimir Vasiliev or the more charismatic Irek Mukhamedov. Dolokhov does have to do quite a bit of lifting (of the Mistress), and he manages that well. Unlike the elegant Kirov-trained danseurs, the Bolshoi men always had a sturdy, solid heftiness. The role of Severyan, as I mentioned, is little more than stomping, leering, chest-beating, and (at the end of the second act), frantic convulsing. Yuri Vetrov meets the requirements very well, although I'm sure many other dancers could have done the exact same thing.
More interesting is the Mistress of the Copper Mountain. To go with the Firebird analogy, her role is like that of the Firebird -- she's the one who makes or breaks the ballet. She has to appear both mysterious, forbidding and sensuous. The choreography calls for her to be twisted in all sorts of odd positions, reflecting her supernatural abilities. I've never seen such unconventional positions during lifts. It seems as if half the time the Mistress has to twist herself in a circle around Danila's neck. Nina Semizorova doesn't have the fiery intensity of, say, Maya Plisetskaya, but she is able to contort her body into all the positions with an impressively quick attack and grace. Only the closeups reveal that Semizorova is facially rather plain. Very plain. Semizorova isn't a name I am very familiar with, but after this ballet I'm tempted to see more of her.
If I have a beef with this dvd, it's that some of the most interesting dancers are uncreditted. For instance, the ballerina who danced the Gypsy Solo in Act 2 -- who is she? She's sultry, beautiful, and her body has that wonderful suppleness that only Russian dancers seem to have. And the charming Fire Maiden -- who is she? The dvd only lists four dancers.
So overall, would this be on my list of desert island ballet dvd's? No. Is this a truly great ballet, like Giselle or Sleeping Beauty? No. But The Stone Flower is something that many modern ballets aren't -- enjoyable and entertaining. The Kirov Ballet has a dvd of this ballet as well, but I have not seen it."
Spectacular production and dancing
A. Pfeffer | San Marcos, CA USA | 01/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This Bolshoi production was directed by Grigorovich in 1990 at the tail end of his own tenure and that of the USSR itself. As an amateur, I can't say much about the technical aspects of the dancing, but it strikes me as triumphantly spectacular, blending classical and folk elements. The central triangle of Dorokhov, Semenyaka, and Semizorova are brilliant in their roles as lovers separated by a semi-magical nature goddess and harassed by the town ruffian. At one point Semenyaka defends her virtue against Vetrov with a sickle; I wonder if this iconic detail survives in post-Soviet productions. :o)
Only a good Russian troupe can pull off this folk-oriented score with its churning ensembles and breathtaking male acrobatics. The music is second rate Prokofiev, not nearly as memorable as "Romeo and Juliet" but colorful and rhythmic enough to carry the action along and inspire the superb dancers. Their execution is of the highest order--grace, delicacy, musicality, combined with gorgeously expressive gestures and steps that seem, despite their enormous power, to float an inch above the stage.
Good audio and video, reasonably unobtrusive camera work.
I'm hoping Ivy Lin will share with us her thoughts on this "Stone Flower.""
Peter Moore | shrewsbury salop | 12/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I HAVE BOTH VERSIONS OF THE STONEFLOWER AND THERE IS LITTLE TO PUT BETWEEN THEM,BOTH ARE MOST ENJOYABLE AND I AGREE THAT SOME OF THE DANCERS ARE UNCREDITED WHICH IS A PITY, ANYONE KNOW WHO THEY ARE? IT MAY BE TRUE THET SEMIZOROVA IS NOT A BEAUTY,NEVERTHELESS SHE WAS ONE OF THE BEST BALLERINAS THE BOLSHOI HAD AT THAT TIME.I JUST WISH THAT THE BOLSHOI WOULD RELEASE SOME OF ITS BACK CATALOGUE ie GAYANEH, AND WALPURGIS NIGHT."