A Flower as Rare as it's Performances
Giles Bernard J. Hall | Tasmania; Australia | 07/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have always enjoyed Prokofiev's `The Stone Flower" ballet; in fact I now have two copies of it. The First is on VHS from the Bolshoi Theatre (Playing Time: 106 Minutes) and the second on DVD is from the Kirov Ballet (Playing Time: 110 Minutes). Strangely both productions were choreographed by Yuri Grigorovich and both designed by Simon Virsaladze.
Some people try to compare the music of this ballet with that of Prokofiev's "Romeo & Juliet" ballet. You CAN NOT, as this is completely different. It has been composed in the true Prokofiev style. For his final ballet score I find it just as riveting as his previous scores. Lovely melodies and that rich and colourful scoring, so typical of Prokofiev. Scored for: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, english horn, 2 clarinets, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (triangle, castanets, wood blocks, tambourine, snare drum, cymbals, bass drum, tam-tam, tubular bells, xylophone), harp, piano, and strings. This production from the Kirov Ballet has been recorded void of any audience sound what-so-ever. So there are no applauses to hold up the production, although, I did find it a bit disconcerting not having the applause after such spectacular dance sequences as is with the Bolshoi's production. The dancers are on a par in both productions, for me a non dancer; the finer point work seems lost. I know what I like and can appreciate a good performance when I see it. I have in my youth worked back-stage on ballet production & had an occasional walk on acting/mime part in a few ballets.
If I had to choose one over the other it would have to be this one; even though the Bolshoi's is just as precise. If you do not have a copy of "The Stone Flower", you will really enjoy this version. On the other hand if you have the Bolshoi version, you can not go wrong with that either. So the only deciding factor in this case, is whether you prefer the audience or not. Either way, do not let this rarely performed ballet pass without seeing it. To my knowledge, and I could be wrong; I do not think it has been performed outside of Russia. You may correct me on that, if someone does know.
The Bolshoi only lists four soloists whilst the Kirov lists Five:
Danila: Nikolai Dorokhov (Bolshoi) & Aleksandr Gulyaev (Kirov)
Katerina: Lyudmilla Semenyaka (Bolshoi) & Anna Polikarpova (Kirov)
Mistress of the Copper Mountain: Nina Semizorova (Bolshoi)
Queen of the Copper Mountain: Tatiana Terekhova (Kirov)
Severyan: Yuri vetrov (Bolshoi) & Genady Babanin (Kirov)
Fire-Fairy: Irina Chistyakova (Kirov)
A Flower Resembling a Rare Gem
Charles Beck | Framingham State College, MA | 08/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is truly a stunning performance of a little known ballet outside of Russia. In fact, it is not listed in many books on ballet, including Balanchine's "101 Stories of the Great Ballets." It does require a corps, such as the Kirov, with a mastery of classic and Russian folk dance. It's difficult to imagine a non-Russian company performing this Ural fairy tale. Few ballets require such a rich variety of dance styles, including classical, folk, gypsy, cossack knee slapping, and clowning routines.
The three lead dancers, Aleksandr Gulyaev (Danila), Anna Polikarpova (Katerina), and Tatiana Terekhova (Queen of the Copper Mountain) are excellent. Gulyaev demonstrates his bravura skills with graceful leaps that appear frozen in time like his stone flower. Polikarpova performs very touching adagio and lyrical sequences with wonderful line and delicacy. Terekhova exhibits remarkable gymnastic ability with her allegro routines--a worthy rival for Danila's affection.
The lovers are very attractive and expressive (Polikarpova has a lovely face for close-ups and, unlike many ballerinas, doesn't look undernourished). They perform several languorous pas de deuxs, including lovely arabesques (one leg raised and extended behind) and flowing lifts. They convey their affection with gestures and expressions that speak more convincingly than words. Note their charming joy dance by striking the ground with one leg bent behind them.
The choreography of Yuri Grigorovich is mesmerizing with a constant flow of movement before an empty theater. The rapid succession of festive village dances adds great variety, gaiety, and humor to the more serious story of the two separated and reunited lovers. It's a marvelous demonstration of Grigorovich's choreography and the versatility of the Kirov corps de ballet. For example, the corps of fairy stone flowers is very stylized and in near perfect synch. They perform tall lifts to symbolize Danila's stone flower.
There is a rich variety of colorful costumes, ranging from elaborate and colorful to simple and elegant. My wife, a professional graphic designer, was impressed by the stylized, symbolic, and colorful sets. The sets richly complement the folk idioms and tonal melodies in Prokofiev's score. Does any house have a more elegant curtain than the Mariinsky Theater? To add to this list of superlatives, the technical crew is to be applauded for its excellent camera work, lighting, sound and visual (both clarity and depth of field) quality. In conclusion, this production is a gem to add to your collection, and it's very likely to become one of your favorite ballets.
Robert David Grapes | 09/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have just watched The Stone Flower. It is the traditional love story of a boy and girl who are separated by villains and circumstances. They are happily united in the end. What made this ballet enjoyable for me was its recent rendition, but keeping to the classical ballet style. The stage is well lighted, except when dimmed or darkened for effect, and even then I knew what was going on. The background scenery is just enough to set the mood, and it is in the background. The costumes are traditional, as well. They are typical of my idea of a rural Russian countryside. The dancing while not spectacular, nevertheless is superbly classical ballet. You won't be disappointed. I'll have to watch it again, soon."