Romantic intrigues at the Mariinsky

Romantic intrigues at the Mariinsky

The sensuous modern ballet ‘Le Parc’ will open this year’s International Mariinsky Ballet Festival.

Published: April 13, 2011 (Issue # 1651)


Konstantin Zverev and Diana Vishneva rehearse a scene from ‘Le Parc,’ which will open this year’s festival.

“Le Parc,” an iconic ballet by the legendary French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj that became an instant hit when it was unveiled by the Paris Opera Ballet in 1994, enjoys its Russian premiere at the Mariinsky Theater on April 14, 15 and 22.

The premiere of “Le Parc” opens this year’s International Mariinsky Ballet Festival that runs through April 24. The festival came into being in 2001 thanks to the Mariinsky’s artistic director, the indefatigable maestro Valery Gergiev. The event’s aim is to enable Russian audiences to see Western ballet stars, but in addition, it showcases the best of the theater’s own considerable talent. It also provides a counterweight to Gergiev’s other brainchild, the “Stars of the White Nights” festival, which takes place every June and is almost entirely devoted to opera and instrumental music.

While the choreography in the first few festivals highlighted the glories of the imperial ballet and was heavily dominated by the venerable Marius Petipa, eventually the festival evolved into a stylistically diverse event, with the work of Michel Fokine, George Balanchine, Leonid Lavrovsky, Kenneth MacMillan, John Neumeier and William Forsythe featuring on its programs. Furthermore, the festival swiftly developed a tradition of presenting a full-scale premiere of either a work by an eminent living choreographer, or a scrupulous reconstruction of a classical masterpiece.

This time, the festival’s main dish is “Le Parc,” a romantic creation inspired by 17th and 18th-century French art and literature and set to some of Mozart’s most beautiful adagios from the composer’s piano concertos, blended with the sounds of electronic music.

Exploring the quest for the art of loving and sensuality, the choreographer — who is renowned as one of Europe’s most provocative and intriguing ballet masters — took inspiration from Madame de La Fayette’s novel “La Princesse de Cleves,” published in 1678, and Laclos’ epistolary novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” published in 1782, to concoct a three-act ballet drama of amorous intrigues.

Faithful to its name, the action takes place in a park. The story begins with a light-hearted, flirtatious game, before Preljocaj takes the audience on a thrilling journey through episodes of seduction, resistance, consummation, conquest, manipulation and surrenders that at some stage miraculously transform into what seems to the characters to be true love. The scene depicting the culmination of love in this very refined ballet has become known as one of the most emotionally overwhelming pas de deux in the history of neo-classical ballet.

Rehearsing the roles are three pairs of soloists — Diana Vishneva and Konstantin Zverev; Yekaterina Kondaurova and Yury Smekalov; and Viktoria Teryeshkina and Alexander Sergeyev.


Alina Cojocaru of the Royal Opera House will also perform in the festival.

The festival’s list of premieres is not limited to “Le Parc,” however. April 19 sees the first performance of Benjamin Millepied’s one-act ballet “Without,” set to the music of Chopin, that the choreographer created for the New York City Ballet in 2008. Millepied has himself recently become somewhat of a celebrity after choreographing Darren Aronofsky’s thriller “Black Swan” and partnering the Oscar-winning Natalie Portman in the film. Millepied and Portman are now engaged and are expecting a child this summer.

As always, the list of international stars appearing at the International Mariinsky Ballet Festival is impressive, featuring a number of foreign draws, including Alina Cojocaru, Roberta Marquez and Johan Kobborg from the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden), David Hallberg of the American Ballet Theater, Friedeman Vogel of the Stuttgart Ballet and Ashley Bouder of the New York City Ballet.

The guest soloists will perform alongside Mariinsky favorites such as Diana Vishneva, Ulyana Lopatkina, Yekaterina Kondaurova, Viktoria Tereshkina and Konstantin Zverev.

Some of the most intriguing duos include Marquez alongside the Mariinsky’s Vladimir Shklyarov in “La Bayadere” on April 16; Kondaurova and Hallberg in “Swan Lake” on April 17; and Tereshkina and Vogel in “The Sleeping Beauty” on April 20.

Kobborg and Cojocaru will treat audiences to their signature performance of “Giselle” on April 23.

Those eager to see all the stars at once should not miss the festival’s concluding gala concert on April 24.

The 11th International Mariinsky Ballet Festival runs from April 14 to 24 at the Mariinsky Theater, 1 Teatralnaya Ploshchad. Tel: 326 4141.

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