|Mikhail Lobukhin as Spartacus. Photo: Elena Fetisova, Bolshoi Ballet|
Spartacus, a historical ballet choreographed by Yuri Grigorovich to swashbuckling filmic music by Aram Khachaturyan, is a genre that is rarely produced in New York, with reason—there's a fine line between a historical costume dance and spoof. In the first scene's demonstrations of Roman military might, I had to stifle the giggles and adjust my mindset. Athletic bombast became the norm throughout the three-hour ballet, as the large cast's many men stomped and punched their expressions of prowess while carrying shields and swords, and wearing armor including shinguards and helmets. Many of the women, on the other hand, wore hand scarf-sized stylized togas with pointe shoes. Well, why not?
Mikhail Lobukhin chomped heartily into the title role, flexing his tanned muscles and flinging his lank hair in rhythm. He literally flew across the stage in jetés and even a rivoltade (a fancy, floor-stabbing tour jeté), flinging his arms wide and thrusting his chest out in extreme confidence. Simon Virsaladze's costumes for the principals, despite their mixed messages on veracity and a tendency to over-weaponize, were flattering, including Spartacus' red, one-shouldered obi/loin cloth over grey tights.
|Svetlana Zakharova as Aegina in Spartacus. Photo: Stephanie Berger|
While Spartacus reads as kitsch much of the time, it has entertaining pre-battle pep rally scenes and bacchanales, although a little goes a long way, and many of Grigorovich's choreographic inventions—duly repeated, again and again—are artless and bone-jarring. Virsaladze's expressionistic scenery—columned stone temples—is modernized by an evocative, hammocked scrim raised up and down to conceal and reveal stage elements. This ballet may not be one that you'd want to catch repeatedly, but as a staple of the Bolshoi's repertory, it was a fascinating glimpse into the Russian cultural canon.
|Alexander Petukhov (Sancho Panza in Don Quixote) in flight. Photo: Stephanie Berger|
Kristina Kretova, a leading soloist (the rank below principal) danced Kitri, flashing huge smiles and fanning her ruffled skirt with fervor. Lobukhin was her Basilio; despite its broad comic strokes, the role requires far more restraint than Spartacus, not to mention more clothing (the black tights tend to make Lobukhin's legs look skinnier than they are). But the bold, joyful attitude of Don Quixote is well-matched to the Bolshoi's nature.
The orchestra sounded bright and lustrous; Pavel Klinichev conducted.
The Koch Theater is perhaps slightly small for these productions, but the closer proximity than the Met (where ABT performs its spring season) makes it easier to read.
Some of the technique looked slightly ragged, especially in Don Quixote.
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