On March 22 2014 Evgenia Obraztsova partnered by Vladislav Lantratov danced in The Lady of the Camillias at the Bolshoi with choreography by the American born but Hamburg based John Neumeier. Obraztsova is my favourite ballerina of the moment as for me she has not only the technical dance ability of a great ballerina but she is also a consummate actress. There is no one to touch her.
Neumeier is the Prince of Story Ballet choreographers with a string of memorable ballets to his credit so it was with much pleasure that I watched the excerpts of the three ballerinas who are sharing the principal role for the Bolshoi season.
I did not know the ballet well as it is so new but fortunately Paris Opera and Bolshoi are not afraid of YouTube and the full Paris version is here to see as well as excerpts from the Bolshoi. Not much else written about it is to be found on the web so I have had to piece the story and history together. The one thing that did sadden me and the reason that I am writing this review is that nowhere could I find a review for Obraztsova. The other two Bolshoi ballerinas, Svetlana Zakharova, the present prima and Olga Smirnova the young pretender were mentioned and reviewed but not Obraztsova.
In fact Obraztsova was not even first cast or even second. She came in third and quite honestly the other two could not hold a candle to Obraztsova's performance. Like the Juliet danced when she was just 18, Obraztsova is the perfect Marguerite Gautier. Young but not too young, naive, beautiful and abused means Obraztsova does not just dance the steps she brings the character to life. She is The Lady of the Camellias.
She is brilliantly partnered by the young, handsome and virile Lantratov who too is perfect for the part of the headstrong thoughtless young lover under the thumb of his father. What a looker, so romantic and strong. She is just the right height to perform the difficult and numerous lifts that Neumeier has included unlike the other two Russian ballerinas plus the elderly and soon to be retiring Agnes Letestu. They were much too tall and although made an admiral job of the role it was a little like watching Gorilla and ant as the Armands struggled to keep them aloft bringing visions of the Hippo and the Alligator pas de deux in Disney's Fantasia.
It seems the Bolshoi is almost ashamed to own Obraztsova. When in London with the company in 2013 she was not given a review performance and it seems the same thing is happening in Moscow. Admittedly she jumped ship from the Kirov who refused to promote her above principle and denied her the Swan Lake required to promote her to ballerina. She was not alone is parting from her home company as the Kirov is going through a bad patch of favoritism with its selection of dancers. Thes best do not always get the roles.
Perhaps it is because that although Obraztsova is so much better at story ballets than either of her two Bolshoi Colleagues they are Bolshoi trained and so get preference. To be fair she is given the roles but then she is the best and the audience will demand her but she will not the first nights and therefore misses out on reviews and becoming a ballerina assoluta which she deserves. She has had to fight for her position. It has not been presented to her.
But she gets my review. Of the four ballerinas on offer for this role she is my pick and that goes for Lantratov too. I also love the dancing of Semyon Chudin who danced Des Grieux. He is still my pick when it comes to Siegfrieds in Swan Lake. Bolshoi's too as he dances with all the Swan Queens.
The music is by Chopin, all the bits not in Les Sylphides, some orchestrated some not. Not sure this works as a piano can make a performance feel like a rehearsal but Neumeier has given us a remarkable Dame aux Camelias by braiding the ghosts of Manon Lescaut into the plot in a way that adds interest. The scene where Armand abuses Marguerite is very well handled.
The true story of Dumas Fils and Marie Duplessis is more extraordinary than the book, play opera or ballet. His father Dumas Pere was the original lover of the famous young courtesan and he handed her over to his son who was so in love with her he dug her up after she was buried! This was an age for digging up lost loved ones, Berlioz did it and so did Heathcliff. Marie did not die in poverty but in England in the house of a wealthy banker in Berkshire. That she was the victim of the double standards of her age there is no doubt.
So enjoy this YouTube of Obraztsova and Lantratov. Hopefully they will be able to perfect their performances as time goes by.