lunes, noviembre 24, 2014

Simkin and Kochetkova sparkle in “Don Quixote”

            Daniil Simkin is a dance phenomenon who impressed mightily in previous visits. Now the slim imp measuring 1,70 mt showed again his immense agility and childish/naughty charm in a "Don Quixote" built around him. And with a splendid partner, Maria Kochetkova, who danced the final duet this very year with Herman Cornejo in the Ballet Gala.

            They are both Russian but working in the USA, he at the New York-based American Ballet Theatre, she at the San Francisco Ballet. Young, personable, with mutual chemistry, they were an ideal couple Basilio-Kitri in what is perhaps the most extensively staged ballet of the last forty years in Buenos Aires.

             In fact both the Colón and the Argentino  have so often presented either the Zarko Prebil or the Petipa/Gorsky choreography that to put it on seems an easy job. But it isn´t: the ballet is light but long, there are many difficult steps, it has plenty of roles and no less than five scenes in three acts. Only big outfits can do it properly. The corps de ballet has a lot to do and in different styles: Spanish, Gypsy, "ballet blanc".

            Ludwig Minkus´ 1869 music has often been denigrated, to my mind unfairly: it may be rather conventional and with no flashes of genius, but it is perfectly adapted to the action, has nice melodies, good rhythms and adequate orchestrations. This Austrian composer knew how to give a Spanish tinge to his pieces. And how to imagine music for pantomime (there´s a lot of it) and for variegated dancing.

            Mario Silva is currently Director of the Teatro Argentino Ballet and has presented his Petipa/based choreography there; it was the one used at the Coliseo, with some Prebil added (the Gypsy Girl´s vehement solo).  This was a joint production of Grupo Ars and Teatro Argentino presented at the Coliseo; the Ballet Estable  (of La Plata) surrounded the two famous soloists.

            There are plenty of character roles, including Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and I have seen them more humorous and richer in details in other stagings. Here the same gestures were redundant too many times, and to boot weren´t sufficiently expressive. Some of the men of the corps de ballet are overweight and lack enough agility; the girls were generally better, though less adjusted than when I saw them at La Plata.  Petipa and Gorsky reign in the complex and pure steps that need great dexterity as well as personality. And there both the soloists of the Argentino and in superlative terms, the guests, gave much pleasure.

            Of the Argentino artists I single out the following as the best of that group: Bautista Parada´s Torero as the Bullfighter (a strong, tall man), Aldana Bidegaray as the fiery Gypsy Girl, Julieta Paul as an appropriately ethereal Queen of the Dryads, Genoveva Surur and Darío Lesnik as Queen and King of the Gypsies, María Alejandra Baldoni as Street Woman and Agustina Verde and Natalia Mujtar as Kitri´s friends. The character roles were indifferently taken (Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, Lorenzo the Innkeeper, Camacho).

            But of course whenever Simkin and Kochetkova were on stage the others faded into the background. Simkin was, along with Julio Bocca, the most accomplished Basilio I´ve seen, with his daring cabrioles and humorous acting. And the beautiful Kochetkova was admirable throughout, perfect in technique and always completing Simkin´s gags.

            Lovely costumes from Eduardo Caldirola and agreeable though sometimes incongruous stage designs by Augusto González Ara. Correct lighting by Matías Rodríguez.

            Finally, a good account of the music by that expert conductor, Carlos Calleja, leading his 39-member Orquesta Académica de Buenos Aires.

For Buenos Aires Herald 

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