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Sleeping Beauty ballet restores Bolshoi to imperial grandeur

November 19, 2011, 6:58 UTC+3 By Itar-Tass writer Olga Svistunova
Dmitry Medvedev with his wife Svetlana and Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev took seats in a VIP box in the company of the ballet’s choreographer, Yuri Grigorovich
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MOSCOW, November 19 (Itar-Tass) —— Last Friday’s first night of The Sleeping Beauty at the Moscow Bolshoi was a gala event by all means. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with his wife Svetlana and Kazakhstan’s visiting president Nursultan Nazarbayev took seats in a VIP box in the company of the ballet’s choreographer, Yuri Grigorovich.

The Sleeping Beauty, by Tchaikovsky, is one of the most famous ballets in the world. It premiered at the Bolshoi Theater back in 1899. Since then its different interpretations have been performed more than 550 times. The Bolshoi Ballet has offered six versions. Two of them, in 1963 and 1973, were authored by Grigorovich. Now he has become the author of the latest, seventh.

The new Sleeping Beauty is magically gorgeous. The plot unfolds inside a real palace, built on the Bolshoi’s stage by world-famous Italian artist Ezio Frigerio, who had contributed to the success of the great Giorgio Strehler, Roland Petit and Rudolf Nureyev. In Moscow, the talented Italian worked with his wife - costume designer Franca Squarciapino, who knows everything about her art – she deservedly received an Oscar for the film Cyrano de Bergerac with Gerard Depardieu in the title role. This time she dressed the performers in elegant gowns, adorned with embroidery and handmade lace. The stage looked like an extension of the renewed audience hall, and the spectators literally had the feeling of being guests at the royal court of Louis XIV.

Who could have thought that even so well-familiar stories can be breathtaking? Princess Aurora pricks her finger on a knitting needle, and the corps de ballet freezes in the blink of an eye. All of a sudden dead-still are the maids of honor, the guards with guns on their shoulders, servants with trays in their hands… The princess is fast asleep. And she would wake up only when a gallant young man would bend his knees before her and ask her for a dance. And once again everything around is in motion, to the delight of the 21st century audience.

The premiere of The Sleeping Beauty ended with a standing ovation. The audience would not let the authors and actors go for quite a while. The main parts were brilliantly performed by Bolshoi’s prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova and world ballet star David Hallberg, of the US.

"A beautiful play," French choreographer Pierre Lacotte told Itar-Tass. A while ago he staged The Pharaoh's Daughter at the Bolhsoi, and now he sincerely admired the work of his Russian counterpart.

"And, of course, I liked very much the Bolshoi Theater as such, which after the overhaul is even better than before," added the choreographer.

The director of the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum, Irina Antonova, was leaving the hall with a warm feeling. "What a pleasure it was to see this wonderful ballet, worthy of this great temple of art," she said.

Stage director Yuri Lyubimov came to the Bolshoi theater almost as a full-time employee. "However, the contract is not signed yet," said Lyubimov. He will stage the opera Prince Igor at the Bolhsoi. The question is practically settled. "I would be happy, if I managed to persuade Grigorovich to stage The Polovtsian Dances for my production. He is a world-renowned choreographer, he knows how to keep the ballet at the highest level," said Lyubimov.

Grigorovich was terse. His speech at the banquet after the performance was only a few phrases long. "I have already said all I wanted to say,” he began. “But I am especially pleased that the six-year restoration of our main theater has been successfully completed, and the Bolshoi is its usual self once again." Grigorovich did not conceal that he was also pleased with the performance. He thanked all actors, but especially he praised the performers of the main parts. "This is a very good couple," said Grigorovich.

The success of Svetlana Zakharova was shared by her teachers - people's artist of the USSR Lyudmila Semenyaka and Marina Kondratieva. The latter found a spare minute during the feast to share with Itar-Tass some news about her latest "runaway" disciple, Natalia Osipova. "Natasha called late at night from St. Petersburg,” Kondratieva said. “She told me she cannot live without the Bolshoi Theatre, and she will surely come back."

Another hero of the celebration was the Bolshoi’s new rising star, David Hallberg. His parents had flown in from the US to support their son. At first, they were certainly worried - too bold a step their offspring had dared take to seek his fortune away from home. Now, that they have seen for themselves the kind of reception their son has in Moscow, they not just calmed down, but literally glowed with happiness. David looked noticeably shy. The language barrier still prevents him from pouring his heart out. When asked by Itar-Tass, whether he was satisfied with the premiere, David just exhaled, "Oh-oh-oh-oh!"

Today, Sleeping Beauty will be shown again, with a different pair of soloists - Nina Kaptsova and Alexander Volchkov. All in all, six casts have been prepared. On Sunday, November 20, Svetlana Zakharova and David Hallberg will appear on stage as Princess Aurora and Prince Desire once again. This time the ballet will be telecast live to audiences in 600 cinema theaters around the world.

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