9 May 2018, 19:30 - Evening of one-act ballets: Concerto DSCH. Leningrad Symphony - uVisitRussia
Home Theaters Saint Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre - Mariinsky II 9 May 2018, 19:30 - Evening of one-act ballets: Concerto DSCH. Leningrad Symphony
9May
19:30
2018 | Wednesday
Concert
Mariinsky Theatre - Mariinsky II, Saint Petersburg

Concerto DSCH

Music by Dmitry Shostakovich
Choreographer: Alexei Ratmansky
Assistant Choreographer: Tatiana Ratmanskaya 
Lighting Designer: Mark Stanley 
Costume Designer: Holly Hynes

ABOUT THE PRODUCTION

Concerto DSCH to the music of Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto is Alexei Ratmansky’s seventh ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre. Today the theatre’s repertoire includes three of his “plot” ballets – the witty and ironic Cinderella and The Little Humpbacked Horse and the laconic Anna Karenina. The company also has experience of performing Ratmansky’s plot-less ballets – fifteen years ago he staged the strikingly emotional and stylishly refined Middle Duet and the flowing and heartfelt Le Poème de l'extase. Concerto DSCH , which has no literary plot, is different – joyful, witty and totally filled with movement. It is as if Ratmansky is almost afraid of permitting a musical motif that is suitable for dance. Such miserliness in the movements, such concentration of the choreographic text is beguiling for both the dancers and the audience. Ratmansky is an inarguable master of plot-less dance who can create, with virtuoso ease, forms of virtuoso solos, duets, trios and crowd scenes and, with impeccable taste, fill them with amazing dance combinations. Concerto DSCH is just one such example. Solving the puzzle of his incredibly musical combinations has proved an engaging task for the Mariinsky Ballet.
This ballet was created in 2008 for the New York City Ballet, and it is ideal for a company that is focussed on the instrumentalism of dance and ensemble-performance. Moreover, Ratmansky refers to it as a “portrait of that company”. On the other hand, the text of Concerto DSCH and the style of the scenes it contains are full of references to Soviet realities that cannot be fully understood by American performers, while for Russian dancers and audiences it brings a whole bag of associations and raises an emotional response on more than just the choreographic content. For those unfamiliar with Soviet sculpture and have no idea of the athletics displays and well-loved-techniques of Soviet cinema from the 1920s–50s, many of Ratmansky’s high supports are simply conjured-up poses, and the gestures mere original ideas of a ballet-master. To feel and convey the energetic purposefulness of an adagio one has to see at least a few Soviet films that celebrate the sincere simplicity of meetings in the evening between loves who live next door, where a shyly stolen kiss was the limit of what was allowed. And in the energetic drive of the final crowd scene, breathing with its life-giving optimism, one can recognise the generally-accepted Soviet concept about doubts of a happy future.
Ratmansky is obviously captivated by Shostakovich’s music and the spirit of his time, and in his ballet he tenderly revives this. In the title of his ballet the choreographer uses the composer’s musical autograph (D.Sch in the German musical notation), which has no direct link to the Second Concerto but which does identify with the ballet’s style. Just like Balanchine, paying tribute to the Imperial Russian Stage, named his own ballet to piano the music Ballet Imperial by Tchaikovsky.
Concerto DSCH is Ratmansky’s second “Russian” ballet, staged abroad and brought to a Russian theatre in which much can only be fully felt and understood by Russian performers. The first was the Russian Seasons (also created with NYCB) that featured motifs of Russian folklore. Apparently paradoxically to westerns critics, the choreographer’s journey across the ocean in search of his cultural roots allowed him to distance himself from the strong traditions of the stage presence of those cultural roots and has helped him present them in a new light. With Concerto DSCH it was the same story. The production for NYCB demonstrated Ratmansky’s talent in creating varied and engaging combinations, yet always logical compositional constructions and drawings, enchanting with the free nature of his dance. The same production for the Mariinsky Theatre also brought to light a subtle stylist who can put an entire history of the Soviet era into a one-act ballet.
Olga Makarova

Premiere: 28 May 2008, New York State Theater, New York
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre: 4 July 2013

Running time: 20 minutes

"Leningrad Symphony"

Music by Dmitry Shostakovich
Libretto and Choreography by Igor Belsky
Design by Mikhail Gordon
Lighting Adaptation for the Mariinsky II by Andrei Ponizovsky and Yegor Kartashov

ABOUT THE PRODUCTION

By the early 1960s a widely-developed mythology had sprung up around Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony: starting work on it in Leningrad when it was being bombed, the delivery of the score by plane to the besieged city (see Anna Akhmatova's Poem without a Hero), the live broadcast to the vanguard from the besieged city on the day it was supposed to be taken and so on. The composer himself – living and working – became in part a mythological character. In Zakhar Agranenko's fictional account Leningrad Symphony, which appeared on screen in 1958 and which is actually dedicated to the Leningrad premiere of the opus, Shostakovich was the only character who had a real name – and he never appeared on-screen, remaining a superhero of the myth. It is important to know all of this in order to comprehend the onus of the work undertaken by the choreographer Igor Belsky when working on the production of the ballet set to the music of the first movement of the symphony.
At the premiere, the ballet was called Seventh Symphony – a title drily generic in type and sterile. Perhaps thus Belsky hoped to distance himself from the ponderous and commital myth of this opus: there are many "Seventh Symphonies", but there is only one Leningrad. To begin with, the choreographer resolved the formal tasks. First this was to create an abstractly metaphoric and pure dance system – unlike the "realist", long-title-loving choreo-dramas of the 1930s-50s with props and antique furniture that were almost undanceable. Secondly, there was the creation of the dance structure, similar to the structure of the music, which subsequently was given the appellation of "dance symphonism".
Belsky had attemped to resolve these tasks earlier in the three-act ballet Shore of Hope (1959). In the twenty-five-minute-long Seventh Symphony this principle was taken to the very edge. The ballet's characters are the Youth, the Girl and the Traitor. The powers of evil are represented by conditional Barbarians, their roots suggested only by certain gestures and the brown colour of their costumes. The specific place of the plot is hinted at by the silhouette of a tower with a spire, given in several strokes on the white back-screen. The stage is generally empty, with only capacious rear-stage posters changing one after the other; the ballet was designed not by a major set-designer but by the graphic poster designer Mikhail Gordon. There are no destroyed Leningrad façades, anti-tank barbed wire, prop weapons, swastikas or real uniforms, as it could have been in a ballet about the siege even ten years ago.
The ballet was rehearsed "outside the plan", in non-working hours and to a tape recording (an innovation at the time). The Seventh Symphony – together with Grigorovich's Stone Flower – brought a new generation of young dancers to the stage, whose names today are associated with "The Thaw". Ballet's symbol of "The Thaw" was Yuri Soloviev's jump and leap as the Youth, the leap of "cosmic Yuri" as the dancer later came to be known (it was curiously fortunate that the premiere of Belsky's ballet took place two days after Gagarin's flight into space). The role of the Youth was also performed by Anatoly Nisnevich, Oleg Sokolov and Alexander Gribov; the role of the Girl was performed by Alla Sizova, Kaleria Fedicheva, Gabriela Komleva and Natalia Makarova.
Starting from the sixth performance (6 June 1962) the ballet was called Leningrad Symphony. Having won success with the audience and Communist Party approval, the production was spread out to other theatres in the Soviet Union. At its home theatre the production was revived in 1991 and reconstructed in 2001. In line with tradition, it is performed twice each season, on dates that are vitally important for the people of St Petersburg: the Day of the Lifting of the Siege of Leningrad and Victory Day.
Belsky's Leningrad Symphony was almost immediately named a turning point in the history of Soviet ballet and a direct descendant of Magnificence of the Universe, the legendary production of Fyodor Lopukhov to the music of Beethoven's Fourth Symphony, performed just once in 1923 leaving the audience completely perplexed. Belsky later developed his idea of the ballet-symphony in the immense Eleventh Symphony, set to the music of Shostakovich's eponymous work, at Leningrad's Maly Opera Theatre (1966). The experience was not so successful, and Belsky never staged a symphony again, though choreographic symphonism as a structural model and as an artistic ideology would for long be an idée fixe of Soviet ballet theoreticians.
Bogdan Korolyok

World premiere: 14 April 1961, Kirov Theatre of Opera and Ballet (Mariinsky), Leningrad
Premiere of the reconstructed version: 30 May, 2001, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg

Running time: 30 minutes