By PAWIT MAHASARINAND
HER ROYAL HIGHNESS Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn returned to the Thailand Cultural Centre on Monday night to graciously preside over “La Bayadere” by the Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre from Russia.
The company’s ballet feast in fact kicked off four days earlier, with performances of “Swan Lake” on Thursday and Friday and continued on Saturday with a gala performance comprising “The Paquita Grand Pas”, divertissement and “Carmen”, and then “La Bayadere” on Monday.
With two works by Marius Petipa in the short span of five days, the audience was able to witness his Orientalism, as well as his swift narration in the first act of “La Bayadere” while being reminded of how its highlight “the kingdom of shadows” was similar to “Swan Lake”.
From their applause, it was evident that audience came mostly for the technical expertise of the dancers and whenever the choreography required advanced techniques and the dancers pulled them off, they were met with thunderous applause. That makes it likely that the festival will bring in more productions of classical ballet in the future, despite the fact that there are also modern and contemporary works in the repertoire of these European companies.
And as with any highly skilled company, one ballerina stood out and captured the heart of many ballet fans, myself included.
As part of the divertissement on Saturday, Anna Odintsova’s portrayal of Phrygia in the “Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia” exuded both naturalistic dramatic emotion and effortless manipulation of movements so extraordinarily that I would like to watch the whole ballet. Many audience members were looking forward to watching, as the programme indicated, her title role in “La Bayadere” on Monday but she was shifted – without any announcement – to the lesser role of Gamzatti.
Unlike most companies who have performed at the Festival, the Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, thanks to their previous experience here five years ago, carefully adjusted both the staging and the set design to take account of the auditorium’s proscenium arch, which is unusually wider than European theatre counterparts. The result was that all their productions fit in it nicely. Equally, the painted drops, no matter how traditional or outdated they might have looked and despite the weird mix of Hindusim and Buddhism in "La Bayadere", were a sheer visual delight, although the set of “Carmen” looked like it was made for one evening only.
It should also be noted that five years ago this same company performed this particular production of “La Bayadere”, a very rare occasion for this festival’s programming. When I pointed this out, a member of the working committee pointed out that the orchestra wasn’t the same.
And that was probably another reason for the high audience turn out and the applause. For the first time in the festival, which is known for not presenting local companies, the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra (TPO), with Thai and foreign musicians, worked with music director and conductor Alexandr Novikov and accompanied both “Swan Lake” and “La Bayadere”.
While they were more at ease and confident in Minkus’ composition than in Tchaikovsky’s, I am sure that the TPO will be returning to the Festival next year.
- The Samara Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre will perform Borodin’s opera “Prince Igor” tomorrow, Puccini’s “Tosca” on Sunday and a symphonic concert that will include Beethoven’s “Symphony No 9” on Monday. Shows are at 7.30pm.
- Tickets are Bt800 to Bt4,500. For further details, check www.ThaiTicketMajor.com or www.BangkokFestivals.com.