Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Pure Allure

Oh what a treat last night! We were invited to the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden  for the Bolshoi Ballet’s ‘Spartacus’ with the music of Khachaturian.   Excited by the prospect the fabled Bolshoi,  I was unsure about the choice of Spartacus imagining it to be visually spare, ascetic and  just hard work, frankly. I was wrong and had to eat my uninformed hat: it was thrilling, beguiling and a magnificent spectacle.

The background to Spartacus’s rebellion of the slaves was the dissolute behaviour at the heart of the Roman Empire. With sly wit, choreographer Yuri Grigovich juxtaposed the military aggression with a bacchanal of the effete Roman elite, of satyrs and dancing girls; and later amongst half the followers of Spartacus who turned against their leader when seduced into lustful abandon by the Roman general’s courtesan Aegina.  Maria Allash in that role was  sexy and capricious, a real handful.  Her tiny toga was draped to expose a bare breast cleverly conceived by a little circle of red sequins on flesh-coloured net.  Her General (Alexander Volchkov) had the finest legs below his leather tunic that I’ve ever had the privilege to dwell upon and, boyishly glamorous, he evinced a camp kind of menace. (On a fashion note, here were the most fitting gladiator sandals of the season.)   

Dominating the production was  the overwhelmingly virile, saturnine presence of Ivan Vasiliev as Spartacus.  At only twenty-one, he is being hailed as a once-in-a-generation icon, the next Barishnikov?    Stocky, athletic and savage he seemed to demonstrate the limits of human strength and agility as well as the gift of flight. And yet he was most tenderly passionate towards his lover Phrygia (Nina Kaptsova) who bent and wavered and wafted like a willow in the breeze.

In the midst of my first attempt as ballet critic, a curious thought struck me.  I don't suppose the T*l*b*n would be too happy with this physicality, this intimacy, this state of undress.  I pondered the matter from a socio-religio-political angle on the way to the pub and suddenly heard myself asking my other half ‘By the way, did you find anything untoward happening in the trouser department tonight?’  Choking on his Guinness the answer was an emphatic NO.  ‘Okay, okay, just checking out the corrupting power of dance on the average British male.’


  1. gorgeous color on the costuming. love it Rosie.

  2. As a ballet critic I think you have a a strong career ahead of you. I would certainly go and see it based on what you wrote. I'd even answer the question you posed to your other half. I do recall going to the ROH in my late teens when I was an impoverished bank trainee, (although the words "impoverished" and "bank" don't usually go together - well not then, but perhaps now), but I digress. One of my flatmate's mothers had provided all of us tickets to see Swan Lake, and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The offer came round once again, and I leapt at it, (inspired as I was by the previous performance I had seen); but I digress. I would take any opportunity to accept free tickets to the ROH to see ballet again. I'd even buy tickets. They were like gold then, but you'd probably have to mortgage the house to afford them now.

    I've seen the Bolshoi in Hong Kong in a production that was an "amuse bouche". They were excellent as you'd expect, but it's more enjoyable to see a full production of one of the stories we know.

  3. columnist, the flatmate's generous mother reminds me that I was taken to a ballet for the first time by Mrs Stancomb, if her daughter my schoolfriend is reading this. It was Gisele and I think it starred Antoinette Sibley. And not the ROH, it must have been in Taunton! Almost a seminal experience..

    LA: this image is from a different occasion. Her costume was more subtle (no tacky bra!), more beautiful when I was there but the same gorgeous colour.

  4. Oh happy day!
    Coloo colay or however you spell it...
    I would love to see this company dance again...
    Must get back to London!

  5. Wow. Quite a review. I've been up in the country too long.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go take a cold shower.

  6. DED: I'm struggling to say anything decorous. Oh do come back after your shower!

  7. Yes, an icy cold shower would be in order, as the Dilettante suggests.
    Lady West, if you don't watch out, this blog is going to be renamed
    Randy Rosie.

  8. oh jolly good-o Toby! Actually I'm shocked. I was trying to approach all this in a terribly academic way. Wasn't I?

  9. It sounds amazing! Beautifully written post, what a joy to read.

    Your Mrs Stancomb, is she any relation to Milena? xx

  10. Oh thank you, Christina. No, I don't think Milena is any relation.

  11. At first I wondered how well the Spartacus theme would play over here, but I forgot it's probably deeply associated with the "Blood and Sand" series. Still, if they asked me to put up any money for a show, I'd have to back "Caligula: The Musical".

  12. Caligula the Musical - excellent! Wasn't he the one who made his horse a senator? For someone called Little Boots, he wasn't vewy nice, was he?

  13. Rose-I had no idea, but there really is a Caligula- the musical. Apparently it's of the glam rock variety. Can't make anything up anymore.

  14. But what we all want to know, Rosie, is what did YOU wear to Covent Garden? Cannot picture you in gladiator sandals but you have a great ability to surprise....though would advise staying off the small circles of red sequins in the - er - upper lady area.

    My ballet experience is v limited but I did see Fonteyn and Nureyev dance La Dame Aux Camellias and can still evoke the atmosphere in my decrepit brain: electric. Of course this was when dinosaurs roamed the earth and there was only black and white TV.

    So impressed by your industrious blogorama, Catherine

  15. Catherine, I wore a raw silk chiton and had my legs tattooed with leather- look bindings; carried the latest Fendi 'fasces' clutch bag. I wish. My 'upper lady area' was courtesy Rigby & Peller and that's true.

    Thank you for calling me industrious, something those who live with me might stop short at.


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