John Neumeier extended the license for The Lady of the Camellias to the Bolshoi Theater


So the cult ballet, based on the famous novel of the same name by Alexander Dumas, son, is again on the Bolshoi’s playbill. From which, in fact, it has never fallen out since 2014, that is, since the premiere of this performance at the Bolshoi Theater. Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Ballet Mahar Vaziev introduces new artists to the ballet. With the performer of the part of Gaston Rieu, Dmitry Vyskubenko, on the eve of the shows, the ballet reviewer of MK talked.

It is an early full-length masterpiece of the choreographer, which was created by Neumeier in 1978 specifically for the Stuttgart Ballet, where he once began as a dancer. It was set to the combined music of Chopin in the genre of a ballet psychological drama, rare in our days, in 3 acts, and almost according to Stanislavsky. There is an abundance of acting, but even more dances with sophisticated ensembles and beautiful love duets. Each of the duets – “blue”, “white” and the final “black” (they are named after the color of the heroine’s luxurious dresses, of which, of course, camellias are an invariable detail) – becomes the center of each of the acts and is filled to the limit with passionate emotions and support.

The story in the play unfolds slowly and thoroughly. Almost all the characters that are in the novel are also in the ballet. There are over 90 characters in total!

The main ones: this is Marguerite Gauthier herself, the most famous high-society courtesan of the 19th century and her admirer Armand Duval, as well as characters parallel to them from the work of Abbé Prevost “The Story of the Cavalier de Grieux and Manon Lescaut” (by the way, the first psychological novel in the history of literature) – another well-known courtesan of the Rococo era Manon and the cavalier de Grieux, who was in love with her.

With these heroes and their history, so similar to the history of Marguerite and Armand themselves, these heroes constantly compare themselves. We see them first in the ballet that Margarita watches in the variety theater (there the first meeting and acquaintance of the main characters takes place), and then they appear in the minds of the main characters throughout the performance.

In addition to the four central, there are no less secondary, but just as important roles for this performance, as Armand’s father, Monsieur Duval, Armand’s friend Gaston Rieu, Duke, Count N. Even passers-by on the Champs Elysees or spectators in the theater, as well as Marguerite’s admirers , her nanny, servants, guests at a ball or in a country house, workers and auction managers, and many others.

Dmitry Vyskubenko performs the role of Gaston Rieu at the Munich Opera

It should be borne in mind that ballet history develops non-linearly, that is, not gradually from the present to the future, as is usually the case in ballets based on literary works. Neumeier approaches The Lady of the Camellias as a philologist (the choreographer has a philological education). His choreographic text resembles a philological commentary on the different levels and depths of the work.

Not only does the story begin, as in the novel, from the very end – after the death of the main character. This is how it unfolds not only in the present, but also in the past. Time in the play seemed to have frozen already at the very beginning, and from this point we seem to be transported by a time machine into the past. In a seemingly irrevocably gone and such a happy time.

In addition to the image of an auction persistently popping up in the ballet, in which the things of the deceased Marguerite are being sold (in each act, the workers at some point now and then take away the sold things from the stage), Neumeier, like Dumas in the novel, narrates from different points of view: except the story of Armand himself, his own version of events is presented in the ballet by his father. But the most sublime, poetic and poignant episodes are shown in the 3rd act, in the final scene, when Armand reads the diary of the already deceased Marguerite.

It is clear that the audience is looking forward to the appearance on stage of Svetlana Zakharova and Evgenia Obraztsova as Margarita, Artem Ovcharenko and Denis Rodkin as Arman. Egor Gerashchenko, another premiere of the Bolshoi, was supposed to be introduced into the ballet, but his debut was postponed for unknown reasons. After all, in the career of, for example, Svetlana Zakharova, this role is cult, in her performance it is distinguished by stylistic accuracy, and in the death scene it simply shakes the auditorium to tears.

Both Svetlana Zakharova and Evgenia Obraztsova, with the fragility of their appearance, very accurately fit the role of Margarita. But Neumeier’s other parts in this performance are carefully, carefully and no less psychologically authentic. The great choreographer of the 20th century is especially strict about acting in his performances. For example, the part of Gaston Rieu. Dmitry Vyskubenko will perform this important role in the performance, in fact the premier’s role, for the first time at the Bolshoi Theatre. We talked to him before the performance.

– In all his ballets, Neumeier pays attention not so much even to technique as to acting skills. He monitors this, and all parts in each of his ballets and each character must be perfectly chiselled. Each character has his own character, different from others, – Dmitry tells me.

Dmitry Vyskubenko performs the role of Gaston Rieu at the Munich Opera

The dancer is famous not only for his filigree and refined technique, easy jump and excellent spin, but, in addition, for his acting skills. He is known to the general Russian public for the popular film “My Dad Baryshnikov” (2011), where he played the main role. The action takes place in the 80s, just before perestroika, and his hero studies at a ballet school and tells all his classmates that his real father is supposedly the legendary Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov living in America.

Since then, Dmitry managed to graduate from the Moscow Academy of Choreography, worked for 6 years as a soloist of the Munich Opera, where, under the guidance of the legendary dancer Igor Zelensky, he performed leading ballet parts. Vyskubenko became a laureate of many international ballet competitions, and at the last and most prestigious of them, the Moscow one, which was held at the Bolshoi Theater last summer, he won a silver medal in the senior group. This victory predetermined his invitation to the Bolshoi.

The head of the ballet Makhar Vaziev closely followed the success of this dancer. I noticed him at the school and even then invited him to join the Bolshoi troupe. Now it has finally happened.

Dmitry Vyskubenko performs the role of Gaston Rieu at the Munich Opera

Since the beginning of the season, Dmitry Vyskubenko has already danced most of the leading roles in the first theater of the country, such as Prince Siegfried in the ballet “Swan Lake”, Lord Wilson / Taor in “The Pharaoh’s Daughter”, James in “La Sylphide”, Antoine Mistral in “The Flames of Paris” , Prince Federice in the recent revival of Pierre Lacotte’s ballet “Marco Spada” and many others. Interestingly, Dmitry prepared and danced the role of Gaston Rieu with John Neumeier himself back in Munich. And now he will show this crown part of his repertoire at the Bolshoi.

– This is such an interesting, even funny character – Dmitry Vyskubenko continues to talk about his hero. – He is a friend of Armand and introduces him to Margarita. Present at all secular parties. That is, he is, as they say, “an avid party-goer.”

And he behaves too freely for those times. Speaking in modern terms, he is an outright womanizer, that is, he calmly “rolls up” to many beautiful girls. And he teaches this to Armand. At the end of the ballet, in the third act, during the “Golden Ball”, when Armand gets drunk, they have a conflict. I prepared and danced this part in Munich, Neumeier came to us, and I personally showed him everything that I had prepared. He talked about his wishes, which I, of course, took into account.

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