The ballet by the French choreographer Lacotte returned to the repertoire of the Bolshoi Theater

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The resumption took place against the backdrop of ending one after another licenses for other ballets by foreign choreographers and the impossibility of their renewal. Moreover, Pierre Lacotte did not mind at all. The 91-year-old master of French ballet, who adores Russia and Russian culture, readily agreed. But before the premiere did not live two months.

In 2013, the ballet was staged at the initiative of the then artistic director of the Bolshoi Sergei Filin. Despite the contract concluded then, according to which the performance could be shown here for 7 years, it did not last long. Just about two seasons. The reason for this is the pitfalls of theatrical policy, the change in the leadership of the ballet and the theater as a whole, the introduction of another super popular ballet by Lacotte “The Pharaoh’s Daughter” into the repertoire of the theater.

“Marco Spada” is the only full-scale work of the opera composer Daniel-Francois-Esprit Aubert, famous in the 19th century, in the choreographic genre. In 1857 he revised his opera Marco Spada, or the Bandit’s Daughter into a ballet. Although the word “composition” is not entirely appropriate here. Before us is rather a set of fragments from a variety of popular works by this composer.

The author of the opera libretto was one of the most prolific French playwrights and librettists, Eugene Scribe, known in Russia for the adaptation of his popular play A Glass of Water. The plot involving all sorts of robbers and bandits was in the 19th century fashion.

The choreographer of the new ballet was Joseph Mazilier, chief choreographer of the Paris Opera, and in the past the main partner of Maria Taglioni herself and the first performer of the role of James in La Sylphide. Mazilier was the author of such ballets that are still popular today, such as Paquita, The Devil in Love (in Russia he is known as Satanilla) and Le Corsaire, which have partially come down to us in the choreography of Marius Petipa.

Angela – Ekaterina Krysanova. Marco Spada – Igor Tsvirko. Photo by Elena Fetisova / Bolshoi Theatre.

Rumor has it that the idea of ​​”Marco Spada” belonged to Emperor Napoleon III. Then, on the stage of the Grand Opera, two popular dancers in Paris competed – Amalia Ferraris and the future first Aspicia in Petipa’s ballet “The Pharaoh’s Daughter” Carolina Rosati. To compare the prima donnas, the emperor wished to see both on stage at once.

Over time, “Marco Spada” was lost in ballet history and only the name, the music of Aubert, the script by Scribe and newspaper reviews remained from the ballet. But this circumstance could not stop such an amateur and connoisseur of ballet antiquity as Pierre Lacotte, who re-staged this ballet in 1981 at the Rome Opera. The world premiere was timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the composer. Ballet Lacotte created for the then terminally ill friend of his friend Rudolf Nureyev. Nureyev danced it with his wife Lacotte Gillen Tesmar. Another popular ballet dancer Mikael Denard acted as Prince Federici.

And four years later, being already the head of the Paris Opera, Nureyev will transfer the ballet staged for him to this abode of classical dance. He was so eager to dance the ballet “Marco Spada” that even before the start of the production he wrote a receipt to Lacotte, who doubted him, that he would be able to regularly attend rehearsals, and not travel “across the continents”, as he usually does. The receipt was written directly on a piece of paper tablecloth in the restaurant where he and Lacotte had dinner: “I am Rudolf Nureyev, I undertake to be present in Rome every day for a month at the rehearsals of the ballet Marco Spada. This note has not been preserved, but the ballet was filmed.

Since then, “Marco Spadu” has been repeatedly revived on various stages of the world. And many years later, in 2013, in memory of his friend, Lacotte will stage a ballet at the Bolshoi Theater. At the request of Sergei Filin, the choreographer for the Historical Stage even enlarged his work a little: he created the roles of the four girlfriends of the Marquise and the choreography of two friends of Marco Spada, as well as the pas de deux of Spada and his daughter Angela in the second act, replacing the music of the variations from the Grand Classical Pas » Ober-Gzovsky, known to every balletomaniac in Russia, to the less familiar music of Ober. In the same second act, Lacotte also expanded the roles of the daughter of the governor, the Marquise Sampietri, and her fiancé, Prince Federici, and also staged variations for them.

“Marco Spada” is a long-playing and populous ballet, in three acts, lasting more than three hours, with costumes and scenery invented by Lacotte himself. The action takes place either in the city square, or in the chic estate of Marco Spada, or in the palace at the governor’s ball, with candles flickering on numerous chandeliers that amaze the imagination, or in the bandit camp located in a mountain gorge. However, not everything was restored from the previous premiere. For some reason, the machinery failed. And the banquet, festively cleaned table in the bandit’s mansion, which used to miraculously grow out from under the stage, now routinely leaves the right wings.

The plot of “Marco Spada” is so confusing that it makes no sense to retell it. We only note that there are 5 (!) central characters in the ballet: the main one is Marco Spada himself, who leads a double life – a bandit and an aristocrat. The vaudeville story, however, has a bad ending – as a result of battles with government troops, Spada (such a hero actually existed) dies. One can, perhaps, have no doubt that the viewer will not understand these ups and downs, since such an occupation is of secondary importance for Lacotte’s ballets. The main thing here is the mesmerizing whirlpools of dance that permeate every pore of this performance. The Lacotte ballet was intended for entertainment and its main advantage is entertainment and dancing. However, they are also the main drawback.

There is not even a hint of stylization “under Mazilier” here – pantomime scenes are minimized, but the heroine easily twists the fouette invented much later. There is a great abundance of grand pirouettes, antrache, grand jet in a circle … And here it ripples in the eyes not so much from the beauty and magnificence of the chic scenery or the splendor of the costumes invented by Lacotte in the style of the era, but from his favorite signature French small “parterre” technique, to the brilliance of which the choreographer has accustomed the audience of the Bolshoi since the time of “The Pharaoh’s Daughter”. The graceful French dance “handwriting” often takes the form of real graphomania in Lacotte. The heavily modernized openwork French “trifle” that makes up the dances and the overlapping variations in this ballet is, of course, delightful and virtuoso, but in large quantities it can tire inexperienced spectators.

All this flickering, however, does not in the least prevent one from enjoying both the ballet itself and the work of the artists. Just like ten years ago, the dancers literally bathe in the dance, and comparing different casts (there were four of them prepared for the premiere), it is not easy to come to the conclusion who masterfully copes with the Lacotta steps of the old French dressing.

The line-ups were chosen in such a way that in each of them, along with the debutants, the artists who were involved in the performance under Pierre Lacotte danced. Of the two casts that I managed to watch, I would give the championship to the one where the main part was performed by Dmitry Smilevsky, a young dancer who has been working in the theater for only the fourth season, but has recently been elevated to the rank of premiere. Despite his inexperience, he almost never lost in acting to such an experienced dancer as Igor Tsvirko, who prepared the part of Marco Spada with Lacotte himself in 2013. And as for the filigree and dressing of endless drifts, entreche, spectacular circular movements of the foot in the air, ron-de-jamb-en-ler (Nureyev’s favorite movement) and other French trifles, which the uncompromising Rudolf Nureyev demanded from Lacotte to complicate the party, so here is a young dancer even surpassed his experienced colleague in many respects.

Marco Spada – Igor Tsvirko. Photo by Damir Yusupov / Bolshoi Theatre.

Competed with this young artist in the brilliance and sophistication of French calligraphy and another attention-grabbing dancer Denis Zakharov, who played the role of Prince Federici, who was in love with the daughter of a bandit. As for Angela herself, Ekaterina Krysanova, who danced this part 10 years ago, and Elizaveta Kokoreva, who made her debut in it for the first time, were good and charming in this part. Maria Vinogradova and Kristina Kretova, both of whom danced this role under Lacotte, appeared as the daughter of the governor, Marquise Sampietri. Both were able to find the necessary colors and nuances for it in order to differ in interpretation, and both excellently carried it out purely technically. Hunting for a gang of robbers with a whole regiment of soldiers and incidentally in love with this very Marquise, the dragoon captain Pepinelli was exorbitantly technical in the performance of Alexei Putintsev. Even the “small-caliber” of his texture against the background of the grenadier growth of the soldiers subordinate to him was a plus here and made it comical. But still, Yegor Gerashchenko was even more accurate, organic and funny in this game, revealing the diversity of his talent.

In the premiere, the performers of not only the main roles, but also the second roles were excellent. For example, Mark Chino and Elizaveta Kruteleva performed the pas de deux of the Groom and the Bride in the first act, and Ivan Sorokin and Sofia Maimula performed in a different composition. And the well-trained corps de ballet of the Bolshoi Theater was generally above all praise.

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