My very first review for DanceTabs, Bruce Marriott’s new online magazine!
Marguerite and Armand / Concerto DSCH
Choreography: Frederick Ashton, Alexei Ratmansky
La Scala Ballet
Teatro alla Scala, Milan
May 3, 2012
La Scala Ballet is often dismissed as a company without depth, a haven for international guest artists living on a steady regime of full-length ballets. And yet Makhar Vaziev, who left the Mariinsky to take the helm in Milan in 2008, has been taking on more ambitious projects, one baby step at a time. Last October, Sergei Vikharev’s Raymonda reconstruction brought the company together with admirable results, and this month, Vaziev is introducing another Russian luminary to Milan: Alexei Ratmansky, who set his Concerto DSCH on the company. Paired with Frederick Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand, it made a much-needed case for one-act ballets on a stage where, sadly, no other mixed bill is scheduled through the end of the 2012-13 season.
Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand was last seen in Milan in 2004, with Sylvie Guillem and Massimo Murru as the famous lovers, and La Scala revived it this season chiefly for its most popular “étoiles,” the Bolshoi’s Svetlana Zakharova and Roberto Bolle. In them they certainly have two of the most gorgeous bodies in the ballet world. The performance could have been an ad for one of Milan’s fashion houses: Italian model falls in love with Russian model moonlighting as a courtesan. Add to that Cecil Beaton’s period costumes and spare set, and the ballet was a vision of surface elegance on opening night.
Emotion, however, proved to be the poor cousin. The days when Marguerite and Armand belonged solely to Fonteyn and Nureyev, then to Guillem, are certainly gone (3 other casts are scheduled in Milan), but there is something to be said for cherry-picking interpreters when the ballet distils Dumas’ novel to such an extent. It takes consummate dance actors to tell the story through pas de deux, from Marguerite and Armand’s first encounter to her death, in less than 40 minutes, and both Zakharova and Bolle would need partners who can force them out of their natural reserve. (…)