Published 24 Jan 2011: Richmond & Twickenham Times
On January 19th 2011 Richmond Theatre welcomed back the Moscow City Ballet for the first of seven performances, opening with Romeo and Juliet. Renowned for their colourful and energetic performances the Russian company did not disappoint here.
The star-crossed lovers made an attractive, if slightly disconnected, couple. Talgat Kozhabayev was a solid Romeo, strong in his leaps and lifts but his general partnering of Juliet was shaky at times. Alevtina Lapshina, an excellent Juliet, made a wholly convincing transformation from naïve girl to young woman and shone in her solo set-pieces, particularly in the final act. Their Balcony Scene together was disappointingly disjointed but the later duet in Juliet’s bedchamber was far smoother and affecting.
You have to feel sorry for this Romeo and Juliet, however; not only did they have each other’s family to contend with but they also had to battle against the orchestra who seemed determined to put them off with slovenly, disinterested playing, plenty of duff notes and strings often out of tune.
Fortunately there was much else to admire on the stage. Sergei Zolotarev was an enjoyably impish Mercutio but arguably the highlight of the evening was Danil Orlov’s menacing Tybalt. His murder led to a staggering death scene with spectacular leaps and an imaginative series of lifts. The corps, like most of this production, improved as the ballet progressed doubtless due to having to adapt to a new stage. The men were athletic in their leaps and jetés while the girls were light with quick feet in the grand Russian tradition; the ‘Dance of the Girls with the Lilies’ was particularly well-executed.
There were some lovely choreographic flourishes throughout; Juliet playing on a human swing in Act 1 springs to mind as do the Death Spectres holding aloft the inert bodies of the dead on unholy crosses.
Natalia Povago’s costumes were suitably sumptuous, with Juliet the recipient of a catwalk’s worth of dazzling dresses, and the staging was handsome without being overbearing. Moscow City Ballet’s run at the Richmond Theatre continues with two further performances of Romeo & Juliet and four of Swan Lake. My feeling is that as the company gets familiar with the theatre the dancing will become even more accomplished and turn what is a thoroughly enjoyable night out into something even better. And fingers crossed for the orchestra too.