Moscow celebrates the 80th birthday of prima ballerina Maya Plisetskaya with a four-evening festival of dance.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and well into the 1980s, Maya Plisetskaya reigned as undisputed queen of the Bolshoi Theater`s ballet troupe. To celebrate her 80th birthday, which falls on Nov. 20, the Bolshoi has concocted a glittering festival of dance, commencing on Wednesday with three nights of performances on the theater`s New Stage and ending a week from Sunday with a gala evening at the Kremlin Palace. On hand throughout the festivities will be the great ballerina herself, together with her husband of nearly half a century, the distinguished composer Rodion Shchedrin.
The festival begins with two classics that formed a fundamental part of Plisetskaya`s repertoire: Pyotr Tchaikovsky`s "Swan Lake" on Wednesday, with the dual role of Odette and Odile, which Plisetskaya first danced in 1947, falling to the Bolshoi`s current lead ballerina, Svetlana Zakharova; and, on Thursday, Ludwig Minkus` "Don Quixote," which features the wonderfully versatile Maria Alexandrova as Kitri, a part Plisetskaya first assumed in 1950.
The final festival evening at the New Stage, on Nov. 18, will see a revival of "Carmen Suite," a work that premiered at the Bolshoi in 1967 and brought with it perhaps Plisetskaya`s greatest artistic triumph. The score is Shchedrin`s arrangement of music from Georges Bizet`s opera "Carmen," and the dancing recreates the original work of Cuban choreographer Alberto Alonso. Accompanying "Carmen Suite" that evening will be a new choreographic rendering by Bolshoi ballet artistic director Alexei Ratmansky of Igor Stravinsky`s "The Card Game," which was first danced in New York 68 years ago to steps by George Balanchine.
The final festival evening at the Kremlin Palace on Nov. 20, Plisetskaya`s actual birthday, has the title "Don Quixote" -- but it seems likely to bear no more than a partial resemblance to the Minkus ballet scheduled three nights earlier, and it is almost certain to have in store some delightful surprises. In charge, as director, will be Dmitry Chernyakov, heretofore only known for his inventive approach to opera and spoken drama. And invited to dance along with the Bolshoi`s own artists will be stars from St. Petersburg`s Mariinsky Theater, London`s Royal Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet and the Berlin State Ballet, as well as members of less conventional dance companies from Russia, Spain and Cuba.