Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ballet... Rudolph Nureyev and Roberto Bolle...

I have recently been to the ballet, and subsequently went searching on the interweb for other performances of the ballet and came across this most remarkable balletic athlete named Roberto Bolle...

Roberto Bolle was born in Casale Monferrato in Italy. He began dancing at age seven at a local ballet school, and was accepted at La Scala ballet school at the age of eleven, where he was chosen by Rudolf Nureyev (see below) to play the role of Tadzio in the ballet Death in Venice.

In 1996, following his performance in Romeo and Juliet, he was promoted to Principal Dancer at La Scala. He left that position when he was 21 to pursue a freelance career. Since then he has starred in numerous ballets including Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Excelsior, The Nutcraker, and Cinderella. Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet were both put on especially so that he could star in them, at the Royal Albert Hall in London, by Derek Deane, the English National Ballet director.

Above: Bolle as Romeo

On the 10th anniversary of the Opera Theatre in Cairo, he performed in Aida at the pyramids of Giza and afterwards at the Arena in Verona for a new version of the opera live worldwide. During these productions he caused a stir because of his 'less is more' approach to costuming, something which he has become famous/notorious for:

In October 2000 he opened the season at Covent Garden Opera House in London performing Swan Lake, choreographed by Anthony Dowell, and in June 2002, on the occasion of the Queen's Golden Jubilee, he danced at Buckingham Palace in her presence. The event was broadcast live by BBC and transmitted to all the Commonwealth countries. Since then he has been in demand around the world.

Apart from being a fashion model and ballet star, he has also performed many charitable works. Since 1999 he has been a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. In 2006 he visited the Sudan, spending time at schools and hospitals and has raised over $655,000 for education and health projects in Sudan.

I have found two exceptional performances by Bolle- Excelsior and Sylvia.

Here is an excerpt from a review in the Ballet.co.uk Magazine, by 'Susy', explaining Excelsior, and reviewing Bolle's performance:

While most of the theatres chose to stage "Nutcracker" during the Christmas season, the Teatro Regio in Turin invited La Scala Ballet for ten performances of "Excelsior". This ballet, created in 1881 by Manzotti with music composed by Marenco, cannot be compared with the great classics of the same period as "Bayadère" or "Sleeping beauty". There are no princes or princesses or love stories and it tells the glory of the great scientific discoveries like the steam-engine, the telegraph, the Suez channel, the Cenisio tunnel. ... in June of that year [1967] a revisited "Excelsior" was presented in Florence, with choreography by Dell'Ara, scenes and costumes by Coltellacci and a new character: the Slave. Since then "Excelsior" has been often staged in Italy and I saw it for the first time in 1978 at La Scala for the bicentenary season. Then one year ago a pas de trois has been added in the second act and this new version is the one I saw on the 30th of December in Turin. This matinee was a real event: Carla Fracci, who's now 64, was going to dance with La Scala Ballet for the last time...

...The two male leading roles, the Obscurantism and the Slave, were danced by Massimo Murru and Roberto Bolle. A the end of each scene the audience was cheering and clapping hands. The best moments were in the second act. Magyari flirted with the right amount of irony with her four cavaliers, the Chinese (Vittorio D'Amato), the Turkish (Francisco Sedeno), the Spanish (Michele Villanova) and the English (Ales-sandro Grillo) in a parody of the Rose Adagio from "Sleeping beauty". Fracci won not only every battle with the Obscurantism but also with age, using all of her body, from pointe shoes to arms, like a real queen of the stage.

Murru was at his best in a choreography where the academic style is missing and the brisk movements remind the contemporary dance. Bolle was a Slave who, after only a couple of seconds spent leaning on the ground, gained his freedom: using arms and hands as they were wings and feathers, he soared effortlessly, multiplying the technical difficulties. At the end his tours à la seconde seemed to go on forever, while around him the corps de ballet whirled in a sweeping gallop.

The audience started showering the dancers and the conductor, David Coleman, with flowers and I lost track of the curtain calls as the fingers of my hands weren't enough to help me count them

Bolle's solo as a slave in Excelsior:



Act I: A Sacred Wood

The ballet begins with a scene of worship as creatures of the forest dance before Eros. Aminta (Bolle), a lowly shepherd, stumbles upon them, disrupting their ritual. Now Sylvia, the object of Aminta's desire, arrives on the scene with her posse of hunters to mock Eros. Aminta attempts to conceal himself, but Sylvia eventually discovers her stalker and, incensed, turns her bow towards Eros. Aminta protects the deity and is himself wounded. Eros in turn shoots Sylvia. She is hit, and though not badly wounded, the injury is enough to drive her offstage.

A hunter, Orion, is revealed to also have been watching Sylvia. Orion conceals himself again as Sylvia returns; this time she is sympathetic towards Aminta. As the huntress laments over her victim, she is kidnapped by Orion and carried off. Peasants grieve over Aminta's figure until a cloaked Eros revives the shepherd. Eros reveals his true identity and informs Aminta of Orion's actions.

Act II: Orion's Island Cave

Captive in Orion's island hideaway, Sylvia is tempted by him with jewelry and wine to no avail. Sylvia grieves over Aminta, cherishing the arrow pulled from her breast nostalgically. When Orion steals it from her, Sylvia gets her captor drunk until he is unconscious, whereby she retrieves her arrow and appeals to Eros for help. Sylvia's invocations are not in vain, for Eros quickly arrives and shows her a vision of Aminta waiting for her. The duo depart for the temple of Diana, where Sylvia's love awaits.

Act III: The Sea Coast Near the Temple of Diana

Aminta arrives at the temple of Diana to find a Bacchanal feast in progress but no Sylvia, who will soon arrive with Eros. After a few moments of mirth at the reunion, Orion shows up, seeking Sylvia. He and Aminta fight; Sylvia barricades herself in Diana's shrine and Orion attempts to follow. Diana, outraged at this act, smites Orion and denies Aminta and Sylvia's reunion. Compassionate Eros gives Diana a vision. The goddess reminisces over her own young love of Endymion, also a shepherd. Diana has a change of heart and repeals her decree. Aminta and Sylvia live happily everafter.

Bolle as Aminta in Sylvia...

Rudolph Nureyev

Rudolph Nureyev was born on a Trans-Siberian train near in Siberia in the then USSR. He grew up being the only boy in his family, in a village near Ufa in Soviet republic of Bashkiria. When his mother smuggled him and his sisters into a performance of the ballet "Song of the Cranes", he fell in love with dance. As a child he was encouraged to dance folk dances. His talent was soon noted and he was sent to Leningrad to study further. On a tour stop in Moscow with a local ballet company, Nureyev auditioned for the Bolshoi and was accepted. However, he didn't take up the position, instead continuing his trip to Leningrad to study at the Kirov ballet school.

Owing to World War II, Nureyev was unable to enroll in a proper school until he was 17, when he was accepted by an associate school of the Kirov Ballet.

Alexander Pushkin took an interest in him professionally and allowed Nureyev to live with him and his wife. Upon graduation, Nureyev continued with the Kirov and went on to become a soloist. In his three years with the Kirov, he danced fifteen roles.

He is famous for his defection. In 1961, Nureyev was chosen to replace the injured lead dancer in the Kirov's European tour. Whilst on tour he broke the rules about mingling with foreigners. The KGB tried several times to leur him back to Moscow, once telling him that he was needed to dance at a special performance at the Kremlin, and another time that his mother was dying.

On June 16, 1961 at Le Bourget airport in Paris, Rudolf Nureyev defected with the help of French police. Within a week, he was signed up by the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas

Nureyev's defection also gave him the personal freedom he had been denied in the Soviet Union. On a tour of Denmark he met Erik Bruhn, another dancer ten years his senior, who became his lover, his closest friend and his protector (mainly from his own folly) for many years. The relationship was a stormy one, for Nureyev was highly sexually promiscuous, but in its own way a very strong one. (Bruhn was director of the Royal Swedish Ballet from 1967- 72 and Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Canada from 1983 until his death in 1986).

Below: Rudolph and Erik

Nureyev's first appearance in Britain was at a ballet matinée organised by The Royal Ballet's Prima Ballerina, Dame Margot Fonteyn. The event was held in aid of the Royal Academy of Dance, the ballet organisation of which she was President. He danced "Poeme Tragique", a solo choreographed by Fred Ashton, and the Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake.

He was offered a contract to join The Royal Ballet as Principal Dancer. His first appearance with the company was partnering Margot Fonteyn in Giselle on 21 February 1962. Fonteyn and Nureyev would go on to form a partnership. Nureyev stayed with the Royal Ballet until 1970, when he was promoted to Principal Guest Artist, enabling him to concentrate on his increasing schedule of international guest appearances and tours. He continued to perform regularly with The Royal Ballet until committing his future to the Paris Opera Ballet in the 1980s. Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn became longstanding dance partners and continued to dance together for many years after Nureyev's departure from the Royal Ballet. Their last performance together was in Baroque Pas de Trois on 16 September 1988 when Fonteyn was 69, Nureyev was aged 50

Above and Below: Nureyev and Fonteyn

During the 1970s, Nureyev appeared in several films and toured through the United States in a revival of the Broadway musica The King and I. He was one of the guest stars on the television series The Muppet show, where he danced in a parody called Swine Lake (below).

Nureyev's influence on the world of ballet changed the perception of male dancers; in his own productions of the classics the male roles received much more choreography.

The French presented him with France's highest cultural award, the Commandeur de l'Odre des Arts et des Lettres. He died in Paris a few months later, on the 6th of January 1993, aged 54, having been suffering with the sequelae of HIV/AIDS for a long time.

His grave, at a Russian cemetery of Sainte Genevieve de boise in Paris, features a tomb draped in a mosaic of an oriental Kilim carpet. Nureyev was an avid collector of beautiful carpets and antique textiles:

Above: Nureyev and Fonteyn in Swan Lake (Highlights)
Below: Nureyev in Le Corsaire

1 comment:

  1. Rudolf
    We have not been to see the place you lie
    No grave could hold the essence that was you
    No little space of earth beneath the sky
    Compass a thing so beautiful and true
    What you have been is represented not
    With any little sorrow-tented spot
    Thus in our lives your grave plays little part
    So much have you remained alive in all our heart.


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