THE DUELING JULIETS: NATALIA OSIPOVA VERSUS DIANA VISHNEVA

So Saturday was another double feature for me, as for many ABT fans. And it was a fun double-header with the Russian women – the Bolshoi versus the Kirov, if you will – kind of going at each other :)  Natalia Osipova (top photo) made her debut as Juliet, opposite David Hallberg’s Romeo during the matinee, and in the evening, Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes took the leads.

I can’t say I liked one over the other, though they were very very different. It was Osipova’s debut and Vishneva has performed it many times so the evening Juliet was a bit more sophisticated. But Osipova will grow into it and eventually make it her own. I think Osipova’s Juliet was much more girlish, cuter, particularly at the beginning, than I’ve seen her danced before. She practically ran from Paris when her parents first introduced them. Vishneva was girlish too but not as much; she knew it was time for her to be married and she was trying to be mature and ready herself.

Osipova tried hard to act the part well though, and I love that about her. She always does that. It’s not just about the dancing; she’s an actress too. And one huge thing I love about her is how well she works with David Hallberg.

He’s a superb dancer on his own of course but she makes him into a good actor as well. I really believed he was Romeo yesterday, unlike some of his prior performances of that role. I loved how when Osipova’s Juliet first sees him from across the room during the court dancing, she cocks her head, checking him out, then slowly goes toward him, head leading her body. You really notice her noticing him. In the balcony scene, I loved how when they were on the floor, when Romeo kneels and she leans onto him and then he takes her up into a lift, before going into the lift, she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him. So sweet. What I missed in the balcony scene was the beauty of what I call the pashmina lifts – that lift at the beginning where she kind of drapes herself around his shoulders and then as he runs around the stage with her like that she developpes her leg up. It may just have been that I was sitting at an awkward angle but they didn’t quite have the sweetness as Alessandra Ferri’s. Her developpe-ing leg didn’t go up high enough or something. I know, nit-picky, but that’s my favorite lift! Another thing I loved about the balcony pdd was at one point when he picks her up and carries her, her body upright this time, Osipova did this little running motion with her legs. It looked really sweet, like a girl in love.

I loved the Romeo leaving pas de deux – I think it was the best I’ve ever seen actually. I missed her grabbing him and kissing him to death, pecking him all about the face, and I was glad that I missed it – -I hate that action; I think it’s so silly. Instead, she kept clutching him and holding onto him, like she wouldn’t let him go for dear life.

In the third scene, I didn’t really see it register in her eyes that she’d made a decision to go back to the Friar for help. Instead there was a bit of the melodramatic and acting was substituted for doing crazy maneouvers with Romeo’s green cape, and she swung is all about herself then ran all over the room with it billowing behind her before exiting the room and heading off to the Friar. Vishneva did exactly the same thing though, though there was a bit more thought in her eyes while on the bed making her decision. My favorite third-act Juliets are Hee Seo and Irina Dvorovenko.

David was so good. He was more passionate than I’ve ever seen him, throughout the whole thing. I really thought he was going to kill Patrick Ogle’s Tybalt (Ogle was excellent in that role, by the way, as was Sascha Radetsky in the evening; Radetsky was equally excellent during the day as Paris – he was almost heartbreaking as Paris, in fact, as he knelt down before his Juliet, almost pleading with her, after she’s all in hysterics over Romeo leaving and wants nothing to do with him).

The afternoon sword-fight was the best I think I’ve ever seen. It was just so dramatic, thanks mainly to David and Patrick Ogle. I’m not in love with Jared Matthews as Mercutio and I don’t know why Kevin McKenzie keeps casting him in that role. I don’t know why he doesn’t let Daniil Simkin have a shot at it. Matthews dances very well, but his acting’s not all there and he really doesn’t have the stage presence required of the dancer playing Mercutio. When he’s dying and he motions angrily and forebodingly to each side (the “a plague on both your houses” line in the play), it just didn’t have the power it needed when he did it. Craig Salstein was far better during the evening performance. His Mercutio is one of the best – I think the next best after Herman Cornejo. During the day, Blaine Hoven was Benvolio. Hoven is another excellent dancer who needs to improve his acting so he can get better roles. Night cast, Simkin was Benvolio and he was awesome. Overall, owing to Simkin and Salstein, the night cast was generally far better, far more dramatic and intense than the day cast.

One thing that Jared Matthews did, though, that caught my eye, was when his Mercutio does the three leap frogs over the other men. On his third leap frog, the guy stood practically completely upright, and Jared still leaped all the way over. Got a big “ooooooh” from the audience. That’s the only time I’ve ever seen that – the other Mercutios either only leap over the two or do a leap frog with the third guy bending way over, in the manner of the first two guys.

As I said, Jared’s a very strong dancer. I don’t know what it takes to stand out more but he really is more technically and athletically capable than most.

David just danced so beautifully. The scene at the beginning where Romeo dances for Juliet as she plays the lute was just mouthwatering.

Marcelo was good too – they were both amazing at those turning jumps with the one leg in passee. Marcelo’s more of a movie-star Romeo, a guy’s guy Romeo, joking around boyishly with the prostitutes at the beginning, then really showing off for his Juliet and wowing her that way, then literally sweeping her off her feet with those many crazy lifts. David was more of a romantic Romeo, heartbroken over Rosaline’s rejection of him at first, and then immediately smitten with Juliet once he lays eyes on her.

And Diana’s so beautiful in this role. She really floored me this whole season (I do think Natalia had something to do with it — Russians can be really competitive :) – I think she compelled Diana to strive to outdo her by excelling at what she does best – acting, using her body’s beautiful fluidity to emote and express character and move the audience, bending her body into those gorgeously deep back-arches, and just being an excellent partner – particularly with Marcelo; with Jose Carreno as well).

One thing I always love about Diana in this ballet is her bourrees. She makes so much of such a simple step, whether it’s girlishly fluttering on pointe around her kneeling Romeo during the balcony scene, or later boureeing backward, rapidly away from Paris, as if it were the ultimate, most horrible rejection, and then slowly approaching the bottle of potion, every tip toe taken toward it almost excruciating.

Okay, what Roberto Bolle does in the end that makes me want to just cry buckets that neither Marcelo or David did:  in the last scene at the crypt where Juliet’s supposedly dead and he’s picking her up like a rag doll while crying hysterically – well, Roberto makes it clear that that pas de deux is supposed to be a repeat of part of the balcony pas de deux. The lifts are supposed to be the same, except of course they aren’t because she can’t hold her legs or arms up since she’s taken a potion that makes her all but dead. Roberto will hold his Juliet’s arm or leg up in the exact shape it was in in the earlier pas – when they were happiest before things went tragically awry. And it’s all the more heartbreaking that she can’t do that pas anymore with him and never will again. Marcelo and David just kind of tossed their Juliets around in the air like formless rag dolls, without any specific shaping. I suppose it’s probably easier if you’re a big tall strong guy and your Juliet is the size of tiny Irina Dvorovenko but I just love how Roberto does that – making her leg developpe all the way up and raising her arm high in the air – and now it just doesn’t have the same pathos when it’s not done the same way!

After both performances audiences went absolutely wild with applause. People were standing up and cheering even before the curtain even went down. In the evening, there was a gaggle of teenage girls up in the balcony giving Sascha Radetsky a screaming ovation for his Tybalt :)

Sorry this post was so long. I’m sure I’ll think of more to say about the last day, and about the rest of the performances this season. I must still do a general post on my favorite moments. Coming soon…

What did everyone else think of Osipova?

Photo of Natalia Osipova from here; of Diana Vishneva from here.

10 Comments

  1. I, of course didn’t see them but this line “his Juliet, almost pleading with her, after she’s all in hysterics over Romeo leaving and wants nothing to do with him).”

    I can completely see him doing that (Sascha) and is it wrong that I want that Juliet to be Amanda Schull :)

    Love the write up!

  2. Well, you know I agree with you about Simkin. That role ought to be a true showstopper–certainly the text is there for the character and MacMillan choreographed the role to be as full of intelligence and wit as the play. Totally agreed with you about Radetsky. It was awful when he was killed–I mean, he was just trying to be nice to this girl who didn’t like him.

    I found the Faster Times comments about Osipova’s characterization interesting–how she was so girlish and young it was natural that she would fall fast and hard for Romeo. A different dancer really does change the role.

    I really don’t want to have to see this ballet more than twice next year because a good performance always leaves me feeling devastated and a bit sick for a few days. But I think I might need to see more than one cast next time . . .

  3. I’m still processing the Sat matinee, which was simply transporting! Natalia and David seem to bring out the best in one another. It was truly a privilege to be in the audience. Re Matthews – I agree that he needs more “weight” as Mercutio but I thought his solos were technically not there, without much energy. Maybe he was tired – the entire company must be tired after such a long and interesting season. It was nice to run into you in the lobby. I’m having Met withdrawal and am sad there’s not a fall season to look forward to. But there is the new Nutcracker!

  4. The Russians are competitive and Natalia’s presence this season did push Diana who is the complete ballerina and world’s best today…but Natalia will be the next one tomorrow.

  5. Gomes did the crypt pdd in the way echoing the balcony scene in his Monday performance. Though I cannot compare it with Bolle’s exactly, as I haven’t seen Bolle’s performance, Gomes’s Monday lifts were perfect in the balcony scene as well as in the crypt scene.

    • Oh okay. It just didn’t look the same to me as Bolle. It’s probably that Bolle just has longer arms and was able to get Irina’s arm up high and her leg developped all the way up, and so it just had a different look to me.

  6. Oh, you did see the Monday performance. I thought you didn’t see that, so, just wanted to let you know. As you didn’t write a review about the weekday performances, I though you attended only two Saturday ones. You may delete my comments. Thanks.

  7. Oh sorry, Kyeong, I was confused! I didn’t see the Monday night performance but I did see Gomes dance Saturday night (Corella was originally scheduled to dance but he was injured and so Gomes replaced him). I assumed Gomes did the crypt scene the same way though in both of his performances. It probably just looked different to me on a different body.

  8. I saw the matinee performance of Romeo and Juliet and thought the entire cast did a beautiful job. One of my favorite dancers is Jared Matthews. He is a great partner, very handsome and fun to watch on stage. He interacts so well with the other dancers. I was fortunate enough to see him in several parts and really loved him. He is well on his way to becoming a Principal dancer!!!

  9. It’s interesting what you say about Bolle being the only one at ABT who really emphasises the fact that the crypt “pas de deux” is a mirror of the balcony pas. I would have thought this would be a given with every cast, in the same way as done by the Royal Ballet, esp Juliet’s “dead” arm reaching out for the stars (chills!)…

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