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Friday, June 23, 2017

Farewell Diana

Diana and Marcelo's curtain calls
Tonight ABT bid farewell to one of its most beloved artists. After the fraught finale of Cranko's Onegin the sold out crowd screamed and yelled their appreciation for Diana Vishneva. Her longtime stage partner Marcelo Gomes hugged and comforted her. Confetti streamed down from above, the stage was covered in flowers, ABT colleagues marched onstage with hugs and more bouquets, and Diana looked simultaneously sad and elated as she basked in the love of the audience. Oh yeah, Diana's husband also made an appearance. The Diana and Marcelo Lovefest Curtain Call Routine was dialed up an extra notch tonight. He swung her around in an embrace as confetti fell. He fell to his knees in obeisance and she fell to her knees in response. She cried, they kissed, they nuzzled. It's really the Show After the Show. Usually I find their routine cloying, but this was her farewell, so it was almost cute.

Bedroom pas de deux, photo @ Gene Schiavone
Not much needs to be said about the performance -- Diana and Marcelo are old hats at this ballet and know exactly what to do with their roles. Their timing in their pas de deux is so precise, yet they're able to maintain the illusion of this spontaneous passion. Those lifts (torch lifts, upside down lifts, sideways lifts, one hand lifts, basically lifts in every position imaginable) looked effortless. Diana's portrayal of Tatiana eschewed some of the girlish mannerisms she had included in the past and thus had more sincerity. Her pliant back, expressive face, and soft arms were as exquisite as ever. Gomes usually is such a warm stage presence that the cold, priggish Onegin isn't a natural fit for him, but he also was able to make it work. His Onegin was a ladykiller who knew his effect on women. When he ripped up Tatiana's letter and crumpled it in her hands he walked away smugly, as if he'd made another conquest AND rejected said conquest. Onegin might not be the greatest ballet, but Diana and Marcelo's passion and commitment elevated the material. Roman Zhurbin made a winning Gremin -- stolid, but exuding a quiet decency that made Tatiana's loyalty understandable. Isabella Boylston (Olga) and Blaine Hoven (Lensky) were a nice, youthful foil for Diana and Marcelo's mature passion.

Here is a video of the curtain call that was uploaded to YT:



Flowers and confetti, photo @ George Etheredge
Diana was blessed in many ways. She was born with a classic stage face -- huge eyes, cherry lips, thick dark hair, that all managed to catch the light in the best way. Her face could look doll-like or sophisticated depending on the ballet. Her frame was petite but her limbs were elongated and her arms had that beautiful tapered look. She received the best training at the Vaganova Academy and became a star at both the Mariinsky and other companies around the world in record time. At ABT she found a wonderful partner first in Vladimir Malakhov and later in Marcelo Gomes. Just billing Vishneva and Gomes was often a sell-out for ABT -- the two of them complemented each other perfectly. His partnering skills always made her look stunning and her intensity pushed him to greater emotional heights. Their highly staged, over-the-top curtain calls (where Marcelo prostrates himself on one knee, and the two of them don't look at the audience, but instead kiss and nuzzle the whole time) became almost as anticipated as the performances themselves.

Vishneva and Gomes, photo @ Andrea Mohin
I first saw Diana Vishneva in 2006 performing Giselle. I still consider Giselle her best role. I saw Diana's Giselle several more times over the years and it was always a unique experience -- she put on tons of black eyeshadow, her face was ghost white, she added extra layers of tulle to her dress, and frankly looked scary. There was a fierceness to her Giselle that was unmatched. In Act 1 when she found out about Albrecht's betrayal she always ripped Bathilde's necklace and threw it on the floor with a ferocious rage. In the Mad Scene she avoided any lithographic prettiness as her mouth drooped open and her hair flew wildly all over her face. In the second act, the speed of her turns during the Wili initiation, the way she stared down Myrtha, and her habit of not pledging love to Albrecht during the final moments of the ballet made Giselle as much of a ghost story as a romance. It was unique and unforgettable. Marcelo Gomes was her Albrecht for the latter portion of her career but to me the most memorable Giselle was the one she did in 2006 with Vladimir Malakhov. I had never seen that kind of demented, off-kilter portrayal, and it made me rethink the entire ballet. Her later performances of the first act were tamer than the wild-child 2006 portrayal but she was still remarkable in her intensity and her Act 2 remained the same ghostly, spooky marvel.

Vishneva and Zverev in Ratmansky's Cinderella
Vishneva was a diverse artist in her prime. In later years she shrunk her classical ballet repertory. None of her other roles quite rose to the heights of her Giselle, but she was still a special artist in all of them. Her Nikya in Bayadere had all the Russian attributes -- flexible back, beautiful coiling arms, a way of infusing each step with beauty. At ABT she danced MacMillan's two most famous heroines: Manon and Juliet. Her Manon was seductive and calculating. and she and Gomes (de Grieux) had sizzling chemistry together. She was also a wonderfully passionate Juliet, although the kind of raw naturalism that MacMillan wanted isn't really in Diana's DNA. For a great rendition of her Juliet I recommend the commercial video from the Mariinsky. Lavrovsky's choreography fits her better. I adored her wistful, winsome Cinderella in Ratmansky's otherwise uneven version for the Mariinsky. When she toured with the Mariinsky in 2008 she performed a slinky, over-the-top Zobeide in Fokine's Scheherazade that really lit the stage on fire. It's a shame she only did Ashton's Sylvia a few times as she was wonderful as the huntress. A few not-so-memorable roles: her Odette/Odile was surprisingly low-impact, mannered and fussy. She couldn't save Alberto Alonso's atrocious Carmen. She also did not have the best taste in modern dance projects.

Vishneva as Aurora, photo @ Gene Schiavone
Diana's final and greatest triumph, however, was when I saw her Ratmansky's new/old Sleeping Beauty two years ago. She was by then nearly 40 and there was chatter about whether she'd be able to fulfill the requirements of a ballet that is considered the ultimate test of classical technique. No one should have worried. Vishneva put on a master class for the youngsters on how it's done. She was the only Aurora I saw who conquered all the technical challenges of the role, and her characterization of Aurora really made an arc from young and bubbly to dignified and queenly. When she held that final triumphant balance in the Rose Adagio, the audience started roaring and for good reason.

This is Diana's own lovely tribute to her time at ABT. I think it speaks for itself. Farewell Diana. She was that rare combo: a true artist, a true ballerina, and a true star. ABT audiences were lucky that this star traveled to this galaxy. She was one-of-a-kind and will be missed.


This is my tribute; my words of heartfelt gratitude. A tribute to the company that, many years ago, has become part of my life, and has always felt like a second home. Of my 22 years on stage, thirteen have been shared with the ABT. Not that long, one may say, but to me, this equals to a lifetime! The ABT is a troupe like no other. The passion and dedication of its artists are truly rare for a large company; everyone will be there for you; everyone will lend you their shoulder, share your joy and your sorrow. The years with the ABT are now an inseparable, treasured part of my soul. Among the people I’ve had the honour of working with over those thirteen years, some are no longer with us; others are no longer in dance, but the moments spent together, our show times and our rehearsals, remain in my heart. On the Met stage, you breathe in the thrillingly vibrant energy of New York and sense its rhythm as it fills every cell of your body. I have experienced that while at the ABT, and this magical experience will stay with me as long as I live. Life is cyclic, and I’m sure I will keep meeting my friends from the ABT both on and off stage. This is why today doesn’t feel like parting ways. How would one forget all the love and warmth of those thirteen beautiful years? No farewells, then. Fair winds! @abtofficial #dianavishnevaabtfarewell
A post shared by Diana Vishneva (@dianavishnevaofficial) on

5 comments:

  1. Another great review Ivy. Such wonderfully expressive writing!

    Madison

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    1. Thanks Madison. It was a really special evening.

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  2. Thank you Ivy for your personal account. Lucky you to have been there. I choked up even though I didn't want to when watching the videos of her final bows.

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    1. Thank you Rowna! Now that you live in CT you should come see more ballet. Bring Mr. Ballet!
      "There's a girl and a boy. They promise their love to each other. She dies."

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    2. New summary for favorite ballets: The boy and girl fall in love. By the end she is either a swan or a ghost. Then he dies."

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