A holy trinity of gems inspires this work – emeralds, rubies and diamonds. Choreographer George Balanchine saw the jewels in the New York collection of Claude Arpels and forged the idea of this abstract though sumptuous ballet set to the music of three very different composers.
The first piece, Emeralds, is a verdant, art nouveau celebration to the dreamy score of French composer Gabriel Faure from Pelleas et Melisande and Shylock. Soft, melodious music gives way to lilting strings and a pas de trois (danced lyrically by Denis Zakharov, Elizaveta Kruteleva and Daria Khokhlova) to muted strings. Balanchine wrote that ‘if this part of the ballet can be said to represent anything at all it is perhaps an evocation of France; the France of elegance, comfort, dress, perfume’.
The second piece, Rubies, moves to the red-hot, primal music of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra. It bursts with energy. In naming this piano concerto Stravinsky related in his Chronicle that he was thinking of a definition of a capriccio given by Praetorius: ‘he regarded it as a synonym of the fantasia which was a free form made up of fugato instrumental passages’.
Soloist Olga Marchenkova displays extraordinary flexibility and an electric presence.
Ekaterina Krysanova is sensational and beguiling in her unconventional, free form pas de deux with Artem Ovcharenko.
The final piece, Diamonds, is fittingly set to Symphony No. 3 in D Major of Tchaikovsky, arguably the greatest ever composer of ballet music. Like that other great artist, Marilyn Monroe, Balanchine understood that ‘diamonds are a girl’s best friend’. It epitomises ballet in the Imperial Russian style. The work is a triumph of classical dance on a grand scale.
Balanchine did not use the first symphonic movement as he felt it was ‘not really suitable for dancing’. Of the remaining three movements, the genius choreographer observed that ‘the first is danced by 12 girls and two soloists, the second is a pas de deux for the two principals, the third an ensemble with variations for the two principals and the finale a polonaise for the entire group of 34 dancers’.
Alyona Kovalyova dances with breathtaking beauty in her pas de deux with Jacopo Tissi, superbly supported by the 32 members of the corps de ballet.
This night with the Bolshoi is one of the truly great moments of international classical ballet.
Featured image: Anastasia Denisova and David Motta Soares sparkle in Emeralds (Photo by Darren Thomas)