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La Scala Ballet

Zubin Mehta the star
Petrushka – chor. Michel Fokine, mus. Igor
Stravinsky; Le Sacre du printemps – chor.
Glen Tetley, mus. Igor Stravinsky
Milan, Teatro alla Scala

The glory of this Stravinsky double bill
at La Scala, Milan was the conducting of Zubin
Mehta, the superstar conductor, who ener-
gised the orchestra into dynamic perform-
ances of these two extraordinary scores cre-
ated for the Ballets Russes (Petrushka and
Le Sacre du printemps) and, rightly, brought
the entire musical ensemble onto the stage
with him at the end of the evening.
Would that what was heard was matched
by what was seen. Michel Fokine’s
Petrushka is an extremely difficult work to
perform these days – many north European
companies would not stage it because of its
representation of the Blackamoor, which
would be considered offensive. More impor- Mick Zeni, Nicoletta Manni, Maurizio Licitra – La Scala Ballet: “Petrushka”,
tantly, this ballet, still bearing the traces of c. Michel Fokine (ph. Brescia/Amisano)

mythical Ballets Russes scent, is a very deli-
Virna Toppi, Gabriele Corrado – La Scala Ballet: “Le Sacre du printemps”,
cate creation indeed; in fact, it contains very
c. Glen Tetley (ph. Glen Tetley Legacy/Brescia/Amisano)
little dancing per se, so relies on detail of
characterisation and precision of movement
to have any effect. That is unlikely to hap-
pen in Isabella Fokine’s version, staged in
Milan, which is vague and unfocussed – in
those companies where there is a true per-
forming tradition of this work, the chances
of success are considerably higher. The bal-
let ensemble of La Scala is a likeable and en-
gaging company, but acting and the presen-
tation of character, are clearly not their forte.
Where each and every member of the Butter
Week festivities must be clearly delineated,
we had balletic generalities, as unconvincing
as the false beards worn by the boys of the
corps. The main characters worked hard in
the iconic roles created by Nijinsky,
Karsavina, Orlov and Cecchetti, but the whole
ballet was swamped – swamped by the huge
stage, swamped by the past and swamped
by the music.
Glen Tetley’s Le Sacre de printemps was
more successful – no character to portray
and some real dancing to deliver. Underpin-
ning it all was a monumental performance of
Stravinsky’s still-startling music, and the
dancers responded in kind, hurling themselves
around as required. Tetley’s response to the
music is curious, emphasising airborne move-
ment when what is heard is heavy and earthy
– high balletic leaps sit uneasily on the
crashes and poundings from the orchestra,
and there are several instances of musical
markers being ignored. This is not the finest