Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Bolshoi in Cinema, The Golden Age

Sunday afternoon, the 7th, we went to see the Bolshoi in Cinema presentation of The Golden Age (L’Age d’Or), a ballet to the music of Dimitri Shostakovich. This version had a libretto from 1982 by Yury Grigorovich and Isaak Glikman. The original version, from 1930,  about a Soviet soccer team being nobbled by evil capitalists, was censored and badly reviewed, which resulted in Shostakovich refusing to allow the ballet to be revived in his lifetime.

The current version, set in 1920, begins with a village festival. Rita, a local young woman (Nina Kaptsova), meets Boris, the leader of the “Agit-Prop Theatre for Working Youths” (Ruslan Skvortsov).  The clean-living Komsomol troup performs a skit/dance in which they sweep away clown versions of reactionary villains, a Jew, a Capitalist, and a Czarist.

Later on, they meet at “The Golden Age,” a nightclub where Rita, as “Mademoiselle Margot,” is featured in a tango-like dance number with Yashka, a.k.a. “Monseiur Jacques” (Mikhail Lobukhin). The nightclub is a louche place, reminiscent of the Kit-Kat Club from Cabaret, complete with dancing M.C. (Dmitry Dorokhov).  It is frequented by “NEPmen”, small scale capitalists tolerated under the Soviet New Economic Program, who are questionable sorts later to stamped out under Stalin. The flapper/vamp Lyuska (Maria Allash) allows herself to be “picked up” by a couple of aging Nepmen who fancy themselves boulevardiers, and takes them to the club.

After the Jacques and Margot dance number, Boris shows up and Rita goes to him, angering Yashka. Yashka goes to hang out with the criminal gang he is secretly the leader of. Lyuska leads her swains into the gang’s clutches, and they are beaten, robbed, and murdered. Emboldened, Yashka goes back to the club and tries to have Boris thrown out. Boris shrugs off the bouncers and cows the entire club with his righteous anger. Rita intervenes to prevent further violence, and the club’s denizens slink away.

In act two, Yashka tries to win back Rita, to no avail. He rallies his gang and hunt Boris and Rita down. Rita goes for help, while Boris is overcome and beaten. Boris’ friends arrive in time to save him.

Rita has to perform at the club that evening, not knowing that Yashka is the gang leader. After the number, she tells Yashka she is quitting. He tries to demand her love. Overcome with jealousy, Lyuska attacks Yashka with a knife, and is killed fighting him. Yashka tries to flee with Rita as hostage, but he is caught and captured by Boris and his friends. There is a general celebration by the “good guys.”

Shaostakovich’s music for this piece is wonderful, and the Bolshoi’s dancing frankly amazing. The four principals are as good as any dancers we have ever seen, and they astonish with the demanding choreography. The film noir libretto is just fun, and gives an excellent basis for the very stylish parti-colored costume theme (almost everyone except Rita and Boris is in half-black and half-white), and the Expressionist set design, where everything is looming and nothing is perpendicular, reminiscent of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

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Tags: ballet

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