Ballet in three acts
Leonid Yakobson’s Spartacus is arguably the most stunning and immense ballet production in the history of the Mariinsky Theatre in the 20th century. Loud, too, were the scandals even as the production was being rehearsed, when Yakobson cut and re-stitched the complete score by Aram Khachaturian, who objected to any amendments whatsoever. Differences in opinion between a choreographer and a composer come as no surprise in the theatre world, but for things to go as far as beatings (as they say the case was with Spartacus) and years-long quarrels is something of a rarity.
The production’s fame was tremendous. As work progressed, the Artistic Director of the Kirov Ballet Fyodor Lopukhov, who had invited Yakobson to stage Spartacus, gathered enthusiastic responses from dancers who had rehearsed the work in order to protect the ballet from the commissions which had to approve it, and when the time came for its fate to be decided he was armed with every written praise he could need. A rumour about the gripping plot spread like wild fire and Spartacus became one of the theatre’s most frequently attended productions – it was far from easy to get a ticket to see it. What was it that made balletomanes stand in queues at ticket offices on a shift system in order to ensure they had a seat?
In a classical dance theatre, Yakobson was the first to stage a ballet without pointes and with legs that were not turned out. This alone was enough to shock audiences: at the Kirov Theatre in the 1950s, the use of free plastique for an entire ballet was something beyond insanity (of Michel Fokine’s ballets, at the time only the classical Chopiniana was performed). Audiences were also intrigued by the grandiose spectacle. The production – with the scale of its historic plot, conceived as an Ancient fresco, with its massive crowd scenes, the huge number of characters, the corps de ballet and the extras – bore the secondary title of Scenes of Roman Life.
Running time: 3 hours 5 minutes
The performance has two intervals
Tickets cost: from 3500 to 4400 roubles.
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