or me it’s impossible to imagine Milan without Teatro La Scala. I remember it was a sunny summer afternoon when Altankhuyag and I were sitting in one of La Scala’s many training rooms, and Altankhuyag was playing classical music on a piano. Suddenly a tall, bald, old man with a somewhat womanly bag hung around his shoulder entered the room and asked us quietly whether today’s practices were over. I was almost surprised by this man’s un-disturbing rudeness, but my friend responded to him quickly saying that practices were over and closed the piano. The man smiled and left.
I asked: “Who was that?”
Altankhuyag: “Roland Petit!”
Unwillingly amused and excited, I ran after the old man just to have a glimpse of this living legend. Yes it was him: a simply dressed, neat, old man calmly walking the corridors of La Scala. The very same man who once worked with almost all leading figures of Ballet during the 20th century was back in Milan with his famous “Pink Floyd Ballet” reborn after three decades of hibernation. Altankhuyag Dugaraa (Altan), an aspiring Mongolian of Boston Ballet, was to become the first ever Asian to dance on La Scala’s stage as a lead dancer in this renowned ballet along with such names like Svetlana Zakharova, Massimo Murru and Guillaume Cote.
Now not to give you a false impression that I am an expert in the field; I have to admit that I possess very little knowledge of ballet or classical art in general and, after my first two years spent in Milan, I was still yet to experience La Scala. Then, in a period of two months, I went three times and had very different feelings for each performance.
First, I was late for Qatar Philarmonic Orchestra’s concert and could not enjoy it to the fullest. However, I was pleased by the internationality of the orchestra troupe as well as the confidence with which the Lebanese born conductor communicated with the audience. The second time with Altan we saw the Opera “Aida”, and to be honest I barely pulled through the four hours, despite the fact that we were sitting in Palco Centrale. The decorations were impressive though, and the actual plot was known to me because we managed to sneak into their practice sessions from backstage earlier on.
The third time it was the turn of the Pink Floyd Ballet, and I can assure you that it was the best thing I have seen in my life so far, and I am really grateful to Altan to have been given such an opportunity. The ballet itself is very lively and harmoniously combines Pink Floyd music with dance simplicity. At times it is very energetic and masculine; at times it is sublime and thoughtful. Svetlana Zakharova was definitely the queen of the night. When she came up on stage I duly remembered Cote saying that she was “too long”. And yes she was a little too long/tall, a little too skinny and a little too weak for a ballerina. But when she moved, it was almost surreal: her arms seemed more like wings rather than human flesh, and her gracious movements across the stage, her feeling of the music was telling the story in an unusually poetic way. In short, she was a pure epitome of attractive female weakness so precisely defined by one European poet or philosopher centuries ago.
Goosebumps, mere silence, maximum attention to catch every detail of this rare performance, enduring applause…
You can expect to see Svetlana Zakharova at La Scala in May for Trittico Novecento, and in the autumn for Serata Forsythe. This spring’s Ballet highlights include “Romeo & Juliet” starring Alina Cojocaru (a good chance for Romanian speakers) and Rudolf Nureyev’s classic “Don Quixote”. The first one will not be a classical ballet, but a rather new thing as the organizers themselves put it “a foray into creativity of our times”. In my understanding it is combination of three very different ballets supported by music of three Great Russian composers: Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich.
This time it is another talented, but very young Russian Natalia Osipova who will dance as Kitri. Having heard many things about her I am really looking forward to Don Quixote, and wishfully suggest anyone to dedicate some of your financial resources to this art. You won’t be disappointed.
If you want to see the premieres I suggest booking places beforehand either online (with an extra charge they will send the tickets to your address) or visit La Scala Biglietteria at Duomo. If you still haven’t managed to get places, you can visit La Scala on the afternoon of the performance day, where they sell limited amounts of tickets at the western entrance of building. Good luck!
Spring 2010, Milan