Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
The London Festival Ballet began its second week at the Kennedy Center last night with a mixed repertory program that confirmed one's earlier impression of the company's high degree of theatrical savy. It was a program that called for an unusual amount of emphasis on spectacle, atmosphere and histronic flair, and in each of these respects the LFB appears to excel.
At the core of the evening were two works that provided guest artist Rudolf Nureyev the chance to appear in roles made famous by Vaslav Nijinsky - the title part in "Le Spectre de la Rose," and the Gold Slave in "Scheherazade."
The IFB's "Scheherazade" is quite fabulous in its way, if you can let yourself enter natively into its Arabian Nights world of jealous sultans, sultry harem girls and lubricious slaves. Bakst's wonderful colors, textures and shapes are only partly approximated, but the spirit of opulence, sensuality and mythical Orientalism is all there. One has to keep in mind that in 1910 there were no technicolor movies in X-rated scripts: The shock of the original production was real.
Nowadays it would be almost impossible to mount a "Scheherezade" that did not have at least a whiff of self-parody about it. It's to the credit of LFB that the production doesn't descend to burlesque; it's done as much as possible as a period piece, and taken seriously within its own terms. The result is an extremely enjoyable exercise in ingenuous fantasy.
The Gold Slave is Nureyev's meat - his inherently erotic-fantastic persona, his animal magnetism and his faintly exotic look permit him a very persuasive characterization of the role, and he manages both the pyrotechnics and the stitchery mime of the choreography with splendid panache. He gets excellent support from the company generally, and in particular from Manola Asensio as his lover, Zobeide, Michael Pink as the Shah Sharyar, Terry Hayworth as the Chief Eunuch, and the trio of women who portray the Odalisques.
Nureyev was disappointing in "Spectre," however. His poses and arm movements were undoubtedly modeled after photographs and descriptions of Nijinsky, but they emerge in the wrong key, somehow - more the gestures of a snake charmer than those of a fey, disembodied projection of a young girl's amorous imagination. His headdress, hairdo and costume, however authentic in intention also intefere with the illusion. Now was tallish Eva Evdokimova an ideal partner in this context.