Wings & Windmills with the Hungarian National Ballet

The first-rate Hungarian National Ballet had its proper U.S. debut on the evenings of Wednesday, November 7th, Friday, the 9th, and the afternoon of Sunday, the 11th with dazzling productions of, respectively,Swan Lake and Don Quixote,and the elegant presentation of three works by the Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen, under the title LOL.
Swan Lake,the beloved masterpiece created by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov—and here reimagined by Rudi van Dantzig—with a glorious score by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, was brilliantly conducted by Balázs Kocsár, with beautiful sets and costumes designed by Toer van Schayk. Tatiana Melnik was a fabulous Odette (and Odile) expertly partnered by Gergely Leblanc as Prince Siegfried—he was memorable in the Pas de trois from Le Corsaireat the gala performancea few days previously. Mikalai Radziush was an effective Rothbart and Dmitry Diachkov a fine Alexander. Also extraordinary were Ellina Pokhodnykh and Diana Kosyreva in the Pas de trois and Kristina Starostina, Nadezhda Sorokina, Yuka Asai, Olga Chernakova, and Lili Felméry amongst the swans. The corps de ballet was superb. The artists received an exceedingly enthusiastic ovation. One hopes that this thrilling production will return and receive wider exposure.
Fluffier but immensely enjoyable, the current production of Don Quixote is a restaging by Michael Messerer based on the classic Marius Petipa original revised by Alexander Gorsky, with additions by Kasyan Goleizovsky. The tuneful score is by the underrated Ludwig Minkus, which, if not of the order of any of Tchaikovsky’s ballets, nonetheless consistently charms. The appealing sets were designed by István Róbzsa and the wonderful costumes are by Nóra Rományi. The cast was even more remarkable than in Swan Lake,led again spectacularly by the astonishing ballerina Melnik as Kitri, comparing not unfavorably with Natalia Osipova’s celebrated performance in the same role. Her partner, Igor Tsvirko was magnificent as Basil. Mesmerizing too were Iurii Kekalo as Espada, Sofia Ivanova-Skoblikova as Mercedes, Karina Sarkissova as the street dancer, and Lili Felméry and Rita Hangya as Kitri’s girlfriends. Entertaining in character parts were Attila Szakács in the title role, Maksym Kovtun as Sancho Panza, Alekszandr Komarov as Gamache, and Gábor Szigeti as Lorenzo. The corps de ballet was again superlative. The audience was enormously appreciative.
The first part of LOL was Trois Gnossiennes, set to the gorgeous, eponymous piano pieces by Erik Satie. It had been danced by a different couple at the gala performance the previous week but it was gratifying to have a chance to see Melnik again in this iteration, here ably partnered Igor Tsvirko. Judging from this program, van Manen seems to have minimalist leanings with some affinities with the corpus of George Balanchine. Regrettably, the remaining two works were presented with pre-recorded scores, beginning with the engaging 5 Tangos, set to music by Astor Piazzolla and starring Minjung Kim and Gergő Armín Balázsi. The afternoon concluded with the intermittently more avant-garde but also enjoyable Black Cake, with music by Jules Massenet, Pietro Mascagni, Igor Stravinsky, Leoš Janáček, and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and with attractive costumes by Keso Dekker.
I greatly hope that this exceptional company will return to the New York stages before long.