A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Archive for review

The Nutcracker (Щелкунчик)

I am finding it difficult to relate the full extent of my disappointment with this performance. The choreography was dull and lacked passion; specific director’s choices significantly detracted from the plot and confused the drama; even the usually magnificent orchestra was rather undynamic and featured quite a few sour notes from the horns. Admittedly, I am spoiled by the NY City Ballet (and their larger-than-life tree!), but this performance was more akin to a college troupe at a very artisitc institution than to the company of a major city.

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Дама с камелиями (The Lady of the Camelias)

This is one of the best directed performances I have ever seen. It is a new interpretation of Giuseppe Verdi’s popular opera La Traviatta, which was adapted from Alexandre Dumas’ novel La Dame aux Camélias. You are very familiar with this opera, even if you think you’ve never heard of it. There are scores of representations of this opera (The film Moulin Rouge, for example, is based on La Dame aux Camélias), and the arias are played so often, everyone would recognize them. So what did the Opera and Ballet Theater of Dnepropetrovsk do that made such an impression on me?

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Свадьба Фигаро (The Marriage of Figaro)

I missed the first act, as a matter of fact. I bought my ticket, which seemed to say that the performance would start at 19.00. It was strange, because it looked like there was some kind of smudge on the 9, but there was no mistaking it for any other number. Well, when I showed up at 7 pm, I found everyone at intermission, buying snacks and stretching their legs in the lobby? What happened, you might ask? Upon closer examination of the ticket, it turns out that the smudge I had seen was really a penmark, making a very poor attempt to transform the 9 into an 8 (and considering that this is not very difficult to do, I was rather frustrated at the whole mess). Fortunately, I am very familiar with the opera, and although it would have been nice to see the first act, it was not necessary for my enjoyment of the rest of the performance. Besides, it’s a long show, and I still had two hours worth of opera left.

When I bought my ticket, I thought it was strange that the title of the opera was written in Russian. Carmina Burana had always been written in the original Latin, not even with the Cyrillic alphabet. Why, then, wasn’t the title written in the original Italian?

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Лебедине озеро (Swan Lake)

I am obliged to begin with a disclaimer for all future reviews of performances held in the Opera and Ballet Theater. Here are housed the opera and the ballet companies of Dnepropetrovsk, the third largest city in Ukraine. This is no country performance, this is a major metropolitan production. As such, I am comparing it to the likes of New York, San Francisco, and Madrid (as a side note, I cannot believe that these are the only three cities in which I’ve seen major theatrical performances). If it seems like I’m being harsh, it’s because this is truly excellent company to be compared with and it is hard to live up to such standards. I also want to make known that I was a bit lenient in my review of Carmina Burana. I did not realize the excellent quality of performances here, which I have later experienced first hand, and so I treated it as a B level theater with a B level company.

This understood, I can tell you right of the bat that Swan Lake was not a perfect performance, but it was overall very good. The company was good, but did not move as one. Lead performances were technically sound, but lacked emotion and feeling. The scenery was beautiful without being too distracting, and the costumes were wonderful. The final result was a highly enjoyable performance, visually spectacular, but quite unmoving.

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Massandra Red Muscat Livadia

I have been craving muscat grapes for two weeks straight now, so I could not resist a muscat red when it presented itself so affordably to me in the supermarket the other week. This wine truly lives up to its name. While its scent is merely that of a sweet red, the taste is so much more. It is very sweet and very intense, almost overpowering in its fruitiness. It immediately warms the entire pallate with its almost spicy glow. Although I do not usually like such sweet wines, I am getting used to Crimean reds, and this one is my favorite that I’ve tried. Although it does have an almost sticky sweet aftertaste, it is still pungent and alive with dancing flavor. (This wine is also very alcoholic– 16%, and gave me a happy buzz after the first sip!)

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Carmina Burana

When I found out that tickets to The Opera and Ballet Theater of Dnepropetrovsk only cost 15 grivnas (otherwise known as THREE DOLLARS!!), less money than it costs to buy a cup of coffee, I decided that I was going to go every week. Since the season opened on Wednesday (and it was Rosh Hashana, so I couldn’t go), so far I’m 1 for 2.

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Wine review: Magarach semi-sweet red

I picked this wine up in the grocery store last week because someone had recommended it to me as good quality and less sweet than the average Ukrainian wine. As the label is entirely in Ukrainian, I had no idea what I was in for and took her word for it. After trying it for myself, the question that comes to mind is, “less sweet than what??” I would hate to try one of Magarach’s dessert wines. Read the rest of this entry »