Review: The Snow Maiden, The Russian State Ballet of Siberia, Regent Theatre, Ipswich, March 10

Russian State Ballet's production of The Snow Maiden

Russian State Ballet's production of The Snow Maiden - Credit: Archant

It was fitting a company from Siberia should bring with it a ballet that opens in the depths of the Russian winter.

The Snow Maiden is a simple tale, always useful for a narrative ballet, based on a Russian folk tale and set to a score that is a patchwork of various Tchaikovsky works, including the incidental music he wrote for a production of Ostrovsky’s play of the same name as well as movements from a couple of his symphonies.

As in the case of Raymond Briggs’ Snowman, we already what know is going to happen in the end so dramatic suspense is in short supply, but choreographer Sergei Bobrov has contrived to tell the story effectively in a simple wintry setting with some impressive choreography, especially in the duets which use complicated combinations of lifts of the kind that will familiar to anyone who has watched Russian ice-skating.

The Snow Maiden is the daughter of Father Frost and Mother Spring and wearies of her life in the frozen forest, with only dancing snowflakes for company. Straying into the human village she captivates the local merchant, Mizgir, who deserting his mortal sweetheart, pursues the Snow Maiden into the forest.

Unable to return Mizgir’s love, the Snow Maiden pleads with her mother to give her a human heart, but no sooner has her wish been granted, than the sun shines and she melts away in her lover’s arms.

The leading dancers were excellent. This is the company’s 10th anniversary at the Regent and, although young, the strong technical ability of the company’s principals has always been a hallmark of their productions.

Pretty and petite Mana Kuwabara, who joined the company in 2013, made a fetching Snow Maiden, quite touching in her final moments, and she was in the safe hands of stalwart Ivan Karnaukhov as Mizgir. As the jilted girlfriend, Kupava, long-limbed Elena Pogorelaya was eloquent in her grief.

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Further down the ranks, standards of dancing were a little more variable, but I don’t think the gentlemen of the corps de ballet were done any favours by the comical pudding basin wigs they had to wear.

Not among the greatest of ballets, but an enjoyable one and it was a bonus to hear some lesser-known pieces by Tchaikovsky played with such obvious patriotic pride by the company’s own orchestra, under the baton of Alexander Yudasin, especially the scintillating rendition of the Russian Dance by leading violinist Antonia Rogatkina.