Wednesday, 9 January 2013

New Job

"Russia is a riddle wrapped in an enigma."

This quote was from Winston Churchill during WW2.  I am about to see a bit more of this riddle with my new job and see a different area of Russia.  On Monday I fly out to Perm to start a new position as a Governess for a family with seven children between the ages fourteen and  eight months (six of them boys!).  Just call me Maria!


Actually I am mainly responsible for the seven year old girl and to help her with English and Music. She plays the violin.  I am looking forward to using my musical knowledge and it will be interesting to compare what the children of  rich Russians are like when they don't come from Moscow. It is a live out position and my apartment is only fifteen mins from the family house in the centre. 

The main question I get asked when I tell anybody I am going to Perm is "where?"  I try to tell them it is two hours from Moscow by plane or that its near the Ural mountains (still lots of blank looks) then I usually triumph when I mention it is on the Tran-Siberian Express route, but even this gets blank looks so I revert to "Its near Siberia" and even the geographically challenged nod.

So what is Perm like? It is certainly not in the back of beyond.  Its a major hub on the Trans-Siberian Express route.  It has an amazing modern art scene and one of the top ballet/opera companies after the Bolshoi and Marinsky is based there. 

Here is an introduction about Perm from and a few pictures:

Perm is the most Eastern city of Europe, and therefore its province is often referred to as Eurasia. Having a population of 1.2 million, Perm' is the 6th largest city in Russia and the second largest in the Urals. The city was formerly called Molotov, after the minister of foreign affairs during Joseph Stalin's ruling. Perm stretches 65kms along the impressive Kama River - Europe's 4th largest river by length. The Perm province, "Permskaya Oblast", or "Prikamye", is around two-third the size of the United Kingdom and covers a great area in the very heart of the Ural Mountains.

    PERM, Russia. Cultural heart of the Urals...

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Swan Lake at the Bolshoi

Today, one of my dreams came true, to go to the Bolshoi to see the Bolshoi Ballet.  I felt like a nine year old the night before as could not sleep as so excited.  Unfortunately S couldn’t make it due to jet setting around the world with the family she works for, so I had a spare ticket.  Through my various advertising on social networking sites there was no taker, hard to believe, I know. It’s the BOLSHOI!! I took the ticket with me and what do you know, there were people looking to buy spare tickets, problem solved.  The guy I sold it to was from Mexico and it was also one of his dreams to see the Bolshoi ballet on the main stage. Result!

Having been on the Bolshoi tour before Christmas, being inside the auditorium when the lights were on was breath taking! All the gold detailing had a glow to it, the chandelier and frescos on the ceiling were in sharp detail and it was quite magical.

Swan Lake is one of my favourite ballets and I have seen it three times and all done by Russian companies.  This has been the best so far.  Here are my thoughts/review of it:

The Cast-
                  Odette/Odile………...... Anna Nikulina
                  Siegfired……………… Semen Chudin (yes, an unfortunate first name!!)
                  The Fool……………… Dimitriy Zagrebin

These two made a lovely pairing and the crisp clear jumps by Chudin were landed very lightly. He had a bit of a ‘look at me, aren’t I great’look about him and the acting was a tiny bit forced, but I like that Grigorovich  explored the character of Siegfried and almost made him the centre of the story.   Like a lot of dancers and Nikulina was no exception, their portrayals of Odile are normally danced and well-acted.  Odette, on the other hand, Yes, Nikulina had beautiful lines and lovely extensions but she didn’t convince me as much as her Odile.  The Russian productions of Swan Lake normally have a jester/fool and this production was no exception.  Zagrebin twirled and jumped as if he had a coil inside him and the Corps de Ballet were precise and together, as you would expect from the Bolshoi.

There was some beautiful playing in the Orchestra but a few cracked notes by the brass, but some sublime playing in the Par de Deux by the cellist and violinist, Boris Lifanovsky and Mikhail Tsinman respectively. The acoustics are pretty fine and you could hear every note clearly. 

I can see what Grigorovich was trying to do with this Swan Lake, the majority of it had lovely choreography and it was good to see the male dancers of the company doing more dancing but I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending, it was beautiful and it did make me cry but it ends with Odette being killed by Rothbart (or The Evil Genius, as called by Grigorovich) and Siegfried at the front of the stage weeping, he also changed the order of the score and made it finish on a very tragic, sad bit of music. In other productions although they both die there is a sense of salvation, that the lovers will be together in eternity, and this is reflected in Tchaikovsky’s glorious score.  That was the only downside to a marvellous production.  I can’t wait to go again sometime.  

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Bolshoi Workshops Tour 6 March

Reason 23 of why I love my job and Moscow: Getting to go on tours that tourists don't get the chance to!  I was lucky enough to go on a tour with the BWC to the Bolshoi workshops, where all the sets, costumes etc are made.  Unlike Covent Garden, the workshop is in a different location and it is a massive building.

The guide who took us around has been involved with the Bolshoi for a long time and you could tell she was very proud to be showing us around.  First stop was where the sets were painted.  This is a massive floor space which is laid out like a grid.  The painters have a small version of the backdrop/wings and it is amazing how they manage to paint it on such a large gauze/canvas! We saw backdrops from 'The Entrantress', A bit from Swan Lake which was being restored and the favourite of mine, a piece of the wings from the ballet 'Ivan The Terrible'. The artist was doing it from a photograph of the original designs by Simon Virsaladze. A bit of a heads up, as the Bolshoi ballet will be performing it sometime soon. It  hasn't been preformed in 20 years at the Bolshoi. I am going to try to get tickets for it!

                                        A birds eye view of the room, unchanged since it was opened.

                                          the original painting of the backdrop for 'The Entrantress'.

                                                  A wing from 'Ivan The Terrible'

Next stop was my favourite part of the tour, the costume and fittings rooms for the ladies.  Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures in the sewing room which was a real shame as there were gorgeous Swan Lake tutus hanging up and also the tutus from Le Corsaire.  We also got to see the costumes for the new production of Der Rosenkavalier and my were those pannierd dresses wide but I guess on the stage they will look in proportion.  It was interesting to see the tailor dummies which were made specific to the dancers and singers.

The fitting room more than made up for not being able to take pictures in the sewing room.  You go in and there is a beautiful mirror in the corner and this mirror has been used since the 19th century and it sends s shiver down your spine when you think how many famous ballerinas have stood there.  We got to see two tutus from the new production of Le Corsaire.  The tutus were slightly longer and the bead work was delicate. The costumes from Don Quioxte were vibrant and they were restoring one of the costumes from an old production.

Le Corsaire

Don Quixote new and old costumes

As if the tour couldn't get any better, it did!! We were shown to this large room which was partioned off and there looking like Father Christmas's worse off brother was the man who made the point shoes for the ballerinas. I didn't catch his name but he has been there over 20 years.  He gave us a demonstration of the different stages and we saw him making a shoe.  His work area was very chaotic but he knew where everything was.

                                         Ready to go in the kiln!

Finally as an extra treat we were shown the printing room where all the posters are printed.  At the end of this month the old presses will be retired and it will all be done on computer.  The press has been there from 1905 and we were all lucky enough to be given our own bit of Bolshoi memorabilia which was a poster   showing what's on.

So all in all an amazing tour and I am now looking forward to going to see Swan Lake on the 17th March.  

The mirror in the fitting room.

Friday, 27 January 2012

So near, yet so far!!

Well, I was meant to be flying back to Moscow tomorrow but the Visa company mucked it up so had to send my passport back for them to do a new one, epic fail!!! so I don't fly until a week Saturday.

When I visited London a couple of weeks ago I was walking near to the Institute of Contemporary Arts and saw there was a statue of the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in front of a building.  So here are the photos I took of the statue.


Thursday, 22 December 2011

December and a Russian Round up

December has been a busy month with the choir I sing in.  We had two concerts in one week, one at the beautiful Norwegian Embassy where I even got to talk to the Norwegian Ambassador and not a Ferrero Rocher in sight! but mind you the Russian TV advert for Ferrero Rocher has the lovely Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky in it.  He can feed me them anytime! The second concert was in St. Andrew's which is the Anglican church, very different acoustics so not quite the same intimate atmosphere as the embassy.

                                         The Moscow Mellow Divas at the Norwegian Embassy

The BWC's Bazaar was the following week at the British Embassy.  The British Embassy is a horrible glass monstrosity with no individual features to make it look aesthetically pleasing or even welcoming and there wasn't a sign of the British Ambassador.  I did pick up lots of goodies from the various artisans and an interesting book about the Moscow Metro.

I have had my first cold of the winter and boy was it a bad one! Tried taking Lemsips but they didn't even touch it so  D  recommended 'Terraflu'. The name alone should make colds run away screaming but it did help and I slowly recovered but had a week off work due to it.

This evening I went to L's School Christmas concert and it was really good, despite it being all in Russian. I recognised 'Snow White and the Seven Tap Dancing Dwarfs' and then a telling of the Nutcracker with some of Tchaikovsky's glorious score interspersed with some Russian pop numbers and it sounded fine.  Afterwards while waiting for 'I' to come out I noticed how well dressed some of the women were. 'I' was in Chanel and there were Prada, Gucci and Hermes bags galore and there's me with my Accessorize bag and Joules scarf.

I am not back in Moscow until the 1st February but I have loved my first three months here and have enjoyed having a social life again and meeting lots of different people but I'm looking froward to going home and it being quiet. City living is convenient but noisy and I shall enjoy having a ten minute walk into the centre of town instead of a twenty minute metro ride.

There probably won't be any blogging again until I am back so I  hope you have enjoyed reading my blog and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Bolshoi

In the foyer

Looking at the set of the new production of Sleeping Beauty

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Vodka, Wolves, Russian Men and The Bolshoi

When I go to L's apartment I am now known by the security men so they let me in to the lift with their card so that I can get up to the apartment.  Normally L or the housekeeper O answers the door and I give a chirpy 'hi' but not this time, oh no, this time A opens the door and while I am saying my chirpy 'hi' I stop mid way through as A is not wearing a top. So there I am sputtering, trying to keep cool and carry on but I swear he must have thought I was an idiot.  I didn't know where to look. I doubt he was trying to emulate Putin and his bare chested publicity stunt but you never know.

I purchased my first bottle of Vodka this week.  Now going shopping for Vodka is not like in Sainsburys where there is one slim shelf of vodka and not much choice but also very expensive. Here in Moscow you have shelves of Vodka as far as the eye can see, and with prices ranging from 90RUB upwards it catered for every Russian.  I was spoilt for choice and didn't know what to choose but the kitsch inside me decided for me and I purchased a bottle which as you see in the picture explains it. All I needed now was this ridiculously good looking buff guy (topless of course and I wouldn't splutter, I tell you that much !) from True Blood to make it perfect.

It was mid priced when it comes to Vodka and tasted just fine. D's landlord who used to live in her apartment left no proper cups but plenty of shot glasses.   

On Friday one of my dreams while I am in Russia came true, Through the BWC (British Women's Club) a tour was put on and I got to look around the newly renovated Bolshoi Theatre.  It did not disappoint! The guide was a Russian lady and she was very scary, and we felt like a group of school girls who had been naughty.  We got to go into the auditorium and look at the stage and it is massive!! and the rake on the stage is quite steep.  It wasn't as good as the ROH tour as you didn't get to see any workshops or dancers around but we did get to see some vintage opera costumes on display from the 1970s. I will put some photos on my blog tomorrow as my internet is so slow at the moment but I do have a dongle so not too surprising. Hopefully going to see a ballet at The Bolshoi in February or March.  

I think this is due to the wild and windy weather we are having at the moment but snow is in the forecast for the next few days.  Bring it on!!!! I am prepared with my new down filled knee length coat with a detachable fur collar, and yes before you ask the fur is real but it keeps me nice and warm and isn't a fashion accessory.  

You do find yourself with a lot of fur envy and I had to stop myself this week buying the softest fur hat ever but it was 18,000 RUB which immediately put me off.  Fur is everywhere in Moscow and onetime I had to travel by metro at rush hour and I somehow managed to get squished between 3 ladies, all wearing fur coats. I tried to stop myself from stroking the coats and found out I was doing it without thinking. Luckily the metro train was quite bumpy so had an excuse if I was caught.   

Off to choir in the morning at the apartment block for retired KGB agents.