Two Ballets are Like Two Matches with Real at Stadion Maksimir

Leonard Jakovina, head of the ballet troupe at the HNK (Croatian National Theatre), talks about the Leonid Yacobson tour.

The St. Petersburg Leonid Yacobson Ballet Theatre is contributing to various festivities in honour of the St. Petersburg and Zagreb 50th friendship anniversary. On June 7, the Theatre plans to perform Ludwig Minkus' Don Quixote; and on June 8, Adolphe Adam's Giselle.

We have already seen two ballet galas by performers from Russia, but nothing can compare to a full-scale classical show with ballerinas in white.

'When it comes to Russian ballet theatres visiting you on tour, you are beyond lucky to get one show, and we have enjoyed two. Furthermore, we got a unique opportunity to see both ballet and opera masters from St. Petersburg theatres all perform together, which happens on extremely rare occasions. And we have had the honour of seeing shows by three theatres: the Mariinsky Theatre, Mikhailovsky Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, and the Leonid Yacobson Academic Ballet Theatre. This is a great success on our administration's part, and a proper Russian ballet performance would be a tremendous step forward. The idea was for the troupe to dance for us two nights in a row, as if they had always been right here. We owe this to our director, Dubravka Vrgoč,' explains Leonard Jakovina, head of the ballet troupe at the HNK Theatre, which is currently eagerly awaiting the Russian dancers' ambitious tour.

Gems of classical ballet

Croatia and the city of Zagreb will be able to see a grand total of two ballets by the Leonid Yacobson Ballet Theatre: Don Quixote on June 7 and Giselle on June 8.

'These are gems of classical ballet,' says Jakovina. Funny as it may seem, these ballets can be compared to football: this tour is an event of the same scale as Real playing at Stadion Maksimir for two night in a row. Leonard Jakovina also hopes that the HNK ballet will come to St. Petersburg again some time. Which is why I have to ask him about the scope of the impact left by the HNK at the world ballet capital, where it toured with its renowned Anna Karenina, choreographed by Leo Mujić.

'We came there, to St. Petersburg. with a ballet that is based on a part of Russian cultural heritage. I will never forget the press conference we had. Although the local journalists maintained their dignity, they were very sceptical and rather disappointed. The air was dense with this question: how dare the small Croatia, with its "puny" Croatian National Theatre, come to Russia with the Anna Karenina, which is set not to music by Rodion Shchedrin but to a selection of the great Tchaikovsky's non-ballet pieces. But in the end, we managed to win them over, earning ourselves a twenty-minute ovation. Nor will I forget how after the show, Mariinsky's best ballet stars came up to us to express their reverence and to praise us for a job well done,' Jakovina remembers.

Leonard Jakovina:
Russian ballet dancers come to us with solid master works of classical ballet, comments head of the ballet troupe at the HNK Zagreb

Death in Venice before Russians

Jakovina says that even back during that tour, he already started getting questions about which ballet the HNK Theatre would bring to St. Petersburg next time. Now that the Croatian capital has seen two Russian shows, it is more than obvious that the HNK Theatre will have to return the visit in autumn or winter. When that time comes, Jakovina and the HNK director Dubravka Vrgoč will face a challenging choice, because selecting a show for the tour will not be that easy. After Anna Karenina, Zagreb has put on a number of admirable shows, including a new Swan Lake, a modern version of Apoxyomenos, and the Gospoda Glembajevi ballet, also staged by Leo Mujić. Furthermore, just two days before the Russians' visit, the HNK ballet performed its last premiere of the season — Valentina Turcu's Death in Venice.

Bojana Radović