Snow Maiden [The Russian State Ballet of Siberia] – Review – Hull New Theatre

Snow Maiden The Russian State Ballet of Siberia Review Hull New Theatre main

By Karl Hornsey, January 2022

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia have been touring the UK since 2002, and it was wonderful to see them back at Hull New Theatre following last year’s enforced absence. As with previous years, they are performing five of the most iconic ballets – Romeo & Juliet, The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Swan Lake and, to open their week in Hull, Snow Maiden. Remarkably, the New Theatre is the only venue on the tour, which continues until the end of March, at which all five ballets will be played out.

There’s no doubt that of the five, Snow Maiden is the least well-known, despite its premiere being as far back as 1873, but it’s a beautiful and emotional little story that has stood the test of time, and the perfect tonic on a cold and dank January evening. There was a ‘wow’ factor as the curtain rose, and the brilliant white setting of a frosty day came into view, with the backdrop of falling snow giving the stage something of a magical air. The familiar strains of Tchaikovsky’s score underpin the ballet, never taking over or dominating, but always there to help the story along.

And it’s a very simple story at that. There’s very little content or storyline to Snow Maiden to be frank, but it really doesn’t matter. The majesty of this performance is about the dancers and the music combining to weave a magical fairytale and, as with many traditional fairytales, this one contains more than its fair share of tragedy. It’s not a happy tale by any means, even if it does end on an uplifting note.

Snow Maiden The Russian State Ballet of Siberia Review Hull New Theatre

“Vibrant colour”

The Snow Maiden of the title, danced with wonderful charm and grace by Natalia Bobrova, is determined to leave her life in the forest and head for a nearby village, against the wishes of her father. This opening scene is slow and repetitious, but conveys the differing emotions of parent and child, as the Snow Maiden finally gets her way. The stark white backdrop is then filled with vibrant colour as the villagers are celebrating the winter festival of Shrovetide, and it’s here that the crux of the story becomes apparent.

We’re introduced to the other three key characters in the story – young shepherd Lel (Yuri Kudriavstev), the merchant Mizgir (Georgy Bolsunovsky) and maiden girl Kupava (Anna Fedosova). Essentially, it’s a tale of two loves, as Mizgir dumps Kupava as soon as he claps eyes on the Snow Maiden, leaving Lel and Kupava together – and ultimately for those two it’s a case of happily ever after, while Mizgir and the Snow Maiden’s brief dalliance ends in tragedy. I’m not sure if all of that offers up a moral to the story, but it’s fair to say that the Snow Maiden’s life is a doomed one from the moment she leaves the forest. And all the more moving for it.

To create such an incredibly emotional, yet upbeat performance from such a basic premise really does take some doing, and the talents on display are truly outstanding. While the company won’t be in Yorkshire again this year following their stint in Sheffield and this one in Hull, I’d always recommend them to anyone, whether you’re a ballet virgin or a seasoned and knowledgeable veteran of such shows.


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