Byelorussian Ballet Spartacus Cultural Centre, Grand Theatre LONG before the final curtain fell on Spartacus, the matter had been settled: this was not the Bolshoi and any attempt to cash in on the name was grievously misguided.
True, practically everything about this company from Minsk is big - certainly in terms of numbers when compared with the touring Muscovites - but why confuse the issue and risk antagonising a formidable rival, when you have so much of your own to offer? Besides, there is no mistaking the stamp. It belongs to artistic director Valentin Yelizariev and is written all over the repertoire and dancers.
The saga of the gladiator who led a slave rebellion against the despotic Roman general Crassus in 73 BC is right up his alley and he deals with it in impressive, if often melodramatic style for this three-act work set to the music of Khachaturian.
Typically, Yelizariev concentrates on the psychology of his key characters - Spartacus, wife Phrygia and tormentor Crassus - and reduces the rest to stereotype.
This works best in Act 11 where the decadance and corruption of Crassus's Rome contrast powerfully with the pure passions of the hero and his loyal spouse.
Far less satisfying is the final act, which despite its visual impact, underscores Yelizariev's fondness of repetition and laboured symbolism.
What a now thoroughly roused audience expects to see is a thrilling, if doomed battle.
What it gets is an operatic, often histrionic treatment with the rebels vanquished by a seemingly invisible enemy.
Impressing solidly are Eugeni Lysik's sets and costumes, and the company's symphony orchestra under chief conductor Alexander Anisimov.
Captivating throughout are the Byelorussian Ballet's vital young dancers, with a particularly vibrant performance coming from Veniamin Zakharov (Crassus).
Head and shoulders above them all are Vladimir Komkov as a splendidly virile Spartacus and an almost unbelievably supple Inessa Dushkevitch dancing Phrygia.
Their key pas de deux may vary little, but that magical pair could perform them ad nauseam and still have the audience hungering for more.
LONG before the final curtain fell on Spartacus, the matter had been settled: this was not the Bolshoi and any attempt to cash in on the name was grievously misguided.