ABT in So. California, July 12-22: Rep, Othello & Sleeping BeautyPerformances and reviews
Posted 13 July 2007 - 10:48 AM
I found it a lovely if subdued evening (especially compared to the last LA gala, which featured rock concert hollering from the audience). Symphonie Concertante was lovingly danced, with some gorgeous corps work and assured performances from Michele Wiles and Gillian Murphy in the violin and viola roles, respectively. Not sure if it's among the best Balanchine ballets, but it's a pretty confection dressed out in endless pink tutus. From above it looked like a wonderfully patterned flower garden.
The choice of pas de deux was odd: the Corsaire pas de deux was the brief 'bedroom' pas de deux in Conrad's bedchamber, where Medora and Conrad flirt around the cave before she gives him a potioned flower. It's too short to show off much of anything except some acrobatic lifts, and the Conrad has precious little to do in the gala format. David Hallberg nevertheless gave an impressive stage presence, while Irina Dvorovenko treated the thing as a gymnastics routine, showing off big extensions and her bendy back. Her curtain call was a grand ballet of its own...
And the Manon pas de deux was the drunken Lescaut/Mistress duet from Act 2 - another bizarre, short excerpt with no context in excerpt. Herman Cornejo made people giggle stumbling around drunkenly, while Stella Abrerra showed she can do quick splits and stuff, but again it was over before much could be seen. There are a bunch of other, much more interesting pas de deux in Manon, so why this one at a mixed rep?
The Don Q pas de deux was the only gala-type excerpt on the list, with Paloma Herrera and Jose Manuel Carreno. She didn't look so into it last night, from the beginning some of the bits looked half done - accomplished but with little effort. Kitri needs to own the stage in this pas de deux and really show off - Herrera gave us pretty placement and gorgeously arched feet, but no feeling or pizazz. Carreno did what he could in the context. Despite the understated performance, Herrera's stillness does seem to indicate that her Aurora would be quite nice.
Rodeo ended the night and was charming and adorable, with Marian Butler the cowgirl. It's not one of my favorite ballets, but my heart warms to the story when I do end up watching.
Posted 13 July 2007 - 01:05 PM
But I look forward to any further reviews, Art!
Posted 16 July 2007 - 11:04 AM
Having said all that, I do agree with Art's comments the lack of contexts within the excerpts. Without more specific stage settings/props, I didn't even know that Corsaire was supposed to be a 'bedroom' PDD.
Symphonie was well danced by Michelle and Gillian; both were technically on the mark. But Michelle, though, wore the same smile that looked more like a grimace. And something about her movements betrayed some sort of strain. Gillian, on the other hand, had a more gliding feel to her dance, and her face was relaxed and radiant.
Manon, well, they did try to provide some comic relief after Corsaire. And Stella's expressions did convey her alternating puzzlement with her partner's drunken antics with her delight to have his company.
Don Q PDD was definitely gymnastic with both dancers' big turns and big jumps. Definitely show material...it reminds me of those dancesport shows public television airs every year. Paloma effortlessly danced her dance, and at the end of their number her aplomb and easy demeanor made it look as if what she did was 'really no big thing'.
I saved Rodeo for last, and it is my favorite segment in the entire concert, no matter what the other audience said after the show "The entire last part was garbage." It was refreshing to watch dancers unrestrained by pointe shoes and observe the pretty shapes and arches of their feet through their ballet slippers. And for once, I got to watch male ballet dancers with their pants on! Their hip movements though were a little on the effeminate side for me, considering these guys were supposed to portray ranch hands. And how 'bout that tap dance performed by Sascha? I just loved it...the man can tap dance!
Not bad for an opening night. I would be interested in watching more ABT opening nights for comparison.
Posted 18 July 2007 - 11:57 AM
Posted 18 July 2007 - 12:20 PM
Posted 18 July 2007 - 01:21 PM
"Herman Cornejo, as the loyal lieutenant Cassio, went too far and hurt his ankle. Cornejo was there for the opening scene in act two, and then, after exiting as he was supposed to, was not seen again. A new Cassio came on as Cornejo's replacement."
Posted 19 July 2007 - 10:18 AM
Posted 19 July 2007 - 06:11 PM
Are there any eye witnesses out there?
Posted 19 July 2007 - 07:50 PM
Posted 19 July 2007 - 10:32 PM
I'm going again Sat. night. Kent!
Posted 20 July 2007 - 12:28 AM
I don't think it's that bad of a production, despite the rather poor reviews (they've been nicer here than they have been in New York - the production has reportedly been revised for California). There are plenty of better productions, and it's a bit sad that a company of ABT's stature doesn't have one of the great ones, but I think it's a decent enough one that gives the dancers an opportunity to do a full Sleeping Beauty.
New York reviews made it out to be overstuffed and overthought - what showed up on stage in Orange County was actually a fairly straightforward Sleeping Beauty. Many of the strange production elements reported from New York have apparently been cut - no flying faires, the Prologue shower curtain has disappeared, the Prince doesn't hang perilously from a web in Act 2 anymore - he just gets stuck in it on ground level. Kirkland and McKenzie said in an article in the LA Times this past Sunday that they've tinkered with and trimmed a lot of the production. 9 minutes off Act 2, Kirkland said (the article is in the links section somewhere). Plot complications still exist in the program synopsis, but they are actually fairly easy to turn blinders to on stage: The King and Queen still leave the kingdom after Aurora goes to sleep, and the Queen still cries a river of tears - but on stage, it mostly just looks like they ended up on the wrong side of the drop curtain...
Add me to the Veronika Part fan club after Thursday's Aurora - her Vision Scene variation took my breath away with its plushness and musicality. I was in awe. The rest of the performance... well she's not really a natural Aurora, being taller than most everyone on stage, including the Queen, and carrying herself in such a womanly fashion as she does (I can imagine that her Nikiya in La Bayadere would be/was fabulous, as would her Lilac Fairy in Beauty). And there were inconsistencies - she seemd to loose steam during the Act 1 variation, resorting to a tired, low flick of her leg at the end of the diagonal walk-on-pointe bit. But she's a great classicist, with a gorgeous, expressive back and legs that naturally slide into high positions - and a beautiful face that reads to the back of the auditorium. Her Aurora characterization and dancing were just fine, though again, she's a bit too tall and womanly. Those Rose Adagio balances that were the cause of much chatter in New York came off very well tonight, without wobbles, but she did have panicky arms that quickly and nervously switched between supporting princes. My god, though - just those 2 minutes in the vision scene - I was in love for the rest of the performance.
At Tuesday's opening night, Gillian Murphy provided a very different type of Aurora - one could say more American in demeanor and technique. While Part was all Russian and glamorous, Murphy was the amiable girl next door. Murphy moves like an American, neoclassical dancer - nimble, quicksilver feet and dancing thrusted forward by a strong desire to move fast. She has solid technique, so the Rose Adagio came off without a hitch. Her fantastic turning ability gave extra sparkle to pirouettes, and she had this amazing jump going on in the Act 1 coda: when Aurora first enters, she does this split-jump thing diagonally across the stage (please forgive my inability to speak in ballet language) - Murphy looked like she was bouncing across the stage on a trampoline. It was quite the effect. Her characterization, though, didn't change too much between the three different acts. One could say she's good enough at playing the girlish Aurora that she carried that through the performance, but Murphy really impressed on every technical level so it didn't detract too much.
Wednesday night, Dvorovenko was a very pretty Aurora - secure technically and a very nice performance (It's too bad I didn't write up her performance before tonight, because I'm still gushing about Part's vision scene right now...) It was definitely a contrast to the Tuesday night Murphy performance - it seems Dvorovenko more naturally fits into the Petipa classical nature of the Sleeping Beauty choreography than Murphy. Dvorovenko did look fantastic: The glamor girl persona that she uses for many of her roles actually worked very well for Act I Aurora, coming as a princess to her birthday party, and Dvorovenko is also very capable of turning on the mature form of glamour for the Act III grand pas de deux.
All of the Prince Desires were impressive in the new, virtuoso male choreography that was put into the production (McKenzie's choreography?). Marcelo Gomes, with Part on Thursday, was my favorite - he such a natural and easy stage presence, and his prince was strong and yet totally tender and loving. Maxim Beloserkovsky was every bit the handsome prince to Dvorovenko on Wednesday, and Ethan Stiefel added a boyish enthusiasm to his Tuesday night prince.
Florine/Bluebird combos: I enjoyed tonight's Maria Ricetto & Carlos Lopez pairing the best, for their clean and bright execution. Sarah Lane & Sascha Radetsky on opening night were good as well, though not as free flowing - Lane already has such a wonderful ballerina stage presence for someone so young, so her Aurora is on Sunday could be very interesting.
Lilac Fairies: Ricetto worked the best so far on Wednesday (Abrera was Tuesday, Wiles Thursday), but none have truly impressed me yet. They all danced graciously and expansively, but don't project as much generosity and authority as the Lilac fairy should.
Sets & costumes: I thought the sets were, well, big. They're attractive enough, though the color palette thinly straddles the line between colorful and garish. They are more cartoony than opulent, but they work okay. I was very disappointed in the costumes. The Act 1 costumes were very bland, and while the important costumes (Aurora, Lilac, etc) were fine, many of the ensemble costumes looked silly.
The choreography is a combination of Soviet and Western/British traditions of Sleeping Beauty stagings, keeping the good stuff from both and merging it when one or the other doesn't work. I liked that, in the Prologue, the corps fairies enter first to herald the arrival of the other fairies - like in Soviet productions - but then the main fairies and the Lilac Fairies enter on the musical cues that Tchaikovsky composed into the score - just like in Western productions (puzzlingly not in the Soviet productions). There was some question on the first ABT Sleeping Beauty thread about where the Vision Scene and Vision Variation came from - it's the Konstantin Sergeyev choreography for the 1952 Kirov production, lifted in full. No Ashton vision variation here.
Phew! I will report more as I see the remaining casts... very excited now to see Veronika Part's Lilac Fairy on Saturday afternoon - Herrera is tomorrow night.
Posted 20 July 2007 - 12:22 PM
Why Why Why......I kept asking myself. Atleast the lead couple, Aurora and her Prince, were given beautiful costumes and danced with aplomb. My condolences to the corps, the Fairies and the rest of the cast. My guest was so confused by the storyline presented that she kept asking me questions throughout. So much of the lovely magic of the Petipa version were tossed away and replaced with second rate staging and choreography. What a mess.
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