American Ballet Theatre: Opening Night Gala 2007
- Onstage with the Dancers
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|American Ballet Theatre
Spring Gala 2007
Metropolitan Opera House
Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Wes Chapman, Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Georgina Parkinson, Clinton Luckett
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate
by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
May 14, 2007
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Gala Lighting by Brad Fields.
La Bayadère, Act II Opening Adagio Choreography by Natalia Makarova after Marius Petipa, Music by Ludwig Minkus, specially arranged by John Lanchbery, production conceived and directed by Natalia Makarova, Scenery by Pierluigi Samaritini, Costumes designed by Theoni V. Aldredge, Production Coordinator, Dina Makarova, Performed by the Company as The Shades, Conductor: David LaMarche.
Three years is too long to wait for La Bayadère, Makarova's beloved 1980 adaptation of Petipa's sumptuous ballet. Tonight's Opening Night Gala, which was introduced by ABT Artistic Director, Kevin McKenzie, and Caroline Kennedy, included excerpts from ballets to be seen this Season, plus Brian Reeder's Lady's Choice. The Opening Adagio, with Pierluigi Samaritini's moonlit woodland, slowly and methodically revealed twenty-four "shades". These "shades", who resemble Nikiya, the Temple dancer, in Solor's drug-induced sleep, appear in synchronized dance with repetitive music and motion. This is challenging choreography, and one miss-step would be sorely seen. The corps was up to the challenge, and the exquisite and eloquent lines were mesmerizing as usual. David LaMarche conducted the seamless score with panache.
Excerpts from The Sleeping Beauty: Choreography after Marius Petipa, Additional Choreography and Staging by Kevin McKenzie, Gelsey Kirkland, and Michael Chernov, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Costumes by Willa Kim, Assistant Costume Design: Richard Schurkamp, Performed by Michele Wiles, Veronica Part, Diana Vishneva, Irina Dvorovenko, Maxim Beloserkovsky, and the Company, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins.
Kevin McKenzie, Gelsey Kirkland, and Michael Chernov have created a new Sleeping Beauty for this Season, and the audience was treated to four previews from the Prologue and Acts I, II, and III. Michele Wiles, a fairly new Principal, was streamlined and impassioned in the Prologue - Lilac Fairy Variation. She stretched out the music with intense theatricality. Veronica Part, however, was disappointing, as the Act I - Rose Adagio is a high point of the ballet. It is in this dance that Aurora dances with four suitors, each letting go of her hand and passing her to the next suitor. It's a watershed performance, one that needs to be persuasive and poised. Ms. Part lost her balance in the midst of the point work and never seemed confident. The costumes for the suitors were colorful and comic.
Diana Vishneva, in the Act II – Aurora Variation, was confident, but less theatrical than Ms. Wiles. Her skills are noteworthy. Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky were, however, splendidly scintillating in the Act III – Grand Pas de Deux, with the lifts, en air figures, and even a kiss (the couple is married with a young child). The chemistry worked, and I cannot remember this duo so dynamic. They were effervescent. Ormsby Wilkins conducted with equal effervescence.
Lady's Choice: Choreography by Brian Reeder, Music by Frédéric Chopin (Waltz No. 3 in A minor), Pianist: Lang Lang, Performed by Stella Abrera and Sascha Radetsky. Lang Lang at the piano is almost in as much motion as the dancers onstage. He moves his head and his torso, swaying with the score. The microphone could have been upgraded for the Chopin, with its whispering waltz and romantic resonance. But, the concept was sound. Stella Abrera is a most interesting performer, with unique physicality and sensuality. Partnered by Sascha Radetsky, and both in formal attire (Ms. Abrera wore a purple-blue gown, with Mr. Radetsky in a black suit), they glided about the stage with rapture and grace. Lang Lang played a solo encore, by Liszt. It was a classy enhancement to a classy Gala.
Romeo and Juliet, Act I Balcony Pas de Deux: Choreography by Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Scenery and Costumes by Nicholas Giorgiadis, Performed by Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo, Conductor: David LaMarche.
Just on the heels of City Ballet's distilled and avant-garde Romeo and Juliet, it was a fascinating contrast to see Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo partner in MacMillan's traditional production. This was a smooth, silky pas de deux, with the ingénue Ms. Reyes and her partner in a new role. Since Julio Bocca's 2006 retirement, it's interesting to see who fills his roles (although no premier danseur will fill his shoes). Mr. Cornejo has mostly been in the secondary or one-act roles that require supreme athleticism or campy drama, such as Le Spectre de la Rose, Petrouchka, Le Corsaire, and in peasant dances with his sister, Erica Cornejo, now of Boston Ballet. Tonight he glowed as Romeo, and his cape flew in the wind, as he dashed about the stage and carried his new love. Ms. Reyes was weightless and ethereal. This duo is delightful. David LaMarche kept the music magnetic.
Othello, Act III Final Scene: Choreography by Lar Lubovitch, Music by Elliot Goldenthal, Costumes by Ann Hould-Ward, Assistant Choreographer: Ginger Thatcher, Performed by Alessandra Ferri and Marcelo Gomes, Conductor: Charles Barker. To a driven and dark score, Marcelo Gomes, as Othello, danced with the white handkerchief that would strangle his prey, Desdemona, following a kiss. Alessandra Ferri, as Desdemona, is just as virtuosic in her retirement season as always, and it often seems too soon to say goodbye to such bravura talent. The sets are simple, some silver shapes, but the explosive energy is not. The costumes are authentically of Shakespeare's design, as is the temper. Mr. Gomes is a powerful partner, and at one point I was fearful of Ms. Ferris' being hurled mid-air, but Mr. Gomes has outsized strength and grabbed hold of her limbs. Charles Barker kept the mood boiling.
Swan Lake, Act III Pas de Deux and Coda: Choreography by Marius Petipa, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Performed by Nina Ananiashvili and Angel Corella, Conductor: Charles Barker. Nina Ananiashvili as Odile, the Black Swan, is what balletomanes live for. When she departed three years ago for her native Georgia and motherhood, her fans were devastated. Her return, although in few performances, this Season, has been awaited breathlessly. To see her showcased in her infamous interpretation of Odile is existential. Ms. Ananiashvili is a star, Bolshoi-trained, whose supple arms become wings, as she invokes Odette, the White Swan, during her seduction of Prince Siegfried, at the end of his palace ball. His split decision to betroth her shifts the fate of Odette, who will remain a swan forever.
Ms. Ananiashvili was all smiles at this triumph, exuding guile and will, as Siegfried succumbs to her sensational sexuality. Ms. Ananiashvili possesses skill that makes her a model for all ballerinas, in the effort to mesh technique and theatricality. Angel Corella never slows down, year after year outdoing himself in spins, leaps, backward lunges, and more. His charisma matched his partner's, and they received vocal accolades throughout. Charles Barker kept up with Ms. Ananiashvili's 32 fouettés.
Manon, Act I Pas de Deux: Choreography by Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Music by Jules Massenet, Costumes by Nicholas Giorgiadis, Performed by Julie Kent and Jose Manuel Carreño, Conductor: Charles Barker. Julie Kent and Jose Manuel Carreño brought back the rapturous bedroom scene, as Des Grieux is interrupted at his desk by the sizzling Manon. The choreography was grounded, but there were lyrical lifts, and, at one point, Ms. Kent was tossed within a circular embrace. Charles Barker allowed the Massenet score to shine.
La Bayadère, Act I Excerpts: Choreography by Natalia Makarova after Marius Petipa, Music by Ludwig Minkus, specially arranged by John Lanchbery, production conceived and directed by Natalia Makarova, Scenery by Pierluigi Samaritini, Costumes designed by Theoni V. Aldredge, Production Coordinator, Dina Makarova, Performed by Paloma Herrera, David Hallberg, Gillian Murphy, Ethan Steifel, and the Company, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins.
For the eighth and final presentation tonight, La Bayadère book-ended the Gala with excerpts from four scenes. Paloma Herrera and David Hallberg were Nikiya and Solor, with internalized fire and lush partnering. The Samaritini sets and Theoni Aldredge costumes were brought out with their brilliantly contrasting colors. Gillian Murphy, as Gamzatti, who woos Solor and deceives Nikiya, was at her shining best, with Ethan Steifel as Solor, back from a long injury. Mr. Steifel is obviously in splendid shape, and he excelled in his Variation with aplomb. I would have liked to see this duo together in more connected choreography; perhaps during the Season. Ms. Murphy has plush power and full focus, as she darts in elevation with exact timing and stretched limbs. Mr. Steifel has become again the daring dancer that we remember, and his classicism in the role was persuasive. Ormsby Wilkins kept it all together.
Kudos to ABT for a great preview of Spring 2007 Season. You can explore the ABT Season schedule and buy tickets at www.abt.org.
Michele Wiles in The Sleeping Beauty.
Photo courtesy of MIRA