American Ballet Theatre
Ballet in two Acts
Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Guillaume Graffin, Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Georgina Parkinson, Kirk Peterson
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 8, 2005
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Raymonda (2004): Choreography by Anna-Marie Holmes after Marius Petipa, conceived and directed by Anna-Marie Holmes and Kevin McKenzie, Music by Alexander Glazounov, adapted by Ormsby Wilkins, Scenery, Costumes, and Set Design by Zack Brown, Lighting by Steen Bjarke, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Gillian Murphy as Raymonda, Angel Corella as Jean de Brienne, Jesus Pastor as Abderakhman, Misty Copeland as Henrietta, Sarah Lane as Clemence, Craig Salstein as Bernard, Carlos Lopez as Beranger, Monique Meunier as Countess Sybelle, Anna Liceica as White Lady, Kirk Peterson as Seneschal, Luciana Paris and Danny Tidwell, lead Saracen Dancers, Carmen Corella and Vitali Krauchenka, lead Spanish Dancers, Karin Ellis-Wentz, lead Grand Pas Hongrois dancers, and the Company as Maids of Honor, Troubadours, Assistant to Abderakhman, Saracen Children, Waltz Couples, Vision Dancers, Saracen Dancers, Spanish Dancers, Grand Pas Hongrois Dancers, Grand Pas Classique Dancers, Variation Dancers, Pas de Quatre Dancers, and Finale/Grand Finale Dancers.
This production of Raymonda was given its preview at City Center in the 2004 Fall Season. A previous production, in 1975, choreographed by Petipa and restaged by Nureyev was also premiered at ABT, with lead dancers Rudolf Nureyev as Jean de Brienne, Cynthia Gregory as Raymonda, and Eric Bruhn as Abderakhman. (ABT Notes).
The plot of this almost plotless ballet concerns Raymonda's birthday, planned by the seneschal, and the guests play music, dance, and fence to celebrate. Countess Sybelle arrives with Jean de Brienne, a suitor of Raymonda, and she warns the guests to think of the statue of the White Lady, who can cast a spell on those who do not abide by traditions. Abderakhman also arrives, a Saracen knight, who tries to win Raymonda with precious jewels. The two suitors begin to compete, and Raymonda falls asleep.
In the Dream Vision, the White Lady appears and leads Raymonda to a misty garden and then Jean de Brienne. When they stop dancing, Abderakhman appears and dances with Raymonda. Raymonda eventually faints from exhaustion, and, on awakening, she is confused between the two suitors and whom to wed. At the Palace again, Abderakhman offers a Spanish dance to woo Raymonda and then Raymonda dances with both. She chooses Jean de Brienne, who is then foolishly challenged to a duel by Abderakhman, who becomes wounded and quickly flees. And, then a "happy" ending with a happy reunion. (ABT Notes).
Another upbeat, storybook ending tonight, although I still think the Saracen knight has more depth and passion than the politically correct, adorable prince. In order to maximize Raymonda's underlying themes of youthful indecision and heart-stopping attraction, the principals need to be compelling and forthright in their dramatization and partnering. Unfortunately, Gillian Murphy was a stylized and technically pure dancer, devoid of charisma and characterization tonight. This should have been a perfect role for Ms. Murphy, as the story line is simple and generic. Ms. Murphy is an internalized and restrained dancer, with accelerated agility and physical energy. She overtly relates so little to her partners, that there was little to witness in her desire for either or both of these dashing men. Full-length ballet requires full-bodied expressiveness.
Angel Corella, the quintessential suitor, gazed upon his beloved at every moment, in partnered passages, but his attention was not absorbed. Although Mr. Corella had little buoyant, bravura dance opportunities, his presence was always mesmerizing. Jesus Pastor, the Saracen, Abderakhman, is a soloist to watch. This man was hot. He breathed fire and fury, and his duel with Jean de Brienne was daring and devilish. He wanted Raymonda more than life itself, and this emotion was exuded prominently and poignantly. Monique Meunier was perfectly cast as Countess Sybelle, with matronly poise and graceful elegance. Anna Liceica, White Lady, danced an exceptional solo, and Kirk Peterson, Seneschal, was courtly and collected. The dream sequence, as in all ballet dream sequences, was misty and mystical, as Raymonda tries to choose between two impassioned suitors. If only the passion had been returned from time to time.
Raymonda's friends, in and around the Palace courtyard and garden, became part of the pastel, lacy imagery of resplendent, fancy sets and costumes. Raymonda's wedding scene was authentically Disneyesque, in the animated sense of the term, with a rainbow of bright, pure colors, Spanish, Saracen, and Hungarian, ethnic dance, and many variations. I expected to see tiny birds, squirrels, and rabbits frolicking about. This is a family-friendly, genuinely joyous and warm ballet, not deep, but always delightful. Even Abderakhman's exit, following his loss in the duel, is handled with humorous lifts and lighthearted music.
Kudos to Zack Brown for costumes, sets, and scenery, and kudos to Charles Barker for his interpretation of Glazounov's resonant score.