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Nilas Martins Dance Company at Dicapo Opera Theatre in Puccini Passion!
-Onstage with the Dancers

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Dicapo Opera Theatre
Michael Capasso, General Director
Diane Martindale, Artistic Director
184 East 76th Street
New York, NY


The Nilas Martins Dance Company

Puccini Passion!
Principal, Soloists, and Corps Dancers of the
New York City Ballet
Dancers from
The Ailey School and School of American Ballet
Guest Dancer, Monique Meunier
Julianna Di Giacomo, Soprano
John Matz, Tenor
Pacien Mazzagatti, Conducting and Piano
Bryony Stroud-Watson, Violin
Ella Toovy, Cello

Shuman Associates, Press
Robert Lombardo & Associates, Press
Managing Director, Nilas Martins Dance Company

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 25, 2006

Originally Published on


"Puccini Passion", Choreography: Nilas Martins, Music: Giacomo Puccini, Preludio Sinfonico, Yvonne Borree and Tyler Angle, Ellen Bar, Ashley Laracey and Tiler Peck, all from New York City Ballet.

"Puccini Pieces" - Fragments of Life, Choreography Nilas Martins, Music: Giacomo Puccini (arranged by Nilas Martins), Preludio a orchestra, Scherzo, Adagetto, Prelude Act II, Manon Lescaut, Marcia Brillante, Nicholas Daum, Lynorris Evans, Yannick LeBrun, Rachel McLaren, Aisha Mitchell, and Kevin Petit, all from The Ailey School, and Masahiro Suehara, from School of American Ballet.

"Puccini Arias":
Torna ai felici di from Le Villi, Choreography: Albert Evans, Ashley Laracey and Tyler Angle, from New York City Ballet, John Matz, tenor.

'Se come voi io fossi o vaghi fior' from Le Villi, Choreography: Stephen Pier, Monique Meunier, solo guest artist, Julianna Di Giacomo, soprano, a performance in memory of Anna Moffo.

'Torna ai felici di' from Le Villi, Choreography: Alexandre Proia, Natasha Diamond-Walker and Ephriam Sykes, from The Ailey School, John Matz, tenor.

"Puccini Songs", Eleven Songs by Giacomo Puccini, Choreography: Nilas Martins: A te, Salve Regina!, Storiella d'amore, Ad una morta, Mentia l'avviso, E l'uccellino, Morire?, Casa mia,casa mia, Sole e amore, Sogno d'or, Terra e mare: Ellen Bar, Jason Fowler, Amar Ramasar, Daniel Ulbricht, Ashley Laracey and Tiler Peck, New York City Ballet, Julianna Di Giacomo, soprano, John Matz, tenor, Pacien Mazzagatti, pianist.

Nilas Martins, Principal dancer with New York City Ballet, is also Artistic Director of Nilas Martins Dance Company. Tonight's performance of new dances to arias of Puccini, a composer much admired by Mr. Martins, brought together members of New York City Ballet, The Ailey School, School of American Ballet, and one guest artist, plus a tenor, soprano, pianist, violinist, and cellist. This was a well conceived program with varied dance genres, all choreographed to Puccini's operatic arias and symphonic preludes. In addition to Mr. Martins own choreography, Albert Evans, a Principal with New York City Ballet, Stephen Pier, of The Juilliard School, and Alexandre Proia, who has choreographed for his own company and The Ailey School, were also invited to create works for Puccini Passion!.

Puccini Pieces, the opening work, danced by members of New York City Ballet, shows rapture and brooding, all with soft, sensitive lines. Mr. Martins choreographed this work with flowing lyricism and partnered lifts, somewhat evocative of the finest in City Ballet repertoire. Costumes were pale or white and Susan Roth's lighting created a dim solo spotlight for Tyler Angle, an effective ending. Ms. Borree, City Ballet Principal, seemed radiant and delighted to be participating in this special presentation. Ms. Bar, Ms. Laracey, and Ms. Peck showed grace and poise.

Puccini Pieces, danced by members of The Ailey School and one member of School of American Ballet, was choreographed by Mr. Martins, as well. Deeper textures and mature emotionality were evident in this work, with black leotards and black pants, allowing for a starker image. Interweaving music, merging from ethereal to pastoral, had dancers exiting and entering between darkened stage pausing for new scenes. The dancers, in Ailey fashion, were strong and muscular, and Masahiro Suehara was a tiny tornado in the midst of this windy work.

The three Puccini Arias from the opera Le Villi were sung by John Matz, tenor, of Hamburg State Opera, and Julianna Di Giacomo, soprano, of New York City Opera. Mr. Matz sang with vocal passion and persuasive professionalism in this tale of star-crossed lovers, separated by seduction and vengeance. He was always in the driven mood that the two arias required. Ms. Di Giacomo was also resonant and resilient in vocalism, and her personal presentation was impressive. Her character has been betrayed by a fiancée and turned into a Wili, a ghost who dances in the night and entraps unfaithful lovers in the forest. In this extracted concert version, Ms. Di Giacomo maintained a perfect level of theatricality.

In the first Le Villi aria, choreographed by Albert Evans, the City Ballet dancers were lyrical, sometimes dancing in the operatic rhythm and sometimes dancing in a contrasting rhythm, but always with Evans' signature sensuality and poise. In the second aria, sung by the soprano and choreographed by Stephen Pier, Monique Meunier danced solo with a sense of loneliness, synthesizing the dramatic pain and anger in the opera, Le Villi. She was not en pointe, but rather danced somewhat in the style of Isadora Duncan. In the third Le Villi aria, choreographed by Alexandre Proia, two dancers from The Ailey School were mesmerizing in slow acrobatics and athleticism, as well as powerful technique.

The eleven Puccini Songs, again sung by John Matz and Julianna Di Giacomo and expertly accompanied on piano by Pacien Mazzagatti, were choreographed by Nilas Martins, who is an opera aficionado. Dancers from City Ballet, including the "tornado-dancer", Daniel Ulbricht, and Ellen Bar, Jason Fowler, Amar Ramasar, Ashley Laracey, and Tiler Peck, performed with pastoral romanticism, and, for the women, wore pink ruffles. They sprung into cartwheels, shoulder leaps, upside down turns, lightning spins, and punctuated kisses. Ms. DiGiacomo and Mr. Matz were equally entertaining in their rapturous vocalizations and facial enhancements. The piano, cello, violin trio was always synchronized with singers and dancers, no small feat.

Kudos to Michael Capasso and Nilas Martins for conceptualizing this rare and multi-dimensional program to bring to life the best of Puccini's passionate music and lyrics. I look forward to future operatic-balletic collaborations by this classy duo. Kudos to all the guest dancers, the soprano and tenor, the musical ensemble, and the Nilas Martins Dance Company and Nilas Martins Dance Foundation, including the leadership of Robert Lombardo, Managing Director, for creating this unique debut.

Michael Capasso, General Director, Dicapo Opera Theatre
Photo courtesy of Dicapo Opera Theatre

Ashley Laracey and Ramar Amasar - Puccini songs
Photo courtesy of Rosella Rivera-Dicapo Opera Theater

Ellen Bar, Jason Fowler, Daniel Ulbricht and Tiler Peck - Puccini Songs
Photo courtesy of Rosella Rivera-Dicapo Opera Theater

Rachel McLaren and Nicholas Daum in Puccini Pieces (c. Nilas Martins)
Photo courtesy of Dicapo Opera Theatre

Masahiro Suehara and Company in Puccini Pieces (c. Nilas Martins)
Photo courtesy of Dicapo Opera Theatre

Le Villi Anna's Aria (c. Stephen Pier) Monique Meunier
Photo courtesy of Dicapo Opera Theatre

Puccini Arias - Company Call - Musicians, Singers, Dancers and Choreographers
Photo courtesy of Dicapo Opera Theatre

Puccini Songs - Morire - Ashley Laracey and Amar Ramasar
Photo courtesy of Dicapo Opera Theatre

Puccini Songs - Terra e Mare Finale - (L-R) Ashley Laracey, Ellen Bar, Tyler Peck, Amar Ramasar, (Daniel Ulbricht) and Jason Fowler
Photo courtesy of Dicapo Opera Theatre

Dancers from The Ailey School
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Daniel Ulbricht
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Nilas Martins, Artistic Director, Nilas Martins Dance Company, Jason Fowler, Monique Meunier, Amar Ramasar
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Robert Lombardo, Managing Director, Nilas Martins Dance Company, and Julianna Di Giacomo, Soprano
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

John Matz, Tenor
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at