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American Ballet Theatre: Swan Lake 2011, Jose Manuel Carreño’s Farewell

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American Ballet Theatre

Swan Lake 2011
Jose Manuel Carreño’s Farewell

Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susan Morgan, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 30, 2011

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Swan Lake (1877, Moscow; 2000, ABT): Choreography by Kevin McKenzie after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Set and Costumes by Zack Brown, Lighting by Duane Schuler, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins.

Performed by Julie Kent as Odette, Gillian Murphy as Odile, Jose Manuel Carreño as Prince Siegfried, Susan Jaffe as The Queen Mother, Victor Barbee as Wolfgang, tutor to the prince, Joaquin De Luz as Benno, the Prince’s friend, Isaac Stappas and David Hallberg as von Rothbart, Sarah Lane, Yuriko Kajiya, Joaquin De Luz as Pas de Trois, Gemma Bond, Marian Butler, Misty Copeland, Maria Riccetto as Cygnettes, Simone Messmer and Melanie Hamrick as Two Swans, Victor Barbee as Master of Ceremonies, Misty Copeland as The Hungarian Princess, Luciana Paris as The Spanish Princess, Renata Pavam as The Italian Princess, Isabella Boylston as The Polish Princess, Simone Messmer and Julio Bragado-Young as Lead Czardas, Melanie Hamrick, Roman Zhurbin, Karen Uphoff, and Alexandre Hammoudi as Spanish Dance, Joseph Phillips and Craig Salstein as Neapolitan, and the Company as The Aristocrats, The Peasants, Swans, Czardas, and Mazurka.

Swan Lake was first produced in 1877 by the Russian imperial Ballet at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre. In 1895, the Petipa/Ivanov choreography was introduced in St. Petersburg, and in 1940 ABT staged Act II, followed in 1944 by the premier of the Black Swan Pas de Deux at the Metropolitan Opera House. In 1988 Mikhail Baryshnikov staged a new version for ABT, and in 1993 Kevin McKenzie re-staged this piece for ABT and again newly produced Swan Lake in 2000. (Program Notes).

Like most balletomanes, I dreaded but equally anticipated this night, Jose Manuel Carreño’s Farewell. I saw him dance and win competitions, before he was even with Ballet Theatre, and I’ve followed his successful career and his elegant transformation for decades. For Swan Lake to be his Farewell ballet makes a statement. He is not letting go of the virtuosic challenges (I’m sure he will still guest star in New York, Havana, and elsewhere), and he loves dramatic theatre. He chose Julie Kent as Prince Siegfried’s Odette, the white swan, and Gillian Murphy as Odile, the black swan. This was exciting enough, a double cast for the double role, but he also chose Joaquin De Luz, a former Ballet Theatre soloist and a good friend, to cross the Plaza as Siegfried’s Benno. A former Odette-Odile, Susan Jaffe, now a Ballet Master, took the role of Siegfried’s mother, the Queen. As von Rothbart, another virtuoso, David Hallberg, arrived for the Ballroom scene, with Isaac Stappas as von Rothbart in the lakeside scenes. The entire evening was filled with power, pulse, and pyrotechnics.

Mr. Carreño showed everyone that he’s still charged up, a premier danseur on Energizer batteries. He lit up the stage with en air double turns, fast-slow spins, his signature backward leaps, and all the while beaming with joy. From the moment Siegfried arrives, walking down to his Birthday Party, the audience went wild. There were numerous show-stoppers, most involving Mr. Carreño, some during his partnering of Odette or Odile, and some during cast solos. The most esoteric moments were during Acts II and IV, while Mr. Carreño danced with Ms. Kent as Odette. In both lakeside scenes, Ms. Kent was languorously elegant, poignant, and refined. Sometimes, I wanted her to let go and add more spirit to the scene, but this was a night in history, and she gave it her professionalism and prestige. Their pas de deux were sumptuous and pathos driven. Ms. Kent seemed sorrowful to lose this partner, as she had also danced this season with Mr. Carreño in Bright Stream and Giselle.

As Odile, Ms. Murphy was on fire, no restraint there. Her “Black Swan Pas de Deux” in Act III brought out multiple turns, in half of the 32 fouettés, to the vocal hysteria of the crowd. Ms. Murphy used unconventional speed and dazzling flirtation to make this Act one for ballet history. Of course it helped that her other leading premier danseur was von Rothbart, at the Ball, Mr. Hallberg. Mr. Hallberg bent to whisper to his “daughter” Odile, who dances in the guise of Odette, and, at times, Ms. Murphy seemed to morph into her steel-spine character, Myrta (from Giselle), who drives men off cliffs, but here with a glint and a gleam. The chemistry between Ms. Murphy, Mr. Hallberg, and Mr. Carreño, all at the same time, was palpable and real. This is what makes for memorable ballet, especially requisite to Farewell performances. Mr. Hallberg made much of seducing the Queen, with Ms. Jaffe looking delighted to be onstage again, especially in Swan Lake, a prominent ballet in her repertoire.

Joaquin De Luz, who had made the stunning switch between Lincoln Center based ballet companies, seemed barely recognized at first by the crowd, perhaps unfamiliar with his presence across the Plaza. The longstanding bond between Mr. De Luz and Mr. Carreño is thick, the former from Spain, the latter from Cuba, and their stage camaraderie was real. Mr. De Luz danced the Pas de Trois with Yuriko Kajiya and Sarah Lane, two Soloists. Mr. De Luz and Ms. Kajiya each danced with scintillating dynamics and riveting stylizations. Ms. Lane, in contrast, seemed self-conscious, overly coy, less mature. Yet, the Pas de Trois was a worthwhile mini-ballet in itself, with some outstanding flashes. Victor Barbee, as Wolfgang the tutor, and as Master of Ceremonies at the Ball, seemed equally entrenched in the moment, full of gesture and regality. The four Cygnettes, who dance in synchronized steps and quick-step mime, were Gemma Bond, Marian Butler, Misty Copeland, and Maria Riccetto, two each from Corps and Soloists. They were splendid. The Two Swans were Simone Messmer and Melanie Hamrick, both visually luminous and stylistically polished.

Among the Act III Princesses at the Ball, Misty Copeland and Isabella Boylston, respectively Hungarian and Polish Princesses, drew me in, while among the international dance guests, Simone Messmer and Julio Bragado-Young, dancing Czardas, were outstanding. Melanie Hamrick and Roman Zhurbin stood out among four in the Spanish Dance, and Craig Salstein and Joseph Phillips wowed the audience in the athletic Neapolitan. Ormsby Wilkins conducted this very special event with aplomb, drawing out the violin solos and percussive effects with orchestral acuity. At the Curtain, many VIP guests in the ballet community arrived for the final farewell, including Julio Bocca from Argentina, Alessandra Ferri, and a stage of ABT ballet luminaries, past and present. Mr. Carreño’s two daughters came out with bouquets, to add to the mountain of flowers and confetti. But it was Mr. Carreño, solo, standing, bowing, arms out, hands to heart, even kneeling, that gripped the screaming, crying crowd. Yes, this was a great night for balletomanes and a great night for American Ballet Theatre. Kudos to Jose Manuel Carreño. I hope we see you again soon, onstage, in whatever event or venue.

Gillian Murphy and Jose Manuel Carreño
in "Swan Lake"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Julie Kent and Jose Manuel Carreño
in "Swan Lake"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Jose Manuel Carreño
in "Swan Lake"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Jose Manuel Carreño
in a Farewell Curtain Call
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

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