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New York City Ballet: Fall Gala: See the Music, Ocean’s Kingdom
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New York City Ballet: Fall Gala: See the Music, Ocean’s Kingdom

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New York City Ballet
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Fall Gala:
See the Music
Ocean’s Kingdom

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children’s Ballet Master, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Fayçal Karoui
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects, Robert Daniels
Manager, Media Relations, Katharina Plumb
Assoc., Communications & Special Projects, Caitlin Gillette
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 22, 2011

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Fayçal Karoui

See the Music… A musical exploration of Paul McCartney’s score for Ocean’s Kingdom, Featuring Music Director Fayçal Karoui and the New York City Ballet Orchestra.

Tonight’s commissioned composition for Ocean’s Kingdom, by Paul McCartney, who also wrote the libretto, was introduced to the Gala audience by both Peter Martins, who choreographed the ballet, with gracious remarks and a toast of English tea, and Maestro Fayçal Karoui, who led the “See the Music…” segment once again. Mr. Martins stood on stage, and Mr. McCartney created a pretend air guitar refrain, at his center parterre seat. The mood tonight was exciting, as the paparazzi had been at the red carpet to catch the arriving glitterati, especially Mr. McCartney, his fiancée, and his daughter, Stella McCartney, who designed the costumes for this ballet. Maestro Karoui rose on high with City Ballet Orchestra, from the pit, and we got a taste of the debut score, with sound bites from each of the four movements.

The score began with symphonic rapture, exuding elements of Broadway and Hollywood. There was a sense of longing, reflection, harmony, and broken silences. I heard solo brass and what seemed a bassoon, followed by percussive excerpts that build in dynamism, with bells, cymbals, flute, and timpani. My side parterre seat was perfectly suited to view the orchestral musicians and Maestro Karoui, who kept entertaining and lecturing, to lead the audience into musical meanings. Clearly City Ballet had invested considerably in this premiere work, and the Company created a team effort in its initial introduction. In fact, in rare presentation, Ocean’s Kingdom was the solo ballet on the Gala program..

Ocean’s Kingdom (World Premiere): Music and Libretto by Paul McCartney (commissioned by New York City Ballet), Music Arranged by John Wilson and Paul McCartney, Orchestrations by Andrew Cottee, Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Stella McCartney, Video & Projection Design by S. Katy Tucker, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Scenery by Perry Silvey, Costume Supervision by Marc Happel, Production Stage Manager: Marguerite Mehler, Makeup by Pat McGrath, Printed Fabrics by Dyenamix, Hair by Eugene Souleiman, Performed by Sara Mearns as Honorata, Robert Fairchild as Prince Stone, Amar Ramasar as King Terra, Georgina Pazcoguin as Scala, Christian Tworzyanski as King Ocean, Daniel Ulbricht as Lead Entertainer, Megan LeCrone and Craig Hall as Exotic Couple, Savannah Lowery and Emily Kikta as Amazon Women, Anthony Huxley, Allen Peiffer, David Prottas as Drunken Lords, and the Company as Water Maidens, Terra Punks, Courtiers, and Handmaidens.

Princess Honorata and her father, Ocean Kingdom, live in an underwater kingdom. Scala is in charge of Honorata’s handmaidens, and she’s sinister. King Terra, of the earthly kingdom, arrives underwater, with his younger brother, Prince Stone. They invite the underwater characters to a ball, while Prince Stone already is enamored by Honorata. At the Grand Hall of Dance, the guests watch acrobatics, interrupted by three drunken lords. When King Ocean and Honorata arrive, King Terra’s henchmen create terror. Prince Stone and Princess Honorata build on their attraction, as the rivalry between the earth and underwater characters intensifies. Soon King Terra kidnaps Honorata, assisted by Scala and the henchmen.

Princess Honorata is imprisoned in Terra’s palace, but Stone comes to her rescue. He fights Terra for her release, helped by Scala, who’s now on Honorata’s side, and the lovers reunite and embrace. Scala, Stone, and Honorata dash into the moonlight, chased by Terra and his warriors. Scala tries to stop this army, by magically creating a storm that swallows them all, including herself. Stone and Honorata find the friendly army of the Ocean Kingdom and return to celebrations of honor. Scala’s spirit is seen again, blessing Honorata and Stone. (Assisted by City Ballet Program Notes)

One of the most prominent features of this ballet is the Stella McCartney costumes, with Honorata and the Handmaidens in filmy blues and greens of the ocean, an elegant sight. The two-level skirt and train shimmered like seaweed and fish fins, floating and gliding with the choreography. Sara Mearns, as Honorata, and her Handmaidens were a dream-like vision in these costumes, with material reaching from the waist to the neck, in revealing results. The Water Maidens were in similar mellow pastels. Craig Hall and Megan LeCrone, an Exotic Couple, were in yellow unitards, with Mr. Hall bare chested. Scala, Georgina Pazcoguin, had a long, dark blue-green filmy costume, with an expansive cape and plunging neckline, similar to Honorata’s costume.

King Terra, Amar Ramasar, was in a Mohican headpiece, black studded jacket, and black tights, with tattoos about his unitard, similar to Stone’s (Robert Fairchild) and those of the Terra Punks. Christian Tworzyanski, King Ocean, matched the blues of his daughter, Honorata, but with crown and cape, while Daniel Ulbricht, as the Leader of the Entertainers, had a fluffy clown wig and colorful tights. Also colorful were the Drunken Lords, but the Terra Punks wore Mohican headpieces, black geometrically layered vests, and tattooed tights.

Mr. McCartney’s music was expressive and eclectic, not at all what I was expecting, as a former Beatle fan. I was transported by the repetitive computerized refrains that Mr. McCartney composed on an online program at his Sussex, England recording studio. He had been working on an underwater theme prior to this commission, and it was well suited to this collaboration with Mr. Martins. It had themes of adventure and combat, it had yearning solo strings, it had romantically infused euphoria, and it had combinations of rambunctious jazz, refined classicism, searing atonality, and percussive fireworks.

Mr. Martins’ choreography meshed with libretto and score, and, at times, I thought this would make a fantastic animated film for all ages, akin to Disney’s Fantasia In fact, I could just see the shadowy profile of Maestro Karoui, much like that of Leopold Stokowski. The Terra Punks and Handmaidens are the stuff of imagination, and Mr. McCartney’s digital score would be so suited to the animation process. Meanwhile, here, tonight, Mr. Martins’ vision was well received by the audience, with numerous curtain calls. The several, impassioned pas de deux for Stone and Honorata reminded me of those he created for his Romeo + Juliet, with languorous lifts and lush embraces. When Honorata is imprisoned in a cube of Marc Stanley’s beams of light, she moves with flashes of terror, but when she’s rescued in the heat of battle, the lovers’ reunion is well contrasted to the theatrics of Terra and his Punks. The Punk ensemble dances with long leg leaps and a foot on knee, tilted motif that was quite theatrical.

The choreography for the Exotic Couple, in yellow, was sinewy, reminiscent of the exotic pas de deux in Mr. Martins’ Swan Lake ballroom scene. Scala’s entrances and exits were powerfully fashioned, and Daniel Ulbricht’s entertainer solos were similar to his Jester in Swan Lake, with rapid spins, high jumping jacks, en air leaps, and tumbles. King Terra was a swashbuckling malevolent, and Prince Stone was a courageous, fearless lover, all thanks to Mr. Martins’ choreographic design. As for the cast, Ms. Mearns and Mr. Fairchild were stunning and surreal as the fantasy lovers, throwing themselves into the musicality and plot. Mr. Ramasar, too, a fascinating dancer to watch, brought thunder to his role and enhanced the excitement of the Punks.

Ms. Pazcoguin, who should be seen in more solos, has expansive personality, especially in these fiery roles (think about her Anita in West Side Story Suite). Mr. Hall, particularly, is a dancer who needs more showcasing, and his “exotic” partnering of a long-limbed Ms. LeCrone was mesmerizing. Savannah Lowery and Emily Kikta, as Amazon Women, added muscle, as the remaining women onstage were Handmaidens, Water Maidens, and Courtiers. Mr. Huxley, Mr. Peiffer, and Mr. Prottas were vaudevillian Drunken Lords, comically careening about, and Mr. Tworzyanski was regal and steady, as King Ocean. An added effect was a series of videos and projections, and the minimal scenery, by Perry Silvey, was also effective. As mentioned above, many curtain calls brought the cast and creators to the stage’s edge with bouquets and applause. Kudos to Paul McCartney, and kudos to Peter Martins, for this new underwater fantasy ballet.

Sara Mearns and Robert Fairchild in
Martins'- McCartney's "Ocean's Kingdom"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Sara Mearns and Robert Fairchild in
Martins - McCartney's "Ocean's Kingdom"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Amar Ramasar and the Company in
Martins - McCartney's "Ocean's Kingdom"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Amar Ramasar, Sara Mearns,
Robert Fairchild, Georgina Pazcoguin in
Martins - McCartney's "Ocean's Kingdom"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Peter Martins, Paul McCartney, Sara Mearns,
and the Company at the Curtain of
Martins - McCartney's "Ocean's Kingdom"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

The Company, Conductor, Designers, Peter Martins,
Paul McCartney, Sara Mearns at the Curtain of
Martins - McCartney's "Ocean's Kingdom"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Paul McCartney and Peter Martins
Take a Bow at the Curtain of
Martins - McCartney's "Ocean's Kingdom"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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