American Ballet Theatre
Swan Lake 2013
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-Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 19, 2013
(Read More ABT Reviews)
Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins
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.
Performed by Isabella Boylston as Odette-Odile, Daniil Simkin as Prince Siegfried, Nancy Raffa as The Queen Mother, Clinton Luckett as Wolfgang, tutor to the prince, Joseph Gorack as Benno, the Prince’s friend, Roman Zhurbin and Jared Matthews as von Rothbart, Misty Copeland, Simone Messmer, Joseph Gorack as Pas de Trois, Skylar Brandt, Luciana Paris, Sarah Lane, Yuriko Kajiya as Cygnettes, Christine Shevchenko and Melanie Hamrick as Two Swans, Clinton Luckett as Master of Ceremonies, Marian Butler as The Hungarian Princess, Sarah Lane as The Spanish Princess, Gemma Bond as The Italian Princess, Yuriko Kajiya as The Polish Princess, Zhong-Jing Fang and Julio Bragado-Young as Lead Czardas, Devon Teuscher, Thomas Forster, Jessica Saund, Daniel Mantei as Spanish Dance, Grant DeLong and Blaine Hoven 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).
Tonight’s Swan Lake performance, with Soloist, Isabella Boylston, in a lead role, as Odette-Odile, partnered by Principal, Daniil Simkin, was a very mixed experience. Ms. Boylston was refreshing, rare, absorbing, while Mr. Simkin was “small” of expressiveness, command, and style. His actual smallness of stature would not have been an issue with an Odette of similar size, except that Mr. Simkin is not a dramatic interpreter. He tries: he grimaces, winces, looks sad, looks lonely, and can chase a swan with rapid leaps and en air turns. But, his athleticism and technical alacrity mean nothing in a poignant, full-length classical ballet. One is left wanting. It was as if, tonight, two separate and divergent performances were happening, which may have worked in a free-wheeling comic ballet, like The Bright Stream or Baker’s Dozen. But, this being the quintessential, annual re-visiting of Swan Lake , the experience morphed into a letdown, as Ms. Boylston, no matter how lovely her undulating back and arms, no matter how poised her pirouettes, no matter how feverish her fouettés, could not shake Mr. Simkin’s childish posing and gymnastic grandstanding from the vision of the stage. He was, at times, altogether cartoonish, a caricature of Siegfried, not an embodiment. In fact, in the Act III “Black Swan Pas de Deux” with Odile, the pièce de résistance of this ballet, Mr. Simkin’s histrionics seemed more like a ballet competition than a ballet chef-d’oeuvre.
Joseph Gorack was Benno, and his performance was everything that was lacking in the lead. Mr. Gorack seems well suited to try out the more prominent roles, with his balance, charisma, and stage humility. His technique has been astounding for years, but he so far remains in the Corps. Roman Zhurbin was a frightening and menacing von Rothbart, at the lake, while Jared Matthews was overly campy and self-possessed as von Rothbart at the ball. When he danced with Nancy Raffa, who played the Queen Mother, he kissed her hand too often, or so it seemed, with unctuous stage presence. There are many other dancers who could take on this role of import, as that ballroom scene is so requisite to the turning point in mood and energy of this masterpiece. Ms. Raffa is a seasoned character actor and was marvelous as Siegfried’s strong mother. In the Pas de Trois, Mr. Matthews danced with Misty Copeland and Simone Messmer, two of the most fascinating Soloists. Here, with little drama and much dance, Mr. Matthews was in his prime. Four Cygnettes dance an iconic, repetitive, synchronized Pas de Quatre, and all danced with splendid timing and affect: Skylar Brandt, Luciana Paris, Sarah Lane, and Yuriko Kajiya. Ms. Kajiya deserves more prominent roles, as well, with her ingénue sincerity of performance, always exuding musicality.
Clinton Luckett was a perfect Wolfgang and perfect Master of Ceremonies, and Christine Shevchenko and Melanie Hamrick danced with pulse in “Two Swans”. The four Princesses were Marian Butler, Sarah Lane, Gemma Bond, and Yuriko Kajiya, and all caught my eye. However, as they line up to meet, then dance with Siegfried, Mr. Simkin’s lack of visual connection was inconsistent with past memories of this lyrical segment. Zhong-Jing Fang and Julio Bragado-Young led the sumptuous Czardas, with eloquence and energy. Devon Teuscher, Thomas Forster, Jessica Saund, and Daniel Mantei led the Spanish Dance with fervor, and Grant DeLong and Blaine Hoven led the Neapolitan with speed and personality. Ormsby Wilkins conducted with warmth and brio. Kudos to Isabella Boylston for her refined and refreshing interpretation of Odette-Odile, and her ability to shine in her spotlight.
Isabella Boylston and Daniil Simkin
in "Swan Lake"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone