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New York City Ballet: Fall Gala 2014: Morgen, This Bitter Earth, Clearing Dawn, Funerailles, Belles-Lettres
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New York City Ballet: Fall Gala 2014: Morgen, This Bitter Earth, Clearing Dawn, Funerailles, Belles-Lettres

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Fall Gala 2014
This Bitter Earth
Clearing Dawn

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, Dena Abergel
Orchestra, Interim Music Director, Andrews Sill
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects, Robert Daniels
Manager, Media Relations, Katharina Plumb
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 23, 2014

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Morgen (2001): Music by Richard Strauss (Songs for Soprano and Orchestra), Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Carolina Herrera, Costumes supervised by Marc Happel, Scenery by Alain Vaes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrews Sill, Soprano: Jennifer Zetlan, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Maria Kowroski, Sara Mearns, Ask la Cour, Justin Peck, Amar Ramasar. Richard Strauss was known for tone poems and operas, with the illustration of life’s constant struggles. (NYCB Notes).

Tonight’s distinctive Gala included numerous new choreographies. The opening ballet, however, Peter Martins’ Morgen, featuring la crème de la crème of City Ballet Principals, was created in 2001, to songs and orchestral music by Richard Strauss, ably conducted tonight by Andrews Sill. Carolina Herrera designed three rapturous new costumes, in white, peach, and blue-black (or so the lighting made them seem). Another first for tonight’s Gala was the inclusion of fashion glitterati in the spectacles, that is costume design debuts for each of the five works, and Ms. Herrera’s were stunning. Also, Jennifer Zetlan, tonight’s soprano, showed an astounding vocal range with lush tonality. This Martins work shone brightly, as the opening ballet for Fall Season.

Sterling Hyltin, in a short white dress, was sequentially partnered by Ask la Cour, Justin Pack, and Amar Ramasar, as each female Principal had a turn with each male dancer. Mr. Peck is a Soloist and also Resident Choreographer, whose newest ballet is featured as tonight’s finale. Alain Vaes’ simplified, romantic scenery adds a magical ambiance. Maria Kowroski wore a medium-length peach gown, with Sara Mearns in long, midnight blue-black. As each song was performed, the women shift partners, with lifts, tosses, chases, spins, leaps, and other rapturous effects, all to swoon by. Peter Martins’ Morgen remains one of my favorite ballets in the Company’s repertoire.

This Bitter Earth (Excerpt from Five Movements, Three Repeats) (2012): Music by Max Richter and Dinah Washington (from the modern picture soundtrack from “Shutter Island”, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Reid Bartelme, Lighting by Mary Louise Geiger, Performed by Wendy Whelan and Tyler Angle.

This 2012 Wheeldon work is a showcase for Wendy Whelan, and tonight was yet replete with another first, the first of Wendy Whelan’s farewell bows. She will retire as a dancer with the Company on October 18. To a recorded score by Max Richter and Dinah Washington, from the soundtrack of Shutter Island, this ballet is excerpted from Five Movements, Three Repeats, which premiered at the Vail International Dance Festival. Ms. Whelan wears a silver Valentino pleated, silky skirt and tight strapless bodice, while Tyler Angle wears shades of grey, in tights and sleeveless shirt. This ballet has Mr. Wheeldon’s exuberant and existential partnering, a rapturous, often melancholy piece. I look forward to the next viewing.

Clearing Dawn (World Premiere): Music by Judd Greenstein, Choreography by Troy Schumacher, Costumes by Thom Browne, Costumes supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Flute; Paul Dunkel, Clarinets: Steven Hartman, Trumpet: Raymond Mase, Violin: Kurt Nikkanen, Viola: Maureen Gallagher, Cello: Frederick Zlotkin, Performed by Ashley Bouder, Claire Kretzschmar, Georgina Pazcoguin, David Prottas, Teresa Reichlen, Andrew Veyette.

And now, the three sequential world premieres began. Troy Schumacher has conceived a light, breezy piece, but, for ballet I find it very unsatisfying. The Thom Browne somewhat unisex costumes look extremely warm, wool-ish, with jackets, vests, shirts, neckties, tights, and Bermuda shorts for men, with short pleated skirts for women, all in varying shades of grey and white. They’re pretty much private school attire, perhaps for middle school age students, but here’s it’s ballet. The ballet opens with the six dancers in heavy coats, strung down from the rafters. Shortly, the coats are lifted by the iron strings on high, and the leaden costumes are revealed. The live, atonal Judd Greenstein score generates some kicking, cavorting, and childish gestures. Musicians stage rear can be seen on flute, clarinets, trumpet, violin, viola, and cello. The choreography is as juvenile in style as the costumes, with performers wrestling, tumbling, solo dancing, and running about. Watching this work made me feel very warm, with those multiply layered costumes getting such an aerobic workout. Teresa Reichlen, Andrew Veyette, and Ashley Bouder had the most rapid stage turns, and it seemed a miracle that there were no costume “malfunctions”.

Funérailles (World Premiere): Music by Franz Liszt, Choreography by Liam Scarlett, Costumes by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Costumes supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano: Elaine Chelton, Performed by Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild.

Now here was bliss. Liam Scarlett’s Funérailles world premiere was totally stunning and gripping, with Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen’s brocaded gold on black costumes. The onstage-offstage duo, Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild, both of whom will appear on musical theater stages later this year, were exquisite and dramatic in the roles. Elaine Chelton plays Liszt’s “Funérailles”, from “Harmonies poétiques et religieuses”. Ms. Chelton always plays with mastery and reverence, but she had been placed rear stage, with a sound buffer blocking the tonal volume and clarity. Hopefully this will be corrected on future performances of this work. Mr. Scarlett’s choreography is akin to a pas de deux in Onegin or La Dame aux Camellias, with conflicted lust, intimacy, and emotionality. The bare-chested Mr. Fairchild was demanding and dramatic, while Ms. Peck was womanly, wild, and windswept. I hope to see this ballet again very soon.

Belles-Lettres (World Premiere): Music by César Franck, Choreography by Justin Peck, Costumes by Mary Katrantzou, Costumes supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Daniel Capps, Piano: Susan Walters, Performed by Lauren Lovette, Jared Angle, Ashley Laracey, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Brittany Pollack, Taylor Stanley, Rebecca Krohn, Tyler Angle, Anthony Huxley.

The final work of the Gala and the third world premiere was Justin Peck’s Belles-Lettres, choreographed to César Franck’s piano solo. Susan Walters was on piano, with Daniel Capps conducting the full orchestra, in only its second appearance tonight. The fashion statement here was by Mary Katrantzou, with see-through chiffony costumes with doily-lacy ornamentations, like old love letters. It should be mentioned that brief videos before each of the works shared the fashion design processes and concepts with the Gala crowd. Anthony Huxley was spotlighted in this ballet, in dizzying spins and spirited energy, but the high point was the ensemble synchronization, in an evocation of Balanchine’s style. In fact, in another nod to Balanchine, the women let their hair down as the ballet unfolded. The spellbinding figures exuded postural elegance and gripping sensuality. Kudos to all.

New York City Ballet in
Peter Martins' "Morgen",
Costumes by Carolina Herrera
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Wendy Whelan and Tyler Angle in
Christopher Wheeldon's "This Bitter Earth",
Costumes by Valentino
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

New York City Ballet in
Troy Schumacher's "Clearing Dawn",
Costumes by Thom Browne
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild in
Liam Scarlett's "Funérailles",
Costumes by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

New York City Ballet in
Just Peck's "Belles-Lettres",
Costumes by Carolina Herrera
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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