American Ballet Theatre
Spring Gala 2008
Metropolitan Opera House
Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova, Georgina Parkinson
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 19, 2008
(Read More ABT Reviews).
Gala Lighting by Brad Fields.
The Merry Widow (Act II excerpts): Choreography by Ronald Hynd, Scenario by Sir Robert Helpmann and Ronald Hynd, Original Book by Victor Leon and Leo Stein, Music by Franz Lehar, Music adaptation by John Lanchbery, Sets and costumes by Desmond Heeley, Assistant to Mr. Hynd: Annette Page, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Paloma Herrera, Joseph Philips, Craig Salstein, Jared Matthews, and the Company.
What a joy, when it’s the Opening Night Gala for ABT, that signal each season, when exemplary, partnered story ballets, with a few contemporary works on the roster, as well, are poised to draw thousands of balletomanes to the Met Opera House, night after night, with tossed bouquets and vivacious accolades. Tonight’s Gala brought previews and rare works to these balletomanes and ballet patrons, starting with excerpts of The Merry Widow. The Russian-infused choreography with red/white/blue costumes showed off Paloma Herrera’s (as the wealthy widow) devilish dervish, matched by a bravura performance by a new face – Joseph Philips, who may be the talk of the town by end of season. He certainly exudes electrified energy and a desire to seize the stage.
Swan Lake (Act III Von Rothbart Solo): Choreography by Marius Petipa, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Costumes by Zack Brown, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by David Hallberg, Melissa Thomas, Luciana Paris, Anne Milewski, Sarawanee Tanatanit. David Hallberg danced the Swan Lake Act III Von Rothbart solo with seething sexuality and seductive charisma. His job is to woo Prince Siegfried’s mother, the Queen, so her son can propose to Odile, the Black Swan, in the guise of a guest at the birthday Ball, whom he introduces to the Royal Court. Mr. Hallberg tossed his cape to the wings and used his long limbs and glorious glare in one of his most memorable performances.
Splendid Isolation III: Choreography by Jessica Lang, Music by Gustav Mahler, Costumes by Elena Comendador, Lighting by MK Stewart, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky. The renowned dance couple, Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky, partnered for Splendid Isolation III. Ms. Dvorovenko first appeared with her back to the audience in a long, white gown with sweeping, circular train. The white material was extended, gathered, lowered to reveal a lace bodice, and much rapturous choreography ensued, all to a Mahler score. Jessica Lang’s work is visually enticing, flowing, yet stark. I would like to visit this brief ballet again for its sumptuous imagery.
Don Quixote (Act III Pas de Deux): Choreography by Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky, Music by Ludwig Minkus, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Conductor: Charles Barker, performed by Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel. Tonight’s pas de deux, danced by another renowned Ballet Theatre couple, was a preview to the Don Quixote performances, which would feature Ms. Murphy and Mr. Stiefel together at last. It’s quite an occasion when a pas de deux features an actual ballet couple, with chemistry and connection. The sparks were flying here, as Ms. Murphy executed multiple fouettés and en air leaps, matched by Mr. Stiefel’s en air spins, circular leaps, and joyous demeanor.
The Dying Swan: Choreography by Michel Fokine, Music by Camille Saint-Saëns, Cello: Jonathan Spitz, Harp: Barbara Allen, Performed by Diana Vishneva. I had missed Ms. Vishneva in The Dying Swan, during the recent Kirov season, so it was especially gratifying to see her in this very brief role tonight. In a television documentary about Fokine, I heard his granddaughter describe the intent of this ballet, to evoke the process of death, not the process of embodying a swan, such as in Swan Lake. Ms. Vishneva rippled her arms with sad embodiment, sinuous sensuality, and weakening strength. Her fall to the stage was seamless and fluid, as breath seemed to virtually disappear.
Judgment of Paris: Choreography by Antony Tudor, Staging by Sallie Wilson and Diana Byer, Music by Kurt Weill, Book and costume design by Hugh Laing, Costume adaptation by Sylvia Taalsohn Nolan, Lighting design by Lucas Krech, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Kathleen Moore, Martine Van Hamel, Bonnie Mathis, Kevin McKenzie, and Victor Barbee. I had reviewed this ballet two years ago, with New York Theatre Ballet, and tonight’s performance was again staged by Diana Byer. It was performed by ABT alumni, including ABT’s Artistic Director, Kevin McKenzie, and it was hilarious. This is a ballet that may re-appear in the Fall ABT repertoire, and I look forward to that third viewing.
Mr. McKenzie was the Client, at a Parisian café, looking over three prime “ladies of pleasure”, who present the most campy, clever performances one might imagine. They are obviously ladies of a “certain age”, making a living in the oldest profession, and the Client chooses Venus (Martine van Hamel, a former ABT Principal, whose signed slippers I still own). Ms. Van Hamel, as Venus in a blond wig, Kathleen Moore, as Juno, and Bonnie Mathis, as Minerva, are named for a Greek legend, one would assume less humorously written. Victor Barbee, Assoc. Artistic Director, was the busy waiter.
Giselle (Act II excerpts): Libretto by Théophile Gautier, on a theme by Heinrich Heine, Orchestrated by John Lanchbery, Music by Adolphe Adam, Choreography after Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot, and Marius Petipa, Scenery by Gianni Quaranta, Costumes by Anna Anni, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Nina Ananiashvili, Angel Corella, Stella Abrera, Maria Riccetto, and Kristi Boone.
It’s always mesmerizing to see Nina Ananiashvili and Angel Corella partnered in even the tiniest excerpt of a story ballet, because the viewer anticipates Ms. Ananiashvili’s ethereal, en air dashes, rapid spins, and frenzied pathos, as well as Mr. Corella’s intense theatricality, audience engagement, and unparalleled technical virtuosity. Tonight was no exception, and Stella Abrera was a severe, commanding Myrta, while the soloists and corps, as Wilis, commanded the stage with dream-like circling choreography, intending to ensnare Mr. Corella as the male intruder.
Le Corsaire (Conrad’s Variation): Staged by Anna-Marie Holmes, Music by Prince Oldenbourg and Ricardo Drigo, Sets and costumes by Irina Tibilova, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Herman Cornejo. Herman Cornejo is always a star onstage, and tonight he entertained us with his gravity-defying leaps and whirls, as Conrad in Le Corsaire. Mr. Cornejo catapulted himself into almost every corner of space, as if an external force was at work. This is one Principal dancer who should be seen in more lead roles, and that wish seems to be coming true finally this season, with the current calendar.
Le Corsaire (Pas de Deux): Choreography after Marius Petipa, Music by Adolphe Adam, arranged by Ricardo Drigo, Sets and costumes by Irina Tibilova, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Xiomara Reyes and Jose Manuel Carreño. Xiomara Reyes and Jose Manuel Carreño were well matched for the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux, one that gives Mr. Carreño the opportunity to be Ali the slave, bare-chested, in flying, windswept spins that keep the audience fervor at peak. Ms. Reyes is one of the most technically astute of the younger Principals, and her dramatic verve and flourished fouettés were breathtaking.
Onegin (Act III Pas de Deux): Choreography by John Cranko, Music by Kurt-Heinz Stolze after P. I. Tchaikovsky, Costumes by Jürgen Rose, Staged by Reid Anderson and Jane Bourne, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes. Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes gave us a glimpse of a ballet long too absent from ABT repertoire. Onegin will hopefully be revived in the near future. Pushkin’s novel, as ballet, is dark, dramatic, and deep. Ms. Kent and Mr. Gomes always bring out the best in each other in an astonishing match of chemistry and physicality. Mr. Gomes has grown in the theatrical sense, in the past few years, and his attentive, nurturing partnering is magnetic.
Etudes (Excerpts): Ballet and choreography by Harold Lander, Music by Knudage Riisager (after Czerny), Scenery and costumes by Rolf Gerard, Lighting by Nananne Porcher, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Michele Wiles, Angel Corella, Sascha Radetsky, and the Company. Harold Lander’s Etudes has been seen recently in Kirov, City Ballet, and ABT repertoire. Suddenly, the ballet of the moment. Michele Wiles, Angel Corella, and Sascha Radetsky led the Company in this black-white 1948 oeuvre, which seems so fresh and current. The leads must cross the stage in split-timing, while the corps intertwines, avoiding “crashes”, like a roller-derby. But, there’s a sense of refinement, sophistication, and aestheticism that catches the eye. David LaMarche managed to keep the swirling Riisager score taut and tenacious.
Kudos to Kevin McKenzie and to American Ballet Theatre for another dashing Opening Night Gala and preview of the 2008 Spring Season. Kudos to the three Conductors, Guest Artists, and ravishing performers. You can explore the ABT Season schedule and buy tickets at www.abt.org.
Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky
in Splendid Isolation III
Photo: Marty Sohl
Kevin McKenzie, Victor Barbee, Kathleen Moore,
Martine van Hamel, Bonnie Mathis
in Judgment of Paris
Photo: Marty Sohl