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A Discussion with David LaMarche Conductor, American Ballet Theatre, at Cooper’s Tavern
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A Discussion with David LaMarche Conductor, American Ballet Theatre, at Cooper’s Tavern

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Cooper's Tavern

Cooper’s Tavern
481 8th Avenue at 35th Street
New York, New York 10001

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A Discussion with David LaMarche
Conductor, American Ballet Theatre

Cooper’s Tavern
(Cooper’s Tavern Website)
481 8th Avenue at 35th Street
New York, New York 10001

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 7, 2013

(See More ABT Interviews, Reviews, and Candids.)

This is a series of questions posed to David LaMarche, Conductor of American Ballet Theatre, which will have its Spring Season at the Metropolitan Opera House, May 13, 2013 to July 6, 2013. David LaMarche has been favorably reviewed in his capacity as ABT Conductor in these pages on multiple occasions in recent years. I chatted with Maestro LaMarche at Cooper’s Tavern, on Eighth Avenue at 35th Street, NYC, over a dinner of Fish & Chips with Hand-Battered Atlantic Cod and Oregano Fries, Anise & Pepper Crusted Yellowfin Tuna, with Shaved Fennel, Lemon Sorbet Ripieno, and Coconut Sorbet Ripieno. We enjoyed good wine and beer with our dinner, as well.

David LaMarche told me he’s in rehearsals for the Spring 2013 Season at The Met, and we spoke about the upcoming music for the numerous full-length story ballets, the shorter works for the Repertory performances, and other Ballet Theatre projects. We also reminisced about ABT’s Fall 2012 Season at New York City Center.

RZ: Last season the ABT audiences were treated to Ratmansky's premiere of a work by Shostakovich, one third of his new trio of Shostakovich works. Will you be conducting these? What should I listen for? What excites you about this music, and how does it relate to the ensuing dramas, even abstractly?

DLM: I will be conducting the Shostakovich “Symphony #9”, which is the one that premiered at City Center last fall. It's a very accessible piece, with rather simple tunes which Shostakovich manipulates using complex rhythms, different meters, and a variety of orchestral colors. It also has some terrific solos for different members of the orchestra – an extended, beautiful lament for the bassoon, and a bravura turn for the trumpet in the last movement.

RZ: Since the ABT website does not yet list conductors with performance dates, are there specific casts for specific ballets with whom you especially relate, musically, offering pauses for virtuosic extras and the ensuing intermittent applause? Can you tell me which casts you are working with now and special upcoming musical-dance moments that might be lesser known? At this point in your career, how has your conducting shifted with time and new opportunities?

DLM: I try to establish a good working relationship with all of my casts because I believe that the more time you spend rehearsing and fine tuning the interpretation, the more impact it has on the audience. Naturally, the guest artists require more time because they are trying to find ways to blend their own ideas with this company's production. I will be working with a lot of different casts. In “Swan Lake”, two very talented dancers, Hee Seo and Alexandre Hammoudi will be making their debuts, so that should be a great night. And I'll be conducting the final performance of Irina Dvorovenko in “Onegin”. I've always felt a bond with her because the first performance I ever conducted at ABT was “Don Quixote”, with Irina and her husband Max, and they were very kind and supportive, even though I was rather green then!

RZ: Last year, I was especially drawn to "Onegin", and Tchaikovsky. In fact, you conducted on the night I reviewed. How do you move the score through the conflicted moods and milieus?

DLM: With “Onegin”, the music evokes all the drama, so if you honor the score, you'll be on the right track. The exceptions to this rule are the pas de deux, which do require a very specific knowledge of the choreography.

RZ: "Romeo and Juliet" has always been my favorite ballet score, with its musical tension and poignancy. The ballet requires extraordinary physicality, Romeo carrying Juliet across stage, lifts and tosses, Juliet scampering in conflicted mental states, long sword fights and their tortured death scenes. How do you pace Prokofiev for this work, and which phrases are most problematical, and which most exciting?

DLM: Again, there is probably no ballet score with as strong a sense of narrative as “R and J”. You don't even need dancing to understand the story, the music is so particular and detailed. In MacMillan's production, there are some anomalies in matters of tempo. The male solos are pretty fussy (and difficult), but of course, they look great. And once you understand the shape of the pas de deux, they fall into place pretty easily.

RZ: Tell me about the Mixed Repertory scores, "A Month in the Country" and "Symphony in C", the latter being reviewed often in this magazine from across the Plaza. Will you be conducting this Bizet score? Tell me how you treat the "adagio", with its luxuriant tonality, and the "allegro vivace" finale, with its repetitive refrains. And, "A Month in the Country", what should we listen for?

DLM: Yes, I will be conducting the Bizet, and it's a piece I love very much. The 2nd movement adagio just needs a first class oboist, whom we are lucky to have at ABT (Matt Dine), and a sense of expansiveness to balance the other three movements, which are all pretty quick. The great trick with the 4th movement is to play it with speed and brio without frightening the dancers!

"A Month in the Country" will feature one of our great piano soloists, Emily Wong, and of course it's all Chopin, so that's to your taste, you'll love it.

RZ: "Sylvia" hasn't been seen in some time. I reviewed it in 2005 and 2009; now it's 2013. Maybe I missed it along the way? What is there in the Delibes score that intrigues you? What are the challenging moments?

DLM: One of the most thrilling moments in “Sylvia” is the first entrance of the huntresses, a big Wagnerian style passage for the brass. The famous pizzicato solo for “Sylvia” in the third act is always fun, just to see how fast you can take the last phrase, and still end with the dancer. And the violin solo, the 3rd act pas de deux, is graceful and nostalgic, with some very beautiful choreography.

David's Fish & Chips with
Hand-Battered Atlantic Cod, Oregano Fries,
Rosemary-Aioli & Red Wine Vinegar.
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Roberta's Anise & Pepper Crusted Yellowfin Tuna
with Shaved Fennel, Sweet Tomato Sauce, topped
with a Raddicio, Orange Zest Salad.
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

David LaMarche, Conductor
At Cooper's Tavern.
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Lemon Sorbet Ripieno
Served In a Lemon Shell.
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Coconut Sorbet Ripieno
Served In a Coconut Shell.
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

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