Roberta on the Arts
A New Discussion with David LaMarche, Conductor, American Ballet Theatre, at Cooper’s Tavern
Contact Roberta
Jazz and Cabaret Corner
On Location with Roberta
In the Galleries: Artists and Photographers
Backstage with the Playwrights and Filmmakers
Classical and Cultural Connections
New CDs
Arts and Education
Onstage with the Dancers
Offstage with the Dancers
Upcoming Events
Special Events
Culture from Chicago
Our Sponsors

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

- Offstage with the Dancers: Sponsors and Testimonials

Cooper's Tavern

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

Open 7 Days
12 Noon - 11 PM
Lunch, Dinner, Special Events
Bar Open Late!

A New 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
May 21, 2014

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

This is a series of questions posed to David LaMarche, Conductor of American Ballet Theatre, which is having its Spring Season at the Metropolitan Opera House, May 12, 2014 to July 5, 2014. 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 Seafood Tasting Platter, Citrus Seared Yellowfin Tuna, with Roasted Root Vegetables and Red Bliss Potatoes, Veal Scaloppini Francese, with Lemon Juice, White Wine, Parsley, and Spaghetti, Chardonnay (Roberta), and Chimay Belgian Beer (David).

David LaMarche told me he’s in rehearsals and performances for the Spring 2014 Season at The Met, and we spoke about the ongoing and upcoming music for the numerous full-length story ballets, the works for Repertory performances, and Ballet Theatre projects.

RZ: For “Don Quixote”, how did you vary the rehearsals for Kotchetkova-Cornejo and Reyes-Vasiliev? Tell me about tempo, rhythm, pauses, applause time, and special requests, especially in the Act III Pas de Deux.

DLM: I had just conducted Xiomara and Herman in Don Quixote in Washington a few weeks ago, so their tempi and interpretation were fresh in my mind. Maria Kochetkova and Ivan Vasiliev are guests with ABT, and I had not worked with either of them previously on “Don Quixote”. Maria is a pristine, very musical dancer, so there was nothing that was unusual about her choices. It was a joy to work with her. Ivan inserted a few extra twists to his variations and Act III Coda, which I learned from him on stage before the show, since we didn't get a chance to rehearse before then. But that's what makes life interesting, right?

RZ: Did you conduct “Gaîté Parisienne”? As this is a revival by Massine, what was your approach? If you conducted “Duo Concertant” and/or “Theme and Variations”, tell me about the challenges and focuses.

DLM: I did conduct “Gaîté Parisienne”, twice. I couldn't get out of my mind the old film of Danilova and Franklin, which was so theatrical and spontaneous. I approached it like a musical theater piece, with lots of true sentiment and abandon in the finale.

This time, I had one performance of “Theme and Variations”, with Sarah Lane and Daniil Simkin, both of whom perform this very well. The main challenge these days in “Theme” is to find a tempo for the pas de deux that suits the dancers, but also has musical validity. It's not as easy as it sounds. But fortunately, our guest concertmaster, Benjamin Bowman, handled the violin solo beautifully and helped to give meaning to this variation.

RZ: For “La Bayadère”, the Kingdom of the Shades sequence for the Corps is magnetic and compelling. The audience is breathless. How do you measure the conducting to keep the Corps on balance, such as not too fast tempo. What are the cues? The entrances of the Radjah, the High Brahmin, Magdaveya are each introduced with unique musical phrases, like a musical Greek Chorus, a sense of expectation. Do you rehearse the consistent rhythmics of these phrases with the cast? Will they vary on the two performances you're conducting? How will you shift the orchestra between Part and Herrera, who dance the lead role of Nikiya respectively

DLM: You won't believe this, but we take our cue at the start of the Shades sequence, from the first dancer down the ramp. She takes two steps and we're in. It would be simple, except that she's way upstage, we can't see her feet, the stage is as dark as a nightclub, and now there's dry ice being blown from the wings with the force of Hurricane Sandy. But seriously, is there anything more beautiful in classical ballet?

I find that the needs of most ballerinas who perform Bayadère are similar. There are some sand traps that every dancer struggles with, so I try to help as much as I can with those. Veronica and Paloma are now both very secure with this role, and that makes it easier for me.

RZ: For “Manon”, one of my favorites, I read that the scenery will be different. Does that affect the mood, the musical ambiance? You will conduct for Semionova and Stearns on two performances. This ballet is tragic and emotionally explosive. How are you helping the leads and full cast achieve the dramatic effect from the sumptuous Massenet score? Be as specific as possible.

DLM: To be quite honest with you, although I have opinions about the decor of a ballet, once I get in the pit, it is the furthest thing from my mind. I conducted “Manon” already once this year in Japan with Polina Semionova and Cory Stearns. They are both physically beautiful, enormously capable dancers, and as a bonus, genuinely good human beings. The pas de deux in this ballet are complex and difficult, and it's hard to find the right balance between full throttle drive and steady consistency. It's no different than any other ballet. You have to find the groove, and once you get it, if it's right and natural, they will follow.

RZ: For “Cinderella”, the Ashton version that will preview in June, you are conducting Kent and Gomes on two performances. I first lauded their magnificent partnership when they danced the Kudelka version in 2006 (you conducted). I loved Kudelka's wit and choreography on each viewing. Please comment on the differences we will find in the Ashton version, and specifically how Kent and Gomes are rehearsing to showcase those differences in the leads. Also, where does the music change, for example the iconic Kudelka "around the world search for the woman who lost her glass slipper" with campy Arctic and Spanish flamenco vignettes.

DLM: I know there were many who didn't like the Kudelka “Cinderella”, but I did, and I'm sad to see it go. However, I worship at the shrine of Frederick Ashton, so I'm looking forward to conducting this. I'm just learning it now, since I was away earlier this year when it was being taught. There are the obvious differences, which are the different cuts and additions in the music. Ashton cuts the "around the world" music from the third act, and he adds a solo for the Fairy Godmother in the first act that is an orchestration of a piano piece from “Visions Fugitives” by Prokofiev. And the stepsisters are danced by men.

RZ: For “Giselle”, you are conducting three different casts on three performances. Speak about the Act I "mad scene" when Giselle transforms from peasant girl to a Wili, a ghostly, tragic spirit of the night. How will you vary the orchestra for Vishneva, Herrera, and Cojocaru? In Act II when Albrecht dances for his life, surrounded by Wilis and their Queen, who try to dance him to death off a cliff, tell me about Gomes, Stearns, and Cornejo, all of different physiques and stage personas.

DLM: I have conducted “Giselle” for all three of these ballerinas, (Herrera, Vishneva, Cojocaru) previously. Of course, they are all major artists, but you couldn't get more variety in interpretation. All dancers who do this role usually have specific tempo requests for the first act variation, especially the hops on point, and also for their second act variation, the beats traveling backwards. I remember Diana Vishneva has a very thorough dramatic concept and asks for the music to accent and support that concept.

There is less fussing with the role of Albrecht. Just the one big variation in Act II, and either the brisé diagonal or the entrechat six in the coda. I know I'm starting to sound like a cheerleader for the dancers, but really, with dancers like Gomes, Cornejo and Stearns, I know my job will be stress free.

RZ: For “Swan Lake”, you are conducting for Semionova and Hallberg on two performances. They will be my choice for at least one performance, with their spectacular stage chemistry and mesmerizing pas de deux. How has Hallberg changed since he's been dancing in Moscow with the Bolshoi? Does his transformation fit well with the Bolshoi School - trained Semionova? What will you remind the orchestra before each of these two performances? Mention the Act III Odile-Siegfried Pas de Deux.

DLM: I don't really know how David has changed, since he's been with the Bolshoi, since I haven't seen him much lately. But I always look forward to working with him. Actually, you opened up an interesting topic, when you asked what I would remind the orchestra when rehearsing “Swan Lake” for Semionova/Hallberg. In every season, each of the conductors is assigned three, maybe four ballets to rehearse with the orchestra, and conduct the ballet on its opening night. This year, for me, those are Coppélia, Giselle, and The Dream. All of the other performances of the rest of the repertoire that I conduct (e.g., “La Bayadère”, “Swan Lake”, etc.) are done without any previous orchestra rehearsal, just going in cold. So no talking, just showing.

RZ: For the Shakespeare Celebration, you're listed as one of two conductors on two performances. Are you conducting “The Dream” or “The Tempest”? Both ballets have been seen in recent years. How will you create a refreshing newness to one-act ballets? What is the showcased moment in each?

DLM: I will be conducting “The Dream". I have no problem keeping this fresh, since the score is a continual revelation to me, and the choreography amplifies its magic.

RZ: For “Coppélia”, you're conducting Misty Copeland's debut as Swanilda, and I look forward to being in the audience that night. How are you helping Misty on her big night, musically and psychically? Of course she'll have a superb partner in Herman Cornejo. In contrast, you're also conducting Sascha Radetsky's July farewell performance with ABT in “Coppélia”, as Franz. Once again, how are you helping Sascha on his big night, musically and psychically?

DLM: I think the whole company is behind Misty for “Coppélia”. She's a great dancer, and this is a perfect role for her. I'll just do my best to give her the support she needs from the music. As for Sascha, there will be so much good will out there on the night of his performance, we'll all just ride the wave. He won't need anything special, he's a terrific dancer. And have you read his writing? It's not fair that one man should have so much talent!

RZ: Please tell us one or two orchestral solos or instrumental highlights that you and your musicians are rehearsing now.

DLM: Actually, it just so happens that two of our upcoming ballets feature solos by our principal violist, Ron Carbone. “Coppélia” has the Act III Pas de Deux, and “Giselle”, the Act II Pas de Deux. Ron is retiring at the end of this Met season, and I will miss his lyricism and integrity in that position.

RZ: Thank you so much, David. Bravo to you and ABT Orchestra.

David's Seafood Tasting Platter
Little Neck Clams, Blue Point Oysters,
Jumbo Shrimp, Lump Crabmeat Salad
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

David LaMarche, Conductor of ABT
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Roberta's Citrus Seared Yellowfin Tuna
Roasted Root Vegetables, Red Bliss Potatoes
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

David's Veal Scaloppini Francese
Lemon Juice, White Wine, Parsley, Spaghetti
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Cooper's Tavern Expansive Views
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Cooper's Tavern
Warm Wood-Paneled Decor
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Cooper's Tavern Expansive Bar
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Cooper's Tavern Comfortable Seating
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

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