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Third Version Perfect

Pacific Northwest Ballet's 'Apollo' and 'Carmina Burana'

by Dean Speer

April 14 , 2012-- McCaw Hall, Seattle, WA

We’ll probably never know these days what the first, original version of “Apollo” looked like, but we do know that the latter-day version mounted for Pacific Northwest Ballet by its Artistic Director, Peter Boal is near perfection. With its spare iconic choreography by George Balanchine, dating from a revision he did in the late ‘70s/early 1980s, this version is one that has become a touchstone of greatness and measure for ballet companies. While I personally prefer the version that includes the birth scene and the climbing of the gods up to Mount Olympus at its conclusion, I found myself not missing them too much.

Batkhurel Bold was impressive as the Greek god finding his feet and hegemony amongst the muses, some of whom inspire him and instruct. Bold is a big mover and his battement cut across space as did his gestures. Each blessed with beautiful legs and line, Sarah Ricard Orza, Maria Chapman and Lesley Rausch were focused and clear with their interpretations of Terpischore, Calliope, and Polyhymnia. Orza’s développé over Apollo’s head while he’s posed on the floor was thrilling, as was her promenade arabesque “escape” from it.

Chapman and Rausch are well matched and not only played off of each other but melded well with Orza as the three retook command of Apollo, and then later as they made the iconic sunburst concluding shape, with their legs at varying heights of arabesque.

The most succinct word that comes to mind to describe Kent Stowell’s popular “Carmina Burana” is blockbuster, which it certainly is from the get-go.

It also reminded me that Stowell’s bigger ballets had casts with something for everyone in the company, regardless of rank – everyone gets plenty of dancing to do. What a joy this is! Memorable were the men in the opening ‘Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi,’ Kaori Nakamura and James Moore, Lindsi Dec as a girl having too much fun ‘In Taberna,’ and as the couple representing pure love, Chapman and Karel Cruz. Benjamin Griffiths really got into the role of the goose who laments being cooked – with a motif of flexed feet, arms and palms open to the sky, head thrown back – all while turning in second position rélevé.

Members of the Seattle Choral Company sounded great and together with the mighty PNB Orchestra, under the baton of Emil de Cou. Tenor Marcus Shelton was very, very good as the gander lamenting being cooked – this part lies very high – his pitch spot-on and in ringing tones with a clear sound. Company pianist Christina Siemens is a very talented musician who very ably took on the on-stage solo soprano part. Michael Anthony McGee possesses a rich and big baritone but sounded as if he was experiencing some occasional vocal fatigue, and was “pushing” sometimes. Still early in his career, he needs to relax and not try so hard to impress us.

PNB presented one of its best and exciting programs. We are so fortunate to have this first-class, major ballet company right here in our own backyard.

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