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 Post subject: PNB Nutcracker
PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2000 2:11 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 12108
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
I attended the Pacific Northwest Ballet production of Nutcracker on Saturday evening, December 16. This production is notable for its Maurice Sendak design and been widely disseminated through Mr. Sendak's illustrated E.T.A. Hoffmann storybook and the once-widely distributed film and video. I have attended each year since the premiere in 1983...which makes this my 18th year. A facet of this production that makes repeated viewing worthwhile is its multilayered detail, particularly in Act 1. The company's maturity and expanded resources have allowed many refinements to occur over the years.<P>The Saturday evening performance featured a cast that is probably as near perfection as PNB offers at this time. Patricia Barker (as the adult Clara), Stanko Milov (as the Prince), and Flemming Halby (as Drosselmeier) were particularly outstanding.<P>So much of the dramatic success of Act 1 depends upon Drosselmeier. As with his characterization of Dr. Coppelius earlier this season, Mr. Halby draws upon his background with the Royal Danish Ballet and gives us a Drosselmeier who is truly a three dimensional character who serves, not only as a catalyst for the action, but who draws the audience into his world in such a way that one wishes to have the opportunity to sit and listen to his character expound on his view of the world. Of the many performances I have seen of this role, I find Mr. Halby's to be the most satisfying.<P>Olivier Wevers was Dr. Stahlbaum at this performance. As with Mr. Halby, it is always a pleasure to see someone who does not treat the character roles as throwaways. Olivier presents a fine figure of admirable bearing and elegant manners in his role as the host of the party. I note from the cast lists that he is also performing Drosselmeier...perhaps I will return for one of those performances....<P>Another notable performace in Act 1, however brief, was Batkhurel Bold's turn as the chief of the warrior mice in the battle scene. Mr. Bold's elevation and extension mirror the coups de fusil from the cannonade.<P>Ms. Barker and Mr. Stanko begin their partnership in a pas de deux set to the transformation music between the battle scene and the snow scene. New to PNB last season (but injured through a significant portion of the season), Mr. Milov appears to be young and eager; Ms. Barker has matured greatly in her 14 years as a principal dancer and now appears far more at ease...indeed, she seemed to be enjoying the evening, pushing herself, and sensing the reward inherent in taking a risk or two. From my perspective, this is a partnership that appears to be succeeding admirably. The orchestra, conducted by Allen Dameron at this performance, held to a very reasonably (and, hence, for me, satisfying) tempo throughout this section...even into the introduction section of Snow itself. I held out hopes for a moderato snowfall. I was not to be fulfilled; without warning or accelerando, the tempo abruptly shifted into one more suited to a tempestuous blizzard. One of these years, someone will get it right....<P>In Act 2, the scene shifts to a Middle Eastern seraglio presided over by a Pasha who is a transplanted Drosselmeier. Again, Mr. Halby amplified the dramatic possibilities of his character and provided clear referential links to his Act 1 character. In the ensuing divertissements, this production has Moors in Spanish Chocolate, a Peacock in Arabian, a comedic Chinese tiger led by ribbon dancers at each of four corners, the Trepak is given to three whirling dervishes, Mirlitons is a commedia dell'arte trio, and Mother Ginger is a toy theatre (with the requisite quotient of very young dancers from the school). Only Flowers remains Flowers. <BR>Among the above, the standout soloists were Carrie Imler and Oleg Gorboulev as the lead Moors; Ariana Lallone using all of her magnificent back, neck, arms and legs as the Peacock; three youthful corps members, Garrett Anderson, Jordan Pacitti and Jonathan Porretta as the dervishes; and Paul Gibson in the central commedia role...possibly the most difficult assignment of the lot due to the non-flashy but very difficult choreography for his part.<P>I had hoped for a thrilling performance from Kaori Nakamura as Flora (in Flowers, of course). Alas, it appeared to be an "off" night for her, as she failed to complete a sequence of single/double fouettes and bailed out of another set of double pirouettes before the music was done. Some nights, the turns just won't "go," even though everything else appeared to be perfectly under control.<P>In the final pas de deux, Mr. Milov and Ms. Barker improved upon their earlier endeavor with what appeared to be a heightened sense of confidence and willingness to give the performance the extra percentage. A thrilling degree of energy and excitement was the result.<P>The audience for this performance was at capacity, just over 3,000. As this is the last season for this production in the current opera house, I am very pleased to have attended a performance that had such a degree of engagement and electricity throughout all levels of the performers. The production will shift to the Paramount Theatre (capacity ca. 2,750) during the opera house renovations in 2001 and will reopen in the "new" opera house in December 2002.


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 Post subject: Re: PNB Nutcracker
PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2000 3:26 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 17498
Location: SF Bay Area
Thank you, Francis, for another nicely written review.


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 Post subject: Re: PNB Nutcracker
PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2000 3:36 pm 
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Joined: Sun Oct 24, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 19975
Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Image <P>An illustration for the PNB 'Nutcracker'.


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 Post subject: Re: PNB Nutcracker
PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2000 7:35 pm 
Francis, I am so glad to hear about the excellent partnership of Patricia Barker and Stanko Milov. I hope to be able to see this PNB production of Nutcracker in the future. Do you know where PNB will tour next year?


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 Post subject: Re: PNB Nutcracker
PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2000 7:50 pm 
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Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 13071
Location: San Diego, California, USA
I would love the company to tour into Southern California too - like Orange County. Sometimes we see the least of the companies in this country then we do of foreign companies.


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 Post subject: Re: PNB Nutcracker
PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2000 8:59 am 
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Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 12108
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
Hi, Kevin. Yes, I'm very pleased that we seem to have a success story with Patty and Stanko. (Amusing aside: there was a substantial group of students from the PNB School in attendance Saturday night. At curtain calls, they could be identified by their high-pitched voices squealing cheers for "PAT-TY!" "STAN-KO!" soaring above the general roar of the audience.) PNB used to tour the Nutcracker (to Vancouver, Portland, and Minneapolis, among others), but no longer does, since they can now fill 3,000+ seats at two performances per day for an entire month at home. My understanding is that the first ten performances pay for the general production overhead; the remainder is "gravy."<P>No one has been very forthcoming regarding tours for 2001 yet; any time and attention not absorbed by Nutcracker is being invested in preparations for the February 1 opening of Sleeping Beauty. I will, of course, report on any touring dates as soon as they are known.<P>Basheva, PNB *did* tour to Orange County...in 1995. Do lobby your friends -- the presenters -- in Costa Mesa regarding future seasons....


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 Post subject: Re: PNB Nutcracker
PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2000 10:45 am 
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Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 13071
Location: San Diego, California, USA
Thank you Francis - sometimes they do send out a survey asking. But most of the time we are just sent a schedule for the coming year. <P>I can't remember why I wouldn't have seen them in 1995 - we have had season tickets for most every year except the three years I was injured but that was in 1997, 98, 99. Anyway, I would love to see the company, and if opportunity arises I shall recommend it if I am surveyed.<P>And, Francis, I enjoyed your review very much and it obviously whet my appetite.<p>[This message has been edited by Basheva (edited December 19, 2000).]


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