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 Post subject: Re: Kudelka's Firebird for NB of Canada
PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2000 1:33 pm 
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hi!! its mom2 daughter, home from qbs for the weekend. We just got home from seeing the firebird, my opinion on it from a scale from 1-10 was a 1. It was more like a fashion show then a ballet, it showed so many costumes, (I don't know how they coul afford these though). The only good thing about the ballet was the actual firebird, she only did minimal steps but they were will performed. Overall I thought Mr. Kudelka's firebird was a waste, and the when the end of the ballet came and the finale music ,which the ballet is famous for, the dancers stood there showing off their costumes.


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 Post subject: Re: Kudelka's Firebird for NB of Canada
PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2000 3:29 pm 
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Here is a page from the NBoC website with an image of 'The Firebird' and 'The Four Seasons', which is coupled with it. <BR> <A HREF="http://www.national.ballet.ca/current/currentset.html" TARGET=_blank>http://www.national.ballet.ca/current/currentset.html</A> <P><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited November 12, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: Kudelka's Firebird for NB of Canada
PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2000 3:49 pm 
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The firebird was indeed en pointe and had classical steps, but seemed to be a bit short in the actual notion of "dance".<P>Part of the problem is that the scenery is so large (big risers like you see at a sporting event, but painted gold) that there is very little space for the dancers to actually move across the floor. Although daughter wasn't keen on the costumes they were quite spectacular indeed and most colourful. The one comment I would have is that the "princesses" were all wearing identical costumes and so at first it was impossible to pick out the lead character. They also wear identical wigs, so it was next to impossible to tell who was who.<P>One interesting point for me was that the "egg" theme Kudelka has in Nutcracker appears to have re-surfaced in the darker Firebird. The evil king's throne has a big sphere on the back which opens at the end and he is of course tossed in.<P>There were some stage-show special effects at the end too...is this to appease the wider audience?<P>Over all we were disappointed with Firebird, but still liked the Four Seasons. Four Seasons came first on the bill and we were lucky to see Rex Harrington in the lead role again. <P>We look forward to other people's comments on these ballets!


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 Post subject: Re: Kudelka's Firebird for NB of Canada
PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2000 4:41 pm 
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Daughter has gone for beauty rest...she has a very early train to catch tomorrow am. It's the last weekend in a while she'll be home, with Nutcracker preparations soon into very full swing!<P>The Four Seasons is also a Kudelka ballet. It's actually very nice and doesn't have the "darkness" of some of his others, although of course the main character dies at the end. You basically follow a man through his youth to old age, (the four seasons of his life roughly). The costuming is very nicely done, mostly light colours and there is no real scenery. The backdrop lighting changes with each season, and it's quite effective. It's possible the ballet was "made" on Rex Harrington; he's the only one we have seen in it and it is a perfect fit.<P>I checked out the link to the photos for Firebird, and there are none that really show the visual impact terribly well. Too bad. I imagine NBOC could manage the elaborate costumes as the cost for the production was a shared one with other companies. In addition, the local NBOC benefactor, Walter Carsen, apparently paid the bill for the NBOC's share of the costs. This man is an absolute godsend.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Kudelka's Firebird for NB of Canada
PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2000 7:46 pm 
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Firebird Satisfies Sweet Tooth! Four Seasons Satisfies Soul!

Diabetics, Atkins’ dieters, and Dr. Bernstein be forewarned-Kudelka’s Firebird overwhelms the orbs in glowing greens, golds and reds. So unmercifully sweet is this ballet, your mind’s eye will runneth over pink with swirls and swirls of cream soda flavored cotton candy! It truly was a miracle the Hummingbird Centre didn’t erupt from a massive hernia of macaroons!

If you can stomach all-you-can-see buffet musicals (Lion King comes to mind), you will pig out over Kudelka’s Firebird. If you love watching dancers dance, you’ll probably wish you viewed a twin bill of the Four Seasons—Thankfully it was on the program. The Four Seasons stays with you: on the way home; in your dreams; those quiet moments during the day when you have time to reflect. The Firebird plays in the cinemas of your soul as brief as a one-night stand and/or formula Hollywood movie with a number tacked on the end of it.

The Four Seasons gives you everything you want in a ballet: emotion, brilliant dancing, movement that needs no words. Kudelka’s Firebird gives you everything you don’t want in a ballet: no emotion, stupid dancing, movement starving for words. You don’t have to read the souvenir program to understand the Four Seasons. It’s a must read to decode the plot behind the Firebird. The Four Seasons serves up a full course meal. Kudelka teaches us the cruel humour of life. No matter how fast you dance, none of us will escape the grim reaper. The Firebird serves up little more than dessert. Kudelka teaches us nothing.

The Four Seasons would be pure genius IF Mr. K. possessed the imagination to have a couple dance through the Four Seasons of life rather than featuring a man in the prominent role—yet again. That little twist would have made his Four Seasons a true “classic.” A woman dancing through the Four Seasons of life would be too much to hope for-given Mr. K’s obsession with providing more stage time to the men in his company. Quite laughable when you consider how woefully weak the National Ballet of Canada is testosterone wise with the departure of Johan Persson to the Royal Ballet.

Though nowhere mentioned in the program, the Four Seasons first premiered in 1975 choreographed by Flemming Flindt. The costumes by Carmen Alie and Denis Lavoie were down-to-earth cool. The marriage of Antonio Vivaldi’s music to movement was pure genius. The lighting could have been exploited to more dramatic effect. The dancing was everything you could hope for: inspired, fresh and giving. To free the imagination of an audience, to invite them on stage with you, to touch their soul: these are the hallmarks of memorable dancing. Kudelka uses every member of the company—from principal to soloist to corps de ballet to character artist—to perfection. Rex Harrington and Jeremy Ransom transcended dance into the sphere of silent acting.

The same praise cannot be heaped upon the Firebird. Mr. K. sprinkled so much sugar on his Firebird; you may toss your cookies—if you can afford the price of cookies at the Hummingbird Centre ($2.50¢ each). The number one problem with this ballet of macaroons was the overuse of a gargantuan grandstand and catwalk. The stairs hogged so much of the stage—the Premier Dance Theatre may have provided more dancing room sans stairs. For Saturday’s matinée performance, the moveable grandstand was not so moveable as evidenced by the dancers’ exertions pushing one section to the far right side of the stage. Many in attendance actually overheard the set crew barking instructions! Neither the stairs nor the catwalk provided a safety bar for the dancers and there appeared to be more stair climbing than actual dancing. The sheer enormity of the sets stretched the usual 15 to 20 minute intermission to a bloated 40 minutes.

Gorgeous Greta Hodgkinson saved this ballet for moi. My eyes were glued to her every moment she was on stage. Unfortunately, those moments were far and few between. Not to have the star of the ballet (The Firebird) on stage longer was unforgivable. Aleksandar Antonijevic made for a very convincing Prince, which was expected, as his forte is the fairy tale genre.

See this Firebird for the dazzling sets and costumes by longtime Kudelka collaborator Santo Loquasto. If you’re finicky about your Firebirds, wait for the Paris Opera Ballet to revive Mikhail Fokine’s masterpiece. The year 2010 will mark the 100-year anniversary for this fantasy ballet about a Firebird who munches on golden apples and saves a wimpy Prince from an evil sorcerer. In Kudelka’s remake, a giant egg swallows the soul of the evil sorcerer. Traditionally the egg shatters releasing the evil soul. It all depends on how you like your eggs. It would figure Kudelka likes his hard broiled…with sugar!

Kudelka’s Firebird is a ménage à trois between the NBoC, Houston Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. Hopefully by the time it plays at HB and ABT, the very dark prince of the NBoC will take a chain saw to the grandstand. His princesses should also get a haircut. The hip-length dreadlocks made them look like Klingons. Their dresses could also use some trimming. I want to see some leg! This ballet-fashion show-musical is just too big to play at the Hummingbird Centre. There was so little dancing, the argument could be made that Kudelka’s Firebird doesn’t even qualify to be called a ballet.

Despite the shortcomings of the Firebird; the 2nd rate acoustics; and 3rd rate sightlines of the soon to be obsolete Hummingbird Centre-this two for one ballet is a must see and hear. I’m sure Antonio Vivaldi and Igor Stravinsky would approve of the NBoC playing and dancing their music to life! Thanks to global warming, Kudelka’s Four Seasons may one day be a tribute to spring, summer, fall and winter instead of the seasons of life. For that reason alone, you should attend this ballet doubleheader.

Firebird - Performance of Dancers: 18/20. Story: 8/20. Choreography: 6/20. Ballet Magic: 11/20. Costumes, Sets & Lighting: 8/10. Music: 9/10. Rating: 60/100.

Four Seasons - Performance of Dancers: 20/20. Story: 16/20. Choreography: 18/20. Ballet Magic: 18/20. Costumes & Lighting: 7/10. Music: 9/10. Rating: 88/100.

<small>[ 03 October 2004, 04:51 PM: Message edited by: Michael Goldbarth ]</small>

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 Post subject: Re: Kudelka's Firebird for NB of Canada
PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2000 7:51 pm 
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Saw firebird last nite. Our party of four was unanimous that it was all about the costumes and not about dancing. It was visually spectacular. The 16-year old member of our party said it reminded her of the Lion King. That scaffolding/staircase drove me nuts. Up the staircase...arabesque...down the staircase...pas de chat...up the staircase...pose and preen...down the staircase...well, pose and preen. The choreography was adequate...nothing more. But I still would go and see it again because I loved Santo Loquasto's costumes if not his set. It's all about the costumes and the music. My reading of the audience reaction was somewhere between polite and happy. Individual dancers were well received. The orchestra outdid themselves. And yes, Walter Carlsen paid the reported $650,000. bill for the NBofC's share of the joint production. <BR>As a dance production I would rate it higher than a 1, but it would depend on the criteria. If it was supposed to be about extending the choreographic vocabulary it gets a 0 from me. It was more like Cirqe de Soleil meets classical ballet and I'd give it a 6 or 7. I can hardly wait to hear what New York thinks of it.

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 Post subject: Re: Kudelka's Firebird for NB of Canada
PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2000 10:02 pm 
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Many thanks for the review Michael G.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>This is a quickie review. I didn’t have time to follow the rigid guidelines of criticaldance.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Er... which rigid guidelines are those? We like all shapes and sizes here.


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 Post subject: Re: Kudelka's Firebird for NB of Canada
PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2000 4:22 am 
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I think the question "is it worth so much" is much different then "did it cost so much". It sure sounds like a million+ production


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 Post subject: Re: Kudelka's Firebird for NB of Canada
PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2000 9:24 am 
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I forgot to mention...in terms of audience appreciation...<P>The Four Seasons rated long-winded, enthusiastic applause. Many people were on their feet.<P>Firebird found polite applause and many folks rushing to leave the building.<P>In terms of the set, we actually could hear stage hands talking at one point from where we were!


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 Post subject: Re: Kudelka's Firebird for NB of Canada
PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2000 4:40 pm 
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By “rigid standards” I was referring to a previous posting on how to properly review a ballet. Below is Deirdre Kelly’s review of Kudelka’s Firebird. Her review was surprisingly positive and even more surprisingly—SHORT! A mere 337 words. She did mention something of problems in the ballet but did not elaborate. There were two spelling errors which I have taken the liberty to highlight. <P>[quote] Is Xiao Nan Yu the best National Ballet of Canada dancer since Karen Kain? Is she the talent to give back some excitement to the downsized, debt-ridden company? Such is the buzz surrounding the tall, elegant, Beijing-trained soloist. Her hotly anticipated debut in the title role the company's new, a world premiere production that alights again on Toronto's Hummingbird Centre stage Nov. 21, was witnessed Saturday night by a packed house. And she more than lived up to the hype.<P>While just in her early 20s, Yu dances with the maturity and sophistication of a ballerina twice her age and experience. In her hands, Firebird, which has some problems, flew to new heights. This is what a great interpreter does -- give new shape and meaning to a work of art that in lesser hands can appear simply medicore (spelling error = mediocre).<P>While artistic director James Kudelka crafted the ballet mostly on his "muse," principal dancer Greta Hogkinson who danced the role on Friday night, Yu, his third cast after Chan Hon Goh's on Saturday afternoon, made the ballet look custom-made. She wasn't merely dancing steps; she was fully inhabiting the choroegraphy (spelling error = choreography) and the full orchestral score by Igor Stravinsky. Her dancing is full, clearly articulated and fabulously buoyant. She was the Firebird, but more than that, she drew out of the role qualities that made it truly soar in the imagination. The quick, backward sweeping motion she made with her legs as she passed into arabesque was a bird pushing her feet into the ground in preparation for song and flight. Her flowering hand and arm gestures made her seem exotic. But inside her scarlet plumage was a being of great dignity and repose. The Firebird is a wild creature, flinty and potentially dangerous.<P>Hogkinson played her as a variation on Swan Lake; Goh's portrayal -- performed opposite the weekend's other star discovery, second soloist Guillaume Coté as Prince Ivan -- was fluid and pretty. But Yu understood best its nobility. Maybe because she is a rare bird herself. [\quote]<P>Michael Crabb’s review can be found at <A HREF="http://www.nationalpost.com" TARGET=_blank>www.nationalpost.com</A> Search under “Firebird.” As per usual, he loved Kudelka’s new work. If Kudelka pulled down his pants and mooned the audience, I’m sure Michael Crabb would give Kudelka a most enthusiastic thumbs up!!! There were definite problems with this ballet. With so little dancing space, I’m not even sure if it meets the standards to even be called a “ballet.” <P><P>------------------<BR>Michael Goldbarth

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 Post subject: Re: Kudelka's Firebird for NB of Canada
PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2000 6:05 pm 
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Below is Anna Kisselgoff’s (New York Times) review of Kudelka’s Firebird. I’ve provided translation for those sections Image which seemed to suggest Kudelka’s Firebird was not up to snuff. Image I was truly amazed Kisselgoff would be this critical of a Kudelka work—Albeit in a sneaky way. Kisselgoff didn’t come right out and say this ballet stinks but I think this could be interpreted as a thumbs down. I think it fair to accuse Kisselgoff of being a bit too kind to Kudelka in past reviews. If you look back at my review and those of others, you will see many points we brought up in Kisselgoff’s critique. <P>Amazingly, the NBoC laminated the below review and enlarged it for all to see in the main lobby. I have no idea what they were thinking. Perhaps publicity ballerinas Julia Drake and Belinda Bale hated it as well.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR> Image All that glitters looks like gold Image in the dazzling new version of "The Firebird" that James Kudelka has just choreographed for the National Ballet of Canada. <P>"The Lion King" meets Serge Diaghilev in this Image highly synthetic Image but persuasive staging, which will also be presented in the United States as a co-production for American Ballet Theater and the Houston Ballet. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Translation: This ballet is fool’s gold for the eyes and very artificial.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR> The American designer Santo Loquasto outdid himself at the production's premiere here on Friday night at the Hummingbird Center when the National Ballet of Canada, under Mr. Kudelka's direction since 1996, opened in peak form. <P>When the company appeared in a little-publicized season at City Center two years ago, it had been absent from New York a decade too long to attract the audience it deserved. Nor did the City Center stage prove wide enough for the expansive dancing the company needed in "The Four Seasons," Mr. Kudelka's setting of the Vivaldi score. <P>On Friday and Saturday afternoon, the audience sprang to its feet to applaud magnificent performances in the same ballet. Never has a work looked so different, depending upon a stage and the level of technique. There is no doubt now that Mr. Kudelka's "Four Seasons" is a masterpiece for our time. <P> Image His "Firebird," however, will have to be seen as what used to be called a darn good show. Image It is synthetic in the sense that his treatment of Stravinsky's full ballet score (not the suite often used in other versions) assembles disparate influences. He retains much of the scenario of the 1910 original ballet choreographed by Michel Fokine for Diaghilev: an enchanted Firebird gives the hero, Prince Ivan, a feather after he has captured and freed her. With this talisman, he can defeat the power of Kastchei, the evil wizard who is immortal so long as his soul is preserved in an egg. [quote]<P>Translation: This is not a masterpiece; only a darn good show. <P>[quote] Image Something gets blurry in the National Ballet plot, where Kastchei's huge egg cracks open by itself and the wizard steps in to die a presumably yolky death. Image His retinue has some cute lizards that scurry on toe, contrasting with the friezelike slink of the prince, often in profile — all the better to recall Fokine's or Vaslav Nijinsky's antiquity-inspired ballets. <P> Image Along the way the Firebird loses her dominant place. In part, this is because Mr. Kudelka's choreography is unusually good for the prince. Image Fokine and others give him a walk-on and partnering role, but this prince is noble as a classical dancer. Image Unfortunately, the Firebird suggests his equal rather than a magic creature with supernatural powers. Image She flutters and darts rather than flies. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Translation: Kudelka has egg on his face for changing the death scene and giving so little stage time to the Firebird. The Dark Prince of the NBoC also stiffed the Firebird with inferior choreography.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR> Image She also has to go up and down terraced steps to a catwalk in Mr. Loquasto's bamboo version of a Mayan or Aztec pyramid. Image Like the princess with whom Ivan falls in love and her retinue of 12 maidens, the ballerina in the Firebird role is a classically trained dancer. Image That is, she waddles up and down the steps with feet turned out. A pity. Image <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Translation: Once again, The Dark Knight gave very little for the Firebird to work with. The steps and catwalk do very little for the ballet.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR> Nonetheless, when the Firebird gets to the top, she seems to light amid the foliage that frames the stage. There are three points to retain: the choreography is very good, the costumes are resplendent, and this production does not bore. Among ballets that have a stronger place in history than on stage, the 1910 Fokine "Firebird" might take pride of place. Stravinsky's score no longer shocks, and the exotic value of the work has worn thin. <P>Andris Liepa's spectacular staging, seen in New York in 1995 with the Kirov Ballet, harked back successfully to the Fokine choreography. But when Ballet Theater attempted the Fokine original, it fell flat. George Balanchine, like many others, felt more at home with a shorter version; he used the 1945 suite that Stravinsky fashioned for the third time out of the full score. <P>The Houston Ballet, which will present the Kudelka version in February, and Ballet Theater, which will do so in the spring of 2001 at the Metropolitan Opera House, have opted for what can work as a family show. Mr. Kudelka's hodgepodge can be seen as the direct descendant of the hodgepodge scenario that Fokine and Diaghilev put together from unrelated Russian fairy tales. Commenting on this composite plot, Prince Peter Lieven, a member of Diaghilev's circle, once wrote that the original had no meaning for a Russian: "It was as if Alice of `Alice in Wonderland' were partnered by Falstaff in a Scotch jig."<P>In this new version, animal figures inspired by Mayan ruins do not mean a "Firebird" transferred to Central America: the maidens dance Russian chain dances and flatten them into Greek reliefs. <P>There is something better, a lyrical production that has a flow of fantasy. Some of this effect comes with the score as it is played with a muted texture under Ormsby Wilkins's masterly baton.<P>There is a dreamlike luster from the moment Prince Ivan plows into his jungle. Aleksandar Antonijevic on Friday was highly noble, and Guillaume Côté was more in wonder on Saturday afternoon. Both hung on engagingly to the back of the Firebird's tutu as they captured her. <P>Greta Hodgkinson was a brilliant and dynamic Firebird on Friday, while Chan Hon Goh was more poetic on Saturday. Image Mr. Kudelka has given them too many poses reminiscent of Odette in "Swan Lake," Image but the Firebird gets her own solo and pas de deux as expected. Image Her lullaby at the end, however, is too brief, as the attention shifts to a shamanlike wizard and the knights he has petrified (Ivan's legs begin to go numb). Kudelka-style Kastchei acquires a nymphomaniac wife who has a two-second affair with one of his generals. Image <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Translation: Kudelka liberated too much from Odette in “Swan Lake.” The Sleeping Beauty like-lullaby was way too short. What’s a nymphomaniac wife doing in a children’s ballet? <P>[quote] Image Back to the sublime, which is the allegory of a man's life that Mr. Kudelka has made of "The Four Seasons." Image Rex Harrington was stunning as the protagonist on Friday night, when he and Ms. Hodgkinson brought the house down in their duet in the "Summer" section. Only Mr. Kudelka can infuse passion into virtuosity in this way. On Saturday, William Marrié made his debut as the hero, more tormented but equally impressive. Somebody should bring this ballet back to New York in a proper setting. [quote]<P>Translation: Kudelka’s Firebird was the weaker of this 2 for 1 evening of ballet. Below is my rating for Firebird.<P>Performance of Dancers: 18/20. Story: 8/20. Choreography: 6/20. Ballet Magic: 11/20. Sets and Costumes: 16/20. Rating: 59/100. <P><BR> <BR><P>------------------<BR>Michael Goldbarth

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 Post subject: Re: Kudelka's Firebird for NB of Canada
PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2000 6:45 pm 
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You gave me the guidelines over my review of Arabian Knights. <A HREF="http://www.criticaldance.com/UBB/forum4/html/000278.html" TARGET=_blank>www.criticaldance.com/UBB/forum4/html/000278.html</A> <P>------------------<BR>Michael Goldbarth

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 Post subject: Re: Kudelka's Firebird for NB of Canada
PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2000 7:47 am 
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daughter 1 attended Firebird again yesterday with her ballet school, and she had some interesting comments.<P>First of all, Rex Harrington did not dance in Four Seasons. The man who did apparently was noticeably weaker than Mr. Harrington, making slips on some of the lifts which are one of the highlights of the ballet.<P>She enjoyed Firebird much more the second time around "once you got past the costumes" she said.<P>They got to go backstage, so of course that was quite exciting. Unfortunately there weren't many autographs to be had. Karen Kain was a bit of a disappointment in that department. I suppose someone in the public eye the way she is gets quite exhasuted with the autograph requests. On the other hand, she is an honourary patron of daughter 1's ballet school. I'm not sure what protocol would dictate in those circumstances.<P>


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 Post subject: Re: Kudelka's Firebird for NB of Canada
PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2000 8:58 am 
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I have not seen this firebird - I have Cynthia Gregory dancing firebird with ABT - and she is marvelous, in my opinion.<P>


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 Post subject: Re: Kudelka's Firebird for NB of Canada
PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2000 4:05 pm 
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Hello there -<P>Thought I'd throw in my two cents about the Firebird - which I saw on opening night, and again the following matinee. Basically, I was overwhelmed by the costumes and staging, and underwhelmed by the choreography. Supposedly, the rumour is there's all this wonderful choreography,but it's definitely buried in everything else! I thought it was very "Disney-fied", or at least tried to be, leaving most viewers with a wierd feeling. I think what I heard was that most NEW patrons found it interesting, and the older ones (say, those who had been to more than 3 ballets!) found it a bit (lot?) tedious. And pairing it with "Four Seasons" really showed up all its weaknesses.<P>I'm surprised no one hasbrought up how the National Ballet has actually brought in aging prima Evelyn Hart, on a somewhat permanent basis, especially after the Glasco affair...another topic?


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