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American Ballet Theatre - Met Season 2013
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Author:  balletomaniac [ Wed May 22, 2013 9:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre - Met Season 2013

American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

May 15M, 18E (Dvorovenko Farewell), and 20, 2013

-- by Jerry Hochman

While it may not do very well with galas, American Ballet Theatre is superb with its bread and butter – full length ballets, whether they be classic or contemporary. A perfect example of what’s great about ABT, and of what could make it still better, was apparent in this week’s sequence of performances of John Cranko’s Onegin.

However, before I address the three performances of Onegin that I saw this past week, recognition must first be given to Irina Dvorovenko, whose performance Saturday evening as Tatiana was her farewell with the company. As I’ve previously written, Ms. Dvorovenko is one of the least appreciated of ABT principals, and one of the most accomplished. Had she been recruited as a ‘guest artist’, perhaps she would have received the accolades she deserved, with a galvanized following to match. [As it is, Ms. Dvorovenko has a passionate and devoted army of admirers among New York audiences (and presumably audiences elsewhere) who don’t need hype to recognize talent.]

Ms. Dvorovenko is one of those rare ballerinas who not only has technical expertise, but an engaging stage presence that makes audience members feel welcome to share the stage with her, even if only in their minds. Her youthful appearance allowed her to play any role, whether a young girl (Juliet) or a mature courtesan (La Dame aux Camellias) with distinction. I don’t know the reason for her retirement from ABT (though I suspect that frustration with diminishing casting opportunities, in favor of guest artists, had a lot to do with it – she announced her retirement after casting for ABT’s 2013 Met season was made public), but whatever the reason, her decision to leave ABT while still at the top as an artist is a commendable, if regrettable one.

And being at the top allows her to move on to other ventures. Those in the New York area know that she recently appeared in a City Center ‘Encores!’ presentation as Vera Baronova in “On Your Toes.” I saw the production, and the adulation she received from critics and full-house audiences was well deserved. Both for her dancing, and her acting (including her comic delivery and the facility with which she played, and parodied, the stereotypical diva that is contrary to her character), she was fantastic. Those who have seen her dance were not surprised. Assuming that her career after ABT continues in this direction (at a post-performance discussion, it appeared that offers were being made), those theatergoers who have not seen Ms. Dvorovenko previously are in for a treat.

In any event, her farewell performance was an opportunity to celebrate her career…to date. Immediately upon the ballet’s conclusion (like all great ballets, Onegin ends with an emotional explosion), Ms. Dvorovenko was greeted and saluted by all members of the company, with the final bouquet presented by her husband, former ABT principal Maxim Beloserkovsky, and their beautiful daughter, and with showers of flowers from the audience that refused to let her leave.

As I wrote in a comprehensive review last year, Onegin is Cranko’s masterpiece, with choreographic images that sear the brain. And Cranko’s accomplishment is all the more memorable considering that he used as his musical framework a patchwork quilt of Tchaikovsky music (arranged by Kurt-Heinz Stolze), rather than the score from the opera “Eugene Onegin” that Tchaikovsky had previously composed (my understanding is that Cranko was not given the rights to use the opera’s score).

The ballet’s story, on its surface, appears to be mere high class soap opera suds. But like the novel in verse by Alexander Pushkin that is its source, it is a mirror of then contemporary Russian society. Onegin is a man without purpose but also a prisoner of his pedigree. He is a nobleman who has nothing to be noble about; superfluous; an aristocrat without a cause. And he destroys those with whom he comes in contact, like blight. Only when it is too late does he realize that the young woman he rejected years earlier as being beneath him possesses the nobility of character that he never had. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

Onto this basic outline Pushkin crafted a perverse, ironic love story. A bookish country girl, Tatiana, falls for this alienating, self-absorbed creature who looks dashing, urbane and cultured, perhaps the embodiment of characters she’s read about and dreamed about in her books, but in reality it’s all a facade – there’s no there there. She dreams of a relationship with him (she imagines him entering her room through a mirror, and they engage in a passionate pas de deux). When she awakes, she bares her soul, and her love, to him in a letter.

But Onegin considers himself a superior being. The next day, at a party in honor of her younger sister Olga’s birthday, Onegin callously humiliates Tatiana by ripping her letter to shreds and depositing the remnants in her hands. With equal callousness, he then humiliates Olga’s fiancée (and his friend) Lensky by dancing with and flirting with Olga. Infuriated, Lensky challenges Onegin to a duel, which both knew that Lensky would lose. Following Lensky’s death, Onegin is isolated, effectively banished, and left truly alone.

Years later, after Tatiana weds Prince Gremin, an old family acquaintance, and settles into a secure but passionless relationship, Onegin shows up at ball at Prince Gremin’s home, where he sees Tatiana. Now smitten with her, he writes her a letter. After Gremin leaves Tatiana alone, Onegin enters her boudoir through a door that resembles the mirror he had penetrated when he entered Tatiana’s room in her dream years before. They dance a passionate pas de deux. With emotions bared, and torn between her rekindled love for Onegin and her current marital and societal status, Tatiana rejects Onegin, ripping apart the letter he had written to her and ordering him to leave her life forever.

Converting this story into believable theater is a complicated matter, and there’s no single path to getting it right. Onegin has to be rigid and callous, but somehow attractive to Tatiana. Tatiana has to be the sensitive, unsophisticated, earthbound sister, but one who somehow surrenders to this attractive beast of a human being. Lensky is as romantic and loving as Onegin is cold and nasty, but somehow must believably lose his bearings and overreact to Onegin’s advances to Olga. Olga has to be a combination flirt and Russian space cadet, but somehow still convincingly in love with Lensky. And Gremin has to be a reliable, secure patrician who loves his wife, but who nevertheless is a dolt who turns his back on his wife when she needs him to be there for her.

In different ways, most of the members of the casts I saw gave memorable performances. Ms. Dvorovenko and Diana Vishneva (on the 20th) gave their ‘usual’ stellar portrayals, with Ms. Dvorovenko losing the air of sophistication in Act I that I thought marred her performance last year, and Ms. Vishneva, although more mannered than I thought necessary in Act I, delivering the most dizzyingly shattering Act III I’ve seen, culminating with a seething and icy resignation that could stop a heartbeat. [I wrote years ago, in connection with Ms. Vishneva’s Juliet, that she was able to convincingly run the gamut of emotion required during the ‘edge-of-the-bed’ scene in the MacMillan production with no effort; just by the look in her eyes alone. This was similar. There was no scream of frustration; only silent, steely heartache.] And Hee Seo again delivered a towering portrayal in every respect, confirmation that last year’s surprising and gut-wrenching performance was no accident.

David Hallberg, Ms. Seo’s Onegin, was ice cold – even more so than he was last year. Marcelo Gomes, Ms. Vishneva’s Onegin, was downright nasty. Each portrayal appeared somewhat overplayed, making Tatiana’s infatuation with Onegin less credible. Cory Stearns, on the other hand, was a kinder, gentler Onegin, with clearly transmitted sophistication and social grace. One could see how he could easily and perhaps unintentionally emotionally seduce Ms. Dvorovenko’s Tatiana. But these portrayals had unanticipated consequences when more depth of character was revealed. Mr. Hallberg and Mr. Gomes were shattering when their characterizations changed and their facades cracked; but Mr. Stearns’s more human veneer made his heartless rejection of Tatiana and his failure to avoid the duel with Lensky less believable. Nevertheless, all three Onegin performances were outstanding. [And Mr. Gomes deserves a medal of valor for pulling Ms. Vishneva, who had worked herself into a cataclysmic frenzy, through the climactic pas de deux in Act III. She was in another world; Mr. Gomes held her together.]

This viewer has frequently commented about the lack of real casting opportunities given to ABT’s less hyped dancers (primarily soloists (but corps dancers and certain principals as well) both because of the nature of ABT’s repertoire (primarily two-character narrative ballets) and its guest artist policy. However, Onegin is one of those ballets that provides significant casting opportunities (Le Corsaire is another), and the performances by ABT’s dancers in these roles illustrates how frustrating the absence of such opportunities in other ballets is.

With one exception, all three of the Olga/Lensky performances were first rate. Yuriko Kajiya is a sparkling performer. Last year, I felt that her characterization of Olga was not quite up to that of Sarah Lane. I didn’t see Ms. Lane in the role this year, but Ms. Kajiya is doing something different, and the impact, to this viewer, is now exactly right. Her Lensky, Joseph Gorak, still a member of the corps, was very good in the role last year, and this year is better still, with cleaner line and clearer acting. New to their roles this year (at least in New York) were Gemma Bond and Blaine Hoven, both members of the corps. Mr. Hoven’s performance was very promising. He lacks finesse, and there were some timing issues (for example, he moved in response to being pulled by Tatiana and Olga on his own – before they ‘pulled’ him), but he has a sincere demeanor and a crystalline line. Ms. Bond was flat out fabulous, with what to this viewer was perfect execution in every respect. Like several other ABT corps dancers, she no longer belongs there. In the Vishneva/Gomes cast, Jared Matthews provided the most accomplished performance of all of the Lenskys – smooth as silk, believable, and accomplished, with an Act III solo of desperation that could break your heart. Isabella Boylston’s Olga was the only one of the group that failed to impress. Her first scene was disappointing – she just didn’t fit. To this viewer, her performance grew as the piece continued, but I think the basic problem is that she was miscast. [Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong – it’s been done – but Ms. Boylston appears more comfortable being the focal point, either by herself or in an ensemble, than being a spoke (albeit a featured one) in a wheel. As I’ve mentioned previously, she tends to dominate on stage. That’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing; just an observation.]

Similar outstanding performances were provided by ABT soloists and members of the corps in the role of Prince Gremin. Vitali Krauchenka was a stalwart but human block of wood in the Dvorovenko/Stearns cast, and in the Vishneva/Gomes cast, James Whiteside lost the clueless grin he showed during the Act III excerpt featured in last week’s gala, and did an admirable job partnering Ms. Vishneva (although the Tatiana/Gremin relationship was not portrayed as warmly as it was by other casts, it appeared considerably less icy than at the gala). His performance was marred only by his matter-of-fact exit from Tatiana’s boudoir in Act III. Best of the three, to this viewer, was Roddy Doble’s characterization in the Seo/Hallberg cast, with just the right balance of wooden demeanor and heartfelt love for his young wife.

What these performances (including Ms. Lane’s Olga last season) show is that there is considerable company talent that audiences in New York don’t see in lead roles. Whatever the reason, it is extremely unfortunate to see what these dancers can do, and to know that opportunities for them to grow are so limited. Frankly put, it is past time for many of these dancers to be given opportunities to perform lead roles in New York on a regular basis. For example, and based only on the schedule this season and limited to the soloist dancers referenced in this review, at a minimum Ms. Kajiya should have been given a Kitri performance (which I understand she’s done before), Mr. Matthews a Basilio, and Ms. Lane a Juliet. Unless these and other soloists get the opportunity to grow, there is even less opportunity for talented and experienced members of the corps to move up the ranks. And the absence of opportunities leaves experience voids that must be filled, creating the perceived need for guest artists. And the cycle continues.

Perhaps there is a growing recognition, based on scheduling this season that permits more widespread featured casting (and opportunities that may be created during ABT’s new Fall Season at the David H. Koch Theater), that greater opportunities must be given, and that in the long run growth from within is more stable and more successful than growth by acquisition. In the meantime, however, time passes, and with it opportunities. Losing dancers like Ms. Dvorovenko hurts, particularly if it was the result of diminished casting opportunities. But losing young dancers for greater performing opportunities elsewhere (Maria Riccetto, for example) is a shame, and it can come back to bite you. Or as Onegin may have experienced, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

Author:  Buddy [ Thu May 23, 2013 4:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre - Met Season 2013

Hi Jerry.

I'm about half way into your review, but have stopped to comment on Irina Dvorovenko. Thanks for giving her such a sympathetic and comprehensive overview. She may now be pointed to Broadway, off-Broadway or Hollywood. As you mentioned, she has been very well received, almost unanimous acclaim from all the press and internet reports that I've read, for her latest venture. A lot of folks consider her a 'show woman' ballerina. She even implies that she sees herself that way in a recent lengthy interview. I've only seen her twice, that I recall, but contrary to being a 'show woman', as I've mentioned before, she performed one of the most beautiful and 'ethereally lovely' Giselles that I've ever seen. In any case I wish her much future success.

In regard to your previous mention of Marcelo Gomes as a choreographer, I saw Chase Finlay (NYCB) perform his "Tous les jours" at this year's Mariinsky Festival and enjoyed it very much. I have no idea what it was about, but the pure choreography, I thought, was very inventive and interesting.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu May 23, 2013 11:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre - Met Season 2013

Alastair Macaulay reviews the Tuesday, May 21, 2013 performance of Ashton's "A Month in the Country," Balanchine's "Symphony in C" and Mark Morris' "Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes" for the New York Times.

NY Times

Author:  balletomaniac [ Thu May 23, 2013 5:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre - Met Season 2013

American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

May 22 (M)
Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, A Month in the Country, Symphony in C

-- by Jerry Hochman

It never ceases to amaze me how different casts, different venues, and different points of view can impact one’s response to a particular ballet – but how with certain ballets such changes have little or no impact. Yesterday afternoon’s American Ballet Theatre program at the Met illustrated both these points. ABT is offering four performances of this same program – Mark Morris’s Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, Sir Frederick Ashton’s A Month in the Country, and George Balanchine’s Symphony in C – with, essentially, two different casts. I saw the program’s second performance, but the first in New York with this cast.

I am aware that many consider A Month in the Country to be a masterpiece. That it may be, although I would respectfully disagree. But whatever its artistic merit, and regardless of the quality of certain performances, watching it for an hour is like spending a month at the ballet. Its acquisition may be seen as a feather in ABT’s cap (its ABT premiere was the previous evening), but, like Antony Tudor’s Shadowplay, which ABT resurrected a few seasons ago, its appeal is limited. And my feeling about A Month in the Country now is that same as it was when I first saw it performed by the Royal Ballet decades ago. If anything, time has only made it appear more dated.

The story, as presented in the ballet (the ballet is described in its title as having been ‘Freely adapted from Ivan Turgenev’s play’), is set in a Russian dacha where Yslaev, his wife Natalia, her young son Kolia (he is identified at one point in the program notes as their young son, at another as her young son), and her teenaged ward Vera (she is identified in the program as her ward, not theirs). [‘Ward’ is Middle English for ‘one for whom another is responsible’ – like Robin was Batman’s ward. We’re not told why Vera is Natalia’s ward.] [I’m kidding about the ‘Middle English’.] Also present is Rakitin, a confidante and admirer of Natalia.

Into this mix enters Beliaev, a student who is retained to tutor Kolia. Vera sees Beliaev and immediately develops a crush on him. Natalia sees Beliaev and immediately becomes aroused by him. [With a young ward, it’s a crush, with an older woman, it’s arousal.] Beliaev has no interest in Vera, but he seems instantly attracted to Yslaev’s wife.

When they find themselves alone, Beliaev politely deflects Vera’s advances, but Natalia sees Vera with Beliaev and gets jealous. She slaps Vera. When Vera runs off like a humiliated child, Baliaev shows Natalia that her jealousy was unfounded, and Natalia affixes a flower to his shirt. Vera returns and sees Natalia and Beliaev embracing each other, and vengefully tattles on Natalia and Beliaev. Natalia denies any romantic interest in Beliaev, but only Yslaev believes her, and he doesn’t really seem to care. But after Natalia refuses Rakitin’s amorous advances, Rakitin senses that something’s up. He casually but effectively cross-examines Beliaev, sees him wearing the flower that Natalia gave to him, and eventually Beliaev confesses to their mutual advances. Rakitin thereupon suggests that he and Beliaev both leave to return calm to the family. [That Natalia rejected Rakitin had absolutely nothing to do with it.] Yslaev thinks it’s a good idea. Rakitin and Beliaev leave. But Beliaev, unseen, returns to see Natalia in quiet despair, drops the flower she gave him at her feet, and leaves.

The initial difficulty I have is a thematic one. I concede that I’ve never read the Turgenev play, which is considered a masterful work, and a precursor of Chekhov. But it seems that something critical has been lost in the ballet’s adaptation – the central thrust of the story.

My understanding is that in the play the critical ingredient is Natalia’s jealousy of seventeen year old Vera (in the play, Vera is Natalia and Yslaev’s adopted daughter). Beliaev takes up with Vera (or Natalia thinks he does), and Natalia schemes to get Vera out of her way to win Beliaev for herself. This thematic pattern would make more sense, and would provide more dramatic potential. In the ballet, however, this jealousy on Natalia’s part is not the focus of the action, since it quickly becomes clear that there’s nothing for Natalia to be jealous about – Natalia is attracted to Beliaev and he is attracted to her; Vera’s interest in him is easily dismissed and inconsequential. Instead, the ballet’s story focuses on Vera’s being a petulant child and vengeful tattle tale, and Natalia’s being a bored dachawife caught in a relatively insignificant lie.

Regardless, the problem for me is not only the banality of the story as presented in the ballet, but that the choreography seems, in large part, to be prissy, fussy, and bloodless, without any of the self-deprecating flair (even If unintentional) that rescues Mr. Ashton’s Sylvia, which ABT will perform later this season, or the choreographed magic of The Dream and Cinderella. The choreography appears either unnecessarily tentative (the romantic exchanges) or silly (for example, I recall dancers shaking their hands as if stricken with an uncontrollable hand muscle twitch, for no apparent reason other than to make their hands move while they danced). But for all too brief awakening jolts (Natalia’s slap; Vera’s ‘gotcha’ revenge), the ballet is all at the same emotional level; a slow cooker that never reaches a boil. Even the choreographed romantic liaison between Beliaev and Natalia is underplayed.

The ABT dancers did a fine job with what they had (and the set and costumes by Julia Trevelyan Oman are lovely), but to this viewer it didn’t jell. In the play, Natalia is supposed to be a young (twenty nine), bored wife of an older man (thirty six) [give me a break] she was socially obligated to marry. In this sense, Hee Seo’s casting should have worked. But because she looked so young, her having a ‘young son’ who looked close to her age, and a ward who looked close to her age, and a would-be lover close to her age, just looked unrealistic. Even suspending disbelief didn’t help – melancholy and boredom and controlled arousal can quickly look monochromatic, and except for an isolated moment when she slaps Vera, Ms. Seo doesn’t get to show much emotional range (particularly disappointing in light of her outstanding performance as Tatiana in Onegin a week earlier).

As Belaiev, David Hallberg lacked the magnetism that one would expect in the role, but in other respects admirably portrayed the smitten and somewhat befuddled young man who alters the family’s equilibrium just by being there. Sarah Lane, hardly recognizable with a blonde wig [why? – at least from my vantage point, it made her look older], had the most dramatic range to display and was convincing as a girl with a crush and a mean streak. I doubt that any of ABT’s dancers could have portrayed Hee Seo’s young son convincingly, given the lack of age difference, but Arron Scott did a nice job trying, and had a nifty pas de deux with a rubber ball. As Rakitin, Roddy Doble had more depth of character than others in the piece – he was Natalia’s supplicant, an unrequited lover, a casual but effective inquisitor, and a reasonable man who knows how to make a dignified exit. He was very good.

When I last saw ABT’s rendition of Balanchine’s Symphony in C, at its gala last week, I thought it was a poor substitute for the performances of the piece by New York City Ballet. In particular, the First Movement was poor, and the Second Movement was disappointing. Sarah Lane and Jared Matthews, on the other hand, were perfect in the Fourth Movement, and Isabella Boylston and Daniil Simkin were very good in the Third.

Although I still feel that, overall, the ABT version is performed at a slower pace and is technically less crisp looking than what one routinely finds at NYCB performances, what a difference a cast change makes! With respect to the First and Second Movements, it was like night and day. In the First Movement, Stella Abrera and Eric Tamm were pitch perfect. Right demeanor; right timing; right everything. And this brilliantly danced opening movement set the standard for what followed. For me, the surprise of the evening was the adagio Second Movement. Instead of being dour, ethereal and somewhat possessed, which is what I sensed at the gala performance, Polina Semionova was regal and dominant – and was partnered to perfection by Marcelo Gomes. Ms. Semionova was enjoying herself (well within the bounds of appropriate expression), and her smile never seemed pasted. Whatever one thinks of ABT’s guest artist (or pseudo guest artist) policy, the quality of her performance cannot be ignored.

Somewhat less successful, though not at all disappointing, were Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev in the Third Movement, and Simone Messmer in the Fourth (Jared Matthews repeated his excellent gala performance here). Ms. Osipova floated like a cloud, as she always does, but seemed less comfortable with the Balanchine choreography than did Ms. Boylston at the gala. And Mr. Vasiliev looked stretched to the breaking point (as opposed to Mr. Simkin last week, who made it all look effortless). But except for this appearance of considerable effort, they got through it admirably. Ms. Messmer was very good, but she was at times a bit ahead, and at times a bit behind, the music. As a result, her performance didn’t have the zing that Ms. Lane gave in the same movement a week earlier. But overall it was a thrilling performance. The supporting featured dancers, each of whom deserves to be credited for fine performances, were Luciana Paris and Alexei Agoudine, and Jennifer Whalen and Luis Ribagorda in the First Movement; Luciana Voltolini and Calvin Royal, and Katherine Williams and Daniel Mantei in the Second; Karen Uphoff and Mr. Doble and April Giangeruso and Vitali Krauchenka in the Third; and Gemma Bond and Julio Brigado-Young, and Marian Butler and Kenneth Easter in the Fourth. This was the first time I had seen Mr. Royal in a demi-soloist role, and he showed considerable potential.

Finally, I confess to being hasty and too dismissive in my previous review of Mark Morris’s Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes. Clearly it is not just another piano ballet. I still think that scheduling the piece for both the City Center Fall 2012 season and the Spring 2013 Met season was a mistake. But whether the product of seeing a different cast (I don’t recall), or being performed at a different and more appropriate venue (it has a cast of 12, gobbles space, and seems to thrive with more room to breathe – notably it was created for ABT, and premiered in its complete form, at the Met, in 1988), or of seeing it from a different point of view (a higher vantage point permitted me to discern Mr. Morris’s intriguing patterns of movement as I had not seen them before), it looked like the glorious contemporary ballet that it is. And the cast, led by Yuriko Kajiya and Joseph Gorak, executed to perfection. Ms. Kajiya and Mr. Gorak were abetted by Gemma Bond, Kristi Boone, Mr. Doble, Nicole Graniero, Melanie Hamrick, Joseph Phillips, Mr. Scott, Mr. Tamm, James Whiteside, and Stephanie Williams, each of whom excelled both individually and as members of the ensemble. At various times, I’ve commented favorably on each of these dancers previously, except for Ms. Williams, who I first noticed last year but couldn’t identify by name. I can now. She’s a sparkling performer, and like the other Williams in the company, is a dancer to watch.

edited 5/26 to correct a few egregious typos

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri May 24, 2013 11:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre - Met Season 2013

Roslyn Sulcas interviews Ivan Vasiliev backstage at the Met for the New York Times.

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri May 24, 2013 12:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre - Met Season 2013

Robert Johnson reviews "A Month in the Country" for the Newark Star-Ledger.


Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun May 26, 2013 12:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre - Met Season 2013

Isabella Boylston is interviewed by Andrew Blackmore-Dobbyn for the Huffington Post.

Huffington Post

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon May 27, 2013 10:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre - Met Season 2013

Alastair Macaulay reviews Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev in "Don Quixote" for the New York Times.

NY Times

Author:  balletomaniac [ Tue May 28, 2013 9:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre - Met Season 2013

A discussion of Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev’s production of Don Quixote with American Ballet Theatre on Saturday evening (May 25) will have to await inclusion in a comprehensive review of Don Quixote performances later this week. Suffice it to say that the full house’s expectations (‘bravos’ were unleashed when the dancers first appeared – before they actually did anything) of a memorable performance were fulfilled. The tricks by Mr. Vasiliev were breathtaking; Ms. Osipova’s full technical prowess was displayed – she spun like a top, soared like a bird, and executed showstopping balances en pointe. It wasn’t all athleticism, but that’s what made the performances memorable. It was performance of Olympic proportions. Literally. They gave the audience their money’s worth, and then some.

Equally noteworthy was the performance of Simone Messmer as Mercedes, who was fabulous without the Osipova/Vasiliev pyrotechnics, and Alexandre Hammoudi was very good, with the right attitude, as Espada. Yuriko Kajiya danced Amour, and was superb (she should be - she’s done it often enough) (on that note, I understand that Sarah Lane, who has also danced that role for years, was assigned it again in another cast), and Misty Copeland will grow into the role of Queen of the Dryads with greater experience. As the Flower Girls, Isabella Boylston had a more difficult time than Christine Shevchenko, who nailed her role, and as the Gypsy Couple, Luciana Paris and Arron Scott did a fine job.

However, I learned through a usually reliable grapevine that yet another ABT ballerina soloist will be leaving the company at the end of this season for greater performing opportunities elsewhere. Because I cannot independently verify it, and because I don’t know if the information is for public release, I will not identify her. But if true, it is another loss for ABT due to insufficient performing opportunities for its soloist ballerinas.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue May 28, 2013 11:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre - Met Season 2013

Leigh Witchel reviews "Don Quixote" for the New York Post.

NY Post

Author:  Buddy [ Tue May 28, 2013 4:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre - Met Season 2013

balletomaniac wrote:
Equally noteworthy was the performance of Simone Messmer as Mercedes, who was fabulous....


Onward to Odette/Odile and Beyond !

By the way, Jerry, I hope to see some of the Swan Lakes in June. Do you think that you could get her ready in time ?

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue May 28, 2013 8:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre - Met Season 2013

Barnett Serchuk reviews "A Month in the Country," "Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes" and "Symphony in C" for Broadway World.

Broadway World

Author:  David [ Fri May 31, 2013 8:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre - Met Season 2013

Don Quixote
American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House, New York; May 29, 2013

David Mead

Is there a more inappropriately named ballet that “Don Quixote”? After all, it is not really about the Don at all, but about the two sweethearts, Kitri and Basilio, and their ultimately successful attempts to marry.

The curtain rises to reveal Santo Loquasto’s intricate set, which manages to do almost the impossible by conveying the sense of space of a busy square, yet at the same time be intimate. Natasha Katz’s lighting contributes enormously, the two combining to bring the sunshine and warmth of Spain to the stage.

There was rather less Spanish sun from Veronika Part, though. Making her debut as Kitri she was ice-cool in more ways than one. Of course, the choreography in Don Quixote is really Russian rather than Spanish, but even so, it would have been nice to have seen a little more sensuality and expression. A little bit of petulance in Kitri never comes amiss; something like Lise in “Fille”. After all, the situation is not that much different as she seeks to go against her father’s wishes. But there was none of it here. She also barely smiled once during the whole performance. Maybe the fact her father was busy trying to marry her off to a rich nobleman was playing on her mind more than we thought.

Only occasionally did one feel there was much in the way of chemistry between her and James Whiteside’s Basilio. Act I was notable for the large number of off balance supports between them. Neither dancer had problems dancing alone, so it’s difficult to tell quite where the problem lie. Maybe it’s a partnership that will eventually blossom, but the shoots looked incredibly tender just then.

Things picked up somewhat in Act II. Part came alive during Basilio’s fake suicide scene and was very funny indeed as she pretended to revive him. It was like watching a different dancer. But the coolness soon returned.

The big pas de deux was solid. Whiteside has an attractive, uncomplicated air about him. His jumps are turns were all very cleanly executed, with his series of pirouettes in second being particularly notable. There was lots of clarity from Part too. She was always right on the music, but it was all rather unspectacular. Her fouettés were right on the spot, but with embellishment whatsoever. There was little zest, sense of celebration or Spanish flair. Oh for a few overhead flourishes of her fan, even an occasional double.

The supporting characters were generally excellent. Julio Bragado-Young brought lots of stagecraft to his portrayal of the downtrodden, slightly daft Sancho Panza. He looked for all the world like a close relative of Blackadder’s Baldrick, with many of the mannerisms too. His master could have done with one of his cunning plans!

When it came to dancing, the show was stolen by Devon Teuscher and Melanie Hamrick as the Flower Girls. They were full of grace and precision. Their pizzicato pointework was pinprick sharp. They provided some much needed sunny dancing and sunny dispositions, and were quite delightful and utterly beguiling.

Kristi Boone was an elegant and eloquent Mercedes. Jared Matthews was a dashing, upright and imposing matador, although he lacked the sense of irony which many dancers put into the role. If Espada is really going to make it as a matador he really needs to work on his showmanship though. His cape swirling especially could do with some beefing up. Alexandre Hammoudi was unfunny as the foppish and rather pathetic Gamache. His attempts at humour and clowning all fell flat. Kitri was spot on in not wanting anything to do with him. The corps were radiant.

The orchestra was conducted by David LaMarche, who sometimes took things at a near-funereal pace. He never quite came to a grinding halt, but the music was dragged out so long on a couple of lifts I thought about taking a quick siesta.

All in all, ABT’s “Don” is a perfectly decent version even if, on this viewing, it takes itself a tad too seriously. It is a silly story and needs to be treated as such.

Author:  balletomaniac [ Fri May 31, 2013 10:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre - Met Season 2013

Just returned from the premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's "Shostokovich Trilogy." Although I still haven't gotten to the Don Q reviews (I saw Osipova/Vasiliev, Part/Whiteside, and Boylston/Simkin last night), I thought a quick, preliminary word about the Ratmansky piece is in order, since it'll be over before you blink (there are two performances tomorrow, and one on Monday).

Based on this one cast, I have mixed impressions. Although there are no program notes to decipher Ratmansky's intent, it seems safe to assume, in a general sense, that the opening section ("Symphony No. 9") is intended to depict the loss of individual freedoms and the officially-required feigned happiness as Communism took hold; the second ("Chamber Symphony") to portray an individual's suffering under Communism/Stalin; and the third ("Piano Concerto #1), to illustrate the return of freedom - sort of. If there is a choreographic 'thematic' image, it's of individuals falling to the ground, slowly, in intermittent degrees. This or related images are present in all three segments -- but in the last segment, instead of remaining prone, the dancer (Ivan Vasiliev) sits up and stares out at the future, as if the period of individual subjugation had finally ended.

I like the opening segment, which was performed previously (in October at City Center, and at the Gala), but at times it can get a little busy. Polina Semionova limited what appeared to me to be excessive 'happy' smiling at the Gala, and did a fine job, as did Marcelo Gomes, Herman Cornejo (whose entrechats were the highlight of the evening), Simone Messmer, and Craig Salstein. The second segment is strange, but I liked it the most (a certain kinship, I guess). It's depressingly somber and haunting, and to me I looked at times like "Apollo," if "Apollo" had been choreographed by Kafka. David Hallberg, in a mostly dramatic role, was excellent as the tormented central character, and Isabella Boylston was very good as one of this three muses/love interests. [Paloma Herrera and Julie Kent were the others, and were good, but the casting made it look like the three women represented different stages of the same girl: that is, a maturing growth process among the three women and/or with respect to Mr. Hallberg's character's relationship to them, which I don't think was Ratmansky's intent. We'll see if the second cast makes this aspect of the piece look different.] The final segment, to this viewer, was the weakest of the three, with less thematic cohesiveness than the others - and it included some bravura displays that appeared inserted just to awaken the audience. But seeing Diana Vishneva and Natalia Osipova sharing the stage was worth the price of admission, and Cory Stearns, who partnered Ms. Vishneva, did a superb job. It may come across as a backhanded compliment, but I didn't realize it was Mr. Stearns until I checked the program afterward.

More after I see the second cast.

Author:  David [ Sat Jun 01, 2013 8:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre - Met Season 2013

A full review will follow, but I would just like to echo most of Jerry's comments.

There are certainly issues about the first ballet being too busy - it is actually by far the weakest of the three, and I have a big problem with the reduction of dance to technical gymnastics with little connection to the music, mood or surrounding chroeography as happens with Vasiliev in the third piece.

But viewed as a triliogy it is quite a remarkable evening. I wish I could give it a second look, but that's not possible.

As Jerry says, it will soon be gone from the schedules, but if you get a chance, and can grab a ticket, do go.

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