And here are a couple of features in the Post-Gazette about the Pittsburgh performances:
By MICHAEL CARUSO
The Pennsylvania Ballet will open its 2004-05 season with a spectacular
program featuring performances of three of George Balanchine's most
captivating works. Highlighting this celebration of the centennial anniversary of the
great choreographer's birth will be "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," his
collaboration with the great Broadway composer Richard Rodgers from "On Your Toes."
Complimenting this jazzy masterpiece will be "Ballo della Regina," set to music
taken from Giuseppe Verdi's opera, "Don Carlo," and "Agon," one of Balanchine's
most acclaimed collaborations with the modern titan, Igor Stravinsky.
Local balletomanes will have the chance to encounter the artistry of one
of Pennsylvania Ballet's newest members in "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue." Julie
Diana, formerly a member of the San Francisco Ballet for 11 years, will dance
the ballet's principal female role.
Originally from Summit, New Jersey, Diana began studying ballet when she
was seven years old with the New Jersey Ballet in West Orange. After working
there for five years, she moved onward and upward to Balanchine's School of
American Ballet in New York City for four more years of instruction. Her
training was supplemented by summer workshops with the Joffrey Ballet School. During
her career to date, she has been honored with the Isadora Duncan Award for her
performances in Jerome Robbins' "Dancers at a Gathering" and Kenneth
MacMillan's "The Invitation."
When asked what inspired her move from San Francisco to Philadelphia,
she said that she had grown to miss the East Coast, where she grew up, even
though she loved living in the fabled City by the Bay. "I missed the distinct
change of seasons," she added.
Speaking of her part in "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," Diana said, "It's
different from most Balanchine choreography because it has a plot. She's sassy
and seductive -- there's a lot of comedy in it -- and I get to wear heels and
fishnet stockings. Plus, there's a little flashback in it for me because I
first saw it danced when I was twelve and studying at the School of American
Ballet. The technical demands are not that great, but what is appealing is that
there's more room for interpretation of character development than in many
Balanchine ballets. She's initially just playful and cute. Then she gets down and
"Agon" is a different story altogether. Premiered in 1957 by the New
York City Ballet, it is the third of three scores composed by Stravinsky for
Balanchine, the others being "Appollon Musagete" in 1928 and "Orpheus" in 1948.
The composer's inspiration was his coming upon a 17th century manual of French
court dances and his determination to assemble a suite of dances. He used the
name "Agon," which is Greek for "contest," "protagonist" or "agony." Balanchine
added the traditional ballet centerpiece -- the pas de deux -- to the
recreated court dances.
Teaching the choreography to the dancers is balletmaster Jeffrey
Gribler. "I think I danced it a million times," the company's former principal dancer
joked. "Seriously, though, the last time we did it was in 2001 and I didn't
dance it that time. My last time dancing it was in 1999.
"Why do I love it?" he posed. "Well, like 'Four Temperaments' before it,
it was very experimental in its day in 1957 -- asking dancers to do things
they hadn't been asked to do before. Nowadays, of course, it's more a part of
the language of ballet, but even so it still makes phenomenal demands on what
your body can do. It's so athletic and its speed is still very challenging. Plus
the score is so complex, especially the rhythms, that it can almost drive you
crazy. You have to learn how to hear the music and count meticulously from
start to finish.
"I love teaching it," Gribler concluded, "because I've got to learn to
dance it all over again."
"Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," "Agon" and "Ballo della Regina" will play
the Academy of Music November 3 and 4 at 8 p.m., November 6 at 2 and 8 p.m.,
and November 7 at 2 p.m. Call 215-893-1999 or visit www.paballet.org.
The coming days offer local lovers of ballet and singing several
opportunities to indulge their passion for exhilarating performances. The Pennsylvania
Ballet opens its 2004-05 season with a presentation of Slaughter on Tenth Avenue
, Ballo della Regina and Agon playing the Academy of Music November 3-7. The
Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia opens its new season on Friday, October
29, at 8 & 10 p.m. with a program entitled "Hallowired" to be sung in the
Episcopal Cathedral Church of the Saviour at 38th & Chestnut Streets in West
Philadelphia. And the Academy of Vocal Arts Opera Theater presents Mozart's Cosi fan
tutte in its own Warden Theater at 1920 Spruce Streets in Philadelphia and the
Haverford School's Centennial Hall November 5-20.
Agon is the third collaboration between composer Igor Stravinsky and
choreographer George Balanchine. Premiered on November 27, 1957, by the New York
City Ballet, it was last performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet in February,
2001. The other Stravinsky/Balanchine collaborations are Appollon Musagete in
1928 and Orpheus in 1948.
"I think I may have danced Agon at least a million times," joked West
Mt. Airy's Jeffrey Gribler, the Pennsylvania Ballet former principal dancer and
now its balletmaster. "It probably wasn't quite that many times, but I danced
it a lot, for the first time in the early 1990s and for the last time in 1999."
Gribler continued by describing Agon as having been experimental in its
time because it pushed further the boundaries of what a dancer's body could do
than what had previously been demanded.
"Even today," he said, "it's still phenomenal because of the speed and
the complexity of the rhythms. You have to learn a new way of hearing the music
because you can't just rely on 'dancers counting' but you've got to learn the
music, itself, so that you can count the music's rhythms meticulously from
start to finish. You've even got to learn the orchestral colors of the score.
"But I'm loving teaching it as much as I loved dancing it -- perhaps
because I've got to learn to dance it all over again so that I can teach it!"
For ticket information call 215-893-1999 or visit www.paballet.org.
When the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia takes the stage Friday
night at the Episcopal Cathedral, it will do so under the baton of its acting
artistic director Matthew Glandorf. If the name already seems familiar, it may be
the result of Glandorf, as the choir's assistant music director, having taken
the podium to conduct the choir's final concert of last season upon the abrupt
departure of then-artistic director David Tang. Glandorf is also well known
as a concert organist, a teacher at his alma mater, the Curtis Institute of
Music, and the director of the chamber choir In Clara Voce, which is in residence
at Old Christ Episcopal Church in Society Hill.
When I asked Glandorf to detail some of his goals for Choral Arts, he
said that he wanted to establish a special "sound" for the ensemble. When I
asked him to describe that "sound," he replied both humorously and seriously,
"That's hard to answer."
"I don't want to impose my own notion of a 'choral sound' on the choir,"
he continued. "I want the singers to develop the sound that best suits them,
and then help them to learn how to hear and recognize that sound when they get
it so that it becomes something unique and distinctive."
Glandorf pointed out that there has been a tremendous amount of
personnel turnover at Choral Arts since the departure of Donald Nally several years
ago. Nally had made of himself a powerful and influential figure in the local
music scene through his work at Choral Arts, the chorus of the Opera Company of
Philadelphia and as choirmaster at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in the
Rittenhouse Square section of Philadelphia. He has proven to be a hard act to follow
wherever he worked.
"First and foremost," Glandorf said, "I want Choral Arts to be known for
the good music of its programs. I realize that there are societal and
community aspects of any mostly volunteer chorus' life, but the primary goal is
making good music and I think you need to program good music to accomplish that
goal. Of course we'll do the standards, but I don't want us to be limited to the
'top ten' of the choral repertoire. For instance, I want us to be known as a
choir that programs a less well known score such as Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610
Glandorf's inclusion of commissioned works will take concrete form at
"Hallowired" with the world premiere of The Haunted Palace by local composer
Anthony Mosakowski. It's based on Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher
. The program also includes the "Dies Irae" movement from Verdi's "Manzoni"
Requiem Mass, Lux Aeterna by Ligeti, and Moro Lass by Gesualdo.
"I want everything we do to be performed at the highest level," Glandorf
insisted. "But I also want our audiences to be surprised by what they
experience at our concerts -- both enlightened and provoked."
For ticket information call 215-545-8634 or visit www.choralarts.com
Chuck Hudson will direct the AVA Opera Theater's production of Cosi fan
tutte by Mozart. It will be his third encounter with the opera this calendar
"Fortunately," he assured, "it's one of my favorites, I think because it
leaves several important plot questions unanswered and they must be answered
by the director, and I believe that I can best do that in conversation and
discussion with the members of my cast."
The story of Cosi revolves around the trickery of Don Alfonso and
Despina perpetrated upon the young engaged lovers Ferrando, Guglielmo, Dorabella and
Fiordiligi. The two young men are best friends and soldiers on maneuvers
while the two young women are sisters engaged to the pair of fellows. Through the
device of a bet and disguise, the pairs switch, much to the consternation of
For his first encounter of the year with Cosi, Hudson allowed the
couples to return to their original pairings, but for his second interpretation, he
permitted the switch to stand as a revelation of the true loves of all
concerned. For AVA, the verdict is not yet in.
"Since all the singers here at AVA are all young," Hudson explained,
"I've decided that neither Don Alfonso nor the maid Despina are older than the
four lovers, so that means that there is no 'parental' figure in the plot to
impose a solution. Neither is there an aristocratic character to do the same
thing. Cosi was written after the French Revolution, so it represents some new
concepts for society."
In order to make the story more accessible to as much of the audience as
possible, Hudson has moved the time of its setting from the 18th century to
the late 19th century.
"I've asked the cast to watch the film A Room with a View because I'm
thinking of this Cosi as a story about young people away from home. The girls
have come to Italy on vacation to see their boyfriends who are about to be sent
to Albania. It's in Italy, away from home, where they're able to express their
emotions more freely than they would be at home in England. We certainly see
that with young people away from home even today."
For ticket information call 215-735-1675 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org