Above: Jennie Somogyi with Jared Angle in Balanchine's FOUR TEMPERAMENTS; photo by Paul Kolnik
Sunday October 11th, 2015 matinee - Breaking my self-imposed exile from New York City Ballet, I attended Jennie Somogyi's farewell performance this afternoon. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Ms. Somogyi has a special place in my balletic affections, in part because of her vivid stage presence and deep sense of commitment, and also because she has heroically overcome a series of injuries that might have caused a lesser ballerina to give up.
You have to wonder how the Somogyi career would have mapped out had the injuries not happened: her technique was vividly secure, and her distinctive beauty and lithe, supple body always kept the viewer engaged, no matter who else was onstage at a given moment. Without the 'ballerina: interrupted' setbacks, there's no role that would have daunted her.
I was in the audience on two of the three occasions when she sustained injuries mid-performance; these were heart-breaking moments, especially in view of her long road back following her original injury. In returning each time, she modified her repertory somewhat and took on roles she might otherwise never have been cast in - and made them her own.
I had the great good fortune to see one of her rare performances of Odette/Odile in the Peter Martins SWAN LAKE and it was, in a word, thrilling. She found a beautifully poetic aspect in expressing Odette's vulnerability and hope, and her Odile was a sensation: glamorous, devious, and whirling thru the fouettés with delicious abandon. Other tutu roles on which Ms. Somogyi put her definitive stamp were the Sugar Plum Fairy in NUTCRACKER and the Lilac Fairy in SLEEPING BEAUTY. (She was also a remarkable Dewdrop; many faithful NYCB-goers rate her as their favorite in that bejeweled role.)
Above: Somogyi's Sugar Plum, photo by Paul Kolnik
In ballets with a more contemporary feel, including such Balanchine Black & Whites as AGON, FOUR TEMPERAMENTS and EPISODES, Ms. Somogyi was marvelously at home. She blazed forth in RED ANGELS and was superb in Peter Martins' FEARFUL SYMMETRIES, MIRAGE, and RED VIOLIN, the latter made specially for her. Her performances in CHIAROSCURO and VIOLA ALONE are happily in my video collection, recorded off-the-air.
Above: from Peter Martins' RED VIOLIN, Jennie Somogyi and Sebastien Marcovici; photo Paul Kolnik
Somogyi smoldered as The Coquette in LA SONNAMBULA and sizzled in Margo Sappington's erotically charged duet ENTWINED, which she danced with Charles Askegard for Ballet Next in 2011. Another role in which she excelled was as the stylized seductress in THE CHAIRMAN DANCES.
In 2010, Ms. Somogyi appeared in Balanchine's timeless romantic classic, LIEBESLIEDER WALTZES, dancing with Justin Peck (photo above, by Paul Kolnik), and it was in this ballet that she made her farewell appearance this afternoon.
Today's matinee opened with a grand performance of Balanchine's TCHAIKOVSKY SUITE #3, with conductor Paulo Paroni and the NYC Ballet musicians playing the melodious score for all it's worth, and concertmaster Arturo Delmoni delighting us with his deft playing of the violin solo.
Each movement of the ballet featured a finely-matched couple in the leading roles. Rebecca Krohn and Russell Janzen were so touching in the Elegie, with its alternating currents of allure and evasion, and their final parting deeply moving. Megan LeCrone and Justin Peck in the Valse echoed the subtle romantic turbulence of the music and looked great together. Ana Sophia Scheller swirled thru the restless turns of the Scherzo with magical aplomb, well-matched by Antonio Carmena's vividly-danced cavalier. And Tiler Peck and Andrew Veyette pulled out all the stops for performance of Theme and Variations that had the crowd cheering. Excellent dancing from the demi-solistes and corps in this marvel of Balanchine structuring.
After the interval we are transported to the candlelit salon of LIEBESLIEDER WALZER where Andrews Sill and Susan Walters were at the keyboard and an amiable quartet of singers (the men slightly out-shining the women) created a gracious romantic atmosphere for the eight elegant dancers. A queenly Sara Mearns with her consort Ask LaCour danced with spacious impetuosity and grace, and I was so glad to see Ashley Laracey, ever a favorite of mine, dancing in this ballet in which, by tradition, only the ballerina elite are cast; her partner was Justin Peck, whose ever-so-subtle sense of restlessness played so well in this refined atmosphere. I was thoroughly bowled over by Sterling Hyltin's ravishing, sublimely nuanced performance; ideally matched to the nobly handsome Jared Angle, Sterling was simply exquisite.
Jennie Somogyi was all lyricism and loveliness in her final dances on this stage; she could not have asked for a more dashing and attentive partner than Tyler Angle, and together - to the mellifluous singing of tenor Blake Friedman - they held the house in an atmosphere of poignant quietude in their quietly rapturous duet which ends with Tyler kneeling and kissing the ballerina's hand. This was the singular moment of the day, and the most perfect tribute to Ms. Somogyi one could imagine. Later, as bouquets piled up, flowers flew across the footlights, and confetti and streamers rained down from the rafters, it was that sublime moment that lingered in the mind.