Flying thru Tom Gold's SHANTI
Russell Janzen, Abi Stafford, Devin Alberda in SHANTI
Tom Gold, Abi Stafford
Simone Messmer and Jared Angle: White Swan
Simone and Jared
Simone and Jared
Likolani Brown and Russell Janzen: The Man I Love
Likolani and Russell
Abi Stafford and Jared Angle: Midsummer Night's Dream
Jared and Abi
All photos by Brian Krontz.
July 30, 2012 | Permalink
Likolani Brown and Russell Janzen rehearsing The Man I Love for tomgolddance; photo by Brian Krontz.
tomgolddance are heading to Spain to perform at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao on August 1st. Photographer Brian Krontz and I stopped by at the City Center Studio to take a look at the dances Tom's taking across the Atlantic. When we arrived, they'd just finished running thru Tom's Faure Fantasy which will open the programme in Bilbao. Brian found his corner from which to shoot and the White Swan pas de deux commenced.
Above: Simone Messmer in the White Swan pas de deux
Earlier this year, I was at an ABT SWAN LAKE in which Simone Messmer appeared in the Spanish dance at the court festivities. I found myself constantly drawn to her, even when she was simply standing on the sidelines, observing. I kept thinking: What a Swan Queen she would be! Today, that thought became a reality as Simone danced Odette, with New York City Ballet's Jared Angle as her prince.
In their practice clothes and making mini-corrections along the way, Simone and Jared (aboove) created a distinctive impression in this familiar pas de deux. Simone's lyricism, coloured by a restless energy pulsing beneath the surface, finds a perfect compliment in Jared's noble bearing and poetic expression: he's ardent without being fussy or melodramatic. Such an intriguing experience to watch this partnership; now if we could just find a way to have them dance the whole ballet together.
Amanda Hankes in SHANTI.
SHANTI is Tom Gold's colourful ensemble ballet set to an exotic-sounding John Zorn score; it will close the programme in Bilbao. Tom gives all the dancers in this piece ample chance to shine, with high-energy combinations for Devin Alberda and Russell Janzen and some sinuous moves for Amanda Hankes and Likolani Brown; Amanda also has a nice and zesty fouette combination. Abi Stafford, Simone Messmer and Jared Angle weave in and out of the ensemble in skillfully-managed partnering passages while Tom gives himself some virtuosic feats to pull off.
Russell Janzen and Devin Alberda
Whenever I'm watching New York City Ballet I always find myself thinking that the dancers in the corps de ballet could step into principal roles with ease. We had a glimpse of that today as Likolani Brown and Russell Janzen (above) danced The Man I Love from Balanchine's WHO CARES?
Likolani is a beautiful dancer, someone I love to keep an eye on in the corps and who always makes the most of her demi-soliste roles; she has a warm, Springtime quality and she's a sophisticated mover. Russell, one of the tallest men in the NYCB family, has the partnering well in hand. Together they brought a young-love feeling to this classic Balanchine duet.
Abi Stafford and Jared Angle (above) in the Act II pas de deux from Balanchine's MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, one of the choreographer's most ravishing creations. Bringing to mind their intoxicating partnership in Emeralds, Abi and Jared have the clarity of technique and the gentle combination of courtliness and romance to give this duet its special perfume: there's really nothing else quite like it in the Balanchine canon.
All photos by Brian Krontz; an additional gallery of images from this rehearsal will be found here.
The Bilbao audience are in for a treat with this programme; and tomgolddance have another exciting tour stop on their itinerary: in October, the will dance in Cuba!
July 30, 2012 | Permalink
It was so wonderful to read (earlier this year) that the Martha Graham Dance Company were going to move into the marvelous and dance-mythic Cunningham Studios down at Westbeth. I'd only been in the Cunningham space a couple of times and I simply fell in love with the place; for a while it seemed like the studios might be lost to the dance world, and thus the announcement of the Graham plan made me so happy.
Little did I know that I'd so soon be having an opportunity to visit the Graham dancers in their new home, but thanks to the kindness of Lloyd Knight (above, photo by Kokyat) who I'd met earler this year when he was working with Emery LeCrone, I had the unbelievable good fortune to spend the better part of an afternoon watching the Graham Company preparing for their upcoming performances in Akron, Ohio and at the Vail International Dance Festival. Lloyd was a perfect host, sending me in advance a list of the works they'd be rehearsing, introducing me to everyone and periodically checking in with me when he wasn't busy dancing. Janet Eilber, the artistic director, gave me a gracious welcome.
The last time I was in the 'Cunningham space' all the windows were covered with cardboard; today the windows were bare and despite the overcast sky, a gentle light filled the spacious studio. Views of the Manhattan skyline and of the Hudson River enhance the setting. In the eleventh floor elevator lobby, a friendly painter was sprucing things up with shades of rose and violet; an open door led out onto the roof.
I was sorry to have just missed Katherine Crockett's run-thru of Lamentation, but I did have a lovely conversation with her - she's one of my dance idols - before she slipped out of the studio. Mariya Dashkina Maddux swirled thru the solo Serenata Morisca, a dance that is fiery and provocative and performed in a gypsy skirt. This solo, dating back to around 1916, was based by Graham on a Ted Shawn piece. Andrea Murillo performed the iconic Lamentation (1930) and a bit later she also danced the Serenata Morisca. A passionate duet, Conversation of Lovers from the 1981 ballet Acts of Light, was given a breath-taking interpretation by Xiaochuan Xie and Tadej Brdnik. With each of these works I was drawn deeper and deeper into the power and mystery of the Graham style. I was so grateful to talk with Denise Vale, the former Graham principal artist who is now the Company's senior artistic associate; taking time from her coaching of the dancers, she helped me to actually see what I was watching. In a few sentences she illuminated my perception in ways that reading a dozen books about Graham most likely could not.
To see a new work before its premiere has been an exciting dividend of being a blogger; Doug Varone has made an unusual and evocative work for four men and a bench which is set to the darkly haunting Ravel Gaspard de la Nuit. Lloyd Knight, Tadej Brdnik, Maurizio Nardi and Abdiel Jacobsen are the dancers in this work which has the feel of contemporary ritual; it is sensuous without being sexual and the bench tends to become a fifth dancer. The work will debut at Vail in August.
Mariya Dashkina Maddux, Tadej Brdnik and Lloyd Knight took on the familiar roles of the married couple and the preacher man in Appalachian Suite, and then they were joined by Ms. Murillo for Embattled Garden.
It was after 5:00 PM when Embattled Garden began, and the dancers had been working since noon. Where they found the energy shall remain a mystery, but I'll never forget the experience of watching what amounted to a private performance of this vivid ballet, replete with the Noguchi set pieces. Only the dancers, Ms. Vale and myself were in the studio; Mariya (Masha) and Tadej were Eve and Adam, Andrea was Lilith and Lloyd the sinister Stranger. They gave a full-out rendering of this dramatic work, thrilling in intensity and so wonderful to contemplate in this space.
Of all the days not to have a photographer available! My regular photographers were all out-of-town or otherwise occupied and so I planned to take some pictures myself. But my Leica seems to have developed a serious problem and so I have no documentation of this wonder-filled afternoon.
The dancers were all so kind and generous; Tadej, who seemed to dance all afternoon, is a delightful guy, upbeat and amusing. I simply had a great time.
July 29, 2012 | Permalink
It's taken me a while to locate, but I've now found on CD the 1967 performance of Verdi's IL TROVATORE from Rome 1967 that I used to have on reel-to-reel and that always seemed to me to capture the essence of this melodious, melodramatic work. Conducted by Bruno Bartoletti, the performance features a quartet of principal artists (all Italian) who strike at the very heart of the opera, a score rooted in bel canto but also forward-looking in its way. Photo of the composer, above.
Gabriella Tucci's beautiful lirico-spinto voice made a great impression on my when i first heard her in Met broadcasts as Aida, Cio-Cio-San, Violetta and Desdemona back in the early 60s. These were my formative years as an opera-lover and Tucci's voice spoke directly to my heart; there was a lovely vulnerable quality to her singing. I finally got to see her onstage, as Leonora in TROVATORE at the Old Met in 1965, and I heard her again in this role at a concert performance at the Newport Festival in 1967. She is the Leonora of the 1967 Rome performance and re-affirms everything I loved about her in this music. She does experience one brief moment of pitch trouble during the high-lying arcs of the great fourth act aria, but everything else in her performance is sung quite beautifully. Her phrasing and use of the language seem to me to set her among the most persuasive of Verdi stylists.
Piero Cappuccilli is the Conte di Luna, making his usual fine impression in terms of vocal attractiveness and breath-control. For me, it's never been a really distinctive sound - I'm not sure I could pick out the Cappuccili voice in a 'blind' line-up of Italian baritones - but he had a huge career, much of it spent as Italy's premier Verdi baritone.
Carlo Bergonzi's always been my favorite tenor; yes, I know that as time passed he tended to have trouble maintaining pitch in the upper range (he was originally a baritone) but for me his gorgeous timbre, dynamic mastery, fluid diction and stylish turnings of phrase make him The King. On this night in Rome, his opening serenade 'Deserto sulla terra' is ravishing to the ear and he crests up to the final phrase with such sustained and expressive vocalism that the audience erupts with cheers. Ever the scrupulous musician, Bergonzi delivers the trills in "Ah, si bel mio" with his customary polish, and his "Di quella pira" is made urgent not by shouting but by verbal emphasis. Such a wonderful document of him in this role.
For all the excitement that Tucci, Cappuccilli and Bergonzi provide, it is Fiorenza Cossotto as Azucena who gives the evening's most stunning performance. Cossotto's voice, one of the grandest I ever heard live (as Eboli, Amneris, Santuzza, Azucena, and Dame Quickly) generates incredible excitement among the Rome audience. The protracted ovation after her Act II monologue reminded me of the night I saw her Amneris at The Met: although there were no curtain calls after the Judgement Scene, the audience gave Cossotto such a massive applause that the conductor was literally unable to commence the Tomb Scene for a good five minutes. Cossotto's huge, round sound and her splendid emotional commitment (always musical - she never strayed from the notes for dramatic effect) are on peak form for the Rome Azucena, a thrilling sonic experience.
Cossotto establishes her majestic vocal presence immediately in "Stride la vampa" but it is in her great monolog "Condotta ell'era in ceppi," as Azucena describes her mother's execution, where the mezzo soars into the musico-dramatic stratosphere with a searing performance that elicits an endless ovation from the crowd. This is Italian opera at its most thrilling, and few singers over time could match Cossotto in her prime for vocal and emotional generosity. She continues to dominate this Rome performance right to her final triumphant high B-flat.
The sound quality is pretty good for the period, and Bruno Bartoletti keeps things humming along in the pit and allows his singers to sustain cherished notes - sometimes in a competitive way - which makes for an extra thrill here and there. I so enjoyed listening to this performance again after many years.
July 27, 2012 | Permalink
In 1976, I started a temp job at Covenant Insurance Company in Hartford, Connecticut. After temping for a couple of weeks, I was hired full-time as a mail clerk. Within a year, I started training to be a claim rep and I eventually took over an inside adjuster's desk; I remained with the Company for 22 years, surviving two buy-outs (by American States Insurance and then by Safeco) and left in 1998 to move to New York City.
Handling insurance claims is a stressful and thankless job: you are always saying 'no' to someone, it seems. What made the job bearable (and the days almost enjoyable - almost being the key word) were the people I worked with. From the start, the three women above - Jackie, Trudy and Judy - were among my all-time favorite colleagues. As time passed, they each left to work elsewhere. We kept in touch but seldom saw each other, and after I moved to New York City I heard from them only rarely. But we kept afloat the idea of a reunion and today (July 25, 2012) it finally came to pass, after a lapse of almost a quarter-century since I last saw any of them.
With more than two decades of catching up to do, the conversation over lunch jumped from topic to topic as they talked about their kids (and Jackie about her grand-kids) and we reminisced about people we'd worked with ("Where's whats-his-name these days?") who we've lost track of. Many of our co-workers have since passed away, of course; we recalled how everyone smoked in the office back in the day, and several kept bottles of booze stashed away in their desks or credenzas and went to imbibe in the bathroom stalls or in their cars during lunch break. Office affairs were commonplace; people who were thought to be happily married were found to be otherwise, forming improbable liaisons along the way.
We walked over by the river, and then took a hike along to the High Line (which has now become a tourist destination and is rather commercialized), ending up at a pub on 8th Avenue for a drink before they headed back to Grand Central.
Trudy & Jackie
Judy and I took private ballet classes together for a while; she had studied as the Hartford Ballet, and she still has ballerina hair.
We parted, agreeing that it would be a good idea not to wait another 25 years before we arrange to meet again.
July 26, 2012 | Permalink
Nicolai Ghiaurov, Fiorenza Cossotto, Renata Tebaldi, Leontyne Price and Carlo Bergonzi backstage at Carnegie Hall following a performance of the Verdi REQUIEM in 1964. Price, Cossotto, Bergonzi and Ghiaurov were the soloists, and Tebaldi was visiting her colleagues in the green room after the performance. Herbert von Karajan conducted.
July 24, 2012 | Permalink
Saturday July 21, 2012 - The Paris Opera Ballet concluded their 2012 guest-season at Lincoln Center with Pina Bausch's staging of Gluck's immortal opera based on the myth of the singer Orpheus, a man who braves the furies of hell to bring his beloved wife back from the dead. Bausch created her version of the opera in 1975 at Wuppertal and it entered the repertoire of the Paris Opera Ballet in 2005.
Ms. Bausch eschews Gluck's plan for the opera to end happily; the composer has the gods taking pity on Orpheus after he has caused Eurydice's 'second death' and she is restored to him. In her setting, Ms. Bausch follows the course of the myth: by disobeying the decree that he not look at his wife until they have left the Underworld, Orpheus loses Eurydice forever. He is condemned to wander the Earth, lonely and tormented, until he his torn to shreds by the Maenads. This gruesome conclusion is not depicted onstage; we simply see the dead Eurydice and her distraught husband in a final tableau as the light fades.
The Paris Opera Ballet's production, vivid in its simplicity and superbly performed by dancers and musicians alike, made for an absorbing evening. A packed house seemed to be keenly attentive to the narrative; the silence in the theatre was palpable. The only slight drawback in the presentation was the need for two rather long set-changing pauses during the first half of the evening; the house lights were brought to quarter and the audience began to chatter. Fortunately, order was quickly restored once the music started up again. The second act, with its unbroken spell of impending doom and its heart-breaking rendering of the great lament "J'ai perdu mon Eurydice" by the superb mezzo-soprano Maria Riccarda Wesseling - the audience seemed scarcely to draw breath while she spun out a miraculous thread of sound in the aria's final verse - was as fine a half-hour as I have ever spent in the theatre.
The opera was sung in German, with the chorus seated in the orchestra pit. Each of the three principal roles in the opera is doubled by a dancer and a singer. The three singers, clad in simple black gowns, move about the stage and sometimes participate in the action. So fine were the musical aspects of the performance that the opera could well have stood alone, even without the excellent choreography.
Ms. Wesseling (above) was a revelation; her timbre reminded me at times of the younger days of Waltraud Meier and she shares with that great artist an intensity and personal commitment that make her singing resonate on an emotional level. Ms. Wesseling's sustained and superbly coloured rendering of "J'ai perdu mon Eurydice" - with remarkable dynamic gradations - was so poignant; how I wish we could have her at The Met, as Gluck's Iphigenie perhaps. The two sopranos, Yun Jung Choi (Eurydice) and Zoe Nicolaidou (Amour), gave lovely performances. Conductor Manlio Benzi wrought the score with clarity and dramatic nuance, wonderfully carried out by the musicians and singers of the Balthasar-Neumann Ensemble.
In this powerful musical setting, Ms. Bausch moves her dancers with dignity and grace; the ritualistic passages for female ensemble evoked thoughts of Martha Graham, and reminded Kokyat of Lydia Johnson's stylishly flowing images of sisterhood. As Orfeo, Nicolas Paul looked spectacular in flesh-tone briefs, his torso god-like and his anguish expressed by every centimeter of his physique. Tall and radiant, Alice Renavand looked tres chic in her red gown as Eurydice. Charlotte Ranson was a lively angel in white as Amour.
It was in the second half of the evening where Ms. Bausch's vision transcended theatricality and took on a deeply personal aspect. Nicolas Paul as Orpheus strove movingly to ignore his wife's pleas to look her in the face; when at last he could no longer withstand her torment, the fatal moment comes. Ms Renavand collapses on her singer-counterpart's body and remains prone and absolutely still as Ms. Wesseling sings the great lament. Mr. Paul kneels, facing upstage, in a pool of light which accentuates the gleaming sweat on his back. In this simple tableau, so much is expressed without movement of any kind. The voice of Orpheus in his grief fills the space and the soul.
Alice Renavand (Eurydice), Nicolas Paul (Orphée), Charlotte Ranson (Amour)
Orpheus: Maria Riccarda Wesseling
Eurydice: Yun Jung Choi
Amore: Zoe Nicolaidou
July 22, 2012 | Permalink