Wednesday March 27th, 2013 - Choreographer Zvi Gotheiner is setting his dancework "Chairs", which premiered in 1992, on the Steps Repertory Ensemble who will be performing it during their upcoming season at Ailey Citigroup Theater. My friend Joe and I dropped in at a rehearsal today to see how things are developing.
For this dancework, Zvi uses music culled from film soundtracks, Rachmaninoff etudes, and Russian Orthodox sacred music. Today we were watching the dancers work on specific passages...
...stopping periodically to refer to a video of a live performance which gave us an idea of how the work will feel when it's costumed and lit. Mindy Upin and Lane Haplerin, above, having a look.
There's a tremendous sense of energetic flow in the choreography, particularly in a quartet passage...
...and Zvi spent some time working out partnering details with dancers Jake Bone and Lane Halperin (above); their duet has a restless, space-covering energy.
We'd just missed a sampling of a duet for two men (David Scarantino and Clinton Edward Martin, above) but just from the phrases we saw, and a few sneak peeks at the video, "Chairs" is clearly a very interesting piece.
Most of my photos today looked like this:
So we'll have to wait for the performances to get the full impact of what "Chairs" will look like. Just as I did a few months when I checked out Manuel Vignoulle's rehearsal, I really loved the atmosphere at the Steps Rep studio. And it's lovely to chat with the Company's director Claire Livingstone.
In addition to Zvi's "Chairs", and the Vignoulle creation, the programme will feature works by Shannon Gillen, Ricky and Jeff Kuperman, Yesid Lopez and Nathan Trice.
March 28, 2013 | Permalink
This 1968 performance of AIDA from the Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires, cropped up on the Opera Depot website and thought the combination of Martina Arroyo (above) and Carlo Bergonzi as Aida and Radames would be exciting to hear, since they are two of my all-time favorite Verdi singers. Both are in prodigious voice, providing phrase after phrase of wonderfully generous vocalism. My thanks to Dmitry for making me a copy.
Martina Arroyo never made a commercial recording of AIDA, and Bergonzi's Radames on the Decca label (with Tebaldi) was recorded in an unusual acoustic which even later tampering-with could not make really enjoyable. So it's wonderful to have this live recording from the Colon in perfectly good sound and with both singers on impressive vocal form.
The Teatro Colon (above) is a vast house (1,000 standees may be accommodated), and over the years has been rated high acoustically by singers and listeners alike. On this evening in 1968, the crowd surely senses that they are hearing teriffic vocalism from Arrroyo and Bergonzi and they repay the singers with generous ovations throughout the performance.
Bruno Bartoletti is on the podium; over the years I have heard performances conducted by this man that seem ideal and others that are less inspiring. For this AIDA he sets a generally fast pace (the ballet segments are wickedly speedy - I would not want to have been dancing in this performance!) but he certainly gives his singers a lot of leeway, and they enjoy lingering on high notes and having the opportunity to sustain favorite phrases.
There are some off-notes and a few unhappy bits from the pit musicians, and one jarring passage in the Tomb Scene where Bartoletti inexplicably rushes ahead of Bergonzi who is in the middle of some raptly poetic music-making; it takes a few bars to get things back in sync.
Carlo Bergonzi (above) has always been my personal king of tenors; yes, I know all his flaws and yes, he went on singing too long after he should have stopped. But in his heyday he was just so thoroughly pleasing to listen to, his marvelous turns of phrase and beautifully sustained vocalism always make me feel...happy. The beauty of hearing the Italian language wrapped in Bergonzi's plangently expressive sound has always given me particular joy; even now, if I'm feeling blue, I'll reach for that first Decca recital disc and soon I'm transported out of myself and basking in the music that has kept me - both spiritually and psychologically - on an even keel all these years. His singing in this AIDA is simply marvelous to experience: the unstinting generosity of both voice and style, the many small touches of sustained notes and his lovely colourings of the words in a rich emotional palette. It's Verdi tenor singing at its best.
Martina Arroyo is in glorious voice also, rich and even throughout the role's vast range. If she does not employ the ravishing piano effects that some sopranos have in this music, we are amply compensated with the velvety splendour of Arroyo's sound and her plush phrasing, as well as her dramatic awareness which never carries her to excess. In this grand performance, the great Martina rises to the high-C of 'O patria mia' - a note which has defeated many a soprano - with blessed assurance and sustains it with glorious ease. In the opera's concluding Tomb Scene, she and Bergonzi trade passages of soul-pleasing Verdi vocalism, and together they sustain their final joint phrase seemingly beyond the realm of human possibility.
The Serbian mezzo-soprano Biserka Cvejic (above) is probably not on anyone's list of top-ten mezzos; yet if she had been the Amneris in either of the last two AIDAs I heard at The Met, I would have been satisfied. It's a crusty, Old-World sound with an ample and pleasing chest register and higher notes sometimes approached from below. Cvejic has the role well in hand and if her singing doesn't rise to the level of the soprano and tenor, neither does she let down her side of the triangle.
Cornell MacNeil is a powerful, dramatic Amonasro and I was surprised to find Nicola Rossi-Lemeni listed as Ramfis: this basso - a famous stage-creature of the 1950s - is surely nearing the end of his singing career by 1968. If not vocally prime, he surprises with some very robust moments ('Immenso Ptah!') and makes an authoritative impression.
In the film WHITE MISCHIEF - which I have watched a good two dozen times since I first saw it at the cinema in 1987 - the character of Alice de Janzé (above) is played by the English actress Sarah Miles. The film revolves around the still-unsolved murder - in Kenya in 1941 - of Josslyn Victor Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll.
Lord Erroll was a notorious womanizer and a major player in the Happy Valley crowd - a group of wealthy British ex-pats who came to Africa prior to the start of the second World War and lived as gentlemen farmers: drinking, hunting, playing polo and sleeping with other men's wives.
During the night of January 24,1941 Joss Erroll was killed by a shot to the head fired by an unknown assailant who had flagged down the Earl's Buick on the Nairobi-Ngong Road. The car with his Lordship's body slumped on the floor was found at dawn, stalled in a ditch with its headlights still on.
Suspicion fell on Sir Jock Delves Broughton with whose wife Diana the Earl of Erroll has been carying on a very public and high-profile affair. Sir Jock stood trial for the murder but the case against him was weakened by several factors: he was known to have passed out drunk on the night of the murder, and his physical infirmities (night blindness and a limp caused by an old injury) seemed to preclude the notion that he had walked the two miles from his villa to the murder site (and back home) in the darkness of the African night.
Alice de Janzé was in the courtroom every day of the proceedings. She has been having an off-again-on-again affair with Joss Erroll for a long time and was thought to be deeply in love with him. She was known to have been jealous of Joss's involvement with Diana Delves Broughton.
In the film, when the case against Sir Jock seems to be unraveling, Jock's lawyer points to Alice - seated in the gallery - and alludes to the fact that she should in fact be on trial, having both motive and opportunity, as well as a weapon to carry out the crime.
"Has the Countess de Janzé been eliminated as a suspect?" the judge asks the prosecutor.
"She has, your Honor."
"On what grounds?"
"On the grounds that she was in bed with a gentleman at the time."
To which Ms. Miles as Alice pipes up: "But we weren't doing anything!"
The jury acquitted Sir Jock of the murder of his friend the Earl of Erroll; but suspicion clung to him and a year later - his life complicated by financial woes - he committed suicide. The other prospective suspect in the Erroll murder, Alice de Janzé, went on for a few months with her eccentric life; then she too killed herself with a self-inflicted gunshot on September 30th, 1941, shortly after having turned 42 and facing a diagnosis of uterine cancer.
In view of all this, Paul Spicer's biography of Alice de Janzé, entitled The Temptress, was a fascinating read for me. Alice, an American, became a French aristocrat in 1921 when she married Count Frederic de Janzé. The couple had two daughters - to whom Alice could not relate and turned their upbringing over to an aunt and various governesses - and they lived for a while in Paris before moving to Kenya where Alice was absorbed into Happy Valley set. She met and lunched with Karen Blixen, known by her pen-name Isak Dinesen, perhaps the most famous landowner in Kenya at the time and the subject of the film OUT OF AFRICA.
In 1926 the Count and Countess returned to Paris in an effort to save their marriage following much excessive behavior on Alice's part in Kenya. But Alice then took up with Raymund de Trafford, with whom she had already started an affair in Kenya, and as this romance became increasingly intense, her husband the Count de Janzé quietly filed for divorce.
On March 25th, 1927, de Trafford informed Alice that their hoped-for marriage would not be possible: he stood to be disinherited if he married her, his family finding Alice not up to their standards. He was being summoned back to London immediately, and Alice went with him to the Gare du Nord to say farewell. As the couple embraced in the train compartment, Alice pulled out a small revolver and shot de Trafford and then herself. They both survived; Alice stood trial, and her shooting of her lover was eventually determined to have been an attempt at suicide gone awry. She had spent time in a mental hospital as she recovered from her gunshot wound; she received a suspended sentence of six months and paid a fine of 100 francs as penance for her crime of passion.
Above: Alice de Janzé at her trial
Incredibly, de Trafford did finally marry Alice in 1932 but the marriage quickly soured. In 1937, following their divorce, Alice resumed her life in Kenya, now heavily addicted to drugs. The Erroll murder and ensuing trial were to comprise the final chapter of her life.
Visiting the morgue where Joss Erroll's body was laid out, Alice was said to have kissed his lips and said "Now you are mine forever!" In the film WHITE MISCHIEF, this scene takes on a far more graphic, sexual tone.
In THE TEMPTRESS, Paul Spicer is able to convince us that Alice de Janzé was the real murderer of Joss Erroll. She had the motive of jealousy, was known to be capable of shooting someone she loved, and she knew where Joss would be on that fateful night. A set of tire tracks indicating a vehicle heading up the Nairobi road away from the murder scene - and in the direction of Alice's home - were never thoroughly investigated. The contents of Alice's suicide notes were never revealed, though the author feels they likely contained a confession.
Alice de Janzé was buried by the river that ran thru her property at Wanjohi Farm in Kenya. Her grave was unmarked to prevent possible looting by the native Kikuyu.
March 26, 2013 | Permalink
Above: dancer Justin Flores, photo by Kokyat.
Sunday March 24, 2013 - Today I went over to to the studios at Tisch/NYU where Cherylyn Lavagnino was working with her dancers on a new ballet set to the Schubert piano trio in E-flat, a piece that has always evoked dance images for me. Entitled TREIZE EN JEU, it is an ensemble work that features intimate duets mixed into a larger and finely-structured setting.
Stepping off the elevator to the second-floor studio space, the sounds of the Schubert score at once made me feel that I was in for something special, and that was indeed the case. A roomful of dancers, many of whom I know, were mid-phrase when I walked into the studio. It took only a few seconds of observation to determine that this would be a truly pleasing afternoon, as much to the ear as to the eye.
Cherylyn Lavagnino's works, though fresh in detail, are rooted in the traditions of classical ballet. The girls are on pointe and the vocabulary is rich. Subtle nuances in the port de bras and partnering put a distinctive gleam on the choreography, and transitions from unison ensemble passages to a focus on individuals or couples are accomplished in the twinkling of an eye. The dance springs ever from the music, and what heart-filling music it is.
For this large work, Cherylyn has assembled a group of dancers with a high level of technical accomplishment and with distinctive personalities. They work beautifully as a collective yet their individuality is never submerged; thus in the bigger moments of the work the eye is constantly lured from dancer to dancer.
A series of duets give us a chance to savor some lovely partnerships: Claire Westby and Eric Williams, Laura Mead and Justin Flores, Ramona Kelley and Adrian Silver, and the long-limbed and lithe pairing of Giovanna Gamna and Michael Gonzalez. Each couple creates a unique atmosphere; it was so satisfying to watch them ironing out the details under Cherylyn's watchful eye. Justin later worked on the piece with the delicious Selina Chau - there will be double-casting during the performance run at Baruch College in June. Samuel Swanton joined in an energetic male quartet, and two very attractive apprentices - Kristin Deiss and Lila Simmons - filled out a double-trio of women who weave patterns while the sumptuous Claire and Eric are dancing. Laura Mead who made such a lovely impression in Pontus Lidberg's WITHIN for Morphoses last October, looks fetching indeed, and the elongated shapes created by Giovanna and Michael gave their duet a particular appeal.
It was particularly meaningful for me to see Ramona and Adrian dancing together again, for it was in this very studio in 2009 that I first met them when they were rehearsing a John-Mark Owen duet. Their partnership remains an intriguing combination of delicacy and strength.
As the dancers dispersed after a final run-thru, Selina and Justin remained to do some intensive work on the partnering. Their dedication and keen focus on detail gave a clue as to why Cherylyn's works always end up looking so good.
This new Schubert ballet can be seen (with the score played live!) from June 12th thru 19th when Cherylyn Lavagnino joins Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre and Zvi Gotheiner as part of the inaugural year of a new festival celebrating music and dance at Baruch College. Exact dates and times will be announced soon, and the festival extends thru June 22nd with solo nights for Zvi and Dušan.
March 25, 2013 | Permalink
Above: from Paul Taylor's PROMETHEAN FIRE. Photo by Paul B Goode. Click on the image to enlarge.
Saturday March 23rd, 2013 matinee - My final performance of the Paul Taylor Dance Company's 2013 Lincoln Center season. It's been a brilliant three weeks and the Company are dancing superbly. Celebrating Bach's birthday with a Bach ballet on every single programme has been an added source of joy, and the Company's press liaison Lisa Labrado assured me of a warm welcome every time I attended. The Taylor company are outstandingly generous to dance writers, and it's always a great pleasure to find Rachel Berman and Richard Chen-See - former Company dancers - circulating among the guests, making us feel a part of the Taylor family.
This matinee opened with KITH AND KIN, dating from 1987 and set to a Mozart serenade. A tall and elegant couple in brown - radiant Amy Young and James Samson - preside over a flock of energetic young people who seem to be celebrating the sheer joy of being alive in stylized passages of leaps and restless comings and goings. Set slightly apart from this community is the magnetic Heather McGinley, a friendly (and gorgeous) guardian angel. In the central adagio, Amy and James dance with formal grace as Aileen Roehl and Michael Apuzzo swirl about them, perhaps representing their younger selves. This ballet, new to me this season, shows a happy meeting place of generations, with the stately 'senior' couple presiding overall yet still capable of having a little fun of their own.
The poignantly dark splendours of THE UNCOMMITTED evolve first to the gleaming, celestial strains of Arvo Part's Fratres as the dancers - in richly-hued body stockings with rose-red highlights - appear in a series of brief solos. This is a world inhabited by lonely spirits, seeking - but eventually unable - to connect with one another. Paul Taylor again turns again to Mozart as a series of duets unfold; each couple hovers on the brink of understanding but in the end none can sustain a relationship. Even the number of dancers involved - eleven - implies from the start that there will always be an odd man out. Despite its rather bleak emotional outlook, THE UNCOMMITTED provides a wonderful opportunity to focus on the individual lustre of each of the dancers - and what an ensemble it is: Michael Trusnovec, Amy Young, Robert Kleinendorst, Michelle Fleet, Parisa Khobdeh, Eran Bugge, Francsco Graciano, Laura Halzack, Michael Apuzzo, Aileen Roehl and Michael Novak.
Bach provides the setting for a grand finale to the programme: PROMETHEAN FIRE. For this ballet, the entire Company are onstage; the dancers listed above are joined by James Samson, Sean Mahoney, Jamie Rae Walker, Heather McGinley and George Smallwood. In their velvety black costumes subtly trimmed with silver, the dancers revel in Mr. Taylor's complex and visually inspiring combinations: PROMETHEAN FIRE is a masterpiece of structure, formal yet joyously human in expression. The heart of this sumptuous ballet is an adagio in which the combined genius of Mozart and Taylor moves us to the highest realms of spiritual satisfaction. Parisa Khobdeh and Michael Trusnovec were at their most transportive here, the partnering remarkable in its beauty and power, their personal magnetism magically aglow. Indeed it was one of the most moving and soul-stirring experiences in my long memory of watching dance.
PROMETHEAN FIRE concludes with a splendid tableau of the Company dancers and for a moment we could simply relish their collective perfection, for it is they who in the end have the ultimate responsibility of making the choreography live and breathe. Then Mr. Taylor appeared for a bow and the audience swept to their feet with resounding cheers.
March 24, 2013 | Permalink
More Wagnerian treats have come my way, thanks to Opera Depot and to Dmitry's generosity in making me copies. I have a 'new' (to me) TANNHAUSER, and an Act I of WALKURE, and a complete GOTTERDAMMERUNG to enjoy on these long Winter afternoons.
I played the WALKURE Act I first; it comes (as does the GOTTERDAMMERUNG) from a 1959 Covent Garden RING Cycle conducted by Franz Konwitschny (above). This Cycle does not seem to be readily available in the USA, but it was on special offer at Opera Depot so Dmitry snatched it up since one can never have too many RING Cycles.
Konwitschny opens with a superbly-paced prelude; it's slightly on the fast side but gives an uncanny feeling of relentless pursuit: Siegmund is the prey and little does he know that he'll find shelter in the very home of his pursuer. Ramon Vinay, who sang Siegmund in the 1953 Keilberth RING from Bayreuth, sounds more baritonal here - six years later - and tends he to be a bit more declamatory in his approach. Amy Shuard, who was to be Brunnhilde for Solti at Covent Garden in 1965 seems to me better suited to Sieglinde. She has a nice feeling of womanly lyricism in her voice and is especially moving in the passage where she asks Siegmud to stay with her and await Hunding's return. Later, Shuard scores again with a wonderfully pensive quality at "O still, lass mich der Stimme lauschen!". She has a few passing moments of flatness in the middle register, and Vinay is taxed by his final "...Walsungen Blut!" But overall they are quite exciting, and Kurt Boehme is a strong. dark-hued Hunding. Some random off-notes from the orchestra; the sound quality is quite good overall.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Taking a break from the RING, I moved to the 1965 Bayreuth TANNHAUSER. Andre Cluytens gives a well-paced reading of the score, and the sound quality of the recording is more than acceptable. Wolfgang Windgassen, then 50-years-old, takes on the arduous title-role; as he begins to sing there is a sense of strain, but he somehow manages to get the voice in gear and though there are moments when he seems tested, his knowledge of the role and of his instrument manage to sustain him through the first two acts. The strenuous demands of the Rome Narrative sometimes cause the tenor to sound as if he's at the outer edge of his vocal possibilities, and although he steers thru the music without disaster it's not pleasant to listen to. The fact that Tannhauser is exhausted and on the brink of madness can serve to cover some of the moments of vocal peril, but in the end it's not something to listen to more than once.
Leonie Rysanek sings with her usual intensity and command of the upper range, and she uses a broad dynamic palette quite impressively. There are moments when she sounds unstable, notably in the Act III prayer which is taken quite slowly. In 1964, the soprano had had something of a vocal crisis which affected her performances in OTELLO and DON CARLO at The Met. At the end of the 1964-65 season she was gone from the Met for nearly a year (including the very Summer of this Bayreuth TANNHAUSER) and when she returned to New York City she seems to have given up nearly all of her Italian roles (aside from Tosca - though she later took on Medea, Gioconda and Santuzza, but not at The Met). She continued to sing Elisabeth in TANNHAUSER for twenty more years, including a stunning performance in San Francisco in 1973, and an impressive Met broadcast in 1982. This Bayreuth '65 Elisabeth is perhaps not her finest rendering of the role, but it's pretty exciting nonetheless.
Ludmila Dvorakova's huge, over-ripe sound amply fills the role of Venus though her singing will not be to all tastes, and basso Gerd Neinstedt makes a strong impression as Biterolf in the scene of the song contest.
What makes the performance worthwhile are the performances of Martti Talvela (above) as the Landgraf Hermann and Hermann Prey as Wolfram. Talvela is on spectacular form, his commanding voice - marked by just a trace of the vocal 'whine' that was something of trademark - is thrilling to hear he welcomes the guests to the Watrburg and sets forth the framework of the contest. It was such a pleasure to hear this voice again.
Hermann Prey (above) as the steadfast Wolfram, who gallantly sets aside his own feelings for Elisabeth in view of her clear preference for Tannhauser, sings with lovely lyricism and expressiveness; a couple of the lowest notes of the Evening Star are a bit of a downward stretch for him, but for tenderness and poetic resonance his is a peerless incarnation of the role. Both Talvela and Prey have voices instantly recognizable, and their contributions to this performance are superb.
Back to the '59 Konwitschny Covent Garden RING Cycle for GOTTERDAMMERUNG in which the first voice we hear is that of Marjorie Thomas (above) as the First Norn. I had not been aware of this singer previously, despite her substantial career, and she makes a wonderful impression in thei opening scene of the RING's final opera - a scene I greatly enjoy both for its atmosphere and the vocal opportunities afforded the three singers. Her sister-Norns are Monica Sinclair - a mezzo who later joined Joan Sutherland's touring Company and whose prodigious breath control makes her an unusually interesting Bradamante on the Sutherland recording of ALCINA - and soprano Amy Shaurd, who doubles as Gutrune here and later went on to sing the Brunnhildes.
Wagner legends Astrid Varnay and Wokfgand Windgassen pour their hearts out in the prologue duet. Varnay is a soprano I sometimes find oddly matronly and overblown but here she is in very fine voice, moving from strength to strength as the opera progresses. I hear some similarities between her voice and that of Regina Resnik; does anyone else? Windgassen is unfortunately not at his best in this performance. His voice is unsettled, his phrasing wayward. In this repertoire one has to allow for off-days; it''s just too bad this was a performance being preserved for posterity. Hermann Uhde (Gunter) and Gottlob Frick (Hagen) are simply magnificent, and Shuard is an ample-toned Gutrune, sometimes a shade off pitch.
Ursula Boese (above, with composer Igor Stravinsky) is a rich-toned Waltraute, sometimes putting me in mind of Rita Gorr. Ms. Boese's voice sometimes takes a moment to tonalize on a given note, giving a slight feeling of pitchiness, but overall she is impressive in her long scene with Varnay.
As Act II begins, the Czech-born baritone Otakar Kraus (above, great photo as Alberich) sings the role of the dwarf who appears to his son Hagen in a dream, singing with mysterious, haunted tone. This sets the stage for one of the most thrilling readings of the cataclysmic events of this singular Wagnerian act that I have heard. If only Mr. Windgassen had been on peak form on this day, we'd have been left with a veritable masterpiece. The tenor does sing powefully and doesn't shrink for the demands, but moments of strain and rhythmical variances detract a bit from the overall sweep of the act.
Astrid Varnay (above) is simply thrilling in this demanding music; her voice - not so much the timbre but the way she sings - continues to remind me a bit of Resnik. The top is earth-shattering and her expressively dramatic vocal thunderbolts are astounding in their bright, steady power. Along with her 1953 ELEKTRA this is my favorite Varnay recording I've heard to date. Gottob Frick is imperterbably sinister and grand as Hagen, and if the notion that Gunther's undoing could be described as heartbreaking, you hear it magnificently here in Hermann Uhde's uncanny vocal portrayal.
I'll confess to skipping over some of the final act, since Windgassen is so out-of-sorts. The Rhinemaidens - led by the girlish-sounding Joan Carlyle singing along with star-in-the-making Josephine Veasey and Marjorie Thomas, who fills out her evening by adding the third Rhinemaiden to her First Norn.
Varnay's Immolation Scene begins triumphantly. The diva is in huge and secure voice, and her characteristic tendency to sometimes approach a high note from below doesn't bother me, since she always gets where she's going eventually. In her deeply felt and lyrical singing of "Wie Sonne lauter strahlt mir sein Licht..." Varnay wins my heart entirely. A bit later though there is a jarring parting of ways between singer and orchestra: Varnay seems absolutely in the right to my ears (not having a score to hand), but a few measures of musical mayhem ensue before things are set to rights. Thereafter traces of fatigue creep into the soprano's vocalism, but by this time she's delivered so much marvelous singing that we can't help but be swept away in admration for her overall performance.
March 22, 2013 | Permalink
Above: Robert Kleinendorst of Paul Taylor Dance Company in SPEAKING IN TONGUES. Photo by Paul B Goode. Click on the image to enlarge.
Thursday March 21st, 2013 - Paul Taylor Dance Company have been celebrating Johann Sebastian Bach throughout their current Lincoln Center season: there's been a Bach ballet on every programme and today - the actual birthdate of the peerless composer - the dancers gave a glorious performance of ESPLANADE, seeming to up their 'normal' level of energy, musicality, passion and sheer daring to a breathtaking point.
The programme opened with SPEAKING IN TONGUES, a complex work which always leaves me with mixed feelings. Matthew Patton's score does not seem strong enough to sustain a ballet which lasts almost an hour, and to my aging ears the interjections of spoken word no longer have the clarity needed to make a dramatic impact. The work stretches long, but there is no part of it that seems expendable: it is what it is, and perhaps best viewed with a focus on individual dancers.
Surely there are few dance experiences today to equal the thrill of watching Michael Trusnovec onstage. This dancer with his taut, slender muscularity and singular artistry gave a transfixing rendering of the preacher-man's opening solo and then moved thru the rest of the ballet with compelling dramatic intensity. Likewise Robert Kleinendorst as the Odd Man Out struck a vibrant note as his open, innocent personality is slowly dismantled by the holier-than-thou congregation; he's literally beaten into submission, and at last taken into the cult. Also making a strong impact in this work were Amy Young, Laura Halzack, James Samson, Sean Mahoney, Jamie Rae Walker, Aileen Roehl, Heather McGinley, Michael Novak and Michael Apuzzo. Those sumptuous beauties Parisa Khobdeh and Michelle Fleet were outstanding in their prominent solo passages.
My companion for the evening, choreographer Lydia Johnson, helped me to see this work in a somewhat different light than I had previously, and to understand why the dancers love dancing SPEAKING IN TONGUES.
Seeing Taylor's ESPLANADE on Balanchine's stage made for a joyful experience: the two great masters of modern and ballet choreography each turned to the same Bach music and thus ESPLANADE reminds us of CONCERTO BAROCCO, as different as they are in style and setting. And one of my favorite BAROCCO ballerinas, Teresa Reichlen, was sitting a few rows behind us.
In ESPLANADE the sense of dynamism and physical risk play high, and the superb collective of Taylor dancers went at it with unfettered vitality: Amy Young, Laura Halzack, Eran Bugge, Parisa Khobdeh, Jamie Rae Walker, Robert Kleinendorst, Francisco Graciano and George Smallwood all looked smashingly beautiful and grand, and if it was Michelle Fleet who ended up stealing our collective hearts, that too was part of Taylor's plan. The audience, psyched by the fantastic performance, erupted in a massive ovation when the choreographer appeared onstage for a bow.
March 22, 2013 | Permalink
Above: Maria Kowroski, principal ballerina of New York City Ballet, is among the roster of danceworld luminaries who will appear in the third annual Dance Against Cancer gala performance on Monday, May 6, 2013. Photo of Ms. Kowroski by Matt Furman.
The evening kicks off with cocktails at 6:00 PM (VIP ticket only) with a performance at 7:00 PM, to be followed by a reception at 8:30 PM. It all happens at the AXA Equitable Theater, 787 Seventh Avenue here in New York City. Tickets are $150 ($300 for VIP) and are available at dacny.org.
The performance, jointly produced by New York City Ballet's Daniel Ulbricht and Manhattan Youth Ballet's Erin Fogarty, will feature NYCB's Tyler Angle, Robert Fairchild, Maria Kowroski, Lauren Lovette, Tiler Peck, Daniel Ulbricht, and Wendy Whelan, ABT's Misty Copeland and Herman Cornejo, Alvin Ailey's Matthew Rushing, Martha Graham Dance Company's Katherine Crockett and Lloyd Knight, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company's Clifton Brown and Attila Csiki, San Francisco Ballet's Maria Kochetkova, and Joan Boada, and the sensational Charles "Lil Buck" Riley.
Among the special treats in this gala evening will be a sneak peek at Christopher Wheeldon's Cinderella performed by Maria Kochetkova and Joan Boada of San Francisco Ballet, as well as world premieres by both Herman Cornejo and Charles "Lil Buck" Riley.
March 21, 2013 | Permalink