Thursday, July 18, 2019

Mostly Mozart’s Magic Flute Mostly Magical

Pamina and Papageno, photo @ Michael Daniel

One of the few things operaphiles can agree upon is that the Met is a terrible venue for Mozart. The size swallows up the intimacy and charm of Mozart’s music. The Magic Flute has had a really rough go of it in recent years as it is almost always presented in the shortened English version. Julie Taymor’s production is colorful but vapid. Therefore opera lovers owe it to themselves to go to the smaller David K@&! Theater to see the Mostly Mozart Festival’s presentation of Barrie Kosky’s mostly magical production of The Magic Flute. The smaller theater works wonders -- I was up in the front row of the fourth ring but felt closer to the singers than I often do in the orchestra of the Met.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Marius Petipa Biography; The Royal Danes and Mark Morris

Petipa, Petipa, Petipa. His name has become almost synonymous with classical ballet. The French ballet master spent over 60 years in Russia, first as a dancer and then of course as a ballet master. During that time he created, partially choreographed or revised so many of the full-length classics that still make up the backbone of ballet repertoire: Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Raymonda, La Bayadere, Don Quixote. It's his versions of Giselle and Coppélia that audiences are familiar with today. Yet until now there hasn't been a comprehensive biography of the man's life. (It's an odd gap but there isn't a comprehensive biography of George Balanchine either.) Now, thanks to Nadine Meisner's exhaustively researched biography, we finally know can understand Petipa the man AND are given a priceless snapshot into pre-Revolution Imperial Ballet.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty Closes Out ABT's Spring Season

Sarah Lane as Aurora, photo @ Rosalie O'Connor
ABT's spring season ended with a week of Ratmansky's new/old Sleeping Beauty. I attended two performances. The Cassandra Trenay/Joseph Gorak/Stella Abrera performance I reviewed for bachtrack here. The other cast I saw (Sarah Lane/Herman Cornejo/Christine Shevchenko) were stellar although Ratmansky's insistence on recreating what he thinks is Imperial Ballet style gives the whole ballet a very staid, mumsy feel.

Friday, June 21, 2019

ABT Says Farewell to Roberto Bolle

Bolle's curtain call, photo @Kent G. Becker

ABT's spring season is now officially into warhorse territory. Last week we had Le Corsaire, which I reviewed for bachtrack. (In a sign of the times Le Corsaire now comes with a disclaimer in the program.)  I was lucky enough to see Daniil Simkin's Ali before he got injured. Last night ABT said farewell to longtime danseur noble and uber-hunk Roberto Bolle. The ballet: Kenneth MacMillan's L'Histoire de Manon, which is actually the first ballet I ever saw Bolle dance (he was partnering Alessandra Ferri in her first "farewell").

Friday, June 7, 2019

To Kill a Mockingbird; ABT's Spring Season Chugs On

Father and daughter in To Kill a Mockingbird, photo @ Sara Krulwich
I'm always skeptical when one of my favorite novels gets adapted into a play. To me novels are internal and plays are external, and when novels are adapted into plays they lose their inner voice. And so it was when I heard that Aaron Sorkin was adapting Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird into a play. I loved the 1962 film adaptation, but that film had the close cooperation of Harper Lee. Harper Lee's estate actually sued Aaron Sorkin before a private settlement was reached, allegedly because Lee's estate felt that Sorkin had taken too many liberties with the novel. It was only the raves of friends and the week-after-week sell-out crowds that made me buy a ticket.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Spring Diaries: ABT's Seasons, SAB Workshop, NYCB's Midsummer

Ratmansky's The Seasons' final tableau, photo @ Rosalie O'Connor

ABT continued its Ratmansky Ballet Theater season with a triple bill: the pretty but somewhat bland Songs of Buklovina, the pseudo-dram-ballet On the Dnieper, and his new work The Seasons. I reviewed the program for bachtrack here. Everyone loved The Seasons -- I'm not there yet. To me it lacks the tight organization that is a hallmark of classical ballet. As I said on bachtrack:
The Seasons is overstuffed, uneven and way too busy. There are so many steps, but they rarely made me "see the music". It's also confusing; one had to keep glancing down at the program notes to keep track of who was supposed to be representing what. It was a frustrating ballet, with so many lovely moments that were less than the sum of its parts.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Spring Diaries: Ramasar Returns to NYCB; ABT's Damp Start


Mearns and Ramasar in the Rondo of Brahms-Schoenberg

ABT's Harlequinade, photo @ Marty Sohl
Spring ballet season continues in NYC. I was at the first performance of ABT's spring season and reviewed it for bachtrack here. Ratmansky's Harlequinade is a delightful miniature gem but it needs a livelier performances than it received the night I saw it. The mime has grown cartoonish, the corp de ballet dances had the good old ABT sluggishness, and while individually very fine James Whiteside as Harlequin, Isabella Boylston as Colombine, Stella Abrera and Pierrette and Thomas Forster as Pierrot could not bring the commedia dell'arte tale to life the way they had been able to last year. I have never seen the Met so empty and unenthusiastic -- there wasn't a single individual curtain call.

Mostly Mozart’s Magic Flute Mostly Magical

Pamina and Papageno, photo @ Michael Daniel One of the few things operaphiles can agree upon is that the Met is a terrible venue for Mo...