Sunday, May 19, 2019

Spring Diaries: NYCB Brings Back Brahms-Schoenberg, ABT's Damp Start

Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet with McBride, photo @ Martha Swope

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.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

NYCB Spring Diaries - A New Era

 Tanowitz's Bartok Ballet, photo @ Andrea Mohin
This spring season at NYCB truly marks the start of a new era -- Jonathan Stafford and Wendy Whelan are firmly in place as the new artistic directors, and the company looks both more at ease and more disciplined. No more turmoil.

First of all, as you all might know, I've been writing more for bachtrack, and so two of the performances I attended this spring at NYCB are at bachtrack. One is the opening night performance of Pictures at an Exhibition/Oltremare/Rodeo. Review can be found here. The other is my review of the Spring Gala which had a Justin Peck premiere (the six minute, pleasant, and forgettable Bright), a Pam Tanowitz premiere, and the classic Tschaikovsky Suite #3. Review can be found here. However my review was extensively edited and they took out my favorite line about the disappointing Pam Tanowitz piece, so I'll quote it here:
Bartók Ballet reminded me of why I rarely enjoy Asian fusion restaurants. To me Asian fusion restaurants don't satisfy the appetites of those who want authentic Chinese food, authentic Japanese food, etc. By trying to be everything, it ends up being nothing. Tanowitz's Bartók Ballet tries to fuse modern dance with contemporary ballet and the hybrid was just confusing.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Dialogues of the Carmelites

Dialogues des Carmelites, photo @ Ken Howard

Poulenc's masterpiece Dialogues des Carmelites only has three performances at the Met this season. Which means ... you should definitely try to catch one of the two remaining performances either in person or in HD, because opera does not get more devastating than this. I went in only having seen the opera on video. Nothing could have prepared me for the impact of seeing it live in person. This is the sort of opera that makes you unable to sleep at night.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Hadestown, aka Orpheus and Eurydice, the Opera


The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice inspires great operas. There's Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice (or Orphée et Eurydice), Offenbach's parody operetta Orpheus in the Underworld, and now to that list we have to add Anaïs Mitchell's Hadestown. Because make no mistake -- Hadestown might be playing at the Walter Kerr theater and be advertised as a musical, but it is an opera from curtain to curtain. Its appeal lies not in the usual musical theater tropes but in its operatic scope and scale. This is a work that goes from the heart to the heart.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Ferryman: Style Over Substance; Merce Centennial

The Carney clan, photo @ Joan Marcus
I recently finally saw The Ferryman, Jez Butterworth's lauded play about the fortunes of a large Northen Irish family in 1981. The play received near-unanimous acclaim in both the West End and Broadway. It won a bunch of Oliviers and seems on track to pick up a bunch more Tony's. I didn't see the original "Irish" cast that opened the play, but the replacement American cast. There are some OBC holdovers, like Fionnula Flanagan as Aunt Maggie from Far Away and the brood of Carney children.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Oklahoma! - Violence as American as Chili and Cornbread

The rifles, the chili, the playbill
The new Oklahoma! playing at Circle in the Square (after a highly successful off-Broadway run at St. Ann's) starts off sunnily enough. Laura Jellinek's set design is homey and rugged at the same time -- the stage is filled with bright wood picnic benches and where I was seated (right on the floor of the stage) there was a hot pot of chili brewing in front of me. But the walls were lined with rifles. Almost the whole first act played without the usual dimming of the house lights. The ruggedly handsome Damon Daunno (looking a bit like Sun Records-era Elvis) strums his guitar as he launches into a disarmingly casual, country/ bluegrass rendition of "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'."

Saturday, April 6, 2019

La Traviata's Sleepy Spring Revival; Martha Graham

New cast of Traviata, photo @ Ken Howard

When Michael Mayer's new La Traviata production starring Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Flórez, and Quinn Kelsey premiered last December it was quite the hot ticket. Performances were sold out, and there were fierce online debates about the merits and demerits of Mayer's rather traditional production compared to the previous Willy Decker production.

What a difference a few months make. The spring revival with a brand new cast premiered tonight and while it was has fine voices there were many empty seats in the house and each act had more attrition. And truth be told, it was a rather sleepy performance that never took flight.

Spring Diaries: NYCB Brings Back Brahms-Schoenberg, ABT's Damp Start

Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet with McBride, photo @ Martha Swope ABT's Harlequinade, photo @ Marty Sohl Spring ballet season cont...