Showing posts from May, 2013

Don Quixote - The Osipova and Vasiliev Show

The signature move of the Natalia Osipova/Ivan Vasiliev super-duper Don Quixote  occurs late in the first act -- the move is a one-handed lift, with a ballerina holding a striking pose in the air for effect. But Vasiliev takes it a step further -- in the middle of holding his left, he raises a free leg in arabesque and even raises his foot to demi-pointe. It's a trick that I first saw when I saw their  HD cinemacast with the Bolshoi  more than two years ago. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this kind of showboating in a ballet like Don Quixote . The choreography (a mix of Petipa and Alexander Gorsky) has long been a staple of ballet galas for its bravura requirements. Gorsky's choreography was designed to be a mix of folk dance and classical ballet at its most flamboyant. But (and here's the key): the performers have to look like they are having fun when doing these tricks and playing to the crowd. Last night's performance had this weird mix of every gala tr

Mixed Bill at ABT -- Actually Mixed

There are times when the ABT can seem like an excellent overall company. It can do some more modern works by Twayla Tharp or Mark Morris very well. The program started off with a spirited rendition of Morris's rather pretentiously named Drink to Me With Thine Eyes Only. I didn't like the ballet, but that doesn't mean I didn't appreciate the dancing. ABT is also often absolutely wonderful in smaller narrative ballets. Ashton's A Month in the Country is a perfect example. It's a 40 minute ballet slice of life ballet about a family: a vain and lonely married woman (Natalia Petrovna), a flirty ward, a rambunctious son, and a clueless and much older husband. There's an "admirer" that the family views as a joke. Then a handsome tutor named Belieav arrives, and feelings rise, tempers flare, and hearts break. The ballet is filled with little Ashton motifs like the sideways "walking" lifts and the fluttering legs. The music (three pieces by C

Love, drama, passion, suffering at the ABT

I once ran into an ex-boyfriend years after we broke up. It wasn't at all like The Way We Were or any movie where two exes see each other and all the feelings rush back. I barely remembered anything about him, and he had an irritating habit of spitting on the sidewalks. Finally I got so annoyed I got off one stop early on the subway and walked home to avoid spending another minute with him. So much for romance. But that's real life. In ballet, passion is eternal. When two former lovers meet in ballet, the world stops. Hearts collide. And most of all, women bend backwards in a swoon (see above picture) over and over again, to accentuate the point that passion is, indeed, eternal. John Cranko's Onegin is a lush, romantic adaptation of Tchaikovsky's already lush, romantic adaptation of a famous Russian poem. It needs lush, romantic dancers to maximize the drama and romance, and tonight at the ABT, it certainly got the performance of a lifetime in the pair of Diana V

Mrs. John Claggart's Sad Life

I once read a biography of Renata Tebaldi entitled Voice of An Angel . The book was filled with beautiful pictures of the legendary soprano, along with a fairly comprehensive outline of her life that for once wasn't simply filled with tomes about how much Tebaldi loved her mother and the adoration "big Renata" engendered in the Metropolitan Opera audiences. Yet after reading the book Renata Tebaldi the person still felt strangely two-dimensional and distant. It was probably the intention of the great lady herself -- she was always a private person.  But read  Mrs. John Claggart's Sad Life , the blog by Albert Innaurato, and suddenly the great soprano becomes not just "Tebaldi" but Renata , a flesh and blood woman full of warmth, humor, and wit. "Mrs. John Claggart" is the Henry James of the opera world -- sharp, dense, insightful, sometimes verbose, but always profound, and able to hint at the darkness beneath the surface. He's seen everythi

The Great Gatsby

Baz Lurhmann's adaptation of The Great Gatsby opened this weekend to mostly negative reviews from the critics. The criticisms were familiar: it was gaudy, it was tacky, it celebrated the very excesses F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novella chastised. The romance between Gatsby and Daisy was sentimentalized, the prose of the novel was awkwardly worked into the script. And so on and so forth. Of all the criticisms I've read, I think only one really holds water: Luhrmann does sentimentalize the romance between Daisy and Gatsby in a way Fitzgerald never did. The Daisy of this movie (played with a porcelain delicacy by Carey Mulligan) is not the "careless people" Daisy of the novel. It's telling that one of the most famous lines about Daisy ("her voice is full of money") was dropped. Luhrmann certainly turned the Gatsby/Daisy connection into something more beautiful than Fitzgerald intended. But otherwise, I thought this was an entertaining, fait

NYCB: All American, All Balanchine

I attended my first performance of the NYCB's spring season yesterday afternoon. The theme for the spring season is "American Music Festival" and yesterday's program was a rather eclectic collection of Balanchine ballets that were set to American music: Who Cares?, Ivesiana, Tarantella, and Stars and Stripes . Of the four ballets, the one I was most curious about seeing was Ivesiana . It's not a regular in the City Ballet repertoire. It's a rather weird ballet, with three extremely dark, even sinister sections and one section ("In the Inn") that seems more Broadway than anything. As a result the ballet lacks the usual Balanchine cohesion and in fact does seem like a hodgepodge of vignettes set to Charles Ives music, as the title would suggest.