Monday, February 29, 2016

A Very Mariinsky Weekend, Part Two

Uliana Lopatkina and Andrei Ermakov in La Rose Malade

The Mariinsky's stint at BAM ended tonight in a program that might have been called "Back to the USSR." The whole series of performances was billed a "Tribute to Maya Plisetskaya" but unlike the Ballet Russes gala Friday this performance consisted almost completely of excerpts from Soviet ballets. It was also more heavily centered on Uliana Lopatkina, who performed 6 out of the ten excerpts, and that's not even counting the inevitable Dying Swan encore.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Very Mariinsky Weekend, Part One

Kolegova as Raymonda
The Mariinsky Ballet is without doubt one of the greatest companies (if not the greatest) in the world, but it can sometimes display a maddening arrogance. You love them and hate them at the same time. A case in point was their tour to Washington, D.C. and New York this week.

Washington, D.C. got one of the Mariinsky's treasures -- their full-length Raymonda. Western companies have tried to stage this ballet without much success, although Balanchine poached some of Glazunov's best tunes and Petipa's choreography for some of his "based on Raymonda" ballets. But there really is nothing as majestic as watching the Mariinsky company dance the whole thing. So that's why on a cold Saturday morning I took the Amtrak down to D.C. to catch a matinee Raymonda performance.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Winter Season Diaries, continued

Hyltin and Veyette, photo by Andrea Mohin
There is something useful about seeing the exact same program done by three completely different casts. NYCB's frantic winter season usually doesn't allow such luxuries, but eight straight performances of La Sylphide/Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #2 (aka Ballet Imperial) allowed for this kind of microscopic comparisons.

The casts I saw:

2/13/16: La Sylphide: Woodward, Huxley, Gordon, LeCrone, Anderson/Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto #2: Reichlen, T. Angle, Scheller

2/14/16: La Sylphide: Hyltin, Veyette, Ulbricht, Pollack, Pazgocuin/Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto #2: Mearns, LaCour, Lowery

2/17/16: La Sylphide: M. Fairchild, Garcia, Schumacher, Pollack, Gretchen Smith/Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto #2: T. Peck, Ramasar, King

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Manon Lescaut

Kristine Opolais and Roberto Alagna, photo by Ken Howard

What's that phrase? "Eighty percent of success is showing up"? The Met put that idiom sorely to the test last night when Manon Lescaut had its premiere in a sexless, charmless performance.  The new production had been heavily hyped as a vehicle for Kristine Opolais and Jonas Kaufmann, the Manon Lescaut dream team who had already sung successful performances of this opera together in Munich and London. (The Met brochure for this production has no less than three articles exalting the "chemistry of Opolais and Kaufmann" with both of them talking about how "special" it is). But as everyone now knows, Jonas cancelled the entire run (as he is wont to do as of late) and Roberto Alagna jumped into the production with about two weeks to learn both the role and the directions. Last night's program had an insert that called Alagna a "savior" and thanked Alagna "for his ongoing heroics on behalf of the company."

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Most Incredible (???) Thing

Justin Peck's The Most Incredible Thing was by far the most hyped premiere for the New York City Ballet in recent memory. Peck is only 28, but he's already had a documentary made about him and critical consensus about his ballets has generally been very positive. The buildup to The Most Incredible Thing merited a huge NYTimes profile and endless mailings by the NYCB. NYCB obviously spent money on this project -- when I attended tonight's performance (the second -- premiere was on February 2) I was handed a beautifully illustrated book of Hans Cristian Andersen's fairy tale along with design and costume sketches from artist Marcel Dzarma. Inside the booklet was a large poster. In the age of Amazon kindles and digital photography this kind of old-school lavishness is almost unheard of.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the Roof "To Life" photo by Joan Marcus
Last night while I was watching Bartlett Sher's revival of Fiddler on the Roof, I wondered if some shows are so strong that they simply do the work for the director, set designers, costume designers, actors, and dancers. I could name about 100 things I could have nit-picked about this particular production of Fiddler, but in the middle of the second act when Hodel said goodbye to Tevye at the train station I started crying, and I basically cried for the rest of the show. I can't remember the last time a Broadway show actually made me cry.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Maria Stuarda -- Sarah Palin vs. Hillary?

Elsa van den Heever and Sondra Radvanovsky, photo by Ken Howard

Sondra Radvanovsky's plans to tackle all three Tudor Queens in one season just got one more box checked: she's now sung both Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda and only has Roberto Devereux left. Roberto Devereux is the opera she's sung the most, and it's probably one of the most hotly anticipated events in the season. Her Anna Bolena earlier this season was ... well, I'd say it was an interesting failure. I attended the second performance of her Maria Stuarda last night.

Of all three queens, her portrayal of Mary Stuart probably got the least buzz -- the house was depressingly empty. And Sondra's large, occasionally unwieldy role on the surface seems an awkward fit for the most lyrical of Donizetti's three Queens. But oddly, while I thought her Bolena was an interesting failure, I thought her Maria Stuarda was a qualified success.

Boris: Do Russian Leaders Ever Change?

  RenĂ© Pape, photo @ Marty Sohl There's a leader of Russia. He's corrupt and has killed people on his path to power. He only trusts ...