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Don Quixote, Kennedy Center, June 22-26th


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#46 Alexandra

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Posted 25 June 2005 - 01:15 PM

I saw the opening (Wed), Thursday night and just got back from the Saturday matinee. It's starting to jell. Today's performance was much more alive than the opening. I think it's a great work; there's nothing else like it, in Balanchine's oeuvre or out of it. I'd expected a modernistic experimental work, having read about what a failure it was. But it's not experimental in the usual sense of the word. It builds on Bournonville (there's bits of "Folk Tale" in it), Fokine and Petipa, but with 20th century choreography. There are references to other Balanchine ballets, both those which would have been known in 1965 ("La Sonnambula," "Serenade," "Allegro Brillante,") and those to come, most notably "Davidsbundlertanze." The dancers are beginning to be relaxed in it, and some of the divertissement dancing this afternoon was very good indeed.

#47 Mike Gunther

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Posted 25 June 2005 - 05:32 PM

Friday evening, Cheryl Sladkin and Alexander Ritter took over the Pas De Deux Mauresque from Magnicaballi and Kish, and while Ritter was fine, it was a little inauspicious for Sladkin, whose dancing looked small-scale - except when she had his support... 

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Sladkin was *magical* in the Saturday matinee. What a difference a day makes! She's a corps member now, but there should be very good things in her future, if what I saw is any indication.

#48 Jack Reed

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Posted 25 June 2005 - 07:46 PM

I agree, Mike, you'd hardly know it was the same dancer! Chalk up Friday evening to debut nerves, or something, I guess. For the record, I still find Magnicaballi more satisfying, but I want to see Sladkin again.

Yes, I think the production as a whole is jelling, notwithstanding a few mishaps this evening (Saturday), especially around the transition in Act III from the Garden (Scene 1) to La Mancha. And also tonight, Mladenov showed many strengthened and clarified moments, the procession at the end didn't bunch up, and so on - people have been at work on this, apparently. But, Alexandra, could you be a little more specific about the references you saw? Allegro Brillante? I recently saw a few performances of that, and I would like to know where that and the other examples are. (Not that I doubt what you say or anything like that.)

I also think Heather Ogden has the edge on Sonia Rodriguez as Dulcinea - they're both a little too "vertical" and correct in a role originated by someone famously abandoned, but I wouldn't expect many dancers to leave behind hard-earned technique quickly - but Ogden has more dramatic imagination, I'd say.

One little improvement I'd like to see someday, if it's not impractical, is to have more of the cast take final bows. If I remember correctly, there are eight at the end - the three principals, the two solo couples from the dream ballet in the Garden scene, and the conductor. There are droves of people in this. Still, maybe it's a lot to expect to have people wait around while Act III finishes up. Speaking of the conductor, the orchestra plays more vividly for Ron Matson than for Ormsby Wilkins.

#49 Alexandra

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Posted 25 June 2005 - 08:50 PM

But, Alexandra, could you be a little more specific about the references you saw?  Allegro Brillante?  I recently saw a few performances of that, and I would like to know where that and the other examples are.  (Not that I doubt what you say or anything like that.)

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Jack, the "Allegro Brillante" link was pointed out to me by a dancer friend, who found it in "the groupings in the Courante Sicilienne." He also caught a whiff of "Brahms Schoenberg" in the dream sequence. I think most of the second act is a close cousin of "Sonnambula" -- the decadence and cruelty (which they could emphasize more :tiphat: ); the visionary guest -- here a knight, there a poet, but both are Outsiders; the actual divertissements. They're structurally similar -- little dances with a character favor, not virtuoso set pieces. "Serenade" -- the idea of a woman leading a man who cannot see, guiding him to his destiny. As for Davidsbundlertanze -- the ballets are thematically related, I think. The huge black, accusatory Quills in Davidsbundler are the secular version of the stern, disapproving clerics in Don Q, and Farrell's last solo in Davidsbundler has some steps and ports de bra that also appear in the last solo for Dulcinea. There are others, but those are a few.

#50 carbro

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Posted 25 June 2005 - 10:15 PM

Well, I guess I'm glad my show (Friday night) was not earlier in the run than it was. The company had two nights to tidy things up before I arrived.

I had a great time, and had my usual DC host not been away this week, I might have stayed a bit longer and seen it again.

The evening was not as heavy as I remember it from NYCB. And the set pieces from Acts II and III were absolutely gorgeous. While I would be hard pressed to point them out now, there were echoes of and precursors to other Balanchine ballets. One thing about Mr. B, he sure stole from the best! :yahoo:

Thanks, Jack, for posting my biggest disappointment about Rodriguez. :dry: It's not that Farrell herself knew how to inhabit and charge the space around her. City Ballet has danced that way since I've been watching them seriously (albeit to a lesser degree during their late-'90s nadir). Rodriguez failed to enlarge herself by making the space around her part of the dance. Nor did she go off her center. That's not a choice but intrinsic to the choreography.

Memory plays tricks. The scene at Court seemed less populated and shorter than my recollection Maybe it was. The Inquisitors in the final scene lacked the menace. Perhaps it's just the more recent Davidsbunder viewings overwriting the old ones of DQ. And I didn't remember the children having been so prominent in Act I.

One of the big highlights was Alexander Ritter proudly partnering Cheryl Sladkin in a fabulous pdd Mauresque, then as a Cavalier in the dream scene. The company as a whole would have benefited if more had his command and clarity. Of course, he's alone among the performers in that he actually spent time as an NYCB dancer.

I'd seen the dream scene presented once by NYCB as an excerpt. I wonder if they would do it again (assuming the owner of the rights would let them). While it loses much of its impact whenpulled from its context, well, same holds for Aurora's wedding, doesn't it?, and we see that all the time.

I would jump at a chance to see this production again. If it meant going to Toronto -- hmmm :tiphat:, possibly. If it meant going to New Jersey or Brooklyn? Absolutely! For this, I made the round-trip in one day -- a total of nine hours in the bus plus just under two more waiting around bus terminals. Definitely worth it.

Highlights off the stage included seeing Farrell -- from a distance -- walking towards Virginia Ave., another was greeting Ritter as he entered the theater. Making the acquaintance of Jack Reed was a treat, as was stumbling over three of the usual suspects from home. :wink:

#51 Juliet

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Posted 26 June 2005 - 03:40 PM

I'm sorry to have missed everyone, but not sorry that I went to various performances of this....I saw and learned a great deal....

A highlight for me was Heather Ogden on Saturday night---her third act variations were thrilling--well done!!!! I don't find the role particularly affecting, although I did her performance.....all heart, emotion, and exciting, expansive dancing in the vision scene....

#52 Jack Reed

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Posted 26 June 2005 - 07:17 PM

Juliet, I'm sorry I missed you, too, but, with a little luck, there'll be other productions, of other ballets. But it was nice to meet carbro, and renew some other acquaintances. I agree about Ogden, her performances were very rich, although I found the dances to be too, after a while; lots of unexpected but flowing sequences make them virtuoso. (I couldn't help trying to imagine Farrell doing them.) I thought she was even better this afternoon.

Alexandra, I think there's a lot more Tarantella than Allegro Brillante in the Courante Sicilienne (among the Act II Divertissements), especially in the ensembles the dance (for six, for those who didn't go) opens and closes with. Some of the duets have material that reminds me of A. B., though. Thanks for posting those ideas; I like anything that gets me to see more deeply into something I'm watching. I think the T. stuff is what makes it Sicilienne.

#53 Alexandra

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Posted 26 June 2005 - 08:01 PM

I've been rereading "Repertory in Review" on "Don Quixote" and found it interesting that there was exactly the same divide, at least among critics, in 1965 as there was this week. Some people thought it dull, some though it fascinating. Some thought the score sounded like "movie music", some simply ugly and unmelodic, some thought it very fine. Some found the ballet so dark as to be depressing and distasteful, others thought it mystical and life affirming. Everything I read in "Rep in Review" I heard in the Kennedy Center lobby or read on this board -- and that, in itself, is interesting, I think.

#54 Natalia

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Posted 27 June 2005 - 08:01 AM

I, too, gave this ballet a second look at the Saturday matinee. It was a thousand-times more enjoyable on Saturday because:

* there was no 25-minute Capezio Award ceremony at the start [Boy, did Capezio do a huge disservice to the Farrell Company at the opening, in retrospect!]

* Farrell has tightened the mime portions (e.g., the initial episode of Don Q saving the little girl from the dragon is about half the length as opening night...it no longer resembles the 'Nutcracker' battle scene with the Mouse King & lots of kiddies on horseback)

* the soloists were stronger...esp. Lise-Marie Jourdain in the second, brisk solo of the Dream Scene

I'm still not convinced that this is a great work or a 'major Balanchine' oeuvre but at least it does not resemble the 'bomb' of last Wednesday night.

Natalia

#55 dewdrop

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Posted 27 June 2005 - 08:21 AM

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#56 atm711

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Posted 27 June 2005 - 09:01 AM

But one of the problems with B's Don Q is that neither of these women have Farrell's power to carry it. 




If it's any solace to the ballerinas alternating the role of Dulcinea I would like to tell them that Suzanne Farrell wasn't all that affecting in the role at the first performance---and she had Balanchine. :wacko:

#57 leibling

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Posted 27 June 2005 - 10:31 AM

This is my first chance to be at a computer since I saw the Wednesday night performance, and I am writing without having read the other posts...I wanted to do this before I was influenced by other people's comments. It was an interesting evening...although what stands out in my mind really are the sets, costumes and the music. As much as I have heard about how people did not like the original score, I really enjoyed it. I found the music very descriptive- telling the story better than the choreography did. The sets and lighting effects often made me think of Salvador Dali, and many of the costumes- particularly in the palace scene, were just beautiful- at least from my view in the first tier.
That being said, I also feel that the amount of work Suzanne had put into this was particularly apparent in the ensemble sections and in some of the soloist parts. The opening village scene was lively and well staged, I thought... for the most part everybody seemed to be engaged by the actions centerstage. The dancing in the village scene by the corps was full of spirit- not the most technically adept spirit, but energetic, nonetheless. Later on, in the Palace scene, Bonnie Pickard's intensely detailed parformance in the fourth variation also seemed to display what I thought might be a bit of what Suzanne tries to pull from some of her dancers. Also- the characters in the Palace scene carried themselves in a manner that was completely appropriate- their regal smugness providing more evidence of the attention to detail. The dream scene at the beginning of act 3 seemed to be more typical of Balanchine- with solo couples weaving in and out of the corps. Here, Shannon Parsley's quick, musical and energetic footwork impressed me the most, despite some awkward choreography. Also, the images created by Erin Mahoney's entrance- dressed entirely in black- stick in my mind. She brought something more powerful onstage here than she had in her earlier variation.
It was the performance of the Principals, though, that seemed to be the most lacking, I am afraid. From the very first entrance of Dulcinea, where she bends over to dry the Don's feet with her hair- I wished for something more imaginative- more sensuous. I found myself trying to imagine what Suzanne's own performance might have been like in this role. I can imagine the particular way she may have pricked the floor with her toes in the village scene variation as Marcela, and I can imagine the abandon with which she would have thrown herself into the later variations. The quote in the program talked about how Dulcinea was an off-balance character, and that there was nothing about her that was straight up and down. For me, Sonia Rodriguez's beautifully centered, balanced dancing didn't add anything to the character- perhaps actually subtracting from whatever power might lie in the choreography. As Don Quixote, Momchil Mladenov improved as the evening went by, but there seemed to be very little chemistry between the two of them, and there were too few moments when he seemed to exist right there, in that moment.
I suppose this could have been the effects of opening night- I unfortunately did not have the chance to see another performance or other casts. In terms of the ballet itself.... well, knowing that Suzanne was the only Dulcinea to appear during it's time in the NYCB rep says alot. I am not sure that the ballet can exist on its own merits without a dancer such as Suzanne in the leading role. Maybe her current Dulcinea's will find their own way over time- who knows.

#58 Dale

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Posted 27 June 2005 - 10:53 AM

Mazzo and Leland also took on the part of Dulcinea during the early 70s.

#59 Alexandra

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Posted 27 June 2005 - 10:58 AM

Yes, Clare Croft's review in the Washington Post mentioned that Farrell was the only one who had danced the role, but "Repertory in Review" lists Mazzo and Leland (presumably after Farrell had left the company). I wondered how off-center they were?

And good to read you, leibling!

#60 leibling

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Posted 27 June 2005 - 11:02 AM

I am wrong about the Dulcinea's- sorry. However- isn't Suzanne quoted somewhere as saying that she "never even had an understudy?"


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