I was bowled over by the 3 performances I saw last weekend. So ... where do I start?
Michael, writing on the NYCB opening night thread, gave me an idea, and I apologize for stealing some of his words:
l; a young corps de ballet with great placement, style and depth on both sides of the dressing rooms [ ... ]; a strong and definite group of soloists, both the official ones and those who solo de facto [ ... ]; and superb principal dancing [ .,, ]
MCB has somehow acquired the unity of style that makes this kind of ballet work. More than that, everyone on stage clearly believed in the style and entered into its world. Add the stunning sets and costumes from the Santo Loquasto ABT production, and you have (for me, at least) a kind of heaven.
West Palm Beach audiences tend to have seen a lot of ballet in the North and in Europe and Latin America. But they do NOT tend to be effusive in their appreciation after the curtain falls. This weekend was an exception. Each of the 3 performances I attended got standing ovations (and I've heard the other 2 did as well).
This season, there are 2 new members of the corps (one of whom was called to play both Espada and the Gypsy King), 2 new Coryphees (one of whom danced Amor); and nine new apprentices. All were on stage for most of Acts I and II. They moved beautifully, each creating a character, and always attentive to what was going on around them. Those that took part in the various ensembles (toreadors, bridesmaids, dryads, etc.) looked like they had been born on stage.
That was probably the most astonishing achievement of the evening. It is something even the great international companies can't consistently produce, esepcially late in a run. (Think of all those bored court ladies and the careless and inattentive villagers you've seen from companies that should have known better, and all the stock gesturing and unlikely facial expressions.)
Edward Villella mentioned that staging and mime were prepared with the assistance of Geta Constantinescu. The mime was clear and seemed as natural as singing. Edward Villella helped the audience by explaining some of the gestures during his pre-curtain talk.
Frank Reagan taught the toreadors their cape work, and it was flamboyant and perfectly executed as I've ever seen.
MCB has a live orchestra again this year. With something like Don Q, it really helped to have a conductor who could change tempi to suit the styles of different dancers -- and who could insert dramatic pauses for balances, lifts, etc. The down side is that a great deal of tinky-tink Minkus melodies embedded themselves in my brain and kept me awake for parts of several nights.
This was not disproportionately a star-vehicle. The leads were very good. But they did not stand so far out and above the others as is sometimes the case with the great international companies. The effect was unity and seamlessness of style, which worked very well.
Michael says of NYCB:
The sole lack is the need for one or two more strong principal men – but that’s not unique to this company either.
This applies to MCB as well. Several of the best soloists were tied up in character roles (Don Q, Sancho Panza, Kitri's father), and a few other of the men did not appear at all in at least 4 of the 5 performances. This had the effect of putting to much of a burden on the otherwise excellent Carlos Guerra and Luis Serrano, both of whom seem to have lost strength (especially in the flashy lifts) by Act III. 3 Kitris
One of my acquantainces told me, during an intermission, that she has trouble being fair to the dancers who do Kitri because "my first was Plisentskaya. Where do you go from there?" I can imagine how difficult that might be. This is young company full of young dancers, and Petipa is not their ordinary fare. So I was prepared for anything. And I was really pleased by what they gave us.
New soloist Jeanette Delgado got the opening night. (She joined the company as an apprentice only in 2003.) This was a teenage Kitri, charming, innocent, daring, risk-taking, but very, very young. I kept thinking of those early 60s California beach-blanket movies -- which often had plots not that dissimilar form Don Q's.
Delgado is an exceptional jumper. She always projects awareness of of what is going on around her and is always alert, always quick on the uptake. She has grown a lot as a dancer in the last two yaers, and greater speed and precision of footwork will develop further in time and with experience.
Delgado also appears to be a risktaker. She forged ahead into all the technical challenges of Act III, and plunged downward into the fish dive (apparently with delight) even when her Basiliio lost control on an overhead lift. She did all the fouettes (singles). I liked this peformance, and hope to have the chance to see a lot of development.
Mary Carmen Catoya is the company's "natural" Kitri, and a ballerina at the top of her form. She has speed, attack, is a great turner, and isn't the sort to put up with nonsense from her Basilio or some of her village-square competetition.
Catoya's 32 fouttes cut the air surgically, and she threw in doubles ever few turns. She also did the best at showing character development as the ballet progressed. By Act III her Kitri had grown way
up into a confident and proud lady, one who clearly delighted in being the center of attention and the new queen of local society.
Jennifer Kronenberg, who had to perform back-to-back matinees, is a mesmerising dancer whose every movement is smooth, plush, and wonderful to watch. She is incapable of producing an unlovely line. As Mercedes (to Delgado's Kitri) she had qualities of warm sexiness and older-sister concern for Kitri that I had never seen before. This was not your village vamp or spitfire, though she handled all the pyrotechnics very well.
As Kitri, Kronenberg's style was best suited for the adagio and romantic sections, and in the classical dream scene in the second act. She handled Act III fearlessly, and survived a couple of botched overhead lifts when her partner, the over-worked Carlos Guerra, ran out of steam. She's scheduled for Caroline in Lilac Garden later this season, and I wouldn't miss that for the world.Other impressions
So many dancers did such lovely work, that I'm sorry I can't list them all.
Didier Bramaz's Leonardo (Kitri's father) was simply the best characterization I've ever seen. Funny, but not at all a joke.
Charlene Cohen as Amor was delightful and charming. So was Sara Esty, in what I imagine was her first solo as a professional.
Patricia Albertson, who was raised to Principal at the start of this season, was a beautiful and regal Queen of the Dryads, showing unexpected unworldliness and classicism. Deanna Seay was another exceptional Dryad Queen.
Callie Manning, a sexy Queen of the Gypsies and a really thrilling Mercedes.
New corpsman Daymel Sanchez was outstanding as both Espada and the Gypsy King. Strong, dramatic, a big jumper (he's Cuba-trained). and handsome.
Alex Wong a really funny Sancho Panza (how many of thsoe have you seen?), with an incredible walk. Jeremy Cox, an understated Gamache, who -- unbelievable as it may seem -- made this cartoonish character seem worth caring about. Mark Spielberger, a dignified, subtle, and quite noble Don.
Luis Serrano (Bsiliio and Gamache in different performances) and Carlos Guerra (Basilio and Espada) did a fine job. But they deserved a little time off. Guerra especially looked over-worked. Serrano has always had a winning stage personality, and Guerra's acting has improved tremendously in the last 2 years. His Espada was elegant and cocky.
Guerra and Kronenberg, who were married last May, added qualities of romance and intimacy to star roles that are often tinged with competetiveness or non-attachment. Some Kitris and Basilios seem to suggest "I'm such a great dancer you just have to love me." Guerra and Kronenberg suggested: "I'm so in love that I just can't help dancing."