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ABT in Paris and London - February 2007


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#31 4mrdncr

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Posted 21 February 2007 - 03:58 PM

ABT in LONDON, For better or worse.

After spending nearly 24hrs in a snowed-in, shut-down, cold, dark empty airport and getting delayed, bumped, cancelled and otherwise several times, I finally made it to London in time to see ABT Saturday night and twice on Sunday. And see the RB Swan Lake on Friday night despite my major jetlag.

The last time I saw ABT do Symphonie Concertante (yes, during Baryshnikov's tenure) I saw it seven times, and thought "please god, not again for a long time". My wish was granted. Now I've seen it twice more, and though I do like the creativity and invention evident in the corps choreography and patterns, and that "dialogue" between the violin & viola, it was still hard to stay awake. Stella Abrerra danced violin(?) once opposite Gillian Murphy, and once opposite Veronika Part (Abrerra filling in for Michele Wiles, which was not the most filicitous physical pairing). Both times, she danced beautifully, a striking physical embodiment of the more attenuated violin line vs the more s(t)olid viola line. As the viola, I was more impressed by Gillian's rendition than Veronika's which was still a little tentative. Again, the choreography in the adagio was interesting, but reminiscent of much Balanchine (T&V without the punch), and except for Les Sylphides, I cannot think of another ballet that shows off its women so exquisitely while leaving the man with so little to do. I kept thinking of a sugary marzipan statues and Royal Doulton figurines.

I woke up quickly for Sinatra Suite, but readers of my previous posts re ABT's 2006 City Center season will know why. And this was the chance to see Misty Copeland finally in the female lead. Corella only performed it once at City Center; now, after performing it three more times (twice in Paris, and opening night in London), he has definately relaxed more in the role and some things have improved, while others still need work. His innate extended line & epaulement were smoother and leaner; the chaines and pirouettes tighter, faster and more controlled, that fouette attitude arabesque still brushed the floor before punching the sky (though not as deep as in NY), and he negotiated that tricky fast falling hop over the inside leg into a full stop successfully and rather uniquely. The contrast in steps between classical purity and Tharpian contemporary was also tantalizingly visible if not as delineated as it should have been. But there were still problems with the slides--and I don't think it was floors this time since Ethan did a perfect one in Fancy Free later; maybe shoes?--which abruptly broke the flow in the solo. Corella's musicality, though, and the " charm and physical wit" Clement Crisp noted, did help to redeem it.
Misty had a beautiful extension and a way of adding "snap" to the choreography to 'punctuate' it. She also worked smoothly within Corella's partnering so overall, it was nice to see her do SS, and I wish her many more times in the role. But no one yet (except maybe Sarah Lane with Corella last October) has managed the develope attitude devant fouette turn at all! Why?! Is it because they're to the left? And in the pop-up splits, I think her partner had to literally pull her up. In conclusion...it's getting there but still needs work.

Herman Cornejo in Spectre de la Rose was great as usual. In addition to the perfection of his balon, his curling flowing arm movements were always enhanced without being exploited. He so embodied the music, one could actually see that sensuous full-blown rose drifting and floating across the room within the waltz. Xiomara's delicacy and restraint, and short-lived but excited glow when she half-awakes, were a wonderful accompaniment. I also admired how gels & lighting were used to compensate for missing set elements.

Unfortunately, the Shade scene of La Bayadere does not seem to have been the best choice to bring on this tour. The problems seen by the french audiences were not fixed by the time I saw it a week later. In fact it was almost comically disastrous. Ragged lines, major imbalances staggers and hops by some coming down the ramp; unfortunately still visible in the first row once the corps was on a level stage again. I felt like I was watching a school production. Where were the ballet mistresses and coaches?! Where symetry is so paramount, no dancer with stiffness or injury (however slight) should have been performing. Even during the curtain call, mishaps occurred when one corps member missed her position in line and had to jump over to the next not once, but twice before bowing. (The audiance luckily didn't laugh, maybe they were as shocked as I was.)
And the principals?
Once again, Corella saved the day (or night?). Blazingly fast and soaring in the allegro; flowing, graceful, expressive in the adagios; and attentive in the partnering. At one point, the conductor got a little excited with the tempo, and forced an even faster pace, which worried me (for safety as well as aesthetic reasons), but Corella was able to compensate with aplomb. And he acted so well, that even though his partner was sort of "flat" emotionally, one could feel the 'tragedy, pathos, and yearning' in his every movement and reaction to her--even in the balcony where I was sitting. It's not just his technique that claims attention, it's the ability to project across the footlights to draw the audience into the performance (despite the corps' mishaps). Paloma was studious, and correct, and negotiated the scarf scene and everything else smoothly if not emotively. Maybe she needs the full-length's backstory to reach the same emotive level of her partner in excerpt.
Paloma then immediately followed this, by filling in for Michele Wiles in "Drink...". As was noted elsewhere, in contemporary roles like this, and "...Upper Room" she has no problem, and credit must be given for stepping in on short notice so well.

In Black Swan pdd that evening, again, Paloma handled things well and threw in the usual doubles (and maybe a triple?) in the fouettes. I did wonder though, if her (left?) side was a little stiff as I saw many times where her leg didn't quite reach the usual 180 height/extension she's capable of doing. I don't think many others noticed any difference or any affect on an otherwise fine performance. Corella performed as usual: wonderful nuance in the pdd both in dance and acting; over-rotating the variation's pirouettes so he was late on the arabesque, but compensating with that floating grand jete; and crossing half the stage in the entrance grand jete of the coda. (I still think others do a more technically difficult variation, but Corella's does have its moments.) Also in the coda, I might have lost count, but the total of his turns (including both a la secondes and pirouettes) was about 24.

It was great to see Ethan again in Fancy Free, he was missed. I wished I had had more opportunities to see him perform on this tour. And Jose Manuel Carreno still owns that 3rd sailor's role and rumba(?).

Green Table (it's amazing I flew all the way to London--and survived blizzards and delays--and still have not seen David Hallberg as Death!?) and "...Upper Room" I've reviewed previously, seen many times previously (both by Joffrey and ABT respectively), and don't need to say more.

#32 vipa

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Posted 21 February 2007 - 05:13 PM

Thank you so much!

#33 Haglund's

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Posted 21 February 2007 - 05:31 PM

Yes, thank you so much for the review. I wonder what the lack of scenery for Spectre de la Rose was all about. Even if they didn't want to spend the money to ship it to Europe, they could have come up with a reasonable window for Cornejo to leap through.

After you've fully recovered from jet lag, please tell us about the Friday night Swan Lake at the Royal. I understand that Ms. Ansanelli was part of an awesome pas de trois.

#34 Haglund's

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Posted 21 February 2007 - 05:57 PM

I forgot to add that it's great, but completely expected, that Abrera fared so well in both Paris and London. Her artistry, confidence and the reliability of her technique have been increasing exponentially in the past 2 years. I just will not allow myself to miss her performances. Yet another one for whom we can ask: "What's it going to take to push her into the realm of principal?"


Edited faired to fared - although I'm still not sure.

#35 Jane Simpson

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 02:04 AM

I saw the same three performances as 4mrdncr and I too liked Stella Abrera very much in Symphonie Concertante, and also in Fancy Free - but was she really one of the Shades in the Herrera/Corella Bayadere? The programme said Sarah Lane, Yuriko Kajiya and Hee Seo and though I don't know any of them, I believed it!

It's really interesting to read the views of someone who does know the company - my main disagreement would be that I was disappointed by Corella in all three of his roles. Maybe at this level it's just a matter of taste, but I didn't think he had the charisma for Sinatra Suite or the dramatic and stylistic weight for Bayadere or Black Swan. On the other hand I liked Gillian Murphy much more than I'd expected to after her televised Swan Lake, and Fancy Free was just terrific (Carreno/Stiefel/Cornejo).

#36 Mashinka

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 03:17 AM

I agree with the last comment concerning Corella, although he clearly wowed the audience in Bayadere and Black Swan, I found him altogether rather manic preferring dancers with more of the danseur noble about them in those roles. Unfortunately the other Solor I saw, Beloserkovsky, wasn't good at all, looking as if he was making up the steps as he went along and completely omitting the double assembles.

#37 ami1436

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 03:55 AM

I only saw Friday night, and for me, David Hallberg alone was worth the (high) price of admission! Wow.

I was disappointed by the lack of scenery in Spectre.

#38 4mrdncr

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 12:36 PM

I saw the same three performances as 4mrdncr and I too liked Stella Abrera very much in Symphonie Concertante, and also in Fancy Free - but was she really one of the Shades in the Herrera/Corella Bayadere? The programme said Sarah Lane, Yuriko Kajiya and Hee Seo and though I don't know any of them, I believed it!

It's really interesting to read the views of someone who does know the company - my main disagreement would be that I was disappointed by Corella in all three of his roles. Maybe at this level it's just a matter of taste, but I didn't think he had the charisma for Sinatra Suite or the dramatic and stylistic weight for Bayadere or Black Swan. On the other hand I liked Gillian Murphy much more than I'd expected to after her televised Swan Lake, and Fancy Free was just terrific (Carreno/Stiefel/Cornejo).



Yup, you are right :blink: it was Lane, Kajiya and Seo as the 3 Shades, and I wrote my comment(s) without having my program in front of me--not a good thing to do. Of the three above...I thought Lane sparkled--(ie. stage presence/projection)--the most, Kajiya had the best line, and Seo graceful. But my brain was still rather tired, so best to trust others' POV's as I was still distracted by the corps and almost missed an entrance at one point trying to figure out my binocular setting. Thanks for picking up the mistake, I love Stella, but lets give credit where due.

#39 4mrdncr

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Posted 22 February 2007 - 02:10 PM

WORKS IN PROGRESS

I try again...
In "Sinatra Suite" (having MUCH experience with it) I tend to look at execution of specific choreography first, and only then the addition of interpretive detail--in short, technique first, then aesthetics. I noted which steps I saw done well, and which I did not. (For specifics of what I look for in the execution, see my reviews from last October--sorry don't know how to link well.) And of course, NO ONE yet at ABT has equalled Baryshnikov's perfection, technical and otherwise, in the role--or for that matter, Elaine Kudo's too. It could be the gravitas and experience of age, which both had when they did it, that made their's a much more "mature" rendition; maybe lending it the "charisma" which everyone still thinks is lacking in this younger generation's version. I don't expect this younger generation to have the "world-weary" "devil-may care" attitude down yet. The closest approximation is a smoothness in phrasing and flow, a "sleekness". I do consider ABT's current attempts a "work in progress" with details that each dancer brings to SS improving with time and practice. And so, I keep watching and hope once the steps are finally smoothed out, the rest will fall into place.


RE: La Bayadere--the manic aspect was directly caused by the conductor rushing the tempo (esp. in Solor's variation) and so forcing Corella to keep up. At one point, I saw him deliberately skip the first jump (a saute de basque?) in a sequence so he could move forward faster to remain in phrase through the rest. (Yes, he WAS aware AND surprised by the faster-than-expected pace and did his best to accomodate it.) Despite the rushing, his technique never wavered.
As for the rest, he just does it different than others, not necessarily better or worse, just different. And to me that means a unique use of epaulement and extended line, expressive grace, and an ability to project beyond the footlights and draw in an audience's focus. I haven't seen the full-length in almost 20 years so I still have much to see of others' interpretations. (Which was also why the corps' failures were so shocking to me!)

RE: RB's "Swan Lake"

First... ABT's upper management (and a Patron Tour Group?) were sitting two rows in front of me. ABT's Exec. Director left after Act3. Carlos Acosta was also very prominently in attendance at the ABT performances I saw. He also seemed to be catching up with his compatriot Jose Manuel Carreno et.al.

STAGING:
I had forgotten RB had updated their medieval setting to a 'Faberge Egg': think minamalist with lots of glittering snaking gold wires, NOT Hermitage opulance; and an over abundant use of black in the ballroom scene: all ethnic variations (as the supposed minions & accomplices of Rothbart et.al.?) wore it. Also, after seeing Lloyd-Weber's "Phantom", I thought the ballroom finale's smoke fx, grand guignole red lights, and Odile gloating aloft over all, a little too much 'over the top'. I also NEVER saw a lake indicated in any set backdrops, just blankness, which made me wonder where the swans were appearing/disappearing. I did like Act I's setting and 19th c. Russian costuming very much, (though again was puzzled by a lack of a visible lake). The swans wore the longer, "feathered" skirts (reminding me of Bourne's mens coulottes) rather than straight tutus--Baryshnikov tried to copy this at ABT shortly after RB introduced them, but it didn't work. ActIV also incorporates 6 swans with black bottoms/white tops, whose significance, since they never dance any different than the rest of the corps, I can never really understand.

MUSIC: Unlike ABT, most of the ActIV music was present, though RB chooses the "happy" corps music (sorry for my lack of correct musical terminology--the piece begins in a more 'major' key, then progresses into the sadder 'minor' keys) as opposed to ABT's sadder version.

DANCING:(Marquez/Putrov)...O/O: As usual these days, Odile shown brightly, and Odette was simply okay. Marquez' arms were more lyrical/swan than most at ABT now--but NOT Gregory or Makarova; sometimes reminded me in spots of Plisetskaya's strength if not hyperextension. No multiples in the fouettes. Acting was minimal, not exactly a lack of chemistry, just kind of flat--and that is one of the faults of this Siegfried. I wish I could have seen Putrov in "Pierrot Lunaire" or other works he's more acclaimed in. His Siegfried was so subdued, I sometimes forgot he was there. His partnering was very studied--where was the stage presence that seizes the space, projects across the footlights, and presents his ballerina? Overall, I kept thinking "steps not story" and wished I was seeing others dance.

RE: Ansanelli--yes I tried to look out for her, yes I still saw that long, lean extension, speed, and sure battu of NYCB, which sometimes looked a little odd with the other RB dancers, but I could see her working to match their style. And the inherent Cecchetti in the RB style helps her in that. She was good, and stood out (to me), I hoped others noticed, and was very glad I saw her.

I promise not to write more.

#40 GWTW

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Posted 23 February 2007 - 07:31 AM

I promise not to write more.


Please break that promise. You have such an interesting 'voice' in your writing.

#41 rg

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Posted 23 February 2007 - 08:52 AM

"The swans wore the longer, "feathered" skirts (reminding me of Bourne's mens coulottes) rather than straight tutus--Baryshnikov tried to copy this at ABT shortly after RB introduced them, but it didn't work. ActIV also incorporates 6 swans with black bottoms/white tops, whose significance, since they never dance any different than the rest of the corps, I can never really understand."

just curious here: what set of costumes from SWAN LAKE in the baryshnikov era are indicated here?
do you mean the plain but very fine-spun 'nets' or tutu skirts from the version pierluigi samaritani designed for the ABT staging baryshnikov put together in 1988? i guess you refer to their length, b/c they were quite plain and in no way feathered, baryshnikov was quite committed, when i interviewed him for the LA TIMES, to presenting his swanmaidens were maidens and not birds in his presentation of the ballet.
that production, as you likely know, was very short lived and i believe the beautiful tutus were recycled soon thereafter to other ballets, in other places - if mem. serves i was told some showed up, dyed, for a ballet r.lafosse made for.. was it the school of american ballet? or nycb? or ??
at the time, i found these costumes perhaps overly plain, but after any number of subsequent attempts laden with fussy feathers, i'd like to see these simple versions again.
also, i haven't seen the RB SWANLAKE in a while now but are the 'funereal' (or whatever) non-white-costumed swan maidens in act four now costumed in "black bottoms and white tops"? i thought these sonnabend costumes were all-black.
there has been some discussion on this site about the appearance of these act iv dusky swan maidens before, at some length i seem to recall. i often what what petipa's planned, then scrapped, 'rose' colored costumes would have looked like.
there is a photo of a very young vera trefilova in a catalogue from a maryinsky opera and ballet show in st. petersburg a few years ago, it shows the trefilova with unbound hair, black tutu - complete w/ maribou on the the shoulders - and black tights and toeshoes - shades of balanchine's look for zorina in I WAS AN ADVENTURESS. so the maryinkyis 1890s version of the petipa/ivanov staging definitely included all black csotuming here, as i say, including the tights and toeshoes, unlike today's otherwise standard 'ivanov' look w/ black tutu over pink tights and toeshoes.
sorry to have so seriously digressed.

#42 Jane Simpson

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Posted 23 February 2007 - 09:26 AM

There's a John Ross photo showing the black/white swans on the
ballet.co gallery

I have to say I'm surprised that they look so definitely black/white in photographs - on stage they somehow come across as much more black. I suppose it's just the contrast with the others.

#43 rg

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Posted 23 February 2007 - 09:43 AM

well as the saying goes: shut my mouth!
not until this perceptive post and this cleverly and generously provided photo link did i realize that these swanmaidens were costumed in white-to-black tutus; if asked, i'd have sworn them to be all black, which is clearly not so.
better to learn late than never...

#44 4mrdncr

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Posted 23 February 2007 - 10:31 AM

Well I was VERY jetlagged, but glad to know I wasn't blind. I always thought the inclusion (intrusion?) of black costumed swans (however little or much) in ActIV of Swan Lake, were Rothbart's evil intentions made manifest...but again, since they always seem to be dancing the same choreography as the majority white swan corps, I also thought it a distraction to no purpose.

RE: Baryshnikov's choice for Swan Lake costumes mid-'80's...Yes, I was referring to the longer length, which, as I said, appeared shortly after the RB had switched. By "feathered" I meant how the tulle was layered and cut to effect a look of feathered edges etc. NOT a literal use of feathers which can detach and litter a stage creating hazards for unfortunate dancers. (Something that always seems to be a problem with Rothbart's various costomes. Speaking of which, I know the RB Rothbart was supposed to be an owl, but he reminded me more of an overstuffed muskrat because it was SO padded, I have not idea how he moved in it.)

#45 rg

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Posted 23 February 2007 - 10:48 AM

funnily enough, ABT's first-ever multi-act 'full' swanlake had the corps de ballet/swanmaidens in longer tutus with only odette in the 'standard/shorter/stiffer' classical tutu (cos. by Freddy Wittop).
this same silhouette was in place for the royal ballet's early versions of the ballet, if memory serves, in leslie hurry's 1943 (revised '46) costume designs.
ABT went to all 'classical tutus' if mem. serves, only when it staged the first lakeside (the so-called SWAN LAKE ACT II) on its own in makarova's(?) staging, before mckenzie's most recent production.


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