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Natalia

ABT's 'Sleeping Beauty' in DC

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'The Sleeping Beauty'

American Ballet Theater

January 29, 2008

Kennedy Center

main casting -

Aurora - Paloma Herrera

Desire - David Hallberg

Lilac Fairy - Veronica Part

Carabosse - Martine Van Hamel (repeating Fri, Feb. 1)

King Florestan - Victor Barbee

Queen - Melissa Thomas

Fairy Candide - Maria Ricetto

Fairy Coulante - Yuriko Kajiya

Fairy Miettes - Sarah Lane

Fairy Canari - Zhong-Jing Fang

Fairy Violente - Stella Abrera

(sorry - I prefer to use the traditional names of these fairy variations!)

Bluebird pdd - Hee Seo & Sascha Radetsky

Coming on the heels of the Kirov-Mariinsky's wondrous La Bayadere, ABT's Sleeping Beauty had a tough act to follow. It firmly met the challenge at last night's opener on the strength of a dream cast. There even was more than a hint of the 'old Kirov magic' in the Kolpakova-like crystalline purity of Paloma Herrera's Aurora, David Hallberg's Nureyevesque aplomb and the miraculous first-arabesque of Veronika Part.

Since the early days of the internet, I've been admiring Herrera, principally as a Gee-Whiz-Can-Do wunderkind. Unlike many wunderkinds who soar like comets for one minute, only to crash to earth, Herrera has matured into a true ballerina of the highest order. Not only does she serve-up technical brilliance -- one does not have to hold one's breath before the Rose Adagio balances; it's a given that Paloma will deliver -- but she also infuses her performance with charming nuances, musical flourishes and brio. Paloma Herrera is the shining example of a ballerina is her prime and a delight for every balletomane.

Good thing that Uliana Lopatkina is back in Russia, or else she may have commandered tall, blonde and technically-brilliant David Hallberg to do 'heave-ho duties' back at the Mariinsky. But luckily for us, Hallberg is right here in America. He commanded our attention from the moment of his entrance in the Hunt Scene with the height and perfect form of his jetes. Oh those pointed feet!

Veronika Part was BORN to be the Lilac Fairy! My memories of a painful Aurora in NYC last June are erased with the gracious beauty of her Lilac.

It was a delight to finally see Martine Van Hamel's much-lauded Carabosse! She was at once regal and menacing. Van Hamel has the appropriate physique (height) to carry it off, unlike Gelsey Kirkland, who I saw last summer. The difference was like night & day. Van Hamel's Carabosse will scare the living daylights out of anyone!

The Prologue (also the Act III) Fairies were fine, on the whole, although there were two stand-outs: Yuriko Kajiya's musicality and natural sparkle in the 2nd variation (Coulante) and Stella Abrera with an expansive, commanding 5th variation (Violente).

As if this weren't enough, the very best was yet to come in Act III, in two words: Hee Seo.

The Bluebird Pas de Deux came close to stealing the show in the hands (and feet) of Hee Seo as Princess Florine and Sascha Radetsky's high-flying (minus one brief moment) Bluebird. Hee's Florine truly left me and my neighbors in Row R of orchestra section with open mouths and sighing, she was SO BEAUTIFUL. I am not exaggerating when I say that she already has the style, charm, musicality and Kirovian technique to easily be a soloist in the best Russian ballet companies! Couple all of that with Parisian-style feet and - my God! - we have a living miracle of ballet!

There was even some good news, production-wise. Most of last summer's laughably-horrid details and segments of this new McKenzie production have been excised. Gone are the Prologue's 'lilac shower curtain,' weird 'Dream of Prince Desire' episode in the Hunt Scene with Aurora's bed floating across the stage, the foy-flight effects, and the gaudy costumes of the four Guest Princes in Act I. Ah but 'Burger King's' crown remains!

All in all, an unexpectedly delightful night at the ballet. :clapping:

***

Fun star-sightings in the audience: Irina Kolpakova looking for an empty seat close to our section. Her husband, Vladilen Semenov, running to join her just as lights went down. Another Kirovian Moment!

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I was there and I agree with much except Bluebird. I found Hee Seo odd and mannered and Radetsky lacking. I am not a Kirov fan so that maybe explains our different takes. For the most part I don't enjoy Russian companies or Russian trained dancers.

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Just a quick entry before I start work -

I was there Tuesday night and there were many things I did love about ABT's new production. Call me gaudy but I did enjoy the brilliantly colored costumes and glitter. The cast was very good. I sat fairly close to the stage and even though Paloma was technically strong and has such a lovely face for Aurora, I had the sense she was emotionally detached. (Did I detect a tad of annoyance with her partner or was it my imagination?) Halberg danced with his usual classic elegance. It's a perfect role for him. Still, they partnered well and deserved the bravos they received. I beleive the Lilac Fairy is, indeed, the role made for Veronica Part. She was beautiful and enchanting and it was the first time I have really warmed up to her.

With apologies to the purists, I'll state I like this two act version especially after sitting through the production the Kirov brought a few years ago which was stated to be close to the original one in content and costume from Czarist days . Now that was a long sit and, if I remember correctly, contained long stretches without any real dancing. So, I thought this overall production was good, costumes were more than beautiful, and sets were acceptable. But, I did have a couple of issues with it and now for the negatives -

I didn't like the spiders that attended Carrabosse or the costumes of the cavaliers that attended the fairies.

I didn't like the end of Act I when the Lilac Fairy locks the King & Queen out of the spell. Now they will grow old and die and not get to see their princess awaken and be blessed with the love of the prince. (They didn't appear in the last act did they?)

I didn't like the fact that the prince killed Carrabosse. I'm surprised Martine Van Hamel (that night's role) did't grab the sword and whack him with it. There's a grand dame you don't mess with. As much as I would like to see Gelsey Kirkland in this role, it is hard to believe she could bring any more to it than Martine does. What a great actress.

So delightful to have ABT follow close after the Kirov last week! I look forward the weekend.

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.....

So delightful to have ABT follow close after the Kirov last week! I look forward the weekend.

Me too! I'll be going to Friday's performance with Dvorovenko/Beloserkosky and, of course, Van Hamel.

How could I have forgotten to mention that another costume-atrocity from last's year's premiere has been eliminated: the daisy-suspenders on the village-men who dance the Garland Waltz. Or did I simply not see them on Tuesday night? They were hard to miss in NY!

I'm truly grateful for the elimination of the old Crayola-bright outfits on the four princes in the Rose Adagio. :D

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I attended Wed. The new production is a feast for the eyes... costumes are over-the-top fabulous. Speaking of fabulous, Xiomara Reyes nailed her Rose Adagio, and Reyes and Jose Manuel Carreno delivered a splendid Grand Pas de Deux. I also thought the Corps was Kirov-level impressive. Subordinate roles were covered nicely, albeit with one or two awkward moments, such as a foul-up at the exit of the Prince's Friends in Act II. Anyway, I liked the performance, and loved the new production.

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Well, you've all persuaded me, and I've gotten tickets for this in Miami. I was dithering because Miami is a fairly long trek from here, and I have heard that the parking can be chaotic. Thanks for pushing me to take an action.

For those thinking about Miami, the Arsht Center has only a few poorish seats left. The Concert Association of Florida, which is actually the presenter, uses a box office service which has a bigger and better selection. Phone is 1-877-311-SHOW.

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Quick note on last night's Dvorovenko/Beloserkovsky/Abrera/Van Hamel performance 'cause I'm headed out the door in a minute.

Irina Dvorovenko - another divine Aurora, so different from Herrera's more compact "English-neat' take on Tuesday yet just as satisfying. Dvorovenko's face & smile are to die for...let alone her dancing!

Maxim Beloserkovsky's Prince Desire was full of bravura in an elegant manner, very similar to Hallberg's on opening night, although I detected (obviously) more engagement with his Aurora. It helps to be husband & wife!

Stella Abrera - exquisite, as she is in practically everything I've seen her do. Stronger technique than Part at the opening...but who-on-earth has the aura and grace of Veronika Part? I have to give the nod to Part, despite Abrera's greater technique.

Other fairies - HEE SEO was once again magnificent, this time as the first fairy (green). Yuriko Kajiya (orange) sparkled again as the 2nd one. Kudos to Misty Copeland's Violente (red) variation for zest and musicality.

Bluebird pdd, sorry to say, was a 'bust' last night (Ricetto/Hoven), especially due to sloppy partnering, although Ricetto herself had one messy & loud falling-off-pointe in her solo...quite uncharacteristic of her.

Very fine unison in the corps. Nice octet of Autora's Friends.

Van Hamel once again nearly stole the show with her truly venomous Carabosse.

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Question about this run of BEAUTY for anybody who may be "in-the-know": The Garland Waltz of Act I features a boy/girl pair of youngsters. They did a very professional-looking job! Alas, I can't seem to find their names in the Kennedy Center Playbill. Does anybody know the names of these two talented youngsters? Are they students at the ABT-affiliate academy in NY (Onassis School) or from somewhere in the DC area?

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Did anyone see Wiles as Aurora?

Yes, and she was a lovely, girlish Aurora, happy and a little shy at her party. To my mind the slight nervousness she displayed before her balances worked for her in that it seemed perfectly in character, and then made her joy once she'd gotten through them -- and done so very well -- quite moving. After that she was all beauty and confidence wrapped around thrilling technique, and her wedding celebration dives into the Prince's arms were swift and fearless. And of course she and Hallberg look so good together.

The other special treat of an altogether wonderful afternoon was Part, who I thought looked lovelier than ever. She struggled in her Act III solo and finished off the music and there was a bobble or two elsewhere, but it almost didn't matter because otherwise she was perfectly warm and gracious and authoritative, and not, or so it looked to me, cautious. Just to see her stand with one foot back and wand held high and her back so beautifully arched . . . she would have saved the ballet for me if Wiles hadn't come through.

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Thank you for writing, kfw. :speechless-smiley-003: I was sorry to have to miss that performance, but I will be at the Kennedy Center tomorrow to see Herrera.

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Question about this run of BEAUTY for anybody who may be "in-the-know": The Garland Waltz of Act I features a boy/girl pair of youngsters. They did a very professional-looking job! Alas, I can't seem to find their names in the Kennedy Center Playbill. Does anybody know the names of these two talented youngsters? Are they students at the ABT-affiliate academy in NY (Onassis School) or from somewhere in the DC area?

I don't want my earlier message (above) to be burried too deeply in this threat, so bumpin' it up. Anybody know anything about the two talented children who are featured in ABT's Garland Watlz? They deserve to be credited.

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I saw the Thursday night and Saturday matinee. Looks like all the children parts were played by young girls. The court pages in blue and silver and the young pair in the garland dance were the same group of girls in both performances I saw. I guess ABT could not find any young boys to play the male parts. Yes, they did a great job.

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Some short notes (I will post a longer review later):

Aurora: Xiomara Reyes

Désiré: José Manuel Carreno

Lilac: Maria Riccetto

Florine: Stella Abrera

Bluebird: Jared Matthews

First the positives--the production includes most of the standard mime and is mercifully short given that it is not very good, to put it politely. A few lovely costumes (Bluebird pas de deux, principals Act III) and some impressive stage effects. Hee Seo, Zhong-Jing Fang, Sarah Lane, and Stella Abrera were all stand-outs, as was Maria Bystrova, under-used as the Queen. Beautiful technique from Carreno, and vivid, detailed characterization from Mikhail Ilyin (whom I reviewed in my blog as Siegfried) as a very abbreviated Puss in Boots.

Some negatives--mostly horrible, Disney animation-esque sets (I expected Shrek and Donkey to arrive at any moment) and sparkly Las Vegas costumes. Widespread disregard for Petipa, to the point where I doubt any of the stagers even remotely understands this ballet. Weak dancing from Riccetto despite lovely musicality, weak dancing and characterization from Reyes. Replacement of the Fairies of the Precious Stones and Metals with the Prologue Fairies (as nice as it was to see those lovely dancers again). Total evisceration of Act III.

I have a lot more to say about this production, but those are the main points.

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OT, about new productions in general.

Many new productions in opera and ballet involve sets and costumes which appear to be almost totally divorced from the original. In the case of opera the singing and the music is unchanged, but the rest... sets, costumes, lighting etc can be completely new. If you see the MetOpera's Zauberflot you can understand that Mozart never would have imagined such a staging. But he may have liked it never the less. Some classical operas like the recent Barber of Seville, used classic costumes, married to minimalist classical referenced sets which relied on contemporary theatrics and lighting. there was no attempt to make us believe the story was a contemporary one, but we were rather encouraged to use our imagination more and perhaps focus more on the music and singing. I haven't a clue as to the motivation of the producer and designer. Zauberflote was the reverse almost, as you can be overwhelmed by the theatrics. I thought it worked for that fairy tale story.

Last Season's NYCB R+J was not especially well received because of the sets for one, again an interpretation of Verona which to many looked gaudy, cartoonlike and seemed to detract from the production and perhaps the dancing. I sense the same thing happened with the ABT Sleeping Beauty. They couldn't pull off the new interpretation because they made some bad choices artistically which were a terrible distraction. Apparently they tweaked it somewhat based on bad press.

Why do so many contemporary interpretations/stagings seem to miss the mark and some manage to really work, such as Met's Zauberflot of Madama Butterfly? I am leaving the choreography and the signing in opera out of this question. Are these producers trying too hard to be modern and not skilled enough to translate the past into something with a contemporary look?

It seems that classic ballet also needs to be preserved and the tendency of these new stagings to look disney like or "flintstonic" may not be doing any favors to these classic works in the end. What say you about the new looks for the classics?

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SanderO, I think this is a great topic to discuss, but as it could (and should) encompass much more than ABT's performances this week, I will start a new thread for it. Thank you for raising this issue!

Edit: Done. The new thread is here under Aesthetic Issues. :clapping:

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ABT auditioned ballet students from the Washington, DC area. The young garland dance couple was not named in the program, perhaps because the audition was held just the Saturday prior to the Tuesday opening. The young lady is a student with, I believe, Washington Ballet and the "young man," I believe, studies with Maryland Youth Ballet. I don't want to specify their names for fear I might be incorrect. But clearly these young dancers had very little time to learn and rehearse a complex duet.

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The Garland pair of children were absolutely perfect on Friday night. Perhaps you just saw the opener, ltraiger.

A thought just occurred that maybe the KennCen no longer lists child performers' names for security's sake. Sorry that I brought it up, if that's the case. Wanted to give credit where it was due.

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ABT auditioned ballet students from the Washington, DC area. The young garland dance couple was not named in the program, perhaps because the audition was held just the Saturday prior to the Tuesday opening. The young lady is a student with, I believe, Washington Ballet and the "young man," I believe, studies with Maryland Youth Ballet. I don't want to specify their names for fear I might be incorrect. But clearly these young dancers had very little time to learn and rehearse a complex duet.

They were wonderful Saturday afternoon, and I didn't know girls ever did pointe work so young.

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Did Julie Kent dance Aurora with Ethan and did anyone see them? In the last major runs of the old MacMillan/Georgiadis production about a decade ago, Julie was among the loveliest Auroras I have ever seen. She had a radiant soft English quality like Antoinette Sibley but with some Russian soul and attack worked into it.

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and vivid, detailed characterization from Mikhail Ilyin (whom I reviewed in my blog as Siegfried) as a very abbreviated Puss in Boots.

Hans, do you know if Mikhail Ilyin has joined ABT? I'd be interested if anyone who attended the DC run could tell me whether he was listed in the programs as a company member or a guest. I don't see him on the MCB website anymore but he's not listed on ABT's either. I suppose he could have been guesting but I think it would be unusual to bring in a guest for such a minor role.

I saw him once at MCB and don't remember much specific about him, but I remember that I liked him!

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Ilyin was an MCB soloist, promoted to principal in 2003. He departed after the 2005-2006 season, I believe. If he does go to ABT, he will be following Joseph Phillips, hired by MCB as a soloist for this season, but now listed in the ABT website as a member of the corps.

nysusan, I liked Ilyin, too. IMO, he's missed at MCB.

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Ilyin was listed as a corps member, and in a couple of performances was one of the Fairy Knights.

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i liked him, before he was in miami he was in boston for a while.

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