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Swan Lake Casting and Reviews


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#16 Helene

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Posted 01 March 2009 - 12:42 AM

Some notes about the mortals in this performance.

First among mortals was Joan Boada. In Russia, he would never be cast as the Prince: he's probably too short, and if there is any dancer to whom I would compare him, it would be Jock Soto: dark, muscular, with juicy plies, full-bodied movement, a balanced symmetry, and a refined virility. Ivan Popov was the perfect Prince type, and I thought his performance was superb, but Boada affected me in a quite different way: while there are plenty of Siegfrieds with whom I've empathized over the years, I don't think I've fallen for one since Ivan Nagy, when I was 14. Boada was a beautiful partner, and ardent man, and all of his solos were fully formed and beautifully phrased. The Black Swan Pas de Deux felt complete and like the narrative and dramatic center of Act III as a result.

While I'm still a bit dubious about the version of the Pas de Trois in this production, this afternoon it was danced with lightness, clarity, and proportion by Clara Blanco, Isaac Hernandez, and Elizabeth Miner. I couldn't recognize either dancer with the Jane Austen wigs (or hairpieces), and neither was blond, but it almost didn't matter, they were both so well-balanced. Hernandez was superb, with a slight delay in his double tours, landed in full plie and then onto the next movement, all on one continuous phrase, just a beautiful performance. (One of the great joys of LeBlanc's performance was a similar quality on the horizontal plane: in the White Swan Pas de Deux, she never hit a position and stopped. Even in supported attitude penche promenades, the outward energy from her limbs was palpable.) Hernandez was also terrific as a replacement in Spanish for Anthony Spaulding, who gave another fantastic performance as von Rothbart, and who was properly booed as the villain during the curtain calls. Miner was charming and light in the Neopolitan, and Elana Altman was once again dynamic and formidable in Spanish.

Ludmila Campos was more evenly matched with Nutnaree Pipit-Suksan as the "big" swans in Act II, which created balance and symmetry; Pipit-Suksan later danced a fine Russian, paired with the wonderful Frances Chung. The four cygnettes were wonderfully precise without being robot-like, but the audience giggled on queue.

Pascale Leroy's Queen was more unimaginative and unquestioning than Odile-like in this performance; the other night, it was clear what the Prince saw in van Patten's Odile: Mom.

This afternoon, the transformation from woman to swan in the Prologue elicited gasps for as far as I could hear in the Dress Circle and received a spontaneous round of applause. The projections of the two swans flying away at the end got oohs and aahs. Someone got the pulse of the audience correctly. I think that the image of Odette when she is hit by the spell is so arresting, that the transformation isn't needed, nor is anything needed to distract from the breathtaking image of the swans, in lines facing upstage, separating the prone von Rothbart from the dead lovers, and then transforming into the wedge on the floor.

I can't say enough about how wonderful the corps was.

I don't know about the rest of the house, but aside from some coughing, this was about as perfect an audience as I've been in. There were at least a dozen kids in my section, and they didn't move or make a sound during the entire ballet. One dad laughed a guy's knowing laugh when the Queen pressed Siegfried to choose among the princesses. (Yup, those women are always pressing the marriage angle :)) But that was about the only peep I heard all afternoon. No jangling bracelets, no talking, no cell phones, no watches chirping on the hour, no sniffling or coughing or choking from noxious perfume baths, no cellophane unwrapping, no sandwich chomping.

It was a miracle that was replicated at the :) Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations "The Stage Music in the Plays of William Shakespeare" concert I heard tonight at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley, part of the Cal Performances concert series. Composers were Robert Johnson, Mattiew Locke, and Henry Purcell, almost all music for dance, and the audience was completely still for this first rate, superb ensemble, until the encore, when Mr. Savall asked us to be the percussion through rhythmic clapping. Not only was the audience quiet throughout the concert, but they followed directions, and there wasn't a misclap or miscue in the house :)

I think I've used up all of my good audience karma in one day!

#17 PeggyR

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Posted 01 March 2009 - 07:29 AM

If any ballet lover missed Maria Kochetkova's Swan Lake Saturday night -- you have my sympathy.

I don't have Helene's descriptive powers, so I'll simply say that it was all there: flawless technique, placement, phrasing, heartbreaking vulnerability. For me, the surprise was an Odile that was regal and imperious, not adjectives normally associated with somebody no bigger than a minute. Siegfried didn't stand a chance.

In the pas de trois, Frances Chung and (finally!) Taras Domitro sizzled.

Between Le Blanc in the afternoon and Kochetkova in the evening, my tears ducts are bone dry.

#18 Helene

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Posted 01 March 2009 - 10:55 AM

Thank you so much, PeggyR!

When this is revived, Kochetkova is first on my list to see. I thought she stole "The Nutcracker" film, and I'm looking forward to seeing her live.

Edited to add:

Little tips for nearby - I had time during the day so took a tour of City Hall - there's a fun sound exhibit in the rotunda (walk around and different natural sounds can be heard). I've found a new place for Banh Mi on Larkin Street (such a lovely area :) ) - Baguette Express. Much better than buy aboard - take two Banh Mi on your plane flight! Really good Thai food to be had around the corner from Larkin at O'Farrell - Sai Jai Thai. It's a diner-y kind of place with a fabulous kitchen. Also, if anyone goes to the Bhutan Exhibit at the Asian Museum I'd like to hear about it.

I went to Baguette Express and was chatting with the very nice owner, when he asked how I found his shop. I told him that a friend from an online community had just been there and had recommended it, and he was surprised and delighted! I had the vegetarian (spicy), and they were delicious.

I was heading to Sai Jai Thai, but was distracted by the menu at the (fancier) Bang Sai Thai. Not only is it Halal, but they have vegan vegetarian options which don't use fish sauce, and a combination eggplant and tofu dish. (Usually, I've found that eggplant alone is the other veggie option instead of tofu or mixed vegetables.) The tofu was firm and baked, and the dish was fantastic, as was their sticky rice and mango dessert, which came with half a mango. I'll save Sai Jai Thai for my next visit.

I don't know how you chose, Leigh. It would take me two years to eat my way across 10 blocks of Larkin.

#19 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 01 March 2009 - 07:27 PM

Kochetova is the one on my radar as well, Peggy, but I had to choose my dates before the casting went up.

Helene, we chose Sai Jai by metaphorically flipping a coin, and it would take me years to eat at all the places I wanted to in the Tenderloin. On a previous trip I checked out Cafe Zitouna, a Moroccan diner a few blocks down (maybe on Post?) which is as much an anthropological experience as a decent meal. Go to watch Moroccan folk (mostly men) hang out over coffee and lemonade. They do couscous as well, of course.

I think we need to plan an SF weekend of ballet and food!


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