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RDB in Balanchine


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#1 Jane Simpson

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 04:40 AM

The RDB's all Balanchine programme - Symphony in 3 Movements/La Sonnambula/Symphony in C - opened last night. No casting was announced in advance but there were clues from the photoshoot, notably that Silja Schandorff would be doing both the Sleepwalker and the 2nd movement of Symphony in C (she has 3 weeks left before her farewell in Giselle on April 8th). I think Symphony in 3 Movements is new to the company, but the other two have been in the repertory for a long time, though neither has been seen in the last few years.

The first review I've seen (in Danish) gives the programme 4 stars out of 6: Henrik Lyding is fairly scathing about the corps in the first piece but liked soloists Yao Wei, Thomas Lund and Christopher Rickert. He doesn't think much of La Sonnambula as a ballet but has praise for Schandorff, Marcin Kupinski as the Poet, and the Harlequin of young Alban Lendorf (who represents the company in this year's Erik Bruhn Prize competition). He goes home happy, though, after Symphony in C (Schandorff with Nehemiah Kish, Gudrun Bojesen and Tim Matiakis in the 3rd movement, Ulrik Birkkjaer in the 4th).

I'm not seeing the programme myself for another couple of weeks - any reports meanwhile would be very welcome!

#2 Jane Simpson

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 01:56 PM

There are some better reviews today, mostly praising the same dancers but rather warmer about the ballets themselves and the company as a whole.

The casting for the next few performances is also announced, revealing that Christina Michanek and Kristoffer Sakurai will also dance the leading roles in La Sonnambula, whilst Gudrun Bojesen and Gregory Dean do the 2nd movement of Sym. in C. (I'm slightly worried, though, that Mads Blangstrup - who features as the Poet in some of the rehearsal photographs, and according to Hubbe was to do the first night - isn't listed so far. Maybe he'll appear by the end of the run - please let him not be injured again!)

#3 leonid17

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 02:55 PM

The RDB's all Balanchine programme - Symphony in 3 Movements/La Sonnambula/Symphony in C - opened last night. No casting was announced in advance but there were clues from the photoshoot, notably that Silja Schandorff would be doing both the Sleepwalker and the 2nd movement of Symphony in C (she has 3 weeks left before her farewell in Giselle on April 8th). I think Symphony in 3 Movements is new to the company, but the other two have been in the repertory for a long time, though neither has been seen in the last few years.

The first review I've seen (in Danish) gives the programme 4 stars out of 6: Henrik Lyding is fairly scathing about the corps in the first piece but liked soloists Yao Wei, Thomas Lund and Christopher Rickert. He doesn't think much of La Sonnambula as a ballet but has praise for Schandorff, Marcin Kupinski as the Poet, and the Harlequin of young Alban Lendorf (who represents the company in this year's Erik Bruhn Prize competition). He goes home happy, though, after Symphony in C (Schandorff with Nehemiah Kish, Gudrun Bojesen and Tim Matiakis in the 3rd movement, Ulrik Birkkjaer in the 4th).

I'm not seeing the programme myself for another couple of weeks - any reports meanwhile would be very welcome!


I am sure these ballets were staged with fidelity to a Balanchine version that he would fully recognise and expect. When in Copenhagen in 1930, Balanchine was commisioned to stage 6 ballets from the Diaghlev Ballet Russe repertory and was quite happy to alter or improve them and in the case of "The Legend of Joseph" he created his own version. He also staged two genuine works of his own, Apollo Musagete and Barabau, By all accounts the Danes were not too impressed with his work at that time. They changed their mind later.

#4 leonid17

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Posted 17 March 2009 - 12:55 AM

A translated review of this programme can be found at http://translate.goo...e...I7RNWN&sa=G

At newspaper site click on CULTURE at top then scroll down to Scene.

PS The translation leads to some deliciously amusing expressions.

#5 Jane Simpson

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 07:44 AM

Eva Kistrup has added a long review of this programme to her DanceViewTimes blog. It's especially interesting to read what someone who knows the company very well thinks of the casting!

For anyone who's interested, these are the credits for the stagings:

Symphony in 3 Movements: Suzy Pilarre assisted by Kevin Irving

La Sonnambula: Richard Tanner assisted by Sorella Englund

Symphony in C: Merrill Ashley and Stacey Cadell assisted by Heidi Ryom and Anne Holm

#6 Helene

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 08:44 AM

I found Kistrup's discussion of the changes in the balance of "Symphony in C" casting fascinating.

According to the "Balanchine Catalogue", the original casting for "Le Palais de Cristal" was:

First Movement: Lycette Darsonval, Alexandre Kalioujny
Second Movement: Tamara Toumanova, Roger Ritz
Third Movement: Micheline Bardin, Michel Renault
Fourth Movement: Madeleine Lafon, Max Bozzoni

I always thought that Darsonval and Toumanova were considered equals at the time, if Toumanova was more famous. It certainly set the precedent for a glamorous dancer in the second movement.

The first cast of "Symphony in C" was:

First Movement: Maria Tallchief, Nicholas Magallanes
Second Movement: Tanaquil Le Clercq, Francisco Moncion
Third Movement: Beatrice Tompkins, Herbert Bliss
Fourth Movement: Elise Reiman, John Taras

This is what Kistrup describes in the original RDB casting, not only by type, but also by prominence:

The casting principle was type, so the established stars Simone and Kronstam was in 1. movement because it matched their type and the younger couple[Anna Lærkesen with partner (Palle Sørensen)] in 2. movement as they matched that type.


Before I saw NYCB regularly, Violette Verdy was cast regularly in the First Movement. Regardless of who was cast in the Second Movement, she was not a dancer to be overshadowed, and she had a mature and sophisticated quality that held sway.

The casting at NYCB that I saw from the late 70's to mid-90's mostly followed was Kistrup describes in the first two movements: the leading dancer at the time danced second movement, without much regard to type: Farrell, who was to type, Ashley, Watts, Kistler, who brought a lightness to the role, and later, Whelan. The exception was Calegari, who I did see dance the Second Movement -- not a great fit -- but who was perfect in the First Movement, particularly in her performances in in the mid-80's. (Calegari, who more physically resembled Leclerq, so great in other Leclerq roles, found a second skin in Maria Tallchief's.) Third Movement casting was dominated by one of the greatest jumpers I've ever seen and a great favorite of mine, Melinda Roy, who was a soloist most of the time I saw her in it. Fourth Movement was almost always an up-and-coming corps member or soloist. I've never seen a Principal dancer in this role at any company; I don't think Averty or Cerruti were in the POB's mid-80's tour with "Le Palais de Cristal".

"Symphony in C" was danced so infrequently in Seattle -- I hope Peter Boal heeds Kistrup's words: "In my view it is a basic human right to see 'Symphony in C'" -- that it's hard to find a pattern: in 2004, Carrie Imler and Louise Nadeau were cast in First and Second Movements, to type and to equal strength, with Principals Kaori Nakamura and Jonathan Porretta in the Third Movement, and Mara Vinson in the Fourth, about the most balanced cast I've every seen, all cast to their strength. In another performance, Imler switched to Third Movement with Batkhurel Bold (nickname: "Air Bold") and Jodie Thomas danced First Movement, and Thomas couldn't match the impact of Nadeau and Imler. Bold, with his height and long limbs, couldn't be more different than Villella or Porretta, and gave the movement a very different character. In yet another performance, the up-and-coming dancers Mara Vinson and Maria Chapman were cast in First and Second Movements, both to type, but I think they would have been move successful switching roles. There's something about Chapman that reminds me of Calegari in this ballet.

Kistrup also notes,

In many of the performances I have seen with NYCB, the casting did not follow this employ. The top ballerina would dance 2. movement, whether she was the type or not, and on several occasion the other movements were cast with soloists rather than principals and out-of-type dancers. In all it changed the balance of the works from four equal movements, to a star pas de deux with a supporting cast.


The Fourth Movement is not an equal movement in the work, and even if cast with a major dancer, which I've never seen, it's a much smaller role. Likewise the Third Movement's roles, which can be cast equally, are jumping roles, done mainly in mirror or parallel, with the dancers separated, and it doesn't have the gravitas of the strongly partnered roles in the first two movements, nor does the music support it. But the casting can even out the "imbalance" in the roles, the imbalance that makes it so theatrically satisfying. Balanchine always knew when to give the audience a change and room to breathe.

#7 Jane Simpson

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Posted 06 April 2009 - 08:46 AM

Eva Kistrup went back to a later performance of the Balanchine bill and has added some more comments to her DVT Blog. I was there the same night and have little to add to what she says. I thought Symphony in C was the least successful of the 3 pieces, but the next night went much better and I really appreciated Bojesen's dancing in the second movement. La Sonnambula suits the company very well though I wasn't too enamoured of the new setting. In Symphony in Three Movements I liked both the men I saw in the pas de deux - Sebastian Kloborg, who improves every time I see him, and Thomas Lund.

The big disappointment was the absence through injury of Silja Schandorff - I was really hoping for one last look at her before her retirement!

#8 Anne

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Posted 07 April 2009 - 07:53 AM

The RDB's all Balanchine programme - Symphony in 3 Movements/La Sonnambula/Symphony in C - opened last night. No casting was announced in advance but there were clues from the photoshoot, notably that Silja Schandorff would be doing both the Sleepwalker and the 2nd movement of Symphony in C (she has 3 weeks left before her farewell in Giselle on April 8th). I think Symphony in 3 Movements is new to the company, but the other two have been in the repertory for a long time, though neither has been seen in the last few years.

The first review I've seen (in Danish) gives the programme 4 stars out of 6: Henrik Lyding is fairly scathing about the corps in the first piece but liked soloists Yao Wei, Thomas Lund and Christopher Rickert. He doesn't think much of La Sonnambula as a ballet but has praise for Schandorff, Marcin Kupinski as the Poet, and the Harlequin of young Alban Lendorf (who represents the company in this year's Erik Bruhn Prize competition). He goes home happy, though, after Symphony in C (Schandorff with Nehemiah Kish, Gudrun Bojesen and Tim Matiakis in the 3rd movement, Ulrik Birkkjaer in the 4th).

I'm not seeing the programme myself for another couple of weeks - any reports meanwhile would be very welcome!


I saw the second last performance of this programme on March 30. I was very happy with it, except for some disappointments regarding the casting. On the homepage Silja Schandorff had been announced as the sleepwalker as well as a soloist in Symphony in C, and I had been thrilled by thought of getting one last glimpse of her before she retires next week. :( Kristoffer Sakurai should have been the poet. Instead Christina Michanek danced the Sleepwalker, and her poet was Marcin Kupinski. Sakurai seems to have vanished from the casting lists, not only in this programme but for most of the season, at least to my knowledge. I wonder why. Does anyone know?

But apart from that I liked the performances of all three ballets very much. Both Symphony in Three movements and Sonnambula were new to me, and I had looked especially forward to seing Sonnambula because it is such a strange bird in the Balanchine repertory. But I must admit that I think the ballet is a bit silly! There are some choreographically interesting things in it, I was f.x. thrilled by the way the Sleepwalker moves around like in a trance - very well performed by Christina Michanek, who has the right unworldlyness in her way of dancing, like she is floating on air or being pulled forward by an imaginary force, her mind being both here and not here at the same time. Marcin Kupinski was a bit blank as the poet, not an easy task for a young dancer. But as a whole I think the ballet is a series of dramatic clichés.

I was much more enthusiastic about Symphony in Three Movements. The company rendered it with so much energy and fervour that one was simply delivered from the start. Then it doesn't matter so much, that the lines and the synchronization were not always perfect, mostly they were. Many of the reviews mentioned this as a great problem, but I don’t think it was that bad anymore. Yao Wei and Sebastian Kloborg danced the big pas de deux of the slow movement, and I have seldom seen anything so beautiful! It was sheer poetry the way they could move their arms around each other’s bodies like waves or ripples in the water, each arm looking like an extension of the other’s. It was breathtakingly beautiful and it felt like time stood still!

Symphony in C on the other hand was a performance very much in control of all the details, with a sparkling corpse and many good soloists. What I missed was some more character in the big solo parts. Amy Watson was soloist in the first movement together with Jean-Lucien Massot. I don’t know exactly why I’m not so enthusiastic about Amy Watson, because she’s lovely to look at and I can’t say she’s not up to it technically. Maybe she’s just not the right type for Balanchine, being of too much sweetness and roundness in both looks, body stature and way of moving. Her partner Massot on the other hand was a marvel! When he entered the stage you could suddenly see what a mature artist can offer and what had somehow been lacking the whole night: personality, focus and precisison. He moves with the confidence of a panther, sure that every jump and turn will land in the right place and at the right time. His 2 solos were worth the whole evening!
I don't want to be unfair to the other dancers, because many of them did a really good job, but the cast that night consisted very much of corps dancers and the stars-to-be, with only 4 principals present during the whole programme. It’s very interesting to see the new and the young dancers, but a cast with only young dancers can be –and was - a bit anonymous. There was, of course, many exceptions from that, and one very significant one was Alban Lendorf, 20 years old, trained at the school of the RDB and member of the corps since last autumn. He danced the Harlequin in Sonnambula and was also soloist together with Diana Cuni in the 3rd movement of Symphony in C. He’s an eyecatcher from the very moment he enters the stage, with a very smooth technique and ample jumps. His only problem might be that he’s very short and a bit chunkily build, which could limit his range of roles and partners.

Gudrun Bojesen and Gregory Dean did the solo of the 2nd movement instead of the announced Silja Schandorff and Nehemia Kish. I had been looking so much forward to seing Kish, who is the latest arrival among the principals, coming from the National Ballet of Canada. :wink: well, I hope for better luck next time! Bojesen of course had all the starquality needed for that part. She’s a very versatile dancer, and I hope that our new ballet master, Nikolaj Hübbe, will give her more place in the programmes and promote her more than has been the case during this last season. Maybe there will be more room for her when Schandorff and Rose Gad retire by the end of this season, ripping the company of two of it’s greatest ballerinas in recent time, though Rose Gad hasn't been very active lately.

#9 Michael

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Posted 07 April 2009 - 08:13 AM

Re what Hubbe has been schooled to see in NY:

It's often been the practice at City Ballet in recent years for the two demi-soloists, or side women, in the 1st movement to be taller than the principal ballerina. Teresa Reichlen for example, or Dana Hansen, often had these demi roles.

Just what the types are for Bizet is problematic. Casting the First Movement is the key to the ballet - It falls flat without Ballerina Presence and Authority in the opening section -- She's the "Hostess with the Mostess" -- but you can't categorize this role according to classical emploi. City Ballet apparently can't cast 1st movement right now, it's been non-authoritative since Jennie Somogyi's injury several years ago, nor was she quite ideal for the part.

#10 Anne

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Posted 08 April 2009 - 07:54 AM

Eva Kistrup went back to a later performance of the Balanchine bill and has added some more comments to her DVT Blog. I was there the same night and have little to add to what she says. I thought Symphony in C was the least successful of the 3 pieces, but the next night went much better and I really appreciated Bojesen's dancing in the second movement. La Sonnambula suits the company very well though I wasn't too enamoured of the new setting. In Symphony in Three Movements I liked both the men I saw in the pas de deux - Sebastian Kloborg, who improves every time I see him, and Thomas Lund.

The big disappointment was the absence through injury of Silja Schandorff - I was really hoping for one last look at her before her retirement!

I just read Kistrup's review and I found it highly interesting to learn about all the possible principles lying behind a casting - hierarchical casting versus type casting so to speak. I could aggree with most of her opinions regarding the dancers but was surprised that the two dancers I fell most in love with that night, Yao Wei and Jean-Lucien Massot, were criticized the most. In both cases it was about the style, Wei being too romantic and Massot just not in style. That he should also be technically shortcoming I have difficulties to see, but maybe I can see what she meant by lack of style: To my eyes Massot certainly has a lot of style, but it's always very Massot'ish, powerful, strong and elegant, a very masculine style. It might be that I just haven't got the eye for the right Balanchine style yet. Wei apparently put too much lyricism into her dancing, though not to my taste. Maybe I've got the Danish "sweet tooth" or hunger for the steps to tell a story. I have seen the NYCB a couple of times, and everytime I feel a bit chilled by their performances. I love Balanchine much more when danced by the Danes - or by the POB for that sake. Maybe one should allow for some national or personal colouring. It shows the strength of the choreography that it can be interpretated in many ways, like a musical score. The historically correct interpretation might be very interesting but is not always artistically the best.

#11 carbro

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Posted 10 April 2009 - 07:46 PM

The exception was Calegari, who I did see dance the Second Movement -- not a great fit....

To the best that I can recall, Calegari danced that role exactly once, her first performance after the suicide of Joe Duell, to whom she had been romantically attached, and her only performance for the remainder of that season.

She seemed angry (and who could blame her?), not filling the music, rushing to the next phrase, eager to get the ordeal over with. I thought that given a chance, she could have become a memorable interpreter of that movement.

Third Movement casting was dominated by one of the greatest jumpers I've ever seen and a great favorite of mine, Melinda Roy, who was a soloist most of the time I saw her in it.

And until the advent of Ashley Bouder, my favorite 3rd M ballerina.

Fourth Movement was almost always an up-and-coming corps member or soloist. I've never seen a Principal dancer in this role at any company; I don't think Averty or Cerruti were in the POB's mid-80's tour with "Le Palais de Cristal".

In its recent City Center season, Miami City Ballet had principal Patricia Delgado in Fourth Movement in an all-principal cast.

Casting the First Movement is the key to the ballet - It falls flat without Ballerina Presence and Authority in the opening section -- She's the "Hostess with the Mostess" -- but you can't categorize this role according to classical emploi. City Ballet apparently can't cast 1st movement right now, it's been non-authoritative since Jennie Somogyi's injury several years ago, nor was she quite ideal for the part.

At one of the Alumni seminars during the 1994 Balanchine Festival, NYCB dancers from the 1950s said that in their day, it was generally accepted that the ballerina of the First Movement was the ballet's prima. When did it go the Second? I don't remember anyone saying so, but my guess is, when Farrell took it over.

#12 Helene

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Posted 10 April 2009 - 08:43 PM

The exception was Calegari, who I did see dance the Second Movement -- not a great fit....

To the best that I can recall, Calegari danced that role exactly once, her first performance after the suicide of Joe Duell, to whom she had been romantically attached, and her only performance for the remainder of that season.


I had been a very careful Calegari watcher, but I might have missed a performance in 1986. She had fallen off point in the iconic developpe in second as her partner went behind her to switch the hand-hold, and she shot him a look of death that would have made ice dancer Barbara Fusar-Poli proud. I thought that the review of this, the only performance I saw her dance Second Movement, which was almost two years later, on 18 January 1988, noted that despite this, she didn't have to be so ungracious to her partner. That could be my mind playing tricks, though. The only performance of "Symphony in C" I saw right after Duell's death was a week later, with Kistler in the Second Movement. Calegari danced with Duell in the First Movement a few days before he died, on 11 February 1986, and then with Soto in the performance on 23 February.

She seemed angry (and who could blame her?), not filling the music, rushing to the next phrase, eager to get the ordeal over with. I thought that given a chance, she could have become a memorable interpreter of that movement.

That describes the performance I saw, and I was very surprised, since watching her dance Dewdrop was the first time I got of glimpse of the role's creator, Tanaquil Leclerq -- it wasn't until the Balanchine biography that I had seen any footage of TL's dancing.

#13 kfw

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Posted 11 April 2009 - 03:54 AM

I had been a very careful Calegari watcher, but I might have missed a performance in 1986. She had fallen off point in the iconic developpe in second as her partner went behind her to switch the hand-hold, and she shot him a look of death that would have made ice dancer Barbara Fusar-Poli proud. I thought that the review of this, the only performance I saw her dance Second Movement, which was almost two years later, on 18 January 1988, noted that despite this, she didn't have to be so ungracious to her partner. That could be my mind playing tricks, though.

I really love reading these reminiscences. Thanks, Helene and carbro. On 1/21/88 in the Times Jennifer Dunning wrote:

It was sad to see ''Concerto Barocco'' and ''Symphony in C,'' two masterworks of George Balanchine's repertory, danced so unprepossessingly by the City Ballet. Maria Calegari, making a role debut as the ballerina in the second movement of ''Symphony in C,'' came closest to saving the occasion. Ms. Calegari is one of City Ballet's greatest treasures, and she plunged into this epitomizing Balanchine ballerina role with all her usual hungry intensity. There were moments of sublime poetry in her use of her arms and luxurious phrasing, particularly of the closing supported fall in the pas de deux. But her openly hostile behavior toward her cavalier, Otto Neubert, was just as graceless as his stolid presence and poor partnering.



#14 Paul Parish

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Posted 11 April 2009 - 09:39 PM

Fasciinating reports -- thank you all, esp to the historically minded. Joe Duell was aperformer of such great sensitivity and fastidiousness, what it must have been like to know him and to dance with him! It's hard to blame anyone for how they behaved onstage in the wake of his suicide. But fascinating to hear about.

Recasting -- I've always heard that the first two movements both require ballerinas -- but i have ALSO seen a performance in Berkeley by NYCB in which Peter Boal came on in the third movement and blew everything that had apperared before into smithereens-- his leaps were so noble.

Third movement was one of Allegra Kent's roles I believe. Other ballerinas have danced it. It was made on Gisella Caccialanza, I'm told, or at least sketched out, before Balanchine went ot Paris -- is this true? RG do you know? Doug? Leonid? Alexandra? Anybody know? Certainly Caccialanza was injured in the creation of the NYCB version, one of those catastrophes to the knee which used to end a career -- though she danced a bit afterwards in San Francisco, she never again had the authority she'd had before.

Third movement seems like a NATURAL for the Danes. Actually, it's my favorite. In my next life, THAT's the role I want to dance, girl or boy, I don't care.

#15 papeetepatrick

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Posted 12 April 2009 - 10:05 AM

Fasciinating reports -- thank you all, esp to the historically minded. Joe Duell was aperformer of such great sensitivity and fastidiousness, what it must have been like to know him and to dance with him! It's hard to blame anyone for how they behaved onstage in the wake of his suicide. But fascinating to hear about.


The exception was Calegari, who I did see dance the Second Movement -- not a great fit....

To the best that I can recall, Calegari danced that role exactly once, her first performance after the suicide of Joe Duell, to whom she had been romantically attached, and her only performance for the remainder of that season.

She seemed angry (and who could blame her?), not filling the music, rushing to the next phrase, eager to get the ordeal over with. I thought that given a chance, she could have become a memorable interpreter of that movement.


This reminds me of the performance, which I've mentioned a number of times before, of 'La Valse', that I saw Suzanne Farrell do one week after Duell's suicide, and two weeks after I saw her dance 'Slaughter on 10th Avenue' with him. She seemed grief-stricken and maybe even half-crazy, but the performance was easily the most memorable I ever saw her do. That performance was the reason I came to Ballet Talk, after telling someone in 2006 how I thought I finally understood what it was about. People react differently to suicide, I've always heard about 'anger at suicide', but never experienced it myself, even when very close friends have done it. I don't know whether I sympathize with it, since it seems to exclude the victim; I probably will never know about this. Which is not to say I didn't love a lot of Maria Calegari performances in 1985, I did. Not that I'd expect anybody to perform at the level of supernal after a tragedy, but that was why, even wth some of my other difficulties regarding some aspects of the 'Farrell Myth', I never forget that performance and how profound it was. She pulled out all the stops, but nothing was left 'not filled'. Both half-hysterical, but controlled enough while flirting with the abyss, as it were, so that you were a part of something that was anything but usual.


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