Posted 09 April 2009 - 11:43 PM
There was great promise in the pairing of Kaori Nakamura and Lucien Postlewaite in Doug Fullington's reconstructions of excerpts from "La Bayadere" in his Balanchine's Petipa presentations, and it was realized tonight in the opening night of "Swan Lake".
Postlewaite's Siegfried is a young prince, and as ardent as his prince is, he's out of his depth with both Odette and Odile. There were two things that were most remarkable about Postlewaite's performance: there was not a second of stage time that he did not account for dramatically -- including his variations, which were abstractions of character -- and he never broke line or character for virtuosity. When he floated jetes into a scene, he showed ecstacy and flight. When he partnered Nakamura in the White Swan Pas de Deux, he didn't just walk at her pace and follow her when she moved from turn to supported hold, he watched her move away, enchanted, and then he did a gentle rush towards her. He looked continually astonished that she gave him the time of day, and that she let him touch her. One great moment was at the very end of Act II, when he's reeling by what just took place, including von Rothbart's powerful dismissal of him, and then, suddenly, his face lights up as he runs back to the palace: he's completely, madly in love, despite the swan thing and Odette's baggage and the weird monster to whom she's attached, and it explains exactly where his head is at the opening of Act III.
Nakamura's Odette was soft and deep, her movement originating from the sternum. It's rare for me to see a performance of the Act II solo in which the arms and legs had equal importance and emphasis. Her Odile was sharper, and she clearly loved playing Siegfried every second. In her solo, she gained momentum on the attitude turns in the beginning, and then stopped on a dime. What bound the two was the silken clarity she brought to both roles. Her impeccable technique was invisible and submerged in each character.
Carrie Imler was the Mom from Hell, controlling, controlling, controlling. In Act III, after introducing all of the foreign dancers, the Jester sits at the feet of the Queen, and Imler shot Jonathan Porretta such looks of affection, as if she were saying, "See, you listen, why weren't you my son?" It is such a vivid characterization. Olivier Wevers overcame the von Rothbart costume, and even gave up being imperious for a second to toy with Siegfried: when he summoned him to join hands with Odile and swear his love to her, he did it with an uncharacteristic, avuncular "Come here, Young Grasshopper" gesture, only to squash him a moment later.
Between Carrie Imler's controlling mother and Olivier Wevers virile von Rothbart and Nakamura's Odette and Odile, Postlewaite's Siegfried didn't have a chance: he was being drawn and quartered. Without any shadowing von Rothbarts or dream sequences or hair pulling or Lady Capulet-like Queen Mothers or angstful Act I solos, this performance might very well have been called "Siegfried".
After three performances of "Les Sylphides" last weekend, arms and hands have been on my mind, and Benjamin Griffiths' rounded arms and expressive fingers were exemplary in the Act I Pas de Trois and the Neopolitan Dance, in which his energy was beautifully matched with Jodie Thomas'. (The Danes are in for a real treat next season.) His partners in the Pas de Trois were Lesley Rausch, whose attention to epaulement in classical roles is always a pleasure to watch -- following her, you realize that a part of a variation is a soft nod to four distinct corners, not just some vague gestures in random directions -- and Maria Chapman, who got wonderful loft before beats, paused a second in the air at the top, and continued with a flutter. Chapman was also a knockout in the Persian Dance in Act II, with especially expressive arms, particularly in the slow intro. (The dance is to the "Russian" music.)
In the Spanish, Lindsi Dec showed great style, with snap and attitude, sandwiched between her beautiful, expansive swan in Acts II and IV. Her versatility is a joy to watch. She was joined by Kylee Kitchens, Josh Spell, and Jordan Pacitti in Spanish, all three showing spark, and Pacitti also gave a rich and satisfying portrayal of Wolfgang in Act I. Jonathan Porretta's Jester did not stop moving when he danced -- there were no pandering-for-applause stops -- and his mime and characterization as part of the royal household were a great complement to his virtuoso dancing. Stacy Lowenberg glowed in Czardas, and her partner, whom at first I didn't recognize, smoldered, channeling his inner Gedeminas Taranda. (It was Jerome Tisserand.)
In the Act II Valse Bluette #1 demi-soloist Sarah Ricard Orza lowered each leg after developpe in second on point as if it were on a cloud, just lovely, to match her expressive arms. The swans were an equal star in this production. Having seen the overly aerobic entrance in San Francisco last month in an otherwise wonderful swan corps, this corps differentiated between the energy of the opening hops and the softness of the arabesque in plie, making each rendition of the combination into a meaningful visual phrase.
The swan corps was at its best in Act IV, opening in a circle, magically shifting into two lines, and then becoming Stowell's kaleidoscope of patterns to what my Mariinsky Complete Swan Lake calls "Act IV Dance of the Little Swans". I find the Act IV Pas de Deux, to the plaintive music that's noted on a number of recordings as "Pas de Trois: Andante Sustenato (4b)", one of the highlights of the ballet, a heart breaker, and a beautiful balance to the rest of the act and the ballet. (In Tomasson's version for SFB and several others I've seen, Siegfried dances to this music as a solo towards the end of Act I.)
Stewart Kershaw led the orchestra. During the overture to Act II, as the strings played the famous theme, I was jolted by a sound I hadn't heard since childhood, when I wore out the grooves on my Philadelphia Orchestra recording of "Swan Lake": the clear sound of many strings playing as one.