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MCB Program IV.Cranko's "Romeo and Juliet"


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#1 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 25 March 2011 - 08:24 PM

Well, well. It was opening night tonight, and everyone was there. The big gowns, the big diamonds, big 'dos and even some furs-(at 73 degrees!). Full house and everything for the company premiere of Romeo and Juliet. I won't extend my impressions of tonight's performance due to several, simple reasons. I don't know too much about R&J, a ballet I have barely seen-(the Cuban staging goes back to 1956, but I never saw it, so I don't really know who's choreography is, but again...1956...at the time when Alonso was aggressively importing all her choreographic background from Ballet Theater, so go figure...).

Predictably, opening night was given to the Kronenberg/Guerra duo. Lovely couple, they looked very pretty onstage, as always. I maintain that Carlos always looks good in the princely roles and Kronenberg was very cute too. One can't ask for more chemistry onstage than the one this two deliver-(being a real couple does wonders, right...?).

The two dancers that made my night on this performance were Callie Manning-(tall, dramatic, cold and regal)- as Lady Capulet and cat-like Kleber Rebello as Mercutio...VERY relaxed-looking, eating that stage as if it was a piece of cake and with a wonderful, natural sense of humor.

As for the rest, not too much to add. I'm not fond of the score-(there..I said it)-nor of the overly adagio dancing and in general, of ballets that don't offer some sugary "musique dansante"-(which we well know doesn't happen here).


As I said somewhere else pointing to another ballet, and I repeat myself here..."this a ballet that I can come to appreciate but I know I won't get to love".

Ah...and WELCOME BACK, JEANETTE !! :flowers: -(one of the Gypsies)

Edited to add: Apprentice alert!! :toot:

Let's keep an eye on Chase Swatosh, our blond replacement to Daniel Baker, in the next pic, first from the left in back row.

http://www.miamicity...10-11-small.jpg

#2 Jack Reed

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Posted 26 March 2011 - 02:40 PM

Maybe some others will come on here and identify that R & J from 1956, but if it derived from Ballet Theatre, then it may well have been the Antony Tudor one of 1943, with Frederick Delius's music and scenery by Eugene Berman. This information comes from "Balanchine's Complete Stories of the Great Ballets," which lists the leaders of the original cast: Alicia Markova and Hugh Laing, Nicolas Orloff as Mercutio, Tudor as Tybalt, and Jerome Robbins as Benvolio. The book - mine is the 1977 "Revised and Enlarged" edition - details five other versions as well, but this is the only one which it says BT performed.

Anyway, I share Cristian's reservations about Prokofiev's weighted score - "cast iron" is the phrase that always comes to me when hear some of it - and I've always been skeptical about how it could generate ballet, that aerial art. (I hear it most often when I watch some of Paul Czinner's fine film of Fonteyn and Nureyev in MacMillan's choreography, which does little to dispel my skepticism, but I would like to see the well-reputed film of the Lavrovsky setting.) Modern dance, maybe?

Add to this Arlene Croce's characterization of John Cranko's work as unmusical, and I've decided, for what it's worth, to sit out this dance. (I live in Chicago, and although that in itself already gives me reason to visit Florida in the wintertime, I've done that a couple of times this season, and this project just doesn't seem that promising to me. But if I already lived there... )

But news of one of my favorite ballet companies is always interesting, and I'm glad that Jeanette Delgado's reappearance in Program III wasn't one of those premature returns we hear of sometimes, and that she is securely on her feet. Certainly I would also expect Kronenberg and Guerra to make as much of this as it will support; their casting in it would seem only natural.

#3 Jack Reed

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Posted 26 March 2011 - 02:58 PM

...
I'm not fond of the score-(there..I said it)- and in general, of ballets that don't offer some sugary "musique dansante"-(which we well know doesn't happen here).

Doesn't happen in Prokofiev's R & J, or doesn't happen at MCB? You recently posted their press release on next season, where Delibes's score for Coppelia sends some people into sugar shock! What about you, Cristian? A whole evening of "sugary musique dansante"! You must have been joking! (I may show up just to get some of Delibes's piquant carbocals myself.)

#4 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 26 March 2011 - 09:13 PM

...
I'm not fond of the score-(there..I said it)- and in general, of ballets that don't offer some sugary "musique dansante"-(which we well know doesn't happen here).

Doesn't happen in Prokofiev's R & J, or doesn't happen at MCB?


Doesn't happen in Prokofiev's score, Jack. The ballet is a long one...three hours, and the dancing sequences can be resumed in the two adagios of the main couple-(balcony and bedroom scenes)-and the parts of Mercutio.

What about you, Cristian? A whole evening of "sugary musique dansante"! You must have been joking!


Isn't that basically the case of Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Raymonda, Act II of Nutcracker or Paquita's Grand Pas...?

No, Jack, I'm not joking..I LOVE PDD's Galas !!! :P

Just came back from tonight's performance, which I was able to chew slower and with more gusto than yesterday. Some thoughts on it coming up next...off to Ultra Music Festival right now...!! :yahoo:

#5 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 01 April 2011 - 05:03 PM

Tonight Villella premieres R&J in West Palm Beach.

bart...are you going tomorrow...? If there's nothing more interesting around here, I might go. :wink:

Jennifer Kronenberg as Juliet
Carlos Guerra as Romeo
A beautiful couple!



#6 bart

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Posted 09 April 2011 - 03:43 PM

Cristian, I'm sorry to have taken so long to respond. Yes, indeed, Kronenberg and Guerra are a beautiful couple. In this, they dance and act beautifully and with considerable complexity Romeo and Juliet are the roles of their lives, as a couple but also individually. (I saw them in three performances. I also saw Haiyan Wu and Yann Trividic once.)

I agree entirely with Jordan Levin's review in the Miami Herald: " ... [T]he biggest production in the company's history also takes MCB to a new level" -- "a performance that would have been noteworthy in any city."

Edward Villella has said that he chose the Cranko because it had youth and speed, and because it told the story simply and clearly. I like the Cranko, which I first saw when Stuttgart brought it to New York in (I believe) the early 70s. There's a real understanding of pacing and story structure in this piece. There's also plenty of dance, even if Cranko's inventiveness seems a little thin at times and the steps themselves can be repetitive.

Cranko cuts out almost all the mime. This streamlines the story but leads to some confusion during the potion scene with Friar Lawrence.This means there is no poison for Romeo and no "O churl, drunk all and left no friendly drop to help me after?" for Juliet.

The entire ensemble did a magnificent job. They look like they had spent most of their careers dancing in the stylized, highly emotional early Renaissance world evoked by the choreography and the sets and gorgeous costumes from the National Ballet of Canada. Everyone on stage (corps, apprentices, and students from MCB's School) was entirely present throughout the evening. Everything was alive: there were no dead spots, no loss of concentration; no fudged jumps or lifts; no confusion about who I am, where I should be, and where I am going.

Just a few of the many performances that stick in my mind:.
-- Isanusi Garcia-Rodriquez's Tybalt: an elegant party host, icy cold to his inferiors, sociopathic towards his enemies.
-- Tricia Albertson, Sara Esty, and Callie Manning as the Gypsy Women, whirling recklessly around the stage;
-- Manning as Lady Capulet in another cast, looking like an iced princess in her stunning dresses, chilling in her respnse to Tyibalt's death, emotionally complex as she tries to respond to the inexplicable changes in Juliet;
-- Yann Trividic gracious, noble as Paris, and Didier Bramaz gentle and very appealing in the same role.
-- Kleber Rebello's Mercutio, flippant, making beautiful rococco shapes with his arms and torso, lighter than air
-- Andre Ferreira's charismatic Carnival King and each of his small troupe of Carnival Clowns;
-- Elizabeth Keller's Nurse: Keller balanced the comedy and the solidity of this role and gave her character dignity, often lacking in R&J performances
-- everyone with a sword: The fight coach was Christian Sordelet and he did an incredible job.
-- And then there were the crowd scenes. When Mercutio dies, the entire marketplace rushes to stage left and huddles around his body, creating the look and feel of a single organism, even as each individual responds in his or her own way.

Romeo and Juliet are complex parts. Just consider this, from the tomb scene. Juliet must awaken in fear. Then -- in less than minute -- she must experience sudden relief, then and joy when she finds Romeo lying next to her; then horror when she finds he is dead; panic when she tries to escape; shock when she comes upon Paris's body; tenderness when she gently closes Paris's eyes; resolution when she seizes Paris's knife and returns to the bier; hesitation; shock and pain when she stabs herself.. Then she climbs to join Romeo's body, positioning herself so that she can hold him between her knees, then bending over him just before she dies. NOT easy. You must make the arc of contradictory feelings and actions seem spontaneous, inevitable, "right." That's what Jennifer Kronenberg did.

A few more impressions of Kronenberg:
-- Juliet entering the ballroom shyly, showing off a bit, allowing herself to be partnered by Paris in what is one of the ballet's loveliest bits of choreography (a gentle, elegant dance);
-- Juliet slipping out into the garden, hoping to meet Romeo, shy-confident, very quickly learning how to deceive her parents;
-- the long, beautiful lines of Kronenberg's extended arms and legs during the many travelling lifts in the Balcony and Bedroom Scenes
-- the devastating final pose and slow falling into death as the stage goes dark.

Carlos Guerra, too, was excellent. I've never seen him so confident, so committed. A few impressions:
-- the affectionate and remarkably elegant fooling around with his friends Benvolio and Mercutio, including a kind of competition involving double tours en l'air;
-- his sense of wonder (he cannot take his eyes away from Juliet) almost from the beginning,
-- the exhuberance of his big jumping turns in the Balcony scene;
-- the sense he made, emotionally, of all the shifts in mood and fortune in the scene in which Mercutio, and then Tybalt, are killed and Romeo must deal with the consequences.

MCB hasn't much experience with big story ballets. The Balanchine Nutcracker they do very well. But Giselle, Coppellia (not the Balanchine) and Don Quijote have tended to come across like sketchy approximations of the real thing. This Romeo and Juliet is a huge step upward for the company. Next season, when Giselle and Coppelia are revived, I hope they receive the same attention and loving care that has been given to R&J.

#7 richard53dog

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Posted 09 April 2011 - 04:58 PM

Edward Villella has said that he chose the Cranko because it had youth and speed, and because it told the story simply and clearly. I like the Cranko, which I first saw when Stuttgart brought it to New York in (I believe) the early 70s. There's a real understanding of pacing and story structure in this piece. There's also plenty of dance, even if Cranko's inventiveness seems a little thin at times and the steps themselves can be repetitive.

Cranko cuts out almost all the mime. This streamlines the story but leads to some confusion during the potion scene with Friar Lawrence.This means there is no poison for Romeo and no "O churl, drunk all and left no friendly drop to help me after?" for Juliet.





A bit :off topic: because I haven't seen any of the MCB performances but I just wanted to respond a bit to Bart's comments.

I like the Cranko R&J too. I also saw it in NYC in the early 70s. It wasn't the first Stuttgart visit, I think it was the second. But I liked it a lot. Previously I had seen the MacMillan. I agree that Cranko tells the story well. Possibly his greatest strength is his dramatization. I like the depth and complexity he gives his characters, as an example, his Lady Capulet is a much more complex character than in the MacMillan or Lavrovsky versions, which sums up the three versions of R&J that I'm familiar with. (We won't mention the hideous R+J thing)

The choreography in the Cranko isn't the most inventive that I've seen but again, from the dramatic point of view it's fast paced and clear and very engaging for the audience.

A note on the mime. MacMillan uses no traditional mime, only what he considered "realistic" gestures. To my surprise, I watched the DVD of the Scala R&J with Ferri and Corella and early in Act 1, Corella/Romeo mimes via the traditional "circle the face gesture" that Juliet is beautiful . I saw that and thought, hmmm. I don't think MacMillan would have cared for that little enhancement.

Cranko also uses almost no traditional mime. It's been years since I saw it, I'd really like to see it again. I envy the folks down in Florida.

#8 bart

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 06:59 AM

richad123dog, I'm glad we are in sync about the Cranko. It seems especially suited to a company full of young dancers like MCB. Having said that, I do believe that the best Juliets and Romeos I've seen have been older dancers, experienced artists. Kronenberg and Guerra are both in their early thirties, I believe. She has been a principal for 10 years and he for 7.

I would take their performances any day over those by Stirling Hyltin and Robert Fairchild, just out of school, in the televised NYCB performance of Peter Martins' version. (I realize that the work of both of these dancers has become deeper in the years since then.)

Regarding the mime: a friend has reminded me that MacMillan's version of the Friar Lawrence potion scene is not really more detailed than Cranko's. Both use generalized, conversational gestures rather than conventional mime. Although MacMillan's Romeo takes poison, there is no explanation of how he got it or why.

I'm going to have to take another look at the MacMillan (Fonteyn/Nureyev) while the memory of the Cranko is still vivid.

One last thing: the music. Miami's orchestra -- Opus One, now under the direction of Gary Sheldon, formerly of Ballet Met and San Francisco Ballet -- brought a lightness of touch and subtlety that were both a surprise and a pleasure. It's been a week since the performances, and large chunks of the score still keep popping up in my head.

Incidentally, that weekend MCB announced that they have met the fund-raising goals set by the Knight Foundation's challenge grant. So, live music will RETURN next season. :clapping:


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