Colleen Boresta

Lady of the Camellias

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This is the second season American Ballet Theatre has danced Lady of the Camellias, but the June 4th matinee was my first time to see this John Neumeier work. Lady of the Camellias is based on Alexandre Dumas fils’ novel La Dame aux Camellias. This book is also the source for Verdi’s opera La Traviata, Frederick Ashton’s one-act ballet Marguerite and Armand and the famous Greta Garbo movie Camille.

Lady of the Camellias is the story of Marguerite Gautier, the most famous French courtesan of her day (the 1840’s). She falls in love with the wealthy young Armand Duval. As well, Armand falls desperately in love with Marguerite. At the beginning of each of the three acts of Lady of the Camellias, Marguerite has already died and her possessions are being sold at auction. The rest of the act concern Armand’s flash-backs of his time with Marguerite.

Going back to the original novel as his source, Neumeier interweaves the heartbreaking tale of 18th century courtesan Manon Lescaut and her doomed relationship with Des Grieux with the romance of Marguerite and Armand. From the time Marguerite sees the ballet Manon Lescaut, images of Manon’s tragic life constantly haunt her.

The best thing about Lady of the Camellias is the passionate performances of Diana Vishneva as Marguerite and Marcelo Gomes as Armand. Both dancers clearly portray the intensity of the love affair between the courtesan and the young aristocrat.

All the dancers in Lady of the Camellias acquit themselves well, but it was hard for me to immerse myself in Neumeier’s ballet. Lady of the Camellias is set to the music of Chopin. Many choreographers have used Chopin’s scores for their ballets, most famously Jerome Robbins and Frederick Ashton. In their ballets Robbins and Ashton use a variety of Chopin’s compositions. In Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias, however, the same Chopin piece is repeated throughout the entire ballet. There are no musical highs or lows, just monotone funeral dirge music for over two hours. It was stultifying. I had major problems staying awake.

Neumeier’s choreography for Lady of the Camellias consists almost entirely of lifts. Many of the lifts are gorgeous, but after a while they all look the same.

It is a shame that so much major talented is wasted on John Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias.

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There are many boring interludes in this ballet, but the pdds between the leading dancers are, in my opinion, breathtaking. I thought Vishneva and Gomes were thrilling and enthralling. Those two bring out the best in one another, and can make mediocre choreography look better than it is. They were passionate and danced with abandon in their scenes together. :clapping:

They are compelling dramatic dancers, so I can put up with the boring segments of the ballet as I wait for their pdds.

We got some unexpected drama when Hammoudi badly botched a lift of Messmer and nearly dropped her on the floor.

Part and Tamm were very good in the secondary leading roles.

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I agree that Vishneva and Gomes were especially wonderful, but I just couldn't deal with the music. I've sat through boring parts of ballets before, but for me Lady of the Camellias was very hard to sit through. If it's ever on my subscription again, I'm definitely switching it. This is a terrible thing to say but I was really glad when Marguerite died because I knew the ballet would be over soon. Many people in the audience, however, seemed to really enjoy this ballet. I'm sure it was because of the high quality of the dancers.

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I have no problem myself with Chopin but Neumeier chose really funereal pieces one after another. Chopin has a wide spectrum of compositions that can express joy and gaiety and dreamy ecstasy but they were few and far between in this ballet. Also the choreography is repetitive and very, very padded.

I decided on Saturday night to check out the Dvorovenko/Stearns cast which I skipped last year. It seems that there are dancers who I end up skipping season after season while I concentrate on the superstar Russians. So I make myself attend a home team performance at least once a season. I was surprised how much I liked Irina Dvorovenko's Giselle last Saturday, so I decided to see her as Marguerite Gautier.

Again I repeat myself but the ballet is poorly structured and overlong. The expository first act could use pruning (I don't know how that would impact the Chopin piano concertos which might have to be dismembered) but I would say, drop a mazurka or two with the corps doing generic ballroom moves. Then play it straight into the second act with the first intermission after the big bedroom pas de deux which would make for a better act finale. Then start Act II with M. Duval at the auction flashing back to when he visited Marguerite at the country house. Then we don't have to see Marguerite dress and rearrange her hair onstage and do an awkward transition right after rolling on the floor in consummated love. The eliminated intermission would cut about 25 minutes. More pruning could take out another 15 or 20 minutes of repetitive filler. We would get home about 40 minutes sooner. Act I is boy gets girl, Act II is boy loses girl, then girl dies.

Irina is really a very, very good actress - not as fragile as Diana or Julie but quite accomplished and detailed. There is something rather calculated about her stage personality that is good and bad. She has everything worked out for excellently detailed effect but little sense of living in the moment spontaneously. On the other hand in the Act III scene where Marguerite sees Armand in the Champs Elysees and has to watch him woo Olympe from a park bench, Irina was crying real tears under that lovely brown hat and veil. Her firm pointed chin and heart-shaped face suggest a Scarlett O'Hara survivor/minx rather than a doomed beauty. Irina's strong footwork and supple back brought maximum detail and variety out of Neumeier's rather limited and repetitive choreography - she really made the part look choreographically more interesting than it was.

Neumeier who set the ballet on the company is a very good theatrical director - lots of good acting from everyone including Corey Stearns. Corey's evident youth (he read younger than Irina) works for the story and the character. Armand is supposed to be slightly younger but more importantly much less experienced than Marguerite. Bolle and Gomes come off like polished, mature matinee idols and Corey's callowness was a better fit. However, Bolle and Gomes are also two of the best partners in the ballet business. All the pas de deux's are full of Cranko and MacMillan derived acrobatic lifts - Irina was constantly being passed over Corey's shoulders and lifted over his head down into various catches. Corey just managed to get Irina into a nice finishing position (she was so graceful that I am sure if he dropped her she would have landed in a gorgeous pose). However, you could see the effort in Corey's partnering and there were some moments where you prayed that his other arm would grasp her in time. His solos were actually very well danced with beautiful line and nice elevation. This was the best acting I have ever seen from Corey.

Stella Abrera was really fine as Manon who had a certain sinister sensuality mixed with a ghostly doomed foreboding quality - maybe better all around than Murphy (very strong) or Part (who was gorgeous but undercharacterized). Blaine Hoven looks much better this season trimmed down without all the bulky muscle and a better haircut. He danced very well. The role of Des Grieux requires little acting.

The others in the cast were Gennadi Saveliev (danced well but a bland stiff actor) as Gaston Rieux and Luciana Paris (saucy and good) as Prudence. Melanie Hamrick was spot-on as Olympe - the hot pretty new girl on the block who is superseding the fading heroine in the demi-monde. Hamrick is gorgeous and posed a real threat. Carlos Lopez was very touching as the bumbling Viscount, the only time I have seen him this season.

Nimrod Pfeffer replaced Soheil Nasseri tickling the ivories. They had a third pianist Emily Wong on hand for Act III. Returnee from last season Koji Attwood (sometime poster here) played from the pit in Acts I and II.

If the weather is bad and I am really bored I may check out Visheva and Gomes on Tuesday but even they may not redeem my boredom with this ballet.

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I saw this ballet last season with Vishneva and Gomes---and I had a very different reaction to the first comment. My first encounter with the ballet was on a tape made years ago with Marcia Haydee and I found her to be too melodramatic, and she was too plain looking for such a part. I thought I would never venture to see it performed live----however, I will go to see anything with Vishneva and Gomes. I particularly love the second act of this ballet---the Chopin is not orchestrated---just a solo piano for the entire Act---what a reverie, I wished the Act would never end. After seeing this performance I bought the POB dvd with Letestu and Bullion and they were an interesting contrast to Vishneva and Gomes. It had a different dynamic---V&G are fairly close in age, but L&B are separated by many years (15?)---so it was the lovesick young man and the older woman. I was smitten by both interpretations.

See it---let the beauty of the performers (and the Chopin score) wash over you.

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I just noticed that Blaine Hoven is replacing David Hallberg tonight. Hoven also replaces Hallberg in Lady of the Cam. on Wed evening. I guess they have to be really careful not to have any more injuries of male principals this season. They are in short supply this season.

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Wow, I guess "Lady of the Camellias" is one of those ballets that you either love or hate. I saw the Saturday matinee performance with Vishneva/Gomes, and I thought it was fantastic! But I also enjoyed Kent/Bolle when I saw them last year.

One friend, who sat next to me, said it was the best ballet she's seen so far (which admittedly, are not many, but it does mean she liked it better than their "Giselle"). Another friend, who flew in for the weekend, was so grateful I insisted she see Vishneva/Gomes in "Lady of the Camellias," and she enjoyed it SO MUCH that she canceled her dinner plans and immediately went to buy a ticket for the evening performance!

As for the music, I admit that I love Chopin music, and I adore minor keys (the darker and stranger the better)! So I thought the recurring 'funeral dirge' that Colleen Boresta refers to--The Largo from Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor--was used very effectively. It is used in its full length for the Act II pas de deux, which marks perhaps the happiest point of their relationship. It is basically the "love theme" for Margeurite and Armand, much like Romeo and Juliet have a recognizable love theme, and so do Giselle and Albrecht. So I thought it was highly effective to have the theme played at the beginning, somewhat foreshadowing what would come, and also at the end, reminding us of the happier times that have been lost.

I was reasonably familiar with many of the Chopin pieces before I saw them used in the ballet, so I often found myself thinking, "well that's a clever use of that section of that tune" as I watched. For example, in the Romance-Larghetto (2nd movement) of Chopin's Piano concerto No. 1, which is played when Armand is reading Marguerite's diary near the end of the ballet, there is a kind of dissonant, ghostly section, so it seemed entirely appropriate that a dying Manon and Des Grieux would appear during that passage.

And Chopin's Ballade No.1 in G minor, which is used in the Act III pas de deux, is one of my favorite pieces of all time. I saw Vladimir Vasiliev dance to it (with a young ballerina) at the 2010 YAGP stars gala, and my favorite skater has used it as an exhibition number, but only "Lady of the Camellias" was able to unleash all the dark passion alongside heartbreaking tenderness that I feel from the music.

As for the dancing--others have already commented on how wonderful Vishneva and Gomes were together. Actually, I was amazed that Visheva/Gomes could dance this ballet full-out on Saturday afternoon after pulling off that extraordinary 'Giselle' on Thursday. Vishneva, especially, must have been exhausted after the way she danced that "Giselle." And yet they seamlessly switched gears. All those difficult partering sections were carried off effortlessly, and I really wondered how they found the time to practice "Lady of the Camellias" when they still had another "Giselle" to do. And only one day in between! Well, I guess that's why they are called professionals!

I honestly can't wait to see Vishneva/Gomes again tomorrow! I convinced about 10 of my friends to go, so hopefully they will end up on the 'love it' rather than the 'hate it' side! :sweatingbullets:

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I just noticed that Blaine Hoven is replacing David Hallberg tonight. Hoven also replaces Hallberg in Lady of the Cam. on Wed evening. I guess they have to be really careful not to have any more injuries of male principals this season. They are in short supply this season.

not only that, but "Bright Stream" is later this week and they can't afford any injuries for that

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This ballet is heartbreaking. I cannot stop crying. I have now seen it three times (twice live, once at NYPL) and the details noticed on repeated viewings only makes it more painful. I was moved by the movie and the opera, but the ballet is spellbinding. I am terrified to read the book. I don't know if someone will have to carry me out of the final performance I plan to see later in the week.

No one remarked about the tribute to J. Kent on Friday. It was lovely, sweet, charming, and uplifting. I think it saved me from crumbling over the weekend.

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It's good to see that there are many responses to Lady of the Camellias. That's what makes Ballet Talk so great. You can have opinions different from other ballet goers, and everyone respects the others' views. Puppytreats, I just have one quick question. Did Mr. Puppytreats see Lady? If so, I'd love to know how he felt about the Neumeier ballet.

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I just wanted to quickly add that I have no problem with Chopin's music. I love his music to Les Slyphides, Dances at a Gathering, The Concert, A Month in the Country, etc., etc. I just didn't like Neumeier's choice of Chopin music, and the fact that the music, like the choreography, was so repetitious.

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I honestly can't wait to see Vishneva/Gomes again tomorrow! I convinced about 10 of my friends to go, so hopefully they will end up on the 'love it' rather than the 'hate it' side! :sweatingbullets:

I'm also going again tonight for Vishneva - Gomes. Last year their final performance of Lady of the Cams was even more explosive than their earlier ones. I'm hoping for the same thing to happen tonight, especially since this is Vishneva's final show at ABT for the season. :angry2:

I saw the Kent/Bolle cast last night and found it disappointing in comparison to Vishneva -Gomes. There is little chemistry between Kent and Bolle, and both of their techniques are fading. Kent doesn't have great extensions anymore, and her upper body flexibility isn't what it used to be. These factors tended to diminish the overall quality of her dancing in this ballet.

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It's good to see that there are many responses to Lady of the Camellias. That's what makes Ballet Talk so great. You can have opinions different from other ballet goers, and everyone respects the others' views. Puppytreats, I just have one quick question. Did Mr. Puppytreats see Lady? If so, I'd love to know how he felt about the Neumeier ballet.

Colleen, Thanks for asking. Mr. PT had a ticket but Little Puppy (Siberian variety) had surgery so Mr. PT stayed home :< Since coming home from Lady, I have burdened him with all of my tears about Armand and Marguerite and Manon and Des Grieux and Giselle and Albrecht and Odette and Siegried (is ballet only for the broken-hearted?), but he does not seem deterred. With Roberto Bolle returning to Europe, I don't know if I can convince him to let me spend much more money on tickets for other shows, though. (He indulged me this week, because he has his inspirations, too.) I may be confined to tapes from the library and on Netflix.

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I'm also going again tonight for Vishneva - Gomes. Last year their final performance of Lady of the Cams was even more explosive than their earlier ones. I'm hoping for the same thing to happen tonight, especially since this is Vishneva's final show at ABT for the season. :angry2:

I'm right there with you, abatt, hoping for the same thing! I too was at that explosive final performance last year!

And I also am disappointed that this is Vishneva's final performance of the ABT season, but at least she'll be back with the Mariinsky. (And at least I can still look forward to Semionova/Hallberg in Swan Lake!)

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Vishneva and Gomes were on fire tonight. I thought it was an incredible, brilliant performance. Engrossing and thrilling. This is the most significant partnership at ABT since Ferri-Bocca. Tonight was apparently Carlos Lopez's final performance with the company. At the curtain call, many of the dancers brought him before the curtain and tearfully applauded him. Lopez was also in tears, and Gomes gave him a big hug. Anyone know if he is joining another company?

I don't expect to see this ballet back at ABT for a long time. There were many, many empty seats at every performance, and the critics savaged the choreography in the reviews. The performances of Gomes and Vishneva will remain in my memory for a long time.

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Tonight was apparently Carlos Lopez's final performance with the company. At the curtain call, many of the dancers brought him before the curtain and tearfully applauded him. Lopez was also in tears, and Gomes gave him a big hug. Anyone know if he is joining another company?

Wow, did not see that coming, though am not surprised. I did a google search and pulled up this blog entry on his website: http://www.carloslopez.org/Carlos_Lopez_Website/Blog/Entries/2011/5/29_Changes.html which seems to allude to his departure.

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Well, I got my wish!

I don't have enough superlatives in my vocabulary to describe the stupendous performance I just saw. They need to invent a medical term that means "smashed to smithereens by Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes"! :bow:

As with their "Giselle," as good as their initial performance was, the second performance was on a whole new level. I remarked earlier that they must have been tired for the Saturday performance, and today--I don't know if it was because they were running on a full tank of gas, or because they knew it was their last performance of the season together--but they gave absolutely everything they had to give.

And you could tell that they knew it! They couldn't stop caressing each other after the spellbinding and heart-wrenching Act III pas de deux when they're lying together on the floor, as if they were telling each other, "that was extraordinary!" And at the end, when the curtain went up, they stood there huddled together, clinging together, fully aware of the miracle they had presented to us.

The group of eight I was sitting with absolutely loved it. One admitted she teared up, another felt exhausted (in a good way) from the emotional experience.

During the first curtain call, the whole group of named characters came out at the same time and applauded Carlos Lopez--I guess it's his final performance? That was sad, but sweet and touching.

Bravo, bravo, bravo again to Vishneva and Gomes! If ABT doesn't bring back "Lady of the Camellias" next year, which I highly suspect they won't, can we please, please see them in "Manon" or "Onegin"??? Please??

Oh, and finally, I found this review of the Sat. matinee on ConcertoNet, which I usually read for concert and classical music reviews.

http://www.concertonet.com/scripts/review.php?ID_review=7531

I heartily agree!

ETA abatt beat me to it! I agree with everything abatt said!

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Vishneva and Gomes were on fire tonight. I thought it was an incredible, brilliant performance. Engrossing and thrilling. This is the most significant partnership at ABT since Ferri-Bocca.

I cannot believe it but I believe you are right about this partnership. Lady of the Camelias is not my favorite ballet by a long shot. The choreography is pretty dull and consists mainly of lifts. However, Vishneve and Gomes were so totally outstanding tonight! At the end of the performance the entire house gave them a standing ovation. I was in the rear orchestra and EVERYONE was standing.

As for the dancing, the lifts by Gomes of Vishneva were executed flawlessly. As in their Giselle, Vishneva seems weightless when Gomes lifts her. I agree, as Batsuchan noted in a post on Giselle, that Vishneva may have lost a bit in the way of flexilbility during the last few years (legs less high, back not as flexible). At 35 she is no longer the whiz kid that I saw with the Mariinsky 10 years ago. However, any loss in flexibility she has more than made up in her increase in dramatic intensity. Her flirtatiousness, illness and love for Gomes were readible even from the rear of the orchestra. I have high hopes that, like Alessandra Ferri, she will continue dancing through her forties and that we will continue to see her dramatic interpretations deepenen with age without much loss of technique. I have not seen Vishneva's partners with the Mariinsky in a while (not until July) but this one with Gomes seems to be getting better and better. While Hallberg may be guesting with the Mariinsky in London this July, I have high hopes that Gomes will similarly guest with them sometime in the future.

As for other dancers, I have never been a particular fan of Veronika Part. However, seeing her this season as both Myrtha in Giselle and, tonight, as Manon, I am changing my mind. I have never seen Part dance so convincingly; her technique was steely strong and her interpretation dramatically arresting. No falling off point (as she did in Sleeping Beauty a few years back). A joy!

Simone Messmer was a lively Prudence, quite strong in her footwork and light and carefree in her interpretation. I found Maria Ricetto rather dull as Olympia and it was hard to believe she would pose much competition to Vishneva as a courtesan. Finally, I noticed Sarah Lane onstage during Act 2 even though she wasn't listed in the playbill. That means she was probably thrown onstage at the last minute. She did an excellent job and I can only hope that she will get more roles commesurate with her abilities soon. At least, tonight, she had the good fortune to dance with her husband Luis.

All in all, a tremendous night!

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Vishneva and Gomes were on fire tonight. I thought it was an incredible, brilliant performance. Engrossing and thrilling. This is the most significant partnership at ABT since Ferri-Bocca. Tonight was apparently Carlos Lopez's final performance with the company. At the curtain call, many of the dancers brought him before the curtain and tearfully applauded him. Lopez was also in tears, and Gomes gave him a big hug. Anyone know if he is joining another company?

I don't expect to see this ballet back at ABT for a long time. There were many, many empty seats at every performance, and the critics savaged the choreography in the reviews. The performances of Gomes and Vishneva will remain in my memory for a long time.

Empty seats at ABT

Across the Plaza one can see

"Jewels" so bright and danced with glory

Pas de Deux that need no story?

Mearns and Peck and Wendy Whelan

De Luz and Angle Who's complainin'?

Clapping hands could not get much louder

Especially when we watch Miss Bouder!

But at the Met

Across the way

We get this pap from Neumeier

Not for me this "Lady C"

It's best to stick with Mr. B!

To each his own I always say

And better fare is on the way

For on the morrow come the night

We'll get to cross the Stream most Bright!

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Empty seats at ABT

Across the Plaza one can see

"Jewels" so bright and danced with glory

Pas de Deux that need no story?

I saw Jewels twice over the weekend across the Plaza, and there were substantial numbers of empty seats there, too. Bad economy? Out of control ticket prices? People enjoying the great outdoors? Not sure of the explanation for this phenomenon, but if NYCB can't heavily sell Jewels - one of their most popular offerings - they need to do some serious analysis of the reasons.

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Empty seats at ABT

Across the Plaza one can see

"Jewels" so bright and danced with glory

Pas de Deux that need no story?

I saw Jewels twice over the weekend across the Plaza, and there were substantial numbers of empty seats there, too. Bad economy? Out of control ticket prices? People enjoying the great outdoors? Not sure of the explanation for this phenomenon, but if NYCB can't heavily sell Jewels - one of their most popular offerings - they need to do some serious analysis of the reasons.

Last night the house was very much sold! Except for down the side boxes. I got my seat at the Atrium (a great deal!), which to my knowledge ABT does not participate in. Too bad. But you're right. Both companies have escalating prices and will need to address this issue in order to fill the house more.

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Vishneva and Gomes were on fire tonight. I thought it was an incredible, brilliant performance. Engrossing and thrilling. This is the most significant partnership at ABT since Ferri-Bocca. Tonight was apparently Carlos Lopez's final performance with the company. At the curtain call, many of the dancers brought him before the curtain and tearfully applauded him. Lopez was also in tears, and Gomes gave him a big hug. Anyone know if he is joining another company?

I don't expect to see this ballet back at ABT for a long time. There were many, many empty seats at every performance, and the critics savaged the choreography in the reviews. The performances of Gomes and Vishneva will remain in my memory for a long time.

Empty seats at ABT

Across the Plaza one can see

"Jewels" so bright and danced with glory

Pas de Deux that need no story?

Mearns and Peck and Wendy Whelan

De Luz and Angle Who's complainin'?

Clapping hands could not get much louder

Especially when we watch Miss Bouder!

But at the Met

Across the way

We get this pap from Neumeier

Not for me this "Lady C"

It's best to stick with Mr. B!

I like NYCB. However, on a good night with a great cast there is no question in my mind that ABT beats out NYCB no matter what they are dancing. Is there any dancer at NYCB who can equal Vishneva, Osipova or Cojacaru? I think not! Similarly, there are no men at NYCB (since Hubbe left) who can equal Gomes, Hallberg or Cornejo. Not to mention we are seeing the superstars Kobborg and Vasiliev this season at ABT.

Balanchine ballets require a certain technique - some think it a style. The classics performed at ABT's spring season, though we have seen them often, demand an enormous degree of strength and a pure classical line. I'd like to see a NYCB ballet dancer pull off a great Giselle. Ashley Bouder was complaining on Twitter when she had to dance Don Q in Russia because there were so many props (guitar, fans, castenets, etc.). After seeing Osipova last year as Kitri, I would say props are the least of that role's difficulties!

Also, there are very few full length ballets at NYCB. Most are about 20 minutes and each usually has a different principal. It's no mean feat to be a principal in a full length ballet and do it 2 times in a week, which regularly happens at ABT.

So, with the wonderful Vishneva and Gomes dancing Camellias last night (in an outstanding performance) I'd rather put up with the "pap" from Neumeier rather than see the well worn "Jewels" (not always danced well) across the plaza.

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I've wondered myself why ABT doesn't participate in the Atrium discounts tickets. Does anyone know? If it up to ABT or the Metropolitan Opera Theatre? Since ABT only rents the Met, maybe they don't have a choice about whether or not to participate in the atrium discount program.

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I've wondered myself why ABT doesn't participate in the Atrium discounts tickets. Does anyone know? If it up to ABT or the Metropolitan Opera Theatre? Since ABT only rents the Met, maybe they don't have a choice about whether or not to participate in the atrium discount program.

ABT discounts have popped up from time to time on Goldstar and a few times on TDF group sales in the past. However, the first weeks of the ABT season are usually the slowest. Once the NYCB leaves town for Saratoga in mid-June and the full swing of European tourists hit town - watch out! By the end of the season everything is selling well. I actually felt that on Tuesday night, ABT had a decent 75% or more capacity. Also, I believe that ABT doesn't need to sell every seat at the Metropolitan Opera House to cover its costs and make a profit. The opera can sell every seat and still post a loss, not so the ballet.

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I think ABT also sells well later in the season because the kids are out of school by mid to late June.

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