Posted 11 June 2011 - 05:28 PM
I was able to see the opening and thought the ballet was terrific--very much agree with what has been said already--though I'm afraid the funniest moment of the evening for me occurred when the woman behind me explained to the two young (very well-behaved) children with her that the hammer and sickle looming over the stage stood for "hard work." Gee...I guess capitalism really CAN co-opt anything.
As for the ballet: completely delightful. A wonderful score, fantastic energy from everyone on stage, choreography and mime engaging at every moment. I would have very much liked to to see it again--and there were some details in the synopsis I did not quite 'see' on stage (especially regarding the young girl and lecherous accordion player). It would also be a real pleasure to compare casts in such a richly characterized work with so many wonderful roles. Unfortunately, that is not in the cards for me and I'm now back home (not New York).
The first Act is a lively festival of dances following on the arrival of visiting ballet dancers to a collective farm and including, if I'm not mistaken, a sort of mock battle of 'reds' and 'whites' culminating with the ballerina's circle of grande jetés around the stage as if she were the very symbol of the revolution. But everything in this ballet is done with a light touch and (something Canbelto alluded to) the irony seems as much at the expense of Soviet ballet as the Soviet Union. Though it's not a sour irony, rather a loving, laughing one.
The second act is almost all cross-dressing farce (including a barking dog) with adulterers and lechers being put in their place, but no-one getting (too badly) hurt. I found it laugh-out-loud funny with lots of great dancing--but I also rather suspect that with familiarity, the laughs would thin and one might even find some of it a little long. The ballet has a very short finale--with everyone massed together, different groupings alternately raising their arms against a backdrop transformed from images of rural agriculture into a grandiose modern cityscape. (The Soviets did collectivize the farms partly in the hope of getting more food to the cities though I'm guessing Ratmansky did not mean his allusion to operate on that level of policy detail...If the same transformation took place in the original Bright Stream in the 30's--well, maybe...)
Opening night received warm applause, but not as much of it as I expected. No front-of-curtain bows at all...I think a longer, more dance-spectacular grand finale would have made a difference, but I assume Ratmansky was following the score/libretto as it was originally set in the 30's--and also maintaining his lightness of touch. Earlier in the act, in the pas de deux for Zina disguised as the ballerina and her would-be cheating husband, the music reaches a grand climax and at that moment...he runs offstage for a minute; it turns out he is getting her a bouquet of flowers and she is left standing there. It's a characteristic playful/ironic detail playing against expectations and, in a way, the structure of the whole ballet follows suit.
The only comment I heard as I left the theater was a rather resigned sounding "well, it's a farce" from an older women I infer was a subscriber. I can read that everyone commenting on this website (so far) loves the ballet and I did too, but I am very curious if the ballet has gotten a more resounding reception at other performances--and whether it really will be a hit. Please report.
The four principles I saw were Herrera, Murphy, Gomez and Halberg. For me the dance high-points of the evening came from Herrera and Gomez. I thought she was wonderful. So often criticized for a dull or disconnected upper body, she danced here with beautiful fluidity, lines radiating from tips of her head and fingertips through a supple torso and gorgeously arched feet. Murphy was excellent--engaging pantomime and authoritative dancing--but next to Herrera's supple, lyrical lines she looked a bit dry and colorless. When they danced in parallel on stage, my eye kept drifting to Herrera and, as a longtime Murphy fan, THAT is something I would never have anticipated.
Halberg hit what seemed to me a pitch perfect combination of goofy and gorgeous in his disguise as a Sylph tricking an old man--and I was delighted by the choreography's sometimes quite detailed parody of the elusive, romantic ballerina. For me, though, Gomez was the star of the show. He danced with such extraordinary warmth and musicality--the music seemed right inside of him at points--and in the pas de deux he lifted Herrera as if she were a feather-weight. It's really not partnering when it's done that well, just two people dancing. I have always liked Gomez but never been entirely in love with his dancing--this makes me an outlier I know; well, I am an outlier no more.
All of the secondary dancers were very good, but I will join others in singling out Salstein's accordion player--he really did almost steal the show. No mean trick when the show is this good. I could hope that the energy and engagement all the dancers brought to this ballet would spill over into their performances of the classics. But I rather suspect it won't. Still, what a pleasure.