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Ocean's KingdomMartins, McCartney and McCarney at NYCB


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#16 Mel Johnson

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 05:50 AM

Did anybody see this? So far the only review I've heard is from MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, and he seemed to be reviewing the audience, which is probably for the best.

#17 abatt

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 06:47 AM

I attended. I enjoyed the music. It was a very distinguished composition. However, it sounded like it was more suitable as a film score than a ballet. (Sir Paul has mentioned in interviews that he had done some music for a project that didn't work out, and he used that music for this ballet. I'm wondering if the project he was referring to was a film score.) Anyway, as a result, there were many sections of the ballet where the music seemed merely like background music, rather than a source out of which the choreography arose. However, other sections were clearly more useful as the springboard for choreography. As for the choreography, the story was relatively easy to follow. Based on interviews I have read, Sir Paul may have intended some deep, political/environmentalist plot to the story. That didn't come through on stage. It was a boy wants girl/ bad people prevent boy and girl from uniting/ boy and girl finally get together story. It looked like a million other Martins ballets. In particular,the choreography was similar to various ballets that Martins has choreographed to the works of John Adams, particularly in the sections where the music was heavily percussive. Sara Mearns did a lot of swooning and emoting in Robbie Fairchild's arms. Their pas de deuxs were pleasant to look at, but not particularly memorable. Some of the acrobatic lifts of Mearns by Fairchild looked labored. The choreography for Amar Ramasar and his cohorts (in Mohawk like head gear) involved a lot of jumping and spinning. There was a section for "the entertainers", which in my opinion was the weakest section of the ballet, insofar as it did not seem to integrate into the story. Ulbricht did his usual jumping extravaganza ( in what looked like a clown wig). They finally found a suitable role for S. Lowery (as an Amazon). My favorite costume was the seafoam green costume of Sara Mearns. Georgina P. was saddled with the task of dancing with a huge cape. I feared for her safety with every step. Ramasar and his backup dancers looked menacing in their black attire, black eye makeup and mohawk headwear.

The audience seemed to like the show. Obviously, the crowd went bonkers when Sir Paul came out for a bow. Sir Paul seems like a very nice, humble man. Stella McCartney also came out for a bow. Spotted in the crowd were Alec Baldwin, Leslie Stahl, Sarah Jessica Parker, Naomi Watts, Steve Buscemi, Bon Jovi.

On the whole, I would recommend the ballet. However, the choreography was not at a high level of sophistication or originality. Any other ballet talkers there? I heard on WQXR this AM that they raised $4 million last night at the NYCB gala.

At the beginning of the evening, Martins toasted Sir Paul with tea (rather than the traditional toast at the House Of Balanchine of vodka.

The evening started out with a little lecture by the conductor. The audience looked bored.

#18 Eileen

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 04:18 PM

Well, The Review is out, and the verdict is thumbs down. The Review is of course the Times's Alastair Macauley and here's the link:

http://www.nytimes.c...l_r=1&ref=music

By the way, famed music critic Alex Ross had a brief, very brief review on his blog of McCartney's score, four words:
"He's not getting better."

#19 atm711

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 03:43 AM

So the hype is finally over---thank you Mr. Macaulay. :huh:

#20 bart

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 04:20 AM

Abatt. In your opinion, does this work have legs (in the sense of remaining in the repertory after the publicity has passed)? Will new audiences, attracted to a pleasant McCartney score and elaborate costuming, stick around to experience more serious work?

I ask partly because I am still befuddled by Miami City Ballet's investment a few years in a costly, elaborate and much-hyped Elvis Costello/ Twyla Tharp work which went nowhere and which, it's my guess, will not return.

#21 Slant

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 04:31 AM

I went the Gala performance too. Ocean's Kingdom - one word. Dud!

The music was unsuited for a ballet. I echo the comments that it sounded most like a music score, like something scored by Jerry Goldsmith. This music was not suited well for ballet choreography, and there was nothing in the music that sounded original in structure or tone. It was bland. This music was over-hyped and under-delivered, much like another Sir Paul's foray into classical music, Liverpool Oratorio. He should stick to pop music and stop the pretense of making significant contributions to the classical idiom.

As for the choreography, I am not a Martin's fan, but the music made Peter's task difficult. That said, the ballet was also bland, the several pas de deux were wasted opportunities for flashes of invention. The movements lacked dramatic crescendo in the right places. It was just always at one level of emotional intensity, save for the finale when Scala reemerges. Overall, you developed no connection with the characters or their plight.

The ballet was also visually unappealing, such a mess, and quite visually intrusive. The costumes prints and colors clashed when the corps and principals were on stage in numbers - which was often. The visual stimuli overwhelmed the senses to the point that one could get induced into vertigo. It was almost nauseating. I was not impressed by Stella McCartney's work. She made Robbie Fairchild look so unappealing with his make-up and hair - this from a dancer with a natural sympathetic looking persona. How she could screw that up....

So Sir Paul got his way on this, in every element of the production, for the control freak he is. Banishing "Union Jack" from the original program lineup because he "doesn't open up for any one." This comment was confirmed by numerous members of the company. He dictated everything, all the way down to the all-vegan menu for the supper ball. True egoism.

For the McCartney and Beatle groupies, they will see no wrong in this. For the A lusters who attended, they will not speak I'll of this work. But if you are true lover of City Ballet like me, you just shake your head at how bad it was.

There is a silver lining. The gala raised $4 million, compared to last Year's fall gala which raised 2.2 million. That's a nice hefty cut into the $6 million deficit.

#22 Slant

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 04:48 AM

Abatt. In your opinion, does this work have legs (in the sense of remaining in the repertory after the publicity has passed)? Will new audiences, attracted to a pleasant McCartney score and elaborate costuming, stick around to experience more serious work?

I ask partly because I am still befuddled by Miami City Ballet's investment a few years in a costly, elaborate and much-hyped Elvis Costello/ Twyla Tharp work which went nowhere and which, it's my guess, will not return.


I saw the gala performance, and without new choreography or changes to the current, it probably doesn't have legs.

#23 mimsyb

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 05:31 AM

Abatt. In your opinion, does this work have legs (in the sense of remaining in the repertory after the publicity has passed)? Will new audiences, attracted to a pleasant McCartney score and elaborate costuming, stick around to experience more serious work?

I ask partly because I am still befuddled by Miami City Ballet's investment a few years in a costly, elaborate and much-hyped Elvis Costello/ Twyla Tharp work which went nowhere and which, it's my guess, will not return.


Your question could start an interesting thread. Is "pop" music suitable to ballet? What should come first? The music or the dance? What are some examples of successful ballets done to pop scores? Who has or could in the future write a great pop score? Can great choreography transcend and enrich a pop score? Is Gershwin a "pop" composer? What about Mozart?

#24 abatt

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 07:56 AM

I think Ocean's Kingdom is selling well. I'm not sure if it will be revived in the future, but I would guess that it will be revived. My opinion of the choreography isn't as harsh as the Times'. I've seen MUCH worse at NYCB (Call Me Ben, Seven Deadly Sins, Lady w. Little Dog, to name a few.) This score is not pop music. It is, in my opinion, a well crafted classical composition.

#25 California

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 08:11 AM

I think Ocean's Kingdom is selling well. I'm not sure if it will be revived in the future, but I would guess that it will be revived.


Back in spring 2010 during the Calatrava festival, somebody on this board said that NYCB usually brings new works back for a second year, just to recoup some of the investment. They changed that policy for Call Me Ben (which I had the displeasure of seeing, not only in performance but also in open rehearsals). I haven't seen Ocean's Kingdom, but seriously hope they put it on the schedule for 2012-13, as it looks like I won't be able to see it this season. Despite the Times review, it doesn't sound quite as hideous as, say, Ben.

#26 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 08:19 AM


Abatt. In your opinion, does this work have legs (in the sense of remaining in the repertory after the publicity has passed)? Will new audiences, attracted to a pleasant McCartney score and elaborate costuming, stick around to experience more serious work?

I ask partly because I am still befuddled by Miami City Ballet's investment a few years in a costly, elaborate and much-hyped Elvis Costello/ Twyla Tharp work which went nowhere and which, it's my guess, will not return.


Your question could start an interesting thread. Is "pop" music suitable to ballet? What should come first? The music or the dance? What are some examples of successful ballets done to pop scores? Who has or could in the future write a great pop score? Can great choreography transcend and enrich a pop score? Is Gershwin a "pop" composer? What about Mozart?


Was Gershwin a pop composer? Absolutely -- those fabulous standards were first and foremost pop hits. And good pop is really, really hard to do. In fact, I find Gershwin's standards are far more satisfying than "Rhapsody in Blue." In some cases - Gershwin's for instance -- it's not a question of choreography transcending a pop score, it's a question of the choreography living up to it.

Lots of choreographers have done terrific work to pop tunes -- Tharp is one of them, and so is Paul Taylor. I know, I know, it's not "ballet," but there's no reason it couldn't be.

#27 dirac

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 12:08 PM

In defense of Gershwin, he came to long compositions late and still had much to learn when he was composing "Rhapsody in Blue," although I like it anyway. There is no question that writing a good pop song is harder to do than it looks, though.

#28 bart

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 12:49 PM

A good arrangement of "pop tunes" can be very effective in the hands of a skilled choreographer. I'm thinking of works Tharp's 9 Sinatra Songs or Balanchine's Who Cares? and Vienna Waltzes. (Those waltzes were pop tunes in their own day).

Both Tharp's and Balanchine's ballets use pop tunes in a complex manner. On one level, we have a collection of "numbers" rather like in a divertissement. On a deeper level, because the songs are well-arranged in relationship to each other, they create an emotional arc -- tell a kind of story -- that transcends the content of each individual song.

McCartney's "classical" music strikes me as what was once called "semi-classical," with elements of pastiche. The works which I have heard all seem to be missing something. It's almost one of their defining characteristics. The music of the Liverpool Oratorio gets whatever life it has from dramatic structure provided by the words. McCartney's classical versions of his own songs require a knowledge of, and fondness for, the original songs themselves. They don't work if you don't know the songs.

It's quite common to find people who love Tchaikovsky's ballet music (on cd, in concert halls) but haven't seen and do not care about the staged ballets. I wonder what this 50-minute McCartney work would be like if listened to without the visuals.

#29 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 12:55 PM

In defense of Gershwin, he came to long compositions late and still had much to learn when he was composing "Rhapsody in Blue," although I like it anyway. There is no question that writing a good pop song is harder to do than it looks, though.


I didn't mean to disparage Gershwin's long-form compositions -- I just wouldn't trade away the songs for any of them. I do think much more highly of his orchestral efforts than McCartney's, although both of them have added undisputed treasures to the world's hoard of songs. It's funny, I could listen to "An American in Paris" all day (well, almost) but "Rhapsody in Blue" just doesn't grab me in the same way.

#30 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 01:40 PM

I ask partly because I am still befuddled by Miami City Ballet's investment a few years in a costly, elaborate and much-hyped Elvis Costello/ Twyla Tharp work which went nowhere and which, it's my guess, will not return.


Hopefully...


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