NYCB Goes to the Movies -- with Balanchine's Nutcracker
Posted 15 December 2011 - 04:17 AM
Posted 15 December 2011 - 05:13 AM
I agree with you completely, Jack. Last night's performance was so anemic that I had to watch the 1993 DVD immediately afterwards to get it out of my mind. Fairchild was the worst Sugar Plum I've ever seen, totally lacking the grandeur, magical presence and projection required for the role. And her technique wasn't that impressive either. She was so cautious in the PDD and hardly smiled at all. It doesn't help that the last "Nutcracker" I saw live starred Suzanne Farrell in the mid '80's and her glorious Sugar Plum is burned into my mind. The one highlight of last night was Ashley Bouder's Dewdrop. She really lived the part in her dancing and her fast, clean, high octane technique, charm and joy were captivating.
I haven't been to a NYCB performance in over 20 years because I kept reading and hearing criticism of the direction Martins was taking the company. Miscasting, Martins's favoritism of some dancers over others and the Balanchine style and training dying away. Last night's "Nutcracker" was a clear example in my opinion of the terrible impact Martins has had as Artistic Director. It's sad to say this, but I'm glad to have stayed away from NYCB all these years.
Posted 15 December 2011 - 05:29 AM
Posted 15 December 2011 - 05:37 AM
This really bothered me too. Why did Chelsea Clinton get this job? Because she's a DOB (Daughter of Bill)? She was dull as dishwater in her 30 Rock segment a few days ago and she was again last night. When the announcer mentioned that a former ballet dancer would be interviewing cast members, I thought it would be a NYCB Alumnus or another dancer of note. Instead we get Chelsea Clinton who didn't pursue a ballet career and is a lousy interviewer. Very disappointing.
Posted 15 December 2011 - 05:54 AM
I felt for her since she was trying out a new role, but I thought both questions and answers were dull.Funny that she asked Fairchild and the children pretty much the same questions that Ripa had the night before. I was amused, though, that she asked Colby Clark about the school test he'd taken yesterday, a test Ripa had referred to. Clinton's interview filled time that the night before had been used for interviews with NYCB technical director Perry Silvy, with Daniel Ulbricht, and a feature on Mother Ginger, kids included.
Posted 15 December 2011 - 06:40 AM
I have no problems with the casting. Sure, it would have been great to have recorded for posterity the beauteous Sarah Mearns as SPF, but Megan Fairchild is a charming, adorable and technically accomplished ballerina...and what a grand quadruple pirouette near the end of her solo! [Remember, this film is being heavily promoted in the UK and I've been told by many 'ballet friends' in the UK that Fairchild is their ideal among NYCB principals.] Honestly, the only qualm that I have with her is her thin lips...but, in this televised edition (unlike the cinemas viewing on Tuesday), we were mercifully spared lengthy close ups. Joaquin De Luz was a perfect Cavalier and wonderful in his solo moments in the coda.
Yes, Ashley Bouder stole the show as Dewdrop. WOWEEEE!!!!! Best Dewdrop I've seen...and I've seen so many, mostly magnificent ones, like Nichols, Kent, Somogyi, Sylve, etc. Only Bouder has the technical facility and innate musicality to 'play with' and 'massage' the phrasing. She's the Mozart of the Dance. Teresa Reichlen was a sinewy, seductive Arabian-Coffee. Antonio Carmena as Tea-Chinese and Daniel Ulbricht in Hoops-Russian were both high-flying delights. I'm sorry that we didn't get Anna-Sophia Scheller, the originally-announced Spanish lead....but her replacement, Brittany Pollock, was a gorgeous revelation. The corps of children was first-rate and so into their roles. The soloist kids were all great but I absolutely adored Colby Clark as the Little Prince...such a naturally-sweet charmer (and a huge improvement to the creepy Macauley Culkin from the '93 film...but then that's not saying much).
The featurettes during the intermission were just fine - informative without being insulting to one's intelligence (as reported the day before with the cinemas version, with Kelly Ripa). Chelsea Clinton is not my favorite backstage emcee but she came across as knowledgeable and pleasant enough; she has captivating eyes (as does her mother), which brings a 'charisma' to her personna, even if her on-screen delivery is still a bit stiff.
All in all, a magnificent TV event, which is now a treasured DVD!
And now for the grand announcement....drumroll, please!....
My two Golden Palm Awards of the night go to (a) Ashley Bouder as Dewdrop (described above) and....(b) the EXTRAORDINARY VIOLINIST/CONCERT-MASTER who played the very finest rendition I've ever heard of the Act I 'Entr'acte' music (originally from Sleeping Beauty)....so sweetly and dancerly. Who is this violinist??? NYCB Orchestra is so lucky to have him.
Happy, happy Holidays, all!
p.s. I looked-out for the bloopers from Tuesday's cinemas show, e.g., dropped snowflake wand, bump in the 3rd row, etc. They weren't there so we must have truly seen Wednesday's show. I'm still scratching my head why NYCB and PBS wanted to present the same cast in two separate performances on consecutive nights but, hey, I'm happy with the cast that I saw on TV.
Posted 15 December 2011 - 06:55 AM
The violinist was Kurt Nikkanen, the NYCB orchestra concertmaster.
Overall I enjoyed both performances. Fairchild wouldn't have been my choice for SPF, but I thought she was fine. I understand why Martins chose her; she always delivers clean, technically strong performances. Bouder was great - her phrasing is perfect for Dewdrop. My only quibble is that she has such strong facial expressions that when the camera zoomed in on her face (particularly during the HD broadcast), it really looked like she was mugging for the camera - something that doesn't come across during live performances because of the distance from the stage.
Posted 15 December 2011 - 07:09 AM
Posted 15 December 2011 - 07:10 AM
'Adorable' is absolutely appropriate. SPF is the sweet dream-mother of every child. The one you want to cuddle up to....warm and fuzzy. Like Obraztsova at the Mariinsky...or Kaptsova at the Bolshoi...or Leslie Collier at the Royal, a few years ago. Warm, petite, adorable while still 'royalty' in the Kingdom of the Sweets. [Other perfect SPFs for me: Larisa Lezhnina of the 'old' Kirov or Ekaterina Maximova of the Bolshoi. Sorry, I would not want to see a regal-icy Lopatkina leading me through the Kingdom of Sweets, although Lopatkina is perfect as Nikiya or Odette-Odile!]
One small complaint with the production: Where were the shiny lights and sparks as the reindeer-pulled sleigh takes off at the end? I remember seeing sparkles shooting-out behind the sleigh when I used to go to the live production in NYC.
Posted 15 December 2011 - 07:17 AM
'Adorable' is absolutely appropriate. SPF is the sweet dream-mother of every child. The one you want to cuddle up to....warm and fuzzy. Like Obraztsova at the Mariinsky...or Kaptsova at the Bolshoi...or Leslie Collier at the Royal, a few years ago. Warm, petite, adorable while still 'royalty' in the Kingdom of the Sweets.
I guess I prefer Regal - As in Alicia Markova, Alicia Alonso, Nathlie Krassovska. Rosella Hightower. Suzanne Farrell----just off the top of my head.
Posted 15 December 2011 - 07:31 AM
When I watched Ashley Bouder, I finally understood all the talk about her -- she is entirely in a league of her own. I have seen her tomboy roles in promotional clips, and in the West Side Story film, and never saw her as a "ballerina". I never understood how she could be cast as the Swan Queen. After seeing her perform Dewdrop last night, I understand, and will try to see her in person. She does not seem to exert a drop of effort. She is so strong, and her power is so very admirable. It gives her room to be an artist. As stated above, it gives her the ability to play with the phrasing even at the break-neck speed. Amazing.
Megan Fairchild is so sweet, but really miscast. I thought Sugar Plum should have real authority, power, sweetness, and grace, but she did not show leadership qualities. Her size is not the issue. I really think she was very nervous. Even Mr. Puppytreats commented on her apparent anxiety. Her face was filled with discomfort and fear -- which are not SP qualities.
Theresa Reichlin is very good, but I felt she was miscast, as well. She is not very sultry. To me, she is more athletic.
Tiler Peck gets rave reviews, but I could not notice her abilities in the marzipan dance. Maybe the costume and prop, combined with the other dancers, distracted too much from her qualities.
The children were superb, wonderful, fantastic -- please wait while I pull out my thesaurus. Offstage and on, they have much about which to be proud.
Thank you, Natalia, for reading my mind. I was going to ask about the music from "Sleeping Beauty", played by the violinist when Marie first goes to sleep. Is this music used in most versions of "Nut"?
The sets were beautiful and I imagine children in the audience being awed by them. I was not offput by the sweet nature of this version. Children should not be scared away from the ballet by frightening memories of dark images onstage. This production was for families, and appropriately sweet.
Posted 15 December 2011 - 07:57 AM
As far as I can recall, this is the only version of Nut that employs that lovely, rarely-performed, passage from Sleeping Beauty (not choreographed by Petipa; used by Ashton as 'The Awakening pdd' in his own version of SB). Ever the genius, Balanchine knew just the piece of music to capture our hearts, as audiences transition from the party scene to Marie's dream. I love the little mimed touches within it, such as the mother gently arranging the shawl on her sleeping daughter. We can relax & sigh before the madness of the mice & soldiers.
Did anyone else hear yesterday's radio-podcast interview of 3 executives who deal with the Live-in-Cinemas ventures, mentioned in a recent Links thread? I listened to the 30-min podcast yesterday. One of the speakers said that similar in-cinemas showings of other full-length NYCB productions are in the works (for cinemas; no word of TV).She specifically mentioned Martins' Sleeping Beauty and Balanchine's Midsummer Night's Dream. Hopefully one of the upcoming cinemas shows will feature Sarah Mearns. [It's a shame that there don't seem to be any plans to show Balanchine/Robbins Mixed Bills in cinemas. They must be hard to market...grrrrr.]
Posted 15 December 2011 - 08:24 AM
Forget Kistler, Nichols, Farrell or any other dancer, I think I miss Emile Ardolino the most. As Jack mentioned, Ardolino was the director for the 90s Nutcracker, but also for many excellent Dance in America and Live from Lincoln Center dance programs (the Balanchine series in the 70s being one of his crowning achievements. As well as Dirty Dancing and other films). The Live from Lincoln Centers from the 70s were often criticized for their "dancing match stick" effects. God those were so much better than what we get now. I get super excited to see ballet broadcast on TV and then it is ruined by stupid camera angles and edits. The editing wasn't so bad here - not as bad as other broadcasts - but the camera angles were horrible. Basically those cameras are in seats that are often discounted because you can't see the whole stage and you don't see the dancers head-on. Why would you shoot half the ballet from those seats. I love the part where Marzipan makes diamond shapes with her legs but we didn't see them because they shot it from an angle. We saw the side of her legs instead of the shape she was making with them. Same situation with so many other parts. Bouder was beautiful but she was constantly shot long view. The grand pas de deux was a little better. Note to dance directors: If a corps dancer in the back row in the corner is dancing at the same time the principal dancer is doing a solo, I don't want to see the corps dancer in a wide shot! Stay on the principal dancer. Same is during a pas de deux, if the women separates from the man to do a little solo, you don't have to shoot from an angle to be able to show the man just standing there. All future directors of Great Performances and Dance in America should be forced to watch the Bolshoi broadcasts.
Frustrations aside, from what I could tell, it was a pretty good performance. Fairchild and De Luz was solid. I thought Peck, Bouder, Reichlen, Carmena and Ulbricht were excellent. I only woke up in time to see Act II, so I can't comment on the first act.
Posted 15 December 2011 - 08:44 AM
More thoughts on the broadcast: I thought that the NY State Theater stage looked very shallow with the close-up cameras. I know the shallowness of the stage has been a problem but I could really see it when I saw how cramped the Snowflakes were.
I agree Fairchild is a good dancer with good technique, but to me she lacks that extra bit of mystery and/or charm that is part of the SPF. In recent years, the best SPF's I've seen have been Sara Mearns and Tiler Peck, but Wendy Whelan back in the day was also very beautiful in the part. Fairchild, however, is an excellent Dewdrop. I might have switched casting and given Bouder the SPF and Fairchild Dewdrop.
Posted 15 December 2011 - 08:54 AM
There's a lovely ca-1968 TV film of McBride as SPF...but , alas, not in the Balanchine version.
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