Don QuixoteNews, Casting, Videos, Reviews
Posted 04 February 2012 - 09:42 AM
Before Boal and Jonathan Porretta arrived -- there was a big gala party right after the performance, and Boal greeted his guests and made a toast -- Audience Services Manager John Tangeman fielded questions. He said that the opera, which closed last Saturday, was cleared out sometime on Sunday, and that the PNB crew worked until 3am, after which the electricians showed up at 4am.
PNB dancers don't get a lot of stage time for any production, let alone one that ships in 4x as many crates as their "Nutcracker", which itself is a huge production. In some ways, dress rehearsals are the worst of both worlds, if a necessary evil: the dancers are still transitioning from the tape marks in the studio to the reality of set pieces, and adjusting to differences in proportion, spacing, and lighting, yet their in costume and everything looks bright and shiny. Sometime the dance energy is there, but that's not the focus.
Peter Boal joked that last night was a dress rehearsal (for Korbes and Cruz, anyway), but unlike for "Coppelia" and "Giselle", it didn't look it. It took about .0001 second for the audience to erupt and stand when Korbes and Cruz came out for their first curtain call.
It was great to see Alexei Ratmansky, lighting designer James Ingalls, and set and costume designer Jerome Kaplan, on stage to take their bows at the end.
Posted 04 February 2012 - 10:47 AM
Congratulations PNB, Alexi Ratmansky, and everyone from the youngest student dancer to the electricians. What a performance last night! It felt like a tornado passed thru my life. I'll put this ballet company up against any in the world after what I saw last night. Alexi must be pleased indeed.
BTW, I too was at the dress rehearsal (as well as last night's opening night). It was the exact same cast except for the main couple being Korbes/Cruz instead of Nakamura/Postlewaite. The difference btwn the 2 nights was like night and day. I second Helene comments. Dress rehearsals are no way to judge a company or a production. I guess one gets some insights, but the performers are just not "in the zone" for a dress rehearsal. In the past I've sworn off seeing dress rehearsals just for this reason. Dress rehearsals can be very disappointing.....which was just my reaction after Thursday night. I had looked forward so much to this Ratmansky production (because I think he is one of the 2 most promising living choreographer on the planet), and I thought the production fell flat at the dress. What a difference 24 hours and the power of an opening night makes. On opening night I was doing a standing ovation, with everyone else, in no more than Helene's .0001 second. My disappointment turned to ecstatic thrill. I once again vow to avoid dress rehearsals (a vow I will no doubt have to make again once my memory fades ).
And the partnering btwn Carla and Karel..........that was one of the hightlights of my 45 years of watching ballet. The confidence and total trust in one another was a testament to the human spirit. They were each other's biggest fans time and time again last night......BRAVO!
Posted 05 February 2012 - 08:34 PM
Afterwards I attended the Q&A, and Peter Boal noted in his initial comments that how Karel fits into the basket has become a conversation on Ballet Alert. To answer the question - he says there is no "trap door" (he mentioned that was a solution proposed on B.A.). Korbes and Cruz then explained that they pretzel themselves inside, and there is little room for her to pin on the wig she wears to disguise herself as a gypsy.
Now I ask the moderators - does reporting this information count as "commenting on the commentary"???
Korbes did not wear a wig in the show (though she did in the adverts), but her hair was darker than the usual honey blonde. She was asked if she dyed it for the roll, and she explained it's a temporary spray. A significant portion of the women did wear wigs, and they definitely had big Spanish hair. In contrast, Cupid has a wig straight out of That Seventies Show (Kitty Forman). Leta Biascutti played her as the soubrette intended - she is definitely a soloist in the making. I predict a promotion sooner than later.
Most of the Q&A covered details already mentioned on this thread, or in the media articles, so I won't repeat it all. Peter Boal did mention that while rehearsing PNB, designer Jerome Kaplan showed sketches to Alexei Ratmansky for their next project for the Australian National Ballet: Cinderella. Maybe I will have to book a flight to Sydney???
This production reminds me that no matter how we focus on the difficulty of steps, their originality, forward-thinking design of costumes and sets, or injection of "contemporary" into ballet - at the end of the day the audience that buys tickets wants first and foremost to be entertained. Color, charm, humor, and passion and above all a great story for dance - are required for successful story ballet.
Posted 08 February 2012 - 08:55 AM
Posted 08 February 2012 - 08:34 PM
This project was very ambitous, and I'm grateful to all who participated and financed it. The journey from first rehearsals in August, to final studio rehearsal in late January was so incredible to follow. I'll be a little bit sad after the final show Sunday evening.
Judging from tickets sales I surmise it will be back fore the rights expire in three years. Fingers crossed!
Posted 08 February 2012 - 08:54 PM
The main photo of Carla at the top of this link took up the whole upper half of the front page of the Arts section! That is such a coup for her and for PNB!! Then inside a big photo of Allen up in the air.
I have to say the electricity was in the air opening night. Bravo to everybody involved in the production!
Posted 08 February 2012 - 10:43 PM
I forgot to mention the review in the NY Times yesterday.
The main photo of Carla at the top of this link took up the whole upper half of the front page of the Arts section! That is such a coup for her and for PNB!! Then inside a big photo of Allen up in the air.
The internet makes it so easy to read coverage from all over the place that it's sometimes easy to forget that these are newspapers, emphasis on the paper part, with layouts that carry almost as much information about the importance of an article as the text itself. Front page of the arts section above the fold -- very, very impressive!
Posted 13 February 2012 - 10:47 AM
I could go on and on about the performance of Carrie and the rest of the cast, but I just want to take the time to mention one thing. Uko Gorter (long since retired ballet dancer), who plays Kitri's father Lorenzo in all 10 performances, called in that morning saying that due to back problems he could not perform. I presume there was no cover for this non-dancing role, so what to do?? The solution......Peter Boal played the role. Apparently he started learning the role that morning for a 1pm curtain by viewing video tape. Carrie Imler mentioned at the Q&A that Peter was in his office preparing for Act 3 by viewing video tape during most of the 2nd Act (since Lorenzo only appears briefly at the start of Act 2). He was terrific. I didn't see a single goof. He was very animated in his facial expressions, and seemed to be having a grand old time.
Just one more thing to admire about this generous and highly talented man who just happens to be our Artistic Director.
Posted 19 February 2012 - 12:13 AM
Traditionally, Don Quixote has been a sure thing for a ballet company -- a familiar work that will bring in a broad audience, giving dancers a chance to show themselves in set of benchmark roles. It’s not a subtle work, technically or theatrically, but there’s a sense of security in its traditional format. It’s the ballet version of comfort food, where we know exactly what we’re getting and we’re not looking for anything else. We don’t seem to spend as much time parsing the distinctions between different productions of Don Q in the same way we examine revivals and restagings of Swan Lake and Giselle, but we do expect certain moments and sequences. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s new-to-them production of the ballet has all the milestones that we look to see in the work, and avoids some of the awkward bits that can feel dated in contemporary performances.
It’s a little ironic that Alexei Ratmansky has staged this production of Don Q -- as a product of the Bolshoi Ballet the work is part of his heritage, but the Soviets have for many years been taking mime and narration out of the old Petipa works, substituting extended academic dance sequences. Ratmansky’s Don Q reverses that tendency, emphasizing the hubbub of the crowd as well as burnishing a collection of duets and variations. A colleague here asked him about his experiences at the Royal Danish Ballet and its influence on his work, and he was very clear about the place of narrative and acting in the old ballets -- he wants the dancers in those roles to have specific characters to play. This isn’t Stanislavsky or Method acting, it’s still a pretty broad style, but the stage is full of individuals with particular stories that combine to form a whole village. If anything, the crowd scenes in this Don Q reminded me of the opening scenes in Petrouchka, with its plethora of ‘types’ -- it seems odd to consider a Petipa work in the same way that you’d think of Fokine, but in this example, it looks like they’re on the same continuum, just in different places.
For years, all that we really knew about Don Q in the US was the grand pas de deux, a balletic party piece that became a staple of mixed bill performances by the various Ballet Russe ensembles. It was kind of Spanish, in the way that a meal at Olive Garden is kind of Italian -- mostly it was about technical virtuosity and brio as a stand-in for characterization. The characters in the stand-alone version come off looking much more aristocratic than they actually are in the full ballet. -- a prince and princess rather than a barber and a innkeeper’s daughter. It isn’t until we see them in their context that we recognize Kitri for the stock character she is -- the spunky peasant girl who will confound her parents or any other barrier in her way to true love. She’s a sister to Swanhilda and Lisle, and even a distant cousin to Giselle. Basillio is poor-but-worthy, not quite the same as Franz, who is just a bit dim, or Colas, who isn’t poor but isn’t as wealthy as Alain’s father. And Basillio is craftier than his analogs -- he’s the one that comes up with the final scheme that wins him Kitri’s hand. Where we’re pretty sure that Swanhilda and Lisle will be running their respective households and husbands, Kitri and Basilio are more evenly matched.
Perhaps it’s because we only had a pas de deux to look at in the past, but the full production of Don Q, especially as it’s staged for PNB, is chockablock stuffed with dancing, particularly for Kitri and Basillio. They’ve got big variations in all three acts, as well as ancillary work -- even if they didn’t have the grand pas it would still be a full evening of dancing for them. The only reason that the production doesn’t feel out of balance is that there’s an incredible amount of material for everyone -- with two intermissions, this is three hours in the theater. I said in my review that you could spend the entire time ignoring the main characters and just focusing on the byplay -- what I didn’t say was that you could probably do that a couple of times, looking at different places on stage, and still miss some tasty things. The third time I saw it, I thought I’d been keeping track of everyone in the tavern scene, until I looked away from Kitri and Basillio for a moment and realized that Mercedes and Espada were heading upstairs, in the grand tradition of “heading upstairs” -- I had to watch as they checked out the action below them, and each other, until they finally went through the door. They came back in time for the big finish of the scene, but now I was wondering if I’d missed any other trysts. We can’t really know how faithful this production is to its original -- there’s just not enough left of that version to know what has stayed the same, but it’s very true to itself -- Ratmansky give us plenty of time to read the characters and examine their world.
My notes are full of miscellaneous observations, which makes sense with a production like this. I was counting the number of different things that people threw around (hats, capes, cups, guitars, knives, tambourines, fans...), checking out who had the fanciest shoes (a tie between Gamache and the Devil in the little acting troupe during Act 2), and trying to make sense of all the wigs (most of the corps had the generic pompadour, but in Act 2, when Kitri disguises herself, her long black wig with bangs makes her look like Cher, circa Sonny and Cher. And in the Vision scene, Cupid looks like an extra from the Brady Bunch or the Partridge Family with a blow-dry shag). And although they used some deft special effects (a projection of the moon, smiling down at the Don, and other projections of windmills on the scrim make his hallucinations clear to the viewer) probably the most charming stage trick was one of the oldest -- a pair of ‘horse’ and ‘donkey’ costumes for the Don and Sancho Panza like a full-body version of a stick pony. Their schtick as they cantered across the stage came directly from the old clown school of acting, and was charmingly effective.
Ratmansky’s original staging for the Dutch National company takes advantage of their larger stage and bigger ensemble -- they had 80 plus people in their cast, where PNB only managed to get close to 70 by adding a significant contingent of students from their school. Although it’s a smaller group, it didn’t look thin -- you can see in a few places where you would add more bodies to a crowd scene if you had them, but it didn’t feel weak. I was hoping that, coming out of the grueling job that is Nutcracker, the company wouldn’t be dealing with too many injuries, and it seems that they were fortunate in that. (I don’t know if it was Peter Boal’s decision to have four main couples cast as Kitri and Basillio, or if that was Ratmansky’s choice, but it’s a smart idea. Perhaps because many of us have been reading Steven Manes’ book about the 07-08 season, when Noelani Pantastico had to dance nine consecutive performances of Romeo and Juliette, we’ve all been noticing when there are back-up casts available.) Three couples performed during the first weekend, along with double casts for most of the rest of the major roles.
Korbes and Cruz had opening night, which isn’t really the catch you might think it is considering that it’s sometimes more like a dress rehearsal -- theater time is very tight, and the more casts you have, the less likely it is that they’ll get any significant time on stage before performance. They’re well matched physically -- both long and slender, with long limbs in relationship to their torsos, so that when he lifts her overhead in that one-armed, signature Don Q lift the impression you get is that she’s almost at the top of the proscenium arch. If they were much further upstage, it’s possible that audience in the balcony wouldn’t be able to see her. His strength right now is in the technique -- he pulled off multiple multiple turns without any real fuss, just spinning on that long axis. Her Kitri is more balanced between technique and personality. She’s a hoyden when she first enters, high-spirited and playful, quick to be jealous and quick to forgive with Basillio, and headstrong dealing with her father. She and Cruz play the characters as teenagers, which is what they probably are. There’s lots of kissing, but surprisingly little heat, particularly at the beginning.
Postelwaite and Nakamura had the best “couple” vibe of the casts I saw, perhaps building on their work in Giselle last spring, where I saw some of the same relationship. He’s got a goatee for the role, and he really works the flirtation well. He has great fun with the comedy bits (handed a guitar, he takes one sceptical look and tosses it away -- “what’s this thing?”), while she has very clear relationships with individuals on stage. (now that I think of it, there are snatches of her Swanilda here as well). They really milk some of the traditional moments, the lifts particularly have that “look, no hands” vibe. It’s really fun to see that kind of theatricality in this context. They are very in sync in the grand pas -- even the interpolated variations don’t make a break in that relationship. He was smooth throughout, with some truly beautiful turns in second (not to mention very flashy air turns). And she had great confidence throughout the third act, from the “oooh, icky” moment with the knife when she pulls it out of Basillio to the fan work during the grand pas -- she’s really in control of her physical world.
I think that Imler and Bold are the longest running combination of the three I saw, and that is reflected in their partnering -- very secure work. She is really in her element with this part and her characterization comes from the technical assurance. Her pointework is diamond sharp and the big jumps and turns are stunning. We know she’s in charge in her community because she’s just so much more. Even when she’s sulking after her father has her carried off to meet Gamache, she’s a powerful presence on stage. Her adagio work in the grotto is soft, almost to the point of sleepwalking, which makes the turns seem more brilliant in comparison. Her fouette combination in the grand pas (doubles on the 4 and ending with a triple, if I remember correctly) was almost anti-climactic -- she just kept rotating. After a while you can tell that people have stopped counting -- it’s not a contest so much as it’s just a statement of skill -- “I can do this amazing thing and here it is.” Interestingly, this is probably the most relaxed I’ve ever seen Bold on stage, which makes his technical prowess just that much more compelling. But my favorite part was seeing the emotional expression on his face. He was having the best time, and he let us see it.
If Kitri and Basillio are teenagers, then Espada and Mercedes are the grown ups. Seth Orza swaggers through the role – like his Tybalt in Romeo and Juliette, he uses his sharp upper body outline to good effect here. Lindsi Dec is his Mercedes, and she really attacks the big backbends in her variations – her long spine makes an incredible arch. Lesley Rausch is paired with Jerome Tisserand and although it was strange seeing her as a brunette the two of them were a good match. Tisserand had a light quality that made you feel he could dance around the bulls in the ring. But for me, Maria Chapman came closest to the heat that the part can generate. Mercedes isn’t a street walker, but she’s experienced in a way that Kitri is not. Bold was her Espada, and his intensity made him look almost angry. It wasn’t the same dramatic stretch for him that his performance as Basillio was, but it was certainly effective here.
The ensemble is so good in the dramatic byplay that it’s a happy surprise when the dance sequences come along. Most of the ensemble stuff is character dance -- the repeating seguidilla have a really clear connection to the floor that isn’t always a part of ballet performance. It’s hard to dance down when you’re accustomed to dancing up, and to walk heel first when you usually land on your toes. This isn’t authentic Spanish dancing, it’s Spanish inflected, just as the mazurka we’ll see later this year in Coppelia isn’t the same as the Polish folk dance. But the cast has been coached by Sara de Luis, and it really shows in their willingness to leave their conventional style behind them. And when the chorus of toreros is stamping their feet and twirling their beautiful pink and yellow capes, they made me remember a classic Warner Brothers clip.
Ratmansky wanted the Don and Sancho Panza to be cast with actors rather than dancers, to emphasize their separation from the rest of the people in the village, and Peter Boal used this opportunity to make some connections with the local theater community. Tom Skerritt, whose career in film and television probably sold a chunk of tickets all on its own, was an interesting choice for the Don. Sitting in the orchestra I could see his facial expressions fairly well, and those seemed to be the key to his characterization – if I were sitting further back he would have been much less effective. His dreamy quality translated into a fair bit of wandering on stage, but he seemed less aware of the full stage picture. As the Queen of the Dryads, Maria Chapman had to take him by the hand literally in the Vision scene at one point. Still, when he wakes up at the end of the act, his confusion was palpable, and like Bottom in Midsummer Night’s Dream, he realizes that no one will believe him when he tries to explain what he has seen. (I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was…)
As Sancho Panza, Allen Galli had a more reliable internal GPS – he always knew where he was in the space. His background in musical theater, and his training in commedia helped him find the rhythmic structure and fit into the overall structure of the scene. He reminded me of Zero Mostel – he has the instincts of a vaudevillian. His performance was full of comic bits, and there are probably many more where they came from. Otto Neubert played the Don on the matinee, and his musical phrasing was very different than Skerritt’s more flexible timing. Jonathan Porretta was his Sancho Panza, which he plays as a younger man. Both he and Gallli had some great moments, but while Galli matched his age to the Don, Porretta’s Sancho was in a position to still have sex rather than just joking about it.
In the play within a ballet in act 2 both Eric Hipolyto and James Moore made great devils -- they each had big fun with the tail. Josh Grant was very tall as the king. He will likely be an authority figure for the rest of his career. And Liora Reshef was particularly winsome as the princess.
There were big “ooooh”s for Jerome Kaplan’s designs, especially in the grotto scene, and the part I loved the best in that scene was the womens tutus -- the bodices were slightly draped and tied like the old photos of Pavlova or Zucchi. Sarah Ricard Orza and Maria Chapman were both very languid as the Queen of the Dryads. Rachel Foster and Leta Biasucci each had the right quickness for Cupid, but Biasucci resembled the old photos of the character -- Foster had a more contemporary look. Kaplan had great fun with the monsters’ costumes as well -- the chief demon looked like the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz while another one reminded me of Raven, the Native American trickster character from the Pacific Northwest -- he looked like a Kwakwaka'wakw transformation mask. The cactus were quite stylish, with a mermaid sillouhette that looked like some of the gowns from the recent Golden Globe awards.
Misc Q/A: Poretta on Ratmansky and his specific comments “He is in every single blink” Neubert “He was a human spell check -- everything got corrected.”
Andrew Bartee -- the spines for the cactus are magnetized, I guess so they can store the costume without the spikes attached?
Peter Boal -- if had money and permissions, would film PNB productions of Coppelia, Giselle (would want to build new sets/costumes) and mixed rep.
Posted 19 February 2012 - 02:35 PM
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