SFB Program 3
Posted 20 February 2012 - 12:57 PM
Saturday, Feb 18 2 pm
Francesca da Rimini/Possokhov/Tchaikovsky (Chung/Quenedit/Mazzeo)
Le Carnaval des Animaux/Ratmansky/Saint-Saëns
First, Tomasson's lightweight 'Trio' was much enhanced by fine performances in the first movement by Sasha deSola and Jaime Garcia Castilla, and in the second movement by Dana Genshaft, she of the beautiful feet.
Last on the program, 'Le Carnaval des Animaux' is sometimes funny and always cute, and let me be perfectly honest here, 'Plan Nine from Outer Space' would have looked good after the perfectly awful Francesca da Rimini.
Which actually brings up an interesting question: how can a perfectly awful ballet have so much good choreography in it; or, if the ballet really is perfectly awful, is it even possible for any of the choreography to be any good? Anyway…
Giovanni (who, according to the story I know is supposed to be lame and/or deformed but who looks just fine here) leaves wife Francesca alone with his handsome younger brother Paolo, Paolo gives her a book with the story of Guinevere and Lancelot, they read it together and within a nano-second they're madly in love, leading to the conclusion that reading the story of Guinevere and Lancelot is the 13th century romance-inducing equivalent of locking eyes with a cute barista over a Tazo® Green Tea Crème Frappuccino® at Starbucks.
Meanwhile, five women in red (not sure if they're Furies or the upper house parlour maids) prance around shooting disapproving glares at the lovers, and three men in body tights painted to look like stone, strike menacing body-builder poses. Giovanni comes back, slaps the floor a few times, stabs the lovers, and is dragged of to the Inferno by way of a gigantic rope as thick as a tree trunk. Paolo, who has been flinging Francesca's dead body around long enough for decomposition to set it, collapses and, one can only hope, dies.
The problem is that the central, and very acrobatic, pas de deux between Paolo and Francesca is beautiful; there's some interesting lighting effects with square spotlights while various characters dance out their anxieties; the three stone gargoyles -- Possokhov used a similar device with the four soldiers in RAkU -- stomp around and seem to be the only ones having any fun; the costumes are pretty; the sets are fine -- there's nothing really specifically 'wrong', but somehow it all seems hopelessly overwrought and supremely silly instead of sad and tragic.
The performers can't be faulted. I think this was Carlos Quenedit's debut with the company and given the circumstances, he was good as Paolo (his name is still out of order on the website: does that mean something?).
Francesca was danced by Frances Chung. Now, the eternally cheerful and sunny Chung is not the first dancer who springs to mind for casting as a hotblooded, adulterous, Italian sexpot, but she's really very good. The role was made on Maria Kochetkova; in other roles they've shared Chung's dancing hasn't had Kochetkova's size or detail, but the choreography here brought out a beautiful, velvety, lyrical quality in Chung that I haven't seen before, along with flexibility through her upper body that she's sometimes missing.
So really, what on earth went wrong (besides the music which, personally, I've never liked)? Did anyone else see it? Did I miss something?
By the way, it was good to see a lot of children in the audience, presumably there to see the Ratmansky. I'm glad they get a dose of something besides Nutcracker now and again, although 'Francesca' is enough to put a 10 year old off relationships, the color red, rope and Italy for good.
Posted 20 February 2012 - 03:18 PM
whose feet were at their best. Carnival is such a charming score it's hard to go completely wrong with it.
Speaking of scores, Tchaikovsky is not the problem with Francesca, to say the least. this was a barely adequate performance by the orchestra, but that is also not the problem...
I'm not even sure I'd call the PDD 'beautiful', Peggy. It certainly tries hard to impress, and it borrows lots and lots of cliches from Forties and Fifties acrobatic-pop-adagio
which I assume the choreographer hopes no one remembers, LOL, but I thought the gargoyles were almost the only fun thing in the entire ballet.
I'm glad you now see lyricism in Chung, who to my mind is one of the only two or perhaps three real ballerinas in the company now. I was , as always, appalled
at any comparison to Kochetkova, who is probably my least favorite Russian-trained dancer ever. I find Kochetkova shallow, trivial, contrived beyond belief, artificial, phoney,
and anything but punctilious technically. It amazes me that she is cast at all, much less fawned over; Chung's technique, for one, makes Kochetkova look very amateurish indeed.
Saw them both in Theme and Variations; Chung was dazzling, Kochetkova almost embarrassing. some serious relaxation of Balanchine standards went on for her to dance THAT role.
I don't think Chung is by any means eternally cheerful and sunny; she can even scowl when it is required.
If you want a ballet REALLY to put you off the color red (I hope nothing could ruin Italy, lol), try the horrendous Martins Swan Lake.
Posted 20 February 2012 - 03:49 PM
Oh dear, I really wish you hadn't mentioned that. You're making me rethink my memory of the pdd…
We don't agree about Kochetkova, but I will concede she can be mannered at times. Would have liked to see her in this, though.
True, she was a wonderful Myrtha. It's just that she's SO good in sunnier roles, I'm always a little surprised at her versatility; it's good to know she's not being consigned to languish to the Soubrette Ghetto.
And I neglected to mention, in my original comment about Le Carnaval, how good Hansuke Yamamoto was as the Cockerel; he just gets better and better every time I see him.
Posted 21 February 2012 - 11:10 AM
I know it was Program II, but how was Beaux? how were the gentlemen?
Posted 23 February 2012 - 06:22 AM
Posted 23 February 2012 - 01:47 PM
He was originally Gianciotto, "lame john," instead of plain Giovanni. And here he looked as if he were out of Milton rather than Dante: the juicy role of Milton's Satan. Gianciotto gets hauled off to the seventh circle, Caina, whereas Paolo and Francisca, who sail lightly in the wind, are only in the second circle as a consequence of their "gentle thoughts" compounded with "a deep longing" - for which Dante sheds tears. The ropes this Giovanni/Satan gets nicely hauled off stage with - the size of those for a ship - are perhaps appropriate to the magnitude of his sin...The pas seemed as though it had slipped in from Romeo and Juliet, which Kochetkova and Boada did last year and may do again later this season.
Posted 18 March 2012 - 08:59 PM
This is not a ballet about falling in love over a book. It's about going to Hell in movement and music. One may find that subject unpleasant, but one can't fault Possokhov for exploring it. And how could anyone expect a choreographer to imagine a major character in this work as a cripple, and who would want to watch a dancer be wasted in such a role? No one who saw Daniel Deivison's portrayal of chilling revenge and unrepentance would want Giovanni to be cast as a cripple. If one accepts this ballet on its own terms, it's a great work. Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty are not the limits of how a choreographer can legitimately imagine Tchaikovsky's music.
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