The Dream-Firebird Bill Spring 2012 Met Season
Posted 22 June 2012 - 06:59 AM
I did not stay for the Firebird, because I will be seeing it again over the weekend.
The house was pretty well sold.
Posted 22 June 2012 - 09:12 AM
Posted 23 June 2012 - 06:02 AM
Posted 24 June 2012 - 12:46 PM
As you may infer from the above, I loved the Ratmansky. Flawed? Well, yes..but still remarkable. (The Dream is flawless if ever a ballet was. One imagines Ashton and Mendelssohn sitting down together and devising the whole thing measure by measure, so completely does the dance, as it were, arise from inside the music.)
What I do think ballet historians of the future will have to mull over is how/why a choreographer whose vision is so profoundly Russian and (I think) even Soviet-inflected as Ratmansky came to bring so much of that vision to life at American Ballet Theater. And how/why it seems to work so well. Could one wish he would somehow integrate his Russian/Soviet obsessions with elements of American culture? Certainly I could. But since his Firebird has been entered into the "controversial" category--provoking a wide range of responses including boredom--I would like to say outright that I found it thrilling.
In the theater, costumes and scenery that appear rather campy in photos turn out to be part of a painterly phantasmagoria as important to the ballet's total effect as the choreography. Ivan enters not so much an enchanted garden as a petrified forest--albeit one blooming with flaming red cones and strewn w. green apples. Subtle it's not. (One reason it recalls, to me, what little Soviet ballet I've seen). The flock of firebirds was effective--but not so dreamy and bizarre as the flock of enchanted maidens who make up one peculiarly massed formation after another, the maidens leaning on each other floppily, pushing up against each other, forming asymmetrical pictures that seem to come from another, more painterly era of ballet--then bursting out into dance sequences that build on awkward unbalanced turned-in movements and yet grow unexpectedly energetic and vivid. The dancing is not pretty by any means...and yet becomes something more flowing and exciting than the odd, broken movements it is built on have any right to be. To my eyes, Ratmansky here turns awkwardness into its own kind of grace.
When freed from their enchantment, the maidens and young men -- freed as if from the hold of autocratic Czars and/or Stalinist thugs -- dance in very simple, clear patterns; it's almost a little parade-like, a more flowing version of the simple unison movements at the close of Bright Stream, but effective against the bright sonic backdrop of Stravinsky's finale. One critic complained of the ultra Russian ideal expressed by the women's long silvery-blond locks at the end, finding it problematically mono-colored in an American context. I would say it's hardly less so in a Russian context, but very true to the fantastical fairy tale element of the work.
Finally, a word and more for Herman Cornejo. As much as he is admired, I am not sure he is admired enough. He was the best of the three Ivans I saw in Firebird, dancing with beautiful silky flow, lively expression, and the utmost classical purity. (As Ivan the purity of his dancing seems the very embodiment of a pure heart.) Several people have commented on the oddity of the opening of this Firebird: the hero has a 'busy' solo to the low evocative music that opens the score. It has seemed unmusical to most--but I thought that Cornejo found exactly the musical line in the solo, not step by step, but in the larger arc of the steps in relation to long phrases within the music. That must be what Ratmansky heard and Cornejo shows. And he can do it because his own dancing is not step by step but a model of dancerly art. Even Gomez was not so musically effective at this point in the ballet.
Cornejo was also especially good at bringing out some of the folk elements in the choreography as if they were part of the hero's arsenal against Katschei, striking his heel into the ground as they faced off, as if to show that mother Russia could defeat all evil. The step is there in the choreography but w. Gomez for example it looked less like a folk movement and more like a physical challenge as he angrily dug his heel into the ground. (I should say I quite enjoyed Gomez in the role, and his charming personality infused the ballet with great warmth and even some additional humor, but I would like to pay special tribute to Cornejo here.)
Sat evening I saw Cornejo's Puck. I don't ever expect to see the role danced that beautifully again. What I find particularly remarkable in the performance is that although Cornejo's Puck soars effortlessly in flight over the stage--that is when he isn't skimming over it or whirling about in a spiral of light--he still brings a kind of weight, even gravitas (!), to his movement. That is, as several people have noted, he shows you the full three dimensional shape of the choreography. This is not a cute or elfin Puck, but Puck as elemental creature and servant of Oberon. By contrast Simkin's (very enjoyable) and altogether weightless Puck seems a little thin. Like others, too, I also quite enjoyed Salstein's performance in the role, but Cornejo seems to me a very special class of dancer. After having missed so much of the middle part of his career, I feel very lucky to have had the chance to see him give two such wonderful performances on Saturday.
[No sooner had I written this than I discovered that Tobi Tobias recently posted her own tribute to Cornejo in a review of Romeo and Juliet on her blog Seeing Things.]
And please ABT: more programs like this one. That is, mixed repertory, combining twentieth-century classics with occasional new works. Controversy? I don't think it's a bad thing in the life of a company.
Posted 24 June 2012 - 01:54 PM
Posted 24 June 2012 - 02:08 PM
Thank you, Drew, for the beautiful descriptions of the Ratmansky Firebird above, which convey so well what I saw as well. I was ready for a disappointing experience, based on many of the reviews here and elsewhere. But despite some flaws, I found it to be a really wonderful complete work, very imaginative and funny and -- yes -- musical, even if perhaps not so perfectly in tune with the music as Ashton was with Mendelssohn's.
I've already expressed that I enjoyed the Ratmansky Firebird but I saw it again this weekend and felt the same way on second viewing (was it me or did he change it and do more with the Apples than when it was programmed with Apollo? Or did I just notice more this time?) But I wanted to second Nanushka's comment's about Drew's post. I thought it was a really nice summation of how I felt about the piece generally.
Posted 24 June 2012 - 02:18 PM
Thanks to Drew for elaborating your praise of Herman Cornejo. I am totally in agreement, but I wouldn't have been able to express it as elegantly and precisely as you did. All I knew was that I left those performances more in awe of him than ever, and not just because he's a spectacular dancer. He's so much more than that, and it's been marvelous to see him mature over the past 10 years. Last night I re-watched the DVD that ABT did of The Dream, released in 2002, and not only did Cornejo deliver a more technically astounding performance on Thursday than he did in 2002, it had more weight, more gravitas, as Drew said.
Posted 25 June 2012 - 05:21 AM
Murphy and Hallberg were terrific on Sat. afternoon in the Dream. Salstein was clearly not at the same level of ability as Simkin or Cornejo as Puck.
Posted 25 June 2012 - 10:42 AM
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