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Director's Choice: 31 May-1 June; 6 June-9 June


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#31 Jayne

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 04:44 PM

Back this evening to conclude my review. The Saturday matinee was about 75% full in orchestra, about 65% full in the first balcony, and about 25% full in the 2nd balcony. I heard a lot of female voices from the top tier.

Going back in the evening, I discovered why, as I sat in the 2nd balcony to see the formations on stage: Teen Tix! PNB's policy of offering cheap seats to teens has filled out the show, the house was about 85% full, and the high pitched squeals at the evening show were more obvious from the teens (whooooooooo! at every trick). They were not quite as well behaved in the evening show, I had to shush them a couple of times. Nevertheless it's nice to have some fresh energy and enthusiasm in the building.

Agon: Lindsi Dec and Laura Gilbreath led the women ably, and the debut for Ms Gilbreath and Joshua Grant were fine in the ppd. Benjamin Griffiths took on Sarabande, and while he made no mistakes, he didn't have the verve that Jonathan Poretta brings to the role. At the afternoon show I sat 3rd row from the Orchestra, so the music is very loud, and I wondered if it sounded unbalanced. For the evening show I was 2nd balcony, center section. Agon's string section is so important, and sitting close the vibrations just hum through your body. Sitting up top it's not quite so visceral. But it is fun to watch the formations form, unform and reform on stage.

Tide Harmonic: I still think the music is trite. There is no emotional core, and without an emotional or literal story, you feel a bit like watching a dance behind a thick wall of glass. The choreography itself is a wonder. If it was the middle section of a story ballet, I would think it to be a very entertaining divertissement a la "under the sea". As noted above, the lighting really helps the mood. The same cast danced, and I didn't perceive any changes. I don't know if this is really a "hit". It will probably be performed again in the 2014-2015 season, according to the post-performance lecture statement by Peter Boal. But I don't think this is going to turn out to be a calling card for Christopher Wheeldon in he same way "After the Rain" is his calling card. I wouldn't mind seeing it in an upcoming season, but I wouldn't necessarily buy a ticket specifically to see this ballet. Sorry if that's a downer for some of the PNB fans, but I'm not writing a review for a Fanzine.

Diamonds: I enjoyed seeing this from the 2nd balcony. This time the orchestra sounded a bit unbalanced - the strings were underpowered compared to the brass. PNB dances faster than any version currently available on youtube. It is whippet-fast, and consequently the energy just grows and grows in the audience. Carrie Imler was as reliable as Greenwich Mean Time and I noticed she also didn't go for 180' extensions, as the Russians do. Batkhurel Bold partnered her solidly, but does not offer the panache that Stanko Milov brought to the role. Because the tempi is so fast, the corps is not as carefully precise as the Russians or French with each move. They choose energy over precision. If you're expecting North Korean automon synchronization, you will be disappointed. That said, Peter Boal's program liner notes are worthy of noting, I am not sure if he is quoting Barbara Horgan or Karin von Aroldingen:

Diamonds, the triumphant conclusion of Balanchine's triptych, Jewels, toured to Las Vegas with great acclaim last October. (The founder of the Balanchine Trust was there and deemed it the "best Diamonds ever" and also asked me not to repeat that. Oops)


Are the NBC costume headdresses different this year for Diamonds? I don't recall the swirly, off-center design on the heads of the corps from prior years. But perhaps I am mis-remembering.

At the post-performance lecture, Peter Boal said PNB would perform Stravinsky's Violin Concerto in an upcoming season, that he had performed Stars & Stripes so many times at NYCB that PNB would next perform it circa 2176 for the tricentennial (he gave a mock salute). Same goes for Western Symphony (he gave a mock hat tip). He asked the audience what they wanted to see from the Balanchine rep, and Vienna Waltzes was popular.

When asked for differences / similarities between PNB and NYCB, Laura Gilbreath noted that PNB does not rehearse in the 2 hours leading up to a performance, which allows the dancers to rest their bodies. At NYCB they rehearse all day - and because their rep is so jampacked, they continue right up to the curtain opening. Mr Boal recalled days when it was common for dancers to put on their performance makeup at lunchtime - only because their rehearsal schedules were so full that they would have no time to do it before the 7:00pm curtain rose. The breakneck speed of rehearsals, and caused many dancers' bodies to wear out quickly, while others thrived in the pressure filled atmosphere.

#32 Jayne

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 07:16 PM

Carla Korbes and Karel Cruz are featured in this video. Due to Cruz's injury, they will not perform Diamonds after all in this rep, so this is your one shot to see them:



#33 sandik

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 09:44 PM

After listening to Francia Russell's remarks about Agon last week before the dress rehearsal (where she talks about how cool the original performance style was) I was interested in watching this excerpt with Allegra Kent and Arthur Mitchell. Russell was very specific about the final moment -- that it not be an erotic clinch -- and here in this example, Kent isn't even touching Mitchell at the end...

#34 Helene

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 09:52 PM

The Principals for "Diamonds" second weekend have been updated on the PNB site as follows:

Thursday, 6 June: Imler/Bold
Friday, 7 June: Nakamura/Orza
Saturday, 8 June (eve): Imler/Bold
Sunday, 9 June (mat-1pm): Nakamura/Orza.

Laura Gilbreath also loses her performance of Diamonds, as Karel Cruz was scheduled to partner her second weekend Friday as well as Korbes twice first weekend.

Korbes is listed with Seth Orza on the cast list for the "Diamonds" part of the "Encores" program.

In "Agon" first weekend, Batkhurel Bold partnered Leslie Rausch and Joshua Grant partnered Laura Gilbreath. Second weekend, Bold partners Carla Korbes (Friday/Sunday matinee) and Grant partners Maria Chapman (Thursday/Saturday eve). Both Bold and Grant dance all performances of "Tide Harmonic" as well. Posted Image to them both for supporting the PNB women and the choreography in this rep.

#35 sandik

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Posted 06 June 2013 - 09:34 PM

Some more thoughts about the first weekend:

A couple of injuries really domino through the whole company with a rep like this – Karel Cruz pulled something in his groin during the dress rehearsal on Thursday night, so casting changes rippled through all the performances during the first weekend.

Agon is a great program opener. The conventional idea is to open with something relatively simple and un-challenging, but the spare and acerbic atmosphere in this work made everyone sit up and pay attention right away. I have a feeling that the new Wheeldon, which sat in the middle seat for this program, would have looked quite different with another introduction.

People often talk about how different Agon was from the works that came before it – how innovative and unusual, but this time out I was struck by how much it resembled the works that would come after it. Looking at this more than 50 years after its premiere, we see the context on both sides of the timeline – like I said in a review, Balanchine seemed to be the opening salvo of post-modern choreography here, with his use of pedestrian vocabulary, non-sequiteur activity, pattern and structure games.

It’s been a few years since the company did Agon, but several people were coming back to familiar roles. Jonathan Porretta and Benjamin Griffiths shared the male solo in the first pas de trois. Porretta did the part in NYC and there’s some video of him in performance on YouTube – he had the same intensity here. He approaches the distinctive moments very deliberately – he shows them to us. I got a small music hall moment from him in the trio, as they do a version of step, ball, change. Griffiths has a lighter touch, and perhaps is looking a shade lower than Porretta – it’s a more transparent performance. His Italian changement were almost silent – such a plush landing.

In the second pas de trois Maria Chapman had a very 3-dimensional approach to the woman’s part – very clear sense of epaulment in both the conventional shapes and the more eccentric ones. Andrew Bartee and Jerome Tisserand gave a really lovely reading of their duet, but the last minute drama award has to go to Ezra Thomson and Eric Hipolito Jr – Hipolito got called in at the last minute again (like his save-the-day action in Romeo and Juliette) to perform in the Saturday matinee and evening shows when Kiyon Gaines injured himself that morning. Their soloist was Lindsi Dec, who made the whole drama about control very clear – it was like a variation of the Rose Adagio as she remains firmly in arabesque on pointe while they change their position over and over again.

Lesley Rausch and Batkhurel Bold had already performed the pas de deux in NYC, so these performances could build on that experience. She’s very much in the long-and-cool category of dancers like Patricia Barker in this role. He was less crisp, although a very adept partner, especially in the trickier bits. Towards the end of the duet there’s a series of adjustments they make as they’re twisted together very elaborately – at the end, as she’s tipped over in a penche, she extends her leg to the ceiling, like the period on a complex sentence. Their timing in this sequence was dead on, and very witty -- the audience giggled both times I saw it.

Laura Gilbreath and Joshua Grant made their debut in the duet Saturday evening, and they gave a truly excellent performance. The details were very freshly coached, but it was much more than just an accurate replication – they thought about what they were doing, and made choices, in timing, in accent, in shading. It was much more sophisticated than debuts usually can hope for. I’m so glad I got the chance to see it.

I think that Tide Harmonic (Wheeldon’s new work) benefitted from coming after Agon on the program. He’s made a very busy ballet, and without the discipline of watching Agon, I think the audience might have been rather overwhelmed with the action. It starts with a rush and stays pretty speedy, only slowing down a couple of times. I had to remind myself there are only eight people in the cast – it often seems like more.

The “water” elements are ingenious and engaging (especially some of the partnering maneuvers) but there wasn’t much of the more gentle aspects of water – it was all pretty zippy. It did slow down for the main duet (which resolved in a very odd kind of supported locomotor sequence, where Grant is bent way over the front, almost crouching, and Korbes is laid out on his back, walking (and boureeing) backwards as he walks forward – it’s certainly unique and vivid, but felt very inorganic). I’m glad to have had four chances at it over the weekend – I certainly understand it better than I did after a first view, but that one chance is all that most of the audience gets – I’m feeling sorry for them.

One odd coincidence – there’s a men’s duet in the work (James Moore and Jerome Tisserand first weekend) that’s rather like Bournonville’s Jockey Dance in its good-natured competition. Much of the section has the two of them dancing side by side, almost arm in arm, and I thought “Tweedledum and Tweedledee,” and then thought, “well, duh,” since the composer (Joby Talbot) did the score for Wheeldon’s recent Alice in Wonderland.

(he also wrote the score for the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” – when you look him up online, the first several pages of Google links are all about the film)

Tide Harmonic is certainly not a landmark Wheeldon work, but I was glad to see it and look forward to it coming back to the repertory.

The last time PNB performed Diamonds I remember thinking how uninhibited Patricia Barker looked in the main female part. This time around I was more keyed into the formality of the situation – the opening of the second movement, where the two principals approach each other on a very zig-zag and meandering pathway, reminded me of complicated political negotiations, like a parlay. The Imperial roots of the work showed pretty clearly opening weekend, especially the connections to Swan Lake (though since we’ve seen that very recently, so I could just be reading in). Again there were cast changes, so that Imler and Bold performed Saturday night, with Nakamura and Orza getting another performance as well. Both couples did wonderful work – Imler and Nakamura nailed all the technical challenges, making virtuosity into an expressive element.

I went back and looked at some old notes before the weekend, and I have to say I still think the chandelier is too small. And the tiaras for the corps de ballet are quite large – perhaps they could make a new light fixture out of some of those.

My sister came to see Agon, but would up staying for the rest of the program – when the fourth movement started in Diamonds, she whispered in my ear (“where’s the clown car”) and I have to say after the relative sparseness of the second and third movements, the “all hands on deck” polonaise at the beginning of the last section is pretty astonishing. It always looks like it was made for a larger stage than it’s being performed on, but at the end, as they all fan out behind the two principals, it’s a really satisfying picture.

#36 Helene

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Posted 06 June 2013 - 10:36 PM

I went back and looked at some old notes before the weekend, and I have to say I still think the chandelier is too small. And the tiaras for the corps de ballet are quite large – perhaps they could make a new light fixture out of some of those.

Posted Image

Thank you so much for posting. The "Seattle Weekly"'s parsimonious space allocations are definitely our gain.

Edited to add:

PNB just posted a YouTube link to an Esther Williams tribute on its Facebook page. Ms. Williams died today at age 91.



It's poignant that she passed during the run of "Tide Harmonic." Towards the end of the second movement Pas de Deux, I felt like I was watching a water ballet.

#37 sandik

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Posted 08 June 2013 - 10:06 AM

PNB just posted a YouTube link to an Esther Williams tribute on its Facebook page. Ms. Williams died today at age 91.

https://www.youtube....d&v=xYW64moSLKg

It's poignant that she passed during the run of "Tide Harmonic." Towards the end of the second movement Pas de Deux, I felt like I was watching a water ballet.


Good for them for making that connection, and thank you for the link. I watched a bunch of excerpts yesterday, and you could see many similarities to the new Wheeldon work. I don't know that he's an EW fan, but in my mind, he's got her backstroke in there!

#38 Helene

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Posted 08 June 2013 - 10:34 AM

PNB posted a minute-long excerpt of "Tide Harmonic" to YouTube:

http://m.youtube.com...h?v=hsd602dIp9A

I only got to watch the opening until I realized I need to run to catch the bus to see the ballet live (duh), and my phone data plan is allergic to videos, but it opens with Laura Gilbreath, Carla Korbes joins from the right, and the Lindsi Dec and Rachel Foster from the left.



#39 pherank

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 09:07 PM

I'm late to the party, I see, regarding my journey to Seattle to see PNB, so I'll just dash off a few thoughts/impressions that still remain in my head. ;)

[I went to the Thursday June 6 and Friday June 7 performances]

I couldn't help but notice that the PNB women all seem to be very petite, and seemingly very young - I know that doesn't actually apply to all the ballerinas, but it was my general impression of the company look. A number of the male dancers are quite short as well (while a few of the men appear unusually tall which makes for an odd contrast of heights on stage, in, for example, the Agon Pas de Quatre). Also there is a certain 'compactness' to the dancing style that was interesting to see, though I guess I prefer more 'amplification' from the principals (or I'm just used to seeing that). I'm guessing that is the Peter Boal aesthetic at work. [If I can think of a better way of expressing this I will edit my comment later]

Agon
Agon was well danced both Thursday and Friday nights, but Friday with Maria Chapman and Joshua Grant was particularly well executed and powerful. Chapman and Grant both seemed supremely confident in their roles and were simply magnetic. The orchestra, under Emil de Cou, played the Stravinsky score very well - right volume, tempo and textures (I was sitting in the Orchestra section both nights and obviously that didn't give me any idea of what the sound was like in the balcony sections).


Tide Harmonic (C. Wheeldon, World Premiere)
I remain somewhat confused by Wheeldon - I admit that I don't yet 'get' his aesthetic or the visual language he is (presumably) developing. I often feel he's wrestling with too many ideas and is simply unable to omit much of anything he creates. IMO he needs to have his 'Apollo' moment when he discovers how to pare things down to what appears most essential and inevitable - a truly organic whole. In this ballet I see things that are momentarily intriguing, but these are often followed by steps or sequences that are almost gimmicky in nature, or deliberate non sequiturs to poke fun at the proceedings, but the overarching motivation still alludes me (perhaps Tide Harmonic is simply an expression of the energy in water/nature). At its weakest points, the choreography strikes me as having no real relationship to the music. And the Joby Talbot music at times interested me more than the choreography, though I would hardly say it was deep stuff. Talbot's music kept reminding me of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (remember that old TV program?). Submarines and sea monsters. But the choreography didn't seem to have the same focus.

So anyway, THE COMPANY danced the piece with much energy and enthusiasm. I think the dancers really enjoyed performing this piece, and that does transmit itself to the audience (there were big ovations for the performance both nights that I was there). Having seen SFB dance a bunch of Wheeldon ballets, I can say that PNB was comparable. So good for them!

Diamonds
Thursday night the Pas couple was Imler and Bold. And they both met the technical demands, but neither appeared quite as regal, natural and grand as I imagine the roles demand. I know that's just my presumption, but it wasn't a treatment that thrilled me in any way (though Carrie Imler is so solid in her technical performance I feel bad that I couldn't just love it). Bold is not my idea of a 'danseur noble', but I absolutely credit him for working hard and being there for his partner 100%. But the elegance and the seeming ease of movements was not there for him - he looked to be working hard, and isn't the point to be disguising the work? But I've seen enough of Russian danseurs sleepwalking their way through story ballets that I have to appreciate Bold's efforts.

I was quite bummed to learn that Carla Korbes and Karel Cruz would not be dancing the Pas leads on Friday night due to Korbes' knee injury (which was mentioned at the pre-performance talk - but was Cruz also injured?). She was replaced by Kaori Nakamura (dancing with Seth Orza). I was impressed by Orza's partnering after not loving Bold's stylistics, but I still felt like I wasn't seeing an ideal Diamonds Pas couple. Nakamura and Orza were technically exacting but I was in no way transported by the Pas dancing to a Russian Imperial ballet world. The Corps, however, made me happy throughout.

Didn't love the tutus and headdress designs, and the chandelier hanging over the stage was a little on the feeble side, but, the PNB company moved through their paces like clockwork and that was actually a pleasure for me as I don't appreciate a bored or ragged-looking Corps de Ballet.

The Diamonds finale really demands a large stage setting, and I felt that things got a little cramped on the McCaw Hall stage; however, the company appeared to be so well rehearsed in Diamonds (and on that particular stage), that the Corp's performance was virtually problem free: they made it fit. I just want to see them perform Diamonds on a larger stage.

The orchestra, not surprisingly really, sounded a little underpowered in the performance of the Tchaikovsky 3rd Symphony, and there was some obvious overcompensation from the timpani/percussionists that I found obnoxious, but still, an excellent ballet orchestra IMO.

Sadly, I wasn't able to attend the end of season Encores performance because I had already booked that weekend to be in Victoria B.C. If only the Encores performance had been announced earlier! I've been wanting to see Concerto Barocco live for some time, but, not this year either. I'm going to be angry about this missed opportunity for some time.

#40 Jayne

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 09:21 PM

Regarding the chandelier - I'd really love to see PNB do a full Jewels soon, and borrow some Chihuly chandeliers for the event. I'm sure they're too heavy, it would be a logistical nightmare, blah blah blah, but it would still be cool!

#41 pherank

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 09:42 PM

Regarding the chandelier - I'd really love to see PNB do a full Jewels soon, and borrow some Chihuly chandeliers for the event. I'm sure they're too heavy, it would be a logistical nightmare, blah blah blah, but it would still be cool!


Little things like the chandelier can make a big difference to the atmosphere of the ballet - I'd love to seem them try for a 'grand' version of Jewels with 1st rate costumes/staging. But I also wish they would put Concerto Barocco and a couple other shorter/rarer Balanchine ballets on DVD. ;)

#42 Helene

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 09:52 PM

That "chandelier" looks like it came from Lamps Plus. The headpieces looks bigger.


There was an injury to one of the "Concerto Barocco" corps, and, as a result, they only did 2nd and 3rd movements of "Concerto Barocco" in Encores. You might have been more frustrated if you had changed your plans to stay, only to have a partial performance of the ballet.

Karel Cruz was injured before first weekend; Peter Boal said in a Q&A that Cruz called Boal to say he couldn't walk, but he could dance, but Boal declined the offer. (It was a groin injury.) It was a shame, because not only was he scheduled to dance "Agon" Pas de Deux with Lesley Rausch opening weekend, he was also to be Carla Korbes' partner in "Diamonds" first weekend and Laura Gilbreath's for one performance second weekend.

All of the "Diamonds" performances were led by Kaori Nakamura/Seth Orza or Carrie Imler/Batkhurel Bold, except for the "Diamonds" excerpts in "Encores" -- Third and Fourth movements, no Pas de Deux -- which were originally scheduled for Korbes/Orza, but danced by Imler/Orza.

According to Boal in the second weekend Q&A's, Korbes had a knee injury that wasn't major (in the long term) but took her out of all her performances second weekend. Maria Chapman, who was the understudy for her role in "Tide Harmonic," did all four second weekend performances and danced the "Agon" Pas de Deux with Joshua Grant, who partnered Laura Gilbreath in the PdD first weekend. Boal said that none of the understudies/second cast got to work with Wheeldon in rehearsal: they were learning it behind the originators. He said that there was a possibility that Korbes wouldn't have been able to do first weekend Saturday matinee, and that there was a two-hour emergency rehearsal with Ballet Master Paul Gibson. Korbes did dance, but Boal said that compared to that, Chapman said having until Thursday to rehearse the part was much easier.

Many thanks, pherank, for giving us your detailed impressions. sandik and I were ruing that time flew by so quickly, that by time we realized that this was the weekend you were in, we hadn't even asked if you'd like to meet up at intermission, and, it sounds that by the time we had this realization, you were already on your way to Victoria.

#43 pherank

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 09:56 PM

That "chandelier" looks like it came from Lamps Plus. The headpieces looks bigger.

Karel Cruz was injured before first weekend; Peter Boal said in a Q&A that Cruz called Boal to say he couldn't walk, but he could dance, but Boal declined the offer. (It was a groin injury.) It was a shame, because not only was he scheduled to dance "Agon" Pas de Deux with Lesley Rausch opening weekend, he was also to be Carla Korbes' partner in "Diamonds" first weekend and Laura Gilbreath's for one performance second weekend.

All of the "Diamonds" performances were led by Kaori Nakamura/Seth Orza or Carrie Imler/Batkhurel Bold, except for the "Diamonds" excerpts in "Encores" -- Third and Fourth movements, no Pas de Deux -- which were originally scheduled for Korbes/Orza, but danced by Imler/Orza.

According to Boal in the second weekend Q&A's, Korbes had a knee injury that wasn't major (in the long term) but took her out of all her performances second weekend. Maria Chapman, who was the understudy for her role in "Tide Harmonic" did all four weekend performances and danced the "Agon" Pas de Deux with Joshua Grant, who partnered Laura Gilbreath in the PdD first weekend. Boal said that none of the understudies/second cast got to work with Wheeldon in rehearsal: they were learning it behind the originators. He said that there was a possibility that Korbes wouldn't have been able to do first weekend Saturday matinee, and that there was a two-hour emergency rehearsal with Ballet Master Paul Gibson. Korbes did dance, but Boal said that compared to that, having until Thursday to rehearse the part was much easier.

There was an injury to one of the "Concerto Barocco" corps, and, as a result, they only did 2nd and 3rd movements of "Concerto Barocco." You might have been more frustrated if you had changed your plans to stay, only to have a partial performance of the ballet.


It sounds like a mess, doesn't it? But the company held together rather well in the performances that I saw, and Chapman, as I mentioned, really impressed me. I would look forward to seeing more of her, and finally, Korbes. There's obvious depth to the company and that bodes well for the future.

#44 Helene

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 10:09 PM

You kind of needed a score card to keep up with the cast changes, but if they panic, they never show it.

I think you would have really liked Chapman's "Swan Lake."

Chapman and Korbes were completely different (in the same role) in "Tide Harmonic." Boal expects to do it again soon. Nothing's set in stone, but it looks like he's targeting the season after next. I'd expect a full second cast at that time.

The costumes are the original designs by Karinska, and they were rented from National Ballet of Canada, according to the program credits. I think they're ugly as sin, especially for "Diamonds" -- do the men really need those puffs on their shoulders? -- and I much prefer the Lacroix done for Paris Opera Ballet, except for the women's "Rubies" costumes. However, Boal said in past Q&A's that each time they do "Jewels" (or "Rubies") that they make a few more of the Principal/Soloist costumes in the PNB shop, which suggests they're planning to stick with the original designs. (Feh from a design perspective, but a responsible, cost-effective approach. Besides, they need the design budget for "Liebeslieder Walzer," and, if they start saving now, that might be in the rep along with "Stars and Stripes" in 2076.)

#45 pherank

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 10:11 PM

That "chandelier" looks like it came from Lamps Plus. The headpieces looks bigger.


Sigh. I'm often at odds with the costume designers and stage designers. There can be an amazing sense of taste (but this was admitedly not that bad).

Many thanks, pherank, for giving us your detailed impressions. sandik and I were ruing that time flew by so quickly, that by time we realized that this was the weekend you were in, we hadn't even asked if you'd like to meet up at intermission, and, it sounds that by the time we had this realization, you were already on your way to Victoria.


A nice thought, Helene, and it occured to me too to try to connect with forum members in Seattle, but I was 'unplugged' for the week (something I needed for my own sanity). I felt like the only traveler in the world who did not have either an iPad or an iPhone with me.


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