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Shostakovich Trilogy by Alexei Ratmansky


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#31 rg

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 06:25 AM

the attached, cropped press foto of a grouping from SYMPHONY #9 during its initial City Center run in 2012 gives a view of the photo-printed costumes before Dekker muted his designs by dyeing? them with additional color.
aspects of the GPL photo (credited in the prog. and shown earlier in this thread) can be more readily seen in this stage of the costumes' life.
f.y.i.

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#32 atm711

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 07:13 AM

Lots of talk here about individual performances--but what about the subject--is it too remote for an American audience? I was surprised at the lack of program notes. A few years ago I saw Tom Stoppard's trilogy about Russia -- 'The Coast of Utopia' and had no problem following the plot--lots of program notes. Where did Macauley find the reference to the Soviet poet Anna Akhmatova, and the poet Mandelstam? It was fortunate for me that I read the review for some insight. We have waited a long time for someone with the talent of Ratmansky, his energy brings Jerome Robbins to mind. I hope he manages to get away from the Soviet themes.

#33 ABT Fan

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 07:33 AM

I was at the matinee on Saturday so I saw the second cast. Many people have already described the choreography and its symbolism to great extent, so I’ll stick to the dancing for the most part.

Having seen the premiere of Symphony #9 last fall with the first cast, I can only compare casts with that section. I thought Part/Bolle were fabulous, no less than Part/Gomes from the fall. I have never seen Part/Bolle dance together before and I thought their partnership was seamless; they were really in touch with each other. Part was especially wonderful – she is a very full, luxurious dancer who coaxes every nuance out of a movement. I like the muted costumes better this time around; the white splotches didn’t bother me before, but with the added scenery and the busy choreography I think they would have been too much.

Though I thought Abrera, Radetsky and Matthews (especially Abrera) did a really good job, I preferred the first cast for their parts. Matthews isn’t the quicksilver that Cornejo is. Radetsky wasn’t playful and spontaneous like Salstein. Abrera wasn’t flirty and teasing like Messmer. With the first cast, these 3 parts stand in greater contrast with their style against the main couple who are more serious and contemplative; with the second cast, all 5 of them seemed to blend together, which I didn’t like as much. (Not sure what the choreographic intent was, so disclaimer here.)

I thought the added backdrop for Symphony #9 was “interesting” with its Russian motifs – if only I could have gotten a better look at it. I was sitting in row E in the orchestra and couldn’t make out some of the images that well (but didn’t want to take my eye off of the dancers too long either), so I can’t imagine how the rest of the theatre could see them.

As others have said, there’s a lot going on in this piece. I really need to see more viewings. As much as I love it though, I don’t understand the little touches of humor or whimsy injected here-and-there; they seem so random to me and I don’t understand the intent, and it seems like I should. What do others think about this? Despite that, Ratmansky’s pieces are truly something wonderful. It’s so rare to see the ABT corps really dance (and partner) like they do in his pieces, and what he has the corps doing while the principals are dancing is so intriguing.

I really loved Chamber Symphony, more than Piano Concerto #1 (which I did enjoy). This is the first time I’ve seen Whiteside dance live. He was powerful, elegant, a good partner and has a great stage presence. I think he’ll be promoted to principal within the year. This was the best I’ve ever seen Kajiya; she and Whiteside melted together and when he lifted her it was as if she was an extension of him. I could see them doing Romeo/Juliet together. Lane was lovely as usual. Seo was fine but honestly my eye was drawn to the others so much more.

In Piano Concerto #1, as others have said, Gillian Murphy was injured so Christine Shevchenko filled in. I gather Shevchenko was an understudy only as there was no 3rd cast, and that was reinforced by the very nice applause the dancers gave Schevchenko during the bows. I thought she was brilliant (though I was sad to hear about Murphy, I was super excited to hear Shevchenko would be filling in; have loved her for several seasons and hope she’ll be promoted soon). How wonderful it was to see her and Royal, 2 corps dancers, dance principal parts on the Met stage and give a fantastic performance! I’d never guess Shevchenko was a corps understudy – she and Royal looked very well rehearsed and were very much in sync with each other. Great technique and really solid, comfortable partnering.

Parts of the score really perplexed me, but when Royal and Schevchenko began their pas de deux, the music was so lovely. Reyes and Simkin are not the ideal couple; the experience level between them was noticeable and Simkin struggled through a few lifts (unfortunately, not a surprise). They did do the kiss Saturday afternoon (but, what’s the point of it?). What I found both troubling yet fascinating, were the few times Royal /Schevchenko and Reyes/Simkin were dancing the same choreography side by side and to see that the partnering was stronger and more secure with the corps couple than the principal couple!

I thoroughly enjoyed the performance though and hope ABT doesn’t put this ballet away for too many seasons.

#34 abatt

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 07:35 AM

I think Ratmansky intentionally avoided layering on too much background info in order to allow the viewer to use his own imagination. I actually prefer that approach here.

The Soviet and Russian themes are what inspired Ratmansky in some of his best work, in the same way that American culture and/or Jewish culture is reflected in numerous Robbins ballets..

#35 sandik

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 08:30 AM

the attached, cropped press foto of a grouping from SYMPHONY #9 during its initial City Center run in 2012 gives a view of the photo-printed costumes before Dekker muted his designs by dyeing? them with additional color.
aspects of the GPL photo (credited in the prog. and shown earlier in this thread) can be more readily seen in this stage of the costumes' life.
f.y.i.


Thanks so much for the image -- I was curious about this after your description of the photo transfer process. That level of detail is a mixed blessing for costumes worn in a big theater. I used to work with a designer who said that if you can't see if from the back of a galloping horse in the middle of the night in a driving rainstorm, the audience can't see it from their seats. I think the varigations are really lively, seen here, but I'm not sure I would have the same appreciation if I were sitting in the front of the balcony.

#36 puppytreats

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 11:17 AM

I hope he manages to get away from the Soviet themes.


If an artist is trying to communicate to you something, why would you want him to "get away" from his "themes"?

#37 Natalia

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 11:37 AM

.... I hope he manages to get away from the Soviet themes.


I agree. It's worse - he concentrates on 'Soviet Gloom and Doom' subtheme. He even 'gloomed down' the one sparkling Soviet theme that he had, from his Bolshoi years: Bright Stream, which, in the original Bolshoi version, has colorful, richly-decorated 'happy' sets, costumes and props.

I actually know a lot of people who were happy and thrived in the USSR. Not everybody lived in a Gulag or worried about bugged walls...especially if there were no secrets to hide. Geez, Louise.

It's American Ballet Theatre...not Gloomy-Soviet-Themes Ballet Theatre.

That said, I hope to see the two newest ballets in this trilogy, in the future. I very much admire Ratmansky's choreography and craftsmanship in the first work (Symph 9).

p.s. I am pleased to read that the original splotchy costumes of Symphony #9 have been improved.

#38 Helene

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 11:45 AM

I actually know a lot of people who were happy and thrived in the USSR. Not everybody lived in a Gulag or worried about bugged walls...especially if there were no secrets to hide. Geez, Louise.

Should Solzhenitsyn have put on a happy face to entertain?

Unless ABT hired Ratmansky to stage a specific ballet or libretto, or the company puts restrictions on him, the choice is up to him. The audience can vote with its pocketbook. There's plenty of "Le Corsaire" as an alternative.

#39 Natalia

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 12:58 PM

Should Solzhenitsyn have put on a happy face to entertain?


Who would ever want to see a ballet on Solzhenitsin? On the other hand, I love the old 1930s Soviet musical films, such as Traktorist, which the Messerer-designed (first) version of Ratmansky's Bright Stream echoes. And I experienced life by the Black Sea with my husband's family, in the 1980s. Nobody worried about bugs, spies, misery...but did about Afghanistan. They're just normal people - not people who benifitted in any way from Glasnost, as did certain groups.

When I pay for ice cream, I don't expect to taste castor oil. And this doesn't mean seeing only the Corsaires. Jewels is very 20th-C. Many beautiful, non-gloomy 20th and 21st-C ballets exist.

Different strokes for different folks. Some like the Ratmansky-Schedrin Humpbacked Horse; I prefer the StLeon/Petipa and Pugni et al version...Imperial Romanov but preserved during the old Soviet days.

#40 Helene

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 01:03 PM

Why should anyone assume that a ballet presented by ABT should be ice cream? Did the company promote it that way and mislead the public?

"Pillar of Fire," "Dark Elegies," "Jardin aux Lilacs" are no picnics in the park, but I doubt anyone said to Tudor, "Lighten up, already" (or at least lived to tell about it). From what I've read of the Ratmansky ballets, his work resembles the dramatic roots of Ballet Theatre, certainly more so than the classics (which can be tragic for other reasons).

#41 Natalia

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 01:12 PM

Other than Lilas, you cite some of my least fave ballets ever. :) Sadly, Tudor is barely danced today...gee, I wonder why? On the other hand, I thoroughly look forward to Gala Performance, by Sarasota Ballet, next spring! :)

#42 atm711

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 01:52 PM

Good grief--I seem to have started a ruckus about Ratmansky dealing with themes other than Russia. He is much too talented to put himself in a 'box'. No, it is not necessary to have program notes for a ballet---but, a slight hint may help. Tudor gave us that with the character's name--it surely helped in ballets like 'Undertow' and 'Lilac Garden'. As for 'Corsaire' I have avoided it for years---but I will be seeing it for the matinee tomorrow--I got some very cheap tickets and I am looking forward to seeing a cast without too many luminaries.

#43 Jayne

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 02:31 PM

I'm not sure it's possible to make a "happy" ballet with Shostakovich music. It would be akin to making a Disney movie about Kurt Cobain, or a cheery broadway musical about Sendoro Luminoso.

Natalia's relatives by marriage may have had normal lives in the 1980's USSR but Dmitri Shostakovich certainly feared for his life in the 1930's. I mean, how would you feel if you went to a performance of your opera and saw Stalin shuddering at some parts, and laughing at a love scene? The Great Terror murdered millions and Shostakovich was a witness.

His patron was shot months after arrest, his mother in law was imprisoned in a penal camp, his uncle died in a camp, a writer friend was sentenced to 20 years of hard labor, and several colleagues were executed. His Fifth Symphony in particular reflects his emotional response to this time in history.

#44 vipa

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 05:36 PM

Another factor is will these Ratmansky ballets have a life? Balanchine had a school and company as a laboratory. I'm not saying that Ratmansky is another Balanchine (he isn't) but will his works really live on? Will we be seeing his Firebird again any time soon? Will this trilogy have a life in ABT? It is doubtful. ABT is about the full length story ballets with guest artists and some rep thrown in here and there. The works he did at NYCB have a chance of staying in the rep more than the one's he's done at ABT.

#45 Helene

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 05:41 PM

The trilogy is being performed in San Francisco next year, and Ratmansky ballets are heavily in demand. I'm guessing everyone wants a new one, but Peter Boal got a new Wheeldon for PNB by presenting re-stagings of several works, at first in mixed-bills and then in an All-Wheeldon program. It takes patience: Ratmansky is a busy man.

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