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#1 Giannina

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Posted 29 September 2002 - 02:38 PM

Thursday night I attended San Francisco Ballet's mixed bill: "Paquita", Yuri Possokhov's "Damned", and Mark Morris's "Sandpaper Ballet". One of the best reasons for seeing "Sandpaper Ballet" is seeing "Damned" right before it. "Damned" is just about the most depressing ballet I've ever seen (Medea and all that). The audience was almost too stunned to applaud at the final curtain. And then....knowing Mark Morris's ballets, you fear something else dreadfully heavy is coming. Surprise! This is a piece of fluff to Leroy Anderson's music, and even the strains of that oh so familiar music (if you're over the age of 40 you're humming) soothes you. The ballet is a series of corps works, all very "up", all happy, all lots of fun, and you do leave the theater with a smile and a lilt running through your head.

Saturday night "Othello" was presented. I went in fully expecting not to like it and came out surprised at how much I did.
Othello: YuriPossokhov
Iago: Parish Maynard
Cassio: Gonzalo Garcia
Desdemona: Yuan Yuan Tan
Emilia: Katita Waldo
Bianca: Lorena Feijoo
Choreography: Lar Lubovitch
Composer: Elliot Goldenthal
Scenic design: George Tsypin
Costume Design: Ann Hould-Ward
Lighting Design: Pat Collins

The first act is a dazzler. The sets are magnificent and huge. You are introduced to Lubovitch's style of choreography. And drama! This is a very dramatic ballet, both in dance and action. Possokhov is a large man but light and graceful when dancing. In contrast, standard-sized Parish Maynard seems almost emaciated. There is nothing small about his acting ability; he eats the scenery, showing us a man consumed with hate and bitter frustration. Jeez! Yuan Yuan Tan is Othello's fragile devoted wife, her tiny build lending to the characterization, plus making the multiple sweeping lifts more dramatic. However, I found no chemistry between these two; they were passionate because the choreography was.
For me Act II was the least interesting, mostly because the center figure, Emilia, was not on point. The act was full of plot intrigue so there was much to see.
Act III returned to the heated drama. The final pdd between Othello and Desdemona was beautiful but unsettling because you knew what was to come. And it did. And 2 more deaths within seconds. And the curtain came down....bang! San Francisco Ballet is jarring us to the bone. Wonderful stuff, and I can't imagine a better cast.

Giannina

#2 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 29 September 2002 - 02:52 PM

Great review, Giannina! Thank you :D Very good to hear such positive reports about Othello, and it sounds like something I would really like to see!

#3 dirac

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Posted 30 September 2002 - 09:46 AM

I wasn't crazy for "Othello" myself, but it's good to have a different take on it. And there's no denying it's dramatic. My main problem with it was that the plot (already telescoped in Shakespeare) moves along too quickly for the sake of good character development Othello loses control awfully quickly in this version, Iago's motivation, always a sticky issue, is reduced to suppressed well, not all that suppressed here homoeroticism, and Desdemona has little to do except dance around in her nightie; at least Verdi's girl has the Willow Song and Ave Maria. Too much has to be "indicated" as opposed to dramatized.


(I don't mean to sound like a stick in the mud, but I wish more attention would be paid these days, when a court scene is being staged, to having the dancers behave in a courtly manner. Highly unlikely that Othello would grab his bride's thigh as they dance in front of the assembled ladies and gentlemen, and so forth.)


I also had this difficulty, to a lesser extent, with Possokhov's "Damned." It did seem to me that he was assuming his audience was sufficiently familiar with the original plot that certain elements of the plot could be sketched in or merely referred to the death of the princess, for example. I know it's a pain, but you gotta tell that story, fellows.


And "Sandpaper Ballet" is just yummy.


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