What Nutcrackers are you seeing?
Posted 23 December 2002 - 12:21 AM
This production should tour. It's production values are Broadway show quality. It's a shame only those near Hartford have a chance to see it. Yes, I love the traditional Nutcracker, and wouldn't want it replaced, but the rest of the world should see this production once.
Posted 23 December 2002 - 11:42 AM
I'm glad you commented on Hidalgo's Sprite in the First Act. I too thought it looked like she was trying to shake something off; I described it to my daughter as spastic movement. I assume she intended a fluttery look but it was far too much.
I didn't like the tree either. Don't know what it was actually made of, but from my mezzanine seat, it looked like a cardboard rendition a child of about 9 might attempt. But I agree that it was a minor flaw. I LOVED the set for the First Act; it really looked like a spacious house, one that I'd like to live in.
After a night's sleep, my lingering impressions are of Danny Tidwell's dancing. He brought a high flying energy to both his roles. I'd love to see more of him.
It was a bittersweet evening in many ways. During intermission and afterwards, I overheard so many people commenting, with a sigh each time, that it was SO nice to have ballet back in Hartford.
Regarding Sugar Plum, I wish that I'd seen Cheryl Madeux dance it. In fact, that's why I chose that particular performance but word has it that her partner had a conflict and Molina and she dance different versions. So that was a bit of a disappointment. I'd love to see the contrast between her style and that of Wiles; they're very different dancers, for sure. I also would've thought that Molina's size is better suited to Madeux; Wiles really was too tall for him.
Interesting comment about short dancers' choreography: My daughter had a similar comment herself after seeing this production. She too thought some of the dancers were too tall for the choreography and wondered at the casting decisions.
I'm hoping that this venture will be deemed so successful that perhaps it'll be repeated more often. I feel starved up here for ballet performances; there's no professional ballet companies within an evening's driving distance. Both NYC and Boston are logistically out of reach for me. Wouldn't it be great if Peterson also put the same group together for a spring series?
Posted 23 December 2002 - 06:32 PM
Last night there were a couple of wonderful performances in leading roles that made the evening resonate. Natalia Magnicaballi (who people might know from Farrell's company), was Sugarplum, partnered by Michael Cook. Yen-Li Chen-Zhang was both Snow Queen and Dewdrop. Both dancers share these roles with four other balleriinas.
Magnicaballi was an exquisite Sugarplum, exciting to witness. She posesses a pure, singing line through legs and feet, complimented by a lifted and expressive upper body, arms, and head, a dark-haired beauty, and amazing strength. Hers was a gracious fairy who, in stepping delicately on the first notes of her variation, seemed to pluck the strings of the harp with her feet. Her phrasing was beautifully shaped. Her turns in this beautiful, difficult variation were clear and effortless, and for me she captured the quality of the quite well-worn music, embuing it with freshness and life.
In the pas de deux the turns, balances and lifts were technically brilliant but not in an overtly flashy, trick-y sense: they mirrored the grandness and confidence of Tchaikovsky's score. In addition there was something very natural about Magnicaballi's dancing, a quality shared by Cook, a 'homegrown' talent.
Yen-Li Chen-Zhang's dancing is so exceptional and so worthy of notice that I feel I should devote another post to her performances. I guess this will have to be continued...
Posted 23 December 2002 - 07:25 PM
More please!! This may be the only view we'll get of ballet around the country.
Posted 24 December 2002 - 02:43 AM
Yen-Li Chen-Zhang danced both the Snow Queen (with Sergei Prokovskii) and Dewdrop in Ib Andersen's Nutcracker Sunday night. She is a gorgeous dancer with radiant technique and artistry and a tremendous versatility; last season she gave unforgettable performances in Swan Lake with Peter Boal, and she continues to surprise in a varied repertoire.
Andersen’s version of Snow pas is a continuous flow of swirling movement, the dancers seemingly caught and borne about the stage by swiftly moving air currents. Chen-Zhang is crystalline, like snow in sunlight. She has particularly beautiful arms, full of music, and tapering, elegant hands. She is small in stature without appearing small, possessed of a huge jump and liquid, perfectly centered turns.
As Dewdrop, she is a joy, darting among the flowers, parting them and rushing forward, sailing in lyrical attitude tours en dehors, and finally returning to centerstage surrounded by flowers. In this role she seems delighted, and conveys that feeling in abundance to the audience. It’s difficult to be restrained about this ballerina, who should be known more widely.
Posted 24 December 2002 - 06:38 AM
Briefly the production was outstanding with some very good performances for the Russian/Chines and Arabian dances. Also most noteably, Zenaida Yanowsky as the Rose Fairy, who was a delight to watch.
I also went to see the English National Ballet production, but it wasn't for me, the funny bright wigs put me off (I prefer the more tradidional, covered in glitter look!) though the Land of Snow was excellent, and I loved the Jack Frosts.
Posted 24 December 2002 - 09:57 PM
I've seen the Boston Ballet production of the Nutcracker three times this season. The reason is that I'm the parent of a child in the production: my daughter is Polichinelle Boy 1, so I am not a disinterested viewer. I should also mention that I trained as a musician and have no special knowledge of ballet.
As is true of other companies, the Nutcracker is Boston Ballet's economic lifeline. They say it brings in more than half their ticket sales, 145,000+. The production uses more than one hundred children in the show and since there are four casts of children, this means they have to train more than 400 children, which is a major undertaking of the staff, the children and their parents. It's an important part of these kid's lives. Conversations with some other Nutcracker parents gave me and my wife the impression that their children attend the Boston Ballet School principally for the purpose of getting cast in the Nutcracker. This is a Boston's big artistic Christmas holiday event, bigger than all the Messiahs put together.
With this many kids, there is a higher likelihood for mishaps than in a production with a bigger proportion of professionals. My daughter has many stories. Still, it's clear that there are high artistic standards and clear that the dancers are fully engaged in the dancing and acting. Over and over, in small ways, one sees that the dancers are reacting to each other, to the children in the cast, to the opportunities the story provides them for the small improvisations and liberties that keep the production alive and interesting.
I'd seen this production twice before this season, about 10 years ago and again 2 years ago. The new artistic staff of the ballet must have felt some need to put their mark on this production because many small changes were put in place. Almost all the changes I noticed improved the production.
The party scene was tightened and works better for it, I think. There were many nice touches. The dances by mechanical Harlequin and Columbine were sharp and funny - Harlequin takes a minor liberty with Columbine and she slaps his hand. The Russian Dance is done by a trained bear, who does the all the typical Russian dance tricks and also kisses Mrs. Silberhaus's hand before leaving on a leash.
Tightening the first act meant fast tempos and musical cuts, which I generally dislike. On the other hand, I was glad there was only one run through of the party boy's rat-a-tat. I hope some day, that this bit will be dropped. The production also retains some silly sight gags. When the Nutcracker shoots the mouse, a little flag with Bang! comes out of the barrel - some people actually laugh at this. When other mice come to get the shot mouse, they carry out a stretcher with a red cross on it. More laughs. The Boston Globe critic erroneously reported that the production had dropped this stuff, but I think she was looking elsewhere or was expressing a wish.
Another not-so-great thing is the way the parts of the Grandfather and Grandmother are handled. Drosselmeyer gives Grandfather's a hip flask of booze. Grandfather goes in and out of second childhood, annoying Grandmother who pulls hobbyhorses away from him and scolds him. Thankfully, the production dropped the part where Grandfather dances too fast for his age and pulls a muscle (funny!). This is purposeless ridicule of old people. You see the same kind of stuff with the Tutor in Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. I'm sure there are other ways to get a laugh.
The second act has newly choreographed Spanish, Arabian and Chinese dances (Chocolate, Coffee and Tea). The Arabian dance is a pas de deux, with a stage backdrop that was (they say) inspired by the Bakst set for Scherazade. The dancers I saw were fantastic in it, particularly Paul Thrussell, who was in perfect ensemble with the ballerina and whose slow leaps were beautiful. The choreography (by the new artistic director?) had almost no gratutitous technical show in it. The "almost" is necessary to say because the choreographer threw in one tricky move where the ballerina goes into a supported 6 o'clock extension, and is then locked in position by the male dancer and turned, frozen, to horizontal and returned to upright. Very hard to do, I'm sure. The exit from this dance was magical, the ballerina held high from the waist, with her back arched, her arms slowly alternating in front of her, while the male dancer is slowly circling with her till they are in the wings.
Much of the rest of Act II was wonderful (including the Polichinelles). Larissa Ponomarenko was the great Dewdrop; Christopher Budzynski had fine classical style where it was called for in pas de deux (I'd only seen him in athletic stuff).
But the choreography (in my humble opinion) is a little flat in some important places. In the Act I Snowflakes, the music gets more and more exciting and the dancing just doesn't. In the Sugar Plus Fairy pas de deux, which has the grandest music in the ballet, the music builds and builds to a climax and the choreography is an anti-climax. Others may see these dances and have a completely different take on it, but my opinion is not just one night's impression. I keep getting the same let down. Maybe this is where the criticism that 6 different choreographers should not make one ballet comes from.
To me, overall, the Boston Ballet is doing more and more of what is right and works well and is artistically and aesthetically strong. I don't think they could afford to change it all at once even if they wanted to, and I don't think they want to. If they continue to make small changes, get the kitsch out, improve the weaker dances, then performance by performance and year by year, it will keep improving and I'll be happy to keep coming.
Posted 26 December 2002 - 01:38 PM
ENB was a mixed bag... the production looks like a cartoon, the costumes are bright - primary colours and fluorescent, with strange wigs like the Jetsons or the Simpsons... Drosselmeyer wears a white cape whcih looks cheap - where are the sparkles?! The party scene was dreadful - it wasn't much of a party at all, nothing really happened and there wasn't any dancing that I can remember. The children were played by the company dancers, but acted like toddlers, they were quite irritating! I can't remember the battle at all (oh dear) but the Land of Snow was good (at last! Some dancing!) and I liked the idea of having Jack Frosts as well as Snowflakes. The choreography was simple but effective, darting and drifting around. The national dances were, hmm... Spanish was three men who had awful costumes, fluorescent pink capes is enough information I think! Arabian was a woman dressed like a mermaid in a bikini top and long skirt. She didn't do any dancing at all. There were about 8 bare chested men walking around her, holding large feathered fans, and covering her with them and she reappeared intermittently... not particularly exciting. Chinese I can't remember really, I think they had a cart or something... Thank goodness for Russian! Or should I say Cornell Callender who saved the show for me - he was superb. Drosselmeyer led him on dressed as a turquoise feathery bear, then removed his head to reveal the dancer wearing fluffy trousers (he must have been boiling!) Cornell was fantastic - the variation was not very Russian, more virtuoso. Cornell has a great jump with really spectacular clarity, and his pirouettes were amazing, his tours en l'air increased in speed as he went around, I couldn't believe it! He brought the house down - he looks like he belongs in Corsaire or Bayadere. I'll be watching out for his name!
So Cornell Callender was the highlight of the ballet, definitely. Also I have to put in a word for Angelina Ballerina, who introduced the performance - she said, "Ballet is the best thing EVER!" and I can't help but agree.;)
The RB production is much nicer! Both performances I have seen so far were exactly how I wanted them to be, they were sparkly, luxurious and had beautiful dancing. Jonathan Howells and Bethany Keating were Hans Peter and Clara in one, they looked good together and Jonathan looks like a good partner, attentive and smiling. Ivan Putrov and Iohna Loots were in the other - I was pleased to see Ivan after being almost disappointed that this year he got the role of the Prince - I had enjoyed his Hans Peter so many times before! Jaimie Tapper and Yohei Sasaki were Sugar Plum and the Prince for the first, and I enjoyed Jaimie's dancing a lot, much better than her Swan Lake. Yohei looked positively golden and has an easy jump and clean technique. Tamara Rojo and Inaki Urlezaga took the roles in the second one I saw. Tamara suited Sugar Plum well - she looked suitably fairytale and fantastical, cool and regal. William Tuckett was hilarious as Dr Stahlbaum in the party scene - he puts in so many little touches, it is well worth sitting close enough to see his face! I enjoyed all the national dances. The Rose Fairy and her escorts were delightful, Zenaida Yanowsky was joyful and energetic and as sparkling as ever.
I think a lot of people will have seen this production on video/TV now - I noticed a post that it was on in the US this holiday. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! I am going a few times more yet... there are some exciting castings not to be missed - I can't work out why we don't get advance casting information about Clara and Hans Peter instead of Sugar Plum and the Prince - in this production, Clara and HP get MUCH more dancing!
Posted 28 December 2002 - 04:58 AM
Ivan Putrov showed off his beautiful dancing very well, the white costume suited him and it was especially nice to see his feet for once - in black boots you can never fully appreciate them! Miyako Yoshida was his partner, and was the sweetest Sugar Plum you could wish for. Alina Cojocaru didn't let Johan Kobborg get much of a look in, it was definitely her show. After being disappointed that they aren't dancing Sleeping Beauty together later this season, I think I am quite glad as it will give him a chance to shine in his own right - he is being overshadowed! He does a marvellous job of showing her off but I think there is room for him to show himself off a bit too.
Brian Maloney was the handsomest Hans Peter I have seen.;) His acting is lovely, he was full of wonder and his timing in the mime was great! He has such a recognisable technique that even with his Nutcracker head on in the Battle, I could tell it was him - very stylish and neat. He was Clara's dancing partner in the other performance, and he was so attentive to her, and so hopeful, it was sad when the party was over and he had to leave her! Ricardo Cervera was a good Hans Peter too, although he looked quite odd with golden hair - at least Brian is blond anyway! Ricardo is very bouncy, and his first pdd (in front of the shimmering curtain) was really quite moving. Of the two Claras I much preferred Natasha Oughtred to Gemma Bond. Natasha was very involved in the story and is a lovely dancer and actress.
We have been very lucky with Rose Fairies, Marianela Nunez and Zenaida Yanowsky were both as smiling and as beautiful as each other, I can't decide who I liked best! Christina Arestis was amazing in Arabian - she uses her eyes so well, she somehow manages to make eye contact with the entire auditorium at once! She was very mysterious. Zenaida danced Arabian too, she has such an astonishing body - she bent over backwards and I thought her head was going to touch the floor! She is tall, but has endless legs as well as endless back, she is just beautiful.
That's it for my Nutcrackers this year. I'm very tempted to go again though, it is a gorgeous production.
Posted 29 December 2002 - 04:28 PM
Eva Netanya was scheduled to play Frau Stahlbaum, which she did - but at the last minute, just before the curtain went up, it was announced that she was to take Aesha Ash's place as "Coffee"! Although we'd really been looking forward to seeing Ms. Ash dance in that role, Eva Natanya was a knockout. I know she's no stranger to this role, and that may be why she was thrown into it at the last minute, however she danced it as though it were written for her. I was really glad she had the chance to perform this role, rather than only that of "the mother"!
Pauline Golbin was also extremely well cast as the lead ballerina in "Hot Chocolate"... She really had the right persona going for the role and looked as though she were truly enjoying every minute.
You know, I don't seem to get tired of this one.
Posted 29 December 2002 - 11:55 PM
First of all, I must say that I don’t like Nureyev’s version very much. Too much steps, too much costumes, too much of everything...Anyway, costumes were wonderful even if a bit “heavy” (for example, men in the “Waltz of the Flowers” wore a jacket with such a highnecked collar that they seemed to be without neck at all). The scenery was gorgeous.
The corps of ballet was in good shape and I liked it. The Waltz of the Snowflakes and the Waltz of the Flowers were well danced even if I prefer Ivanov’s choreography.
The soloists... well, it was such a pain to see them! Guerra had not the presence and the technique anymore, his feet were tremendous, his hairstyle inadequate (he had long hair gathered up in a ponytail which made him look a corsair rather than a prince). Magyari was insecure, with no use of the upper body and with no control of the arms. I was wondering why the most important company of ballet in Italy employs such dancers who are at the end of their career. I was told that Bolle was fantastic but unfortunately I was unable to see him...
Posted 01 January 2003 - 08:25 AM
I'm glad you enjoyed Kirk's Nutcracker, I certainly had fun dancing it. The audience was a real pleasure to dance for, they were so appreciative. May I ask what you thought of the Russians? I am curious as to why the audience in general didn't seem to like it very much although every show they did get a little bit more receptive.
Please don't hesitate to say if the dancing just wasn't very strong, or not quite strong enough to keep up with the choreography. I just am really interested what the reason was and promise I'd take it constructively.
Posted 01 January 2003 - 08:32 AM
(And sorry not to acknowledge all of these reviews, which I've read with great interest.)
Posted 02 January 2003 - 12:48 AM
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