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2015-16 season

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If your interests tend toward Baroque opera, there is also Opera Atelier. Its productions incorporate a lot of dance, since the company's founders and directors, Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, are dancers.

http://operaatelier.com

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Shall we compare it to

Boston, only 6 programs (NBOC has 7 including Nut), not in season May 27 - Oct 27,

Houston, 7 programs including Nut, but nothing other than Nut from Oct 2 to March 2, March 26 to May 2, and mid-June to September

Miami City Ballet, only 4 programs in addition to Nut, nothing from April 2 to October 21

NBOC is more typical than atypical of N American companies and is constrained by the COC's occupation of the opera house.

We shall! Because {unlike San Francisco} those are all apt comparisons ?

Interesting what you say about the constrains of the opera house. It's not that old right? I wonder what the season looked like in the old place

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JumpFrog, I think you should also consider excursions to Montreal. Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal skews contemporary, but their performances tend to fall into the gaps between National Ballet of Canada shows (Nutcracker excepted, of course), and every season they invite two companies to perform big narrative ballets.

http://www.grandsballets.com/en/

The train ride lasts a leisurely 5 hours and delivers you reasonably close to the Place des Arts, or you can fly there in just over an hour, although a roundtrip fare will cost twice as much.

Interestingly enough it looks like I will be going to Montreal in the fall for a week so I just looked up what was happening there. Seems to be some really interesting stuff at Les Grand and I hear the city is great as well. I will look into taking the train - how romantic it sounds but you just never know how it actually is ! The fact that their shows fall in line with the national company breaks works out well. I wonder if that was calculated? Seems smart. Thanks for the tips about Ottawa, Saratoga etc as well kbarber! And I'm not quite sure how I feel about baroque dance? But I'm willing to give it a shot!!

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I will look into taking the train - how romantic it sounds but you just never know how it actually is !

If it's any reassurance, when the National Ballet visited Montreal last fall, the dancers took the train.

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I take the train all the time to Ottawa. I wouldn't call it romantic but it's pretty efficient and comfortable. Free Wifi! Once you calculate the time you have to be at the airport to get through security and board etc and then get in from the airport in Ottawa or Montreal to downtown, flying is not much faster. but considerably more expensive. If you book ahead, you can get a return train ticket to Montreal for about $120.

Of course the companies don't plan their seasons to fit into each other's schedules.

When the NBOC was in the now Sony Centre, the situation was pretty much the same as they also shared it with the opera: two programs in November, Nut iin December, two programs in February, two programs in May (which left an even longer drought before the next season started).

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Just looked over the casting for the show we are seeing and am v. excited! ! 18th matinee with Lobsanova, Ebe, Campbell and Fischer. Would've loved to see Dronina but am excited to see the local talent so to speak I'm curious to see how the production compares to others I've seen and see how interpretations may differ. I have stunning memories of both Yuan Yuan Tan and Masha as well as Bussell and Hart from years ago. It's true how they call this the ballerinas Hamlet - the interpretation is so varied place to place and person to person and there is always so much to take in!! Can't wait. Also considering how much the tickets were I'm anticipating nothing but the very very best lol ?

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If you've got some time, JumpFrog, you may be interested in watching the TV program Romeos and Juliets about the staging of Ratmansky's production in 2011. You'll have to wade through the "reality TV" tropes and Rex Harrington's non-stop hyperbole, but you'll see quite a bit of Lobsanova preparing for her first big role. The "extras" (shot very poorly) include part of the ballroom scene and each of the couples performing the balcony scene, among them Lobsanova with Guillaume Côté and Ebe with Sonia Rodriguez.

http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2243139519

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Evan McKie has been replaced by McGee Maddox as Albrecht for the June 18th evening performance of Giselle. He was to have danced with Svetlana Lunkina.

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Ouch! (Globe and Arts review of Le Petit Prince)

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/theatre-and-performance/theatre-reviews/national-ballets-ambitious-le-petite-prince-falls-flat/article30283389/

But in Le Petit Prince, choreographer Guillaume Côté seems to have stunted himself on two levels – taking a naive approach to both structure and content and, in so doing, vastly underestimating his audience’s intelligence, a sin I find hard to forgive.

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Martha Schabas panned it. Michael Crabb gave it three of four stars, although the text of his review, perhaps, suggested a lower rating. Was it reviewed in the National Post? We know from the recent scandal involving the Canadian Opera Company that the paper doesn't like posting performance reviews. (“I really hate running reviews for performing arts. They simply get no attention online, and almost always end up as our poorest performing pieces of digital content.")

Do we have any eyewitnesses from the first two performances?

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I saw the first show volcanohunter but am waiting until I see the gala tonight to voice a more solid opinion. I don't want to judge a company too harshly based on one show ... but like kbarber i found the reviews to be more or less in line with what I saw

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So I gave my ticket to a friend on Sunday as I had too much else going on. Wow - guess I picked a good show to miss!

My daughter saw the dress rehearsal on Friday night, and reports pretty much what was said in the Globe and Mail article...

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Well I decided after watching le Petit Prince that I wasn't going to formulate too strong of an opinion on the company here quite yet as it was my first time watching them.

I tonight had an additional chance to watch a "performance" at their gala.

First to start though with le Petit Prince it wasn't great. But the reviews I read for it above seemed a little harsh. It definitely was not very good. There is no way around it but it wasn't a total disaster. I thought the design of the sets was awesome and I loved the use of the different colors in the background inside the circles. The costumes were really inventive. Also the opera house is beautiful here. The acoustics seem strong. I think if a reviewer can't find a single positive thing to say about something it says a lot more about them as a person then about the piece but whatever.

Anyway so onto tonight. It was fun to get dressed up for the gala but as I mentioned earlier clearly "galas" at this company are different then what I'm used to.

Turns out the choreographer Cote had another piece tonight and I thought this was better. It was danced by a female partnered by multiple men and it was musical and precise. She is stunning with great presence.

The other "new" stuff though .. I mean ... it was beautiful dancers trying their best to make something out of nothing. It felt generic and unmusical and I'm a little surprised this is work they would choose to showcase? As my coworker aptly said wouldn't you want to put your best foot forward for a special gala? To me it made Cote's work look like a masterpiece and I couldn't help but think that Robert keep dancing while he can because choreography is maybe not his element.

Maybe it was just the couple of pieces shown tonight that were off though? Not having a proper theatre stage must be hard too to be fair. I'd be willing to watch something else because clearly people must see something there if he's made it this far.

I'm trying not to feel too down about it but both these performances were a let down for me. I am sure the dancers here are really good. I saw glimpses of it and goodness are they a beautiful bunch. Many glammed up tonight looking fab! But when the work is so low caliber it's hard to appreciate. .

Fingers crossed things look up in Giselle. I'm confident they will. At the least it is a work I know I love :) Saturday can't come soon enough!

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you have to bear in mind that the NBOC's "galas" are not for the most part attended by people who know a lot about ballet. They are people whose corporations have bought tables for the event, and it's more about getting dressed up and having a party than about seeing what the company can do as a ballet company. I didn't go to the gala this year because it's really not about the dancing.

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Xiao Nan Yu has also withdrawn from Giselle, so Elena Lobsanova will be making her debut two days earlier than scheduled on the evening of June 16, opposite Naoya Ebe. McGee Maddox's debut as Albrecht is therefore postponed until the evening of June 18.

Apparently Yu will still be dancing in Le Petit Prince tomorrow.

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Karen Kain today announced that Harrison James will be promoted to Principal Dancer in the 2016/17 season.

Alexandra MacDonald will be promoted to First Soloist; Rui Huang and Donald Thom will be promoted to Second Soloist; and joining the Corps de Ballet from the RBC Apprentice Programme are Jeannine Haller, Clare Peterson and Andrew Tomlinson.

Congrats to all!

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Thanks for the news kbarber - re Harrison James: wow. Quite unprecedented for NBOC, don't you think? He hasn't been with the company all that long, and from what I recall completely skipped the ranking of second soloist, going directly to first soloist from corps? Am I remembering that right?

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I think Veronica Tennant still holds the record. After she graduated from the National Ballet School, she joined the company as a principal dancer. Karen Kain got her promotion in a year and a half. Frank Augustyn's promotion took only two years. In those days there may not have been a rank of second soloist.

Harrison James didn't arrive at the company as a complete newbie. He'd previously been a first soloist with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, although his rise was swift there, too, and he'd also spent some time at the Béjart Ballet Lausanne. He's done so much substituting for injured colleagues and gotten many opening nights along the way, so the promotion was almost inevitable.

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Giselle - Svetlana Lunkina (15), Jillian Vanstone (16m), Elena Lobsanova (16e), Sonia Rodriguez (17)
Albrecht - Harrison James (15, 17), Francesco Gabriele Frola (16m), Naoya Ebe (16e)
Hilarion - Piotr Stanczyk (15, 17), Skylar Campbell (16m), Jonathan Renna (16e)
Wilfred - Giorgio Galli (15, 16e, 17), Jack Bertinshaw (16m)
Berthe - Lorna Geddes (15, 16e, 17), Rebekah Rimsay (16m)
Bathilde - Stephanie Hutchinson (15, 16e, 17), Alejandra Perez-Gomez (16m)
Duke - Jonathan Renna (15, 17), Peter Ottmann (16)
leader of the hunt - Brent Parolin
peasant pas [coda solo; adage; first variation; adage; other variations performed as duets] -

Jenna Savella, Tina Pereira, Laurynas Vejalis, Donald Thom (15, 17); Jordana Daumec, Chelsy Meiss, Ethan Watts, Giorgio Galli (16m); Selene Guerrero-Trujillo, Rui Huang, Christopher Gerty, Ethan Watts (16e)

Myrtha - Heather Ogden (15, 17), Hannah Fischer (16m), Alexandra MacDonald (16e)
Moyna - Jenna Savella (15), Alexandra MacDonald (16m, 17), Jordana Daumec (16e)
Zulme - Tina Pereira (15), Emma Hawes (16m, 17), Chelsy Meiss (16e)

conductor - David Briskin

The National Ballet of Canada has been performing this production of Giselle by Peter Wright since 1970. It differs slightly from the production performed by the Royal Ballet, but is essentially the same as the version the Royal Winnipeg Ballet has performed since 1982. There are a few details I do not like about it. I don’t like the fact that Albrecht makes his entrance during the overture, or that Hilarion makes his a few bars too early. Unfortunately, this version excludes Berthe’s mime, the peasant pas de deux becomes a pas de quatre--which is really a shame, because there is no longer a happy young couple to act as a foil to the doomed romance of Giselle and Albrecht--and, worst of all, the third, allegro section of Myrtha's entrance is cut. Wright famously insists that Giselle must stab herself because her suicide leads to her being buried in unhallowed ground where the wilis can claim her. (I suspect a total mental breakdown would also have qualified as a “bad” death, although I think the self-stabbing has great dramatic impact.) Albrecht is not denied his iconic second-act entrance down the diagonal, although in terms of blocking it’s not clear why he suddenly turns around and begins walking in the direction of Giselle’s grave. (I am very fond of the Bart/Polyakov version where Albrecht, looking for Giselle grave, runs in a circle around the stage, sees the grave, is momentarily overcome with dread and guilt so he keeps running, and then once he collects himself he turns to face it, literally and figuratively, and walks toward it.) But on balance the production is sensible, dramatic and beautiful.

On the first night the title role was danced by Svetlana Lunkina, one of nature’s Giselles. It’s immediately apparent why she was first given the role to dance at age 18, thus becoming the youngest Giselle in the Bolshoi’s history. And frankly she could have coasted on her obvious affinity for the role for the rest of her career, and to great acclaim at that. But she doesn’t take the easy and lazy route. I haven’t seen Lunkina dance nearly as often as I’d like, although I have been catching up over the past couple of years, but having now seen her perform the crowning roles of the classical repertoire--Giselle, Aurora, Odette-Odile--I am struck by how original, individual and insightful her approach to these roles is. She doesn’t alter one iota of the canonical text, and she engages in absolutely no self-indulgent experimentation in the name of “creativity.” It’s not a matter of adding a few distinctive touches to a familiar outline. She has studied and restudied these roles on such a fundamental level, until she has understood them thoroughly, filtered them through her body and made them entirely her own, that the choreography we all know backwards and forwards seems genuinely spontaneous, as if being created right on the spot. For the viewer it’s an uncanny experience to see such familiar ballets suddenly appear completely new, and this is particularly the case with Lunkina’s Giselle. She interprets the role in a way that is completely unique, but simultaneously so organic, that it seems as inevitable as it is original. From the moment she peers out of her cottage door, her Giselle brims with a rich inner life, the subtlest shifts in emotion radiating from her enormous eyes, her dancing pure and exquisite, with whisper-quiet jumps and the loveliest port de bras, and every moment on stage is invested with a keenly responsive dramatic presence. When her lover’s deceit is revealed, her response is raw, intense and gut-wrenching, and the audience observes in transfixed silence. Among the company's Giselles, she thrusts the sword into her side with the greatest force, and from that point on she can barely stand.

Like no other ballerina I have seen, her second-act Giselle dances as though compelled by an external force--an unwilling wili, if you’ll pardon the clumsy expression. Her control in adagio sections is such that time seems to stand still. She appears to jump in slow motion in defiance of gravity. Pure in form, truly ghost-like in appearance, unearthly in her beauty, this Giselle is definitively lost to Albrecht and the world, now a being of an incorporeal realm. In stark contrast to the first act, her face is nearly passive--truly a shadow of her former self--and this inscrutability is haunting. You really can’t guess what awaits her tormented spirit after she disappears from Albrecht’s sight.

Easily one of the greatest Giselles of my experience.

Jillian Vanstone is the company’s pre-eminent exponent of youthful, joyful innocence. She is instantaneously delightful and winning, and she adds a fascinating and unexpected earthy quality to some familiar passages. In her variation she suffered some uncharacteristic technical difficulties, bailing out of her second turn in attitude, and slipping off pointe during the diagonal of hops, which she had already simplified. But there were no other technical problems during the rest of her performance. Her mad scene was fundamentally delirious, except where Giselles typically appear at their most delirious: during the final runs in the direction of Berthe and Albrecht. These had the desperation of a woman who understood she was about to die. Her second-act Giselle was a sweet, consoling spirit, who had long since forgiven Albrecht, always looking upon him protectively and reassuringly. Vanstone’s balances were steady and long, and her jumps were speedy and light.

One of the best moments in Elena Lobsanova’s debut performance came early on, after Giselle enters and circles the stage, but fails to spot Albrecht. When she opened her arms into second position, it was not merely a prelude to a series of ballottés, it was a gesture of pure joy at witnessing a beautiful morning and feeling the sun on her face. Lobsanova had moments where she struggled technically, notably in the hops on pointe, her turns in her wili initiation scene were fairly slow and she fudged her entrechat sequence in the pas de deux. But she successfully disguised her uncertainty in the opening of the adage by linking together her movements quickly and smoothly. I worry, however, that Lobsanova may have the same difficulty with this role as Xiao Nan Yu, a dancer with strong dramatic and lyrical impulses who cannot perform petit allegro. Perhaps at the moment Lobsanova simply needs to gain greater stamina. A Giselle with an expressive face and upper body is nothing to sneeze at, but if Lobsanova has limited capacity for jumping quickly or high, she will have to emphasize her positive qualities that much more, to persuade audiences to watch her Giselle from the waist up.

The dominant characteristic of Sonia Rodriguez’s first-act Giselle was the shy thrill of her attraction to Albrecht. There was no denying that she looked significantly older than her partner, but this difference was erased by the persuasive completeness of her characterization. Her mad scene had febrile intensity, with Rodriguez using her large features to great effect, while her spirit was hauntingly wistful. She now has limited jumping ability, but she also displayed complete mastery of hovering arabesques, and the audience gasped at the swiftness of her bourrées backwards.

(As I approached the theater entrance, Rodriguez’s husband, Kurt Browning, raced past in the opposite direction to deliver a bouquet to the stage door in time. Good thing he’s fit. :))

The Albrechts were all overshadowed by their partners, with the exception, perhaps, of Naoya Ebe, which may have had more to do with Lobsanova’s inexperience than his own merit. Perhaps because he was attempting to appear dignified and aristocratic, Harrison James came across as reserved and cool, and thus more like a heartless seducer. At his entrance in Act 2 he still seemed relatively unchanged, and it wasn’t until he began to see Giselle’s apparitions that he became more animated. James plays Albrecht as a weak and feckless character, which is his right, but I think he ought to reconsider this approach, at least somewhat. The audience needs to have some reason to root for him in the second act and to understand why Giselle would fight so hard to save him. (Being good-looking isn’t a sufficient reason.) His dancing was generally clean and controlled, although he struggled visibly with his variation at his second performance. He will never have long arms and legs, but he could work to improve his épaulement. At the moment the alignment of his torso is relentlessly square.

Francesco Gabriele Frola is not aristocratic in build, bearing or, for the moment, technique. He looked mostly daunted by his dramatic assignment, and he still has a serious problem with dangling and unstretched feet in his solo dancing. He is capable of stretching them, but for some reason he doesn’t always, and this is a very bad habit of which he needs to be cured. Naoya Ebe was the only Albrecht who looked like a ballet prince, and he was also the only one who looked besotted and had an inkling of Romantic poetry, although not nearly enough. (But I have faulted 95% of the Albrechts I’ve seen on stage or on film for being insufficiently poetic.) However, James was the only one who behaved like a gentlemen toward his ballerina during side-by-side jumping, particularly where Rodriguez was concerned, as her elevation is now very modest. James understood that he would have other opportunities to show off his elevation. Frola and Ebe seemed determined to paper over the shortcomings of their performances by jumping as high as possible at every possible occasion, and for the most part the audience fell for it. None of the Albrechts attempted the tabletop lifts, opting for the usual press lift with a full turn, although Vanstone assumed something close to a tabletop position.

There seems to have been a problem with the coaching the male dancers received. Laurent Hilaire was present for the part of the rehearsal process, but perhaps his stay was not long enough to yield dividends. The performances so far have been dramatically lopsided, with excellent Giselles, callow Albrechts and fine Hilarions.

Piotr Stanczyk was a powerful Hilarion, his acting and mime always beautiful, musical and natural, and in his final scene the masculine force of his dancing convincingly depicted his desperate struggle against death. Obviously there is a dramaturgical problem when Hilarion is a stronger personality than Albrecht, and there was no way James’ Albrecht could have stared down Stanczyk’s Hilarion. Skylar Campbell, too, was a stronger presence than Frola, while Jonathan Renna belonged to the “mean Hilarion” school; he spends so much time being so angry about Loys, that Giselle never gets to see his good qualities. Renna’s brief solo dancing did not measure up to Stanczyk’s or Campbell’s, but he had the best salto mortale at the end.

Heather Ogden was an unimpeachable Myrtha, excellent in every regard, although I began to wish for something more than the unrelenting hardness of her stare into the hall. By the standards of the company she is a tall dancer, and I was curious to see what would happen if she raised her eyeline a little and opted for a more majestic approach.

As if on cue, at the second performance Hannah Fischer, making her debut, went for a glamorous Myrtha--a creature that exults in the moonlight--and succeeded brilliantly. Her recent experience as Wheeldon’s Hermione stood her in good stead in a more straightforward dramatic role, and I particularly enjoyed the way she sneered over Hilarion when he pleaded for his life, a moment made that much more effective by Fischer being taller than Campbell. On this occasion she did not descend very deep into her penchée, but apart from that she is already a first-class Myrtha. (At the next two performances she was right back in the wili corps.)

Alexandra MacDonald, also making her debut, appeared more nervous. The technical elements are there, but there were bumps in how they were joined together. Among Myrtha’s henchwomen, Chelsy Meiss was the most effective as Zulme, although Emma Hawes also demonstrated admirable control. I am little surprised that the company uses a corps of 18 wilis. I understand it in the case of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet or Alberta Ballet, companies with fewer than 35 dancers. But surely the National Ballet of Canada can manage a corps of 24.

In the first-act peasant pas, only the first quartet was entirely satisfying. The women were experienced and accomplished dancers, but the male parts went primarily to very young corps members who weren’t yet up to the challenge. I thought Jack Bertinshaw was grossly underused as Wilfred, but perhaps injury prevented him and other young soloists from dancing the pas. Only Laurynas Vejalis could be considered successful in his variation. He has rhythmic acuity and an easy upper body during grand allegro, both qualities worth their weight in gold, and if his pelvis is still wiggly during batterie, I suspect that this will stabilize as he gains more strength. Among the women I enjoyed the joy and spirit projected by Jenna Savella, but unfortunately, I never find much to like in Jordana Daumec, who tends to plow through the choreography.

Apart from Bathilde, the mime roles left something to be desired. Brent Parolin looked uncomfortable as the leader of the hunt. Renna looked vaguely comical as the Duke, while Peter Ottmann was not tall enough to pull off the big moustache and enormous hat. Giorgio Galli as Wilfred was too flaccid with his mime. Lorna Geddes ran hot and cold (or rather, tepid and cool) as Berthe, and if Rebekah Rimsay was a little reminiscent of Lady Capulet at the end of Act 1, she was far more effective in her duties of removing Giselle’s hairpins. When Geddes was on the job Giselle’s hair tended to stay stubbornly coiled up through the mad scene. However, Stephanie Hutchinson was excellent as a snooty but not bitchy Bathilde, and Alejandra Perez-Gomez was also very fine.

Conductor David Briskin dropped the baton a couple of times in Act 2. After Hilarion’s death at the first performance, the wilis could not hear the music over the applause, and Briskin’s visual cue was obviously inadequate, because the first batch to jeté toward the wings was completely unsynchronized. (At the next performance, the leader of the first group stared very hard at Briskin to make sure she understood what he was doing.) Briskin also tended to rush into Albrecht’s variation before he’d had a chance to reach his opening position. Obviously Briskin was instructed to keep the performance moving, but he ought to have taken applause levels into greater consideration.

AD Karen Kain watches the performances from the house-right side of the grand ring, and during the first two days she shared her box variously with Reid Anderson, presumably in town to cast Onegin, and Maina Gielgud, which reminded me of how much I enjoyed seeing her production of Giselle performed by the Australian Ballet.

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Thanks so much for this volcanohunter! You are lucky to have seen so many performances!

I go tomorrow; I believe casting is Dronina/James.

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Thank you so much volcanohunter -- I feel like I was there!

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