Everything posted by Ambonnay
I attended today's matinee with Hee Seo (debut in role)/Hallberg in the lead roles. Effie: Gemma Bond Gurn: Daniil Simkin Madge: Victor Barbee This Madge was, to me at least, not as good as the Raffa version. First, Barbee's posture was not stooped low, with a crumpled back like a hobbled old woman's might be. He seemed more malevolent, less mischevious, than Raffa's version. Barbee's "fortunetelling" scene involved more obvious/pronounced gestures than Raffa's, although both were articulate. I found Barbee's longer face and, what to me seemed like bigger circular skin-colored protruding moles from his large "mask" nose, less expressive than Rafee's version. Barbee is more physically imposing. Another difference is that he is more involved in physically drawing Gurn to Effie. Simkins seems more reluctant physically than Lopez was. Finally, Barbee wagged his finger a lot more, including at the end after James has collapsed and Act 2 comes to a closure. Despite being not as good as Raffa, Barbee was still good. I liked Simkin's Gurn a lot. He seemed more intelligent than Lopez's version, and younger, consistent with Simkin's actual age. Dancing behind Hallberg, though, in the Scottish wedding dance made Simkin look shorter and Simkin's lines less elegant, relative to those of Hallberg. Simkin several times looked at Effie and used the "crossing heart" motion to signal his liking her during Act 1. In contrast to Lopez, Simkin hesitates more, and seems more ambivalent about asking Madge to read his fortune. After Madge links his future with Effie's, Simkin seems more genuinely happy than Lopez. I think Simkin's acting is quite good in a ballet context. As usual, Simkin displayed good jumps and technZique. Nina A's Slyphide from earlier this week was more "cute" and endearing. She seemed more playful. Seo's Slyphide was quieter (in the sense of more reserved) and more elegant in general demeanor, but arguably slightly more flirty and intent on enticing James. Somehow, although I wouldn't necessarily know from not having watched ballet enough, I wasn't that impressed by Seo's performance. In particular, after her wings fall off because James wrapped the scarf around her, there is a minute or two where she is seated on the ground with her legs in front of her, in a hurt position. When Hee did this, she lowered her head so low into her dress that one could not see her face at all. That left a large missed opportunity. Nina's version had a part of her face and pain more visible. A couple of things I noted relating to Hallberg: -- In the Act 1 Scottish dance, Hallberg places each hand on the elbow of the other hand while elevating his hands and lower arm to elbow level. The way he rests each hand on the other hand's elbow is particularly graceful. -- In today's matinee, Hallberg picks up one of the sylphide's broken wings in a wistful manner before running into a corner closest to the audience, as he realizes what he has done. I don't think he did that Thursday. Interestingly, Madge then also picks up one of the wings of the sylphide. -- Hee Seo didn't give Hallberg a rose on stage. I appreciate that giving the danseur a rose is technically in the ballerina's sole discretion. But I would have thought, unless there is a special rule about ballerinas keeping their bouquet in their first time in a role, that it would have been nice for her to have given one to Hallberg. There is an arts and craft fair adjacent to the Metropolitan Opera right now. A little truck with gelato and sorbetto offerings can be found among the jewelry, handbag and other craft stores. I had a pear sorbetto cup. Refreshing!
... I saw Jared Matthews as Gurn Wed Eve and he was very 'danseur noble' most of the time, but did go over-the-top with the lunatic bit--it was very Alain. It also robbed the ballet of its pathos and made it a little hard to take it seriously after that.... Thanks for the welcome I just looked up what it says in "101 Stories of the Great Ballets" (G Ballanchine and F Mason) about the Gurn role, and here are the first few descriptions: -- "Gurn, another young peasant, rests in a corner against the fireplace. In his deep sleep, Gurn is not disturbed by the realization of his friend's dream; he himself dreams of Effie, Jame's bride-to-be, and the love he will lose this day." In the ABT production, there is a man resting his head on a table in the background where James is in the foreground in the chair, but I think Gurn enters through the door later and the "other" man sleeping might not have been Gurn. I'm going to check this later. Also, the ABT synopsis says that Gurn is James' counsin instead of friend. -- After the Sylphide disappears in the fireplace, James "shakes his friend awake rudely. Did he see the beautiful vision? How long have we slept? Gurn is a little embarassed at his own dream and is about to tell James yes, he saw the beautiful girl, but he sees that his friend is not talking about Effie, the bride, but about someone quite different. He wonders at his friend." I'm not sure this happened in the ABT production. The Ballanchine description seems to have James more voluntarily disclosing to Gurn the sylphide than the ABT production portrays, but I'm not sure about this. -- When Effie arrives, "Gurn greets the bride first.... Gurn can hardly control himself, he is so moved by her loveliness, meekly he presents her with a rare bird he killed yesterday while hunting. Effie accepts the gift...." Did this happen in the ABT production? It seems like there is flexibility as to what to include in a production. C Lopez's depiction of Gurn was not at all "danseur noble", although it that might have been particularly difficult to pursue that type of characterization beside Hallberg. C Lopez was decent in the Gurn role. He came across as a person who thought about life more simply and practically than James, but that is in part due to Hallberg's portrayl of James and the refined aura to Hallberg's dancing (e.g., the elegant and princely, instead of peasantly, way that Hallberg, not unexpectedly, danced the group dance during the part of the wedding before he leaves in pursuit of the slyphide). A minor note (I know I shouldn't think about such things) that Carlos' hair, with the little rounded peak above his forehead, was a bit distracting and made his Gurn look slightly less serious than I would have liked. That Carlos' hair was covered by the pirate scarf tied around his head was why Carlos' costuming for Birbanto in Le Corsaire served him better (May 26: Hallberg as Conrad, Corella as Ali, P Herrera as Medora, Y Kajiya as Gulnare). His hair was hidden. Anyhow, C Lopez on both Tuesday and Thursday mimicked the la Sylphide in two intentionally funny instances during Act 1. The first was when Gurn recounts to Effie and James' mother how there had been a sylphide, and the second is after James disappears during the wedding scene. In both instances, C Lopez uses his whole body to portray this. He flails his arms in sequence forward, almost like the arm movement in the freestyle position in swimming, but each arm is more arched in shape in a round way as he does this. He takes delibrately clown-like steps forward. These movements are exaggerated, and intended to be funny. I thought Carlos did them well. The Ballanchine stories summary does not say that Gurn tries to tell Effie and James' mother about the sylphide before Madge enters the picture.
I saw the Tuesday and Thursday performances, both with Nina A/David Hallberg and with Nancy Raffa as Madge. As previously noted by another poster, Raffa was very effective. I liked the way she hobbled around, using her knobbly walking stick quite effectively. Her interactions with Hallberg and Carlos Lopez (Gurn both nights) were good. In addition, her sense of triumph at the end, when Hallberg had collapsed, was well-portrayed. At least on Thursday, she sort of pulled Hallberg's hair a little bit (before he collapsed to the ground) towards the end of Act 2 (after he had seen the sylphide carried off). I'm a newbie when it comes to watching ballet, so I don't know whether that's customary, but it was effective. Nina A gave Madge a rose at the end of the Thursday performance, after Nina gave one to Hallberg. I know that's relatively unusual, but how unusual is it? Hallberg danced beautifully on both occasions, but I thought he was slightly better Thursday night. I am going to see Seo/Hallberg during the matinee tomorrow, and will report. Sorry if I don't know a lot about ballet, but I'm trying to learn. PS: The Grand Tier restaurant now has a $39/person three-course prix fixe, with two selections per course, prior to ABT performances. The same prix fixe is $49 with a glass of wine included (only one red and one white among the choices). The Patina Restaurant group website has indicative menus. I noticed that Grand Tier has d'Yquem by the glass at $39 -- now that's dessert. The current vintage being poured (small, but not inappropriately, given the price of d'Yquem) is 2002. The Arpeggio restaurant in Avery Fischer has a 50%-off-the-second-main-course offer in some situations. I noticed a new drink special available this season -- the blood orange mimosa. It seems to be from a pre-mixed bottle from a manufacturer, and I am not sure the ingredient sparkling wine is champagne. But it is at least different from the typical offerings. PPS: Does anybody know if Maxim B has recovered from his injury enough to dance on Monday? If not, I wonder who would replace him? I hope Hallberg, but Hallberg already has two Swan Lake performances (both with Wiles_.