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Swan Lake: July 1-9

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My wife and I saw Friday night's performance of Swan Lake with Gillian Murphy (Odette-Odile), Joe Carreno (Siegfried) Marcelo Gomes (Third Act von Rothbart) and Herman Cornejo (Benno). I was somewhat suprised to see a review of the performance by John Rockwell in Saturday's Times. Talk about fast turn around. As I am always suspicious of the motives of critics, I wondered if two-thirds of the review had been written even before the performance. I was wrong. Even more, I generally agreed with the review. See the Links section for the review.

We went specifically to see Gillian Murphy. While she and Carreno danced with well it was somewhat of a flat performance. There was very little chemistry between the two of them. Unlike Rockwell I do think her Odette was done really well. Rockwell is correct that Gomes stood out in the Third Act and the audience recognized it with the amount of applause he received. It was not only his dancing but his mime as well. The point has been made before and I agree that he does evil roles really well. I also agree with Rockwell that Cornejo's dancing was a pleasure to watch.

As for the two swans danced by Part and Corello. See the review but they were totally out of sync. This comes under the category of "stuff happens." I am sure they were both frustrated and embarassed. However, I'm also sure a few years from now they will both laugh and say "Let me tell you about the time ....."

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I too attended the Friday night Lake, but felt that this was one of Gillian Murphy's greatest performances of Odette/Odile. It had the advantage [over the PBS program] of the great chemistry that she has with Carreno in this role. She seems free to vary each performance with him, in much the same way that Natalya Makarova never did the same thing twice. This time she played Odette as a Strong Woman trapped in the Swan's body. Once this Odette sensed the Prince was her road to freedom, she seemed more overtly seductive during the White Swan PDD than we might expect from the more traditional, relatively helpless/hopeless Odette. I doubt Rothbart restricted his Swan Fetish to just one kind of woman. The Strong Woman Odile [those quads during Black Swan!] would, in this interpretation, really remind me of Odette if I were the Prince!

I agree that Marcello Gomes is brilliant as Swamp Thing's better half, and look forward to his Siegfried with the sublime Ms. Part on the 4th and 7th. A special word for Zhong-Jing Fang's Hungarian Princess. Everything this flowing young dancer does attracts notice in these pages, and very rightly so. Why are we, and she, having to wait years to see her in something substantial? At least begin the road to the inevitable Juliet and Giselle!

How fortunate we are to anticipate a decade more of Gillan Murphy's explorations into the depth and variety of Odette/Odile.

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For drb.

Don't get me wrong I think Murphy danced this ballet extremely well. We are big fans of hers. That's why we went out of the way to get tickets for that performance. I'm in no position say it was her greatest performance ever as we only really noticed her last fall at City Center. (Too much time at New York City Ballet and not enough with ABT) We look forward to seeing a lot more of her. That said, I just found something lacking that I saw in Don Q and Le Corsaire earlier in the season. I'm just not sure that Carreno is the best partner for her. For example, I saw Don Q with Paloma Herrera and Angel Corella early in the season. Herrara has a lot of critics but I found the performance really stunning for two reasons. First, I think she is dancing better. Second, the chemistry between her and Corella (they have been dancing together for at least ten years) to be absolutely magnetic. It made the ballet for me. I realize it is a different ballet, but that chemistry I think is important in any ballet.

Let's both agree we all look forward to seeing more of her.

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I don't think I said it was Gillian Murphy's best Swan Lake, 'though I do feel it was one of her best, but rather that I admire her willingness, and generosity, to vary, and ultimately grow, her Odette/Odile. The partnership chemistry with Carreno is Swan Lake specific, perhaps springing from a Saturday matinee performance a few summers ago when a boy in the audience threw a temper tantrum just after the White Swan adagio began. I thought they'd stop the music and restart when the kid was removed (he did leave, kicking and screaming), but they continued. Carreno seemed to focus so intensely on Odette that they continued and built to an incredibly powerful connection. What "should" have been a memorably bad day at the ballet turned into a transcendent one. I grant that event may have imposed a partnership connection in my mind, but I think I'll keep it since I have been rewarded by seeing that pairing in Swan Lake every performance since! Credit that kid with selling some ABT tickets, I suppose.

Certainly no knock on Corella was intended. I was lucky enough to see his initiation into a lead role (Don Q!), brillianly partnered by Paloma, who'd been initiated into Kitri by Bocca the season before. Their electricity would have lit the city during a Con Ed blackout! And still will!

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Saw the Saturday Matinee of Swan Lake with Paloma Herrera and Anjel Corella. Herrera was truly magnificent as both Odette/Odile. She had the tenderness and vulnerability for Odette and the power and magneticism for Odile. In addition to his very fine partnering, Corella leaps and turns were dazzling. At the conclusion of the performance, the audience rewarded both stars with a thunderous standing ovation.

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I went to the 7/1 Murphy/Carreno/Gomes performance. One of the things I love about this site is being able to hear so many different reactions to the same performance. It really gives you a great perspective! I read Rockwell’s review and I’m afraid I have to disagree with him, but then I can’t give much credence to a critic who thinks this is a “traditional” version of Swan Lake anyway. This production is so cold that I don’t know if Makarova herself could make me believe in Odette’s plight.

I’m with drb & klingsor on this one when it comes to Murphy & Gomes. I didn’t think the performance was flat at all. Gomes is wonderful as vonR, his portrayal is almost enough to justify McKenzies’s reinterpretation of the role. Murphy was magical. This is the 3rd time I’ve seen her SL live, and the first time that I’ve come away loving it, without any qualifications. I’ve always liked her Odile, I think this type of role comes very naturally to her. Her technique has always been awesome, her line beautiful but when I saw her in 2002 & 2003 the image I took away of her Odette was that she was all arms & legs. She really didn’t express much through her back & shoulders and there was just way too much unnecessary motion. I felt that she hadn’t really found the “center” of the role, her own interpretation, and was just flapping those arms & legs because she didn’t know what else to do. I still prefer a more fragile Odette, the helpless/hopeless type with the kind of pliancy & fluidity that was Makarova's hallmark. Murphy’s Odette is definitely cut from a different cloth - strong & proud...so she may never be my ideal Odette but I think her interpretation has come a very long way and was as emotionally engaging as possible in this production. I thought she integrated her acting & dancing very well and has overcome her tendency to appear distant & reserved, at least in this role. IMO Odette/Odile is the most difficult role in all of ballet and it takes many years for a ballerina to really develop her interpretation. Aside from technique, there are so many levels of the character that have to be thought out and conveyed to the audience in a cohesive manner. Murphy may not be all of the way there yet, but at this point I think she is well on her way to becoming a great interpreter of the role. This is the second time I’ve seen her with Carreno, and I like them together.

Rockwell may have had a point about the music. I usually sit in the side boxes but this time I was down in the orchestra, and the music sounded a little strange. There was also a loud, high pitched noise down there that continued throughout the evening and was very distracting. And the lack of synchronization between Part & Corella as the big swans was really disconcerting. I know it was a last minute substitution & they may never have danced it together before, but still...it looked really bad!

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I'm also with drb on Murphy's Swan Friday. I felt far more of a spiritual connection (or call it chemistry) with Carreno than with Corella. Angel is a fine partner but doesn't suit her as well as Carreno, who is probably not a lot taller but somehow more solid & a supremely excellent partner. Murphy's first Swan was with Gomes, who remains, to my mind, her best partner in the company. She hasn't done it with him in NY since.

The pas de trois was delicious both Friday & Saturday. Almost perfect Friday. Kajiya (after a flawless variation, fell out of her pirouettes a bit in the coda Friday but not Saturday) held her own with the more than perfect Reyes & Cornejo.

MarkD, I don't think Veronika Part has anything at all to feel embarassed about in her Friday Big Swan. She was on the music; Carmen Corella was not. You would think Rockwell, a former music critic, might have noticed this? Carmen got it together Saturday night - at least I think so. When Part is onstage, I tend to watch no one else, but I didn't notice any distractions out of the corner of my eye.

Julie Kent took me by surprise Sat night. She is not one of my favorites, although I do like her in certain roles which do not strain her somewhat fragile technique. I do admire her musicality & lyricism. Her Act II was a bit subdued but perhaps she was saving herself for III, which really does put her to the test. She was an alluring & seductive Odile; managed the fouettes just fine (28, including an opening double, for those who count .. sometimes)> I must admit to not watching either Kent or Bocca much when Acosta was onstage, even doing nothing.

This was a completely evil Rothbart. While Gomes toys with the populace & oozes sex appeal all over the ballroom, Acosta chose a different take. His Rothbart disdains "normal" folks; they're disposables; he wouldn't be there unless he absolutely had to be. The audience, the whole house, was included in his contempt for humankind. This is one dangerous fellow. If you got too close to him, you might be electrocuted! There is also a netherworldly erotic edge to his Rothbart. This is one powerful presence onstage, which was wonderful to see, considering how Acosta was able to subdue his natural chemistry so well as Ali in Act I of Corsaire - literally disappearing into he wallpaper. He would seem to be a very good colleague.

Carreno did a moving & lyrical Soliloquy on Friday & Bocca on Saturday as well. Siegfried in this production is an unfortunately subdued role. They both partnered wonderfully.

Grant de Young did really well as Pastor's replacement in the Neopolitan Sat night. It's not an easy task to take my eyes of Tidwell.

I'd also like to point out Eric Underwood, a promising danseur noble, not only for his elegant line, beautiful jump, perfect landings, but also for his partnering skills. All the other nobles bend forward, elbows away from the body, & seem to give a bit of an "oof" when lifting their ballerinas. Underwood's back is straight, elbows close to the body, & his partner sails, seemingly effortlessly, above him.

Now for binocs time: be sure to watch Fang as one of the Swans & dream of heaven in the future.

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The chemistry thing -- it goes both ways. And while Gillian may, with Jose, have had more than her usual rapport (I did not sense it), he was uncharacteristically unengaged. Well, unengaged is overstating it, but I have the sense that for him, a performance is successful to the degree that he and his partner share a sequence of emotions. Not only his ballerina, but in scenes with his mother or Benno, there is a fluid communication. I had the sense that he wasn't even trying very hard to establish that bond with Gillian.

It also seemed that he was compromised by a bad hip. That may have had something to do with it.

Gillian danced brilliantly. She understands Odette's torment and tries to show us, but she doesn't enter it, and she seems to have little empathy for it. My opinion. Oh, and wasn't her New York O/O debut with Jose? I know that the matinee with the unruly kid who had to be removed (and it was the mother's refusal to leave that brought the security force to eject them both) was Gillian-Jose. I was grateful that she had an expert and experienced partner. Marcelo was not, at that time, an experienced Siegfried.

On another thread I praised Freddie Franklin's Wolfgang on Friday. I enjoyed watching him through the First Act as his concern for his student intensified. He knew that Siegfried was not ready to choose a bride and that it was causing him distress. It's details like that which really bring a performance to life.

Through much of Act III, I kept my binoculars trained on Jose. I missed the colder clime dances, but thoroughly enjoyed the warmer clime dances. Danny Tidwell and Craig Salstein were excellent Neapolitans -- stylish, clean, buoyant -- and David Hallberg showed great panache in the Spanish. (Spanish, panache -- I should have been able to make word play from that, but it doesn't quite work. :dunno:)

I did not see Carmen's Lead Swan on Saturday, but I agree with Zerbinetta that her unmusical performance on Friday almost detracted from Part's lusciousness.

For those who could not be there, John Rockwell failed to give the full impact of Marcelo's finger-drumming moment. Facing the audience, he slowly raised an eyebrow. It was almost as if he was addressing us. Wow, this could have been a big, hammy embarrassment, but when done by a master, it was sheer brilliance.

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Carbro, I'm as positive as I can be that Gillian's debut (which was a matinee - a Wednesday, I think) was with Gomes. There was a poignancy to it which was quite affecting as they were both, I believe, debutant(e)s.

I tend to remember matinees very clearly because I don't handle angst too well before sunset & usually only attend them if there is no other option for that cast or if the singer/dancer/whoever is reaching the end of a career.

nysusan: sorry if I seemed to ignore your post but you must have been posting while I was typing ..& typing .. & typing.

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I'm too biased to give a review of tonight's (4 July) Swan Lake, since Part is my favorite O/O since Makarova. But for starters: The explosion of Terror when Odette first sees Siegfried. Part's second Odette variation was a great improvement over last summer's. She seemed to exude confidence right from beginning as Odile. Tech errors, a few, still, but fewer.

Special kudos to Bystrova/Krauchenka, new to me, in the Spanish. Would like to see them (single or together--they have a pleasing rapport and fit) in something substantial.

Edited by drb
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I went to the performance last night (July 4th) and drb - I see what you mean. I thought Veronika Part was tremendous! I was really looking forward to her performance after having seen her dance one of the Odalisques in "Le Corsaire" and also based on what people have written about her on this board.

There were a couple of off moments in last night's "Swan Lake". One of the ladies in the Act I pas de trois slipped once and then had to put her hand down to keep herself from falling at the end. Another of the ladies in the corps went down just before Act I ended. I felt that the audience really was not "into it" until Act II came and Part came on stage.

Marcelo Gomes was a perfect Prince Sigfried - very regal, majestic, and you could feel the agony and pain that he was going through. His Act II pas de deux with Part was absolutely radiant. In Act III, he and Part had one or two minor technical glitches, but nothing to disrupt the mood that they were creating together.

Veronika Part - :D - where do I begin? Her Odette was lovely - very heartbreaking and vulnerable. I could understand why Prince Sigfried would fall head over heels for her and especially because Veronika Part is so gorgeous. But everything came together perfectly in Act II - her extensions, her musicality, the way she seemed to melt into Gomes' body, her portrayal of a trapped woman, etc.

Now - here is something that I noticed. Her Odile was very flashy and commanding, but she put in a few Odette-like nuances, which makes it better to understand why Sigfried would think it was Odette. Someone commented on this board that if Odette and Odile are played by the ballerina too differently, then how could Sigfried think they could possibly be the same woman. Part managed to make the confusion seem more understandable.

Veronika Part made one or two minor technical errors in Act III, but nothing that ruined her performance. She is a beautiful dancer and I think that she is headed for greatness.

The corps de ballet was on for all the swan parts and the two lead swans were danced beautifully by Kristi Boone and Adrienne Schulte. There was one dancer who really caught my eye during the night - Zhong-Jing Fang. Besides being a stunning looking woman, she carried herself so beautifully on stage. Jesus Pastor as the human Von Rothbart was good, but I saw the part danced better by (ironically!!) Gomes himself on the PBS television show.

But it was a really good night and Tchaikovsky's music is so eternal - no wonder this is such a classic!

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The Swan is back in ABT's Lake! A great triumph tonight by Diana Vishneva. Not at all like the hyper modern Mariinsky/Kirov swans we saw in NYC during their last visit, much more a swan in the style that Makarova brought us 35 years ago. WOW!

Can't wait to read more rational posts.

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Anyone who is waiting for rational will have to wait for someone other than me. Tonight Vishneva gave me back Swan Lake, in fact she almost overcame the limitations of the staging. She danced it for real, completely in the moment and beautifully modulated. Her Odette was frightened, mistrustful, hopelessly trapped & yet at the same time meltingly hopeful. At times her adagio was exquisitely slow but then in the coda when she does those passe's she was so fast & wild & abandoned - like at that very moment she had just finally allowed herself to see the possibility of freedom and was both exhilarated & terrified by it. She has gorgeous long arms & legs but did not go for the neoclassical line and hyper extentions she is capable of (except in act 3, where that belongs!). She was absolutely beautiful in every pose, but the poses were never static. Each beautifully outstretched arm reached it’s zenith & then crumbled in. Her Odile was truly von Rothbarts daughter -gleefully malevolent as if ripping Sigfried’s heart out was the most fun she could imagine. Yet enough mimicking of Odette at the right moment to make his confusion believable. Can’t say enough about her. Saveliev replaced Beloserkovsky and did fine. Cornejo,Kajiya and Reyes did their usual great job in the pas de trois, Sascha Radetsky wasn't bad as the purple von R but Gomes is a tough act to follow. Special mention to Jared Matthews as the swamp thing - he actually brought a lot of authority to the role.

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Thank you nysusan, you said what I saw, so its rational enough for me! I can't stand Swamp Thing, but second your comment on Mr. Matthews making something significant out of it. But as for the production, the tragedy that Vishneva delivered so brilliantly in Act 3 needs all the more the real choreography of Act 4: it killed the momentum she'd created to go right to Frog Pond, with the corps plotsed on their lillipads, save when they hopped aimlessly elsewhere.

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Ceeszi, it was Simone Messmer in the pas de trois Monday night who slid slightly in her variation & then again when she finished. It seemed to my eye to be a matter of not enough resin on her shoes. Other than that, she did extremely well, especially up against that pairing made in heaven of Wiles & hallberg.

The corps girl at the end of Act I is supposed to fall down. The peasants are getting rowdy now that the nobility has left the scene.

Pastor did a credible impression of Gomes as Rothbart but needs to come up with his own interpretation. Radetsky on Tuesday was pallid, did not hold the stage as he needs to. Gomes is the Machiavellian Rothbart & Acosta the Mephistophelean Rothbart but there are other ways to play this role if a dancer has imagination.

I'm seeing Part/Gomes again (oh, joy!) Thursday so will wait to remark on the Mon performance.

Tuesday's Swan pairing of Vishneva & Saveliev was all the more impressive since they had 1) 2-1/2 days rehearsal only!; 2) had never danced together before & 3) Vishneva had never done a Swan at ABT (or at the Kirov either, I was told; can this be true?) & Saveliev has not done the role in 4 years. Not that there weren't occasional hitches but very few of them, under the circumstances. Saveliev is a truly wonderful partner & clearly sacrificed himself for his ballerina.

She was worth it! It would be unfair to compare her Act II to Part's & I won't. they're totally different ballerinas. Vishneva's was very birdlike & sculptural. Her III did remind me of Makarova, especially the glittering Natasha eyes & icily seductive portrayal of Odile.

We also were treated to replacements as Benno & The Girls in the terrific forms of Cornejo, Reyes & Kajiya.

Fang got demoted tonight, from Hungarian Princess to one of the retinue. She was lovely, as always.

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Thanks so much for sharing about Vishneva & Saveliev, zerbinetta. I so wish I could make it to see these but I won't be making it to any more performances this season. I look forward to reading what you have to say about Monday and Thursday.

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Re: "Vishneva had never done a Swan at ABT (or at the Kirov either, I was told; can this be true?)"

Yes, they always told her she was not suited for the part. Her friend Vladimir Malakhov gave her the chance at his Berlin Company. Perhaps this is why her performance is not "corrupted" by the Mariinsky's modern hyper extensions.

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