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Hamburg Ballet in California

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Hamburg Ballet at Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Thurs. "The Lady of the Camellias"

Heather Jurgensen as Marguerite

Alexander Riabko as Armand

Silvia Azzoni as Manon

For the most part I loved this ballet. I had 2 problems. One was my seat location. I was the person farthest away from the stage in the entire theater. Don't ask. As such I had to use opera glasses through the entire ballet. There is a lot going on on stage, and by using my glasses I could concentrate only on one couple, thus missing the corps (usually dignified couples) doing some beautiful dancing, and visa versa. Dang! There are 3 big pdd's for Marguerite and Armand and they are lovely. However they are filled with Herculean lifts and I was a nervous wreck, fearing that Riabko, who is a rather small man, would drop Jurgensen. At one point I thought he had lost his balance and, as is my wont, I let out an audible gasp. Either he recovered or it was part of the choreography; they landed on the floor and it seemed to be where they belonged. There was also the dreaded debris on stage and it was supposed to be there: a letter. Darn if Riabko didn't land a leap smack dab on it, on one leg yet; how he managed to avert disaster is beyond me.

This was Riabko's ballet. Not only was he wonderful, but the story seems to be more about Armand than Marguerite. I was extremely impressed with his dancing; wonderful turns and jumps, such control, and a devoted partner ... a joy to watch. My other problem was that he looks like a doofus character in some sit com or yore and I couldn't get that image out of my mind; ergo I couldn't see him as a lover. My problem, not his. Jurgensen has gorgeous feet, as did most of the women, and is a lovely dancer; I thought her characterization of Marguerite could have been better.

The ballet "Manon" (not MacMillan's) runs through the ballet (a ballet within a ballet), paralleling Marguerite's life and death with Manon's. More lush dancing, especially Manon's death scene.

Because of all the lifts I would not want to see this ballet again, but I would LOVE to have a DVD of it where I know that any dropped lifts would be edited. There are some wonderful bits of choreography amidst the more grandiose segments: little movements in the pdd's, the corps' dancing. Great stuff; great evening.


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Giannina, which night did you attend? Perhaps Riabko was dealing with exhaustion, as he had partnered Joëlle Boulogne in the ballet on Tuesday. I don't think he has all that much experience partnering Heather Jurgensen. This may well have been the first time they danced the roles together. He usually dances with Boulogne or his wife, Silvia Azzoni. Jurgensen used to dance this ballet, and many others, with Jiří Bubeníček, but he moved to the company in Dresden this season.

There have been rumours that the Paris Opera Ballet's production of the ballet will be filmed next year.

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Thanks, Giannina. I envy your chance to see this, even from bad seats. That question of what to look at with the opera glasses is frustrating and probably insoluble. At Symphony in 3 Movements last night I had the feeling that I was always looking at the wrong part of the stage. You, on the other hand, seem to have been on target quite a lot.

I have strong visual memories of Marcia Haydee in this role and have to admit that I saw it (at that time) as very much the ballerina's ballet. I can't even remember the Armand.

There is a video tape out there with Marcia Haydee and the Hamburg ballet.
I checked this on Amazon. It's $121 there!!!
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I can't even remember the Armand.

As I recall, the lighting in that film is quite dark, so the fact that Ivan Liška spends the entire ballet dressed in black probably doesn't help his cause. There are scenes in the second act that definitely aim for a black-and-while effect. I do remember the contrast between Haydée's white dress and black hair and Liška's blond hair and black clothes.

That black-and-white effect is reinforced in photos on the Hamburg Ballet web site:

Dancers in costume

Scenes from performance

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"Death in Venice"

Sat., Feb. 16th, 2007

OK, another one of my problems. I like to be surprised. When I see a ballet, or when I travel, I like to be surprised/amazed by what I see. Therefore I don't like to read too much about what I'm seeing before I see it so as not to spoil the surprise. I beginning to realized this is a BIG mistake.

"Death in Venice". Actually, I didn't realize there was that much to read about this ballet, and even knowing what was available it's most likely I wouldn't have read it. Would it have made a difference in what I thought of the ballet? Hard to tell.

"Death in Venice" is not my type of ballet. As "theater" it's probably quite good (I'd know more if I'd studied up). As a rule when I go to a ballet I want to see dance/ballet, not theater. I want to see beautiful steps performed by beautiful people. Angst is OK as long as you do it balletically beautifully.

This does not mean that "Death in Venice" isn't an important ballet; it just means it's not my cup of tea.

I can't imagine anyone performing the role of Aschenbach better than Lloyd Riggins; it's more acting than ballet. Edvin Revazov as Tadzio was marvelous. It wasn't until after I'd read up on the ballet that I realized this 6-foot-20-year-old was supposed to be a sweet 14 year old! And I don't think that bit of info would have helped the ballet since Revazov was such a wonder.

Husband and wife team Silvia Azzoni and Alexandre Riabko (he MY hero in ""The Lady of the Camellias") were gorgeous.

I'm almost tempted to see it again, knowing what I know now. Almost, but not quite.


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I saw Death in Venice twice: once on Saturday night and again on Sunday. I thought it was much more comprehensible and enjoyable, after a fashion, on Sunday. There are so many things coming at you from the stage that it's hard to take it all in. The second time, everything seems to fit better, and the choreography seemed less like busywork to fill in time. I agree that the ballet was superbly cast, and the dancers are beautiful and technically accomplished. Helene Bouchet, dancing La Barbarina, had amazing feet and legs that went on forever. Dramatic acting was also an integral part of their performance, as opposed to something put on over the dancing. The pianist (Elizabeth Cooper) was really excellent, and even fit in well dramatically. On-stage musicians are usually a bit stiff and awkward in contrast to the dancers.

Even on second viewing, I still didn't like the Jethro Tull KISS-faced guitar players as that seemed too arbitrary, even for an Expressionistic choreographer like Neumeier. All in all, I thought it was a pretty creepy ballet with death pervading every moment, and winning in the end with no hope of transfiguration, in spite of the music, the Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan & Isolde.


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