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Othello May 22-24

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Carbro, where are you? You usually start us off on all the runs of performances!

This is a ballet I've never seen before and of which I know nothing of the production and history. I love classical ballet, and love to revel in the technical wizardry of ABT's dancers. This is definitely not a ballet for that. But I loved it. I find Othello unbearably tragic, and this was hard to sit through for the painful emotions. But I ask you: Is there anything Marcelo Gomes can't do? He is surely the best all-around dancer, male or female, that ABT has -- outstanding in partnering, acting, and dancing.

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Carbro, where are you? You usually start us off on all the runs of performances!
Thanks for getting us off and running, Christine, and glad to hear you enjoyed the performance.

I'd rather avoid opening threads when I don't have a review or comment to add. Readers expect more than a place-holding teaser.

Is there anything Marcelo Gomes can't do?
:dunno: Apparently not. :wink:
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Marcelo is the supreme professional. A true gentleman. I have come to appreciate him more and more over the last 4 years.

I asked him once about his partnering, what are his secrets for presenting and caring for his ballerina so beautifully? His answer: "I truly love it. And, it gives me great pleasure! It shows!!!!! :wink::D Bravo Marcelo!!!! :dunno::bow:

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We saw the Tuesday performance and I have been too busy to comment, but this morning I read Gia Kourlas' review in the New York Times and it pretty much aligns with my feelings about the ballet.

Forget Lar Lubovich's choreography.. what a bore! With such talent in the ABT... and a brilliant Shakespeare tragedy to build a ballet on this production was boring. The high points were Stella Abrerra, Marcelo Gomes and of course Julie Kent. But it was real hard to show their brilliance as dancers with the weak choreography. The corp was excellent as usual as seen in the tarantella. But Sasha was horribly miscast as Iago and looked like a mischievous little boy next to the towering godlike Marcello. How silly they looked when they danced together. Adrienne Schulte gave a very energetic performance as Bianca, but she could smile a bit less. Sometime these plastered smiles on the faces of dancers look so insincere. The ABT stick to top choreographers and more type casting in story ballet roles. I never cared for rolling around the floor as "dance".

The sets and lighting were interesting... that is the projections on the read scrim... at times, but the plexi "furniture" and mirrors didn't make it. The MetOpera pulled off a brilliant contemporary aesthetic with Zauberflot... but this set is no Zauberflot.

I don't see this "ballet" as coming around again for ABT and after Bayadere this was a huge let down. I reminded me of the weakness of the NYCB's Romeo & Juliet after all the hype... disorganized and not balletic is there is such a word. What are these people thinking about when they come up with these sets? That stuff would be laughed out of a design jury presentation at any college design studio.

The performance was not especially well attended and the audience reaction was quite luke warm I thought. Oh well.

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Everything I have heard or read about this ballet suggests to me it is a turkey best avoided. And after throwing out $80 last summer to see Elliott Goldenthal's phony opera "Grendel," I have no interest in hearing any other of his musical effluvia. If "Othello" as a play, then Shakespeare. If "Othello" transformed into another art form, then Verdi.

Btw, darla788, who is your son?

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I'm no more of a fan of Goldenthal than you, klavier, although I did enjoy the Grendel performances, production and libretto. But I didn't mind the Othello score as much. It's still derivative - a little Verdi here, a little Wagner here, hints of Debussy & so on. His career as a film composer is always in evidence: "what do we need here? Oh, yes, Prokofiev did something like that". EG starts out the overture with his take on the Otello tempesta, which I found curious since the storm isn't until Act II. Never fear, we get it again for the Act II overture.

In fact, I hated the "ballet" far less last night with the remarkable Rasta Thomas. I had seen it with Richardson eight years ago and found it unbearable. Now I do love Richardson, but Thomas is a classical dancer and this did make a difference. Carlos Lopez also gave a wonderful, restrained performance. Reyes was lovely & Jared Matthews has gotten stronger. Sarawanee Tanatanit probably has the role of her ABT career as the Tarantella lead. Tarantella? It looked (and sounded) far more Apache (French not American) than Italian. There is also a Commedia dell'arte troupe thrown in lest we not realize what country the cast inhabits.

This Othello is really Dance Theater rather than ballet, as is the norm with Lubovitch. Tons of groping and grovelling and breast beating, an abundance of flailing about on the floor. Some Cranko/MacMillan pulled out of the hat when partnering is required. In other words, all of a piece with the score.

This was my first view of Rasta Thomas & he is a beautiful man and a beautiful dancer. Gorgeous jump, good turns, good partnering, beautiful feet & lovely line. Very musical and very impassioned. He also grovels and wallows about with great conviction.

So I went in with every expectation of hating it at least as much as before and came out hating it a good deal less. But not even Marcelo Gomes can get me back there tonight. Maybe in another eight years.

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I went in expecting to hate it, but I actually liked it a lot. Anyone who goes expecting classical ballet will be disapointed, but then anyone who goes to see anything by Lubovitch expecting classical ballet really needs to re-adjust their expectations. This was a mixture of different dance styles used to tell a story - a tragedy - and I thought it was effective and compelling. Although not on the same level as Graham's Cave of the Heart or Taylor's Last Look, I found myself experiencing it in the same way, horrified by the ugly side of human nature but unable to look away.

I had mixed feelings about the music - at times it seemed very bombastic and overbearing but parts of it were beautiful. The only character who really got much classical dancing was Cassius, and last night Jared Mathhews both danced & acted the role beautifully. He is certainly a young dancer to keep your eye on. Iago had the least classical dancing - his role was made up almost entirely of mime and very brusk, contorted "modern dance" steps resulting in a rather one dimensional and very unsympathetic character. Emelia also was a cipher, guilt ridden but completely under Iago's thumb. Carlos Lopez and Maria Ricetto did what they could with the roles - Ricetto danced wonderfully but they were pretty one dimensional roles. Sarawanee Tanatanit was a real standout in the small role of Bianca, dancing with deep passion and abandon.

I decided to go to this performance because I wanted to see Rasta Thomas, and I'm glad I went. He's not a big man, and his Othello wasn't a brute - he was a very complex character who was anguished and really somewhat sympathetic. The title role employed a mixture of ballet, modern and everything in between, and I though Thomas integrated it all seamlessly. He and Reyes were very good together - she was a very innocent Desdemonda, naive and totally unsuspecting. I know ABT already has more great male dancers than any one company deserves - but I hope they bring Thomas in more often. He's a great dancer in his own right, and he and Reyes really compliment each other.

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Oopps Zerbinetta, we must have been posting at the same time, and I see we had similar reactions to the performance last night.

Gomes alone might not be enough to get me back there tonight, but Gomes and Ferri is another story. I was hoping to dislike at least the first act so I could catch Kowroski's Terpischere and then dash in for act 2 but I liked the first act of Othello very much, and in my book Ferri+Gomes > Kowroski + Martins. There will be other opportunities to see Kowroski in Apollo but I miss Ferri already...

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In fact, I hated the "ballet" far less last night with the remarkable Rasta Thomas...This was my first view of Rasta Thomas & he is a beautiful man and a beautiful dancer. Gorgeous jump, good turns, good partnering, beautiful feet & lovely line. Very musical and very impassioned. He also grovels and wallows about with great conviction.
I decided to go to this performance because I wanted to see Rasta Thomas, and I'm glad I went. He's not a big man, and his Othello wasn't a brute - he was a very complex character who was anguished and really somewhat sympathetic. The title role employed a mixture of ballet, modern and everything in between, and I though Thomas integrated it all seamlessly.

It's great to hear about Thomas's performance.

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Just read the reviews in the Post and Sun. Both Lobenthal and Barnes go on at length comparing Lubovitch's Othello to Shakespeare's. Lubovitch clearly states in the program that he based his plot on three sources, primarily the story by Geraldo Cintio from 1566, the original upon which Shakespeare based Othello and Verdi Otello.

Why don't critics read their program notes?

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He also grovels and wallows about with great conviction.

So did Possokhov. An essential talent for this particular ballet. :)

Why don't critics read their program notes?

Probably the subject comes up because Shakespeare’s play is the best known version and a supreme masterpiece to boot - I don’t see how comparisons can be avoided, although if space permits the critic probably should note that Lubovitch says he wasn’t trying to follow the play. You take that chance when you elect to dramatize such a famous story and in addition follow in the footsteps of two of the great geniuses of Western culture, I guess.

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Strange, no one has weighed in about Ferri's debut (and farewell performance) last night as Desdemona in Lubovitch's "Othello". First of all, it just amazes me that someone who is going to hang up her toe shoes in a matter of weeks would bother to learn a new role that they will only have an opportunity to perform once. However, Ferri performed the role as if it had been part of her repertoire for a long time. Like Sandra Brown, the dancer who created the role at ABT, she is petite and dark with a flexible, lyrical style of dancing. She looked like a Renaissance portrait onstage - Beatrice D'Este by Da Vinci perhaps. Not having seen the ballet in over 8 years, I cannot say if she danced this or that step faithfully or not. She made it all look beautiful and dramatically inspired. She played a woman of great emotional openness and childlike faith who is dealt a terrible blow through no actions of her own. Since the pas de deux's with Othello borrow a lot from the MacMillan "Romeo and Juliet" acrobatic style of lift and she had the partner of any ballerina's dreams, Marcelo Gomes, these segments came off gloriously. With Marcelo's strength behind her she twisted her body around him as if she were moving through the air or the water without any hitches or effort. This was a lovely new addition to her repertoire and it is sad that it will not happen again.

As for Marcelo the Magnificent, he was the best Othello I have seen so far and made the evening as a whole work for me (I saw Desmond Richardson and Keith Roberts but unfortunately missed Possokhov, supposedly the best back then). His presence naturally dominates the stage and his passion erupts uncontrollably from within, as opposed to being applied from the outside. The control and elegance of his movements do not negate the instinctive almost animal qualities that animate them. His solos where he gives in to his jealousy and madness were shattering. This was a really great dance/acting performance.

Sascha Radetsky actually has the more interesting choreography as Iago. He was a more lightweight presence than Gomes and seemed young in the part. This can work given the right direction and interpretation. However he did seem callow in a few places despite working very hard. Then he would be quite chilling and dramatic. I felt that though basically miscast, he really made the part work within his limitations and was surprisingly effective in general. While not a personal triumph, he showed many new and unexpected sides of his talent. On the other hand, I had no reservations about Stella Abrera as Emilia playing wife to her real husband. She particularly shone as an actress in those scenes where Desdemona desperately inquires after the handkerchief and she lies knowing that her husband has stolen it. With very little more than a nod and a veiled glance, she spoke volumes.

With Marcelo and Ferri creating new standards in the male and female leads we also had Herman Cornejo as Cassio. Though Keith Roberts and Angel danced the role well. Radiant in the first scene revels, his virtuosity shone in contemporary choreography that gave him new patterns and challenges. Adrienne Schulte was vibrant leading the tarantella as Bianca.

I think the thing that will keep this ballet from a longer life, is the Goldenthal score. It sounds like background music (with the second hand 1940's expressionism of a film score from 1950's Hollywood) that depends on sound effects rather than rhythmic or melodic elements to make its points. Lubovitch's choreography actually is a very good fusion of modern dance and classical ballet. The presentation of the story is dramatic and effective. But for me the music kills it. The dancing and dramatic intepretations of Gomes and Ferri lifted everything to a higher level.

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The dancing and dramatic intepretations of Gomes and Ferri lifted everything to a higher level.

I agree, Faux Pas. Ferri, in particular, is powerfully dramatic, acting not only with her body and gestures but with her intense facial expressions. Watching from row M in the orchestra, using opera glasses, it struck me how her dramatic presence resembled that of the silent screen actresses, who had to communicate with their faces (especially their eyes). Ferri has effectively married this dramatic technique with her fluid, expressive dancing, which makes her a uniquely affecting performer.

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A great review, FauxPas.

When I saw Othello some ten years ago, I think, I recall that its weak point was the score which lacked melody and which used the saxophone and xylophone to very odd effect. Last night's music was not helped by the ringing of a violinist's cell phone during a pause in scenes. The music drove neither the story nor the choreography. It was just there.

The music was sort of modern, the scenery was sort of modern, the costumes were sort of period-like, the choreography was a mismesh of template Lubovitch for the corps and MacMillanish for the PdDs. The pieces, some interesting, didn't fit together to make a meaningful whole. It reminded me of the Met Opera's effort two seasons ago to update itself by presenting Tobias Picker's "An American Tragedy", again a mismesh of stuff that did not assemble into a meaningful whole. The selling point at that time was the handsome baritone Nathan Gunn; the selling point last night was the beautiful Alessandra Ferri. Most of us would pay just to see her wander down a supermarket aisle selecting fruit and vegetables. She is an astonishing actress of unparalleled depth and intuitive responsiveness to her fellow dancers.

Gomes was in heaven dancing with Ferri. Radetsky was in heaven dancing with his wife. Cornejo, impressively bruised and chained, danced up a storm. No complaints about his partnering of Ferri or Abrera. There was definitely a connection between Ferri and Cornejo -- maybe it was the intangible Bocca effect.

I enjoyed Othello for one reason only: the superb cast that overcame the music's shortcomings to put on one heck of a display of Shakespeare. I can't single anyone out, because the five of them were just terrific. It was a one of a kind performance, literally, and I'm so happy I got to see it.

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Since I didn’t see Othello the first time ABT did it the Wed night performance was my introduction to the ballet. As it turns out, for me the Thursday night performance was all about the cast.

The entire Thursday night cast brought a deep intensity to the performance, but for this die hard Gomes fan the key ingredient was Ferri. Can she possibly be serious about retiring? In another corner of cyberspace, as part of a reflection on the ABT gala someone lamented Ferri’s upcoming retirement. In my attempt at consolation and to put her retirement into perspective I replied by saying something like that even as Fonteyn and Makarova retired, there was always someone new ready to fly out from the wings and capture our imagination, and as much as we’d miss Ferri there would be great artists after her, too. After last night’s Othello that observation seems so trite. Ferri is an extraordinary artist, astonishing both for the beauty of her dancing and for the depth of her artistry. I realize that it’s been a long time since she excelled in tutu ballets, or any display of academic classicism (if she ever did), but what she did best, she still does so well that her impending retirement seems very premature. I don’t begrudge her a life beyond dance, but what a loss for us, her fans. In Othello she looked like she was dancing at the peak of her powers. As much as I loved her with Bocca, after last night I have to think that if she were not retiring we might be witness to the next great phase of her career in partnership with Gomes. What a loss.

I don’t know where to begin in trying to describe her performance. The beauty of her line is a given but she used her body to form shapes that described a very unique and personal vision of Desdemonda. When Gomes lifted her, her limbs were so literate they spoke in their own language, forming exclamation points and question marks. She was not a passive or guileless Desdemonda, she was passionate and womanly enough that once Iago awakened Othello’s jealousy she seemed to understand exactly where it was coming from, and she knew her fate had been sealed. That “willing victim” of the gala here seemed like someone who just loved her husband so passionately and unconditionally that even with a complete understanding of the situation there was simply no option but to play it out to it’s inevitable end.

As amazing as her dancing was, what stood out most to me was how “in the moment” she was from her first appearance on stage to her last stage breath. Whether born of true spontaneity or endless hours of rehearsal you never saw the process, she simply WAS the character, as she always is.

Marcelo was a powerful, volatile Othello and truly deserves accolades for his performance, as do the rest of the cast. It’s just that I'll still have many opportunities to admire them but this performance just jolted me out of my complacency and made me start thinking about how much I’m going to miss Ferri...

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