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Manon: June 11-16, 2007


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ABT's site has replaced Diana Vishneva with Julie Kent for Tuesday. All other casting for the Manon run remains unchanged. The change has (yet) to be posted on the Met ticket site.

[Added 5:30: the Met now has this update as well]

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Julie does (did) a marvelous performance in the role last year. I think it will well be worth seeing. I am dismayed that Diana is not performing tomorrow. I just hope she is OK and this doesn't portend her departure from the ABT.

Seems like a lot of pinch hitters in the ABT line up this season.

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Julie does (did) a marvelous performance in the role last year. I think it will well be worth seeing. I am dismayed that Diana is not performing tomorrow. I just hope she is OK and this doesn't portend her departure from the ABT.

Seems like a lot of pinch hitters in the ABT line up this season.

My wife was at today's dress rehearsal (I couldn't go) and absolutely loved Kent. I saw Diana's Manon last year with Malakhov, but still wanted to see her again. My second choice would have been Ferri/Bolle, but apparently there are no good orchestra seats left for Thursday. On the other hand, there are still great seats availble for Friday night. Choices, choices:)

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ABT is updating their online calendar approx. 24 in advance of cast changes. 24 hours is also the minimum time required by the Met box office to exchange tickets. Since so many ABT dancers seem to be injured/ill this season, it is probably a good idea to check the ABT site for changes if you think you might want to exchange your ticket in event of a cast change. I was lucky enough to remember to do just that at 6pm this evening and ran down to the box office to exchange my ticket for tomorrow night for Friday when I saw Diana wasn't performing. (While Julie Kent's facility for dramatic ballets seems to be improving, she simply isn't in the same league as Diana, IMO) Hopefully, Diana will perform Friday and in her future scheduled performances.

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Here's Willi Burmann prepping Ferri and Bolle in Manon, as reported in the NY Sun:

"You don't have to put me down, I can just slide off and find the floor. Especially with your shoulders, it's like lying on a bed," Ms. Ferri said, half jokingly, after a descent from atop Mr. Bolle's broad shoulders ended with a clunk.

After another segment, in which Mr. Bolle tossed her seemingly two body-lengths above his head, Ms. Ferri commented, "I know you're high already, but I also know you can go even higher."

Ms. Ferri's coach, Wilhelm Burmann, sat discreetly at the side, offering occasional individual directions — "Make sure the attitude piqué is en face," or "Make sure your foot is stretched" — but left the two dancers to work out most of the details on their own.

[my bold type]

Evidently Mr. Bolle is not small... I plan to see them Thursday. Any reports on their performance last night?

On the Vishneva front, her site has also noted today's cancellation, but no other performances have been removed. All Russian information I can find is completely consistent with the "ill" as reported by ABT.

http://www.nysun.com/article/56182

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Last night began bittersweet -- remembering Julio Bocca and Alessandra Ferri with a renewed mourning that we would not see the likes of their Manon or R&J again. But Ferri did a good thing by bringing this "new" young partner to our house. Tall, dark, and handsome with beautiful feet, endless legs, and a pure, classical line -- Roberto Bolle wasn't the dramatic powerhouse we'd hoped for, but he was a lot more than just eye candy. For a Met debut across from one of our most beloved ballerinas whom we only want to remember with Julio, he held his own, handsomely.

What is there left to say about Alessandra? Once again, she lived the role of Manon with abandon and passion. She swept us into her character's moment and left us emotionally exhausted at night's end. She was securely partnered by Bolle, who as previously suggested, indeed has some big shoulders. He's a very good dancer, and I hope to see him in future seasons. It's understandable why Alessandra chose to dance with him, but the pairing just looked a little odd to me - size-wise, age-wise, and drama-wise. I kept thinking how interesting and powerful a Ferri/Stiefel pairing in Manon might have been.

Stiefel was great as Lescaut. Great. And I think that Bolle's best dramatic moments came from his confrontations with Stiefel's Lescaut. Murphy was Lescaut's mistress, and was appropriately saucy.

I love everything about this production. While it certainly centers around the main character of Manon, every character from the harlots to the beggars to the guys playing cards is fully and brilliantly developed. It makes you downright grateful for the genius of MacMillan.

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ABT's site has just replaced Reyes by Ferri for Wednesday matinee.

Wow, she's dancing Manon 3 times in 4 days? Talk about going out with a bang. She was so beautiful on Monday night that it seems criminal for her to retire now. But it sounds like she's made up her mind and it was a privilege and a pleasure to witness her genius once again in this role. And very generous of her to give us Roberto Bolle as a parting gift. He certainly is a beautiful dancer and a great partner for her. I wasn't bothered at all by the age or size difference. In fact I felt as though the size discrepancy allowed her to be really free and daring and completely abandon herself to the moment without a thought to the mechanics of those treacherous lifts. Not that she wouldn't take the same approach with someone closer to her own size - or doesn't all the time - but with Bolle you never wondered for a moment if the partnering was secure - when they whipped into those lifts it looked like they threw caution to the wind and saw only each other. It was a very powerful performance which left us all emotionally drained, and it was rewarded with many curtain calls, at least one after the Met had turned all the house lights up. I don't love this ballet - in fact I don't even like it but I still can't wait for Ferri/Bolle II on Thursday. I thought Bolle's acting was fine here, if he and Ferri were any more demonstrative they would have had to give this a XXX rating - lots of those kisses really didn't look like stage kisses at all. But one of the things I dislike about Manon is how over the top it all is. I expect everyone to chew the scenery in this one, so considering the production I felt the drama and passion level was appropriately high. I would love to see him in something classical and I'm hoping that he'll be back again next year - we need another big, tall danseur noble.

I agree that Stiefel was fabulous as Lescaut - it looked like he was having the best time of his life playing the bad guy, while all the pressure was on the new guy. He and Murphy were just hysterical in the drunk scene, it's really wonderful to watch them dance together.

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ABT's site has just replaced Reyes by Ferri for Wednesday matinee.

Thank you drb! I raced up to the Met to get a ticket and was able to get my favorite seat. They said that the performance was not nearly sold out.

I picked up the latest casting sheet which lists the Von Rothbarts in Swan Lake. Hallberg will dance the role on opening night with Irina and Max. Gomes will dance the role in Nina's and Corella's performance. The other Von Rothbarts are Radetsky, Saveliev and Pastor.

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Manon, 6/12, Kent/Gomes/Radetsky/C. Corella

Well, I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I had a great time tonight! This is the best performance I've seen yet this season, and I saw 2 Bayaderes, 1 Symph Concert/Dream, 1 Othello, and 3(!) SBs. I was very disappointed about Vishneva, and would have swapped in my ticket for Friday if I had heard of the casting change in time. Boy, I'm glad I didn't. Kent doesn't exude the same louche (is that the right word??) quality that Vishneva gave off so convincingly last year. But she pairs beautifully with Gomes, and at this point I'm convinced that everything he touches turns to gold. This is a ballet that really highlights the central couple, and they were great!!! It was one of those nights that made me grateful for ABT in general. Sascha Radetsky often looks too young to be convincing in "bad guy" roles, but he had such authority tonight that for a minute, I was actually convinced he could beat up Marcelo Gomes. And I like this ballet, and this production, very much. I hope that parents aren't taking their children to this, thinking ballet is just a sweet divertissement (I wouldn't want to have to explain Act III, Scene 2 to a child), but as an adult I find this one of the more intelligent ballets ABT has, and there's a lot more dancing than R&J. I loved all the dancing girls with high kicks in staccato time, and I only wished, as I so often do, that there was more for the wonderful corps guys to do. Go ABT!

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I was extremely disappointed not to see Vishneva last night and am crossing my fingers that she'll be well by next week's R&J.

That being said, I wasn't moved by Julie Kent's Manon at all. She's a good dancer, but no actress. I preferred Marcelo Gomes who has elegant technique and kept my attention.

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I especially enjoyed Olga Dvorovenko's portrayal of Madame last night. You can see where daughter Irina's good looks come from! By the way, has Irina ever danced the lead in Manon? Seems to me she's a natural for it.

Certainly ABT seems to be short of Manons. I don't know why Reyes was replaced this afternoon, but if both she and Vishneva were to miss the weekend, well, just how many more performances can two senior ballerinas be expected to add on? Shouldn't there be a back-up? Has ABT ever had to cancel a performance for lack of a lead dancer?

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I was extremely disappointed not to see Vishneva last night and am crossing my fingers that she'll be well by next week's R&J.

That being said, I wasn't moved by Julie Kent's Manon at all. She's a good dancer, but no actress. I preferred Marcelo Gomes who has elegant technique and kept my attention.

I'm sorry but I almost left after Act II. Kent is definitely not my cup of iced tchai. I'm rarely completely satisfied with Vishneva's performances lately, but for me, she's in a totally different league. Kent was falling apart in all major scenes and not even Gomes could keep her together.

If D.V.'s illness is serious and she cancels the rest of the season, it will be a major catastrophe.

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Waelsung

Do you mind elaborating on your take on Kent's performance. How was she falling apart?

MakarovaFan

How do YOU judge good or bad acting? In a story like Mannon, much of the "acting" would be found in facial expressions as well as "gesture" which I would assume are part of the choreography and would not vary significantly from one lead to another in the same production. Again, can you provide something more tangible as to what constitutes poor acting... or good acting for that matter? Referring to a performance from 15 years ago is of no help in my understanding what I saw last night.

I suspect that many view each performance through some sort of filter. The dancers they like appear to act well and the ones they don't fall short. We try to force the dancer into our own sterotype or prejudice. Shame that is.

I thought Kent's acting was fine. How believable do you expect these role portrayals to be? I am continually struck by people projecting so much onto story and romantic ballet. All ballet is fantasy. It doesn't fool me. But I can still enjoy it! People do not live their lives moving as do dancers in a stroy ballet. People don't move in choreographed symmetry or dress in "silly costumes"... lunge through the air and get lifted up by a lover... or tumble to the floor. Come on... acting?

If one has not read the notes and is familair with the libretto, most of these "stories" look like "cartoons" to the non cognoscenti. How can you take them seriously and make comments like so and so was not acting well or falling apart? If you are referring to technical flaws that is another story. Julie Kent seemed to perform a technically competant at the very least. or perhaps I missed something?

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How do YOU judge good or bad acting? In a story like Mannon, much of the "acting" would be found in facial expressions as well as "gesture" which I would assume are part of the choreography and would not vary significantly from one lead to another in the same production.
Most members of the audience, SanderO, are not close enough to see in dancers' faces much beyond a smileor a grimace without the aid of opera glasses. You keep the glasses to your eyes the whole time, you miss 65% of what's going on on stage. So as someone who is not tuned into the faces, and keeping in mind that dancers spend 8-10 years making their bodies expressive instruments, I see "acting" in posture, head position, shoulder position, hands and timing both in relation to and independent of the music. These are also the elements which, to me, characterize any particular dancer. Choreography is a pattern, but expressivity comes through the emphasis a dancer places on any of a half dozen details contained in any particular movement.

I go to ballet, however, to see dancing, not acting, but even when I'm watching a non-narrative ballet, I expect to see something of what that piece means to the dancer.

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Fair enough Carbro... I plead guity to watching much of the ballet thru opera classes. And this does allow me to see lots of detail and facial expressions.

Accordinging I found Julie Kent was fabulous and when I passed the glasses to my wife to have a look see, I realized that without the glasses it was, as you say mostly body and form and so forth and seeing her expressions was virtually impossible and we sat in the second row in the Grand Tier.

The choreography of many dances cannot be seen with glasses and from abovewithout them it can and often is glorious.. the choreography is like a kaliedoscope of motion. I saw the Manon rehearsal and the Tuesday performance, rehearsal from the orchestra and performance from the GT and they REALLY looked like two different ballets. I spent a lot of time behind the spy glasses because I like to look at detail. From that intimate POV the acting was great. I would have missed many of the facial expressions of Sacha for example.. and he was excellent and the audience agreed and most did not need glasses to see that.

However, one can see dancing quite wonderfully with glasses, but hardly more than a few people at a time so the big picture is lost. When more than a couple or 3 are dancing glasses make no sense at all, such as when the corps is at it... unless you want to focus on one corps member... or soloist not performing standing on the side, which I do from time to time.

How expressive must a body/movement be to be "read" from a few hundred feet away in dim lighting? When does the distance mask the subtlety? I must admit I love the way the glasses let me look closely at the dancers... perhaps as if I am 10 feet away. Is that unnatural? I don't know. But it feels like I see so much more that way... and I see plenty of what I would term acting. But I see it in the movement, posture, and so forth as well. Symphonie Concertante is a non opera glass ballet for me.

One thing which occured to me about Mannon... when the male characters like Lescat, for example, seemed "excited" about something, some idea perhaps... he would go whirling and spinning across the stage... like bursting energy of thought or unspoken speech. Obviously some movement and gesture is more literal and easily read... but others.. like spinning is more abstract and I suspect that it is meant to mean something... at times ... more than just a display of virtuosity. But my guess is just that a guess. Perhaps not every step and movement is not meant to have meaning. I like to think it is... and that is part of the brilliance and mystery. Story ballet seems to marry abstraction and the literal in a magical and magnetic way.

Manon is a wonderful ballet at the ABT, music, sets, costumes (too much taking off of coats though), choreography and acting. I'll be there for a Ferri performace tomorrow making it my first experience of the same ballet with different leads in such a short time frame.

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I'll never be able to adequately describe what I saw at the Met today; so I hope there will be someone else in BT Land who also attended the Manon matinee with Ferri and Corella and can help. They danced for themselves this afternoon - one last time. Never in all the years of watching Corella have I ever seen such a range of raw emotion and depth of passion as today. He gave Ferri the dramatic performance of his lifetime. She knew it, and she responded with an intensity almost unimaginable. It was indeed wonderful.

Stiefel and Abrera as Lescaut and his mistress were perfect. Arron Scott as the Beggar Chief, Isaac Stappas as the jailer, Roman Zhurbin as Monsieur GM, Martine Van Hamel as the Madame, and Clint Luckett as the Old Man all turned in first rate performances.

I love this ballet so much, and I hope that Ferri will stick around to pass on some of her artistic wisdom to those with the challenge of following in her footsteps in this role.

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How do YOU judge good or bad acting? In a story like Mannon, much of the "acting" would be found in facial expressions as well as "gesture" which I would assume are part of the choreography and would not vary significantly from one lead to another in the same production.

I must say I disagree - the technical and dramatic abilities of various ballerinas can be quite different, which is why it is so interesting to see different principals perform the same role. No two ballerinas dance a role the same way just like no two actors perform the same role identically (a recent example would be the Liev Schrieber vs. Eric Bogossian in Broadway's "Talk Radio").

In terms of judging "acting", watch some silent movies or even people talking on the street (don't listen, though) and you can see how different gestures and facial expressions express things in addition to words (i.e., when people talk about "reading body language"). An exaggerated turned out hip and cocked head convey coquettishness/flirting, hands thrown up can convey despair or impatience, while a lingering touch of one partner's hand to the other's convey love. Also very important is eye contact; when Alessandra Ferri looks deeply into her partner's eyes she conveys great feeling. This kind of electric connection is totally different from simply looking somewhere in the vicinity of your partner's face/body. All these seemingly small movements are often subtly altered by different performers and help us distinguish one performer from another. And exaggerated movement or facial expression in the wrong place or at the wrong time can make an actor/dancer seem inauthentic.

There is also projection and stage presence. Some dancers can project so strongly (i.e., Nureyev, Julio Bocca) that they can be motionless on stage and yet be utterly compelling.

As for Julie Kent, having seen the excerpt of Manon she danced at this year's gala (as well as her Cinderella last year), I believe her dramatic skills have vastly improved lately. However, for most of her career, I considered her a "cold" dancer (a bit like early Susan Jaffe); good technically but without much projection or ability to deeply relate to her partner. I think some of this comes from a dancer's own personality and maturity. Certainly, Kent's Manon is different from Ferri's, (who, in turn, is different from Vishneva or Darcy Bussell). While one's personal preference for one performer over another is subjective, to say that they are all essentially the same is IMO simplistic.

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Ferri's dramatic readings are actually enhanced by the fact that she wears so very little theatrical makeup. One can actually see her eyes change shape with expression. At today's performance, it looked like eyebrow pencil and a dab of plum lipstick were the extent of her makeup. Compare that to Julie Kent's or Gillian Murphy's routine, which may be typical ballet stage makeup, but it makes it hard to observe any natural expressiveness. Sure, the eyebrows might go up and down, but the eyes themselves look stiff and soul-less - very unnatural. So, they both may be acting up a storm, but it never gets through the makeup.

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Anyone interested in learning more about how dancer's "inhabit" their roles should try to purchase Frederick Wiseman's documentary "Ballet" - a 3 hour film about ABT that was filmed around 1992. The first half of the film centers around rehearsals and coaching sessions while the second half has excerpts from ABT performances in Greece and Copehnhagen, including Ferri and Bocca doing both the balcony and bedroom scenes from R&J. Some highlights of the film include Irina Kolpakova coaching Susan Jaffe in La Bayadere and Agnes DeMille coaching Amanda McKerrow in "Leaves are Fading". Kolpakova, for instance, tries to get Susan to articulate what she is thinking about in Act I when Nikiya first sees Solar (Susan unfortunately says "nothing") and tries to get her to emote without getting "too hysteric". The technique seems to be getting the dancer imagine they either are the character or are in a position similar to the character (secretly meeting with one's illicit lover). It involves bringing something of yourself to the role and not simply copying movement. In any case, for dance lovers (and ABT fans), this is a film not to be missed.

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