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ABT - Opening Night Gala May 19, 2008


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Some quick notes on a very interesting evening.

Merry Widow excerpts: Joe Phillips is a real catch. Wow. His first time on the Met stage was as a soloist in the first piece of the Gala Program - can't ask for much more pressure than that. He came out with guts and technique to burn. Paloma looked hungry for the season to start. In a casting change, she is opening Le Corsaire tomorrow night with Gomes. Dvorovenko, who was originally scheduled to open the run, will dance Wed evening with a Corey Stearnes in his debut.

Swan Lake excerpt: Hallberg in the von Rothbart solo looked a bit careful. I suppose it will heat up when he comes face to face with Gomes as Prince.

Splendid Isolation III: Dvorovenko and Beloserkovsky are in the best shapes of their lives. This was a piece by Jessica Lang to Mahler's Adagietto. It started out with Irina standing in the center of a dark stage, back to the audience, in a white dress with a huge train that spun around her and outward, by my estimate, to about a 10 foot radius. Visually stunning. While Max was at his contemporary best all over the stage, Irina slowly twirled herself up tightly into her dress train, and eventually broke free of the dress to do a PdD with Max . Maybe it was the lighting, but I thought her hair was quite a bit more auburn - gorgeous - and she wore pale lipstick instead of the usual ruby red. She was stunning. Whatever one might not have liked about the choreography, it was just impossible not to love how those two were dancing tonight.

Don Quixote PdD: Okay. Murphy got all the spins and turns but my enthusiasm for this performance was dampened by the inarticulate feet. It was nice to Stiefel back, but this was never his greatest role either.

The Dying Swan: I didn't see Vishneva do this at City Center, but opted to see Lopatkina three times. Diana's is very different, more literal, with the agony of death more explicit. Her performance did not touch me the way Lopatkina's did last month.

Judgment of Paris: Well. The old girls still got legs - for sure. Martine van Hamel and Bonnie Mathis (best buds forever and both in their sixties) were a hoot. It was great seeing Bonnie back on stage. Now I have a good memory to replace the one of her singing during ronde de jambe while teaching class in Minnesota - a la Maggie Black, but with less tone. I'm joking here, because she was a splendid teacher - except for the singing. Kathleen Moore was pretty darned good as Juno. McKenzie, of course, just sat at the table getting drunk, for which he got much applause.

Giselle: The best of the night. Corella and Ananiasvili pulled everyone into the fantasy with their magic.

Le Corsaire excerpts: Cornejo did the Lackendem solo and then Carreno and Reyes came out for the PdD. Not enough can be said or written about J.M. sans shirt. His dancing was superb. Reyes had some trouble with some of her turns, but held on to them like a pit bull with pinched ears. Then she came out and did a series of phenomenal fouettes. Just phenomenal.

Onegin PdD: Kent and Gomes were very good, but I was still thinking about J.M. in the previous excerpt.

Etudes: Holy smoke. Corella was on fire. He's looking forward to this one. Radetsky's batterie was very good; his turns not so good. He definitely picked up his game while dancing with Corella. Wiles was beautiful in line and balances; didn't overdo the smiling; had some trouble with a couple of turns, but then when I realized what she had been attempting to do, I thought she's crazy to try to do that. Michele will be sensational in this. She seems to have been in the midst of an artistic growing spurt this past year.

The absolute thrill of the night, the moment that brought me to tears, was exiting down the stairs and who should I see walking up from orchestra - the most beautiful, the most elegant, the most radiant Natalia Makarova with her dashing husband. Oh my.

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Cornejo did the Lackendem solo
Well, that's what the program insert said, but in truth it was Conrad's solo. Who cares? It was pretty dang spectacular -- a challenge laid down to Carreno, which was gamely met. Carreno's pushing 40? His body sure doesn't seem to know that, so no one tell him.

It was great to welcome back two dancers after long absences -- Nina Ananiashvili (whose entrechat sequence in Giselle Act II was hummingbird-light) and Ethan Stiefel, who never looked more fit. His looks have finally caught up with his age, and he no longer looks like a boy. Maybe it's mainly the haircut, but I like the difference.

I much preferred Vishneva's Dying Swan tonight to the one I saw her do at City Center with the Kirov. It was more focused, more organic and less mannered.

I'm glad you enjoyed this more than I did, Haglund's. Despite some fine dancing from truly amazing dancers, the evening as a whole fell flat for me.

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The absolute thrill of the night, the moment that brought me to tears, was exiting down the stairs and who should I see walking up from orchestra - the most beautiful, the most elegant, the most radiant Natalia Makarova with her dashing husband. Oh my.

Guess I was too slow coming down the stairs, missed the high point of the Gala.... Rats!

Working with proportions, assuming Irina is about 5.5 feet tall, the diameter of the circle formed by the dress was about 18 feet. A true coupe de theatre. Poor Max just had his underpants. Splendid Isolation III to the Adagietto from Mahler's 5th really gave the orchestra and Charles Barker a chance to shine (the Don Q music that followed was almost an embarrassment, comparatively). Jessica Lang had some clever choreographic tricks with the dress. At first, as Ms. Dvorovenko turned in it she seemed trapped in place by it, as the circle closed in around her. But it was cut so that her feet had a way out. Lang also used the gown to further the plot: Mr. Beloserkovsky used it as a wrap, and a place to lie in, and once his wife shed it completely they became free to be a true couple. Wasn't this movement composed as a love gift to the composer's wife Alma?

I also missed Diana Vishneva's Mariinsky Dying Swan. Very different from Lopatkina's traditional, exceptionally lyric portrayal, with its deeply sad and humble death. Diana's swan rebelled, full of passion for life, wings flailing defiantly, she yearned still to fly. Her death was wracked with pain, shown with expressive head movements. Even as she could no longer prevent her collapse toward the floor, her arms, even her body, her dancing, seemed focussed upward to her sky. A bird, even to the death. A sense of pain's release. A dead bird lies upon the stage. Above, a secret swan soars.

It has been a while since we've seen John Cranko's Onegin. A half dozen years ago ABT presented some terrific casts, and tonight's put together stars from two of those. Julie Kent was Tatiana (then, with her great partner Robert Hill) and Marcelo Gomes her Onegin (then, making his debut with Alessandra Ferri). A couple of weeks ago they danced together on the Bolshoi's stage, in celebration of his winning the Benois de la danse; she'd won it a few years back. While Cranko's choreography may not match MacMillan's for passion, there is the greater power of Pushkin's novel that comes through. Many years after the sophisticated snob, or perhaps just a brooding nihilistic intellectual, had rejected the innocent and open love from this young girl, he'd returned to see her. But she'd married a prince, and with time had found true love with him, and despite Onegin's passion, she dismissed him. And the curtain closed as the young girl's grief poured from Ms. Kent's soul.

Nina and Angel gave great hope for this July's Giselle, in their 10 minute excerpt from the ballet's second act. She has somehow distilled Giselle into something so simple, yet primal. Her face, the serenity of an angel.

It was announced that ABT's effort to raise a $30,000,000 endowment had surpassed "$29,000,000 and still counting." Bravo!

The casting handout in the lobby, as of 19 May, gave details on the mixed bill. Tharp's casting will be Cornejo, Stiefel, Herrera, Saveliev, Murphy, Hallberg on June 3, 4 (eve), 6, 7 (eve); Radetsky, Gomes, Vishneva, Carreno, Boone, Stearns on 4 (mat), 5, 7 (mat). For Etudes, Reyes, Radetsky, Corella on 3; Dvorovenko, Beloserkovsky, Matthews on 4 (mat), 5, 7 (mat); Wiles, Stearns, Corella on 4 (eve), 6; Reyes, Radetsky, Ilyin on 7 (eve).

Myrthas are given for Giselles: Murphy July 7, 10; Wiles 8, 12 (eve); TBA 9 (mat); Part 9 (eve), 11; Abrera 12 (mat).

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It was a great evening, I spotted Al Roker, Kelly Rippa, and The Donald coming in. Like going to the Oscars. Fasionistas and even some men were truly decked out. During Intermission Fordham (alma mater) students were marching from the FU LC campus to Avery Fischer hall.

Someone went and stole the fountain in the plaza, there was no evidence it had ever been there. I wonder what happened to everyone who said "I'll meet you at the fountain" I actually loaned my cell phone to a lady who could not find her daughter.

Loved DonQ, Corsaire, Giselle, and Etudes. The opening scene of Splendid made the crowd in the balcony gasp. I doubt the folks in the orchestra got the full effect. Would make a great poster.

Critiques: A off pitch trombone in Corsaire. The orchestra should record Corsaire this summer/autumn, there are no good versions out there.

Dancers cheating in Etudes, I expect them all to dance in the light, not in the dark, the company men spoiled the whole effect. First male slave solo of corsaire was slow, but made up for it 3 minutes later.

Costumes: One of the men wore dark charcoal gray M.stevens tights, (donQ?) the shiny-ness and color made his legs disapear. All I saw was the shiny-ness. A lighter color of gray would have been better, or a lighter floor. After last year's Technicolor sleeping beauty, the costumes were more subdued, or borrowed :P .

Lighting: Very Very good, Dying swan was a little too dark from the balcony.

Compared to last year, less daring but no discernible train wrecks. I would have liked to see a musician the likes of Lang-Lang (he brought the house down last year). Kudos to the AD, looks like it will be a great season.

Speaking of the AD, it was fun to see him on stage.

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Lighting: Very Very good, Dying swan was a little too dark from the balcony.

Definitely agree here. Compared to last and past year's awful utility lighting, this year's was great. Also, they were able to drop down a bit of scenery on to the stage for a couple of pieces. The lighting definitely enhanced the gala evening.

Yes, I saw The Donald and wife #??, too. I tried so hard to take a picture of him with my cell phone from the side boxes, but when I zoomed in and clicked, all I got was a blurry blob of his hair.

The brass section of the orchestra had some real problems. These are usually ironed out by the time Swan Lake rolls around, but unfortunately, S.L. is extremely early in the season this year. I really cringe every year when I see the same brass players who are so below the level of the rest of the orchestra.

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For you celebrity-spotters:

All in the same row: Matt Lauer and Al Roker (in a cream-color suit; perhaps he had the Good Humor concession), Jeff Zucker (president of NBC-Universal), Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos, and Donald Trump, wife and Donald Jr. Trump was the only person in the house with a bodyguard - I suppose he was afraid Ed Fox was going to ask for an autograph.

The bodyguard was in a tuxedo, but still acting thuggy, pushing people out of the way - why do the big donors put up with this? Trump has no interest in, and makes no contributions to, ABT. I was standing next to them, and actually heard the bodyguard say, "Dis way, boss". Behind that row, Maria Bartiromo. All with spouses. All the way on the side of the house, I saw Freddie Franklin and Broadway star George S. Irving.

As for the performance, I have to ask: was my count off, or did Angel only do 5 tours, and with prep? I'm kind of new to this, but it was my understanding that the 8 tours are no more optional than the high Cs in "La Fille du Regiment". It doesn't matter how well you do what you do, you're expected to do the tours.

Last month, people were saying "Sarafanov isn't all that" and "the Kirov men aren't in the same class as the ABT men". But Sarafanov did 8 (I counted 9 at one performance). I was sure that whoever the ABT sent out would match it.

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Ohhh sounds delicious. I did see Splendid Isolation in March at a Gala in Orange County California and I loved it. Max and Irina looked amazing. They told me later that they were hoping to do it at the opening night gala. Very interesting and visually stunning piece. Makes me yearn for another trip to the east coast. :wub:

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As for the performance, I have to ask: was my count off, or did Angel only do 5 tours, and with prep? I'm kind of new to this, but it was my understanding that the 8 tours are no more optional than the high Cs in "La Fille du Regiment". It doesn't matter how well you do what you do, you're expected to do the tours.

This might seem like a stupid question, but are you referring to tours en l'air or pirouettes?

I didn't see the performance, but I'll take quality over quantity any day.

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Double tours en l'air sans préparation. It was my understanding that technique doesn't give the dancer carte blanche to change the choreography, no matter how outstanding his technique is for what he's substituting.

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Anyone else care to comment about Judgment of Paris? I've always wanted to see this.

This started the portion of the program after the intermission. There was a little program box containing the words:

American Ballet Theatre dedicates this evening's performance

of Judgment of Paris to the memory of Sallie Wilson.

and she was credited (along with Diana Byer) for the staging. Nothing about her was spoken from the stage, nor can I recall any press release from the company at the time of her passing. Perhaps they are waiting for the Fall Tudor Season. Still, she was one of their great stars...

Cast:

Juno-- Kathleen Moore

Venus-- Martine van Hamel

Minerva-- Bonnie Mathis

Client-- Kevin McKenzie

Waiter-- Victor Barbee

The point was for the former stars to have fun, dancing for their old fans, I suspect. The actual presentation did not demonstrate the subtleties in each character, nor those of Tudor, at the level of the recent recension by New York Theater Ballet, but that wasn't the point of a Gala performance, was it?

[Added at 12:17] Here is a clickable photo of Irina Dvorovenko's gown in Jessica Lang's piece:

http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/enter...cle_2008773.php

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This is the performance I always wanted to see, and the film is in the library at Lincoln Center. What a cast!

Title Gala performance: To save the Dance Collection [videorecording]

Imprint 1972.

Description 1 videodisc (NTSC) (32 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.

Filmed on January 24, 1972 at City Center, New York by Emile Ardolino and Gardner Compton. Producer: Donald Saddler.

Contents CONTENTS. - The judgment of Paris. Choreography: Antony Tudor. Music: Kurt Weill. Costumes: Hugh Laing. Danced by Maria Karnilova (Juno), Agnes De Mille (Venus), Lucia Chase (Minerva) with John Kriza and Hugh Laing. - Tudor)

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Adam, I really think there too many variables that govern what an artist like that does on stage to be able to judge whether he should or should not have done more or less. As long as it was appropriate for what he was dancing (and I'm sure it was) I'm sure it was good.

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For you celebrity-spotters:

All in the same row: Matt Lauer and Al Roker (in a cream-color suit; perhaps he had the Good Humor concession), Jeff Zucker (president of NBC-Universal), Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos, and Donald Trump, wife and Donald Jr. Trump was the only person in the house with a bodyguard - I suppose he was afraid Ed Fox was going to ask for an autograph.

The bodyguard was in a tuxedo, but still acting thuggy, pushing people out of the way - why do the big donors put up with this? Trump has no interest in, and makes no contributions to, ABT. I was standing next to them, and actually heard the bodyguard say, "Dis way, boss". Behind that row, Maria Bartiromo. All with spouses. All the way on the side of the house, I saw Freddie Franklin and Broadway star George S. Irving.

I said hello to Maria B, she was lost in the concourse. Unfortunately, you need to invite the celebs to get in the papers/glossies. Bodyguards have no place taking up valuable real estate. If a celeb is concerned for their personal safety, they should sit in a box seat.

I hate to say this, but I noticed no bag searches at MOH, but lots of discrete security. That is the way it should be.

Understandable Caroline Kennedy could not be there, Her uncle being in Mass General with a mystery Illness.

I felt sorry for the women in silk/couture who had to deal with the San Francisco type weather we are having: breezy damp and cold.

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Although this is going to be deleted or heavily edited (I'm not allowed to disagree with the other people here), I must say that I don't agree with that. I like Angel, but you have to dance what's listed in the program.

Considering the extreme historical literacy of the people on this board, I'm truly amazed to see anyone take the position that as long as it's good, the dancer can do whatever he wants. Even in this very thread, there are comments about the dancers "cheating" because they're in shadow.

Many of the people who post here seem to have seen, in person or in archival films, every performance of every ballet by every dancer. If a dancer blinks at the wrong moment, someone (not necessarily you, Mme. Hermine) posts something along the lines of "Everybody knows that Shade #27 is supposed to blink her left eye a fraction of a second before the other shades do, as Vaganova specifies in the third supplement to her treatise, which was never published, but I have a microfilm copy of the manuscript which I made on my most recent trip to the State Archives in St. Petersburg. For me, the timing of that left eye blink RUINED the whole piece for me."

For that matter, how does carbro know that was Conrad's solo that Cornejo did? Maybe that's how HE does Lackendem's solo! He can do whatever he wants! All we know is that it was Conrad's MUSIC to which he was dancing.

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I hate to say this, but I noticed no bag searches at MOH, but lots of discrete security. That is the way it should be.

They were there, just as always, just inside the ticket-takers. The same guys as usual hitting your opera glass case with those sticks to see if they explode.

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As for the performance, I have to ask: was my count off, or did Angel only do 5 tours, and with prep? I'm kind of new to this, but it was my understanding that the 8 tours are no more optional than the high Cs in "La Fille du Regiment". It doesn't matter how well you do what you do, you're expected to do the tours.

Last month, people were saying "Sarafanov isn't all that" and "the Kirov men aren't in the same class as the ABT men". But Sarafanov did 8 (I counted 9 at one performance). I was sure that whoever the ABT sent out would match it.

Hi Adam!

I'm not really sure that the number of tours (or pirouettes or anything else) is set in stone with these classical variations – except for something like the black swan fouettes. I believe (but am not certain) that many of these "variations" were changed on a regular basis to suit the specific talents of a particular ballerina or danseur. At any rate, I thought the way that Corella performed them was outstanding with great height, speed, form & panache. But having been fortunate enough to see many (if not most) of the Kirov's CC performances and several years worth of recent ABT seasons let me just say that IMO Sarafanov definitely IS ALL THAT! He has better nights/roles/ partners and weaker ones and strengths and weaknesses like any other dancer but I would say that he's certainly one of the top male virtuosos in the world today. It's the OTHER Kirov men (with the possible exception of Skylarov) who don't compare to ABT's men in terms of their virtuosity…

By the way, they routinely do a cursory examination of bags & purses at the MOH

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I thought Sarafanov was good, too. But some of the people who are more knowledgable than I am seemed to feel that his partnering skills were weak, and that the only thing he really excels at is jumping and turning.

Angel is one of my favorite dancers, so I was disappointed that he didn't do the 8 without prep. Perhaps he needed the prep, and that limits the number he can do, because there's not enough music to do 8 WITH prep. Or perhaps he had to add the preps because he was only going to do 5. But I was expecting more, just as a ballerina who does 20 fouettes is going to get called on it, no matter how well she does them.

As for the bag searches, they routinely do them at the Met and the State Theater. I was quoting someone else who said the bag searchers weren't in evidence. Believe me, they were there, as I've learned not to let them get near my opera glasses! (The stick is supposed to enable them to pull the bag open without inserting their hands. This way they aren't handling anything. But several of the guys use the sticks to rap on anything that's in a case. Like a pair of Zeiss opera glasses. Ouch!)

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I thought Sarafanov was good, too. But some of the people who are more knowledgable than I am seemed to feel that his partnering skills were weak, and that the only thing he really excels at is jumping and turning.

I know that this is off topic for this thread but just let me say that Sarafanov has been very weak in the partnering department in recent years which is probably due to a combination of factors such as

His slight physique

His youth

Being pushed too far too fast

I have personally witnessed him dropping Somova from a shoulder lift at a Kennedy Center Gala about 3 years ago, putting Natalia Solugob down in positions she never could have anticipated (or appreciated) circa 4 years ago and entirely omitting several overhead lifts with Daria Pavlenko in Swan Lake a year or 2 ago. However he must have been working hard on his partnering as it was just fine during the City Center season. It's good to see such a talented dancer work to make progress like this. There are some people who will never accept Sarafanov in the classics because they don't think he looks "princely" but I'm not one of them. However no matter how talented a soloist you have to be able to partner a ballerina to be an over all classical dancer so I'm really pleased to see this improvement in his partnering skills.

Back to ABT - I really enjoyed the Gala, it was great to get a first look at Joseph Phillips and I was especially enchanted by Nina & Angel in Giselle. She looks to be 100% back to form.

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They looked inside my bag last night and gave the bottom of it a pat. I think it probably depends on the size of the purse or bag as to whether they just ignore it, go through the motions, or actually make an interested examination. Same with the cops in the subway.

I forgot to mention last night about all the new faces in the corps. Thank goodness for Marian Butler, Anne Milewski and other vets who helped to keep all the excitement in check. The first woman who stepped out in Etudes was a striking blonde in a black tutu. I thought it might be Gemme Bond from the Royal Ballet. Am I correct? She was quite lovely. Isadora Loyola, fresh out of ABT II, was a standout in The Merry Widow excerpts. She creates a generous and unforced rapport with the audience. Other newcomers were Eun Young Ahn, Christine Shevchenko, Katherine Williams and Lauren Post.

I thought the corps looked quite good. It was an ambitious evening with major corps work from Merry Widow, Giselle, and Etudes. That's a lot to do. I totally forgot to look for Sean Stewart. Did anybody focus in on him?

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Yes, it was Gemma. I was privileged to see her working with Georgina at the ABT Studios recently and she's terrific. She was working on Le Corsaire, "just in case". One of the contributors commented to me, "A corps dancer learning Medora? 'Just in case'?" Well, Gemma is in the corps at ABT, but she was a first artist with the Royal for five years.

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Loved DonQ, Corsaire, Giselle, and Etudes. The opening scene of Splendid made the crowd in the balcony gasp. I doubt the folks in the orchestra got the full effect. Would make a great poster.
From Dress Circle it was pretty spectacular, and the best moment in the ballet. There were fleeting images suggesting Art Deco, but the skirt was the point of the ballet.

I don't know whether this ballet was commissioned for the gala, but it's not really a gala piece. And I would be very happy if I don't see another ballet to the Adagietto for the next decade or so. No one's done justice to Mahler.

As to the other novelty number, I agree that it was a vehicle to bring some of our beloved former ballerinas back. NYTB has been doing this regularly for years, and I would expect them to be more comfortable with the choreography, timing and subtleties within.

My celebrity sightings were all ballet folks. Cynthia Gregory, looking chic and radiant in black chiffon pants and an extravagant black shawl, Joaquin de Luz and Gina Pazcoquin.

A friend snapped my pic on his phone. Made me feel like a celebrity :wub:.

Thanks for identifying Gemma, Adam. She has a very striking appearance.

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Right after reading this thread Kelly Ripa was discussing the Gala this morning on Regis and Kelly. (with Regis making the obligitory tights jokes) but she was very complimentary and appreciative in her description of the evening as she has been taking ballet classes once a week for the past few months for exercise. She was however laughing at the fact that at intermission Donald Trump was overheard asking his wife it is was "half time". :wub:

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