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Shostakovich Trilogy by Alexei Ratmansky

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I'm seeing the premiere tomorrow afternoon and will post again afterwards. Last fall I saw the premiere of the section Symphony #9 with the original cast (Gomes, Semionova) and I thought they were great and that it was a wonderfully different piece; tomorrow I'm seeing it with Bolle, Part.

Hope others post with their reviews on this piece also!

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I'll get right to the point. This is why you go to see original choreography. A striking combination of visualized music tailored to the special qualities of extraordinary dancers supported by excellent production values. Panio Concerto #1 is my faviorite ABT or NYCB Ratmansky to date. Osipova and Vasiliev seemed willing inperpreters of his vision with none of the excesses I saw in Symphony in C or Don Q. There seemed an interesting comentary on the rising of one Russian woman and the setting of another although the pairs of principals mainly echoed eachother. Costumes for the corps by Keso Dekker - grey front, red back - amplified the choreography. Intriging sets by George Tsypin created the mood. Looked like a standing ovation from my seat with Osipova pulling Ramatsky on to the stage and him joining the principals in the curtain call.

I also enjoyed Symphony #9 tremendously including all the leads - Semionova, Gomes Cornejo, Messmer, Salstein - but especially Cornejo and Salstein.

Camber Symphony was the weakest in every aspect. Hallberg, Boylston, Herrara and Kent we fine but not special.

Couldn't help but think that co-commissioners San Francisco Ballet must be jumping for joy to have such a hit on there hands. .

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I agree with Jelly's praise. I saw the premieres Friday night and I'm glad I'll see a couple more performances. I had also seen the Symphony #9 last fall - three times, plus the Friends open rehearsal. There's just so much to absorb in all of these ballets, you really need to see them several times to appreciate the complexity, innovation (without gimmickry), and also the wry sense of humor. He is a genius at moving interesting groups around stage (among many other things).

A few changes from fall: the costumes no longer have those awful cream colored splotches (you can see them in the publicity photos). Apparently they dyed them, so the principal's cream is now dark red, the soloists dark green, and the corps dark blue. They also added a backdrop which was absent at City Center (either the stage wasn't big enough or it wasn't finished). So much detail to absorb in that backdrop -- old-fashioned bi-planes, dirigibles (all reminiscent of World War I or the 30s between the wars?). A reproduction is included in the Playbill, but there's a lot in there and I wonder how much Ratmansky had to do with the symbolism. I recognized a great deal of the choreography from fall, but don't know if any changes were made.

Chamber also had a painted backdrop that was stunning -- apparently Shostakovich, although the program didn't tell us. The changing backdrop in Piano Concerto was filled with changing symbolism, including a sickle and hammer at the opening that disappeared later. I wish we could get a good look at it and get a better sense of what it was about - and also what Ratmansky thought of all the symbolism and whether he had a role in the design. (e.g., I saw a "bolt" - one of the 30s ballets Ratmansky revived for the Bolshoi -- available on DVD and worth looking at for historic interest).

No program notes, although there have been a lot of preview stories about Ratmansky and Shostakovich (including some in the Playbill). I just have the feeling that there is a great deal of dramatic content and symbolism in all three ballets that many of us don't grasp. Perhaps those from Russia see it, but some of us need some help reading all that's going on. (I hope Gottleib and Macaulay were there and will help us in that regard.) Ratmansky doesn't let us treat this as pure dance -- not with those backdrops and all he has said about his affinity with Shostakovich. (This reminds me of the dilemma of how to look at Balanchine's Symphony in 3 Movements - can we see it as pure dance once we know about Stravinsky's references to World War II in the score?)

Ratmansky apparently "discovered" Osipova and Vasiliev in Russia, so it's no surprise he used them so well in the third ballet. He brought out their best, as he did with many others all evening.

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Thanks for the reviews. I'm looking forward to seeing it tonight. It seems to be

Shostakovich weekend at Lincoln Center. I heard Tahiti Trot from Golden Age

at Avery Fisher Hall yesterday afternoon and saw Concerto DSCH masterfully

performed at NYCB last night. Is there a programming coincidence here or

perhaps an anniversary tribute to Shostakovich?

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The Ratmansky trilogy was a triumph. The whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. I'm sure there is plenty I've missed, but in addition to brilliant choreography, it appears to be a commentary on Russian history and politics. It is definitely a thinking man's ballet, most especially the second ballet which has less pure virtuosity and more conveyance of the inner life of its protagonist (Hallberg last night). I sat up in the balcony and unfortunately parts of the scenic designs were cut off from that high angle. I hope they present this triple bill again in the future, rather than breaking up the individual ballets on to different mixed rep programs. The trilogy confirms that Ratmansky is probably the greatest choreographer working today. Go see it!

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My favorite part is the first--i.e., the Ninth Symphony, perhaps because it is the most familiar one, as I have seen it three times now. I need a few more viewings before I can even start to absorb and process everything that's going on in the second and (especially) the third part. After yesterday's performance, my partner and I hastily bought tickets for tonight. We are also going Monday night to see the second cast. It's too bad that there are only four performances!

Regarding the symbolism, Ratmansky mentioned the following two things during a seminar in List Hall at the Met on May 22. He said that he was thinking of Master and Margarita when making the second movement of the Ninth Symphony (the slow duet for Semionova and Gomes)---the two title characters from a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov. These characters are a writer and his lover who are outsiders and do not fit into the society. This reference, however, creates more questions than answers, as it is quite difficult to imagine any connection of Herman Cornejo's character to that novel (perhaps one of the demons from Woland's retinue?) I am also not clear on whether this literary image applies only to the second movement or elsewhere in the Ninth Symphony.

Another thing he mentioned is that one of the images he was thinking of when making the Chamber Symphony was that of Shostakovich and his three wives. Having now watched the work, it seems to me that the connection is quite loose; however, some parallels between Shostakovich and the main character (David Hallberg) come across quite clearly---e.g., the idea of being surrounded by a lot of people yet never quite fitting in and being an outsider. The piece ends with the corps de ballet forming a spectacular tableau, the three ballerinas (Isabella Boylston, Paloma Herrera, and Julie Kent) reclining in front of it, and David Hallberg quietly and slowly walking into the wings in the back of the stage.

The set for the Chamber Symphony is based on Pavel Filonov's paintings (http://en.wikipedia....i/Pavel_Filonov)---Ratmansky mentioned this during the seminar, and this is also written in the program.

The last piece, the First Concerto, is the most mysterious one to me. Parts of it have a rompy Soviet-sports-parade-type feel to it, similar to Concerto DSCH. Flashy lifts and jumps. At one point, Ivan Vasiliev does horse-like movements with his foot. Then, in the middle, there is a long slow double duet for the two principal couples who sometimes move in sync and sometimes repeat each other's movements to mirror fugue structures in the music. The two leading ladies (Diana Vishneva and Natalia Osipova) sometimes stand still in a sisterly embrace, observing other people dance. I am sure that this piece is full of symbolism; I wish I understood at least some part of it.

I was pleasantly surprised by Cory Stearns. I had expected him to be completely lost next to three superstars. Nothing of the sort. He was spectacular. His partnering was secure, his elevation was great, and his double assembles looked as spectacular as Vasiliev's.

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regarding the costuming for SYM #9 - the prog. lists credit to G.P.Lynes, when asked, the ABT press office noted that Keso Dekker was taken with a photo by Lynes and worked a version of this into his fabric for the men's tops and women's dresses as specially printed elements of the photo (see attached) that includes Annabelle Lyon, who was eventually a member of Ballet Theatre.

since his costumes were shown previously at City Center and at the opening gala, Dekker decided to tone down the contrast between the photographic elements and the solid fabric of the rest of the costuming, so now the costumes look mostly monochrome mottled.


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regarding the costuming for SYM #9 - the prog. lists credit to G.P.Lynes, when asked, the ABT press office noted that Keso Dekker was taken with a Lynes' picture and worked a version of this into his fabric for the men's tops and women's dresses as specially printed elements of the photo (see attached) that includes Annabelle Lyon, who was eventually a member of Ballet Theatre.

since his costumes were shown previously at City Center and at the opening gala, Dekker decided to tone down the contrast between the photographic elements and the solid fabric of the rest of the costuming, so now the costumes look mostly monochrome mottled.

Fascinating -- I don't know that I've heard of that before. The advances in printing techniques are making a lot of things possible.

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if mem. serves around the time of SYM #9's premiere info about Dekker noted his development of a special photo printing process for fabric. additionally the women's skirts for these designs have a metallic look on the fabric's underside, which catches light intriguingly.

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Thanks, Ilya, for those very helpful insights from the Ratmansky seminar. I saw the first cast again Saturday night and am fascinated with the complexities of all these works. So much to see and try to understand.

A few more oddities in the scenery: I'm almost positive that at the Friday performance of Symphony #9, the detailed backdrop was plainly visible from start to finish. On Saturday, the piece opened with a dark bluish-gray color in the back and the backdrop did not appear until after that cute lying-down sequence for Polina and Marcelo in the upper corner of the stage. After some ensemble work, it disappeared again and the back went to black for the Gomes solo and then slowly re-appeared. I noticed McKenzie sitting in one of the prime parterre boxes for Symphony #9, so I wondered if he was there to see how these changes worked. I didn't see him in the audience for the rest of the program (although I might have missed him).

Another apparent change: for the third piece, Piano Concerto: the backdrop consists of lots of red symbols on strings which are raised and lowed throughout - an airplane, bolt, washer, half circles, lots of 5-pointed stars, etc. On Friday, there was very clearly a hammer and sickle in the upper left at the beginning. The pieces slowly moved apart during the performance and were never visible again. On Saturday, the pieces were far apart at the beginning, and never moved together to form the hammer and sickle. Was that a mistake? Did it mean something? I don't have the foggiest idea.

The costumes in Concerto are also intriguing. The two lead women wear very red leotards and the two lead men wear gray unitards with silver belts. The rest of the cast wears unitards with dull gray in front and muted red in back, so interesting color patterns emerge as they move round.

Unfortunately, the June playbill does not include any of the interesting articles about these pieces or the reproduction of the Symphony #9 backdrop, so audiences won't see any of that, except for the Friday night crowd. It would be nice if those were posted somewhere for people to read.

I noticed several critics in the audience both Friday and Saturday and look forward to their reviews. So much to unravel in understanding all three pieces! I wonder if an enterprising dance historian (or perhaps a graduate student looking for a good thesis topic?) might take a serious look at Ratmansky, Shostakovich, and the cultural milieu. Ratmansky is old enough to have lived under the worst of the Soviet Union as well as its collapse. He seems to be communicating something about what it's been like for artists through all of that - things Americans only vaguely understand.

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to the best of my recall, the drop for SYM # 9 was lowered on Fri. at the same point it did so on Sat.

during the first movement the stage was empty of background on Fri. prompting thoughts of: the program says 'scenery by George Tsypin,' but where is it?

and then o'course the painted backdrop with faint figures and strong elements of red lowered into place behind the moment that Semionova and Gomes recline and collapse to the stage.

re: the individual, decorative, red elements of the Piano Concerto section, in addition to anything else, these may look different depending on the location of one's seat in the auditorium. the configuration with the plane and the open ring looked conjoined from theater left, orch. and clearly separate from theater right.

since however these various pieces are hung from wires that can be moved maybe their arrangements and rearrangements are variable and not specifically set from perf. to perf.

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Dear rg, thank you very much for the explanations about the photo and the costumes. Regarding the set for Symphony #9 on Friday, I had the same reaction at first---"what set?"---until the backdrop appeared before the third movement.

Speaking of changes---Friday night Osipova and Vasiliev kissed during Piano Concerto #1. Saturday night they didn't (or did I miss it?)

After the second viewing on Saturday night (with the same cast as Friday night), both Symphony #9 and Chamber Symphony are now my favorites. Chamber Symphony is full of interesting detail. Looking closely at the pas de deux between the main protagonist and each ballerina, one notices that the three relationships are quite different, and that the three ballerina characters are quite different as well. The interactions with the corps de ballet are equally fascinating. Sometimes the corps gives the main protagonist looks of bewilderment, sometimes they are menacing. Towards the end it looks like he directs their movement---are they now the characters from his works? are they his reminiscences from years past?

I am starting to appreciate the Piano Concerto as well, although it is still full of riddles for me.

The performance on Saturday was as spectacular as the first performance, if not more. Cornejo's turns at the conclusion of the Ninth Symphony were even more breathtaking than on Friday. Concerto #1 looked a bit sharper.

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I saw the 1st cast on Friday night and the 2nd cast at the Saturday matinee. I found the works fascinating at both performances (and am bummed that I won't be able to see them again this season).

The Semionova/Gomes and Part/Bolle casts gave Symphony #9 very different flavors, but I enjoyed them both equally. LOVED Salstein in the first cast. He is a very talented dancer but ABT usually uses him in character roles or "hammy" roles - Ratmansky really showed his pure dance abilities to great advantage.

I felt that the 2nd casts in Chamber Sym and Piano Concerto didn't work quite as well as the 1st casts.

Chamber Sym is a mysterious, dramatic work with sinister overtones and while it held up with both casts I found it much more compelling with Hallberg in the leading role. In the first cast Boylston, Herrera & Kent were distinctly different and seemed to represent actual women in the protagonist's life. I loved Herrera, she had a very lush presence. But in the second cast Lane, Seo and Kajiya were so well matched in terms of height and style (not that they are all the same height, but their heights & styles harmonized) that they could have represented a trio of muses or the protagonist's dreams as well as individual women. I wish I could have seen Hallberg with the 2nd cast women.

Piano Concerto was my favorite, while there were still hints of fear & anxiety it was mostly uptempo and reminded me of Concerto Dsh. The 2nd cast was good, esp Simkin who looked very classical and elegant in the Vasiliev role. While still enjoyable it did seem much less explosive than it had been with the 1st cast. Christine Shevchenko acquitted herself well subbing for Murphy on Sat afternoon. During the bows the whole cast applauded her, which I thought was very sweet. Calvin Royal was also fine but he and Shevchenko were not not terribly distinctive - not surprising for young dancers in their first featured roles. The 1st cast was great across the board. I was stunned at how wonderful Stearns looked. I'd been skeptical of his ability to partner Vishneva but I saw no issues there. He also had great presence, beautiful line and tossed off all the technical challenges with ease. There was one point when he followed Vasiliev in the exact same tour combination and he in no way looked inferior. Different, but equally impressive. I have not been a fan of his in the past so I was pleasantly surprised at how well he fit in with the rest of the high powered cast.

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to the best of my recall, the drop for SYM # 9 was lowered on Fri. at the same point it did so on Sat.


since however these various pieces are hung from wires that can be moved maybe their arrangements and rearrangements are variable and not specifically set from perf. to perf.

Several years ago I saw a work by James Kudelka that had a set of figures (resembling angels, if I remember correctly) on wires at the back of the stage. The figures rose and fell during the work, and several of us speculated that they were part of a rating system ("the second movement got 3.5 angels out of 5, but the fourth movement only got 2") We'd been talking about "artistic" scores in Olympics events, and the conversation bled over.

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Attended yesterday's matinee performance. I echo the other posters who felt there was a significant amount of symbolism drawn from Russian history and culture which, alas, my American mind wasn't able to fathom. Still, I very much enjoyed all three pieces in the trio. I was least engaged by Piano Concerto #1, but I think that may have had a lot to do with the cast. All three parts have lots of interesting layers and would definitely be worth repeated viewings. There are playful moments, and purely beautiful moments, and heart-wrenching ones; it's quite a sweeping work. It felt like a ballet for the whole company, which was nice: lots of interesting choreography for the corps.

Some notes on the performances:

Veronika Part's performance was the highlight of "Symphony #9" for me: really richly detailed and nuanced. I was impressed by James Whiteside in "Chamber Symphony"; what a gift that role is to the men who are cast in it! Lots of opportunities to really shine, and I thought James did. Sarah, Yuriko, and Hee were polished and lovely, but didn't bring much individual presence to their roles. Gillian was injured and Christine Shevchenko subbed in for her in "Piano Concerto #1". She carried off the last minute performance capably, but ultimately fell rather flat for me. I hope to see more of her partner, Calvin Royal III, though. Of course he was outshone technically by Simkin, but his partnering abilities impressed me and he had this evident joy in dancing at certain moments that I found engaging. He's got some presence...would be glad to see ABT give him more chances to develop like they did with this role.

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This is truly a masterwork, rarely seen. I won't comment on the dancers, as I thought each cast had something important to offer the work. Everyone stood out, each for something unique. Ratmansky has a way with dancers, for sure. I hope this Trilogy is shown again, and soon. (perhaps in the Fall Season). And I hope it won't be split up. Each ballet offers something of a very special nature. Layer upon layer. Impossible to digest with one viewing. I saw three performances (and both casts). But as a Trilogy it stands as one of the finest dance works in recent memory. Thanks to ABT!

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I had understood that this was a co-production with San Francisco Ballet, but if you look at their 2014 schedule, it's not listed. They do list a different "world premiere" by Ratmansky March 1-9, 2014, "From foreign lands." But that's one of three ballets on that program, so clearly it's something different. Any word on when SFB will show the Trilogy?


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