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Ballet in the 'Southern Cone' of S. Am.


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I'll soon be off to Buenos Aires on a two-month work assignment. Winter in the "Southern Cone" means that I'll be hitting the heart of the performing arts season in that lovely part of the world! I already have booked my tix for ballets in various theaters in the region and look forward to reporting the state of ballet in these locales, led by very familiar names to most of us;

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Teatro Colon (AD Maximiliano Guerra)...a familiar beloved theatre but one I've not visited in 25 years!

Santiago, Chile: Teatro Municipal (AD Marcia Haydee)

Montevideo, Uruguay: Auditorio Nacional Adela Reta/Ballet Sodre (AD Julio Bocca)

...and lesser-known companies that I may discover.

Sometimes it's important to look beyond the box at high-quality classical ballet beyond our little orbit (Euro/NAm). Different locales, different colors and body types, different temperaments. Components that make-up the beautiful tapestry called ballet.

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It sounds like you're off on another adventure. Have a wonderful time, and tell us about what you see!

I'm not familiar with the term "southern cone" -- where does it come from?

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I'll try my best, Sandik! "Southern Cone" is an old geographic term referring to the four southernmost countries in South America: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. Some USG agencies, such as Dept. of State, still use it, e.g., an office w/in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs. Geeky government speak. :)

Hey, if anybody can enlighten me about any professional-level state or private ballet companies in Paraguay, then I may go for the Quadruple Adventure!

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I was in BSAS in the autumn of 2010. Teatro Colon was experiencing many strikes from workers (which drove me nuts) so while I bought many tickets to see things, I never actually was able to go inside the Teatro Colon (I had tickets to a Balanchine night with NYCB guest stars, argh!). The theatre scene is strong in BSAS, so I was able to see many, many plays and musicals. I even saw "Chicago" in Argentine Spanish and they did a wonderful performance!

I was also able to take a bus from a hotel in BSAS out to LA Plata to see some opera at Teatro Argentino de la Plata. Argentina also has some great jazz music, besides the obvious tango music. Things may be very different now, with the currency controls. I recommend bringing lots of dollars for exchange and asking your hotel to help you find a reputable money changer. Do not under any circumstance use the official central bank rate! Only use official "radio" taxis or you might find yourself with a "broke down" taxi in a bad part of town, at night. The private taxi driver then offers a "friend" to take you into town for a low fee of $100 USD....or more. Pick pockets are very talented in BSAS, a few friends were also robbed in the subte in Santiago. I recommend keeping some "temptation" money in an obvious pocket, always keep your pocketbook in front of you with an arm over it, and the real money / cards in an interior pocket of your jacket. (I kept them in my bra, but I am well endowed and can carry it off, most Argentine female clerks thought this was fantastic and congratulated me at shops).

When I was in Chile, I did attend Verdi's "MacBeth" at Teatro Muncipal de Santiago. It was an avant garde set, and the audience booed heavily at the end, but cheered the singers and orchestra. Later I spoke to someone who told me that Santiago audiences are very well educated in opera, they really know their stuff but they are very traditional about sets and costumes. Neon lighted sets, leatherMatrix outfits and mohawk wigs are not to their taste. Also I sat in the very cheap seats in the top tier, and there are definitely view-obstructed seats in that opera house. So be sure to ask at the box office if you can see the full stage. Chile was expensive for me in 2010 as an American, Argentina was very cheap in comparison. Copper fuels the Chilean economy!

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Thanks, Jayne, for these excellent tips on both BSAS and Santiago. Too bad about the strikes at the Colon when you were there. With a two-month stretch of time, I should be lucky. Santiago now has online booking and was the easiest venue of all; I selected a great seat for the opening of their late-August mixed bill. I had to make long-distance phone calls to both Arg and Uruguay, as local law (?) apparently doesn't allow using foreign credit cards online. (Same thing happened in 2012 when I was living/working in Lima...no online sales to foreigners. Luckily I'm native Spanish speaker so calls aren't a problem.)

I had recent experience with hiding currency in Rio. I came close to having a purse stolen but used my old judo skills. Luckily the thief was acting alone and I didn't find myself surrounded by a gang. Similar thing happened to me in StP Russia in 2009...the old 'slash the purse trick' near entrance to the Metro; I flipped the guy but was lucky that he didn't have a partner behind him.

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Santiago now has online booking and was the easiest venue of all; I selected a great seat for the opening of their late-August mixed bill.

I found the Teatro Muncipal staff to be very helpful, even considering my low ability in Spanish (after just 8 weeks of lessons). The building was midway through a renovation, but it should be finished by now. The interior is very beautiful and I thought the orchestra sounded strong (it was Verdi, really, you can't go wrong with Verdi even if you have an obstructed view).

It's popular in Chile to deride the government, but honestly I saw a lot of public money being put to good use - modern high ways, bus systems, subways, etc.

One "only in Chile" detail: People line up single file for the buses! Everywhere else is the bus entry is a giant mob cluster. I didn't get it, but I found it so polite, organized, and boarding was so efficient.

Food wise - Chilean traditional food is hearty, but I found myself missing spices very, very much (I'm spoiled living on the American west coast with lots of immigrant varieties in spicy food). Argentina may have crumbling architecture, but thankfully they have Italian heritage and make wonderful dishes with some spice!

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After months in BA, ballet is finally kicking into high gear. I attended last Sunday's "International Stars Gala" at the Colon, in which highlights included:

- DON Q Grand Pas with national pride Marianela Nunez (Royal Ballet) as Kitri driving the audience to a loud frenzy with impeccable double and triple fouettés. Basil was Alejajandro Parente, one of local top danceurs. The young hope of the Ballet Estable - as the Colon's home company is officially called - is Macarena Gimenez, a true beauty who impressed in the first bridesmaid variation, with the circle of grand jetes.

- It was also great to see Maria Ricetto once again, ex-ABT/now with Ballet Sodre of Uruguay, who danced COPPELIA pdd with her fellow Uruguayan star, Gustavo Carvalho.

- My top kudos of the night go to Argentine stars Nadia Muzyca and Federico Fernandez leading the 3rd mvmt of DIAMANTE...no, not the Balanchine/Tchaikovsky "Diamonds" but the creation of young local ballet choreographer, Eric Federic, to a Prokofiev symphony. I realize that Nadia Muzyca has been around for a while but it was my first time seeing her live and, WOW, what a discovery! Imagine the angelic face of an Obraztsova with the ballon of an Osipova and the extension of Guillem and you get the picture. Her partner, Fernandez, oozes charisma and is also strong and elegant. They will be my SYLVIA stars on August 25 and I can't wait to see more of them!

Best of all was finally seeing the grand Teatro Colon in full bloom, following it's renovation ca 2010. It's so much brighter and sparing than what I recall from my last trip here 20 years ago. Truly one of the top 4 or 5 opera houses that I've seen...on par with La Scala, Paris, the Bolshoi and Mariinsky.

p.s. I can now tango, my friends...yes I can, thanks to a dear and patient instructor at the famous Confiteria Ideal, which some of you may recall as the setting of a Milonga in Carlos Saura's TANGO movie. Another grand old tango spot that I recommend, also from the 19th-C, is Cafe Tortoni. Love this city! Oh, one more recommendation is to check-out the Contemporary Ballet troupe that performs the works of Mauricio Wainrot...highly musical, large-scale works,

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p.s. I can now tango, my friends...yes I can, thanks to a dear and patient instructor at the famous Confiteria Ideal, which some of you may recall as the setting of a Milonga in Carlos Saura's TANGO movie. Another grand old tango spot that I recommend, also from the 19th-C, is Cafe Tortoni.

Good for you!

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Back from a short trip to lovely Montevideo, Uruguay, where I saw the Ballet Nacional de Sodre in its gorgeous home theatre, Teatro Adela Reta. This very large opera house seats around 2,000 and was inaugurated (so I've been told) very recently, on the site of what was the city's main theatre until it burned down in 1971. It took over 40 years to rebuild the edifice, in a modern style that echoes old-style "horseshoe" multi-tier opera houses, but in lighter tones with soft woods...like the Mariinsky II or the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

I enjoyed last night's triple bill of works by three different choreographers, with the common theme "Nocturnal Episodes" - works by Demis Volpi, Martin Inthamoussu, and Andrea Salazar. Maria Riccetto, former ABT soloist, leads a strong company of about 50 dancers. 'Bravo!' to Julio Bocca for his impressive development of this company in such a short time.

I'll write more when I'm back in terra firma. Back to Buenos Aires' Teatro Colon for Ashton's SYLVIA on Tuesday, then on to Santiago, Chile, for a contemporary mixed bill by their very large and renowned national company, directed by Marcia Haydee.

I'm liking this little corner of the world mucho mucho!

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Very interesting developments with regard to Ashton's SYLVIA casting. Apparently, "my" favorites, Nadia Muzyca & Federico Frrnandez, who are the Pre-announced 2nd cast, replaced the 1st cast at the eleventh hour in yesterday's opening performance...but I'm still seeing them tomorrow. According to Federico's tweets, he & Nadia are now taking over all of the 1st-cast performances, as well as dancing their originally-scheduled shows! That will mean four performances in the span of five days! Oh well, just so I get Nadia & Federico tomorrow night. :)

Also, the Colon Theatre just announced that Marianela Nunez and Julio Bocca (yes, Julio!) will be permanent guest artists during the next two seasons. As I wrote earlier, Nunez was a hit in last week's gala and Bocca has been performing wonders across the Rio de la Plata as AD of Uruguay's national ballet.

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Colon is just one block from my hotel, so I've swung by the box office, as their web has erased the original casting and lists nobody for specific performances BUT has just added Alicia Amatrian (sp?) of Stuttgart as a guest Sylvia but didn't note for WHICH performances. Whew! It's indeed Nadia & Federico tonight!!!

Did I note that Nadia Muzyca is a huge cross-over TV personality here? She's much more than a ballerina to the Argentine public.

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Last night's performance of Ashton's SYLVIA at the Colon, starring Nadia Muzyca and Federico Fernandez was fantastic! The stars were every bit as great as I has expected them to be (Nadia's ballon and exquisite Obraztsova face & Federico's line and energy!) and the ensemble of this 105-dancer troupe did themselves proud. Vagram Ambartsoumiam was a powerful Orion, Edgardo Trabalon a fleet-footed Eros and Paula Cassano a lovely Diana. Susan Jones of ABT staged the work in the ABT manner, meaning Acts II and III merged...and the Goats not-quite-right...but oh well. (Not to say that Monica Villalobos & Alan Pereira didn't dance well but I kept wanting to see the 'slapping step' to the floor before those little hops...instead they just stood, then hopped. Ashton's way is more syncopated and effective.)

The entire production was crafted at the Colon (not rented), which I find amazing but why oh why change the female goat's costume to a "chubby pink tutu"...now she looks like Disney's pink elephant cartoon!

Special kudos to the terrific Colon orchestra, led by Emmanuel Siffert, sounding incredibly Wagnerian in this theatre of perfect acoustics.

Today happens to be my birthday & I have a gift for ALL OF YOU! You will be able to see this production this Saturday at 20:00 (8pm...7pm Eastern US) on live webcast/telecast from the Teatro Colon. It is being billed as "live to the entire world" so I assume that anyone with a computer and internet access will be able to see it.

www.teatrocolon.org.ar/en-vivo

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You will be able to see this production this Saturday at 20:00 (8pm...7pm Eastern US) on live webcast/telecast from the Teatro Colon. It is being billed as "live to the entire world" so I assume that anyone with a computer and internet access will be able to see it.

www.teatrocolon.org.ar/en-vivo

Thank you! I watched their live stream of Swan Lake last year with Maria Riccetto and was enchanted. Don't we wish American companies could figure out how to do this? I would love to see Houston Ballet's Manon next month, but can't get there due to some schedule problems.

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Today's newspapers in Buenos Aires announce that Inaki Urlezaga's troupe will be presenting a full week of Free -GRATIS! - performances of GISELLE at the Teatro Coliseo, commencing August 31. In an interview in today's issue of 'La Nacion,' Urlezaga says that he is doing this for all Argentine ballet fans, "...especially those who cannot afford 1,500 Arg Dollar seats at the Teatro Colon..."

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Thank you! I watched their live stream of Swan Lake last year with Maria Riccetto and was enchanted. Don't we wish American companies could figure out how to do this? I would love to see Houston Ballet's Manon next month, but can't get there due to some schedule problems.

So true. Why the heck can't ABT and NYCB get their collective acts together? It's not as if Argentina and other countries don't have unions...theatrical unions are huge here. By the way, that stream of SWAN LAKE was rebroadcasted on Argentine TV last Saturday, so I just saw it. Fantastic. I will bet now that October's ONEGIN with Herrera - Paloma's Final Farewell! -may also be streamed and/or telecasted. She's the national treasure here.
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Today happens to be my birthday & I have a gift for ALL OF YOU! You will be able to see this production this Saturday at 20:00 (8pm...7pm Eastern US) on live webcast/telecast from the Teatro Colon. It is being billed as "live to the entire world" so I assume that anyone with a computer and internet access will be able to see it.

www.teatrocolon.org.ar/en-vivo

Happy birthday to another August baby and many thanks for the webcast heads-up -- I don't get a chance at the Ashton Sylvia very often!

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I will bet now that October's ONEGIN with Herrera - Paloma's Final Farewell! -may also be streamed and/or telecasted. She's the national treasure here.

Well, probably not that one. The Cranko people almost never allow it. They did permit the National Ballet of Canada to film the ballet in the mid-1980s, but you'll notice that it was never re-issued on DVD. The Royal Ballet received permission to present it during the BP Big Screens series about ten years ago, but it was never broadcast on television or released commerically. An outdoor screening like that, which would preclude any sort of halfway decent recording, is probably the best the Teatro Colón could hope to get.

Added:

Ah, besides which Onegin has been replaced by Maximiliano Guerra's Romeo and Juliet, which probably is broadcast-able.

http://www.teatrocolon.org.ar/content/con-paloma-herrera-llega-romeo-y-julieta

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I just saw that in the papers. Poor Paloma seems to have problems with her farewells (ABT switch, then this)!

Greetings from amazing Santiago, Chile, at the foot of the southernmost Andes! Tonight's the opening of an interesting program entitled "Night of Contemporary Choreographers" but will open with BAYADERE Kingdom of Shades. I suppose that even Petipa was contemporary in his day! It promises to be a 4-hour spectacular; besides the complete Shades, we'll have two acts of everything from ESMERALDA PDD to brand-new works. Some pieces will be led by guests from throughout South America and....even though I didn't get to Paraguay on this trip, by Jove, there IS a national ballet of Paraguay and its top principals will dance the Esmeralda pdd. I'll also see stars from the Rio de Janeiro troupe that I visited back in June. So tonight will be a culmination of my travels throughout this lovely continent this summer...which is really WINTER here.

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UPDATED WITH CORRECTED NAMES OF SOLOISTS, Sept. 2

I survived last night's happy marathon....err...I mean, 3.5-hour mixed bill (incl. one 15-min intermission) in Chile's grand baroque auditorium that is El Teatro Municipal de Santiago.

Actually, it was quite the wonderful, almost overwhelming program that sprinkled pure-classical delights over a showcase of new choreography.

Among the classics, I was most impressed by the BAYADERE Shades act, staged by company star Luis Ortigoza. Twenty corps shades moved as one, nicely filling up the mid-sized stage, with barely a shaky leg in sights. Kudos to company AD Marcia Haydee and her coaching team! The three solo shades were all fine: pert Camila Aranda in the initial brisk solo and powerful Katherine Rodriguez in the 2nd solo with the cabrioles...but I especially loved the 3rd variation, with the languid developes and slow pirouettes, impeccably performed by Romina Contreras! particularly distinguished. The Nikiya and Solor are guests from Rio de Janeiro's company: beautiful Marcia Jacqueline and the hyper-flexible Moacir Emanoel...both of whom I greatly admired in Rio last June, leading LES SYLPHIDES. What a treat to see them again!

Another highlight among the classics was the SYLVIA PDD in Ortigoza's staging, danced by Santiago's own Maite Ramirez (originally from Cuba, perhaps contributing to her incredibly straight placements in pirouettes and superb balances) and....who else but...Luis Ortigoza. He is obviously a local 'rock star,' judging by the whoops and hollers from the adoring audience! I especially love his perfectly-centered ENDLESS pirouettes, with interesting twists of the torso halfway through the pirouette. This version of Sylvia pdd is more languid than other versions, with lots of posing and many high Soviet lifts...SPRING WATERS meets Greek mythology!

Uruguay's Maria Noel Riccetto and Gustavo Carvalho were perhaps THE most accomplished and professional classical stars of the lot, delighting in the COPPELIA pdd (Enrique Martinez version), just as they did at the Buenos Aires gala on Aug 16. (I don't seem to be able to escape Riccetto, seeing her thrice in three-weeks time, in three countries...and I see that she and the Uruguayan Ballet may be in Thailand this fall while I am there! Holy Moley!)

As for the contemporary pieces - and they included a lot of competition-style schlock - I most loved the two pieces by Santiago's own resident choreographer Eduardo Yedro. Like Balanchine, Yedro puts his ballerinas on pointe and, more importantly, knows what a normal audience will love. (Always for the audience...not just intellectual self gratification.) He totally delivered with ESTACIONES (to Piazolla's four seasonal tangos) and - my absolute favorite piece of the night - a showy duo for two male stars, WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS (which I thought I'd hate reading the playbill ahead of time). Our two champions are extraordinary and would both be huge stars in any ballet troupe on earth: Lucas Alarcon and tall red headed Emmanuel Vasquez. Bravi!!!

ESTACIONES was a lovely substantial (20-min) piece in four segments, each in a different tone. I particularly loved the first segment, a slowly-paced classical solo for a ballerina in a black 'open midriff' fluffy-skirted tutu and black pointes, sinuously interpreted by Katherine Rodriguez. Part 2 was a modernist, sexy pdd by Ethana Escalona & Miroslav Pejic. Part 3 was a funky romp for a punk ballerina in a carrot-top wig, Noelia Sanchez, a corps dancer of extraordinary line who should go far. The 4th and final movement began with a mini solo by blonde beauty with mighty jetes, Maria Lovero, joined by a corps of four couples, with all soloists coming out for the final moments. Really a great, satisfying ballet that would delight any ballet audience around the world. (Please take note, Washington Ballet, with it's "Noches Latinas" programs!)

Honorable Mention among the contemporary works goes to the 25+ minute SALOME (chor Jaime Pinto; music Floriantt Schmidt), a powerful, well-crafted dramatic work, telling the Biblical tale with heart breaking clarity. Paraguay's beautiful dramatic ballerina Maia Ayala and Santiago's own Gabriel Bucher made a very handsome John the Baptist. This ballet was all the more powerful due to effective sets and lighting by Ricardo Castro. My only qualm was the the corps of four men in the dungeon scenes looked and moved like the "goons" in Balanchine's PRODIGAL SON but, then again, even Ratmansky has borrowed those PRODIGAL goons, skullcaps and all.

Jose Luis Dominguez conducted the excellent Orquesta Filarmonica de Santiago.

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You will be able to see this production this Saturday at 20:00 (8pm...7pm Eastern US) on live webcast/telecast from the Teatro Colon. It is being billed as "live to the entire world" so I assume that anyone with a computer and internet access will be able to see it.

www.teatrocolon.org.ar/en-vivo

I can hear the orchestra perfectly, but the screen is black. I tried reloading, etc. - nothing. Is anybody else seeing this Sylvia?

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