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Ballet Arizona 2019-20 season

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They're also performing "Les Patineurs" at the Orpheum Theatre during Director's Choice in September and the rarely performed "Bouree Fantasque," along with "Slaughter" and "Serenade."

Napoli will have live music!
 

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Napoli seems to be having a West Coast resurgence. BAZ did it in 2015, and Oregon Ballet just did it in October 2018. And now BAZ again in the fall of 2019.

In 2015, BAZ used sets and costumes from Denmark. While these were the ultimate in authenticity, they almost led to disaster – at least for the sets. Coming by slow boat from Denmark, they got hung up in a longshoreman’s slowdown in Long Beach, and just barely arrived in time; the US premiere of Napoli was almost a disaster! (Costumes came by air, and so were not delayed.) Now, there are apparently sets and costumes in Oregon, which would undoubtedly be less expensive and more reliable to transport, albeit perhaps less authentic…

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I saw Oregon Ballet Theater's production last October, and it had a very authentic feel -- they built their own sets/costumes, and so I'm hoping they're keeping the ballet in the repertory.

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I saw Napoli on Friday evening.  The sets were from Oregon as were the costumes for the first and third acts.  The second act costumes were from Denmark and they were spectacular.  I think this type of work really suits the company.  Jillian was radiant and the story was told very well.  I thoroughly enjoyed Ricardo Santos in act 3.  He was joyous and completely in command of his performance.

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For background on this staging, Alistair Macaulay's review of February 7, 2015 gives as usual the nub of the matter - except that this time around, four years later, the dancing may be even a little better:  A better observer than I told me that BAZ's dancing in Napoli in its first season made him aware of the steps, which left some room for improvement.  We agreed that ballet is better if you're not so aware of the steps, and now Napoli has improved.  I didn't see that first season of it, but I did this one.  All of it.  And I'm really glad for it.

There's a lot to see.  Macaulay has a short, expert paragraph summary; there's a good synopsis in the program, and though the entry in Balanchine's Complete Stories of the Great Ballets has the dry pedantic flavor of the entries I think are written by Francis Mason, it gives you a good impression of how full this ballet is.  (The account written by Cyril Beaumont early in the last century goes on for pages; Beaumont was like that.)  For instance, there's so much going on the the first Act that it wasn't until Saturday evening - my fourth visit - I actually saw Gennaro and Teresina sneek off upstage to get into their little boat so the plot could progress into the Blue Grotto scene, and then only because I looked for it.  

Some say this is Bournonville's best; I can't compare but any ballet lover should at least give it a try.  If you missed BAZ's this time around, there's a pretty good video on Youtube of the 1986 staging by Kirsten Ralov, but if there's any justice, this one will come around again.

Act II is easily the most beautiful (my neighbor in the theater one night was really delighted), while Acts I and especially III are the most joyful, and BAZ's Act II is credited to Ib Andersen alone.  I believe it; the movement style and flavor of Acts I and III seem to me different from Act II.  Act II is in a different vernacular, closer to the Balanchine I've watched for decades.

Not surprisingly, the high point of Act II is the role of Teresina, the Neopolitan fisherman Gennaro's intended bride.  Her first long dance with the chilly sea spirit Golfo, in whose Blue Grotto she arrives, washed up by a storm, is a contradiction to the trite nonsense that "Everything is beautiful at the ballet":  Her moves are  beautiful except for an additional alienated, estranged quality both dancers here gave them, early in the scene.  Arianna Martin, the first Teresina I saw, on Thursday night, was quite spooked in her first long dance with Luis Corrales' Golfo 

Teresina is ill at ease with Golfo - we later see some pantomime, rejection gestures, but what I found taking is the way Arianni Martin and especially Jillian Barrell gave the movement a quality that said, I'm going through the motions here, because I have to - she looked worried to the point of distracted.  (Barrell, the more veteran dancer in this, already in the action of Act I phrased her port de bras on a larger scale and so, more effectively than the younger Martin.  Yes, I would also say she was radiant - her role radiated to the back of the theater.)  

There was not a fearful trembling I could see, but she showed us her soul was trembling, if you will.  Ballet is one of those arts that make the invisible visible - often it's about making the music visible as best demonstrated in Balanchine - and that was here, too, Bournonville or here, Andersen, are that type of choreographer, but this was something more, another dimension.

Soon, Gennaro having found his way into Golfo's cave and prevailed on the lovely Naiads there to reveal Teresina to him, smoothness and sweetness returned to her movement, but not expansive scale, not even the scale of her falsified dancing with Golfo; she is not the Teresina we saw in Act I, she's more withdrawn, remote, uncertain.  But finally, Gennaro deploys the amulet Friar Ambrosio gave him at the end of Act I, and  her dancing recovers its former large scale and energy and warmth as she recovers her realization of herself and her awareness of who Gennaro is.  Not to say its former joy!  Joy bubbles up repeatedly in Napoli, the more effectively for the occasional contrasting sorrowful or threatening moments.

There's a lot to see in Napoli, even in one role, in one scene.

 

Edited by Jack Reed

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