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New York City Ballet: Liebeslieder Walzer, Les Noces

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New York City Ballet

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief: Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress: Rosemary Dunleavy
Assistant to the Ballet Master in Chief: Sean Lavery
Children’s Ballet Master: Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director: Fayçal Karoui
Chairman of the Board: John L. Vogelstein
Managing Dir. Communications and Special Projects: Robert Daniels
Assoc. Director Communications, Joe Guttridge
Assoc., Communications and Special Projects, Caitlin Gillette
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 4, 2009

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Fayçal Karoui

Liebeslieder Walzer (1960): Music by Johannes Brahms (Opus 52 and Opus 65), Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by David Mitchell, Costumes by Karinska, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Pianists: Richard Moredock and Susan Walters, Singers: Julianne Borg, Michael Slattery, Katherine Rohrer, Thomas Meglioranza, Performed by Darci Kistler, Jennie Somogyi, Janie Taylor, Wendy Whelan, Jared Angle, Sébastien Marcovici, Nilas Martins, Philip Neal. Every time I see this Balanchine gem, I wish I could enter this rapturous world, with eight dancers in Old Vienna, swirling in emotional, but glamorous turmoil, as clouds thicken, change color, and the women even change costumes, with a brief theatrical pause. In tonight’s cast, Jared Angle (muscular, attentive, a bit too purposeful) partners Darci Kistler (blissful, elegant, a bit too stylized); Sébastien Marcovici (strong, refined, a bit too detached) partners Jennie Somogyi (graceful, lyrical, also a bit too detached); Nilas Martins (suave, genteel, a bit too self-assured) partners Janie Taylor (eloquent, wispy, a bit too impetuous); and Philip Neal (musical, gallant, a bit too presuming) partners Wendy Whelan (stately, polished, a bit too severe).

The shifting, majestic David Mitchell sets and luxurious, shifting Karinska costumes are highpoints of this ballet. It should be noted that an advance audience warning should be made about the dark, silent pause between Parts I and II. Every time I see this work, some in the audience mistake the pause for an intermission, causing confusion as the curtain rises again. The program note is apparently not noticeable. Four singers stirringly performed the German poems in Brahms’ Opus 52 and Opus 65. Richard Moredock and Susan Walters, onstage with the singers (all in period ballroom costumes), managed to blend tone and rhythm with the mood of the moment. Part I is reality, with the women in long gowns and ballroom shoes, and Part II is imagination, with the women in elegant tutus and pointe shoes. The ballet ends in “reality”, after, as Balanchine commented, “their souls” danced. (NYCB Notes). Part I is harmony, Part II is conflict, all infused with poems by Friedrich Daumer and Goethe. The eight dancers used casual nuance in the effort to draw the viewer into their immediate setting. This ballet seemed to be about love by choice.

Les Noces (A Dance Cantata, 1965): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Set by Oliver Smith, Scenic Supervision by Rosaria Sinisi, Costumes by Patricia Zipprodt, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Chorus Master and Vocal Coach: Judith Clurman, Singers: Katherine Dain (Soprano), Dana Beth Miller ((Mezzo-Soprano), Bryan Griffin (Tenor), Jason Hardy (Bass), Pianists: Cameron Grant, Nancy McDill, Alan Moverman, Susan Walters, Performed by Tiler Peck as The Bride, Kaitlyn Gilliland and Arch Higgins as Her Parents, Adam Hendrickson as The Groom, Rebecca Krohn and Adrian Danchig-Waring as His Parents, Georgina Pazcoguin and Benjamin Millepied as Matchmakers, and the Company as Friends and Guests.

Whereas Liebeslieder Walzer is a ballet of love by choice, Les Noces is a ballet of love by arrangement. This ballet, originally choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, is the perfect contrast to the previous work. Instead of just the four previous operatic singers, here we have four new operatic singers, a chorus of 32, with a Chorus Master, six onstage percussionists, four dance Tableaux and a Coda. Stravinsky’s Russian roots are just as inherent in this score, as Brahms’ Austrian roots were in Liebeslieder Walzer. Tiler Peck and Adam Hendrickson were the iconic terrified couple, no rapture or romance here. Jerome Robbins wraps Stravinsky’s arrangement of Russian folk songs and verses with ritualistic scenes, such as the preparation of the bride, the preparation of the groom, the departure of the bride, the mothers’ “lamentation”, and the wedding feast. Ms. Peck is at her finest, as the trapped, vulnerable, yet spirited Bride. She dashes about in percussive propulsion. Adam Hendrickson inhabits the world of the un-prepared Groom, and his early torment evaporates in the conviviality of the Feast.

Kaitlyn Gilliland, one of City Ballet’s most interesting dancers, seems too young to be Ms. Peck’s mother, although Arch Higgins, as the father, has an air of maturity and force. Similarly, Rebecca Krohn and Adrian Danchig-Waring, as parents of the Groom, are not persuasively cast in their generational roles. However, Georgina Pazcoguin and Andrew Veyette almost stole the show as the Matchmakers, with over-the-top theatricality and energized solos. Of the “Friends and Guests”, Gwyneth Muller, Daniel Applebaum, and Vincent Paradiso caught my eye. Maestro Karoui had quite a task to stand rear stage, back to the audience and dancers, and conduct chorus, pianists, percussionists, and singers, all the while inter-locking music and dance momentum. Oliver Smith’s retro set has a strength and shape that enhances this stark, surreal production. Patricia Zipprodt’s costumes, including bridal braids a mile long, are retro Russia, colorful and folkloric, while Jennifer Tipton’s lighting carefully illuminates the dancers, while also showcasing the musical configurations. Kudos to Jerome Robbins.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at