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American Ballet Theatre

All-Prokofiev Celebration

Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova, Georgina Parkinson
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 2, 2009

(Read More ABT Reviews).

(Read about Sergei Prokofiev)

Prodigal Son (1950) Ballet in Three Scenes: Choreography be George Balanchine, Staged by Richard Tanner, Libretto by Boris Kochno, Music by Sergei Prokofiev (L’Enfant Prodigue), Scenery and Costumes by Georges Rouault, Lighting by Gil Wechsler. Presented by arrangement with the George Balanchine Trust.

June 1, 2009:Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Herman Cornejo as The Prodigal Son, Michele Wiles as The Siren, Vitali Krauchenka as Father, Arron Scott and Sean Stewart as Servants to the Prodigal Son, Lauren Post and Jennifer Whalen as The Sisters, and nine male Corps as Drinking Companions.

June 2, 2009:Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Angel Corella as The Prodigal Son, Kristi Boone as The Siren, Vitali Krauchenka as Father, Arron Scott and Sean Stewart as Servants to the Prodigal Son, Elizabeth Mertz and Devon Teuscher as The Sisters, and nine male Corps as Drinking Companions.

There is no composer whose ballet scores are so searing, other than Prokofiev, whether they be one of these three works, or Romeo and Juliet, or Cinderella. On June 1, Opening Night of the All-Prokofiev Celebration began with Prodigal Son, a familiar Balanchine ballet, often reviewed in this magazine at City Ballet. On June 1, Herman Cornejo filled in last minute for Ethan Stiefel as The Prodigal Son, while on June 2, Angel Corella was The Son. Mr. Corella clearly had the upper hand, as he was able to rehearse with his Siren, Kristi Boone, while Mr. Cornejo was matched with Michele Wiles, much taller and in a bold, inter-twining physical role. During the second scene, as the Drinking Companions attack The Prodigal Son with The Siren, held on high, who later seduces The Son by curling about him and sliding down his legs in iconic surreal slowness, Mr. Corella and Ms. Boone clearly had the edge, with deliberate timing and ethereal edge of the moment. In the first scene, however, Mr. Cornejo seemed most persuasive in his anger, recalcitrance, and hormonal athleticism. He exuded dramatic depth.

As The Siren, Michele Wiles seemed almost maternal, not evil enough, whereas Ms. Boone was devilish and demonic. Her seamless “duo” dance with Mr. Corella, down his torso, was riveting. Their chemistry sparked, and their performance was streamlined and sensual. Vitali Krauchenka, Father on both nights, was suitably larger than life with arms that could embrace a mountain. When he embraced his Son and carried him home, the moments were spiritual. Mr. Cornejo, in this third scene, seemed most youthful and devastated. As Servants to The Prodigal Son, Arron Scott and Sean Stewart, on both nights, leaped and bounded about with juvenile fervor and boundless lack of inhibition. Balanchine was but 24 when he choreographed this ballet for Diaghilev, and, with Rouault’s dark, fantasy-like sets and costumes, the work has vigor and vibrancy, with Prokofiev’s percussive, atonal score. The Drinking Companions adeptly moved the sturdy, changeable sets about with muscular leg stamping and slow thigh-driven marches. Kudos to David LaMarche for keeping the score so propulsive.

Désir (Company Premiere): Choreography by James Kudelka, Staged by Gerard Charles, Music by Sergei Prokofiev (Excerpts from Waltz Suite, Op. 110 and the ballet Cinderella), Costumes by The National Ballet of Canada under Marjorie Fielding, Lighting and scenic effects by Robert Thompson.

June 1, 2009: Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Blaine Hoven and Gillian Murphy, Carlos Lopez and Misty Copeland, Cory Stearns and Isabella Boylston, and the Company.

June 2, 2009: Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Roman Zhurbin and Xiomara Reyes, Craig Salstein and Yuriko Kajiya, Jared Matthews and Maria Riccetto, and the Company.

The sleeper of this All-Prokofiev program was James Kudelka’s Désir. Moments into this work on June 1, I longed for it never to end. Here we got to hear the sumptuousness of Prokofiev’s Cinderella score, and actually see real partnered dance, romantic, impassioned, and contemporary in its tosses and lifts. On a moonlit stage, to Waltzes from Cinderella and War and Peace, seven couples, with three showcased in the lead, synthesize the emotions of the imaginary stories in urgent inspiration, frenzied connections, fanciful flourishes.

Principals were paired with Corps, Soloists with Soloists, and so on. On June 1, Blaine Hoven and Gillian Murphy were exceptionally paired with athletic and affecting results. Also on June 1, Cory Stearns and Isabella Boylston danced with luxuriant polish. Carlos Lopez and Misty Copeland propelled themselves about in the pulse of Prokofiev’s Waltzes. On June 2, the stunning surprise was Xiomara Reyes paired with Roman Zhurbin. It was wonderful to see this character dancer, Mr. Zhurbin, out of his theatrical costumes, e.g., as the Pasha in Le Corsaire, and finally dancing as himself, as a youthful lover with a radiant, expansive Ms. Reyes. Also on June 2, Craig Salstein finally got to shed his character costumes and partner Yuriko Kajiya, with lighthearted personality and buoyant musicality. I hope to see this work again in the Fall Season.

On the Dnieper (World Premiere): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Original Libretto by Sergei Prokofiev and Serge Lifar, Music by Sergei Prokofiev (“n the Dnieper), Scenery by Simon Pastukh, Costumes by Galina Solovyeva, Lighting by Brad Fields.

June 1, 2009: Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Marcelo Gomes as Sergei, a soldier, Veronika Part as Natalia, his former love, Paloma Herrera as Olga, his present love, David Hallberg as Olga’s fiancé, Georgina Parkinson as Sergei’s mother, Martine van Hamel as Olga’s mother, Victor Barbee as Olga’s father, Roman Zhurbin as Olga’s fiancé’s father, and the Company as Villagers.

June 2, 2009: Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Jose Manuel Carreño as Sergei, a soldier, Hee Seo as Natalia, his former love, Diana Vishneva as Olga, his present love, Alexandre Hammoudi as Olga’s fiancé, Nancy Raffa as Sergei’s mother, Susan Jones as Olga’s mother, Victor Barbee as Olga’s father, Roman Zhurbin as Olga’s fiancé’s father, and the Company as Villagers.

Alexei Ratmansky, ABT’s newly appointed Artist in Residence, re-staged and re-choreographed the Prokofiev - Serge Lifar 1932 Paris Opera Ballet’s On the Dnieper, which refers to a long Ukrainian river. The story is about unrequited love, love stolen, and love lost. Olga and her fiancé are about to be married on the banks of the Dnieper, and Sergei, a soldier, returns to his own fiancée, Natalia. The Villagers celebrate the wedding of Olga and her fiancé, but Sergei and Olga have already shared an ominous, fateful dance, and the harmony and stability of the Village is destroyed. Sergei challenges and fights Olga’s fiancé-husband, and Natalia generously allows her own Sergei to escape with Olga, leaving her alone in the cherry blossoms.

Simon Pastukh’s surreal cherry trees are movable and scintillating in the dimness of the stage. Galina Solvyeva designed iconic Ukrainian costumes with soldiers in gray-green, parents in gray-red, and Villagers in solid gray. The sets, too, are silvery with gleaming wedding confetti and silvery pink cherry blossom confetti flakes. The score is not at all hummable or even memorable, but the images remain in the mind. The casts on both of the first two nights of this new production were starkly contrasting. On June 1, Marcelo Gomes was a tall, muscular, impassioned Sergei, while on June 2, Jose Manuel Carreño was a seductive, self-contained, panther-like Sergei. Both Principals were magnetic, each with their own interpretive dynamics. Mr. Gomes leaped lyrically, while Mr. Carreño lunged lustfully. Both performers mastered the push-pull of internal conflict, switching directions mid-motion. First toward the fiancée, then toward the object of desire.

On June 1, Veronika Part was a mournful, wounded, but restrained Natalia. On June 2, Hee Seo was a more unrestrained, impulsive, distraught Natalia. On June 1, Paloma Herrera was the conflicted Olga, love object of her fiancé and Sergei. She was willful, self-propelled, callous. On June 2, Diana Vishneva was a more tormented Olga, one caught by fate and circumstance, one for whom the conflict was deep. As Olga’s rejected fiancé, wounded in a “brawl” with Sergei, David Hallberg, on June 1, clearly was the more mature performer, with Alexandre Hammoudi, on June 2, less persuasive. Secondary characters were mainly cast for ABT retirees, and such, like Martine Van Hamel and Roman Zhurbin, on June 1, Nancy Raffa and Susan Jones, on June 2, and Victor Barbee on both nights, always in fine form. Ormsby Wilkins clearly got the most from Ballet Theatre Orchestra on June 1. I hope to see this new Ratmansky work, as well, in Fall Season. Kudos to Sergei Prokofiev.

Marcelo Gomes in
"On the Dnieper"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomes in
"On the Dnieper"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Veronika Part and Marcelo Gomes in
"On the Dnieper"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Paloma Herrera and David Hallberg in
"On the Dnieper"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

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