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New York City Ballet: Maurice Kaplow Farewell: Call Me Ben (A Ballet Dramedy), Euryanthe, Barber Violin Concerto, Western Symphony
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New York City Ballet: Maurice Kaplow Farewell: Call Me Ben (A Ballet Dramedy), Euryanthe, Barber Violin Concerto, Western Symphony

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Maurice Kaplow Farewell
Call Me Ben (A Ballet Dramedy)
Barber Violin Concerto
Western Symphony

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
Guest Teacher: Merrill Ashley
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
Manager, Media Relations: Katharina Plumb
Assoc., Communications and Special Projects, Caitlin Gillette
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 24, 2010

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Call Me Ben (A Ballet Dramedy) (World Premiere): Music by Jay Greenberg (Neon Refracted, commissioned by New York City Ballet), Choreography by Melissa Barak, Book by Ellen Bar and Melissa Barak, Scenic Design by Santiago Calatrava, Costumes by Gilles Mendel, Costumes Supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Roberta Fairchild as Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, Jenifer Ringer as Virginia Hill, Daniel Ulbricht as Meyer Lansky, Tyler Angle as George Raft, and the Company.

Today was a different kind of Farewell. Principal Conductor, Maurice Kaplow will retire amidst the same dynamic splendor awarded to the retiring Principals. But, as in all the Season’s Farewells, there’s a warm-up act, which today was Melissa Barak’s Call Me Ben (A Ballet Dramedy). On first viewing I found it terribly disappointing and inappropriate to the quality of newly commissioned ballets in the Architecture of Dance Festival, as well as to the quality of City Ballet’s repertory works. Andrews Sill conducted this opening piece, and once again, it was a puzzling experience to find merit in the concept of dancers with microphones, walking and talking on the silent stage.

However, on second viewing, there were moments of memorable beauty. (If only Ms. Barak could re-choreograph this ballet for all dance, maybe a song or two for vocals, or maybe even “program notes”, as is the custom, a workable project for a young dance designer). In particular, Santiago Calatrava’s palms and Flamingo lights, the silhouetted dancers in purple hues, the wife-child mime, while Bugsy woos Virginia Hill, and Robert Fairchild’s swanky stage personality. Yet, Daniel Ulbricht and Tyler Angle seemed so lost in trench coats, unable to dance. When dance does break through, in the mob vote scene, I saw the true potential for this misconceived ballet. Jenifer Ringer, as always, was glamorous, and her pas de deux with Mr. Fairchild was a lovely respite.

Euryanthe: Music by Carl Maria von Weber, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Performed by New York City Ballet Orchestra. Two nights earlier, I wished for exactly what occurred tonight with the Euryanthe opera overture. When I had heard City Ballet Orchestra’s performance of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s searing score, led by the composer, I marveled at the musicians’ virtuosity and wished they could raise the new orchestra pit for a pure musical performance. Tonight, the orchestra and Maestro Kaplow were truly the stars, as the orchestra rose and the overture began. What a gallant and generous idea for the retiring Maestro to show the ballet audience the innate talent on hand. The theme was rapturous, punctuated by the strings, with sharp dramatic bursts, like strokes of lightning heard in ethereal ballet drama. Everyone in Koch Theater loved this instrumental experience. It should be a frequent feature of each ballet season.

Barber Violin Concerto (1988): Music by Samuel Barber (Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 14), Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by William Ivey Long, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Solo Violinist: Arturo Delmoni, Performed by Megan Fairchild, Sara Mearns, Jared Angle, and Charles Askegard. Barber, usually considered a classicist, moved into a contemporary motif with his "Violin Concerto", with its dissonance and starkness. This work includes melodic movements as well as a rapid scherzo. (NYCB Notes).
Barber Violin Concerto is one of Peter Martins’ most unusual choreographies. Maestro Kaplow and violin soloist, Arturo Delmoni, added a dramatic dimension to the Samuel Barber score, similar to that of film noir, although the finale is more camp than chiller. Megan Fairchild and Sara Mearns shift between Jared Angle and Charles Askegard, with versatility and verve. Initially there’s softness, romance, elegance, and stillness. Soon the dance turns frenetic, kinetic, slapstick, and nonsensical. Ms. Fairchild and Mr. Angle arrive barefoot, while Ms. Mearns and Mr. Askegard are in classical refinement. In the switch, Ms. Fairchild leaps onto Mr. Askegard, kicking him through his legs and attaching onto his torso for dear life. I hoped for a thematic resolution, but it ended in vaudevillian farce. Ms. Mearns and Mr. Angle, earlier, exuded warmth and luxurious abandon.

Western Symphony (1954): Music by Hershy Kay, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by John Boyt, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor, Maurice Kaplow, Performed by Abi Stafford, Ask la Cour, Sterling Hyltin, Adam Hendrickson, Teresa Reichlen, Andrew Veyette, Lauren King, Austin Laurent, and the Company. Some of the American folk songs in this ballet are "Red River Valley", "Good Night Ladies", and "Rye Whiskey". (NYCB Notes).

Just two nights ago, in addition to wishing for an instrumental interlude on raised orchestral staging, which was stunningly realized tonight, I had also wished for different male leads in Western Symphony. Sure enough, this wish, too, was miraculously met, with Ask la Cour in rollicking form in the “Allegro”, Adam Hendrickson in the witty “Adagio”, and Andrew Veyette in the “Rondo” finale. They were all well cast, and they all looked great in cowboy hats, not easy for most ballet dancers. Once again, Maestro Karoui appeared for the last time in the pit, as Principal Conductor, and Hershy Kay’s orchestrations of popular American folk tunes, like “Red River Valley” and “Good Night Ladies”, never sounded better.

Teresa Reichlen, partnered by Andrew Veyette, stole the show, with her extra-long limbs and expressive stage glow. Mr. Veyette was on fire, as was Ask la Cour, partnering the diminutive Abi Stafford. Ms. Stafford, too, was enormously enthused. Sterling Hyltin, as the flirt en ‘tippy-toe’ pointe, was coy and adorable, and she brought out Mr. Hendrickson’s boyish charm. Lauren King and Austin Laurent also caught my eye in their leads in the “Rondo”. There were multiple curtain calls, and, as if by magic, Peter Martins summoned the confetti and streamer gods, and color rained down in abundance. Maestro Kaplow, who’s been with the Company for twenty years, received floral bouquets from female Principals, and then, with aplomb, each musician of City Ballet Orchestra walked onstage with a long-stem rose, instrument in hand. They all sang “Happy Birthday” to the Maestro, before he took center stage, solo, for vocal adulation. What a night.

New York City Ballet Cast
in "Barber Violin Concerto"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Maurice Kaplow conducting
the NYC Ballet Orchestra
in "Euryanthe"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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