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American Ballet Theatre: ABT Premieres

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American Ballet Theatre

ABT Premieres

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,
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 28, 2010

(Read More ABT Reviews).

Conductor: Charles Barker

The Brahms-Haydn Variations, in memory of Peter T. Joseph: Choreography by Twyla Tharp, Staged by Stacy Caddell, Music by Johannes Brahms, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by Gillian Murphy and Jose Manuel Carreño, Julie Kent and Sascha Radetsky, Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomes, Hee Seo and David Hallberg, Sarah Lane and Carlos Lopez, Misty Copeland and Craig Salstein, Luciana Paris and Roman Zhurbin, and the Company.

A piece like Tharp’s Brahms-Haydn Variations offers the viewer a chance to see no fewer than seven Principals (tonight it was five) and no fewer than five Soloists (tonight it was seven), plus Corps leads and ensemble, in contrasting, connective, yet catapulting choreography. Unlike other Tharp works, like Baker’s Dozen and In the Upper Room, Brahms-Haydn Variations is ebullient, without respective campy gestures or atmospheric smoke. The glowing lighting on fourteen lead dancers, many among the most virtuosic in the Company, made the dancers appear as comets, springing en pointe, then soaring and springing once again. Jennifer Tipton’s warm lighting also includes a black backdrop, so the duo and solo dancers are in bright relief.

Jose Manuel Carreño, although toned down in speed and elevation, remains vibrant, dynamic, and confident. David Hallberg spun like a top, taking Hee Seo offstage, as she leaps into his arms. Stella Abrera, filling in for Gillian Murphy, did not match Mr. Carreño’s virtuosity or charisma, but stylistically she mastered the genre. Julie Kent and Sascha Radetsky were also not well matched, with Ms. Kent so graceful and elegant and Mr. Radetsky rough on the edges. Marcelo Gomes and Paloma Herrera are always filled with duo brio and explosive energy. Among the remaining duos and cast, Craig Salstein and Misty Copeland were enthralling. There were pronounced evocations of the Graham technique, with thrust pelvises, shifting direction, and contracted torsos.

On the Dnieper (2009): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Original Libretto by Sergei Prokofiev and Serge Lifar, Music by Sergei Prokofiev (“On the Dnieper), Scenery by Simon Pastukh, Costumes by Galina Solovyeva, Lighting by Brad Fields, Performed by Gennadi Saveliev as Sergei, a soldier, Maria Riccetto as Natalia, his former love, Simone Messmer as Olga, his present love, Eric Tamm as Olga’s fiancé, Karin Ellis-Wentz as Sergei’s mother, Susan Jones as Olga’s mother, Alexei Agoudine as Olga’s father, Roddy Doble as Olga’s fiancé’s father, and the Company as Villagers.

Tonight’s cast for Ratmansky’s On the Dnieper, composed of Soloists and Corps, retained the most interesting dynamics of the original cast’s interpretation, with its own enactment of the drama. Gennadi Saveliev, as Sergei, a soldier, who leaves his fiancée, Natalia, for Olga, whom he finds more seductive, was given a rare lead, and his Russian demeanor served him well. He was brimming with intense desire and torturous conflict, on a rougher level than that of Marcelo Gomes in last year’s role. Mr. Saveliev’s long-limbed presence and fierce emotion carried him through the ballet. Simone Messmer, as well, was just as persuasive as Olga, as was Paloma Herrera last year, and I hope to see her cast in more leads next season. Maria Riccetto, as Natalia, although not as theatrically vulnerable as Veronika Part last season, danced the role with poise and character strength.

Prokofiev’s score has a mysterious, mystical quality, and Simon Pastukh’s nighttime scenery sparkles with wonder. Trees and fences form a fanciful wonderland. Of the remaining cast, Susan Jones was authentically touching as Olga’s mother.

Fancy Free (1944): Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Staged by Jean-Pierre Frohlich, Music by Leonard Bernstein, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Kermit Love, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton after original design by Nananne Porcher, Performed by Herman Cornejo, Ethan Stiefel, and Jose Manuel Carreño as the Sailors, Stella Abrera, Gillian Murphy, and Leann Underwood as the Passers-By, and Julio Bragado-Young as the Bartender.

Ballet Theatre’s Fancy Free is always danced with nuanced dramatization. Tonight’s cast is Ballet Theatre’s best, with Herman Cornejo, Jose Manuel Carreño, and Ethan Stiefel as the three skirt-chasing Sailors on a night on the town. Mr. Carreño’s rhumba role was danced with sultry vivacity. The trio’s camaraderie, as the Sailors toss gum wrappers in an age-old game, was palpable. Herman Cornejo leaped about the bar and spun like a top with his iconic, battery-powered propulsion, while Ethan Stiefel was endearing and inspired. Of the three Passers-By, Gillian Murphy was mesmerizing, with extra flirtation and sensuality. Kudos to Charles Barker for keeping the Orchestra so strong, throughout Brahms, Prokofiev, and Bernstein.

ABT Cast in
"The Brahms-Haydn Variations"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Gennadi Saveliev, Simone Messmer,
Maria Riccetto in
"On the Dnieper"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Herman Cornejo in
"Fancy Free"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

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