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American Ballet Theatre: "Allegro Brillante", "Romeo’s Farewell to Juliet", "Thaïs Pas de Deux", "Manon Pas de Deux", "The Dream"
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American Ballet Theatre: "Allegro Brillante", "Romeo’s Farewell to Juliet", "Thaïs Pas de Deux", "Manon Pas de Deux", "The Dream"

- Onstage with the Dancers

American Ballet Theatre

Allegro Brillante
Romeo’s Farewell to Juliet
Thaïs Pas de Deux
Manon Pas de Deux
The Dream

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 29, 2010

(Read More ABT Reviews).

Conductor: David LaMarche
(See an Interview with David LaMarche on the Season’s Ballet Scores)

Allegro Brillante (1956): Choreography by George Balanchine, Staged by Darla Hoover, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 75), Costumes by Karinska, Costumes Re-created by Haydée Morales, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Lighting Re-Created by Brad Fields, Pianist: Barbara Bilach, Performed by Gillian Murphy, Ethan Stiefel, and the Company

This vibrant, dynamic Balanchine work looks quite different on the expansive Met stage as it does on the smaller stage across the Plaza. The dancers need to be explosively virtuosic to fill the space, and no other duo has the partnered chemistry of Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel, real-life partners as well. They fed off each other’s energy, wit, and spontaneity with bravura leaps and spins into air, added to Ms. Murphy’s propulsive flights into Mr. Stiefel’s arms and torso. The choreography sparkled with the glowing gestures and expressiveness of the buoyant leads. David LaMarche conducted with enthusiastic flair, and Barbara Bilach’s piano solos were elegant. Some of the finest Soloists and Corps dancers appeared in this work, such as Eric Tamm, Hee Seo, and Simone Messmer. Together, the performers gave the New York balletomanes a seamlessly flowing, impassioned interpretation of Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante.

Romeo and Juliet, Romeo’s Farewell to Juliet (1977): Choreography by Antony Tudor, Music by Frederick Delius (“Prelude to Irmelin”), Costume adaptation by Sylvia Taalsohn Nolan, Performed by Xiomara Reyes and Gennadi Saveliev. Antony Tudor’s Romeo’s Farewell to Juliet, scored by Delius’ Prelude, rather than Prokofiev, is eloquent and rapturous, sensual and sublime. Xiomara Reyes deserved more chemistry for this brief work than she had in Gennadi Saveliev, who usually portrays Tybalt in the full length, Prokofiev version. Mr. Saveliev was stiff and physically overpowering, rather than yearning and tormented. It was almost as if he was shifting emotionally between roles. I would have loved to see Herman Cornejo as Romeo here, or Angel Corella. Tudor’s Shakespearean interpretation is a rare, ethereal synthesis of the longer tragic tale, and I hope to see it again with strong partnering. For the record, Ms. Reyes exuded the conflicted emotions in an extraordinarily nuanced dance. Her costume flowed with windy woe.

Thaïs Pas de Deux (1971, Company Premiere): Choreography by Frederick Ashton, Staged by Grant Coyle, Music by Jules Massenet, Costumes by Anthony Dowell, Performed by Hee Seo and Sascha Radetsky. Massenet’s music, sumptuously played by Ballet Theatre Orchestra, thanks to David LaMarche, provided the exotic backdrop to Hee Seo and Sascha Radetsky’s challenging pas de deux. As in the previous work, Ms. Seo was far more compelling than was Mr. Radetsky, in her theatrical presentation. Like Mr. Saveliev, Mr. Radetsky’s tour de force roles run the gamut from Tybalt to Hilarion. The male lead in this pas de deux should be lovesick and mesmerizing, and Ballet Theatre has male leads who can easily accomplish that feat. This Ashton ballet introduces Ms. Seo, veiled and dreamlike. The entire ballet requires that fantasy to be expanded. Anthony Dowell’s shimmering silk costume gives the female lead a rich glow, thanks to the Company’s lighting design.

Manon, Pas de Deux from Act I: Choreography by Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Music by Jules Massenet, Costumes by Nicholas Georgiadis, Performed by Diana Vishneva and Jose Manuel Carreño. One of the high points of the evening was Diana Vishneva and Jose Manuel Carreño’s pas de deux from Manon. I’ve always felt that the audience is the thermometer of the temperature of the performance, and their accolades at the curtain were thundering. My notes say “Exquisite, perfect, impassioned”. The psychological turmoil incarnate was persuasive and palpable. When Mr. Carreño lifted and tossed Ms. Vishneva, as she spun in his arms like a top, the audience was breathless.

The Dream (2002): Choreography by Frederick Ashton, Staged by Anthony Dowell with Christopher Carr, Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Arranged by John Lanchbery, Sets and costumes by David Walker, Lighting Design by John B. Read, Performed by Julie Kent as Titania, Marcelo Gomes as Oberon, Craig Salstein as Puck, Isaac Stappas as Bottom, Karin Ellis-Wentz as Helena, Kristi Boone as Hermia, Gennadi Saveliev as Demetrius, Roman Zhurbin as Lysander, and the Company as Rustics, Cobweb, Peaseblossom, Moth, Mustardseed, Changeling Boy, and Fairies, Chorus: The Young People's Chorus of NYC, Directed by Francisco J. Nuñez, Solo Soprano: Elizabeth Nuñez, Solo Mezzo-Soprano: Laura Lupinacci..

Oberon and Titania are fighting for the changeling boy, so Oberon sends Puck for a magic flower, which will cause the sleeping person touched by the flower to fall in love with the first person he/she sees on awakening. But, Puck touches the wrong men and women with the magical flower, causing havoc to two couples, Lysander and Hermia, Helena and Demetrius, plus a donkey-headed rustic, called Bottom. It takes a fog to fix the matches. "The Dream" was premiered by ABT in May 2002, with Alessandra Ferri, Ethan Stiefel, and Herman Cornejo. (ABT Notes).

The Met stage was a dark, ambrosial setting, with divine winged fairies and an adorable Puck (Craig Salstein). Julie Kent was the inspired Titania, whose world is gently manipulated by Puck and whose fate is entwined by the donkey, Bottom (Isaac Stappas). Thanks to Puck’s magical sprinkling rose, Helena (Karin Ellis-Wentz), Hermia (Kristi Boone), Demetrius (Gennadi Saveliev), and Lysander (Roman Zhurbin) all fall in and out of love, at once in a chase and an escape. Ms. Kent presented herself in refined, lyrical form, almost floating about in John B. Read’s superb lighting design. Her pas de deux with Marcelo Gomes, as Oberon, were rapturous and riveting. Mr. Gomes was enthusiastic and bristling with wit in this fantasy role, and his leaps and leg lifts were astutely artistic. His solid muscularity served him well.

Mr. Salstein’s multitalented performance was quite impressive, as he’s one of the most comically theatrical, opera buffo style, dancers in the Company. Isaac Stappas, as Bottom, was at his best, rough on he edges and endearing as the donkey en pointe. David Walker’s sets were so inviting, that I literally wished I could walk into his forest. His costumes were detailed with storybook touches and their material had lustrous, glittering effects. In the secondary roles, Karin Ellis-Wentz and Roman Zhurbin caught my eye.

Gillian Murphy and the ABT Cast
in Balanchine's "Allegro Brillante"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Xiomara Reyes and Gennadi Saveliev
in Anthony Tudor's "Romeo and Juliet"
Courtesy of Susie Morgan

Hee Seo and Sascha Radetsky
in Frederick Ashton's "Thaïs"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Julie Kent in
Frederick Ashton's "The Dream"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

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