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American Ballet Theatre

The Bright Stream

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
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susan Morgan, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 10, 2011

(Read More ABT Reviews)

The Bright Stream, Comic Ballet in Two Acts (2003): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Staged by Tatiana Ratmansky, Libretto by Adrian Piotrovsky and Fyodor Lopukhov, Music by Dmitri Shostakovich (“The Bright Stream”, Op.39), Scenery by Ilya Utkin, Costumes by Elena Markovskaya, Lighting by Brad Fields, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Julie Kent as Zina, a local amusements organizer, Jose Manuel Carreño as Pyotr, an agricultural student and Zina’s husband, Isabella Boylston as Ballerina, Daniil Simkin as Ballet Dancer, Sascha Radetsky as Accordion Player, Julio Bragado-Young as Old Dacha Dweller, Nicola Curry as Anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is Dacha Dweller, Alexei Agoudine as Gavrilych, inspector of quality, Sarah Lane as Galya, the schoolgirl, Christine Shevchenko as Milkmaid, Craig Salstein as Tractor Driver, Eric Tamm and Company as Highlanders, Joseph Phillips and Company as Fieldworkers from Kuban, and the Company as Zina’s Friends, Waltz, and Old Men.

Alexei Ratmansky’s The Bright Stream has a cast of characters from the steppes of the North Caucasus, with the title taken from the Bright Stream Collective Farm. In the course of two acts, there are campy adventures of switched gender costumes and switched identities, a jealous wife and a gullible husband, elderly dacha dwellers, bike riding, phony gun shots, a harvest festival, masked ballerinas, men en pointe, and so on. I found the production somewhat confusing, but this was a first viewing, and my schedule didn’t permit a second cast. I did enjoy the ballet more than I did the two excerpted portions that bookended the Opening Night Gala. Mr. Ratmansky choreographed this work in 2003 for the Bolshoi. The original Bright Stream was choreographed in 1935 by Lopukhov, on whose collaborative libretto tonight’s ballet was based.

The wife, Zina, was performed by Julie Kent, partnered by Jose Manuel Carreño, as Pyotr, a treat to see once more, in view of his impending Farewell. Ms. Kent has a vivacious, humorous side to her underlying stage personas, and tonight it was in full view. She danced with ebullience, and it certainly helped having Mr. Carreño onstage, who seized the opportunity to entertain his fans. There is no male Principal in the Company better suited for the roguish Pyotr, than Mr. Carreño, who has personality and charisma plus, imbued with machismo flair. It was infatuation at first sight, when Pyotr meets the Ballerina, Isabella Boylston. As it turns out, Ms. Boylston was listed in tonight’s program as a Soloist, so she’s recently promoted and ravishing in the moment. Ms. Boylston leaped about with astounding speed, thanks to the choreographic opportunities, the musical pulse, the presence of Mr. Carreño, and her new promotion.

In a meandering plot, Pyotr doesn’t know his wife was also a ballerina, and she dresses as her own competition, with the ballerina dressing as her own male partner, while her partner goes drag, en pointe, and so on. The partner in tutu is none other than Daniil Simkin, who was more than adorable and seemed thrilled in the experience, prancing about in perfect pointe balance. He played the role for all it was worth, and then some. Julio Bragado-Young, a superb character dancer, was the Old Dacha Dweller, who would be visited by the male partner in drag, and the Anxious-to-Be-Younger-Than-She-Is Dacha Dweller, a campy Nicola Curry, would be visited by the real Ballerina, in her partner’s male costume.

It’s all lighthearted, but Shostakovich’s percussive score brings substance and strength to the two-Act production. Shostakovich’s Op. 39 is actually called “The Bright Stream”, composed for the original ballet by Lopukhov, 1935, noted above. Mr. Ratmansky created his own choreography in 2003, and in 2004 this production premiered in Riga, Latvia, followed by 2006 performances with the Bolshoi. This year Ballet Theatre is showcasing the work, as Mr. Ratmansky is Artist in Residence. Ilya Utkin’s sets are brightly painted, with fields of flowers and Russian landscapes. Elena Markovskaya’s costumes were eye-catching, iconic, and authentically sourced. Mr. Simkin’s tutu and ballet shoes were fitted exactly to his sprightly form.

In the minor roles, Alexei Agoudine was Gavrilych, a collective activist, who danced with his workers, and Sascha Radetsky was an Accordion Player, who danced with the Schoolgirl, Galya (Sarah Lane). Christine Shevchenko and Craig Salstein were a Milkmaid and Tractor Driver. At one point Mr. Salstein dons a dog outfit, to add to the zaniness. Eric Tamm leads the Highlanders, and Joseph Phillips leads the Fieldworkers. There’s room for the entire Corps here for much of the time, and Charles Barker kept Shostakovich’s score buoyant and prominent. I look forward to revisiting this work in future seasons.

Isabella Boylston and the Corps
in Ratmansky's "The Bright Stream"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

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