Roberta on the Arts
New York City Ballet: Donizetti Variations, In Memory of…, Firebird
Contact Roberta
Jazz and Cabaret Corner
On Location with Roberta
In the Galleries: Artists and Photographers
Backstage with the Playwrights and Filmmakers
Classical and Cultural Connections
New CDs
Arts and Education
Onstage with the Dancers
Offstage with the Dancers
Upcoming Events
Special Events
Culture from Chicago
Our Sponsors

New York City Ballet: Donizetti Variations, In Memory of…, Firebird

- Onstage with the Dancers

The New Yorker Hotel
The New Yorker Hotel is a historical,
first-class, landmark hotel.

481 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10001
(866) 800-3088

New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Donizetti Variations
In Memory of…

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children’s Ballet Master, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Fayçal Karoui
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects, Robert Daniels
Manager, Media Relations, Katharina Plumb
Assoc., Communications &Special Projects, Caitlin Gillette
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 26, 2012

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Donizetti Variations (1960): Music by Gaetano Donizetti (from Don Sebastiano), Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor, Arturo Delmoni, Performed by Megan Fairchild, Joaquin De Luz, and the Company.

It was lovely to have Arturo Delmoni conducting tonight, as he’s usually on violin solos, onstage and off. The Donizetti score was scintillating. Ms. Fairchild and Mr. De Luz are a seasoned duo, well matched in size and speed. Ms. Fairchild leaped with astounding elevation and elasticity, considering her compact physique. The little joke of one corps member pretending to be out of step was handled with adorable theatrics, and, among the corps, I noticed Faye Arthurs, Georgina Pazcoguin, and Daniel Applebaum as extra charismatic. The blousy folkloric costumes, by Karinska, in blues and browns, make this a colorful affair, and Donizetti Variations is a superb evening opener, conceived to seduce the audience early on. Mr. De Luz was all gesture, charm, flirtation, and European flair. He partners Ms. Fairchild was exuberance and full attention, always looking her way. He’s a master dancer.

In Memory of…(1985): Music by Alban Berg, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery by David Mitchell, Costumes by Dain Marcus, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Conductor: Andrews Sill, Solo Violinist: Kurt Nikkanen, Performed by Wendy Whelan, Jared Angle, Ask la Cour, and the Company. Berg’s violin concerto was written in tribute to the late daughter of a friend, “dedicated to an angel”. The music is divided into three sections, depicting her life, her illness, and her “transfiguration”. Berg simultaneously stopped work on an opera that was never completed. With a broken heart, in the midst of World War II, Berg died, himself, and never heard this concerto performed. (NYCB Notes)

Andrews Sill conducted with poignancy. The costumes are shades of pastel, with Wendy Whelan, the representational figure for the young victim of illness, dressed in pink, later in white. Men are in more casual, loose fitting costumes, but later in pale leotards, since, in the second movement, the dancers dress in pale blue. Kurt Nikkanen was once again solo violinist, and, as usual, his passages were eerie and transporting. Wendy Whelan is an ethereal and vulnerable maiden, wispy and willowy, attentively and expressively partnered by Jared Angle. Since Charles Askegard has retired, Ask la Cour assumed the role of Death, the illness personified. Mr. la Cour is always compelling in partnered roles. Jerome Robbins is a master of magnetic presentation, and In Memory of... is a magnetizing work. The Company performed with stark attitude. Kudos to Alban Berg and Jerome Robbins.

Firebird (1949): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, Scenery and costumes designed by Marc Chagall (1945), Scenery executed by Volodia Odinokov, Costumes executed by Karinska, Firebird costume supervised by Dain Marcus, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Performed by Ashley Bouder as Firebird, Jonathan Stafford as Prince Ivan, Zachary Catazaro as Kastchei the Wizard, Savannah Lowery as Prince’s Bride, and the Company as Maidens, Youths, and Subjects. Balanchine’s Firebird was one of his earliest creations for NYC Ballet that used such elaborate costumes and sets. Russian folklore is integrated in this ballet. Balanchine used Stravinsky’s orchestral suite instead of the three-act score. In 1970, Chagall came to NYC to supervise the new costumes and sets for a new production, and Robbins contributed some new choreography. This new production was staged in 1985. (NYCB Notes).

The plot centers on Prince Ivan, who captures a Firebird in the woods. When she begs for freedom, and her wish is granted, he receives a magic plume. Kastchei, the wizard, has enchanted a Princess and the maidens, but Prince Ivan rescues them all and marries the Princess. (NYCB Notes).

I’m always amazed to see a third conductor in a three-ballet program, quite a feat in itself. Maestro Otranto always brings the music to a charged, challenging orchestral experience, and Stravinsky never sounded better. Plus, the Chagall-designed sets and backdrops, with signature Chagall Firebird, forests, flowers, birds, and moon, are worth the experience in themselves. Karinska's feathery red Firebird costume and all the costumes of the woodland creatures, Kastchei, and wedding scene costumes, possess Karinska's quintessential detail and creativity. This over 60 year-old ballet is timeless and riveting.

Jonathan Stafford is a seasoned Prince Ivan, perhaps too seasoned, as he didn’t bring anything new or exciting to his role. But, he did partner Ashley Bouder as Firebird and Savannah Lowery as Prince's Bride with adeptness and sincerity. Ms. Bouder radiated with theatricality and confidence. The story is another fairytale, this time about a grateful Firebird who rewards a prince for freeing her from capture. She gives him a magic plume that enables him to rescue a Princess and her maidens. Naturally, the Prince marries the Princess amid celebratory dance. This wedding scene, with children from School of American Ballet, is colorful and charming.

Ms. Bouder employed new gestures tonight, with seeming serendipity, personifying the wild bird. Her magical leaps exuded power, and she wound her arms and fingers about herself with nervous intensity. Her performance was studied, thoughtful, fresh. Also dancing with freshness was Ms. Lowery, a substitute Princess tonight. She evokes the Disney film princesses, ingénue and wholesome. Among the Maidens, Georgina Pazcoguin and Brittany Pollack caught my eye, and among the Youths, Vincent Paradiso and Troy Schumacher caught my eye.

Kudos to all.

Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz
in Balanchine's "Donizetti Variations"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Jared Angle, Wendy Whelan, Ask la Cour
in Robbins' "In Memory of..."
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Ashley Bouder in
Balanchine and Robbins' "Firebird"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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