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American Ballet Theatre

The Bright Stream 2012

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 Jaffe, 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
May 29, 2012

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Conductor: Charles Barker

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, Performed by Paloma Herrera as Zina, a local amusements organizer, Marcelo Gomes as Pyotr, an agricultural student and Zina’s husband, Gillian Murphy as Ballerina, David Hallberg as Ballet Dancer, Craig Salstein as Accordion Player, Victor Barbee as Old Dacha Dweller, Martine Van Hamel as Anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is Dacha Dweller, Roman Zhurbin as Gavrilych, inspector of quality, Maria Riccetto as Galya, the schoolgirl, Misty Copeland as Milkmaid, Jared Matthews as Tractor Driver, Alexandre Hammoudi 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.

Alexei Ratmansky’s The Bright Stream, for this writer, is the least interesting and satisfying ballets in the repertoire. It reads like a documentary and runs like a documentary on fast speed, with a bit of drag. A couple, Zina and Pyotr (Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomes) have their marriage tested by a Ballerina (Gillian Murphy), and then the plot lines overlap, blur, confuse, and annoy. In the aisles, between acts, audience members could be overheard asking each other what was happening. Empty seats abounded. The Shostakovich score does not help, as it’s, at times, atonally dissonant, not in the best danceable rhythmics. There are searing, atonal scores that lend themselves to ballet, but this music is more symphonic, terrific for orchestral concerts. The plot is filled with French farce, disguised identities, men in ballerina costumes, and confused husbands, the stuff of vaudeville. The Bright Stream would be a wonderful one-hour, one-act ballet in mixed repertory performances, but as a full evening’s production, it leaves the viewer wanting so much more. The fact that the encyclopedic synopsis takes two full pages is an illustration of the leaden complexity of the plot.

Gillian Murphy, who can dance any role under any circumstances, was an impressive Ballerina, as the ingénue and in male disguise, to confuse the husband, Marcelo Gomes. Mr. Gomes, also a master danseur, who can assume most any role, was persuasive as the unfaithful at heart husband, Pyotr, a bit bumbling here, a bit burlesquean. Paloma Herrera, as Zina, Pyotr’s jealous wife, who’s also a friend of her husband’s object of desire, seemed wasted here, in a lesser role than she’s accustomed to dance. Ms. Herrera, now in her prime, deserves more, in weight of dramatization and in beauty of choreography. David Hallberg, as a Ballet Dancer, arrives in the second act in pointe shoes and tutu, in a gag role, and, like the other Principals, is hugely entertaining but deserving of better. Craig Salstein, as an Accordion Player, provides his usual witty athletics, and Jared Matthews, as a Tractor Driver, dresses like a dog. Victor Barbee as an Old Dacha Dweller, chases after Mr. Hallberg in tutu, and Martine Van Hamel, as Mr. Barbee’s Dacha Dweller Wife, “Anxious-To-Be-Younger-Than-She-Is”, becomes a rival of Mr. Hallberg for the attention of her own husband.

Maria Riccetto and Misty Copeland are Galya, the schoolgirl, and Milkmaid, two roles too small for these fine Soloists. Alexandre Hammoudi is a lead Highlander, and Arron Scott is a lead Fieldworker. The latter respective roles become less and less significant as the ballet plods on. Ilya Utkin’s scenery, with giant sunflowers and more, would be perfect in a scaled down version of this work, which could be enjoyed for its bubbly humor, without the endless list of extraneous characters and subplots, all intertwined with Russian political history and such. Kudos to Charles Barker for keeping the Shostakovich score bracing.

Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes
in "The Bright Stream"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

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