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American Ballet Theatre

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 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
June 21, 2012

(Read More ABT Reviews).

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, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Xiomara Reyes as Titania, Cory Stearns as Oberon, Herman Cornejo as Puck, Alexei Agoudine as Bottom, Maria Riccetto as Helena, Stella Abrera as Hermia, Sascha Radetsky as Demetrius, Jared Matthews 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.

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 Steifel, and Herman Cornejo. (ABT Notes).

Frederick Ashton’s The Dream, to Mendelssohn’s sumptuous score, is one of Ballet Theatre’s highlights, seen not enough. It’s half the length of Balanchine’s production, and infused with glistening enchantment. The action is focused on Puck’s magical rose, that sprinkles an effect of love at first sight upon awakening. But, it’s Puck, the danseur noble, that drives the energy, and tonight we were treated to the quintessential Puck, Herman Cornejo. Mr. Cornejo leaps in trompe l’oeil timing, first he’s left stage, then he’s right, then en air, then at the feet of Oberon, the muscular Cory Stearns. Mr. Cornejo doesn’t “dance” the role of Puck, he “becomes” Puck. His wild antics were so astounding that the audience was cacophonous. His dervish air-born spins, with leg out or folded, were superhuman, primal, animal-like. He’s Puck extraordinaire. Mr. Stearns, as Oberon, held balancing leg feats for endless moments, and his pas de deux with Xiomara Reyes, as Titania, was supremely physical and mature. The hormonal effects of summer were seemingly rampant, for this forest entrenched duo. Ms. Reyes was full of abandon, whimsy, and youthfulness. The Mendelssohn score, thanks to Ormsby Wilkins’ conducting, drove the mesmerizing momentum.

As Bottom, the quasi-donkey caught in accidental romance, Alexei Agoudine frolicked in the perfumy warmth of joy. Maria Riccetto, Stella Abrera, Sascha Radetsky, and Jared Matthews were, respectively, Helena, Hermia, Demetrius, and Lysander, the two couples that become mixed and re-matched, as the magical rose makes mayhem. The Fairy Dance, with the female Corps donning wings, all lit by the moon and fireflies, was exotic and otherworldly, especially with the help of The Young People’s Chorus of New York City. With the ingénue vocals of the Chorus, mixed with swirling orchestrations, the stage was spellbinding and surreal.

Firebird (2012): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Igor Stravinsky (“L’Oiseau de Feu”), Scenery by Simon Pastukh, Costumes by Galina Solovyeva, Costume Consultant: Holly Hynes, Lighting by Brad Fields, Projections designed by Wendell Harrington, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Natalia Osipova as Firebird, Marcelo Gomes as Ivan, Simone Messmer as Maiden, David Hallberg as Kaschei, and the Company as Firebirds, Maidens, and Men.

On second viewing of Ratmansky’s new Firebird, this time with Natalia Osipova as Firebird, Marcelo Gomes as Ivan, Simone Messmer as the Maiden, and David Hallberg as Kaschei, I anticipated new results in the experience, as this was the premiere cast. Yet, even though Mr. Hallberg was a gripping and glorious Kaschei, in black cloak and green fingers, green woven fabric in his hair, hovering over the green silky maidens, whose torn fabric motif makes them seem ravished and ravaged, the central themes seemed wrong. I soon longed for Balanchine’s version, with the Firebird the gorgeous central character, rather than a male figure who lords over and pillages these mindless maidens. Ms. Osipova’s Firebird was, it must be noted, as gripping as was Kaschei, and her en air flight was wondrous, but she lacked the aggressive power of Ms. Copeland’s Firebird, from the previous viewing. Mr. Hallberg was more compelling as Kaschei than had been Roman Zhurbin, from the other viewing, but even Mr. Hallberg couldn’t erase the disturbing images of vaudevillian maidens prancing in emerald green costume clusters. Ms. Messmer was more vulnerable and nuanced as the lead Maiden, than had been Maria Riccetto, but her diva dance, once again, added foolishness to a classic story. Mr. Gomes’ Ivan, as expected, was refined and respectable, in the midst of the melee. Kudos to Charles Barker for his dynamic conducting of the full-length Stravinsky score.

Herman Cornejo in "The Dream"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Xiomara Reyes and Cory Stearns
in "The Dream"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Natalia Osipova and Marcelo Gomes
in "Firebird"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

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