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American Ballet Theatre: Shostakovich Trilogy: Symphony #9, Chamber Symphony, Piano Concerto #1

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American Ballet Theatre

Shostakovich Trilogy
Symphony #9
Chamber Symphony
Piano Concerto #1

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-Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 31, 2013

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Symphony #9 (2012): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Dmitri Shostakovich (Symphony No. 9 in E-flat major, op. 70), Costumes by Keso Dekker, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Polina Semionova, Marcelo Gomes, Simone Messmer, Craig Salstein, Herman Cornejo, and the Company.

Tonight was the world premiere of the Shostakovich Trilogy by Alexei Ratmansky. However, Symphony #9, the first of the three works, we had already seen introduced in the Fall Repertory. The cast was the same as I had reviewed in October 2012, with Polina Semionova and Marcelo Gomes as one couple, and Simone Messmer and Craig Salstein as the other. Herman Cornejo retains the central role. In the Fall, Mr. Cornejo had been injured halfway through the work, but tonight he remained in rare form. He enters mid-ballet and dances in dervish imagery, revolving on one leg, whirling and swirling, even as the curtain closes.

In another segment, Mr. Gomes falls to the stage, as his partner, Ms. Semionova, embraces him, in vague internalized torment. Mr. Salstein was in some form of vibrant mime with Ms. Messmer along for the humor. They were vivacious, with the Gomes-Semionova couple more subdued. The company ensemble was riveting, as they shifted groupings and posture. There are pas de deux, ensemble dance, and some abstract, elusive dramatizations. The music is brimming with sweeping and sparkling passages, as well as driven darkness and languorous melancholy. The ensemble moves on every level, falling onto the stage, lying down, walking in synchronized formations, waving, hushing a partner, and so on. Jennifer Tipton has created varying shades of light and dark on the backdrop, while Keso Dekker has created light and dark feathery – flora designs in the costumes. This is a serious work with moods of twilight and midnight. Charles Barker conducted the mesmerizing score with confidence and mastery.

Chamber Symphony (World Premiere) Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Dmitri Shostakovich (Chamber Symphony Op. 110a), Arranged by Rudolph Barshai, Scenery by George Tsypin, Costumes by Keso Dekker, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by David Hallberg, Isabella Boylston, Paloma Herrera, Julie Kent, and the Company.

There’s a sense of yearning and longing in this new ballet, set to Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony. David Hallberg, bare-chested in a dark suit, is accompanied by three women, in elegant black dresses, Isabella Boylston, Paloma Herrera, and Julie Kent. This work is both mournful and playful, with contrasting moods and motifs. The falling image repeats, a sense of overwhelming emotional burden. The Corps includes four males and eight females, and George Tsypin’s scenery has abstract grey male visages drawn, adding to the gravitas. Mr. Hallberg partners all three female leads, dancing a form of surreal waltz, with the Corps surrounding the stage in dramatic fervor. There were structured synchronizations of the Corps that imbued theatricality and suspense, with Mr. Hallberg seeming psychically drawn out in the finale. Ormsby Wilkins conducted. I look forward to seeing this work again next season.

Piano Concerto #1 (World Premiere) Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Dmitri Shostakovich (Concerto No. 1 for Piano, Trumpet, and Strings, Op. 35), Scenery by George Tsypin, Costumes by Keso Dekker, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Pianist: Alan Moverman, Trumpeter: Carl Albach, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Diana Vishneva, Cory Stearns, Natalia Osipova, Ivan Vasiliev, and the Company.

Once again, Shostakovich was front and center in sound and imagination, as his Piano Concerto #1 was the score for the third segment in Ratmansky’s new Shostakovich Trilogy. Two featured musicians were Alan Moverman on piano and Carl Albach on trumpet, with Ormsby Wilkins conducting the orchestra. Keso Dekker’s costumes, here red and grey instead of black, enhance the contemporary red scenic hangings, by George Tsypin, probably an homage to the Soviet Union. This was the most dynamic and driven of the three segments, with, coincidentally, three Russian dancers of the four leads, Natalia Osipova, Ivan Vasiliev, and Diana Vishneva. The fourth was Cory Stearns. The women wore red leotards, the men grey. The vitality in this third segment was awe-inspiring, stunning, breathtaking. The leads literally flew, and the Corps of twelve created feverish flourishes. Kudos to Alexei Ratmansky.

Polina Semionova and Marcelo Gomes
in "Symphony #9"
Courtesy of Marty Sohl

David Hallberg in
"Chamber Symphony"
Courtesy of Marty Sohl

Scene from "Piano Concerto #1"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

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