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New York City Ballet: Carnival of the Animals, Jeu de Cartes, The Four Seasons
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New York City Ballet: Carnival of the Animals, Jeu de Cartes, The Four Seasons

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Carnival of the Animals
Jeu de Cartes
The Four Seasons

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, Dena Abergel
Orchestra, Interim Music Director, Andrews Sill
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects, Robert Daniels
Manager, Media Relations, Katharina Plumb
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 28, 2013 Matinee

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Carnival of the Animals (2003): Music by Camille Saint-Saëns, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Narration by John Lithgow, Scenery and Costumes by Jon Morrell, Scenery Supervised by Penny Jacobus, Costumes Supervised by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Natasha Katz, Additional musical arrangements by Andrea Quinn, Conductor: Daniel Capps, Pianists: Elaine Chelton and Alan Moverman, Narrator: Jack Noseworthy, Oliver: Maximilian Brooking Landegger, The Lion: Ask la Cour, Turtles: Georgina Pazcoguin and Brittany Pollack, Elephant: Jack Noseworthy, Kangaroo: Sara Mearns, Baboon: Amar Ramasar, Cuckoo: Jennifer Ringer and Jared Angle, Swan: Rebecca Krohn, and the Company as Weasels and Rats, Hens and Cockerels, Mice, Aquarium, Tropical Birds, Jackasses, Fossils and Odette.

This was my first experience with this fantasy ballet. Jack Noseworthy narrated this imaginative escapade in the Natural History Museum, with a young student of School of American Ballet, who will surely be seen again, Maximilian Landegger, as Oliver. The problem I had from a rear orchestra seat was the relentless busyness on the stage, with, it seemed, the entire Company in dozens of different costumes, arriving, dancing, disappearing, returning, as birds, jackasses, weasels, turtles, and so on. Just as I focused on Sara Mearns as a kangaroo, she morphed into a mermaid, more gorgeous than ever. Yet, if I were one of the children in the audience (there were many), I might wonder what a kangaroo was doing in the aquarium. Ms. Mearns, however, was quintessentially transporting, in exotic and surreal poses and rapturous swirls.

As the baboon, Amar Ramasar walked on his hands, dancing slowly, with engaging wit. Jenifer Ringer was a sexy cuckoo, partnered by Jared Angle, and Ask la Cour was a prowling lion. In the confining costumes and cluttered stage, Mr. Wheeldon’s choreography was incomprehensible. Rebecca Krohn was a swan, with Alina Dronova listed as Odette, but the actual storyline of Swan Lake, intertwined with The Dying Swan was ill conceived. The score is exquisite, and Daniel Capps kept is sumptuous, but the music was not expanded by this crowded choreography. A high point was Jon Morrell’s unique scenery and costume design.

Jeu de Cartes (1992): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by Peter Martins, Scenery and Costumes by Ian Falconer, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Daniel Capps, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Robert Fairchild, Taylor Stanley, Andrew Veyette, and the Company. Stravinsky composed this score for the first Stravinsky Festival at the Met Opera, organized by Balanchine. Dancers represented the four card suits, and the joker led the dance. (NYCB Notes).

Sterling Hyltin becomes physically more intense and stylistically more bold, as she dances with three partners in Peter Martins’ Jeu de Cartes. Her partners were well chosen for their bravura dynamism and stage personalities. Robert Fairchild has perfected his en air leaps (with one leg in a variety of challenging positions) and his spins to alluring effect. Taylor Stanley was, as always, smooth and fascinating, and Andrew Veyette charged through the air with abandon. Numerous formations of rapid fouettés abounded. Ian Falconer’s costumes, in accordance with a deck of cards, are bright blue, red, gold, and white. Mr. Martins’ choreography was playful and spirited.

The Four Seasons (1979): Music by Giuseppe Verdi, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery and Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Performed by Joshua Thew as Janus, Russell Janzen as Winter, Stephanie Chrosniak as Spring, Dana Jacobson as Summer, Aaron Sanz as Fall, Devin Alberda, Lauren King, Anthony Huxley, Sara Mearns, Jared Angle, Teresa Reichlen, Amar Ramasar, Tiler Peck, Joaquin De Luz, Daniel Ulbricht, and the Company. Verdi was known as a prolific composer of opera and was active in Italian politics. “The Four Seasons” draws upon Verdi's operas, I Vespri Siciliani, I Lombardi, and Il Trovatore. (NYCB Notes).

No Vivaldi here, this Four Seasons has a magnificent operatic score by Verdi, with so many visual and musical layers to enjoy. Jerome Robbins has fashioned classical choreographic regality, with a single figure in seasonal color and texture, and Santo Loquasto's castle backdrop and exquisite props and costumes are memorable and monumental. Clotilde Otranto led the orchestra, Winter through Fall, against tiny white lights of falling snow, budding trees, sensational sunshine, and windy leaves. Joshua Thew as Janus opened the dance with mesmerizing, mythological mystery.

Lauren King led Devin Alberda and Anthony Huxley in Winter, as the Corps shivered onstage in illustrative ice. The feathery coldness of winter melted with Ms. King’s warm embrace. Her figurative shifting between partners seemed effortless. Spring was a display of sprouting, pale green dancers, with adorable leaps and kicks, like precious little plants. Jared Angle undulated his hips in expressive sensuality, as he led Sara Mearns through breezy and blossoming brilliance. Ms. Mearns moved with the freshness of spring rain.

Teresa Reichlen and Amar Ramasar were Summer hot, in yellows and oranges, and Ms. Reichlen’s stunning exoticism and long limbs were well showcased for this seductive season. Fall brought out Tiler Peck and Joaquin De Luz in a show-stopping duet that played against Mr. Ulbricht's muscular goat, as he leaped in cute and clever mannerisms across the entire stage. Kudos to Jerome Robbins.

Sara Mearns
in Wheeldon's "Carnival of the Animals"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Teresa Reichlen, Amar Ramasar, and Company
in Robbins' "The Four Seasons"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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