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New York City Ballet: La Sonnambula, Prodigal Son, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

La Sonnambula
Prodigal Son
Slaughter on Tenth Avenue

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
October 9, 2013

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Guest Conductor: Marc Taddei

La Sonnambula (1960): Music by Vittorio Rieti (after themes of Bellini), Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by Alain Vaes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Faye Arthurs as The Coquette, Amar Ramasar as The Baron, Sébastien Marcovici as The Poet, Janie Taylor as The Sleepwalker, Troy Schumacher as Harlequin, and the Company, led by Ashly Isaacs, Sarah Villwock, Devin Alberda, Ralph Ippolito, Lauren King, Antonio Carmena..

Rieti's music is based on themes from Bellini's operas, including "La Sonnambula". The Coquette's encircling movements, the Moorish dance, and the Harlequin dance all help to create a sinister effect to this ballet. Rieti was born in Egypt and composed for Ballets Russes. In the US, Rieti collaborated with Balanchine on ballets for several companies, including Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo and NYC Ballet. (NYCB Notes).

I was thrilled to attend tonight’s collection of short story ballets, all masterfully conceived and choreographed by George Balanchine. Although most in the audience have seen these works performed multiple times, tonight they all glowed with new vibrancy. La Sonnambula was led by the on- and off-stage partners, Janie Taylor (as The Sleepwalker) and Sébastien Marcovici (as The Poet). Mr. Marcovici has trimmed down to taut muscularity this season, and his performance was riveting, as he tossed off the vengeful, curvy Coquette (Faye Arthurs) for the wispy, mysterious woman, who dances with a fixed gaze, holding a lit candle. Ms. Taylor was as incandescent as the candle’s flame. Her tiny rapid steps with her body in ghostly upright stiffness are evocative of film noir. Amar Ramasar (The Baron) posed with macho malice, as he sought revenge for the thwarted Coquette.

Because the setting is a regal courtyard, with a lavish home and garden, the ensemble dances (“Divertissements”) are within a masked ball. Alain Vaes’ scenery and costumes are refined and magnetic. Lauren King and Antonio Carmena danced a fanciful pas de deux. Troy Schumacher was a hopping Harlequin, with jumping jacks and cross-legged poses, filled with gestural antics. The Pastorale was performed by Ashly Isaacs, Sarah Villwock, Devin Alberda, and Ralph Ippolito. This ethereal ballet is spellbinding.

Prodigal Son (1950) Ballet in Three Scenes: Libretto by Boris Kochno, Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Choreography be George Balanchine, Décor by Georges Rouault, original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Daniel Ulbricht as The Prodigal Son, Teresa Reichlen as The Siren, Jonathan Stafford as Father, Devin Alberda and Austin Laurent as Servants to The Prodigal Son, Marika Anderson and Likolani Brown as The Sisters, and the Company as Drinking Companions. Balanchine, the 24 years old and Diaghilev's last Ballet Master, choreographed this work three months prior to Diaghilev's death. Rouault created the décor, and this ballet was premiered in 1950 for NYC Ballet. (NYCB Notes).

Daniel Ulbricht, as The Prodigal Son, performs with taut muscularity, mid-air leaps, legs spread straight, and arms and fists pumping the air. He leaps over the gate to explore the larger world. His subsequent molestation and torture, by The Siren’s Drinking Companions, was epitomized with gestural and bodily anguish. In Mr. Ulbricht’s pas de deux with Teresa Reichlen, she slides down his torso, their legs intertwining, even though Ms. Reichlen towers over him with her elongated limbs. She epitomizes an erotic Siren, psychically and physically overpowering her prey. Her long red cape becomes part of the set. Balanchine’s percussive and propulsive choreography is set against Georges Rouault’s iconic set, a brilliant tableau. Devin Alberda and Austin Laurent were the dramatic Servants to the Prodigal Son, nervously dashing to and fro with vases, horns, buckets, and so on. Unfortunately, Jonathan Stafford had a vacant gaze and passive stance as Father. Marika Anderson and Likolani Brown were well suited as The Sisters. The Prokofiev score magnificently unfolded under the baton of Guest Conductor, Mark Taddei.

Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1968): Music by Richard Rodgers (from On Your Toes, 1936), Re-Orchestrated by Hershy Kay, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Jo Mielziner, Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Andrew Veyette, Sara Mearns, Justin Peck, David Prottas, Ralph Ippolito, Russell Janzen, and the Company.

This colorful, campy, classy ballet, created for Rodger's and Hart's On Your Toes in 1936, is replete with plots and sub-plots, involving a Gangster and Thug, a Striptease Girl, a Big Boss, Bartenders, Policemen, a Danseur Noble, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Ballet, and a Hoofer. Morrosine (David Prottas) is the narcissistic danseur noble, who hires a gangster to shoot his competition, during a tap dance with a fake gun with gunshot sound effects. Thus, the characters’ audience would not know that the Hoofer is really shot, and the Thug would escape from his first tier box. Ralph Ippolito actually sat in the Koch Theater box, lit by a stage light. Andrew Veyette as the Hoofer showed great tap dance technique and performed with cocky, campy attitude. As he danced up a storm, he glowed with effusive energy.

Sara Mearns, the Striptease Girl, awakened after being shot by her jealous boyfriend, a sub-plot in the fantasy ballet, receives a note for the Hoofer. Ms. Mearns was especially coy and danced with verve and vivacity. Justin Peck as Big Boss performed with heft and swagger. Mr. Prottas, as Morrosine, who had hired the Gangster to secure his standing, wowed the audience with French affectation. The Corps of Bartenders, Thug, Policemen, and Ladies and Gentlemen of the Ballet performed with pizzazz. When the curtain rose a second time, the audience was treated to one more vaudeville show.

Janie Taylor and Sebastien Marcovici
in Balanchine's "La Sonnambula"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Teresa Reichlen and Daniel Ulbricht
in Balanchine's "Prodigal Son"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Sara Mearns and Andrew Veyette
in Balanchine's "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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