American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Chief Executive Officer
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters: Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa, Keith Roberts
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
June 30, 2014
(Read More ABT Reviews)
The Dream (1964, ABT Premiere: 2002): Choreography by Frederick Ashton, Staged by Anthony Dowell with Christopher Carr, Music by Felix Mendelssohn, Arranged by John Lanchbery, Sets and costumes by David Walker, Lighting Design by John B. Read.
Conductor: David LaMarche, Chorus: The Young People’s Chorus of NYC, Directed by Francisco J. Nuñez, Solo Soprano: Elizabeth Nuñez, Solo Mezzo-Soprano: Lindsay Bogaty, Performed by Gillian Murphy as Titania, Cory Stearns Cory Stearns as Oberon, Herman Cornejo as Puck, Blaine Hoven as Bottom, Adrienne Schulte as Helena, Stella Abrera as Hermia, Grant DeLong as Demetrius, Jared Matthews as Lysander, and the Company as Rustics, Cobweb, Peaseblossom, Moth, Mustardseed, Changeling Boy, and Fairies.
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 Stiefel, and Herman Cornejo. (ABT Notes).
Once again, injury played a role in tonight’s change of cast. Mr. Hallberg remains injured, and Cory Stearns filled in as Oberon. This was, perhaps, Ballet Theatre’s finest performance of The Dream that I’ve yet seen. It was totally thrilling, and this was Ashton choreography at its finest, as well. David LaMarche conducted the overture that drew us in, with rapid, repetitive, string ensemble phrases that are so enchanting, they play in the mind for days. Ashton’s version of the Shakespeare tale, set to Mendelssohn’s related score, is a synopsized ballet of the two-act, 1962 Balanchine version. Sets and costumes by David Walker glisten and gleam, and John B. Read’s lighting is incandescent and vibrant.
Gillian Murphy, as Titania, the Queen of Fairyland, is masterful, commanding, yet serene and poised. Her own regality shines from within, like a Vermeer. Yet, she exudes personality amidst her refinement. Mr. Stearns is built like a thoroughbred, tall, taut, muscular, moving with elasticity and bounce. Tonight’s performance was astounding. The focal point of the electrically charged momentum was Herman Cornejo, as Puck, who leaps en air like a loose tiger, primal, percussive, possessed. He spins with his arms out or up or close to his body or overhead, often right into Cory Stearns’ arms.
As the sometimes quarreling, sometimes adoring couples, who mix and match, when Puck sprinkles them with the magic rose, causing confused antics, Adrienne Schulte is Helena with Grant DeLong as her partner Demetrius, and Stella Abrera is Hermia with Jared Matthews as her partner Lysander. As in most comedies, all ends well for this quartet of characters, after much mayhem. Each character was ebullient and bursting with drama. Blaine Hoven was Bottom, one of the Rustics, on whom a false donkey head is placed, after heavy drinking, and he was poignant and vulnerable in this comical role. As secondary characters, Misty Copeland was a superb (but underused) Peaseblossom, Luciana Paris was a dazzling Moth, Nicole Graniero was a frenzied Cobweb, and Yuriko Kajiya (in her final performance that I was able to catch, before she leaves the Company) was a fetching Mustardseed. One more time, she will be acutely missed. Andrei Konon was an adorable Changeling Boy.
Ms. Murphy and Mr. Stearns brought dynamism, drama, and mutual chemistry to this stunning performance, with both in top form. They’re naturals as the lead couple in this entertaining and engaging work. The Young People’s Chorus of New York City sang with youthful fervor and charming eloquence. The two solo singers were tonally scintillating. Kudos to Frederick Ashton.
The Tempest (2013): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Jean Sibelius (“The Tempest Incidental Music, Op. 109”), Dramaturgy by Mark Lamos, Sets and costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Robert Wierzel.
Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Chorus: Cantori New York (Artistic Director, Mark Shapiro), Solo Mezzo-Soprano: Heather Johnson, Performed by Marcelo Gomes as Prospero, the Rightful Duke of Milan, Sarah Lane as Miranda, his daughter, Daniil Simkin as Ariel, a spirit, servant to Prospero, James Whiteside as Caliban, an inhabitant of the island, servant to Prospero, Roman Zhurbin as Alonso, King of Naples, Joseph Gorak as Ferdinand, his son, Daniel Mantei as Sebastian, Alonso’s brother, Alexei Agoudine as Antonio, Prospero’s brother, Grant DeLong as Gonzalo, a lord loyal to Prospero, Sean Stewart as Trinculo, servant to Alonso, Craig Salstein as Stephano, Alonso’s butler, and the Company as the Chorus.
“As a tempest rages inside Prospero, the wrongfully banished Duke of Milan, he conjures a violent storm to bring his foes to the enchanted island he has shared with his daughter and the spirit Ariel for the past twelve years. Imbued with magic and the supernatural, Shakespeare's late great masterpiece is a meditation on romance, revenge and redemption.” (Courtesy of ABT Web Notes)
Among the entire Ballet Theatre repertory, Ratmansky’s 2013 The Tempest is my least favorite, an opinion reinforced on second viewing this season. In fact, on its program casting and description pages, once again, an incoherent, meandering, pedantic synopsis is meaningless in deciphering the characters and action, especially with undocumented changes in this season’s version. Moreover, Ballet Theatre does not have a detailed, online synopsis, as it does for many ballets. I heard unhappy mumbling at the curtain from audience members, as they were left dumfounded and disappointed. The high points are Santo Loquasto’s ship and sea, as well as colorful costumes here and there, but the stage is full, top to bottom, with trivial props and foolishly costumed characters that look like they’d rather be elsewhere, anywhere, but here. But, another high point occurs in the midst of mayhem, as the stage chemistry between Sarah Lane as Miranda and Joseph Gorak as Ferdinand, who dramatize a youthful relationship of lovers, heats up. They’re a perfect stage couple, matched for height and charm. Dashing about among them is Daniil Simkin, as Ariel, a spirit, and James Whiteside, dressed like a menacing character from The Lion King (as Caliban).
Marcelo Gomes, in long hair, bare chest, and sash, is Prospero, Duke of Milan, and the spritely Daniil Simkin, in white, is Ariel, a spirit. Roman Zhurbin (greatly underutilized here) is Alonso, King of Naples, and Daniel Mantei is his brother, Sebastian. Alexei Agoudine is Prospero’s brother, and Grant DeLong is Gonzalo, a lord. Sean Stewart is Trinculo, a servant, and Craig Salstein is Stephano, Alonso’s brother. Remaining Company is a Chorus. Yet, Sibelius’ music is fascinating, and under Ormsby Wilkins’ conducting it was vibrant. The Chorus was Cantori New York, and the solo mezzo was Heather Johnson. What I would do to streamline and maximize this ballet would be to take four characters, Miranda, Ferdinand, Prospero, and Ariel, and make this a ballet, still set against the raging sea, of a cropped, showcased love story. No detailed plot is needed, and maybe an ensemble could dance during a choral interlude. In its current form, I could only enjoy the experience watching for the gestalt. The details were clouded by a bulging cast, oversized, rafter-to-stage props, and an incomprehensible, dry storyline. Ratmansky’s The Tempest should be a work in progress.
Gillian Murphy in
Frederick Ashton's "The Dream"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor
Marcelo Gomes in
Alexei Ratmansky's "The Tempest"
Courtesy of Marty Sohl