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New York City Ballet: Donizetti Variations, La Sonnambula, Firebird
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New York City Ballet: Donizetti Variations, La Sonnambula, Firebird

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New York City Ballet
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Donizetti Variations
La Sonnambula

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Childrenís 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 26, 2014

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Donizetti Variations (1960): Music by Gaetano Donizetti (from Don Sebastiano), Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Daniel Capps, Performed by Ashley Bouder, Andrew Veyette, and the Company.

With Daniel Capps conducting the orchestra, tonightís Donizetti Variations had spark, spunk, and pizzazz. The sheer chemistry between Ashley Bouder and Andrew Veyette in this effervescent, Balanchine pas de deux, accompanied by a pumped-up Corps, was palpable. I havenít seen either Principal look so giddy and glorious at once. Their rapid, rambunctious steps were perfectly coordinated and their timing taut. Even Devin Alberda, in the Corps, posed in joking fashion. The orchestra played with charm and warmth, although the sound system could have been turned up (a recent issue Iíve noticed). As Mr. Veyette lifted Ms. Bouder, she sprung into spins en pointe. She also built speed in ensuing turns, slow, leg on leg, faster and faster. This was a devilish, daring performance, and the audience was joyful.

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, Conductor: Daniel Capps, Performed by Sara Mearns as The Coquette, Amar Ramasar as The Baron, Robert Fairchild as The Poet, Wendy Whelan as The Sleepwalker, Daniel Ulbricht as Harlequin, and the Company, led by Likolani Brown, Meagan Mann, Devin Alberda, David Prottas, Lauren Lovette, and Craig Hall.

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).

Tonight was one of the finest La Sonnambulas in recent years, different from Janie Taylorís equally superb interpretation of the Sleepwalker during her recent Farewell. Wendy Whelan is a fierce and forceful Sleepwalker, nothing waiflike or wistful here, bringing a different mood and momentum to the stage. Her tiny sideways steps, gazing into the audience, right over the rolling Poet, Robert Fairchild, were pronounced and impulsive. Sara Mearns, as the Coquette, who seeks revenge from Amar Ramasarís Baron, when the Poet quickly switches love interests from her to the Sleepwalker, was brimming with abandon and angst. Mr. Fairchild could ramp up the drama a bit, as this role requires outsized stage presence. Mr. Fairchild usually seizes the stage on cue, but he seemed to step aside for another of Ms. Whelanís countdown Farewell roles, toward her imminent Company retirement. I kept thinking of the enthralling, retired but still missed, Nikolaj HŁbbe in the Poetís role, and how all eyes were on him, moment to moment. Mr. Ramasar, as always, was gallant, then explosive as the Baron, dancing with rhythmic fervor, while the Divertissements were quite entertaining, especially Lauren Lovette and Craig Hallís Pas de Deux. Daniel Ulbricht has perfected the Harlequin role with athletic vibrancy. Daniel Capps conducted the mesmerizing Rieti score.

Firebird (1949): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, Scenery and costumes designed by Marc Chagall (1945), Scenery executed by Volodia Odinokov, Costumes executed by Karinska, Firebird costume supervised by Dain Marcus, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor: Rossen Milanov, Performed by Teresa Reichlen as Firebird, Ask la Cour as Prince Ivan, Andrew Scordato as Kastchei the Wizard, Savannah Lowery as Princeís Bride, and the Company as Maidens, Youths, and Subjects. Balanchineís Firebird was one of his earliest creations for NYC Ballet that used such elaborate costumes and sets. Russian folklore is integrated in this ballet. Balanchine used Stravinskyís orchestral suite instead of the three-act score. In 1970, Chagall came to NYC to supervise the new costumes and sets for a new production, and Robbins contributed some new choreography. This newer production was staged in 1985. (NYCB Notes).

Teresa Reichlen is a very imposing Firebird, one with command and little vulnerability. Ms. Reichlen dances in her prime, with knowing glances to her fans. Her theatrical pas de deux with Prince Ivan, Ask la Cour, was a well-matched tour de force. Savannah Lowery, as the fiancťe then Bride, danced better than Iíve ever seen her, with total lack of self-consciousness and mastery in the moment. Her accompanying ensemble, the Maidens, in Karinskaís embroidered Russian dresses, danced with ebullience. The Wedding, with Andrew Scordato as Kastchei, was a lovely finale to an evening program of joy and mystery. Among the Maidens, Emilie Gerrity and Gretchen Smith caught my eye, while among the Youths, Ralph Ippolito and Austin Laurent caught my eye as well. Kudos to George Balanchine, who choreographed (with Robbins in Firebird) each of tonightís ballets.

Ashley Bouder and Andrew Veyette in
Balanchine's "Donizetti Variations"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Wendy Whelan in
Balanchine's "La Sonnambula"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Savannah Lowery in
Balanchine's "Firebird"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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