American Ballet Theatre
Swan Lake 2015
Ballet in Prologue and Four Acts
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 26, 2015
(Read More ABT Reviews)
(See a Conversation with Conductor, David LaMarche, on this Season’s Ballet Music.)
Swan Lake (1877, Moscow; 2000, ABT): Choreography by Kevin McKenzie after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Set and Costumes by Zack Brown, Lighting by Duane Schuler. Swan Lake was first produced in 1877 by the Russian imperial Ballet at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre. In 1895, the Petipa/Ivanov choreography was introduced in St. Petersburg, and in 1940 ABT staged Act II, followed in 1944 by the premier of the Black Swan Pas de Deux at the Metropolitan Opera House. In 1988 Mikhail Baryshnikov staged a new version for ABT, and in 1993 Kevin McKenzie re-staged this piece for ABT and again newly produced Swan Lake in 2000. (ABT Notes).
Cast on June 22, 2015:
Conductor: David LaMarche
Gillian Murphy as Odette-Odile, Marcelo Gomes as Prince Siegfried, Nancy Raffa as The Queen Mother, Victor Barbee as Wolfgang, Joseph Gorak as Benno, the Prince’s friend, Roman Zhurbin and Cory Stearns as von Rothbart, Sarah Lane, Skylar Brandt, and Joseph Gorak as Pas de Trois, Cassandra Trenary, Luciana Paris, Nicole Graniero, and Gemma Bond as Cygnettes, Devon Teuscher and Stella Abrera as Two Swans, Victor Barbee as Master of Ceremonies, Adrienne Schulte as The Hungarian Princess, Leann Underwood as The Spanish Princess, Christine Shevchenko as The Italian Princess, Stephanie Williams as The Polish Princess, Marian Butler and Patrick Ogle as Lead Czardas, Melanie Hamrick and Thomas Forster, Karen Uphoff and Daniel Mantei as Spanish Dance, Craig Salstein and Arron Scott as Neapolitan, and the Company as The Aristocrats, The Peasants, Swans, Czardas, and Mazurka.
Cast on June 26, 2015:
Conductor: David LaMarche
Maria Kotchetkova as Odette-Odile, Herman Cornejo as Prince Siegfried, Nancy Raffa as The Queen Mother, Victor Barbee as Wolfgang, Joseph Gorak as Benno, the Prince’s friend, Roman Zhurbin and James Whiteside as von Rothbart, Sarah Lane, Skylar Brandt, and Joseph Gorak as Pas de Trois, Cassandra Trenary, Luciana Paris, Courtlyn Hanson, and Gemma Bond as Cygnettes, Devon Teuscher and Stella Abrera as Two Swans, Victor Barbee as Master of Ceremonies, Adrienne Schulte as The Hungarian Princess, Isadora Loyola as The Spanish Princess, Gemma Bond as The Italian Princess, Cassandra Trenary as The Polish Princess, Nicole Graniero and Patrick Ogle as Lead Czardas, Jennifer Whalen and Calvin Royal, Luciana Paris and Grant DeLong as Spanish Dance, Gabe Stone Shayer and Jonathan Klein as Neapolitan, and the Company as The Aristocrats, The Peasants, Swans, Czardas, and Mazurka.
Kevin McKenzie’s Swan Lake, after Petipa and Ivanov, is exquisite. I’ve grown to anticipate each elegant or electrifying detail with focused anticipation. In the Odette/Odile role, on June 22, opening night, Gillian Murphy gave what may be the finest, if not one of the very finest, interpretations of the doomed, tragic white-costumed swan (Odette) and the wily, willful black-costumed swan imposter (Odile), ever performed on this or any other New York stage. In Acts II and IV, at the Lakeside, she transformed her shoulders and arms to undulating wings, steeped in her mother’s tears, as the lake’s water is described by Odette in mime. Controlled by the magician-sorcerer, von Rothbart, who keeps his bevy of imprisoned swans magnetized by his evil spell, Ms. Murphy would arrive and depart through the wings in a warmly illuminated aura, from without and from within. As Odile, in Act III, in the Grand Ballroom in the Great Hall, where Prince Siegfried (Marcelo Gomes) is supposed to choose a Princess (Hungarian, Polish, Spanish, or Italian), she lures Mr. Gomes with a wanton, erotically charged spectacle. She is conniving and hungry for approval from her father, the human-formed von Rothbart, in ballroom finery (Cory Stearns).
These are three crème de la crème Principals, and Ms. Murphy, Mr. Gomes, and Mr. Stearns put on an amazing show. As Siegfried, Mr. Gomes was astoundingly protective, showcasing Ms. Murphy at every turn. He kept the spotlight on her, in spite of his stunning, leaping and spinning solos. In the Act II Pas de Deux, he unhurriedly twirled Ms. Murphy, as she quivered her foot against her other leg, as if in the plight of the doomed swan. In the Act III Pas de Deux, Ms. Murphy danced triple! fouettés, arms up and down like elevated wings. Mr. Gomes’ expanded leg spins and circular leaps, although not quite as rapid or elevated as in years past, were still magnificent, given his outsized personality and adoration of the audience. Mr. Stearns, in his Act III solo, was brimming with persona, as well, seducing the Queen Mother (a melodramatic Nancy Raffa, on both June 22 and June 26), thereby sealing the offstage, Odette’s sad fate. Mr. Stearns has grown into a truly fine Principal, with elegant lines and presence, not only in romantic and/or seductive roles, but also as the occasional villain. .
On June 26, in the Odette/Odile role, Guest Artist Maria Kotchetkova, a Principal with the San Francisco Ballet, had a more challenging night. Although her partner as Siegfried was Herman Cornejo, a true Premier Danseur, there seemed little mutual chemistry, little fluidity in Ms. Kotchetkova’s dancing in the two Lakeside Pas de Deux, and little fire in the Act III “black swan” Pas de Deux. In fact, Ms. Kotchetkova danced single (with a few double) fouettés, no embellishment, no triple, no electric spark, in that watershed limelight that brings Act III to a dramatic close. The ball scene von Rothbart, on the 26th, was James Whiteside, also stunning and mesmerizing, seducing Ms. Raffa again to let her son propose to the Odile swan-imposter. The prologue von Rothbarts, in monster costume, who turn a maiden into a swan at the curtain, were Roman Zhurbin on both nights, a quintessential dramatist, who (as I’ve noted many times) deserves larger, dramatic, dance roles. Joseph Gorak, as well, was Benno on both nights, Siegfried’s friend, who follows him into the lakeside to see if his birthday bow and arrow are successful in downing some swans. To Siegfried’s amazement, he falls in love with a woman-turned-swan, instead, and turns his bow away, in adoration of the Corps.
The Corps of swans, especially in Act II, is always another star, dancing through lines of swans in various directions, huddled in frightened shivers, face with Siegfried and his bow, and dashing in thunder and lightning in Act IV. In Act I, outside the castle, for the Prince’s Birthday Party, the Corps, as Aristocrats and Peasants, is ebullient and colorful. On both nights Victor Barbee, Assoc. Artistic Director of the Company, was Wolfgang, Siegfried’s tutor, returning in Act III as Master of Ceremonies for the Ball. The Act I Peasant Pas de Trois, with Benno as male lead, was danced on both the 22nd and 26th by Sarah Lane and Skylar Brandt. (This season, many of the lower tier roles were repeated in the same casting, at least on the nights I attended.) Mr. Gorak was the youthful, buoyant, cavalier, and Ms. Lane and Ms. Brandt were both gleaming and energized. Ms. Brandt is in the Corps, a rising star, while Ms. Lane is a Soloist. The four Cygnettes, a synchronized quartet of young swans, was performed both nights by Cassandra Trenary, Luciana Paris, and Gemma Bond, with Nicole Graniero (22nd) and Courtlyn Hanson (26th) making it four. The exceptional Two Swans leads were Soloists, Devon Teuscher and Stella Abrera on both nights.
Within the Great Hall ballroom scene, Act III, four Princesses were spotlighted each night, and Christine Shevchenko (22nd) and Gemma Bond (26th) both caught my eye. In the Czardas, Spanish Dance, Neapolitan, and Mazurka, Marian Butler and Patrick Ogle were especially stylized, leading the Czardas (22nd), Melanie Hamrick and Thomas Forster were captivating in the Spanish Dance (22nd), Gabe Stone Shayer and Jonathan Klein were vivacious in the Neapolitan (26th), and Brittany DeGrofft and April Giangeruso led a winning Mazurka (26th). Maestro, David LaMarche conducted on both nights, giving the Tchaikovsky score extra sumptuousness, drawn from a fine Ballet Theatre Orchestra. In my May “Conversation with David LaMarche”, linked above, he said, of the music of Swan Lake, “Act IV of Swan Lake (in our version, the end of Act II) contains the most symphonic, dramatic music in the whole piece. It drives the action inevitably to the final climactic scene. In the first three acts of Swan Lake, there are many dance solos for Odette/Odile, Siegfried, and the Pas de Trois which require shaping from the conductor to support the dancers. Again, the triumvirate of violin, cello, and oboe feature most prominently in solo passages, and the harp is used extensively, especially in Act II.”
Kudos to all, kudos to Conductor, David LaMarche, and kudos to Kevin McKenzie for the richly riveting choreography..
Gillian Murphy in "Swan Lake"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor
Maria Kochetkova and Herman Cornejo in
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone