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New York City Ballet: Liebeslieder Walzer, Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Liebeslieder Walzer
Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3

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, Music Director: Andrew Litton
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects: Robert Daniels
Associate Dir. Communications: Katharina Plumb
Communications Associate: Kina Poon
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 6, 2015

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews.)

Liebeslieder Walzer (1960): Music by Johannes Brahms (Opus 52 and Opus 65), Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by David Mitchell, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Pianists: Andrews Sill and Susan Walters, Singers: Boya Wei, Soprano, Melissa Fajardo, Mezzo-Soprano, Blake Friedman, Tenor, Zachary James, Bass, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Ashley Laracey, Sara Mearns, Jennie Somogyi, Jared Angle, Tyler Angle, Justin Peck, Ask la Cour. Brahms composed the first set of "Walzer" in 1969, which was so successful that he composed the second set on 1874. Balanchine used both sections to celebrate the social dances of Vienna, mid 19th Century. Part I is domestic and intimate, with Part II more theatrical. (NYCB Notes).

This was my final view of the lovely Jennie Somogyi onstage, as she dances her Farewell as a City Ballet Principal in the coming days. Balanchine’s 1960 Liebeslieder Walzer, chosen for her Farewell, was tonight’s first ballet, thankfully with Ms. Somogyi in her iconic, rapturous waltz. Andrews Sill and Susan Walters were costumed in wigs and Austrian finery, at two pianos, playing Brahms’ love-song scores and accompanying tonight’s four Guest Singers, represented by a bass, tenor, soprano, and mezzo-soprano. The four partnered couples were Ashley Laracey and Justin Peck, Jennie Somogyi and Tyler Angle, Sterling Hyltin and Jared Angle, and Sara Mearns and Ask la Cour. The chandeliers light the first, dim parlor scene with enchanting romanticism in scene one, as Brahms’ Opus 52 for pianos and voices wafts in. Women are dressed in mid-19th century, satin, off-shoulder gowns, by Karinska, and heeled dance shows. Couples exchange glances with light embraces and appear somewhat distracted and reserved, until they plunge into their partnered bliss. In the second, brighter, parlor scene, after a curtain pause, the couples return with women in pointe shoes and mid-calf, full, tulle tutus. Brahms’ Opus 65 accompanies dance and song in this segment. Balanchine called the second scene’s mood a dance for the soul.

David Mitchell’s parlor scene with open French doors leading to a garden exterior is always transporting. In the second scene, the exterior is darker, with the ballet a refined, Viennese version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The vocalists seemed to be, unfortunately, over-miked tonight, and the sung tonalities were mostly shrill, yet the ballet was so enthralling that I focused on the dancers and piano tones. The choreography is reserved, sophisticated, fully partnered, social ballroom style. This design is refreshing and revealing of the inherent talent of this remarkable company. As for Ms. Somogyi, she seemed in a dream throughout the ballet, absorbing its aura and meaningfulness. Mr. Angle was a fine, attentive, astute partner in this special moment. As for the three remaining couples, each danced with unique gestural cues that enhanced the grandiosity of this sumptuous ballet.

Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 (1970): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by Nicolas Benois, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor: Paulo Paroni, Performed by Rebecca Krohn, Russell Janzen, Megan LeCrone, Justin Peck, Ana Sophia Scheller, Antonio Carmena, Tiler Peck, Andrew Veyette, and the Company. In 1947, Balanchine produced “Theme and Variations” for Ballet Theater. Tschaikovsky composed Suite No. 3 in 1884, and it was premiered in 1885. Nicolas Benois, son of Diaghilev’s ballet designer, created scenery and costumes for Balanchine. (NYCB Notes).

The perfect complement to Balanchine’s two-part ballet above is Balanchine’s four-part Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3, tonight conducted by Paulo Paroni, who brought out the sumptuous rapture inherent in the four, divergent movements. In the Élégie, Rebecca Krohn and Russell Janzen led the Corps ensemble of six women, all with hair down and flowing, fluid, chiffony gowns, barefoot and headstrong. In the Valse Mélancolique, Megan LeCrone and Justin Peck led a new ensemble of six women, still with flowing hair and differently colored gowns. In the Scherzo, Ana Sophia Scheller and Antonio Carmena led a female ensemble of eight, with silky, loose gowns and loose hair. Then, for the Tema con Variazioni, Tiler Peck and Andrew Veyette appeared in the brightly lit scene, with Ms. Peck’s hair tightly wound in her tiara, matched with a formal tutu, and the chandeliers glowing. This final, fourth movement is often danced in galas and busy, repertory programs.

The ambiance of the third movement is reminiscent of the sleepwalker in Balanchine’s La Sonnambula, flowing locks of hair, pointe shoes, and a dreamy, distant gaze. The stage lighting creates the illusion of a cavernous interior, like Versailles, with dim chandeliers, that sparkle crisply in the fourth movement’s formal pas de deux. Ms. Krohn is perfectly suited for the first movement, with her long lines and long, auburn hair, visible features, and theatrical posture. Partnered by Mr. Jansen, such a striking cavalier in his new darkened hair, Ms. Krohn was almost nymph-like, spritely, mesmerizing. Ms. LeCrone, in the second movement, was subdued in gesture, internalized, but eloquent and languorous, partnered by Mr. Peck, the quintessential cavalier. Although Mr. Peck is busy with company and outside choreographic commissions, I’d like to see him cast as a Prince or other story ballet lead, as he has so much dramatic potential. Ms. Scheller, in the third movement, was impulsive, vibrant, and energized, partnered by Mr. Carmena, who often dances the rapid, male solos. And, Ms. Peck, in the final movement, was virtuosic in leaps, fish dives, spins, and lifts, partnered by Mr. Veyette, who danced, tonight, with expansion and elegance. They were well matched, with chemistry and daring.

Kudos to all.

Jennie Somogyi and Tyler Angle
in George Balanchine’s "Liebeslieder Walzer"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Tiler Peck
in George Balanchine’s "Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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