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American Ballet Theatre: Shostakovich Trilogy 2016
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American Ballet Theatre: Shostakovich Trilogy 2016

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American Ballet Theatre

Shostakovich Trilogy 2016

At the
Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Kara Medoff Barnett, Executive Director
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
Susie Morgan Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 20, 2016

(Read More ABT Reviews.)

(See a Conversation with Conductor, David LaMarche, on the Spring 2016 Season Ballet Music.)

Symphony #9 (2012): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Staged by Nancy Raffa, Music by Dmitri Shostakovich (Symphony No. 9 in E-flat major, op. 70), Scenery by George Tsypin, Costumes by Keso Dekker, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Veronika Part, Roberto Bolle, Joseph Gorak, Luciana Paris, Arron Scott, and the Company.

Tonight was a revival of the three-part Shostakovich Trilogy, last reviewed together on these pages three seasons ago. In the trilogy’s three ballets in 2013, we had Ivan Vasiliev, Paloma Herrera, David Hallberg, Diana Vishneva, Natalia Osipova, Julie Kent, and Herman Cornejo onstage, in at least one of the three ballets of the trilogy. At this point, however, these brilliant stars have either left the Company or are on short- or long-term injury leave. Mr. Cornejo will be back soon, I am sure, and in tonight’s first ballet, Symphony #9, his featured substitute was Joseph Gorak. Mr. Gorak remains a youthful, bubbly dancer, with rapid, perfectly executed fouettés, revolving endlessly on one leg, even as the curtain closes, but he’s not the daredevil, eat-the-stage Mr. Cornejo. Shostakovich’s music is tumultuous, with Soviet-era, socio-political-tonal-atonal themes. Roberto Bolle and Arron Scott were sophisticated, athletic, and ebullient, with Mr. Scott falling courageously into the linked arms of his colleagues. Luciana Paris was frisky and fervent, while Veronica Part was ever the lady, tall, mature, sensual, commanding.

In one segment, Mr. Bolle falls to the stage, as Ms. Part embraces him, in vague internalized torment. The Company ensemble was riveting, as it shifted groupings and posture. There are pas de deux, ensemble dance, and some abstract, elusive dramatizations. The music is brimming with sweeping and sparkling passages, as well as driven darkness and languorous melancholy. The ensemble moves on every level, falling onto the stage, lying down, walking in synchronized formations, waving, hushing a partner, and so on. Jennifer Tipton has created varying shades of light and dark on the backdrop, while Keso Dekker has created light and dark feathery – flora designs in the costumes. This is a serious work with moods of twilight and midnight. Ormsby Wilkins conducted with confidence and mastery.

Chamber Symphony (2013) Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Staged by Nancy Raffa, Music by Dmitri Shostakovich (Chamber Symphony Op. 110a), Arranged by Rudolph Barshai, Scenery by George Tsypin, Costumes by Keso Dekker, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Jeffrey Cirio, Cassandra Trenary, Isabella Boylston, Devon Teuscher, and the Company.

Tonight, the recently hired Soloist, Jeffrey Cirio, had large shoes to fill, as he assumed the role of the long-injured Principal, David Hallberg. He was joined by Isabella Boylston, Cassandra Trenary, Devon Teuscher, and a mixed ensemble of twelve. There’s a sense of yearning and longing in this ballet, set to Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, conducted by Charles Barker. Mr. Cirio, bare-chested in a dark suit, is accompanied by the three lead women in elegant black dresses. This work is both mournful and playful, with contrasting moods and motifs. The falling image repeats, a sense of overwhelming emotional burden. George Tsypin’s scenery has abstract grey male visages drawn, adding to the gravitas. Mr. Cirio partners the female leads, dancing a form of surreal waltz, with the Corps surrounding the stage in dramatic fervor. There were structured synchronizations of the Corps that imbued theatricality and suspense, with Mr. Cirio seeming psychically drawn out in the finale. In the Corps, Gabe Stone Shayer continually caught my eye.

Piano Concerto #1 (World Premiere) Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Staged by Nancy Raffa, Music by Dmitri Shostakovich (Concerto No. 1 for Piano, Trumpet, and Strings, Op. 35), Scenery by George Tsypin, Costumes by Keso Dekker, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Piano Soloist: Barbara Bilach, Trumpet Soloist: Carl Albach, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Christine Shevchenko, Calvin Royal III, Skylar Brandt, Gabe Stone Shayer, and the Company.

Once again, Shostakovich was front and center in sound and imagination, as his Concerto No. 1 for Piano, Trumpet, and Strings was the score for the third ballet. The two featured musicians were Barbara Bilach on piano and Carl Albach on trumpet, with a highly energized David LaMarche conducting the orchestra, while magnifying the strings. Keso Dekker’s costumes, here red-grey unitards, with red leotards for the two lead women, enhance the contemporary, red scenic hangings by George Tsypin, probably an homage to the Soviet Union. This is the most dynamic and driven of the three segments, with Skylar Brandt and Christine Shevchenko joining Calvin Royal III and Gabe Stone Shayer in the lead. A mixed ensemble of twelve backs the leads in this breathtaking work. The vitality in this third ballet was the most awe-inspiring and stunning, with no wandering thoughts back to the 2013 cast. This cast is far superior, and the four leads literally flew, with Ms. Brandt leaping mid-air and Ms. Shevchenko creating a lush pas de deux with Mr. Royal. Mr. Shayer was featured in a push-pull with the male ensemble. Ms. Bilach’s piano solos and Mr. Albach’s trumpet solos, along with their merged duos and orchestrations, imbued the experience with a jazzy, sassy, sparkling pulse.

Kudos to Alexei Ratmansky.

Scene from "Chamber Symphony"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Skylar Brandt in "Piano Concerto #1"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Christine Shevchenko and Calvin Royal III
in "Piano Concerto #1"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Gabe Stone Shayer in "Piano Concerto #1"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

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