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New York City Ballet: La Sonnambula, Prodigal Son, Firebird
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New York City Ballet: La Sonnambula, Prodigal Son, Firebird

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

La Sonnambula
Prodigal Son

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
Resident Choreographer: Justin Peck
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
January 21, 2017

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

See Images Below from New York City Ballet’s Winter Art Series by Santtu Mustonen, Mixed Media: Projections and C-Prints on Aluminum.

Conductor: Andrew Litton

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, Performed by Rebecca Krohn as The Coquette, Justin Peck as The Baron, Robert Fairchild as The Poet, Tiler Peck as The Sleepwalker, Troy Schumacher as Harlequin, and the Company, led by Alexa Maxwell, Kristen Segin, Devin Alberda, Harrison Coll, Claire Von Enck, and Sebastian Villarini-Velez.

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).

Robert Fairchild, on break from his starring role in An American in Paris in London, was tonight’s Poet. Mr. Fairchild, a premier danseur, oft Broadway and Hollywood styled, exudes dramatic personality and charisma that grip the imagination and rivet the eye. Balanchine’s La Sonnambula could be reworked for film noir video or theatrical stage, with its sense of mystery and its fantasy seduction, betrayal, and murder. In this ambiance, Mr. Fairchild seduces the Coquette (Rebecca Krohn), who later flees the Baron (Justin Peck) and spies the Poet in enchanted dance with the Sleepwalker (Tiler Peck). In revenge, the Coquette orders the Baron to bring his dagger through the doorway, where the Poet has followed this ethereal vision, who holds a candle and moves in fast, tiny, sideways and backward steps. The plot is clear and romanticized, and Alain Vaes’ mansion backdrop has high windows, through which the Sleepwalker’s candle moves, as well as a courtyard and archway garden.

When Mr. Fairchild is onstage, his craft is spell-binding. Ms. Peck’s Sleepwalker was the most animated I’ve seen, filled with a muscular form of midnight madness. The Poet lies on the stage to halt the Sleepwalker’s motion, but she steps right over him, time and again. In this casting, the action was charismatic, as Mr. Fairchild and Ms. Peck are a married couple. Ms. Peck moved like a silent bumble bee, in rapid form, bristling in her space across the stage. When she carries the lifeless Poet back through the doorway, in her arms, it seemed effortless. Ms. Krohn as Coquette and Mr. Peck as Baron added a bit less to the ensuing drama. Ms. Krohn is a strong dancer, but in a somewhat restrained manner. She understated the wily flirtation of a coquette. Mr. Peck played the Baron without the heightened, theatrical edge.

Troy Schumacher was a buoyant, bouncing Harlequin, a comical, quasi-Greek Chorus of one. The lead Corps, in Pastorale and Pas de Deux, royally entertained at the masked ball, the event at which Poet meets Sleepwalker. The Company, as sixteen Guests, was dazzling and elegant, especially thanks to Alain Vaes’ colorful costuming. This one-act Balanchine story ballet is always remarkable for its leads, and with Ms. Peck and Mr. Fairchild in filmy white costumes and warmly lit showcase, it was, as always, absorbing. Andrew Litton, Conductor, with his Orchestra, created sumptuous chordal tones. Kudos to Balanchine.

Prodigal Son (1950), Ballet in Three Scenes: Libretto by Boris Kochno, Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Choreography be George Balanchine, Décor by Georges Rouault, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Joaquin De Luz as The Prodigal Son, Maria Kowroski as The Siren, Aaron Sanz as Father, Spartak Hoxha and Chaleb Kayali as Servants to The Prodigal Son, Gretchen Smith and Jenelle Manzi as The Sisters, and the Company as Drinking Companions. Balanchine, then 24 years old and Diaghilev's last Ballet Master, choreographed this work in 1929, three months prior to Diaghilev's death. Rouault created the décor, and this ballet was premiered in 1950 for NYC Ballet. (NYCB Notes).

Joaquin De Luz, as The Prodigal Son, performs with highly seasoned muscularity, dramatic persona, mid-air leaps, and arms and fists pumping the air. He leaps over the gate to explore the larger world. His subsequent molestation and torture, by The Siren’s Drinking Companions, was epitomized with mature gestural and bodily anguish. In Mr. De Luz’ pas de deux with Teresa Reichlen, she slides down his torso, their legs intertwining, even though Ms. Reichlen towers over him with her elongated limbs. She epitomizes an erotic Siren, psychically and physically overpowering her prey. Her long red cape becomes part of the set. Balanchine’s percussive and propulsive choreography is set against Georges Rouault’s iconic set, a brilliant tableau. Spartak Hoxha and Ghaleb Kayali were the dramatic Servants to the Prodigal Son, nervously dashing to and fro with vases, horns, buckets, and so on. Aaron Sanz had a serious gaze and steady stance as Father. Gretchen Smith and Jenelle Manzi were well suited as The Sisters. The Prokofiev score magnificently unfolded under the baton of Maestro Litton, City Ballet’s recently hired Music Director, who now has quite a bit of new repertoire under his baton’s spell.

Firebird (1949): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, Scenery and costumes designed by Marc Chagall (1945), Scenery executed under the supervision of Volodia Odinokov, Costumes executed by Karinska, Firebird costume supervised by Dain Marcus, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Ashley Bouder as Firebird, Zachary Catazaro as Prince Ivan, Silas Farley as Kastchei the Wizard, Ashley Laracey as Prince’s Bride, and the Company as Maidens, Youths, and Subjects. Balanchine’s 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 Stravinsky’s 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).

This Robbins ballet, in today's trio of dynamic, one-act story ballets, was, for me, the highlight, as Ashley Bouder’s drama and skill are so well suited to the evocation of this red bird with undulating arms and difficult choreography. Firebird has seemingly "hundreds" of creatures, like roosters, monsters, horses, and more, scampering or huddling for eerie effect. Zachary Catazaro, as Prince Ivan, was focused and yearning. Mr. Catazaro is a rambunctious dancer, unlike most in the role with a princely demeanor. Silas Farley, as Kastchei the Wizard, is a theatrical dancer. He expanded the entertaining, iconic monster moment, along with costumed creatures for all the children to see.

Of course, all moments morph in ballet, and the monster moment morphed to the wedding scene, where Ashley Laracey, first in long white, then long red, was finally the bride in a festive scene. She hosted young cherubs, assuredly from School of American Ballet, who dashed to and fro with cake and candles for the courtly crowd, along with the corps in full ornamentation and regal attire. But, this ballet belonged to Ms. Bouder, with her high leaps, magnetic attitude, and surprise, choreographic flourishes. This ballet also belonged to Marc Chagall, whose massive, color-hued backdrops were hand-painted with a quintessential firebird, ladder, castle, moon, forest, a bride, a bouquet, and everything else Chagall. Kudos to Jerome Robbins, and kudos to Andrew Litton for leading all three scores tonight, by Rieti, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky, with relish and resonance.

Maria Kowroski and Joaquin De Luz
in Balanchine's "Prodigal Son"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Ashley Bouder in Balanchine's "Firebird"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Santtu Mustonen Mixed Media Installation
"Cross Pollination": Projections and C-Prints on Aluminum
On The Prominade at Koch Theater
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Santtu Mustonen Mixed Media Installation
"Cross Pollination": Projections and C-Prints on Aluminum
On The Prominade at Koch Theater
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Santtu Mustonen Mixed Media Installation
"Cross Pollination": Projections and C-Prints on Aluminum
On The Prominade at Koch Theater
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Santtu Mustonen Mixed Media Installation
"Cross Pollination": Projections and C-Prints on Aluminum
On The Prominade at Koch Theater
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

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