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A Fall 2014 Discussion with David LaMarche, Conductor, American Ballet Theatre
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A Fall 2014 Discussion with David LaMarche, Conductor, American Ballet Theatre

- Offstage with the Dancers

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A Fall 2014 Discussion with David LaMarche
Conductor, American Ballet Theatre

Previewing Four Repertory Ballets and Musical Scores

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 13, 2014

(See More ABT Interviews, Reviews, and Candids.)

This is a series of questions posed to David LaMarche, Conductor of American Ballet Theatre, which is about to have its Fall Season at the David H. Koch Theater, October 22, 2014 to November 2, 2014. David LaMarche has been favorably reviewed in his capacity as ABT Conductor in these pages on multiple occasions in recent years. I recently chatted with Maestro LaMarche at Bar Basso, at 235 West 56th Street, NYC, over Italian Wine, Platters of Prosciutto San Daniele and Two Formaggi, Olive Paté, and Hot Italian Bread.

David LaMarche told me he’s in rehearsals for the Fall 2014 Season at Koch Theater. We spoke about the upcoming music and productions for four repertory ballets, that he will conduct.

RZ: In 2004 and 2005 I reviewed a new ABT production of "Raymonda", by Anna-Marie Holmes and Kevin McKenzie. It was a ballet in two acts, very upbeat and fluffy. Then, in 2008, I reviewed "Scenes from Raymonda", when the Kirov was in town, and on many occasions, across the Plaza, Balanchine's "Raymonda Variations". Now ABT is presenting “Raymonda Divertissements", with two listed leads. This is listed online as a Pas de Deux for two dancers. How did the full-length ballet get whittled down over the years to "Scenes" and then a Pas de Deux of "Divertissements" Talk to me about your impression of the evolution of "Raymonda" and what to expect this fall, musically and with the McKenzie-Kolpakova choreography.

DLM: The website only lists Principals in each ballet. So, in "Raymonda", only the lead couple will be listed. There are 10 dancers total. The musical shape of "Raymonda" will be similar to past versions, with all the traditional modifications of tempo for dramatic effect! Kolpakova will be setting the version she learned at the Kirov, so the character will be authentic.

RZ: Massine's "Gaîté" is a busy, ebullient ballet. Last season somehow, waiting endlessly for the Can-Can dancers, I confused the Cocodettes for Can-Can dancers. Does each solo character have an identifying musical entrance, as in full-length ballets? Will this season's "Gaîté" be staged just as in the spring, or will there be a pairing down of the cast for the smaller Koch Theater? What are the nuances in the Offenbach score, as it's so consistently vibrant and propulsive? Of course I know the Can-Can theme and saw them perform at the Moulin Rouge.

DLM: In "Gaîté", yes, each character has a specific melodic theme which identifies him or her. It will be the exact same staging as at the Met, same number of dancers. The Offenbach score, which is actually orchestrated by Manuel Rosenthal, employs a very tight, active brass section, rather romantic writing for strings, and many humorous effects in the percussion to make it memorable.

RZ: Antony Tudor's "Jardin aux Lilas" is in the staged emotional range of "Manon", "Lady of the Camellias", and "Onegin", only in one act. How do you fit all the torment of Chausson's score with the balletic theatrics into this compact work? Remember I told you how magnetic the "Manon" score by Massenet was, and I couldn't wait to hear it again. Will Chausson have the same effect? What are the musical highlights, as they relate to the dramatic angst? How is this ballet, besides length, different from those mentioned above?

DLM: I think that Tudor did the job already of distilling the essence of the story into a very compact, yet meaningful, ballet. We just perform the score as written, in the appropriate style, and it works like a charm. The Chausson is very beautiful, more fragile and subtle than the Manon score. There are, however some thrilling climaxes, and virtuoso passages in the solo violin part. “Jardin aux Lilas” differs from the above pieces in that it achieves its effects by suggestion and inference rather than straightforward storytelling.

RZ: A few years ago, after seeing "Fancy Free" for the umpteenth time in the past decade, I finally purchased my own red pocketbook. I love this ballet. It must be hard to conduct the sailors, as each principal, cast in the role, embellishes the barroom solo differently. This ballet I can almost envision, moment to moment, from start to finish, as each scene has unique choreography and music that matches. If I heard the score alone, I'd see all the action in my mind. How do you keep it fresh, and how do you adjust for each dancer's take on the sailors and passersby? What's your favorite musical scene or moment?

DLM: Actually, it takes no effort to keep “Fancy Free” fresh, as it is so well written, rhythmically challenging, and very clever, both musically and dramatically. The sailors' solos are pretty standard in terms of tempo, as each one has a clearly defined character and function in the ballet. It's all pretty wonderful for me, but I do think that the opening dance of the three sailors is brilliant and infectious, and I love the slow, barroom piano solo for the third girl at the end.

ABT Conductor, David LaMarche at Bar Basso
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

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