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New York City Ballet: Fanfare, Afternoon of a Faun, Andantino, The Four Seasons

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 12, 2005
Lincoln Center
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New York City Ballet: Fanfare, Afternoon of a Faun, Andantino, The Four Seasons

New York City Ballet
George Balanchine's
(NYC Ballet Website)

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children's Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Andrea Quinn
Marketing, Managing Director, Rob Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 12, 2005

Jerome Robbins (1918-1998) Program.

Fanfare (1953): Music by Benjamin Britten (The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34), Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery and Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Text by Eric Crozier, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Conductor: Richard Moredock, Major Domo: David Lowenstein, Performed by Jennifer Tinsley, Seth Orza, Ask la Cour, Rachel Rutherford, Teresa Reichlen, Adam Hendrickson, Daniel Ulbricht, Tom Gold, and the Company as Woodwinds, Strings, Brass, and Percussion. The original cast of this unique work included Jacques D'Amboise. The score was composed by Britten to honor the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and premiered on Coronation Night. It also celebrates the various instruments and families of instruments in the modern orchestra. (NYCB Notes).

What a lovely surprise on this first viewing of an extraordinary work, on an all Jerome Robbins night at the ballet, to learn that Fanfare teaches the audience the orchestral instruments through dividing the corps and soloists (a great showcase for non-principal dancers) into woodwinds, strings, brass, and percussion, with adorable and campy costumes: orange for strings, yellow for brass, gray for woodwinds, and black for percussion. Irene Sharaff's costumes are worthy of children's literature, and a wonderful book (perhaps there is one) could be made with audio accompaniment for this Robbins ballet.

David Lowenstein, as Major Domo, announces the instruments in narrative and dramatic fashion, with courtly pomp and attire. He is a delight and times and enunciates his words as intrinsic to Britten's intentions. Robbins has created a masterpiece among masterpieces, with variations for piccolo and flutes, oboe (Faye Arthurs performs with aplomb), clarinets, bassoons, violins, violas, cellos, double bass (Ask la Cour in a well conceived role, as he is muscular, tall, and dramatic), harp (Teresa Reichlen with athletic antics galore), horns, trumpets (Adam Hendrickson is able to leap and spin in signature form), tuba and trombones (Daniel Ulbricht is also able to dash en air like a sprite gone wild), and drums, cymbals, gongs, etc. (Tom Gold, Amar Ramasar, and Sean Suozzi add hormones to the mix, and Mr. Gold performs lightning turns and percussive takes on the rhythms).

Kudos to David Lowenstein and NYC Ballet soloists and corps.

Afternoon of a Faun (1953): (See April 28, 2004 Review). Music by Claude Debussy, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery and Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Performed by Janie Taylor and Damian Woetzel. Debussy is known for "musical impressionism" and wrote a large repertoire of works for piano and for orchestra, including "Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune", 1892-94. (NYCB Notes).

Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune is one of my favorite scores, and Janie Taylor, as the nymph (one here, not the group of nymphs in the Nijinsky version), and Damian Woetzel as the faun, now a ballet student, not the half-man, half-goat version of the original, were incredibly partnered for passion, magnetism, interpretation, and an almost existential quality of ethereal elusiveness. Robbins staged his Afternoon of a Faun in a dance studio with imaginary mirror to the audience, in glowing blues and hints of darkness. I wanted this piece to never end. Mr. Woetzel transported Ms. Taylor on his shoulders and back with weightless effect. It was momentary attraction, maybe fleeting love, or just a fantasy in a dream. The necessary erotic elements were handled discreetly but directly. Kudos to Mallarmé for the inspiring poem that led to this score, and kudos to Ms. Taylor and Mr. Woetzel for their mesmerizing performance.

Andantino (1981): (See June 15, 2004 Review). Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky (from 1st Piano Concerto, Second Movement), Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Ben Benson, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Piano Solo: Nancy McDill, Performed by Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz. The original cast of the premiere of this work included Darci Kistler and Ib Anderson. (NYCB Notes).

This lyrical, luscious, and lightning pas de deux could not have had two more lyrical, luscious, and lightning dancers for its presentation tonight. Joaquin De Luz (recently promoted to principal) and Megan Fairchild (also a new principal) were on view, perhaps a debut, so to speak, of their inherent and potential virtuosity for challenging choreography. This all too brief work, another Robbins masterpiece, exemplified the romance and rapture of the Tschaikovsky theme from one of my favorite piano concertos. This music is impassioned, intense, and intoxicating, and Ms. Fairchild and Mr. De Luz, both of small stature and frame, and both with wiry, electric physicality, were exceptionally partnered to maximize this work's bravura qualities. Kudos to both, and kudos to Tschaikovsky.

The Four Seasons (1979):(See April 30, 2004 Review). Music by Giuseppe Verdi, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery and Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Performed by Jason Fowler as Janus, Andrew Veyette as Winter, Dana Hanson as Spring, Sara Mearns as Summer, Henry Seth as Fall, Adam Hendrickson, Megan Fairchild, Aaron Severini, Jenifer Ringer (Danskin Spokesperson), Jared Angle, Rachel Rutherford, Stephen Hanna, Ashley Bouder, Joaquin De Luz, Antonio Carmena, and the Company, including Saskia Beskow (Danskin Spokesperson). Verdi was known as a prolific composer of opera and was active in Italian politics. The Four Seasons draws upon Verdi's operas, I Vespri Siciliani, I Lombardi, and Il Trovatore. (NYCB Notes).

With almost the same cast as last year's viewing, this four-part piece, divided into costume colors, backdrops, and motifs of the four annual seasons, was commanding at every moment. An exceptional cast was chosen at each juncture. Jason Fowler, in his signature role as Janus, opened the festivities, and Megan Fairchild, along with Adam Hendrickson (a one-man blizzard) and Aaron Severini, led Winter in icy repose, after Andrew Veyette introduced the season with drama and dynamics. The corps was adorable, as they shivered and shook in the presumed cold, as video snowflakes fell against the eclectic backdrop by Santo Loquasto (a renowned figure in all art genres).

Dana Hanson introduced the pastel Spring, with flowery, soft textures abundant. Jenifer Ringer and Jared Angle led Spring with warmth and style, although Mr. Angle could be more impassioned in partnering and presence. Summer was introduced by Sara Mearns and led by Rachel Rutherford and Stephen Hanna with generous gestures that exuded the heat and desire rampant in the nature of the season. But, it was Fall that drew the most accolades, as Ashley Bouder (substituting for Alexandra Ansanelli) and Joaquin De Luz (substituting for Benjamin Millepied), along with a surprising Antonio Carmena as an animal-like creature with incredible potency, brought the audience to vocal ovations.

The corps supported this trio with engaging energy, and Ms. Bouder and Mr. De Luz exuded in motion the reds and oranges of the fiery, Fall backdrop. They fed off each other's and Mr. Carmena's power and athleticism, and their youthful exuberance closed a rare Robbins tribute with magnificent results. Kudos to Maurice Kaplow, to NYC Ballet Orchestra, and to Jerome Robbins for this memorable evening.



Janie Taylor in NYCB's Afternoon of a Faun
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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