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New York City Ballet - Raymonda Variations, Andantino, Concerto for Two Solo Pianos, Firebird

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 15, 2004
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023
212.875.5456

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New York City Ballet - Raymonda Variations, Andantino, Concerto for Two Solo Pianos, Firebird

(www.nycb.org)

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
Manager, Press Relations, Siobhan Burns

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center

Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 15, 2004

Raymonda Variations (1961): (See January 19, 2003 Review). Music by Alexander Glazounov, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Horace Armistead, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Miranda Weese, Nilas Martins, Ashley Bouder, Faye Arthurs, Megan Fairchild, Gwyneth Muller, Carrie Lee Riggins, and the Company. This distilled version of the full-length Raymonda is so well suited and more interesting than its longer counterpart, with increased pointe choreography and fanciful, but difficult partnering. Ms. Bouder was, as always, confident and coy, yet a bit reserved in her pink tutu and rosebuds. Ms. Fairchild, with her spring-like buoyancy, is too little seen in solos. She has quintessential timing and precise presence and poise.

The orchestral accompaniments to the nine variations were exquisite, with harp and violin solos that created an ambiance of airiness. Mr. Martins is perfect for such a work, with his attentive and muscular partnering and his visage of porcelain features. Notable as well, was Ms. Weese, with elegant balance and artistry. Ms. Arthurs, Ms. Muller, and Ms. Riggins held their own quite well with classical grace. Kudos to Karinska for her outstanding pink confections called costumes.


Andantino (1981): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky (from 1st Piano Concerto, Second Movement), Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Ben Benson, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Piano Solo: Susan Walters, Performed by Yvonne Borree and Peter Boal. Having changed my seat to the first tier box for a closer view of the stage and an aerial view of the orchestra, I was struck by the chemistry between Ms. Borree and Mr. Boal. Ms. Borree is more and more versatile, in both stark, contemporary roles and romantic Pas de Deux, such as this. Tschaikovsky's First Piano Concerto has always been a favorite, a rich, moving piece that transports the listener to a dreamy state of mind. Susan Walters, on piano, was an outstanding soloist, and the costumes of Ms. Borree's pale leotard and skirt against Mr. Boal's flowing shirt created an ethereal effect.

Robbins' choreography with its lifts and intertwining bodies was the embodiment of the Tschaikovsky theme. This is a work to see once again.


Concerto for Two Solo Pianos (1982): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Ben Benson, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Pianists: Cameron Grant and Richard Moredock, Performed by Alexandra Ansanelli, Sébastien Marcovici, Amar Ramasar, and the Company. With Cameron Grant and Richard Moredock on pianos, stage rear, Stravinsky's haunting score is exquisitely performed by Ms. Ansanelli, this season's frequently featured, shining star, in a white unitard, Mr. Marcovici, an interesting and virtuosic performer, in a black unitard, and the oft-seen corps member, Amar Ramasar, in a blazing red unitard.

There are solos, partnering, and even trio combinations, all of which are impassioned and connected. Clearly, Ms. Ansanelli can turn circles around most male Principals in the Company, and Mr. Ramasar did not seem quite ready for this partnering challenge. At this point, he seems quite ready to assume solo choreography and has significantly improved on his internalized strength and externalized stage and audience connections. However, to partner Ms. Ansanelli in a season that has seen her in tour de force performances with Damian Woetzel, one must be a bravura performer. Mr. Marcovici seemed to exude the lack of self-consciousness and the full sense of drama critical to this work. The corps was superb in its intermittent presence in contemporary choreographic variations.

Mr. Ramasar and Mr. Marcovici led Ms. Ansanelli through winding partnering, extra high leg lifts, and upside down and twisted formations. A remarkable effect is achieved as each soloist appears onstage in glaring white, red, or black and then joins in the variations that end with the two males surrounding the collapsed figure of Ms. Ansanelli. This piece needs to be seen several times for its complexities.


Firebird (1949): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, Scenery and costumes designed by Marc Chagall (1945), Scenery executed by 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, James Fayette as prince Ivan, Henry Seth as Kastchei the Wizard, Dena Abergel 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 new production was staged in 1985. (NYCB Notes).

The plot centers on Prince Ivan, who captures a Firebird in the woods. When she begs for freedom, and her wish is granted, he receives a magic plume. Kastchei, the wizard, has enchanted a Princess and the maidens, but Prince Ivan rescues them all and marries the Princess. (NYCB Notes). This ballet has survived over one-half century and is replete with collaboration between the renowned artist, Marc Chagall (original sets and costumes), George Balanchine, Madame Karinska, and Jerome Robbins.

Ms. Bouder was a Firebird extraordinaire, with star quality in her technique and dramatization, as this fiery red creature undulated and shook her wings and claws in captured fear. Her interpretive dancing was outstanding, in this most amazing costume, and she related to Mr. Fayette's character with gratitude and generosity of spirit, as he swept away the Princess, Ms. Abergel, a romantic and elegant performer. The Wizard, embodied by Mr. Seth, lurked perilously near Firebird, and Mr. Seth was a remarkable figure in an incredible costume.

I wished I had brought a child to see the chickens and horses, among other animals and creatures that created a kaleidoscope of color and fantasy, filling the stage with splendor. Marc Chagall's sets were magical and so very signature Chagall, with inherent images of his wife, Bella, and her bouquets in the various screens and backdrops. The lighting of a red Firebird on a larger screen was dream-like. Every sense was heightened in this most sensational work, which was an extrapolated version of the original, full-length work.

Mr. Fayette partnered his Firebird and Princess with equal technical and emotional magnetism. His exceptional attentiveness and athleticism were apparent. Kudos to Igor Stravinsky for the captivating score. Kudos to Marc Chagall for rare and renowned sets and costumes and to Karinska for the current costumes that transform dancers into masked and feathered creatures. Kudos to Ashley Bouder and James Fayette for their virtuosic performances.

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