Mischief, Mischief & More - Gelsey Kirkland Ballet

On Sunday, I saw the last performance of GKB's "Mischief, Mischief & More" mixed bill of ballet.

It is just fun to see this company of young dancers get better and better with each performance.  Dawn Gierling led the opening piece "Harlequinade" and was partnered by an impressive Johnny Almeida.  Once again, Kaito Yamamoto stole the show in a bit part as a spurned Bridegroom.  I also enjoyed Sabina Alvarez as Pierette.  The corps was tight and well rehearsed. One dancer stood out with a lovely demeanor and expressive movement.  I was sorry that I was unable to verify her name.  Everyone, however, was light faced and natural.  There were no forced smiles or grimaces in the bunch.

The centerpiece of the mixed bill was Leonid Yakobson's The Wedding Procession.  The style of it reminded of Kurt Jooss' The Green Table.  Not the subject matter but in the modern, angular style and strong emphasis on acting.  And GKB acted up a storm.  Kailee Felix and Anderson Souza were very in control of the style and the acting.  Once again, Kaito Yamamoto stood out again while dancing only a bit part as the Rabbi.

The company put all their energy to end the program with Walpurgis Nacht.  Nina Yoshida was fantastic and without fear.  She and her partner, Gustavo Ramirez, performed some tricky dead lifts that could be hair raising for a female dancer.  It all came off looking spectacular.  The corps was again enthusiastic and well-rehearsed.

This small company does fine work and more than prove the validity of Kirkland's teaching syllabus stressing drama.


Swan Lake Pas De Deux - Nehemiah Kish and Precious Adams

I've followed Precious Adams since she made a splash as one of the few dancers accepted into the Bolshoi Academy school.  She is physically perfect for ballet and possesses fine musicality.  The English National Ballet snapped her up after school.  It is just too bad no major American company saw fit to do so.

In this clip, posted on Adams' Instagram, is a rehearsal of the Swan Lake Pas de Deux with Royal Ballet principal Nehemiah Kish.  They look great together and have good chemistry.  It is just too bad we in NY can only choose to watch crooked claw Boylston, floppy Seo, toddler Kochetkova or Roller Derby Copeland at ABT.  It is particularly insulting that we have to laud Copeland's sloppy, awkward dancing when there are so many better, beautiful black dancers that eclipse her on a good day.


Sarah Lane on the ABT Instagram

ABT posted this short vid of Sarah Lane preparing her role for Ratmansky's Chamber Symphony. Lane is rarely featured on the company website.  But I've been seeing her presence a bit more of late. Which gives me hope for a possible promotion.  Maybe hell is starting to freeze and the Devil is wearing his mittens.


Sleeping Beauty - Lynn Seymour and Rudolf Nureyev

There are so few videos of Lynn Seymour dancing in her prime.  She was an elusive wild child of the ballet.  Almost in the same vein as Gelsey Kirkland.  There is a rawness to how she moves, a vitality that won't be stifled.  It is no surprise that Kenneth MacMillan choreographed his most famous ballet Romeo & Juliet on her.  It is also saddening to think that what would have been her big splash of a debut in a ballet made just for her was ruined by the Fonteyn/Nureyev juggernaut.  She was not the first wonderful ballerina to be cast in shadow by these two super stars.

Eventually she became a regular partner of Nureyev.  I happened upon a very fuzzy, but very great clip of their partnership in Sleeping Beauty.  Their dancing is economical, dramatic and very much at tempo.  No overly delayed musical pauses to pose like pretty pictures.  In the solo, Seymour does slow the tempo down for the traveling coupe steps.  But she hasn't done this to show off her extra precious style.  She immediately goes back to tempo then even faster in the ending pirouettes.  So the slow down is done for contrast.

Nureyev, of course, is perfect as always.

I really wish we had more video of Seymour dancing.


Die EntfĂĽhrung aus dem Serail - Met

Wow, I never meant to go silent for so long. Things just kept getting in the way of writing.

Last weekend I attended the one of the last performances of the MET season. At first I was a little leery because the operas I attended this year were very hit or miss. But Die EntfĂĽhrung aus dem Serail was good.  The singers were adept and James Levine was the conductor.

I was very happy to hear everyone over the orchestra.  Albina Shagimuratova had a lovely, clear tone that wasn't too reedy for a coloratura.  My only reservation was that some of her breathing choices were a bit messy.  I shouldn't have been able to notice her gasping for breath in between ornamental trills and runs.  This led to some of her top notes to sound a little wild and open.  However by the end of the performance, she had her body under control.  Kathleen Kim fared better as Blondchen displaying a beautiful honey voice with gorgeous top notes and full low notes.  She was also a good actress and held her own against powerhouse Hans-Peter König.

König was by far the most accomplished singer on the stage.  He had a perfectly controlled voice and a great comical flair for Osmin.  It also didn't hurt that he was German and his pronunciation was clear. The rest of the cast were not German and their attempt at the language was questionable many times.  Paul Appleby and Brenton Ryan rounded out the lead cast very well.

The sets were simple yet very pretty.  Although I still think the MET carries on intermissions way too long, it was nice to not hear the backstage crew laboring to pull apart elaborate sets.  I think all productions should look more towards simplicity rather than over the top ostentation.  But then again, considering that some of the singers I heard this year were not top notch, maybe the fancy sets are there to hide the weakness.

Despite some disappointments this year, my experience with MET opera has been enjoyable.  And I would like to go back next season.  They are performing some interesting productions that I would love to see...Strauss' Salome being one of them.  But I will say that becoming totally dependent on the guest star strategy has ruined the MET's character and consistency in performance.  Singers who fly in and out for performances don't have the same attitude as in-house talent who are supporting a company.  However spotty guest stars are cheaper and easier then developing/supporting talent.  So the highs and the lowest of the dregs will continue into the future.


Les Fetes VĂ©nitiennes - Les Arts Florissant

I never thought I would say that I hated an opera production.  Even the poor Met performances I've attended have never made me feel like I've been insulted.

But I loathed this production, I hated its relentless vulgarity and how it insulted my intelligence.

So we began with a thinly veiled "black mass" showcasing a Luciferian puppet complete with a crown that had the all seeing eye on its third eye chakra.  Subtle.  Then we had another character come out as the Whore of Babylon complete with imps wearing wigs mimicking the horns of Baphomet.  To top it off, the whole black magic shindig was completed with an orgy.

I wish I was kidding but I'm not.  That is what this opera subjected its viewers.  All under the puerile guise of being "outrageous".  No, No, NO, they were not being outrageous.  I could have seen what they showed on late night Cable.  I could access hard core pornography on the web at any time, if I wanted.  But that is not what I wanted to see in Opera.  I highly doubt Andre Campra, the poor late composer, thought that his opera celebrated Lucifer.

I read an interview regarding the production beforehand.  The creators were all about giving opera comique to contemporary audiences.  Audiences who didn't want to watch the same old historical piece.  Well, this viewer wanted to see an historical production.  I would have liked to see the opera staged in a fashion that the royalty of the early 18th century saw it.  What was wrong with pretty costumes done in a comedy dell'arte style?  It still could have been cheeky.  I mean little Bo Beeps dressed in cute pastel dresses surrounded by masks can be cheeky.  No one needed to see topless women.  Yes, there were female dancers missing their bras.

But no, they had to push the YOU ARE IN HELL!!!!! style.  So everything was a garish red.  EVERYTHING.  From the lighting to the sets to the ugly costumes.

All of this, I could have overlooked if Les Arts Florissant gave me good singers.  BUT NO!!!!  The supermodel types are back with their shitty voices that can't be overheard over the orchestra.  Which is really poor because Baroque orchestras are quite a bit smaller than what Verdi employed.  Only three singers in the whole production were worthy, they were Rachel Redmond, Marcel Beekman and Cyril Auvity.  The runners up were Elodie Fonnard and Jonathan McGovern.  But really, besides the three who could actually sing and be heard over the orchestra, the rest should leave the stage...forever.

But the orchestra did well.  At times the chorus was very good.  When they were not required to hold black mass orgies.

All I can say is AVOID this production.  But if you have to see it, then go.  But don't say you haven't been warned.  I'm hoping I can one day see a truly worthy Opera Comique staged in the beautiful, witty and sarcastic style that royalty of the day expected.  But this wasn't it.

Lucifer Welcomes You to the Opera! See, I wasn't lying.


Esmeralda - Carla Fracci and Stephen Jeffries

I've just discovered that many of the little clips of Fracci in period pieces were part of a television mini-series regarding the history of 19th and early 20th century ballerinas.  At the time it was filmed, Fracci was 51 years old.

Also I have to repeat how wonderful it is to see two dancers just dancing and celebrating the choreography.  They aren't turning the performance into vanity showcases.  They aren't slowing down the tempo to give themselves some leeway to pose like Barbie dolls.

The Esmeralda solo in particular is quick, sexy and witty.  Traits that are sorely missing in the piece as it is danced today.  As usual the Russians have slowed it down to Frankenstein monster tempo and it looks something like the monster tap dancing to "Putting on the Ritz" in Mel Brook's Young Frankenstein.  They also changed the choreography to that vulgar, gymnastic move where the ballet dancer hits the tamborine with her foot in a huge grand battement.  Just so we can get a crotch flash along with the showcase of unwanted flexibility.  And of course, everyone follows the Russian lead and now anyone seeing the piece today, thinks it is a drecky, vulgar, overly cutsey mess.


At time mark 17:07, watch how Esmeralda should NOT be danced but how everyone does it anyway...because Russians.