Wednesday, July 02, 2014

American Ballet Theatre – Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. June 27, 2014.

Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center.  Balcony (Seat F105, $65.)

Choreography by Kevin McKenzie after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, Set and costumes by Zack Brown.

Conductor – Ormsby Wilkins; Odette-Odile – Hee Seo, Prince Siegfried – Herman Cornejo, The Queen Mother – Nancy Raffa, von Rothbart  - Roman Zhurbin and Alexandre Hammoudi.

We came about seeing this ballet in a rather round-about way.  It started with our asking Kimberly – a 10-year old girl from church who takes dance lessons – whether she would like to see Cinderella (the ballet.)  The timing didn’t work out because school was still in session when Cinderella was on, so Anne and I went by ourselves.  This particular performance worked out for her (school concluded the day before,) and I don’t mind seeing it another time.  We ended up going with Kimberly and Agnes.

Hee Seo, who debuted Cinderella earlier this season, was tapped to perform the role of the swan as the guest artist Alina Cojocaru withdrew because of an injury.  Which was perfectly okay with me, as I hadn’t looked into who was going to be in the performance anyway.  Also, one of the two dancers playing von Rothbart (Sascha Radetsky) was replaced.

I did enjoy the performance.  First of all, the music while a bit sugary is very pleasant to hear.  It is one of these ballet scores that can stand on its own.  This is not a given as my experience with Prokofiev’s Cinderella indicates.  The orchestra put in an enjoyable experience.  There are some very familiar passages that get repeated quite often; and I noticed the violinist stood up for the violin solos.

Even though roles such as Prince Siegfried are quite substantial, Odette and Odile are the ballet.  I don’t know if ballerinas keep a few compositions in their repertoire in the way concert soloists do, but Seo put in a performance that one wouldn’t have guessed is by a (last-minute?) substitute.  At least not to a novice observer like myself.  The choreography calls for many dreamy scenes where the dancers imitate swans with the positioning of their arms and bodies.  Even though I am sure everyone does it that way, I must say it works quite well.

Sometimes it seems I sit through a 3-hour opera just so I can hear a couple of familiar arias (Nessum Dorma in Turandot, for instance.)  Similarly, the scene where Odile spins around 30-odd times is the one that’s most anticipated.  Seo did an excellent job, pirouetting more than 30 times.  She did it with some movement around the stage, and I thought she ended a bit wobbly.  I located a clip in Youtube (performed by ABT’s principal dancer Gillian Murphy, starting at around the 4:19 mark) that was simply impressive.  So there is a difference in the level of performance, after all.

How did Kimberly like it?  Well, the first half was a bit difficult, and I was ready to propose we leave if she found it unbearable.  She wanted to stay, and I lent her our binoculars.  She stayed glued to them the whole second half.  Being able to see more clearly, and the simple fact that there is more action in the second half, make it much more enjoyable.

Traffic was reported to be bad when we were driving into New York.  After picking up Anne in Jersey City, we decided to park the car and take PATH into the city.  That unfortunately left us with enough time for only sandwiches at Europan.  By the time we got back to South Amboy, it was past 11:30 pm.

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