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Interview with Nilas Martins on his New Production - Puccini Passion!

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 20, 2006
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
405 West 55th Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 405-9000

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About the Author:

Interview with Nilas Martins on his New Production, "Puccini Passion!"

INSIDE PERSPECTIVES:
CONVERSATIONS WITH ROBERTA
NILAS MARTINS

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 14, 2006


Nilas Martins, Principal dancer of New York City Ballet, is now choreographing new ballets and composing his own music. He has also formed The Nilas Martins Dance Company, S'arl, and the Non-Profit, Nilas Martins Dance Foundation. This Foundation sponsors The Nilas Martins Dance Company and commissions new choreographies and musical scores.

Mr. Martins grew up in the Royal Danish Theater in Copenhagen, which presents drama, ballet, opera, and musicals. He is currently producing Puccini Passion! with Dicapo Opera Theater on March 25 and March 26. Mr. Martins is the subject of this inside perspective.

March 14, 2006, with Nilas Martins, at the bar of Vince & Eddie's, West 68th Street.

(See a Review of Dicapo Opera Theater)
(See a Review of Puccini Arias)
(See New York City Ballet Reviews)

(With appreciation to Robert Lombardo for the program publicity material).

Nilas Martins is a warm, dynamic, and engaging artist, bursting with passion for dance, for opera, for his new dance company, and for New York City Ballet, where his father, Peter Martins, is "Ballet Master in Chief". This interview was created to learn more about the new production of Puccini Passion!, about to be presented at Dicapo Opera. But, I first wanted to learn more about Mr. Martins. He spoke of his early days, growing up within an opera house in Copenhagen, where he performed in opera at the age of seven. Mr. Martins has always loved opera and knows much about the fascinating life of Giacomo Puccini, reviewing some of the triumphs and tragedies of the composer's life and career. Mr. Martins and I compared Puccini's opera, Le Villi, with the full-length ballet, Giselle, based on the same tragic tale of love and deception. Le Villi arias were recently presented at Carnegie Hall, and Mr. Martins and I discussed that event's staging and casting.

Mr. Martins explained the mission of his dance company and its potential as a vehicle to choreograph new works to previously unexplored scores, such as his choreography of Aida in Washington, DC in 2003 and Candide in Rome for six dancers in 2003 and 2005. By assembling dancers of diverse backgrounds and training, a fresh approach toward new dance genres can be realized. Mr. Martins seemed to identify with Puccini and marvels at his precocious talent. The program is choreographed to music created at various points in Puccini's lifetime.

This collaboration of Dicapo Opera Theater and the Nilas Martins Dance Company was formed, when Michael Capasso, General Manager of Dicapo Opera Theater, considered to be New York's third opera house, approached Nilas Martins and his publicist, Robert Lombardo, about producing Puccini Passion!, after he saw two of Mr. Martins' pieces last April. Dicapo, under Mr. Capasso's direction, is presenting all of Puccini's works, with the cycle to be completed by 2008, the year of the 150th anniversary of Puccini's birth in Lucca, Italy. This production, utilizing mostly non opera music by Puccini, is an integral part of that project. In addition, in January 2007, Mr. Capasso is planning three performances of Puccini's opera-ballet, Le Villi, as well as Messa di Gloria. Mr. Martins has been invited to choreograph and stage both productions.

Nilas Martins' Puccini Passion! is divided into six sections, with guest artists from New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The Ailey School, School of American Ballet, New York City Opera, Hamburg State Opera, and Washington National Opera. Mr. Martins has chosen several dancers, who are familiar to readers of this magazine, as well as rising stars. In fact, the following cast list includes newly promoted New York City Ballet dancers, an exciting revelation. The Puccini Passion! dancers include: Yvonne Borree-principal, NYCB, Ellen Bar-soloist, NYCB, Jason Fowler-soloist, NYCB, Amar Ramasar-soloist, NYCB, Daniel Ulbricht-soloist, NYCB, Tyler Angle-corps, NYCB, Ashley Laracey-corps, NYCB, Tiler Peck-corps, NYCB, Monique Muenier, guest artist, former principal NYCB and soloist ABT, Nicholas Daum-Ailey-BFA Junior, Lynorris Evans-Ailey-BFA Senior, Yannick Lebrun-Ailey II-Fellowship, Rachel McLaren-Ailey-Fellowship, Aisha Mitchell-Ailey-BFA Junior, Kevin Petite-Ailey-Fellowship, Masahiro Suehara- Advanced Men's Division The School of American Ballet.

The pre-intermission segment of Puccini Passion! is structured as follows:

"Puccini Passion", Choreography: Nilas Martins, Music: Giacomo Puccini, Preludio Sinfonico, Yvonne Borree and Tyler Angle, Ellen Bar, Ashley Laracey and Tiler Peck, New York City Ballet; "3 Puccini Arias": 'Se come voi io fossi o vaghi fior' from Le Villi, Choreography: Stephen Pier, Monique Muenier, guest artist, Julianna Di Giacomo, soprano, a performance in memory of Anna Moffo; 'Torno ai felici di' from Le Villi, Choreography: Alexandre Proia, Natasha Diamond-Walker and Ephriam Sykes, The Ailey School, John Matz, tenor; 'Ore dolci e divine', Act I, La Rondine, Choreography: Albert Evans, Ashley Laracey and Tyler Angle, New York City Ballet, Julianna Di Giacomo, soprano, Pacien Mazzagatti, pianist with members of The DiCapo Opera Theater Orchestra; "Puccini Pieces" - Fragments of Life, Choreography Nilas Martins, Music: Giacomo Puccini (arranged by Nilas Martins), Preludio a orchestra, Scherzo, Adagetto, Prelude Act II, Manon Lescaut, Marcia Brillante, Nicholas Daum, Lynorris Evans, Yannick LeBrun, Rachel McLaren, Aisha Mitchell, Kevin Petit, The Ailey School and Masahiro Suehara, The School of American Ballet.

The post-intermission segment includes dance to eleven of Puccini's songs as follows:

"Puccini Songs", Eleven Songs by Giacomo Puccini, Choreography: Nilas Martins: A te, Salve Regina!, Storiella d'amore, Ad una morta, Mentia l'avviso, E l'uccellino, Morire?, Casa mia,casa mia, Sole e amore, Sogno d'or, Terra e mare: Ellen Bar, Jason Fowler, Amar Ramasar, Daniel Ulbricht, Ashley Laracey and Tiler Peck, Julianna Di Giacomo, soprano, John Matz, tenor, Pacien Mazzagatti, pianist.

Choreographers include: Albert Evans, who created Haiku for New York City Ballet Diamond Project 2002 and Broken Promises for New York City Ballet 2005 Spring season; Stephen Pier, of the Hamburg Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, New National Theater Tokyo, Atlanta Ballet, Juilliard Dance Ensemble, New Choreographies Workshop, and a member of the Juilliard School Faculty; Alexandre Proia, who created works for Pacific Northwest Ballet, New York City Ballet, Martha Clarke, Proia Dance Theater, and The Ailey School.

Soprano Julianna DiGiacomo, of the New York City Opera, appeared this season in The Mines of Sulphur and Lysistrata Tenor John Matz debuted in 2002 in Barber's Vanessa at Washington National Opera. He has performed in Los Angeles, Hamburg, Bordeaux, and Oslo and is a frequent concert artist. Conductor and accompanist, Pacien Mazzagatti, has won major prizes in national and international piano competitions. He is the Principal Conductor of Dicapo Opera Theater. For this production, Pacien Mazzagatti adapted arias from Le Villi and La Rondine for piano and string trio, which are included in Puccini Passion!

(With appreciation to Robert Lombardo for the program publicity material).

Tickets are $47.50 and are available at Dicapo Opera Theater box office (184 East 76th Street) or by calling 212-288-9438, Ext. 10.

Saturday, March 25, 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 26, 4 p.m. Puccini Passion!÷World Premiere, Dicapo Opera Theater (184 East 76th Street at Lexington Avenue).
Dicapo Opera Press: Shuman Associates, 212.315.1300.



Nilas Martins and Yannick Lebrun of the Ailey School rehearse for Puccini Passion
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



Nilas Martins and Yannick Lebrun rehearse for Puccini Passion
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



Nilas Martins and Yannick Lebrun rehearse for Puccini Passion
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



Nilas Martins and Yannick Lebrun rehearse for Puccini Passion
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



Nilas Martins and Yannick Lebrun rehearse for Puccini Passion
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



Nilas Martins and Yannick Lebrun rehearse for Puccini Passion
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



Nilas Martins and Yannick Lebrun rehearse for Puccini Passion
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



Nilas Martins and Yannick Lebrun rehearse for Puccini Passion
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



Nilas Martins and Yannick Lebrun rehearse for Puccini Passion
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams



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