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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
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New York City Ballet: Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Klavier, Symphony in C

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 24, 2006
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023

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New York City Ballet
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New York City Ballet: Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Klavier, Symphony in C

New York City Ballet

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children's Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Andrea Quinn
Managing Director, Robert Daniels
Associate Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns
Press Coordinator, Joe Guttridge

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center
(See Other NYC Ballet Reviews)

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 24, 2006

Monumentum Pro Gesualdo (1960): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Performed by Darci Kistler, Charles Askegard, and the Company. Stravinsky's homage to Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa re-composes the madrigals into instrumental voices. (NYCB Notes).

This 1960 work is scored with Stravinsky's take on Gesualdo's madrigals. Balanchine's take on the score and the pairing of this segment and the following work (same dancers, similar choreography and lighting, and a complementary Stravinsky score) is quite esoteric and emblematic of the Balanchine-Stravinsky relationship. Yet, it is not engaging, energizing, or emotionally satisfying. Ms. Kistler, always in striking form and persuasive strength, absorbed the severity of this genre. With her capable partner, Charles Askegard, or backed by a corps of twelve, Ms. Kistler did her best to make this dark dance seem entertaining and less enigmatic. I found the music and motif to be somewhat hypnotic.

Movements for Piano and Orchestra (1958-59): Music by Igor Stravinsky (Movements for Piano and Orchestra), Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Piano Solo: Richard Moredock, Performed by Darci Kistler, Charles Askegard, and the Company. This piece is divided into five sections, and Balanchine paired this work with the previous one for performances. (NYCB Notes). After a pause, Ms. Kistler and Mr. Askegard re-appeared with a new corps of six, and Richard Moredock was featured on piano for the complementary Stravinsky score. The abstract angst continued, but the offstage piano and occasional flute broke the repetition, and some fascinating figures were realized, such as Ms. Kistler being held straight upside down. I am a great fan of the Balanchine-Stravinsky collaborative works, but, in this one case, this dual presentation, tonight, seemed exhausting to experience.

Klavier (World Premiere): Music by Ludwig van Beethoven (Adagio Sostenuto from the Hammerklavier Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, Op. 106), Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Design by Jean-Marc Puissant, Costumes Supervised by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Penny Jacobus, Piano: Cameron Grant, Performed by Wendy Whelan, Sébastien Marcovici, Miranda Weese, Albert Evans, Pauline Golbin, Tyler Angle, Craig Hall, Melissa Barak, Sean Suozzi, and Andrew Veyette. Christopher Wheeldon has choreographed for NYC Ballet, The Royal Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and Boston Ballet. Mr. Wheeldon danced in the corps and then as soloist for NYC Ballet from 1993 to 2000, when he retired to work full-time on choreography. He has choreographed numerous ballets for NYC Ballet, most recently, After the Rain and An American in Paris. (NYCB Notes).

Christopher Wheeldon deserves kudos for this world premiere, designed with a textured and tantalizing Beethoven score, slow and sensual. The avant-garde costumes, in browns, blacks, burgundies, blues (thanks to Jean-Marc Puissant and Holly Hynes), and a spidery, surreal rope, hung like macramé, and knotting itself around a fallen chandelier (all thanks to Mr. Puissant), all added to the mesmerizing and magnetizing mood, created for ten principals, soloists, and corps, plus solo pianist, Cameron Grant. With the darkened orchestra pit and dimly lit dancers (thanks to Penny Jacobus), Mr. Wheeldon brought out his ensemble, backs to the audience, walking silently toward stage rear.

As the choreography unfolded, two duos and two trios swept together across the stage and wound in and around their partners, in angular pointe or in sweeping arm gestures. Soft and firm movements were juxtaposed like the softness and firmness of ephemeral attraction, distraction, introspection, and, perhaps, rejection. One duo, Wendy Whelan with Sébastien Marcovici, were at their peak performance with significant style and persuasive partnering, internalizing the piano passages, so dramatic and dynamic, while elegant and existential. The lingering extension of the music translated to the elongated extension of limbs and torso.

The other duo, Miranda Weese and Albert Evans, were rapturous and regal, with physicality well matched and passion well presented. Ms. Weese and Mr. Evans seemed totally focused on each other or on themselves. The separateness and togetherness of the choreographic design added to the edge and energy of the ambitious ambiance. Both trios were either fluid or frozen, depending on the mood and the moment. When they gathered to walk away, once again, toward stage rear, then, in fragments, face the dimly lit audience or the dimly lit backdrop, one could have heard a pin drop in the silence. The solo piano score worked magnificently for this concept, as the piano can create fullness or stillness at the turn of the wrist. Thus the drama and depth of Klavier are fully maximized in this somewhat surreal and brilliant ballet. Kudos once again to Christopher Wheeldon, Resident Choreographer.

Symphony in C (1948): (See January 21, 2006 Review) Music by Georges Bizet, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Performed by Jennie Somogyi, Nilas Martins, Sofiane Sylve, Charles Askegard, Megan Fairchild, Joaquin De Luz, Abi Stafford, Jason Fowler, and the Company. This ballet was just reviewed earlier in the week with almost the same cast. However, Jennie Somogyi danced in the First Movement: Allegro Vivo lead, where Jenifer Ringer was featured a few days ago. It's been some time since I have seen Ms. Somogyi dance, and she was strong and evenly suited to Nilas Martins' attentive partnering.

Tonight, if possible, Sofiane Sylve was even more rapturous and electrifying in her Second Movement: Adagio lead, as Charles Askegard carried her cross stage in her endless interpretation of the luxurious oboe solo. How perfect for Bizet to have included that passionate passage, following the heraldic entrance. In the Third Movement: Allegro Vivace Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz were, as always, like lightning gone wild, and this time I noticed the mock bagpipe refrains. In the Fourth Movement: Allegro Vivace, Abi Stafford and Jason Fowler had internalized this frenetic finale, and the remaining soloists and corps helped to make this special evening even more sensational. The curtain fell on one of the finest figures Balanchine has ever created, with Karinska's white costumes so splendidly sparkling.

New York City Ballet's Wendy Whelan and Sébastien Marcovici in Klavier
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

New York City Ballet's Melissa Barak, Sean Suozzi and Andrew Veyette in Klavier
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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