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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
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New York City Ballet: Concerto Barocco, Songs of the Auvergne, Firebird

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 2, 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: Concerto Barocco, Songs of the Auvergne, Firebird

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
February 2, 2006

Concerto Barocco (1948): (See January 21, 2006 Review). Music by Johann Sebastien Bach (Double Violin Concerto in D Minor), Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Violinists: Arturo Delmoni and Kurt Nikkanen, Performed by Abi Stafford, Wendy Whelan, Albert Evans, and the Company.

Once again, Arturo Delmoni and Kurt Nikkanen provided depth and dynamism to this virtuosic score by Bach. Andrea Quinn kept the pace fast and furious, so furious that Abi Stafford took a brief spill, but not one, thankfully, that stopped the mood or momentum. Ms. Stafford, according to my notes, was "spring-like" in her buoyant bounces and frenzied footwork. The spill did not mar her radiant confidence, and she raced right back for more. Wendy Whelan was in exceptional form tonight, especially when partnered by Albert Evans, who has total body focus and intense presence. Ms. Whelan's swimming motif in en air lifts was striking and stunning. The violins enhanced the mesmerizing motion.

Songs of the Auvergne (Revival, 1986): Music Adapted and Orchestrated by Marie-Joseph Canteloube, Choreography by Peter Martins, Scenery and Costumes by Alain Vaes, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Soprano: Lucy Schaufer, Performed by Rachel Rutherford, Kristin Sloan, Seth Orza, Jonathan Stafford, Megan Fairchild, and the Company. Auvergne is a region in France with bucolic pastures, meadows, and springs. The five series of folk songs are sung in langue d'oc, an early language of Latin and Celtic origin. These songs can hold their own or be presented in full orchestral arrangement. Award-winning soprano, Lucy Schaufer, has performed with opera companies world-wide, as well as The New York Festival of Song. (NYCB Notes)

Lucy Schaufer is one of the most interesting and enticing solo vocalists in the classical genre. She almost looked like a ballet dancer, with diminutive physique, and her ingénue qualities matched the country folk ambiance quite effectively. Alain Vaes' backdrop, of grey/pink mountains and impressionistic scenery, provided the visual motif for the upbeat and coy, peasant dances. Darci Kistler and Philip Neal flirted with each other and nurtured the children (SAB students) with poise and natural warmth. Rachel Rutherford, Megan Fairchild, and Kristin Sloan shared dances with Jonathan Stafford and Seth Orza, the latter seeming most comfortable in the genre.

Ms. Rutherford has developed into one of the most interesting and incandescent dancers in the past couple of years, and her sophisticated style is reminiscent of the elegance of early Hollywood dance. Ms. Fairchild is a wonder of energy and exactness of timing. Her electrically charged movement calls for more bravura than some partners provide. Ms. Sloan is a dancer to watch, quite magnetic. Peter Martins has created an unusual work, in that the presence of the soprano is not overwhelming or distracting, but, rather, a natural highlight, meshed with the lullaby-like songs in langue d'oc. Kudos to Lucy Schaufer for singing with such splendor.

Firebird (1949): (See January 29, 2006 Review). 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, Guest Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Performed by Sofiane Sylve as Firebird, Charles Askegard as Prince Ivan, Henry Seth as Kastchei the Wizard, Rachel Rutherford 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. 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 was recently reviewed (see above), and, if possible, Sofiane Sylve was even more creative and charismatic tonight in her Firebird role, with Jonathan Stafford as Prince Ivan, exuding affect and angst. The audience seemed to crave this vision, with applause held often in the stillness of the moment, set against Chagall's yellows, blues, and reds. Rachel Rutherford was regal and poised as the Prince's Bride, and Jerome Robbins' choreography is surreal and eclectic. Whether it's Henry Seth's monstrous Kastchei and crawling creatures or Ms. Sylve's wild, feathery Firebird, every image is vivid and vibrant.

Kudos to Sofiane Sylve, and kudos to Jerome Robbins.

(To order your own exquisite Firebird costume, hand-beaded with Swarovski crystal and custom-fitted and embroidered, contact Tutus Divine, and tell them you saw them on ExploreDance.com).

Megan Fairchild (center) and Maya Collins, Glenn Keenan, Sarah Ricard, Alina Dronova in Songs of the Auvergne
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Darcy Kistler and Philip Neal in Songs of the Auvergne
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

New York City Ballet's Sofiane Sylve in Firebird
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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