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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Winter Season Diaries: All-Balanchine Programs Test the Company's Mettle

Finlay and his muses, photo @ Andrea Mohin

There was almost something perverse about the curtain rising on NYCB's Winter Season and the sight of the blond Peter Martins-lookalike Chase Finlay dancing Martins' trademark role of Apollo. One could almost imagine Martins' observing his performance in his usual seat in the rear orchestra except of course Martins wasn't there, the NYCB programs had been scrubbed of any mention of He Who Shall Not Be Named. The show must go on.

I caught four performances in their first week. NYCB's two all-Balanchine programs (Apollo/Mozartiana/Cortegé Hongrois and Divertimento #15/Four Temperaments/Chaconne) are the type of programs that would test the company's classical chops under any circumstances. But NYCB is now a ship without a captain, and in many ways the performances reflected both the company's depth of talent and how even the world's best dancers need a strong leader.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Jonas Kaufmann's Grand Return


To be a Jonas Kaufmann fan in the past few years has meant constant heartbreak. In 2014 he sang a sensational series of Werthers at the Met. During the last performance fans ripped up programs to shower him with confetti. The world was his oyster. Little did we know that he would not return to the U.S. to sing for nearly four years. He canceled Carmen, he canceled Manon Lescaut, he canceled Tosca. Therefore speculation was high about whether he'd actually show up for a Carnegie Hall recital. Fans feared for days that we'd get an announcement of illness. But January 20 rolled around, and he posted a photo of himself in front of Carnegie Hall. By 8:00 the old place was packed like sardines.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Tosca as Comfort Food

Grigolo and Yoncheva, photo @ Ken Howard
There exists a "live from the Met" recording of Tosca made all the way back in 1903. These Mapleson cylinders have horrible sound and are mere snippets of a performance. Nevertheless a recording of an opera made only three years after the premiere is sure to tell us something about how Tosca has evolved over the years, right?

Wrong. Even though the singers in the recording (Emma Eames, Emilio de Marchi and Antonio Scotti) have voices that today don't sound like natural fits for the opera, the most revealing thing about those Mapleson cylinders is how unrevealing they are. You can imagine everything that's happening onstage just from what the singers are singing. Eames screams at the exact moment you expect her to scream -- when she realizes after the third "Mario" that the execution was real.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A Post-Martins City Ballet

Email I received about Martins' resignation
Peter Martins' long tenure as the Ballet Master of New York City Ballet came to an abrupt, unpleasant end on January 1, 2018. He rang in his new year by submitting his resignation and the Board accepted. Since his departure many NYCB dancers have taken to social media to express their dismay at the regime change. These people ranged from corps members like Alexa Maxwell to soloists like Megan LeCrone to principals like Tiler Peck. Martins resigned amid allegations of physical abuse and sexual misconduct, with most of the allegations from former members of the company. He was also recently arrested for yet another DUI. I completely believe the testimonials from the current dancers that he was a supportive boss who took the company to new artistic heights especially in the last decade. I also completely believe the allegations of physical abuse and sexual misconduct from former dancers. His resignation/dismissal was justified if all the allegations of physical abuse are true. At the same time life is in shades of gray. Peter Martins did a lot of good for the company, and it would be foolish not to acknowledge that.