Monday, October 26, 2015

Boston Ballet Opens Its New Season With The Spectacularly Beautiful "Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler: A Ballet by John Neumeier" - Through November 1st




Boston Ballet
"Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler; A Ballet by John Neumeier"
at Boston Opera House
Through November 1st

Boston Ballet has launched its 2015-2016 season with the luminous "Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler: A Ballet by John Neumeier."  This production is a North American Premiere of this work that was first performed in 1975.  While the piece does not follow a specific programme or libretto, certain hints have emerged over the years as the Choreographer, Mr. Neumeier, has answered questions about his intent in each movement.  These suggested themes are outlined in the Boston Ballet program notes copied at the end of this piece.

The overall musical treatment by Mahler and the ballet derived from it by Neumeier have an overarching theme of serving as an ode to the vicissitudes of the human experience.  The opening movement, which in itself is as long as many full symphonies, is performed by a corps of about 30 male dancers.  The movement, entitled "Yesterday," begins in silence, with pairs of dancers poised looking like frozen gull wings or angels in mid flight.  Then the dancers begin to move slowly and deliberately, almost in the same subdued cadence as graceful tai chi practitioners.  As they interact with one another, creating tableaux, at one point the corps propels one dancer (Isaac Akiba) heavenward.  The others have formed a human pyramid that envelops him, embraces him, elevates him and then gently allows him to roll back to earth, cascading down a ramp of human bodies.  It is an arresting visual image accompanied by Mahler's emotion-laden music.

Boston Ballet
"Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler; A Ballet by John Neumeier"
First Movement - "Yesterday"
at Boston Opera House
Through November 1st
Throughout this movement and continuing through the entire piece, music and movement suggest the full range of human experience: love, loss, birth, death, relationships, jealousy, isolation, loneliness, jubilation, alienation, striving, reaching, experiencing the detachment of being both an observer and a participant in life.  In the performance I attended, Paulo Arrais was on stage for much of the ballet. He was dressed in a skin tone leotard, suggesting a naked Everyman who both experiences life and sometimes withdraws from it to observe and to meditate upon its meaning. His grace and athleticism are riveting, and the eye follows his every movement, even when he is casually strolling upstage or reclining on the front apron of the stage.

The Fourth Movement, "Night" is haunting in its simplicity.  For several minutes, the three dancers move in total silence, miming a variety of interactions with one another. And then the music begins to underscore their continued movement.  Those moments of silent movement are literally breathtaking, for the audience members sat on the edge of their seats, not squirming, not coughing, not daring to breath because they were intent on seeing what mystery would unfold next from the silently evolving interactions among the three dancers.  On Saturday afternoon they were Anais Chalendard, Irlan Silva and Paulo Arrais.

During the choral sections of this symphony, the orchestra was joined by The New World Chorale and Alto soloist Sarah Pelletier.  The expanded orchestra played well for the most part, although I am accustomed to hearing Mahler played by the BSO or similar world class symphony orchestras, The Boston Ballet orchestra, conducted by Jonathan McPhee, is not quite up to that high standard; I noticed a few wobbly notes from the brass.

The simple leotard costumes were dyed in 30 different shades of natural colors, with greens predominating in the "Summer" second movement and fall colors in the "Autumn" third movement. The staging (Kevin Haigen, Janusz Mazon, Leslie McBeth) and lighting (Ralf Merkel) were perfect, framing the dancers in larger or smaller frames with variable coloring for backdrops.

Lia Cirio, Drew Nelson, and Paulo Arrais
"Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler: A Ballet by John Neumeier"

Third Movement - "Autumn"
at Boston Opera House.


Misa Kuranaga stood out in the "Angel" fifth movement and in the finale when she was paired with Mr. Arrais.

This beautiful work merits a trip to the Boston Opera House this week.  It is a promising beginning that what looks to be a very exciting season for Boston Ballet.  The program runs an hour and forty-five minutes without intermission, so plan to arrive on time, since late seating requires you to sit in the back of the house.


Boston Ballet Men
"Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler: A Ballet by John Neumeier"
First Movement - "Yesterday"

at Boston Opera House.
Enjoy!

Al

Boston Ballet Website

Third Symphony by Gustav Mahler
Ballet by John Neumeier, dedicated to his company, the Hamburg Ballet
Like Mahler's music, the ballet was not created according to a libretto.
The music itself is its theme. The following is therefore not a literal synopsis., which features prominently in Mahler's orchestrations. These word-images are John Neumeier's spontaneous answers to the question of meaning in his ballet-written long after its creation.
I-Yesterday
"And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death"
William Shakespeare, "Macbeth"
Silence. The movement begins with lifeless nature. Stones? Trees?
The earth's vibrations move and shape nature. Man-earth bound-senses rumblings of aggression and the seductive march rhythm is born.
Intimations of latent destruction.
The march towards violence and war cannot be held back.
But, there are also anima sounds-a breath lifting man off the earth. The soul.
The central figure senses contrary forces within himself-a journey of experience begins.
II-Summer
Flowers on a field of war.
The central figure is moved by their pure beauty. They inspire his dreams yet remain distant. Floral beauty may touch our emotions but cannot fulfill physical desire.
III-Autumn
People. Fragments of loving relationships-human warmth during the chill season of farewells. Longing for new beginnings-for a touch. The ghosts of lovers constantly parting introduce the theme of death.
IV-Night
Recovering from the experience of death we carry on-we carry each other.
The Fourth Movement, Night (Nacht),
 is dedicated to John Cranko and his Company
 and was premiered in Stuttgart, July 1974,
 with Marcia Haydée, Richard Cragun and 
Egon Madsen.
V-Angel
The purity of a child speaks-like an angel, moving with transparent power-direct and aspiring. This song is an overture to the last movement of the symphony.
VI-What Love tells me
People reach towards each other-meet, touch, and desperately embrace.
The desire to connect bends their bodies. Brief encounters constantly collapse.
Touched by the Angel of the fifth movement, the central figure experiences an intense but fleeting relationship. Although their meeting is transient, the spirit of pure love colours his world. Moving towards love remains his ultimate journey.
Music: Gustav Mahler
Choreography, Costumes, Lighting Concept: John Neumeier
World Premiere: The Hamburg Ballet, Hamburg, June 14, 1975

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