Friday, May 06, 2016

Boston Ballet Presents An Aural and Visual Feast In "Swan Lake" - Through May 26th at The Boston Opera House

(Caveat: Six weeks ago I underwent rotator cuff surgery, and my right shoulder, arm and hand have been immobilized in a sling until today, when I begin several months of post-op physical therapy.  I have been severely hampered in my ability to type, so several worthy shows that I have seen recently have not been reviewed in a timely manner.  Beginning with today, I will work to clear up the backlog.  Please be aware that my reviews may be more limited than usual until I am up to date. Several excellent shows are no longer playing, but I will highlight them, offering the assurance that when it comes time to submit my suggestions for nominations for the 2016 IRNE Awards, these shows and the people involved with them, will receive the consideration they deserve.  Thank you for your understanding and support.)

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It is altogether fitting the the current Boston Ballet production of the iconic "Swan Lake" should have opened on the same weekend when the Yankees returned to Boston to renew their rivalry with our beloved Boston Red Sox (currently tied for 1st place in the AL East, thank you very much!) For the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is among the most storied and celebrated in sports, and "Swan Lake" is among the most beloved ballets in the world of dance. And just as the Red Sox managed to sweep the Yankees in the recent three game series, so Boston Ballet also hits it out of the ball park in this glorious mixture of aural and visual delight.

The current production of Mikko Nissinen's "Swan Lake" is a remounting of the production that had its World Premiere by Boston Ballet in 2014.  The ballet is back by popular demand, since many patrons were unable to get tickets when the show was offered in the fall of 2014. As the program notes point out, many of the same dancers that originated this piece are now dancing in more prominently highlighted roles two years later.

My delight in this production began even before the curtain rose to the strains of Tchaikovsky's lovely music wafting from the orchestra pit, with Jonathan McPhee conducting the lush score.  I could not take my eyes off of the curtain.  The center piece was a coat of arms in white on a royal blue background featuring a swan, several bull rushes and other elements that felt very Russian and very Romanov.  Framing this central image were two rows of filigreed curlicues, simple elements combined in increasing complex and delicate patterns, prefiguring the many kaleidoscopic combinations of dancers and choreographed movements we would enjoy once the curtain was raised on this remounting of the ballet that was first performed in 1895 by Russia's Imperial Ballet, with original choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.

In the matinee performance I witnessed, the execution by the dancers - from principals to soloists to the corps de ballet - was flawless and often breathtaking.  Ashley Ellis in the dual roles of Swan Princess Odette and Enchantress Odile showed great range - vulnerable and tentative as Odette, seductive and playful as Odile as she danced to try to fool Prince Siegfried into pledging himself to the woman he thought was Odette in disguise.  Her movements ranged from fluid to frenetic, depending on the requirements of a particular scene.  As Siegfried, Eris Nezha showed his athleticism and grace, most impressively in his leaps that showed his exuberance over thinking he had won the woman of his dreams. Bo Busby inhabited the role of the sorcerer, Von Rothbart.  At times he was regal in his evil bearing, at other moments charming as he set up the Princess to be abducted from the picnic by the lake, and as he sat enthroned with the Queen Mother at Siegfried's birthday extravaganza.

The Swans in dress rehearsal
"Swan Lake"
Boston Ballet
Through May 26th

Some of the most magical moments occurred when the corps of swans - 24 in all - seemed magically to rise of out the mist-covered lake and execute their avian movements with precision and grace.  The Two Swans were danced by Rachele Buriassi and Brittany Summer; the Cygnets were danced by Ji Young Chae, Shelby Elsbree, Brett Fukuda and Seo Hye Han.  The remaining swans were Maria Alvarez, Dawn Atkins, Jillian Barrell, Angela Bishop, Ekaterine Chubinidze, Emily Entingh, Corina Gill, Alexandra Haier, Lauren Herfindahl, Leah McCall, Kathryn McDonald, Abigail Merlis, Emily Mistretta, Erin O'Dea, Sarah Pierce, Brittany Stone, Lauren Wolfram, Sarah Wroth.

Another highlight of this ballet was the Act III showcase of the potential princesses and series of five folk dances performed for Prince Siegfried at his birthday celebration.  The colorful costumes by Robert Perdziola were shown to great advantage in this Act.  His scenery was also breathtaking in its beauty, enhanced by the lighting of Mark Stanley and Projections of Seaghan McKay.  Standing out among the elaborate folk dances was the stirring pas de cinq, featuring Principal Dancer Lia Cirio accompanied by Diana Albrecht, Jillian Barrell, Lawrence Rines and Samuel Zaldivar.

"Swan Lake" is running in repertory with "Mirrors" through May 26th.  Two years ago, many audience members were turned away because of the demand for tickets.  Do not make that mistake. Mothers' Day gift?  Graduation gift? Date night?  Time to pamper yourself?  Log onto the Boston Ballet website right now and reserve your place by the Lake.

Boston Ballet Website

What else can I add?  The last time I saw "Swan Lake" it was performed by the Kirov Ballet at the Wang Center.  That production was amazing, but Boston Ballet's production is no less amazing and no less satisfying.  It is a delight in every way.  The story line is heartbreaking, but the experience of watching these dancers and hearing these musicians tell the tragic tale is sublime and elevating.

I will be seeing "Mirrors" this evening, so watch for an upcoming review soon.



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