We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


Gorgeous dancers of the Astana Ballet from Kazakhstan

If the Republic of Kazakhstan exported the artists of their Astana Ballet on an international tour to raise awareness of their progressive nation, they certainly succeeded.  So entranced were we by their program at Alice Tully Hall that we have spent the remainder of the night reading about the country online.  

They are the ninth largest country in the world and the largest landlocked country.  They declared their independence from the dissolving USSR in 1991 and moved their capitol to Astana in 1998.  Their population is nearly 18 million people with Islamic Kazakhs outnumbering Russian Orthodox folk by about 3 to 1.  Religious freedom and democracy are practiced and there are many other ethnic groups and religions also represented.

Last night's program at Alice Tully Hall combined elements of the old and the new; the folkloric, the classical, and the modern. We adore classical ballet and observed some very fine renditions, set to some of our favorite composers--Vivaldi, Rachmaninoff, Gounod, Saint-Saens, Strauss, and Tchaikovsky. 

One could observe a very strong influence from Russian classical ballet in the port de bras, and the épaulement. And what a beautiful line was achieved by the extensions. The women dancers had exquisitely arched feet. We particularly enjoyed the graceful lifts in the trio and duet from the ballet Diversity.

The most familiar classical piece was Fokine's "The Dying Swan". For years we have been watching one of the hairy-legged "girls" of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo dance a satirical version of this ballet in travesti.  We had almost forgotten how moving was Fokine's original.

That being said, we were most enchanted by the folkloric numbers which won us over with their exoticism, their colorful costuming, and athleticism. In one selection, the stage was filled with men leaping to astounding heights.

Kazakh folk music was used for the opening number called "Enlightenment" in which a very well-trained corps de ballet filled the stage with swirling movement, emphasized by their swirling skirts.

Modern ballet was not neglected. A few selections toward the end of the program involved all of the sexy movement and sprightly energy we have come to expect.

There were further Russian touches that have lingered with the Kazakh people. Some of the choreographers and producers are referred to as "Honored Workers of Kazakhstan" or as "People's Artist of Russia".

Astana Ballet is the newest representative of Kazakhstan theatrical arts, having been founded barely six years ago, at the initiative of the Head of State--Nursultan Nazarbayev. The company has performed in the major cities of Russia, China, France, Austria, Korea, Tokyo, Poland, and Azerbaijan. Last night's performance honored Kazakhstan's Presidency of the United Nations Security Council, a term which lasts for the month of January. But the memories of Kazakhstan's artistry will endure for far longer. 

If readers care to read my enthusiastic review of Astana Opera, it was written in October of 2014 and archived.  It will be available through use of the "search bar". We enjoyed the same variety of classical/modern/folkloric modalities as we enjoyed last night. It is such joyful news that Kazakhstan supports and shares their arts.

(c) meche kroop

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