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.

Saturday, June 30, 2012


The ABT audience loves to cheer-- and cheer they did at last night's performance of Swan Lake, starring two major stars of the ballet world, Polina Semionova and David Hallberg.  The Petipa/Ivanov choreography we know and love has endured for over a century with periodic tweaking, including that of Baryshnikov and, in the current version, by Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie.  There are those who rail against the Prologue in which Odette's backstory is revealed; we belong to the camp that appreciates it.  We actually get to witness von Rothbart the Evil Sorcerer transform the beautiful young maiden into a swan.  Great theater!

If there is a better ballet, we have not seen it, although Giselle and Romeo and Juliet come close.  Gorgeously tuneful and lavishly orchestrated music by Tchaikovsky?  Check.  Lucid storytelling?  Check.  Dazzling choreography for the principals?  Check.  Dazzling sets and costumes?  Check.

At last night's performance, Polina Semionova was deftly partnered by the long-limbed Mr. Hallberg whose line is regally poetic and whose technique is unsurpassed.  Ms. Semionova was luminous and added some very special touches to her Act III fouetées.  Their partnership leaves nothing to be desired.  Mr. Hallberg's acting was most convincing in Act III; he made it easy for us to "feel his pain".  He was distressed by his mother's insistence on his choosing a bride; his disappointment with each Princess was palpable; his delight when Odile arrives was plain; his passion for the woman he thought was his beloved was thrilling; and his despair when he realized the deception was heartbreaking.  If only he had created a character in Act I it would have been perfect.  As performed, it was difficult to tell what sort of Prince he was and what his relationships were with his mother, his tutor and his best friend.  We have written before about Max Beloserkovsky's Prince Siegfried who shows us all that and more.  Perhaps it is his Russian soul.

Roman Zhurbin danced the role of the monster von Rothbart while the Count in human form was performed by Alexandre Hammoudi who lacks the compelling seductiveness with which Marcelo Gomes invests the role.  The Pas de Trois was neatly executed by Stella Abrera, Maria Riccetto and Sascha Radetsky.  The corps de ballet might have been a bit sharper and one wished for sprightlier cygnettes.

David LaMarche conducted the familiar score without any unwelcome surprises.  Sets and costumes by Zack Brown have held up well and serve the production, as does the atmospheric lighting by Duane Schuler.

(c) meche kroop

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