The awful shame about tonight is that if we hadn't had the two absolutely disastrous, seemingly never ending, worse than you can imagine incidents, it would have been a wonderful performance. The audience truly appreciated Irina Dvorovenko, Roberto Bolle, Simone Messmer, and Jared Matthews for their efforts and seemed to forgive everything that went wrong tonight.
Toward the end of Act I – just as Giselle was set to run and break up Albrecht and Bathilde, half of the orchestra began playing before the other half started. It wasn't just an errant musician or two - it was a big section. And they kept going and kept going – completely musically off with each other – for about 30 seconds. Haglund could not believe his ears. He looked back over his shoulder to the Parterre and saw Kevin McKenzie with both hands up holding his face in disbelief. Down in the orchestra pit, Ormsby Wilkins was hitting his chest and shaking his head. Somehow, finally all the musicians got back on the same track but not before pretty much wrecking the drama of the confrontation in Act I. ABT has enough problems. Having a conductor asleep at the podium isn't something that the company needs. It was the worst musical mistake that Haglund has heard from an ABT orchestra in more than a half century of attending performances.
Then, in the first overhead lift in Act II – when Roberto picked up Irina, Haglund wondered why both of Irina's legs were bent instead of one being straight. Her bent legs kept going up - up - up - up and soon she was slowly falling over backwards overtop Roberto's head. She ended up completely flipping over and sliding down his back. It was like watching a disaster in slow motion. Had it not been for Roberto's brute strength in his arms and shoulders, he would never have been able to control Irina's descent and it could have been much, much worse than it was.
With the above noted exception, Act I was the best Act I that Haglund saw in the past week. Irina and Roberto are completely suited for one another. She is ultra glamorous, and he is ultra handsome. They are equally mature as artists and selflessly respond to the other's dancing. They could be Cinderella and her Prince or Odette and Siegfried. They are already a fabulous and passionate Romeo and Juliet. And they could have been a made-for-the-movies Giselle and Albrecht, but for the mishaps of this evening. They have good chemistry, and Haglund hopes that tonight's disaster isn't the last time we see them dance together.
Irina's Mad Scene was close to perfect. She didn't go over the top like Osipova. She didn't stand around and bore us like Kent and Herrera. She was spontaneous, surprising, unique, and believable in her characterization. When she literally fell into the arms of Berthe, Haglund then realized that most everyone else doesn't do that satisfactorily. She didn't run all over the stage crazy so much as lose touch with reality. Her unhinged state was more than just reflected in her face; it was in her posture. Earlier in Act I, her variations were lovely. She omitted nothing. She added no pony tricks. Her pique penche arabesques were picture perfect. Her hops on pointe were swift and smooth. Her circle of pique turns were impressively fast.
Irina's Act II – but for her flip over Roberto's head – was a classic and traditional Act II. In fact, after the disastrous lift, both dancers soared in terms of dancing and drama. They seemed determined to turn the situation around and deliver their best to us. Roberto gave us 30 entrechats six. Irina's entrechats quatre began rapidly and accelerated as she moved upstage. The PdD (except for that one lift) was beautiful, love-filled, and magical.
Simone Messmer's Myrtha was okay. She certainly can glare out at the audience and appear fierce, but her jumps didn't reflect that of a spirit in flight like Abrera's and Part's Myrthas do. Her upper body and port de bras do not have the breadth of the two reigning Myrthas, and her shoulders and arms don't have the sinewy definition that has come to be identified with the best Myrthas. Simone's Myrtha is a new issue, so to speak. Certainly it will grow better with more performances.
Jared Matthews was, of course, fabulous as Hilarion. Zhong-Jing Fang was back under control as Zulma - no excessive emoting or mouthing the music. Christine Shevchenko was serviceable as Moyna, if a bit ordinary. The corps didn't dare make a mistake considering the way things were going tonight.
The Pump Bump Award for this evening is awarded to Irina and Roberto for their sturdy spines, steady nerves, and strong finish.