One month from today, New York City Ballet opens the Fall Season of what is sure to be an extraordinary year. The programing philosophy is a good one this fall: test out all of the new stuff on one program while loading up the season with very strong Balanchine and Robbins. With three key principal dancers off exploring Broadway or Broadway-bound productions this fall, many rising talents in the company will find themselves with big shoes to fill – which, as we know from experience, tend to get filled pretty quickly and authoritatively. It’s going to be an exciting season.
The premiere on October 2nd of Alexei Ratmansky’s new ballet set to Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition has us crazy-excited. How this music has evaded a major choreographer for so long is a mystery, but it is perfect. Following the sudden death of his friend, the artist Viktor Hartmann, Mussorgsky was inspired by Hartmann's drawings and watercolors to write his famous musical suite. Several of Hartmann's works on which Mussorgsky based his composition have been lost, but here are a few:
Inspiration for the Ballet of Unhatched Chicks in Their Shells:
Inspiration for The Hut on Fowl's Legs (it's a clock with chickens on the roof)
Inspiration for The Great Gate of Kiev:
When the bells in The Great Gate of Kiev begin ringing in the New York State Theater for the first time ever, we may sense the founders’ spirits smiling down from the Sixth Ring - particularly if the orchestra pit is allowed to rise for the final bars. Wow, wouldn’t that be something.
But will Ratmansky use the Ravel-orchestrated version, one of the many other orchestrations, or will he use the original piano concerto which is just as moving? Decades ago Haglund wore out his LP of Barry Douglas’ stirring interpretation of the piano concerto, but here’s a YouTube clip of his performance at the 1986 Tchaikovsky Competition where he won the gold medal.
Our August ballet siesta/power nap is almost over – and not a moment too soon.