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June 23, 2022


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Bravissimo, Haglund! 🎉 You absolutely echoed my feelings back in March 2020 in Costa Mesa. OLAR is, above all, a grand celebration of the corps de ballet! For ex., I will forever remember those six leaping Babylonian guys - led by Sung Woo Han back then - cavorting to the famous Gayane “drum dance” music. I hope that you liked that one too.

Did I make a mistake? Weren't the Babylonian Army guys in blue or was that somebody else?

I loved the Sabre Dance, whoever danced it. LOL.

Answer: the Babylonian courtiers were in blue whereas the Babylonian army guys did the Sabre Dance . . . I think.

That’s right, H. I read somewhere that some of the costumes have changed since Costa Mesa…so maybe these did, too?

That rollicking dance of the six Babylonian guys (courtiers) was performed in sea-green (aqua?) outfits…long coats, similar to those worn by male Georgian folk dancers…but in the green that the Queen of Babylon and her ladies in waiting also wore. Speaking of the Babylonian women: I loved the jingling bangles & beads! (There’s even a series of moves in which those ladies mimic the Swan Lake cygnets, jingling during their quick passés!)

So many different retinues - so many colors!

Jeannette, I will try to pay more attention to who is who during the last three performances. The sea-green (aqua) costumes were magnificent as were those purple gowns for Mithridates' ladies. The Act II costumes were right on the mark.

There was so much to write about that I forgot to mention the superb performances of Katherine Williams, Chloe Misseldine, and Zhong-Jing Fang as Queen of Babylon. Williams was wickedly gorgeous in a black wig; Misseldine, a stunning beauty as well; but oh lord, Fang took this character to a place where only she could -- her sense of royal entitlement that was being challenged by her husband's attraction to Callirhoe was, well, operatic.

Roman Zhurbin was a dramatic giant in the roles of the King of Babylon and Hermocrates.

Haglund, there are no more tickets to Of Love and Rage on TDF...?? Any idea why that might be? Help!

My experience has been that TDF often pulls its offers a few days before the performance dates. The TDF tickets are usually in the Orchestra level, but for this production you want to watch it from a tier. For nearly the same price as a TDF ticket, you can get a Dress Circle Box seat on the side. Get one of those in an emptier box and then move to another spot if you don't like the view from the side. By the way, the music is far more beautiful and powerful from the tiers than the orchestra level. The TDF tickets will often be on the orchestra side where the music bounces off the wall and off the parterre overhang -- this can be frustrating.

There are also the daily Met Rush tickets, but they are usually in the Orchestra as well, and I have gotten as close as Row D through persistent fishing. Here's the link: https://www.metopera.org/season/tickets/rush-page/ Be sure to have logged into the Met site prior to when the Rush opens.

Many thanks for this information, particularly about the seating location, which I never would have guessed as I tend to sit in the Orchestra. I will spring for the Dress Circle side!

FYI, they are considered partial view. Choose the left side of the house for this ballet (boxes 5,7,9,etc).

Did you notice the Flexatone being played in the orchestra? Very unusual instrument!

Yes, I did notice it and recalled it from recordings of Khachaturian but had no idea that it was called a Flexatone. Very interesting tones! Thanks for the link. Here's another:

I love that tune with the flexatone, during the Calirhoe-Dionysius pdd!!! It’s not from Khachaturian’s Gayane but, rather, his Concerto for Piano & Orch (2nd Mvmt).

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hlCCR-3R278 (Flexatone enters at 2:38)

In some recordings, the eerie “musical saw” is used instead of the flexatone…but I couldn’t readily find it on YouTube.

Another very good show tonight. The Act II PdT among Callirhoe, Dionysius, and Mithridates (Seo, Ahn, Frenette) was excellent.

I’m heartbroken after reading your wonderful, can I say RAVE review, of the show. We’re in NJ now ,visiting family, and had tickets for the June 23 performance when we became positive for the you-know-what. I was sour-graping,saying we did not miss anything after reading the mostly negative BA postings. But now….. Thanks for the review.

Oh, Jose. So sorry to hear about this. Yes, it's true. Positives are a real negative these days, aren't they?

The modest audiences have been very enthusiastic about the production. The crowd doesn't bail for the door as soon as the curtain comes down. Instead they stay and clap and cheer.

If ABT doesn't bring this back next year, they are crazy. They should tour it to Greece! Actually, they should tour all of Greece with it and on to Naples.

Haglund, OLAR is a co-production with the NB of Canada, so I’m not sure when sets/costumes might once again be available to ABT?

Update: I just checked the 22/23 schedules; OLAR won’t go to Canada next season…so it should be available for the next ABT Met run! Woohoo!!!

I’m sorry that the Kennedy Center has opted to program R&J, rather than OLAR, for the troupe’s next appearance in Wash, DC. Boo! or….Perhaps the KennCen is opting for a ballet in which a Fakerina could star? Hmmmm…..

It seems like we will get Giselle next Spring/Summer since ABT is touring it to Lincoln, NE during the first week of May -- likely a send-off for a number of artists. Great news that NB of Canada is not getting OLAR for 22/23. That seems a positive sign that it will be back. Let's hope that the brilliant work the corpsmen are doing this season is rewarded with repeat casting. And we definitely need to see more of that young man, Luigi Crispino, who may well be lightning in a bottle.

Crispíno, Curley, Klein, Ischuk, Magbitang (now apprentice), et al. And perhaps Camargo on a more permanent basis? Lots of amazing talent among the younger guys at ABT.

Although I have not seen ABT for the past 3 years, I’m still excited for the young men and women coming up the rank.I hope that when R and J plays in Kennedy Center, they will give Patrick F and/or Jonathan k a chance as Romeo. And give Katherine Williams a major role. And grab Elizabeth Beyer and Jake Roxander before someone else does.

ITA, Jose!

Jose is not going to like hearing this but -- it was another sensational performance of Of Love and Rage. (There seems to be no way to stop the auto-editor from pointing out this presumed violation of two ofs.) The corps and principals were all great, and the Babylonians and the Sabre guys nearly stopped the show. Also, Bell is holding his arms in a much firmer, tighter classical first position when he pirouettes which has really turned up the velocity. Very exciting today.

Jeannette, what do you think of this theory: when the fractured Aphrodite appears in Acts I & II, it's Ratmansky's message that "beauty isn't all it's cracked up to be." Couldn't resist.

I also haven't seen ABT for 3 years. Really enjoyed all your reviews, Haglund. I would love to see OLAR but instead will be in NY for Theme & Variations. I was very uncertain if I should choose Cornejo/Brandt or Bell/Shevchenko as I wasn't sure if Cornejo still had the stamina for this ballet, you should excuse the presumption. I chose Shevchenko/Bell as I've never seen either in a leading role. Thanks to everyone for their comments on the ABT season.

That’s so cruel , Haglund. Lol

Haglund is as corny as Babylon in August!

Tonight's show was a fabulous end to a fabulous run. Everyone danced splendidly. Nice touch at bows when Ratmansky and Shevchenko held up the Ukrainian flag.

Tonight there was an irritating faction of clap managers in the audience who wanted to demonstrate where everyone should applaud.

The orchestra output was enormous tonight. David LaMarche, bravo. And bravo to our new favorite flexatone player.

Thank you, Haglund, for extolling Ratmansky’s choreographic generosity toward ABT’s corps de ballet. After shifting my focus from Callirhoe and the men who love her to the subsidiary characters with which OLAR teems, my experience Saturday afternoon differed from Wednesday’s matinee. Although much of the narrative remained opaque to me and cluttered with incident—as a friend said, “How many abductions per ballet does one require?”—I was attuned to marvel over ABT’s depth of talent and the inventive ways Ratmansky made use of it. Had Callirhoe been more than a gobsmacking looker and endowed with qualities that in their variety individuated the attraction felt by the men in her life, the romantic elements would have had more dimension. One might argue that Romeo and Juliet fall madly in love at first sight as Chaereas and Callirhoe do, but I did not hear in the Khachaturian, lovely as it is, the delirious mad drunken exaltation of young love heard in Prokofiev’s score—which makes Romeo’s and Juliet’s mutual infatuation utterly convincing even were they made to dance a pas de deux wearing snowshoes. As impressed by the dancers’ virtuosity as I often was at both performances I saw, only at the very end of Saturday’s show, when Camargo (wow!) as Dionysius allowed Chaereas’s son which Dionysius had raised as his own to make up his own mind whether to stay with Dionysius or leave with the reunited Chaereas and Callirhoe did the stage picture become a blur because I felt the courage and magnitude of Dionysius’s sacrifice. Why not foreshadow that with a short scene of Dionysius and the little boy playing together to intensify the impact of this farewell? On Wednesday, Zimmi Coker substituting for Callirhoe’s maid was a quickening and Jonathan Klein’s Polycharmus dazzled. In the second act, his sudden tours took my breath away; did he do three or four? If Onegin is revived next year, give this man a Lensky. And speaking of a beautiful Lensky of seasons past, it was a pleasure to see Joseph Gorak’s lyrical dancing as one of the Suitors. To comment on every dancer would triple the length of this comment but hats off to Bell and Hurlin who etched space as if it was solid and they tipped in diamond.

Thanks, Eulalia!!

Dionysius's moment at the end was handled in a variety of ways over the run. Even Camargo varied it in performances -- always riveting. Last night, Blaine Hoven made a huge impact. I think the moment worked best when the little boy was trailing behind Dionysius rather than walking next to him so that we could actually see Dionysius let go of his hand.

And ITA with you about Klein as a potential Lensky. And Zimmi Coker as Olga, perhaps. And Jarod Curley as Onegin (along with Forster). Let's hope we get Onegin next year. It's time for it to come back. Susan Jaffe was a pretty good Tatiana who learned the role directly from Marcia Haydée. It would be a nice way to begin Jaffe's directorship.

So far, the possibilities for the June/July ABT season at the Met seem to be:

Giselle (in Lincoln, NEB - almost certainly at Met)
Romeo & Juliet (in DC - almost certainly at Met
Of Love and Rage (not going to co-producer Canada yet; staying at ABT)
Like Water for Chocolate (going immediately in 2023 to NY, we assume?)
Onegin…hopefully, maybe?
Swan Lake…perennial cash cow…so likely

If all (or just five) of the above are programmed…
Would any time be left for a poorly-selling mixed bill, with or without some diversity stuff? Perhaps the Hispanic theme of Water for Chocolate will tic the diversity box, so no triple bill will play the Met in 2023?

That actually sounds like a very good line-up, Jeannette, like it would be worth subscribing to.

Exactly, Haglund. 😃

Before we turn the page on OLAR and the flexatone music…
I found an Armenian telecast of the Khachaturian piano concerto in which the MUSICAL SAW is used during the 2nd movement. It’s the full concerto but one can fast-forward to 18:30, to hear and see the “saw” in action! Miriam Kharatyan is the pianist but no name given for the sawer (or whatever the word for he who plays the saw)!


Thanks for this link!

I'm not ready to turn the page yet on OLAR. I've been thinking about it all Sunday.

I think once Ratmansky decided to put Callirhoe in a long skirt, it limited his choreographic flexibility. He had to depend on developpes, renverses, arabesques, and supported pirouettes which are far less interesting when obscured by a long skirt. If Grigorovich had put Phrygia in a long skirt, think how dull she would have been. Maybe Ratmansky opted for the long skirt because he didn't want to invite a comparison with any other famous ballets set to Khachaturian.

Also, the music for the PdDs between Callirhoe and Chareas often had the same "feel" to them which led to similar choreographic treatments.

But Ratmansky got so much brilliantly right with OLAR that the work stands very tall in spite of any perceived weakness in the leads' choreography.

By the way, Jeannette, did you notice that elsewhere some of the woke folk are backpedaling on their negative opinions now that they have read what others have written. lol.

Haglund, Your recommendation for Dress Circle house side Left was excellent! It was the first time I sat up there and I enjoyed it tremendously- The music was grand, the views of the corps and choreography very good, and what a bargain for the money. Many thanks for the recommendation!

You're very welcome.

I was also wondering why the BA regulars did not show any appreciation of the wonderful dancings that you and Jeannette have seen. I have always admired the taste of Jeannette for a very long , long time and was wondering if her early raves in the 2020 premiere of OLAR would be wrong. But no ,she still is a wonder, traveling the world for the best ballets. As for the BA group, unless it's Balanchine, then it's no good.Just a thought. I just hope the they would bring it back next year.

Jose, true what you say. Thanks much to Jeannette for traveling out to the premiere to scout out OLAR for everyone and for always being able to provide such important and interesting background and history for all the works!

Thanks, Jose & Haglund! What a kind surprise to read these words, as I wake up in Colombia…for real work this time. It’s been fun reading comments on OLAR and the rest of the ABT Met season, since I can’t be there this time. However, you can bet that I’ll seek and find some sort of ballet-dance here:

I think I could forgo R&J, Giselle or Swan Lake if we could get Ashton's Cinderella or The Dream. It seems decades since we've seen these productions.

I know they're only going to do full-lengths for the Met seasons but I'm in serious need of DeMille as well. Oh to see Rodeo on a summer's night...

Hoping Jaffe brings back some of the meat & potatoes rep that ABT hasn't served up in years.

This will probably be met with derision in these quarters but I would love to experience Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias again. I have the fondest memories of Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes bringing the house down in this piece. Who today might be the best exponents of the two leads?

I loved Camellias, but it didn't really sell well to the crowd that wanted YouTube tricks. I find most every theater piece done by Neumeier to be fascinating.

formerdancer: I'm not sure it's been decades, but it has been some time since they've done Cinderella or The Dream or Sylvia or any of the shorter Ashton works in their repertoire. Sarasota Ballet will be at the Joyce in August and I think doing at least two Ashton works, including Birthday Offering, which ABT has, but rarely does.

Five or six years ago I went to an ABT gala solely because they were doing excerpts from many ballets they rarely do anymore and which I had never seen -- works like Rodeo and Fall River Legend.

Those were the days, Allie Kenney! ABT and most other US companies appear to prefer less expensive options when planning rare mixed-bill evenings. I’m sure that it’s cheaper to commission new short works in the name of “Diversity and Inclusion” than it is to pay fees to the Balanchine, Ashton, Tudor, Massine, Arpino-Joffrey, Robbins, Fokine, Nijinska, et al Foundations. Ditto the payment of fees to the great living choreographers like Ratmansky & Wheeldon…and some Tharp (just not more of the ballroom Sinatras please).

The sheer amount of mediocre junk that’s been created during and post-COVID boggles the mind but it was a necessity, I suppose. I hope that the western ballet world will soon be able to sift the wheat from the chaff…for ex, more Silas Farley or Gemma Bond or Lauren Lovette…less things like the NYCB & ABT clunkers in the recent mixed bills at the Kennedy Center.

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