Sunday, October 29, 2017

American Ballet Theatre - Daphnis and Chloé - 10/26/17

Conductor: David LaMarche 
Tchaikovsky: Souvenir d’un lieu cher: Meditation and Scherzo 
Choreography: Alexey Ratmansky 
Eric Wyrick: Violin 
Chopin: Mazurka, Op. 17, No. 4 
Chopin: Mazurka, Op. 41, No. 3 
Chopin: Mazurka, Op. 63, No. 2 
Chopin: Mazurka, Op. 33, No. 2 
Chopin: Waltz, Op. 64, No. 3 
Choreography: Jerome Robbins 
Emily Wong: Piano 
Ravel: Daphnis and Chloé 
Choreography: Benjamin Millepied
Cantori New York 

Twenty-hour hours after enjoying a rousing Bernstein celebration with the New York Philharmonic at the David Geffen Hall, I temporarily defected to the David H. Koch Theater across the Lincoln Center Plaza for an unusual foray into ballet territory for the American Ballet Theatre with my friend Vy An.
This visit had been prompted by the perspective of checking out a fairly new production of Daphnis and Chloé choreographed by former New York City Ballet principal Benjamin Millepied, who these days is working on various fronts from his current Los Angeles base. It was also the perfect opportunity to experience Maurice Ravel’s famous score in context, and with New York’s very own contemporary choir Cantori New York.

The shorter numbers by Tchaikovsky and Chopin were lovely openers and nicely highlighted the delicate Romanticism of the former and engaging danceability of the latter.
Originally put together for the Ballets Russes, Daphnis and Chloé has come a long way during the past century, and this contemporary production of it emphatically proves that the brilliant score is still as fresh and relevant today as it has ever been. The choreography was boldly inventive and easily evocative to the point that even without knowing the story, one could effortlessly figure out what was going on. The dancers were all impressive in their physical abilities, the main pirate often stealing the show with mind-boggling acrobatics.
The sets were bare, but the various large transparent geometric forms, which were brightly colored, framed by Lichtensteinesque black and white stripes and hanging from the ceiling, as well as the clever lighting added some dynamic mood-setting touches. The costumes were simple in more ways than one, the good guys being dressed in white and the bad guys in black up to the anything-goes bacchanale that which exploded in a feast of vivid colors and rambunctious dancing.
The accompanying “choreographic symphony” was Ravel at his most ground-breaking, voluptuous and impressionistic. Starting at the very beginning, the downright gorgeous wordless vocals produced by the chorus, which would impeccably rise, or rather swell, to the occasion a few more times, immediately commanded attention with their rich sonorities and seemingly divine transcendence, which was not that surprising since the action was taking place in the land of the gods that is Greece after all. 
By mastering myriads of tiny details, the fastidious composer came up with a wide range of impossibly lush harmonies and attractive textures, which in turn makes the music deeply passionate yet unfailingly elegant, in true French fashion. On Thursday evening, the excellent performance of the orchestra and chorus in the pit flawlessly complemented the vibrant dancing happening on the stage for a totally successful Daphnis and Chloé.

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