The 2015-16 Season of Dance and Classical Music at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills

August 28, 2015

The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills opens their 2015-2016 season of dance programming on October 1-3 with:

Twyla Tharp: a 50th Anniversary Celebration, a program of new work by Ms. Tharp, co-commissioned by The Wallis (in partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Joyce Theatre, Ravina Festival Association & Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University and Texas International Theatrical Arts Society).

Twyla Tharp dancers Matthew Dibble and Rika Okamoto in Yowzie costumes

L.A. Dance Project follows on January 29-30, featuring Hearts and Arrows by LADP Founder Benjamin Millepied with music by Philip Glass; the U.S. premiere of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Harbor Me; and Murder Ballades by Justin Peck.

Ezralow Dance Company performs OPEN on April 29-30, marking the “hometown debut” of Daniel Ezralow’s new dance company. Ezralow has created dances for Hubbard Street Dance Company, Batsheva Dance Company, London Contemporary Dance Theatre, the Cirque du Soleil/Beatles show LOVE, Julie Taymor’s film Across the Universe, and the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

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The Wallis’ diverse classical musical programming – encompassing 17 concerts – starts with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, under the esteemed leadership of Zubin Mehta (November 10 and 11) with two different programs. A gala fundraising performance on November 10 will feature the Dvorak New World Symphony and the Vivaldi Concerto for 3 Violins (Semion Gavrikov, Dumitru Pocitari and Asaf Maoz soloists); a second subscription concert will include Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony and Ravel’s La Valse.

Other artists include cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han with The Passionate Cello (January 8), Eagle Rock-based Santa Cecilia Orchestra (January 16) led by Sonia Marie De Leon de Vega, with a program featuring Latino and American composers; the return of Keyboard Conversations® with Jeffrey Siegel performing An American Salute celebrating our country’s most beloved composers (February 27); The Jerusalem Quartet (April 14); and Grammy Award-winning violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Shai Wosner (March 26).

A new East/West: Merging Music & Cultures music series will include Wu Man & The Shanghai Quartet (January 23); violinist Cho Liang Lin with Jon Kimura Parker (February 13) and Bing Wang and Ben Hong (February 20).

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Jerusalem Quartet also make up The Soul of Israel series, which is completed by David Olowsky Trio’s The Soul of Klezmer, a masterful expansion of the Klezmer folk music tradition (March 25).

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Colburn at The Wallis: A Concert Series partners The Wallis with the Colburn School, one of the nation’s highest ranked educators of students pursuing rigorous performance training, for an exciting series of concerts throughout the 2015-2016 Season. Featuring rising stars from the Colburn Conservatory of Music alongside celebrated concert artists and Colburn’s renowned faculty, the concerts include Colburn School artist-in-residence, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet (October 30), cellist Gary Hoffman (November 7), Music Director and Conductor Yehuda Gilad and Mikyung Soung, double bass (March 6); and the principal brass players of the New York Philharmonic (April 10).

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In an expansion of programming to fulfill its mission to support and celebrate young artists, The Wallis will begin Next Generation @ The Wallis, featuring Taiwanese-American pianist Steven Lin (March 11), jazz pianist Justin Kauflin (January 22) and Sean Chen (February 19), recent winner of UPenn’s eminent 2015 Annenberg arts fellowship for artists – all pianists on the verge of breakthrough.

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The Jazz Bakery will also be presenting concerts at The Wallis with a new partnership, The Jazz Bakery @ The Wallis. As one of the premiere presenters of jazz in Los Angeles, The Jazz Bakery brings a long history of curating and presenting jazz to this new concert series at The Wallis.

For more information about the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts click HERE.

Photo by Ruven Afanador


LA Opera Announces its 2015/16 Season

August 21, 2015

LA Opera Opens the 2015/16 Season with Gianni Schicchi, Staged by Woody Allen

LA Opera’s thirtieth anniversary season opens with the double bill of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci (September 12 through October 3, 2015). Placido Domingo, LA Opera’s general director, will sing the title role in Woody Allen’s staging of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.

Wody Allen rehearses Gianni Schicchi

The opera will be conducted by Grant Gershon, the company’s resident conductor, and will feature Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Rinuccio, Andriana Chuchman as Lauretta, and Meredith Arwady as Zita. After the intermission, Mr. Domingo will move to the orchestra pit to conduct Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, starring Marco Berti as Canio, Ana María Martínez as Nedda, and George Gagnidze as Tonio.

Pagliacci

Gianni Schicchi

 

LA Opera’s music director James Conlon had this to say: “I’m proud to be part of LA Opera for this thirtieth anniversary season, and to mark the occasion by conducting the celebratory gala with Plácido Domingo and Renée Fleming. I am also thrilled to welcome my colleague and friend Gustavo Dudamel, who is making his debut with our company. As part of our commitment to contemporary opera, I relish the opportunity to conduct Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. I also look forward to collaborating again with Barrie Kosky for The Magic Flute as well as welcoming back Ana María Martínez and Stefano Secco in Madame Butterfly, after their previous successes in our 2012 Simon Boccanegra. As part of LA Opera’s expanding bel canto repertory, the return of Norma for the first time since 1996 is an important event.”

Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick comes to Los Angeles October 31 through November 28, 2015. Tenor Jay Hunter Morris stars as Captain Ahab in performances conducted by James Conlon and directed by Leonard Foglia. The cast also includes tenor Joshua Guerrero in the leading role of Greenhorn as well as baritone Morgan Smith as Starbuck, a role he created at the work’s 2010 premiere.

LA Opera will present Vincenzo Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece, Norma, (November 21 through December 13, 2015) in a production conducted by James Conlon and directed by Anne Bogart. Soprano Angela Meade, who made her LAO debut in 2012 as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, returns to lead a quartet of principals that includes mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton as Adalgisa, along with tenor Russell Thomas as Pollione, and bass Morris Robinson as Oroveso.

Conducted by James Conlon, The Magic Flute returns (February 13 through March 6, 2016) with its evocation of the silent film era. The production is directed by Barrie Kosky and by Suzanne Andrade of the British theater company 1927. Onstage performers, including tenor Benjamin Bliss as Tamino, interact with projected hand-drawn animation, to capture Mozart’s delightful blend of high comedy and fairy tale.

In a production new to Los Angeles, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly (March 12 through April 3, 2016) will be conducted by James Conlon and directed by Lee Blakeley. In her second leading appearance in the season, soprano Ana María Martínez stars as Cio-Cio-San, one of her signature roles, with tenor Stefano Secco as the faithless Pinkerton and mezzo-soprano Milena Kitic as Suzuki.

Georgian soprano Nino Machaidze returns for her sixth leading role at LA Opera, singing her first performances as Mimi in La Bohème (May 14 through June 12, 2016). Speranza Scappucci will make her LAO debut conducting six of the eight performances. The final two performances will feature the company debut of conductor Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This revival of the Herbert Ross production features Abdellah Lasri and Mario Chang sharing the role of Rodolfo and Janai Brugger and Amanda Woodbury sharing the role of Musetta. Moldavian soprano Olga Busuioc performs the role of Mimi on May 19 and 25.

On March 18, 2016, LA Opera presents a 30th Anniversary Concert starring Plácido Domingo and Renée Fleming. Conducted by James Conlon, the concert features many of opera’s greatest arias and duets.

Off Grand

LA Opera’s Off Grand initiative was developed to expand on traditional ideas of the operatic experience by experimenting with performance spaces, creative artists new to the genre, and a variety of musical styles. Here is a look at the 2015/16 Season:

  • The West coast premiere of Song from the Uproar, by composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek, explores the fascinating life and death of adventurer Isabelle Eberhardt and will be performed at REDCAT from October 8 through 11, 2015.
  • Philip Glass’s contemporary score for Bela Lugosi’s classic 1931 film Dracula will be performed live by the composer, joined by the Kronos Quartet, at the Theatre at Ace Hotel, a 1927 Spanish Gothic movie palace, from October 29 through 31, 2015.
  • On December 12, 2015, Erwin Schrott returns in Rojotango in Concert, a tribute to the music of his native South America in a program featuring tangos by Astor Piazzola and Pablo Ziegler as well as Argentinean and Brazilian folk songs.
  • Free performances of a community opera for families, The Festival Play of Daniel, will be conducted by James Conlon and performed at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on March 4 and 5, 2016.

The season concludes with the world premiere of Anatomy Theater by composer David Lang and visual artist Mark Dion, presented at REDCAT. Based on actual 18th-century texts, Anatomy Theater follows the progression of an English murderess from confession to execution and, ultimately, public dissection before a paying audience of fascinated onlookers.*

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Photos courtesy of LA Opera.


HIGHLIGHT OF THE NEW YORK WEEKEND: SINGER/SONGWRITER/PIANIST ELLA LEYA PERFORMS SUNDAY NIGHT AT JOE’S PUB

July 31, 2015

By Don Heckman

Singer/songwriter and pianist Ella Leya makes her New York debut at Joe’s Pub on Sunday night.  It’s a rare performance by a gifted artist who should not be missed.

“It’s the voice of Ella Leya that first grabs you,” wrote the Los Angeles Times in reviewing her first album releases. “Simmering with a dark timbre, its velvet surface is occasionally tinged with flashes of sunlight.”

Add to that gently floating rhythms, and the story telling phrases which bring every song she sings vividly to iife.

Ella Leya

Ella Leya

Ella, who was born in Baku, Azerbaijan and emigrated to the U.S. in 1990, eventually reaching the current identity she describes humorously as a “Russian/Californian living in London.”

All of which is true, as well as a creative history which reaches from a career as a well-known Russian jazz singer to more jazz singing in the U.S., followed by a sequence of albums that includes such well reviewed titles as Queen of Night, Secret Lives of Women and Russian Romance., film and television music for Ocean’s Twelve, Dirty, Sexy Money and more.

Her recent album, Russian Romance showcases one of the most irresistibly passionate Russian art song forms, often described as “Russian blues.” The album features combinations of  the lyrical music she has composed to the passionate, often erotic, poetry of some of her favorite Russian poets, including Alexander Pushkin, Anna Akhmatova and others.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Ella’s first novel, The Orphan Sky — which takes place in Communist Baku of the ’70s and ’80s — was described by the New York Journal of Books as “visceral and exotic as any spy novel and as authentically convincing as The Kite Runner.”

Ella Leya’s performance at Joe’s Pub will touch upon the full range of her creative life, including her captivating vocals, songs and piano stylings as well as a brief reading or two from The Orphan Sky.

Her set will also include a special guest artist: Janina Gavankar, star of True Blood and the Mysteries of Laura.

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Ella Leya sings her song “I Wish I Could” (from The Secret Lives of Women) in a video featuring Janina Gavankar.


Ballet: Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg Performs “Rodin” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

June 16, 2015

By Jane Rosenberg

Famous artists in torment are a subject of fascination in the popular imagination. Make it two tormented artists in a romantic relationship and the appeal doubles. Biographies, films, and even novelizations of the lives of, for example: Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, or Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre abound.

In this vein, Boris Eifman, the Russian choreographer known internationally for his heavily plotted, narrative ballets explores the intense relationship of the sculptor Auguste Rodin with the artist Camille Claudel. It is a subject ripe for the Eifman technique, which interweaves classical ballet movement, modern dance, and in the choreographer’s words, “ecstatic impulses” all at the service of psychological dance theatre.

In Rodin, we travel back and forth in time, largely between the mental asylum where Camille was incarcerated and Rodin’s workshop. Architecturally, the set by Zinovy Margolin is a marvel of lines and planes reminiscent of Russian Constructivist theatre sets of the early twentieth century. The angles, multi-levels, and platforms provide the backdrop for the workshop, the asylum, and various other locations such as the dance hall of Act Two.

Set to a selection of late nineteenth, early twentieth century French music by Ravel, Saint-Saëns, Massenet, Debussy, and Satie, which is woven seamlessly throughout, the ballet has many moments of breathtaking beauty, imaginative choreography, and penetrating insight, all superbly danced by Oleg Gabyshev as Rodin, Lyubov Andreyeva as Camille, and Yulia Manjeles as Rodin’s lifelong companion, Rose Beuret.

Like the clay with which Rodin and Camille sculpt their forms, the choreography in Act One is tied to the earth, reminiscent of Martha Graham’s elemental movements. Echoes of Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography also haunt the piece, and awareness of his declining mental state adds another layer of meaning.

Art and sensuality seem inextricably mixed, particularly in the sensuality of the clay as depicted in Rodin’s “modeling” of form. In a mesmerizing scene, Rodin stands before a group of semi-nude male figures crouching on a rotating circular table. As Rodin pushes, twists, and strokes these figures, he seems to draw form out of this mass of bodies. Slowly a limb extends or a knee juts out, until the figures stand erect, becoming Rodin’s Burghers of Calais. The magic is achieved by Eifman’s choreography, Gabyshev’s raw physical power, and the sculptural lighting of Gleb Filshtinsky.

Notable in Act One is a dance for the asylum inmates, women dressed in cream colored nightdresses and lace sleeping caps, who dance holding pillows, which in turn become babies cradled in their arms, toys they play with, or a repository for their tears. At some moments one thinks of the spectral Willis of Giselle, the victims of their sweethearts’ indifference, at another, the children at play in The Nutcracker, rocking their dolls or frolicking about the Stahlbaum house. Both instances help in heightening dramatic tension.

In a dream sequence, which serves as a counterpoint to the earthier and more tortured dancing of Act One, couples dressed in silky charcoal grays, beautifully conceived by costume designer Olga Shaishmelashvili, dance with classical elegance to Saint-Saëns Dance Macabre. More confused however is the dance of the workshop assistants at the beginning of the act, which looks like a nod to the cowboys of Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo or the sailors of Jerome Robbins’s Fancy Free – cute and lively, but a bit out of place in a French sculptor’s workshop.

All in all, Act One is a gem of dance drama. Even the tortured, angst driven dancing manages to stay just on the right side of romantic sentimentality. Gabyshev’s Rodin as consumed artist and sexual predator has an iconic reality to it. Andreyeva’s Camille as Rodin’s ambitious, sensual, yet unstable student and fellow artist is a passionate performance. And Manjeles is majestic as the long-suffering Rose.

Act Two begins with another striking effect: Rodin creating the Gates of Hell. On metal scaffolding representing an immense doorway, dancers configure into positions reflecting Rodin’s famed relief sculpture.

Unfortunately, problems arise as Act Two progresses when the proverbial kitchen sink syndrome derails the ballet. What had been a precisely structured examination into the life of art, tackling issues of creativity, recognition, fame, love, and madness turns into a pastiche of nineteenth century dance references and an unnecessary heightening of the angst ridden choreography. A harvest wine dance à la Giselle, with girls in brightly clad peasant dresses, grows out of nowhere (justified by Rodin’s dreaming of his first meeting with Rose), followed a bit later by a Parisian dance hall cancan scene when Camille leaves Rodin for the bright lights of the big city. Both are crowd-pleasers, no doubt, but Eifman’s showmanship here gets in the way of his artistry. Further compromising Act Two is the overstated tension within the love triangle of Rodin, Camille, and Rose. The tortured dancing grows repetitive and dilutes the undeniable power of the first act.

Where Eifman succeeds in Act Two is in turning the hammering of stone, done first by Camille, and then in the ballet’s final scene by Rodin, into blazing dance movement. His back towards us and bare chested, Gabyshev works away at the stone, his body torqueing side to side; and we are left with the image of the artist as Hephaestus forging life out of the furnace of human will and desire.

Photos by Gene Schiavone courtesy of Eifman Ballet.

Dancers:

Rodin: Oleg Gabyshev
Camille: Lyubov Andreyeva
Rose Beuret: Yulia Manjeles

Production:

Choreography: Boris Eifman

Music: Maurice Ravel, Camille Saint-Saëns, Jules Massenet, Claude Debussy, Erik Satie
Sets: Zinovy Margolin
Costumes: Olga Shaishmelashvili
Lighting: Gleb Filshtinsky, Boris Eifman

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To read more dance and music reviews by Jane Rosenberg click HERE.

Jane Rosenberg Dance Book cover.

Jane Rosenberg is the author and illustrator of  DANCE ME A STORY: Twelve Tales of the Classic Ballets.  Jane is also the author and illustrator of SING ME A STORY: The Metropolitan Opera’s Book of Opera Stories for Children

 


Picks of the West Coast Weekend: June 12 – 15

June 12, 2015

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Peter.Frampton

Peter.Frampton

– June 12. (Fri.) Peter Frampton and Cheap Trick. A pair of rock icons turn up the juice when Grammy winner Frampton encounters the high voltage of Cheap Trick. Click HERE to read a previous iRoM review of Frampton in action. The Greek Theatre.  (323) 665-5857.

– June 12. (Fri.) The Dafnis Prieto Sextet. “Triangles and Circles. One of the Southland’s favorite drummers applies his strong instrumental skills alongside his role as a powerful band leader, as well. A Jazz Bakery event at Zipper Concert Hall.  (310) 271-9039.

Maude Maggart

Maude Maggart

– June 12 & 13. (Dei. & Sat.  Maude Maggart.  She comes from a show biz family (her sister is Fiona Apple, her parents Broadway veterans), but cabaret singer Maggart has found her own identity as a musical artist.  No wonder her dedicated fans insist that her performances are not just heard — they’re experienced.  Tom ROlla’s Gardenia. On Facebook as Gardenia Arts and Entertainment.  (323) 467-7444.

– June 12 – 14. (Fri. – Sun.) The Ojai Music Festival. As always, Ojai has a boundless array of music taking place throughout the Festival. For a complete schedule click here: The Ojai Music Festival.

Strunz and Farah

Strunz and Farah

– June 12 & 13. (Fri. & Sat.) Strunz & Farah. The guitar playing team of Costa Rican Strunz and Iranian Farah have been in the international vanguard of world music for more than three decades. And they’re still at their best. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

 

Herbie Hancock

– June 13 & 14 (Sat. & Sun.) The Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl. Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and young players from the Monk Institute of Jazz Performance are featured on both days.

 

Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter

Click HERE to read iRoM’s Q&A with Wayne Shorter about his performance with the young Monk Institute players.

Other highlight artists performing in the 37th Playboy Jazz Festival include Jason Moran, the Gerald Wilson Orchestra under the direction of Anthony Wilson, Eddie Palmieri, Tower of Power, Alowe Blacc, Snarky Puppy and more. For a complete schedule click here: The Playboy Jazz Festival.  (323) 850 – 2000.

– June 13 (Sat.)Vintage Masters of Swing. The Musicians at Play Foundation presents a high voltage evening of music, featuring an all-star big band, led by Tim Simonec, performing new arrangements of old favorites. The list of arrangers is a virtual collection of iconic figures: Van Alexander, Sammy Nestico, Bill Holman, Ralph CarMichael and Pat Williams. Vocalists include Tierney Sutton, Sue Raney and Janene Lovullo. 7:30 p.m. at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.MusiciansAtPlay.org. (818) 994-4661.

Sue Raney

Sue Raney

– June 14. (Sun.) Sue Raney Sings the Music of Henry Mancini. A fine jazz vocalist who doesn’t always get the attention her talents deserve, Raney is a convincing interpreter for the lyrical, story-telling Mancini catalog of songs.  Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

San Francisco

June 14. (Sun.) The Family Stone. http://www.yoshis.com/event/816713-family-stone-oakland/ The 50th anniversary of Sly and the Family Stone is celebrated in a joyous evening of memorable music. Yoshi’s. (510) 238-9200.

Santa Cruz

– June 12. (Fri.) Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge. Two fine young guitarist test their imaginative ideas against each other. / Kuumbwa. (831) 427-2227.

Ashland, Oregon

– June 14. (Sun.) Occidental Gypsy. The Siskiyou Music Project showcases an evening of music performed by Rhode Island’s Occidental Gypsy, illuminating the worldwide  popularity of Gypsy music in all its forms. The Siskiyou Music Project at the Paschal Winery.  (541) 488-3869.

Seattle

Arturo Sandoval

Arturo Sandoval

June 12 – 14. (Fri. – Sun.) Arturo Sandoval. Multi-talented, musically versatile Sandoval is likely, on almost any given performance, to play brilliantly on trumpet, piano and drums, along with his impressive vocalizing. This time out he’ll display his wares backed by a quintet. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.


Ballet: Los Angeles Ballet in a Triple Bill at Royce Hall

June 8, 2015

By Jane Rosenberg

Los Angeles.  If Fred Astaire embodied the essence of dance to George Balanchine, then surely to Jiři Kylián, as evidenced in his hilarious yet knowing ballet, Sechs Tänze, it’s Charlie Chaplin, and his comic physical grace that springs to mind.

Los Angeles Ballet wisely chose Kylián’s creation to conclude its triple bill, entitled Director’s Choice, performed at Royce Hall Saturday evening along with Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 and Limón’s The Moor’s Pavane.

Kylián’s Sechs Tänze, set to Mozart’s German Dances, is an absolute confection, a paean to nonsense amidst a troubled world perpetually ravaged by strife. The dancers of LAB were at their unbridled best, expertly conveying the dance’s humor and pathos. When physical comedy is mingled with grace and athleticism, it’s a perfect marriage of forms – evident in the balletic movements of Chaplin in his films.

“Sechs Tänze”

The piece — set in a whimsical, courtly world as evidenced by the powdered wigs and spare eighteenth century costumes — is alive with the antic movements of children at play. Dancers create human yo-yos and mimic rag dolls, soap bubbles drift overhead. In each of the six dances invention abounds. For example, bewigged male dancers encased in enormous bell-like ball gowns appear to glide effortlessly, self-driven, across the floor. There are apples speared with swords, wobbling heads that shake off puffs of powder, and mock beheadings. It’s a joyous romp from beginning to end and a piece that shows off the talents of the dancers of LAB.

Jose Limón’s The Moor’s Pavane is also a solid addition to the company’s repertory. A distillation of Shakespeare’s Othello, the ballet is a theatrical abstraction of the play and a landmark of mid twentieth century modern dance, created for four dancers representing Othello, Desdemona, Iago, and his wife, Emilia.

“The Moor’s Pavane”

Set on a stark black stage with the quartet costumed in Renaissance finery, the scheming of Iago and Emilia, the tortured jealousy of Othello, and the subsequent murder of Desdemona play out to a score derived from excerpts of Purcell’s music, arranged by Simon Sadoff. Within the stately measures of sixteenth century Renaissance court dance, the principals ceremoniously begin to move in a circle, obeying the polite codes of patrician behavior, but fate awaits and hangs heavily over the dance. Eventually violence, precipitated by Iago, with the complicity of Emilia, erupts, ending in the inevitable tragedy of Desdemona’s death.

The Moor’s Pavane is as much about acting as it is about dance. Zheng Hua Li as Othello understands the character but is hampered by the disparity in size between him and the 6’4” Erik Thordal-Christensen. It is in the squaring off of these two men that the dance derives much of its drama. Thordal-Christensen, a graceful and princely looking young dancer, towers over his rival. The men should stand eye to eye, as they cock their heads and flick their torsos in psychological combat. Thordal-Christensen’s Iago feels a bit young and unformed – when he clings to Othello’s back in a snake-like grip, one thinks more of a malevolent teenager than the mature instigator of Othello’s destruction.

Allyssa Bross proves an elegant Desdemona. Bianca Bulle dances Emilia with fire but with more coyness and seductiveness than the role asks for. It is the violence and treachery bursting through the courtly restraint of these characters that creates the tension and drives the dance forward.

The most problematic piece of the evening is the first on the program: Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2, created in 1941 for Ballet Caravan and originally titled, Ballet Imperial. Conceived as an homage to Petipa, the father of classical ballet, Balanchine revived it in 1964 for New York City Ballet and subsequently restaged the work in 1973. It is a resplendent tribute to the grand Russian style.

“Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2”

Without an orchestra and pianist (one wishes for a time when LAB can command a hall of its own and musicians in the pit) to accompany the grandeur of this exacting ballet, a flatness results that no amount of goodwill and enthusiasm on the part of the dancers can overcome. It is particularly with Tchaikovsky’s ballet scores and orchestral work (one should also include Prokofiev – the other great composer for dance) that the lack of live music seems to hamper the dance. Ballet, like opera is a dialogue between orchestra and performer. Without this interaction, dancers are merely dancing to the music, rather than inhabiting it.

Despite the circumstances, Allynne Noelle is a sparkling and assured presence. As her cavalier, Ulrik Birkkjaer is princely and compelling. And, as the third principal, Julia Cinquemani (the role Colleen Neary, co-director of LAB, originated in the 1973 restaged version) dances with a robust musicality.

With their mastery of Kylián’s Sechs Tänze and the obvious delight they took in executing it, one hopes to see the dancers of LAB perform more of Kylián’s work in the future, along with their established repertory of Balanchine and Bournonville.

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Photos courtesy of LA Ballet.

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To read more dance and music reviews by Jane Rosenberg click HERE.

Jane Rosenberg Dance Book cover.

Jane Rosenberg is the author and illustrator of  DANCE ME A STORY: Twelve Tales of the Classic Ballets.  Jane is also the author and illustrator of SING ME A STORY: The Metropolitan Opera’s Book of Opera Stories for Children

 


Live Music: The Real Vocal String Quartet in a Siskiyou Music Project Concert

May 11, 2015

By Don Heckman

Talent, Oregon. “Real Vocal String Quartet.” The words on the program guide seemed almost contradictory. What was it to be? One or the other? A vocal ensemble or a string quartet?

But when the four gifted members of the Real Vocal String Quartet began their concert Sunday night in the performance room of the beautiful Paschal Winery in Talent, Oregon, all the seemingly contradictory aspects of their name immediately disappeared.

The transformation began with “Kyili Turam,” a piece inspired by the Quartet’s fascination with world music, in this case from Macedonia. Starting with a full bodied string quartet opening, the four instrumentalists – still playing — moved close to their vocal microphones and enriched the string sounds with lush, four voice harmonies. The effect was astonishing, orchestral in its size, utterly gripping in its emotional impact. And it was just the beginning of the memorable program offered by the versatile artists of the Real Vocal String Quartet – violinists Irene Sazor and Alisa Rose, violist Matthias McIntire and cellist Jessica Ivry.

The Real Vocal String Quartet at the Paschal Winery

To say that the music was imaginative in every aspect of the word would only begin to describe a program that reached across a boundary-less array of genres. Classical, jazz, blues, Americana, fiddle music, world music and much more, all of it performed via a mesmerizing blend of authenticity and brilliant inventiveness – vocally, instrumentally and in combinations of both.

Titles were either unannounced or identified too quickly to register. But no matter; the significant information resided in the fact that most of the music was original, written or arranged by the four players – offering even more evidence of the expansive skills of this remarkable ensemble.

There were far too many highlights to list in the group’s eclectic selections. One of the most fascinating was a free improvisation, a completely spontaneous, unwritten, on-the-spot, brilliant four part composition. It’s a technique other groups have tried – dating back to the free jazz era of the ’60s. But I’ve rarely heard it delivered with the Vocal String Quartet’s inventive musical authority.

Another piece – violist Matthias McIntire’s whimsically titled “California Residents Blissful Despite Impending Earthquake” – displayed another quality, employing the group’s vocal/instrumental timbres with impressionistic impact.

The Real Vocal String Quartet (Matthias McIntire, Jessica Ivry, Irene Sazor and Alisa Rose)

In addition to their remarkable skills as an inventive musical collective, the four principals of the Vocal Jazz Quartet also displayed unique solo abilities. Each revealed convincing improvisational abilities. The two violinists – Irene Sazor and Alisa Rose – tossed riffs back and forth, slipping and sliding through blues licks, with the ease of a bebop jam. McIntire added an equal jazz authenticity to his soloing. And cellist Jessica Ivry energized the rhythm with Ron Carter-like bass lines interspersed with arching, classical counter melodies.

It was, in short, an evening overflowing with much to enjoy. The Real Vocal String Quartet, despite its seemingly confusing title, left this listener, no doubt among many others, with an evening that will be long remembered.

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First photo by Faith Frenz.

Second photo by Lenny Gonzalez, courtesy of Real Vocal String Quartet.


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