sábado, agosto 15, 2009

"Giselle" and "Romeo and Juliet" start ballet seasons


            Our two biggest official ballet companies started their seasons. The Colón at the Coliseo offered "Giselle", whilst the Argentino of La Plata presented Prokofiev´s "Romeo and Juliet" in a new choreography by Maximiliano Guerra.

            Eight months have passed since the last appearance of the Colón dancers, an unconscionable amount of time by any standards in the art that most depends on keeping fit. In fact, the Colón Ballet has undergone a series of changes in their directors during the last eighteen months, with the consequent difficulties in performance plans. Guido de Benedetti lasted only six months before disagreements with the then Executive Director of the Colón , Martín Boschet,  forced his resignation. He was succeeded by a duet, Olga Ferri as general overseer and Jorge Amarante as Director of the Ballet. Their plans also were curtailed by gross mismanagement (both Boschet and Horacio Sanguinetti, then General Director of the Theatre). After Pedro Pablo García Caffi´s assumption as General Director of the Colón, he named Lidia Segni as new Director of the Ballet. She announced rather ambitious plans that were to start with "Le Corsaire"; but she didn´t do her homework: the Colón neither has a production of its own of that ballet nor had access to foreign productions of it. So, "Giselle" it was, the most overperformed of all ballets. To make things much worse, only three performances in successive days and with three different casts… The Ballet has twelve presentations planned for the whole year, certainly as meager a season as I can remember. A conservative calculation of the salaries of seven inactive months leads to the conclusion that at least two million pesos of taxpayers´ money went to naught.

            Segni is certainly able; she has had a long career as Principal Dancer and in recent decades has worked a lot as an organizer with Julio Bocca´s Ballet Argentino. Rather than a choreographer in her own right, she is a retoucher of old choreographies, and so she presents this "Giselle" as "her" version of the old nineteenth-century Romantic ballet by Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli as revised by Marius Petipa. I see little of interest or personal in her views, apart from good knowledge of tradition. The music by Adolph Adam, with the interpolated "Pas paysan" by Burgmüller and a fragment by Minkus, has charm and nice melodies. The story of the peasant girl fooled by Albrecht, an aristocrat, gone mad by the shock and collapsing dead at the end of the First Act, gets its fantastic counterpart in the Second Act, a "ballet blanc" where the Willis (the souls of betrayed girls)  led by their Queen want to take revenge on Albrecht,  but he is saved by Giselle, herself a Willi.

            I found the performance no more than correct, although I make allowances for the difficult rehearsal circumstances of a Colón in turmoil. But by the high standards by which the Colón must be judged (even in "exile") this was no more than acceptable. I would single out the special quality of Silvina Perillo as Myrtha, Queen of the Willis, the nice flexibility of Carla Vincelli and Federico Fernández in the "Pas paysan" and the good characterization of Hilarion by Vagran Ambartsoumian. But I found the main couple no more than professional: Karina Olmedo and Alejandro Parente weren´t expressive enough and lacked nuance in their steps. As to the Corps de Ballet, it looked rather disjointed in the First Act but the girls alone were much better as the Willis.

            Stage and costume design were blessedly traditional and ascribed to "Producción Teatro Colón". The Colón Orchestra under Carlos Calleja just went through their paces.

            I believe Prokofiev´s "Romeo and Juliet" to be the best full-length twentieth century ballet music. The Argentino took a long time getting round to it, presenting in 2003 a curtailed choreography by Oscar Araiz with the strange idea of three Juliets. Then there was a new choreography by Paul Vasterling in 2007 and a new production, with stage design by María José Besozzi and costumes by Alicia Gumá. This year there´s a change of Direction of the Argentino Ballet, Rodolfo Lastra, and though he maintained the 2007 production he asked  Guerra to provide another choreography, which seems unnecessary spending when the rights to the Vasterling are still held by the Theatre. But I must admit that I liked Guerra´s work even if heavily influenced by what is for me the best choreography, the wonderful Macmillan seen at the Colón with Bocca and A. Ferri many years ago. The action scenes were particularly positive, with plenty of able swordmanship (the dancers surely had expert specific training). And the Romantic ones had true sensitivity and tenderness.

            I was much impressed by the debut of Elizabeth Antúnez, who should have a fine career: a lovely body, fully flexible, a natural intensity and an already mature sense of style. The Romeo, also seen in 2007, was good: Bautista Parada. With very able work from Victor Filimonov as Mercutio, Javier Abeledo as Tybalt and Fabiana Maggio as the Wetnurse and the smaller parts  in the picture, the show was quite enjoyable, with a vibrant and attentive Corps de Ballet.  I was disappointed by the off-night of the Argentino Orchestra under Luis Gorelik, perhaps affected by recent labor troubles; but this is great music and deserves loving care.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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