lunes, septiembre 24, 2012

Mixed fare: ballet gala, Harlemopera, singing competition

            Recently I wrote about a valuable ballet gala at the Coliseo. I´m sorry to report that  the following announced ballet performances there have been cancelled: September 21 and 22, the Brazilian Transit Danza would have presented Somorrostro; in the same month, 25 and 26, we will be left without the experience of seeing again the memorable French ballet dancer Sylvie Guillem, she of the interminable legs. Last year the Colón offered a mostly positive ballet gala, though with some ups and downs; I´m afraid that this year´s gala was on a lower level.
            First, I don´t accept that the Colón took the entire Second Part with the "Shadows Act" from the Petipa/Minkus "La Bayadère", done complete earlier in the season. At the Coliseo the invited dancers were in both parts. Hogging the main spot in an international gala just won´t do. As I had seen the same dancers when I attended the whole show, I opted out. Second, of the eight foreign dancers six came from German institutions; one hopes for an ampler choice, even if the artists in fact have different nationalities. Third, the chosen repertoire was distinctly uninteresting. And fourth, not all the guests were quite first-rank. Of course, given the style of most of the music, it was recorded.
            The First Part (the only one I´m reviewing) started well, with an agreeable pas de deux from an old ballet, not often seen: "Esmeralda" (the street dancer in Hugo´s "Notre Dame de Paris"), by Jules Perrot and Cesare Pugni. Two beautifully pure Romantic dancers, Iana Salenko (Ukrainian) and Marian Walter (German) from the Berlin Ballet, gave a splendid exhibition of precise style. By the way, Salenko had been at the Coliseo, but there the group of which she is a member was called the Berliner Staatsballet, Berlin City Ballet.
            I was thoroughly bored by the music of Philip Glass and the choreography of Tim Plegge in "Sonnet XXII", well danced by Soraya Bruno (Argentine) and Martin Buczkó (Muscovite) to no avail. They are supposed to be from the Staatsballett-Berlin Opera; it´s very confusing. A breath of fresh air came with the sound track of "Singing in the Rain": Gershwin´s "I got rhythm" with the voices of Gene Kelly and kids, but with a charmingly jazz-inflected choreography by Johann Koborg, brilliantly done by Steven McRae (Australian) from the London Royal Ballet. Again I fell under the sopors of Phillip Glass in "Transcended", a cliché-ridden choreography by Terence Kohler, with Katherina Markowskaja (Ukrainian) and Tigran Mikayelyan (Armenian) from the Bavarian Opera Ballet, Munich; a strong disparity of height between the dancers makes for an unharmonious pair physically, although they dance well.
            Salenko and Walter then danced "Not anymore", a rather good choreography by Raymondo Rebek on singularly inane pop music by Lhasa de Sela. The announced "Onegin" by Fonseca/Tchaikovsky (not the usual Cranko choreography) was substituted by another piece (unmentioned in the programme) with music by Chopin and Gluck and unannounced choreography, rather pleasant and with nice projections, by Bruno and Buczkó doing a professional job. Roberta Márquez (Brazilian) and McRae danced the gorgeous MacMillan love scene from Prokofiev´s "Romeo and Juliet"; they were certainly very good, until one remembered the supreme poetry of Alessandra Ferri with Julio Bocca. Finally, that hoariest of pas de deux, the one from "Don Quichotte" (Petipa/Minkus) where the mentioned disparity between Markowskaja and Mikayelyan was much in evidence; they danced well but any ballet goer has seen many other performances  much more remarkable.
            Years ago Gregory Hopkins had considerable success here leading gospel groups. Now he was back leading the Harlem Opera Ensemble (debut) at AMIJAI. It was a worthwhile evening. Eleven singers, a saxophone player and (I believe) a trombone are led from the piano by Hopkins with his well-proven  assured command. It was a long and varied concert, where the First Part was a potpourri of varied pieces and the Second a good cross-section of Gershwin´s wonderful "Porgy and Bess". Among the voices I was surprised to hear a fine countertenor (Patrick Dailey) for this isn´t a type of voice associated with the chosen repertoire, but it sounded quite beautiful. Otherwise the best voice was Barry Robinson as Porgy. Of the others, apart from Cameron Jones who was below par in Kern´s "Ol´Man River", the five girls and the other men were mostly good, some details apart. 
            Repertoire: two Negro Spirituals, a Dvorák melody,  three rarely heard pieces from musicals by William Grant Still, four Weill songs (two from "Lost in the Stars"), three enchanting pieces from Joplin´s "Treemonisha" (I long for an Argentine premiere of the whole thing) and five admirable fragments from a little-known musical by Duke Ellington, "Queenie Pie". As you see, quite innovative for our medium. 
            Two years ago the ISA (Instituto Superior de Arte del Teatro Colón) had a good idea: an International Singing Competition. Apart from the Colón seven theatres intervened: the New York Met, London´s Covent Garden, Moscow´s Bolshoi, Seoul Opera, Sao Paulo Opera, Santiago de Chile´s Opera, Berlin´s Deutsche Oper. They thinned down 300 candidates to 21, and from those, 8 were selected to give a concert at the end of which the best 4 would get prizes from a distinguished jury: singers Sherrill Milnes (Chairman), Kiri Te Kanawa and Sumi Jo, plus Leonore Rosenberg (Associate Artistic Administrator of the Met), Nicholas Sears (Director of Vocal Studies of the Royal College of Music, Great Britain) and Renaud Loranger (Artists and Repertoire Producer for Deutsche Grammophon). 
            The winners were: María Florencia Machado, mezzo, Argentine; Jung Nan Yoon, soprano, Korean; Jaquelina Livieri, soprano, Argentine; and Alexey Lavrov, baritone, Russian. Well presented by Martín Wullich and well-accompanied by the Buenos Aires Philharmonic under Enrique Arturo Diemecke, this was a joyous night for the ISA  and  Argentine singers. The four winners will get an important push for their young careers.
For Buenos Aires Herald

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