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The winter season of New York City Ballet opened splendidly on Tuesday evening, January 18th, 2011, with an extraordinary program devoted to the great George Balanchine.
The first work presented was the glorious Balanchine masterpiece, the Walpurgisnacht Ballet, set to the wondrously ballet music from Charles Gounod's opera, Faust. What the corps lacked in discipline, they compensated for in dynamism -- indeed, the entire company seemed to radiate an exceptional degree of energy throughout the evening.
Of the featured dancers, the most impressive in Walpurgisnacht was the fine principal, Wendy Whelan, who performed with her customary and admirable precision -- despite one stumble -- even if her dancing here may have fallen short of the sublime.
If Walpurgisnacht instantiates the retrospectively classicist half of Balanchine's genius, the next work on the program, the Duo Concertant, set to an appealing chamber score by Igor Stravinsky, represents the prospective modernism of the master.
The lithe Sterling Hyltin, one of the stronger female principals in the company, achieved some thrilling moments. Her partner, Robert Fairchild, looking noticeably thinner after what seemed a long absence, exceeded all expectations with his sensational solo in the penultimate movement.
The mesmerizing Valse-Fantasie, set to delightful music by Mikhail Glinka, is another apotheosis of classical ballet. The charming Ashley Bouder was at her best here; Andrew Veyette, her partner, occasionally dazzled with his characteristic athleticism.
Balanchine's masterful, The Four Temperaments (set to one of Paul Hindemith's strongest scores), one of the choreographer's most inventive and innovative works, closed the program magnificently. If the arresting ensemble work of the corps de ballet often outshone the featured dancers in this piece, Ask la Cour nonetheless surpassed himself in the third variation while principal dancer Teresa Reichlen's technical accomplishment was typically impressive in the fourth.
New York City BalletJanuary 18, 2011David H. Koch Theater20 Lincoln Center PlazaNew York, NY 10023212-870-5640
On December 24th, 2010, Carnegie Hall continued a more than 40-year-old tradition by presenting the New York String Orchestra (young musicians in training) on Christmas Eve. Performing under the able direction of Jaime Laredo, this first of two holiday concerts at Carnegie Hall, although not quite up to the level of recent concerts by, say, the Juilliard Orchestra or the Mannes Orchestra, was an enjoyable, short program, lasting about an hour, with no intermission.It opened with a charming account of Mozart's sparkling, perennially popular Overture to his operatic masterpiece, Cosi fan tutte. The celebrated soloists, Jennifer Koh and Benjamin Hochman, took the stage to perform Felix Mendelssohn's appealing if slight Concerto for Violin, Piano, and Strings in D Minor, written when the composer was fourteen. The likable rendition here held its own against that of the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra with Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk heard in New York last summer.Mozart's magnificent "Paris" Symphony provided a compelling, if unexceptionable, close to this buoyant evening.
On the evening of Sunday, January 2nd, 2011, New York City Ballet presented the last performance of the season of their annual presentation of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker.The orchestra, under the baton of Clotilde Otranto, sounded especially fine. Balanchine's choreography here doesn't approach his greatest works until the gorgeous Waltz of the Snowflakes at the end of the first Act; the second Act, which contains the greater portion of the score's best music, is quintessential Balanchine throughout. I would have liked more discipline from the corps de ballet but the dancing of several of the strongest principals in the company raised this performance above average. Megan Fairchild as the Sugarplum Fairy was at her near best in her Dance of the same name.
Her pas de deux with the often superb Joaquin De Luz as her cavalier was more uncertain, partly as the foreseeable consequence of De Luz's shorter stature; however, they both excelled in the ensuing solo variations, especially de Luz whose athleticism was notably admirable here.Teresa Reichlen as Coffee in the Arabian Dance was quite good while Daniel Ulbricht -- another short dancer with athletic gifts -- showed off splendidly, if inconsistently, in the Russian Dance and the Finale. The highlight of the evening, however, was the lovely Sara Mearns, exquisite as Dewdrop in the magnificent Waltz of the Flowers.
The NutcrackerNew York City BalletJanuary 2, 2011David H. Koch Theater20 Lincoln Center Plaza New York, NY 10023 212-870-5640
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