Review by Danny Gaisin
♪ I like to be in America; O.K. by me in America; Everything free in America… for a small fee in America! ♪.
Sondheim’s unsubtle dichotomy about reality facing the ‘Sharks’; Puerto Ricans in 1960’s NYC; packs a punch that equals even the best Hammerstein lyrics. Attending a Brott Festival concert homage-ing musical adaptations of Romeo & Juliet had this scribbler salivating at another opportunity to sub-rosa singing along with Bernstein’s West Side Story. Lamentably, Boris & the NAO played the suite…not the overture. So; no “America”.
However, the Tchaikovsky ‘Romeo & Juliet’; The Prokofiev ‘R&J’ suite and live ballet segments from ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and two pas-de-deux by Minkus made for a memorable evening. Piotr Illyich’s overture is so representative of the Shakespeare story, that someone unfamiliar with either the plot or the composition might glean the scenario being musically represented therein. From Brott’s lente opening the canvas is visually coloured in, growing to a stirring and dramatic finish. The NAO, at mid- season is cohesive and technically faultless but with that extra something that takes an orchestra from good or acceptable, to almost great.
Sleeping Beauty is a natural fable for a ballet. The story of a child cursed at birth; coma-ed for a century and then restored by a princely kiss just begs for music and dance interpretation. The lithe effortless performances by Tina Pereria, and Nan Wang of the National Ballet were only slightly marred by moments of hesitation. Not being a dance maven; my interval dialogues with some of the many young ballerinas in the audience, (and later confirmed by the performers themselves) learned it was the reduced stage area plus unevenness of same that required amending and spot avoidance. Otherwise, the artistry was a sensual delight to witness.
Sergei Prokofiev had his differences with the Stalin regime, but still managed acceptance via his Lt. Kije; ‘Peter & the Wolfes’ [sic, in-joke] and especially ‘Alexandre Nefsky’. His Romeo & Juliet Suite has 3 extracts (52 parts) but this supposed pundit cannot tell which of these the six sections, equally divided by Brott & Kepes, was selected. The first section denoting the two conflicting clans was seemingly overstated and unsubtle. This movement made demands on the brasses; while the third “danse” was relaxed and a rather text book reading. The part entitled, “Masks’” notes a requisite tenor saxaphone. Brott hummed the bit –stage right. Never a ‘Bill Clinton’ around when you need him and his Selmer™ Bb sax!
The two Minkus ballets were from his ‘Corsaire’ and ‘Don Quixote’. The West Side Story Suite was the highlight offering. The reading was arranged for impact and drama. It swang (swung; swinged) with each theme from the recurring ‘Cool’ to ‘Place for us’; to the competitive Mambo. A brief aside; the original Broadway ‘Tony’ was Larry Kert; as in Daniel Kert-Gaisin. Another Clan-cousin; Charlie Kert, is presently at Theatre Aquarius with his “ROCK GARDEN” PARTY… bring your kids!
***This weekend, we celebrate the bicentennial of the Bloody Assizes of 1814; come for the hanging re-enactments; stay for the Beethoven and especially P.I.T’s 1812 overture. Bring chairs or a blankie, plus any extra cannons you have hanging around.