27 May 2007

La Sylphide: National Ballet School, Toronto

For the first time Spring Showcase consisted of a single classical work, La Sylphide in the 1836 version choreographed by August Bournonville — a challenge that senior students of the National Ballet School met with skill and enthusiasm. It was staged by Sorella Englund, formerly of the Royal Danish Ballet, who also took the cameo role of fortune teller sorceress, Madge. It was carried off at near professional level by the young cast with minimal accoutrements.

Englund's Madge, of course, seething with scheming resentment, was nonpareil and true in the role, as authentic as one could want. But the principal parts taken by students were equally accomplished and stylish. The corps de ballet in this classic white ballet, the essence of romanticism at mid-19th century, was expressively disciplined and beautiful with never a ragged or awkward line.

With five performances, the school had a new cast of student principals for each — I saw one. As the eponymus Sylph that night, faerie of air, Heather MacIsaac sweetly generated the mystery and mischief that moved the plot. But the evening’s star was Alexander Bozinoff as betrothed and enchanted farmer’s boy, James. His beautiful leaps and pirouettes in kilt, all lightness and elevation were pure examples of Bournonville style at its finest.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

04 May 2007

Opera Atelier, Orpheus and Eurydice

The current production by Opera Atelier of C.W. Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice, the 1774 Paris version in French of the opera, was first performed in Vienna in 1762 in Italian. The poetic retelling of a myth from Greek mythology, the genre is azione teatrale, but here straightforward and much simplified as the composer attempted to lighten the traditional, highly involved opera seria of the time. Opera Atelier, skilled in reconstruction of baroque performance, have produced a consistently clear and entertaining work, true to the original, but somewhat free in interpretation. It made for a splendid evening.

As Orpheus tenor Colin Ainsworth looked and sounded the part of heartbroken, audacious swain and prodigy dangerously venturing into the underworld to rescue his spouse. She, Eurydice, was sung by soprano Peggy Kriha Dye with suitable pathos, though her full white gown seemed somewhat anomalous in the situation. With surtitles I was able to follow the text in French, overwrought rhetoric rather tedious in the 21th century. It was rescued by the splendid interventions of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir. Gluck’s score was throughout played with distinction by Tafelmusik, conducted by Andrew Parrott.

The production was generous with dance beautifully and inventively choreographed by Jeannette Zingg, who moved in style from late baroque to early romantic, quite in the transitional spirit of Gluck’s piece itself. The artists of Atelier Ballet themselves moved stylishly and cleverly through dance sequences that advanced the story. The Dance of the Blessed Spirits with three variations was a particular delight.

Elgin Theatre, Toronto, 28 - 5 May 2007