A Russian River Runs Through It
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
07/14/2011 - & 15, 16(M), 16, 17(M) July 2011
Dmitri Shostakovich: The Bright Stream
Paloma Herrera (Zina), Marcelo Gomes (Pyotr), Gillian Murphy (Ballerina), Cory Stearns (Ballet Dancer), Craig Salstein (Accordion Player), Martine Van Hamel (Dacha Dweller), Victor Barbee (Old Dacha Dweller), Roman Zhurbin (Gavrilych), Maria Riccetto (Gayla), Misty Copeland (Milkmaid), Jared Matthew (Tractor Drive), American Ballet Theatre corps de ballet
Orchestra for American Ballet Theatre, Ormsby Wilkins (Conductor)
Kevin McKenzie (Artistic Director), Tatiana Ratmansky (Stage Manager), Ilya Utkin (Set Designer), Elena Markovskaya (Costume Designer), Brad Fields (Lighting Designer), Adrian Piotrovsky (Original Librettist), Fyodor Lopukhov (Original Librettist and Choreographer)
(© Rosalie O’Connor)
Dmitri Shostakovich’s life was a double edged sword with the implacable desire to serve his fellow countrymen while maintaining a diplomatic acquiescence with the Communist regime. His compatriots Adrian Piotrovsky and Fyodor Lopukhov never notated the libretto for Shostakovich’s third ballet The Bright Stream which fell out of favor under Stalin soon after its premier in Leningrad in 1935. More than 60 years later Bolshoi Director Alexander Ratmansky decided to write his own version respectfully considering the original creators that premiered on April 18, 2003. Since this production, The Bright Stream has only had limited engagements, and Los Angeles is second only to Washington D.C.’s Kennedy for the Performing Arts to be host to the ballet.
This comic two act ballet, also aptly known as The Limpid Stream indirectly pinpoints the transparencies and absurdities of government and their policies exerted on a collective farm. Shostakovich’s score could knock any ruthless despot off his throne just by its sheer power and textural strength that’s not only pleasing to the ear, but bombastic, satirical, edgy and graceful.
Selections are taken from the Russian’s Ballet Suites No. 1, 2 and 3. The Orchestra for American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) rendition sparingly substitutes instruments, incorporates subtle note modulations and emphasizes a predominance of piano dynamics in lieu of forte passages. The result is a pleasant string of waltzes, polkas, gallops and gavottes. ABT’s deft arrangement of pantomimic character delineations is highlighted by Elena Markovskaya’s colorful period dress adding vibrancy and flair.
The Bright Stream is a story of a trainload of actors and artists stopping to visit The Bright Stream collective farm. While the two parties commingle, a select few attempt to elicit lascivious proclivities outside the boundaries of marriage. A cadre of conspirators then decide to ridicule the culprits through the use of mistaken identities. Shostakovich’s movements are cleverly arranged to fit the unfolding of the story, yet taking sudden unexpected turns along the way.
The opening night features a graceful and pliable Paloma Herrera as Zina, joined by Gillian Murphy as the ballerina. In Act I, their first pas de deux weaves between synchronous steps, arabesque penchées and mimicking movements to renew their friendship. Amidst an audience of farm workers, Cory Stearns joins Murphy in the pas de deux waltz portraying the greatest of ease in executing some of the most demanding jumps and catches. Later in Act II, Stearns grabs many chuckles dressed as a “Sylphide” while mockingly flirting with the senescent dacha dweller.
(© Rosalie O’Connor)
Marcelo Gomes as Pyotr personifies virile romanticism dotted with dashes of delicateness. His adagio with Herrera Paloma in Act II has contrasting lyrical strains and bursts of capricious kicks.
A hilarious addition to the cast is Martine Van Hamel as the dacha dweller. Striving to woo the ballerina’s partner, she amusingly attempts dancing on pointe while her husband. the old dacha dweller, is busy setting his sights on the ballerina. All in good humor, none of these antics goes overboard.
There are some amazing sections within The Bright Stream that include the male and female ranks of the corps de ballet. Alexei Ratmansky is masterful using his creative insights to add originality and aesthetic quality to the stage; commendably five-star in every way.
The intricacy and physical demands placed on Gavrilych and his men are extreme. Nonetheless, the final display of panache is first class, and in every way, spectacular. The milkmaid, danced by Misty Copeland, has happiness written all over her face, and she shows the audience her flexibility and fluidity. Kudos go to Maria Riccetto as the spunky schoolgirl, Gayla, and to Craig Salstein as the sexy accordion player.
Communism is not blatantly excoriated in Tatiana Ratmansky’s production, allowing for only a singular banner (welcoming the arriving train), proscenium arch decorated with Communist symbols (i.e. rakes, sickles, wheat bales) and a richly lit red curtain. The priority is the dancing, the background is secondary. Ilya Utkin has created a front scrim filled with sunflowers and a vanishing skyline that is reminiscent of Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.” Act I ingeniously uses a train moving onto the stage although it got “snagged” while retreating. Act II’s setting, a lake with a building atop a pier was a bit confusing when the synopsis indicates they’re in a meadow. Suspension of disbelief.
If there is ever an event to take stage by storm it’s The Bright Stream. Taut, detailed, effervescent… the accolades could go on, but better yet, visit The Dorothy Chandler to experience ballet at its finest, a la 20th century. There is a gleaming stream of happiness and optimism no matter from where you hail…be it a Soviet collective farm or points beyond.
American Ballet Theatre