Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Merry Widow

The Merry Widow
Music by Franz Lehar
Choregraphy by Ronald Hynd

Hanna, A Wealthy Ponteverdrian Widow: Victoria Jaiani
Count Danilo, A Pontevedrian Officer: Fabrice Calmels
Baron Zeta, A Pontevedrian Ambassador: Matthew Adamczyk
Valencienne, His French Wife:  April Daly
Njegus, His Personal Aide:  Willy Shives
Camille de Roussillion, French Attache:  Mauro Villanueva

World premier: November 13th, 1975, The Australian Ballet
Joffrey Premier:  February 16th, 2011
Emma and I look tremendously forward to the evenings we spend together taking in a breath-taking ballet more than I can even say!  Last night we started our evening with our traditional sushi dinner at Tamarind and made our way to the theatre to enjoy The Merry Widow, a light-hearted, slightly boozy, politically tinged romantic three act ballet adapted from Lehar's 1905 operetta by the same name. 

To say that this production was a visual feast would be a grand understatement!  The opening scenes boast a bustling ballroom of waltzing glittering gown clad ballerinas; few things I've seen on the a stage have been more opulent and Roberta Guidi di Bango deserves enormous praise for her costume design for this ballet.

Victoria Jaiani and April Daly were, as always, nearly flawless and breathtaking to watch.  A last minute cast adjustment left the handsome Fabrice Calmels in a leading role for the evening and Mauro Villanueva easily matched his big stage presence making him one of the stand-out performers of the evening.  Special mention should also go to the effervescent John Mark Giragosian for his boundless energy as Lead Pontevedrian Dancer in Act II.

But.

Emma and I love all things Joffrey and we would never abandon this band of talented artists or dream to criticize their tremendous efforts, but honestly, neither of us enjoyed this particular production as much as we thought we would.   We knew this was a tricky little story going in and did a good amount of pre-reading to ensure we could follow the plot, but were surprised to discover some of the dancing was more than a little shaky.  One performer imparticular was off his game entirely, but more than that I was simply not a fan of the choreography.  I adored the spirited character driven national dances performed in the second act, but overall felt like the production didn't show off the extraordinary talents of the Joffrey dancers in the best light.  Something about the production just seemed a little heavy and at times the movement seemed incomplete.  Personally, I think the style of dance tampered with the innate humor of the tale; the choreography left me with grinning when I expected to enjoy a couple of really good belly laughs. 

I could see how many many people would fall in love with the production and I think our opinion is a matter of personal taste.  After all, ballet is subjective.  Every production can't be our favorite and this one just wasn't.
(Photo Credits to Herbert Migdoll and the Joffrey Ballet)

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