Carolina Ballet’s artistic director Robert Weiss and choreographer-in-residence Zalman Raffael have done it again with Symphonie Fantastique: Un Bal. Another world premiere hit the stage at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater on opening night, Oct. 8th, showcasing two movements from Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, as well as the Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major by Franz Liszt.
The evening opens with Symphonie Fantastique’s “Reveries — Passion,” the story of a young artist’s fascination with a beautiful woman. The story is one of obsession and ill-fated attraction actually inspired by Berlioz’s own attraction to the Irish actress Harriet Smithson, whom he had seen performing Shakespeare. Today, Berlioz’s captivation with the actress and his need to impress her would be termed stalking, yet the world was rewarded with one of the most romantic pieces of music ever created — and Robert Weiss has taken that creation a step further by putting the first two movements to dance.
The artist, played by soloist Sokvannara Sar, is expressive and sensual, enthralled by a woman who spirits through his life, outshining all the other women he could have. His object of affection, danced with appropriate precision, beauty and distance by principal ballerina Jan Burkhard Catlin, is always one step out of his reach. Their chemistry in their pas de deux creates the perfect mix of longing and heartbreak.
In the second movement, Un Bal (A Ball), the artist sees his beloved at a ball and follows her throughout the dance, though she does not give him her attention. After premiering this symphony and experiencing a lackluster response, Berlioz entered the Prix de Rome and, after four years, finally won the recognition he deserved. Unfortunately, the artist never wins the girl.
After a short intermission, the ballet offers A Dancerly Response to Johann Sebastian Bach’s “A Musical Offering.” The piece feels like a dancer’s workshop, with each of the pieces showcasing the artists’ individual strengths. The first three dances star Marcelo Martinez, a principal with the ballet, whose leaps and turns are perfectly mirrored by Lilyan Vigo Ellis, another principal who dances so lightly she seems to have wires connecting her to the clouds.
The setting for this piece is plain, only accented by lighting, allowing the dancers to be the focus of the various sections of the dance. Bach’s music is the other star of this performance, and that music demands the best of each performer.
Margaret Severin-Hansen partners with Richard Krusch for the fifth movement; and as always, it is impossible to keep one’s eyes from her. She is spellbinding with hands that extend for miles beyond the ends of her arms. Although the ballet has others who dance beautifully, there are none who embody the music and the beauty of Bach’s composition as does Severin-Hansen. She returns in the ninth and 11th movements, articulating the dance in ways that define the best of the best. At one point, she even mesmerizes with her back to the audience.
The last intermission introduces the audience to another world premiere, Zalman Raffael’s choreography of Book of Contradictions set to the music of Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major S.125. The stage looks like glass when the curtain rises and the female dancers perform an opening dance almost completely on their toes. They appear 10 feet tall and gorgeously in sync before the male dancers stride onto the stage. The dance becomes a competition of the genders as they mirror each other before the men take over the stage.
In this performance, the dancer who commands the audience’s attention is Pablo Javier Perez, a principal dancer whose magnetic gaze and strong jumps are reminiscent of Baryshnikov. Perez is the perfect choice for leading the dance; and though he is often smaller than everyone else on stage, his personality and style sets him miles above the others.
Again, Robert Weiss and Zalman Raffael have created a night of world premieres that underline the Carolina Ballet as a ballet corps that is making a name for itself not only in North Carolina but in the ballet world as a whole. This show is the second in the season and even better than the opening performance. Though the Fletcher Opera Theater is home to the ballet, it would be nice to see that theater so full on a regular basis that the ballet must move to a larger venue.
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 9th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article38385450.html.
The Carolina Ballet presents SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE: UN BAL, a world premiere by Robert Weiss, set to “Un Bal (A Ball),” the second movement of Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique,” plus a world premiere of Book of Contradictions by Zalman Raffael and Robert Weiss’ “A Dancerly Response,” set to J.S. Bach’s “A Musical Offering”, at 8 p.m. Oct. 10, 2 p.m. Oct. 11, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 17, 2 p.m. Oct. 18, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 24, and 2 p.m. Oct. 25 in A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $30.14-$68.14 (including fees), except $20 per ticket for college students with ID.
Carolina Ballet Box Office: 919-719-0900 or https://www.carolinaballet.com/get-tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/836166.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-719-0900 or http://www.carolinaballet.com/get-tickets/group-sales/.
SHOW: https://www.carolinaballet.com/program/symphonie-fantastique-un-bal and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/unbal-6498.
PRESENTER: http://www.carolinaballet.com/, https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaBallet, https://twitter.com/carolinaballet, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolina_Ballet.
Robert Weiss (Carolina Ballet artistic director and choreographer): http://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/staff-directory-entry/robert-weiss (Carolina Ballet bio) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Weiss_%28choreographer%29 (Wikipedia).
Zalman Raffael (Carolina Ballet choreographer-in-residence): http://zalmanraffael.com/ (official website) and https://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/dancers-entry/zalman-raffael (Carolina Ballet bio).
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater, music, and dance reviews. She is also a writer, editor, writing coach at Reno’s Literary Services of Durham. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.blogspot.com/ and http://poetryandgardening.blogspot.com/.