Last season, after a five-year absence, Carolina Ballet put Messiah back into its repertory for Thanksgiving weekend. The company will present Messiah again this year November 25-29 at the Progress Energy Center of the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh. However, after this season Messiah will be taken out of the repertory for several years. The schedule of performances is as follows:
- Wednesday, November 25 at 8pm
- Friday, November 27 at 8pm
- Saturday, November 28 at 2pm and 8pm
- Sunday, November 29 at 2pm
Robert Weiss choreographed Act I of Messiah to the widely recognized and popular music of George Frideric Handel eleven years ago for Christmas 1998. It was his first new work on the then fledgling Carolina Ballet. From its premiere the company has performed Messiah with the North Carolina Master Chorale conducted by Alfred Sturgis. That first year the ballet was scheduled for two performances but the production was such a success, a third performance was added at the last minute. When the word was out about the additional show, patrons stood in line around Raleigh Memorial Auditorium to purchase tickets. The next year Weiss completed Messiah and it remains today one of the most popular ballets in the company’s repertory.
In the program notes accompanying the first production, Robert Weiss said “I always felt that Handel’s majestic celebratory hymns lent themselves to dance. Messiah has such lilting melodies and a great undercurrent of propulsive rhythms.” The News & Observer confirmed Weiss’ feelings by saying in its review “Let’s answer the main question right away, ‘can Handel’s Messiah be a ballet?’ Absolutely.” The ballet brings the story of Christ to life through the singing, music and dance, and through tableaux taken from paintings of the great masters depicting the life of Christ.
There is something for everyone in Carolina Ballet’s production of Messiah. Whether it is the dance, the music, the message, the athleticism of the dancers, the lighting, the costumes or all of the above, Messiah appeals to all ages. One patron wrote to Carolina Ballet after a performance saying “there are scenes which will stay with me forever. When last did a ballet make me laugh and cry in the same hour?”
Carolina Ballet presented Messiah in Hungary during 2002 when the company participated in the International Dance Festival in Budapest. A critic from Belgrade wrote in her review of the production “the ballet’s essence is deeply ethical. It is a celebration of human dignity, human generosity, freedom of thought and tolerance, both religious and political.” Jochen Schmidt said in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that Messiah “is touchingly old-fashioned and timeless at the same time – a ballet from the days when dancing still sought to help its audiences.” And in discussing the dancers he went on to say “there was an unqualified identification with roles and an unreserved absorption in the choreography of a kind scarcely seen any longer in Europe.”
In March 2008, Pennsylvania Ballet presented Robert Weiss’ Messiah at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. The critics were unanimous in their praise saying “it’s the best thing I have seen Pennsylvania Ballet perform in the last five years, and by itself, Act One stands as one of the best new works I’ve seen period.”
Tickets for Carolina Ballet’s Messiah may be purchased by calling the Carolina Ballet box office at 919 719-0900 or through Ticketmaster at 800 982-2787. Tickets may also be purchased on line at www.carolinaballet.com.
Ticket prices range from $15-65 and there is a $10 student rush ticket one hour before the show.
After eleven seasons, Carolina Ballet, Inc. has taken its place among America’s premiere arts organizations. Under the innovative direction of artistic director Robert Weiss, a talented company, fiscally responsible management and community support, Carolina Ballet exposes audiences to traditional ballet by legendary masters and new works of contemporary choreographers. The company represents the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit and ever-increasing quality of life experienced here in North Carolina.