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Boston Ballet @ KC

(L to R) Lasha Khozashvili and Lia Cirio in D.M.J. 1953-1977, Boston Ballet (photo © Rosalie O’Connor)

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Boston Ballet, a milestone the group is celebrating with a brief run of performances at the Kennedy Center Opera House. Seen last night, the selection made by artistic director Mikko Nissinen highlights his organization's strengths in the contemporary, while the central panel of the triptych -- the Rubies portion of George Balanchine's Jewels sandwiched between two recent works by Czech choreographers -- had a musty quality.

This Rubies was a mild-mannered, sort of happy-go-lucky version by comparison to the recent performance by New York City Ballet, which is the source, so to speak. It was fun and jazzy, of course, but Whitney Jensen in the dynamo solo role was less buoyant, and her scene with the four men, who position her like a marionette had little menace or sizzle to it. This put the focus more on the couple of Jeffrey Cirio and Misa Kuranaga, whose pas de deux in the central movement was lovely. The Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra sounded like they were much more familiar with the music, Stravinsky's Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra, although the piano soloist from the Boston Ballet, Freda Locker, was less sure.

Other Articles:

Sarah Kaufman, Boston Ballet performs ‘Bella Figura’ at the Kennedy Center (Washington Post, June 4)

---, The Czech National Theatre Ballet at the Harman Center (Washington Post, April 27, 2009)

Rebecca Ritzel, Kennedy Center performances cap 50th season for Boston, Pennsylvania ballets (Washington Post, May 31)

Jeffrey Gantz, Boston Ballet glitters in ‘Jewels’ (Boston Globe, May 23)

---, Boston Ballet puts its versatility on display in new production (Boston Globe, May 10)
D.M.J. 1953–1977, by Czech choreographer Petr Zuska, was more alluring, a work whose title refers to the names of the three Czech composers whose music is heard in it, just premiered by the Boston Ballet last month, but seen in Washington in 2009 from the Czech National Theater Ballet. (The years 1953-1977 in the title were glimpsed by Zuska on a woman's tombstone in Montreal.) It tells the story of a man's regret over the death of a beloved woman, as he seems to sleep fitfully, tormented by bad memories, between scenes. The Largo from Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony, with its haunting English horn solo, was the backdrop for scenes of mournful reminiscence, as six couples acted out the joys and sorrows of conjugal life, after the man deposits a rose on what looks like a grave. Martinů’s third symphony, also the Largo movement but more jagged and driving, was paired with scenes of greater violence and tension, with the outstanding male lead, Lasha Khozashvili, shirtless and menacing. For the final scene, to the last movement ("The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away!") of the first book of Janáček’s piano collection On the Overgrown Path, the corps gathered around the tomb, and hearing the hoot of the barn owl in the score, gradually departed. The lamented woman, danced with muscular agitation by Lia Cirio, writhed about in anguish on a tomb-like bed.

The triptych concluded with the most disturbing of the three pieces, Bella Figura, by another Czech choreographer, Jiří Kylián. It uses a mishmash of unrelated music -- Lukas Foss, Pergolesi (movements of the Stabat Mater, the Adagio from Alessandro Marcello's D minor oboe concerto, a Vivaldi mandolin concerto -- and the corresponding vignettes, some compelling and others merely odd, were just as much of a mishmash. Kylián, like Zuska, uses a lot of mime, a sense of having crossed a line reinforced by the choreographer's embrace of silence for long stretches at the beginning and end. To make matters worse, the music was played from recordings, with a canned, obtrusive sound and leaving the orchestra pit darkened, only adding to the sense of something unfolding in the machine-cut way that it must. The movements of identically costumed men and women, bare-chested and with red, flower-like skirts, added a Polynesian flair and there were some interesting visual effects, as when one of the women was enveloped by a black curtain, but not enough to sustain interest.

This performance repeats tonight and tomorrow night (June 4 and 5), in the Kennedy Center Opera House.

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