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PostClassical Ensemble's Double-Bill

El amor brujo, Peridance Contemporary Dance Company and PostClassical Ensemble, with Esperanza Fernandez (photo: Rafael Suanes/Georgetown University)
The PostClassical Ensemble offers some of the city's most intriguing programming, such as its recent pairing of Stravinsky's L'histoire du soldat and Manuel de Falla's El amor brujo. It performs in collaboration with unexpected artists, as it did on Saturday night, working with actors from its host, Georgetown University's Department of Performing Arts, in the Stravinsky and with the Peridance Contemporary Dance Company in the Falla. It draws interesting comparisons between the music and related disciplines, having the Falla songs interpreted by a flamenco cantaora, and it seeks multidisciplinary solutions to performance puzzles, like turning these two works, in some ways very familiar, into experimental theater. How strange that its performances, which should have been rewarding -- especially if you believe the program notes by the group's leaders -- left me cold.

Perhaps it was the music. After the lavish scores for the Ballets Russes, Stravinsky's pared-down music for L'histoire du soldat has always struck me as disappointingly spare, although its spareness is what makes it famous; and El amor brujo is generally performed only as excerpts because its delights are limited on a full hearing. Perhaps it was the performances, a little clunky in the fast passages of the Falla, and the violin double-stops in the Stravinsky, and the flamenco singer, Esperanza Fernandez, was a little too "authentic" in the sense of being vocally rough and less than beautiful in tone, the amplification magnifying the deficiencies.

Other Reviews:

Paula Durbin, PostClassical Ensemble soars with ‘Soldier,’ ‘Amor’ (Washington Post, December 5)

Marie Gullard, A double- dose of the unconventional is presented by PostClassical Ensemble at Georgetown (Washington Examiner, December 2)
Perhaps it was the staging. L'histoire du soldat was directed by Anna Harwell Celenza, a talented and much-admired musicologist, but it made for a jokey, somewhat static version of a fairly dark tale, although the temptation of the wealth promised by the devil's book, cued here with Wall Street stock figures on video screens at the back of the stage, has obvious resonance these days. The soldier (John Roach, who like all of the actors in the Stravinsky, is a Georgetown student) rolled onto the stage in a wheelchair, to be confronted by Annie Villareal's Devil, brassy and large-framed, sort of like Roseanne Barr as Beelzebub (or maybe it's the reverse). Igal Perry's choreography for El amor brujo obscured its story even further, transforming it from a story about a ghostly haunting to a tale of petty jealousy between two pairs of lovers. This made for some lovely duo dances, as Igal explored the crossed attractions for the two men for Candela (the elegant Nikki Holck), which was the highlight of the choreography for a corps of four men and four women. This is not to say that there were not things to be enjoyed in this performance or that the chance to hear both works was not worthwhile, merely that it was not for me.

Next spring, the PostClassical Ensemble will deconstruct the music and life of Franz Schubert (March 31).

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