Posts Tagged ‘kennedy center’

Ballet Goes to Broadway, Again

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

By Rachel Straus

The blogosphere is alive with news about the current forays of New York City ballet principal dancers Robert Fairchild, Megan Fairchild, and Tyler Peck into Broadway.

Robert Fairchild will appear in An American in Paris in the role originated by Gene Kelly. The production will premiere in Paris and will come to Broadway in the spring. Former New York City Ballet resident choreographer Christopher Wheeldon will provide the choreography.

Megan Fairchild, Robert’s older sister, recently made her Broadway debut (September 21) in the Broadway revival of On The Town. Originally conceived by Jerome Robbins and based on his 1944 hit ballet Fancy Free, On The Town requires that Fairchild dance, sing and act in her role as Ivy Smith, the small town girl who comes to the big city.

Then there is Tyler Peck, who Robert Fairchild recently married. She will premiere in the new Susan Stroman musical Little Dancer at the Kennedy Center on October 25. The musical is inspired by the relationship between painter Edgar Degas and Marie van Goethem, the poor ballet student who modeled for his sculpture “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” (1881).

The movement of dancers between The Great White Way and the mirrored precincts of the ballet studio is nothing new. What is of note is the development of the Fairchild-Peck dance family dynasty, which also includes Megan Fairchild’s husband Andrew Veyette, another New York City Ballet principal dancer. Veyette excels in Broadway-style City Ballet works such as NY Export: Opus Jazz, where sharpness and grit rather than classical aplomb are emphasized.

Clearly this dancing foursome, who are mature dancers, are looking beyond their careers at City Ballet and ballet, in general. It wouldn’t be surprising if they started a televised dance program, one that presented their shared interests in ballet, Jazz dance, big business (in the performing arts), and self-marketing.

What is not certain for these intrepid ballet dancers is whether their current or upcoming work on Broadway will launch them into a new performing sphere. Much of that success depends on the ability of the choreographers who are, or will be, directing them.

The other ingredient for success is the development of a different kind of stage personality. Highly successful musical theater performers, whether it be Nathan Lane or Sutton Foster, take the material and make it quirky (or comically) their own.

So, in honor of iconic performers and legendary director-choreographers, here is a little slide-show movie about Jack Cole, George Balanchine, and Jerome Robbins, who worked extensively with ballet-trained dancers, from Gwen Verdon to Vera Zorina to Chita Rivera. Together they made numerous enduring Broadway and Hollywood musical theater dance numbers. All three men developed their choreographic voices by breaking the so-called boundaries between the dance forms. All three woman showed that great dancing technique looks like play instead of performance.

To see the slide show movie, press on this link:

Ballet Goes Broadway, Back Then




I Love Youth Orchestras

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

by Sedgwick Clark


Why? The kids aren’t jaded. No repertoire is too daunting. Their enthusiasm nearly always makes up for any momentary technical shortcoming. One skips concerts at Juilliard at his or her peril and often encounters first-rate conductors that the Philharmonic has neglected. Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute just announced a new summer training residency for students from 42 states. Beginning in late June, they will train at Purchase College (N.Y.) and be conducted in their first concerts by Valery Gergiev, with Joshua Bell as soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony and a new work by American composer Sean Shepherd complete the program, to be performed at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center, and in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and London (dates tba).

The ensemble’s name, “National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America,” reminds me of a thrilling concert I heard in London in 1977 by the National Youth Orchestra of Britain. Pierre Boulez conducted one of his signature programs: Bartók, Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta; Berg, Violin Concerto, with Itzhak Perlman as soloist; Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring. Afterwards, he couldn’t contain his excitement at having conducted The Rite with 146 players. I counted 16 double basses and equivalent numbers in the other string bodies in MUSPAC.

The Berg boasted large orchestral forces as well, but with Boulez’s impeccable ear Perlman soared effortlessly throughout. I had heard Boulez conduct the concerto twice before in concert as well as on record twice, and in each case he downplayed the Viennese dance rhythms in the first movement – but not with Perlman. I saw the violinist at the Aspen Music Festival later that year and asked him how he had gotten Boulez to loosen up. With typical Perlmanian cheer he flipped his right arm in the air dramatically, saying with a grin, “I said, Pierre – dance!”

Some readers may find it odd for me to be essentially reviewing a 36-year-old concert performance, but I just wanted to recall how satisfying a student performance can be. Those British Youths roared through Boulez’s interpretation of The Rite with far more fire than in either of his Cleveland recordings or a later London Symphony performance at Carnegie. I heard several concerts during that three-week stay, but damned if I can remember any of the others.

The critics raved, cluelessly expressing astonishment that the young players were so adept in such “difficult” music – seemingly unaware that the complex rhythms and dissonant harmonies were second nature to their generation. I would like to look forward to the National Youths of the U.S., but for some reason they won’t be playing in New York, just rehearsing in Westchester. Maybe next year.

Chicago’s Legendary Dale Clevenger to Retire

Mahler’s Fifth Symphony begins with a trudging funeral march before bursting out into a wild allegro that climaxes as six French horns whoop up the scale. For over 43 years that rip-roaring moment in a Carnegie Hall performance on January 9, 1970, with the Chicago Symphony under Georg Solti, has remained vividly in my mind. For years thereafter their concerts would be the toughest ticket in town, and at the end of this season, the man leading the horn charge will retire. Dale Clevenger will have been the Chicago Symphony’s principal horn player for 47 years when he moves on to teach at Indiana University. His was a level of artistry I’ll never forget.

Looking Forward

My week’s scheduled concerts (8:00 p.m. unless otherwise noted):

3/11 Carnegie Hall. Stephanie Blythe, mezzo-soprano; Warren Jones, piano. James Legg: Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson. Barber: Three Songs, Op. 3. American Songbook classics by Ray Henderson, Cole Porter, Edward Confrey, and Irving Berlin.

3/14 Carnegie Hall at 7:00. Orchestra of St. Luke’s/Patrick Summers; Renée Fleming (Blanche), Teddy Tahu Rhodes (Stanley), Anthony Dean Griffey (Mitch), Jane Bunnell (Eunice), Andrew Bidlack (Young Collector), and Dominic Armstrong (Steve). Semi-staged performance directed by Brad Dalton. André Previn: A Streetcar Named Desire.

Pursuing Two Careers Simultaneously

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012


 by Edna Landau

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

Dear Edna:

I am a composer, recently graduated with two Masters degrees, and I have chosen the administrative route for a small and ambitious organization. In your earlier column entitled “Overqualified and Underemployed”, you rightly wrote that many connections can be made working in an administrative position in the field of music. The downside is that (especially in this economy) many administrative jobs are 50+ hours a week, plus additional hours for commuting. The result is little time and energy for pursuing one’s musical craft during the week (and family members have their own ideas about your weekend time). Here’s my question: One disconcerting thing I have heard from multiple sources is that an administrator (I’m an executive director) is not taken seriously as a “real” musician; the implication being that if one is REALLY talented, one wouldn’t need to take a day job. Is this a reality? Not counting academia, are there musicians/composers with good reputations as both? –CS Rusnak

Dear CS Rusnak:

While I am not totally surprised to hear that numerous people have questioned the seriousness of a musician’s commitment and level of accomplishment if they hold a day job, it does seem peculiar both from the point of view of today’s economy and the number of established and renowned musicians who do both, with great distinction. In the case of younger musicians, it should come as no surprise that opportunities don’t always present themselves right out of school and that composers, in particular, who rely on commissions, might need to supplement their income in other ways. My colleague, Kristin Lancino, who is Vice President at G. Schirmer Inc. in New York, tells me that there are four people in her office who work full-time and who are active composers or performers/conductors. If one looks at higher profile administrative positions, one finds Ed Harsh, President and CEO of New Music, USA, himself a composer, and Laura Kaminsky, Artistic Director of Symphony Space in New York, who received a prestigious Koussevitzky Music Foundation-Library of Congress award to write her recently premiered piano concerto for Ursula Oppens. Undoubtedly, these arts administrators find that their day jobs lend an extra dimension to their creative lives, removing them from the potential isolation of a composer’s daily existence and immersing them in the heart of the performing world. Their interaction with music industry colleagues on a daily basis also serves to increase awareness of their creative output. More importantly, their administrative positions afford them opportunities to build new audiences and to mentor and assist young musicians, while possibly giving them exposure. Composer Missy Mazzoli was Executive Director of MATA, an organization committed to helping young composers. Some of today’s most beloved artists have managed to assume leadership roles in arts administration, achieving all of these goals and more, while maintaining a rigorous performing schedule. A towering example is Placido Domingo, founder of the Operalia Competition, who concurrently juggled General Director positions with both the Kennedy Center and the Los Angeles Opera. Musical America’s 2012 Musicians of the Year, David Finckel and Wu Han, show no sign of reducing their busy solo, duo or chamber music performance schedules, while simultaneously lending their brilliant vision and artistic direction to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, as well as Music@Menlo, which they founded. Hopefully, these examples prove that if one is a REALLY talented musician, one might still want to take a day job (or two), for the sheer joy of sharing one’s experience with others, expanding opportunities for the next generation of performers, and ensuring that the venues in which they will perform will be run with the vision and openness needed to promote those performers’ increasingly innovative and groundbreaking ideas.

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

© Edna Landau 2012  


Red Detachment Redux and the Cowboy Spirit

Friday, August 5th, 2011

by Cathy Barbash

For those of you who did not get enough of the Red Detachment of Women during this winter’s run of Nixon in China at the Met, the National Ballet of China will be performing excerpts of the ballet (possibly the same excerpt reinterpreted and interpolated into the opera by Mark Morris) in its mixed program as part of the Kennedy Center’s latest China festival, “CHINA: The Art of a Nation.” (The Ministry of Culture considered their 2005 Festival of China so successful, they wanted another.) Alas, the remainder of the program features the equally unavoidable Yellow River Concerto and Swan Lake excerpts. After visual arts, China’s dance companies lead the way in innovation and international marketability of their arts. Why such conservative repertoire? Why not show the latest the company has to offer?

Interesting related updates: the Inner Mongolian Chorus also performed as part of the Kennedy Center’s 2005 Festival of China. Since then however, consistent with the continuing Reform and Opening Up of cultural industries, a small ensemble originating from this chorus has gone off on their own, with great success so far. An Da Union has toured twice through our heartland through Arts Midwest’s Worldfest program (as has Beauty and Melody). They play the Edinburgh Festival later this month, and are the subject of an upcoming documentary. Mostly younger performers, they have had the courage, savvy and entrepreneurial spirit to break away from the old fashioned “large official group” mentality that limits much international touring of large official Chinese ensembles to large-scale sit-down festivals.