RIOULT Dance NY’s new season


‘On Distant Shores’ – RIOULT Dance NY
Credit: Sophia Negron

RIOULT Dance NY takes to the stage of New York’s Joyce Theater next week, and included in the programme is  a world premiere performance of Pascal Rioult’s Iphigenia.  Inspired by the Greek heroine of Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis, this work was created in collaboration with composer, Michael Torke, whose specially commissioned score will be performed live by the Camerata New York Orchestra.  The programme also features On Distant Shores, Prelude to Night and Bolero – one of the Company’s signature works.

Led by former Martha Graham principal dancers, Pascal Rioult and Joyce Herring, RIOULT Dance NY was founded in 1994, rapidly establishing itself as a modern dance company, “with a classic sensibility”.  Described by Backstage as “perhaps the most adept and courageous choreographer in mainstream modern dance today”, Pascal Rioult is known for his exploration of classical scores, however he also engages American composers to collaborate with him through his Dance to Contemporary Composers series, the first of which was On Distant Shores, created in 2011.


‘On Distant Shores’ – Rioult’s re-imagining of the myth of Helen of Troy
Credit: Sophia Negron

“I’ve been intrigued by Michael Torke’s compositions and their minimalist structure and infusion of the classical and contemporary, says Pascal Rioult. “Iphigenia will inherently push my boundaries, since Michael Torke’s aesthetic differs greatly from that of traditional, classical music which I often use. Still, I find his music ideal for dance because of its effusive energy, interesting rhythms, and the visual imagery that colours its melodies”.

Michael Torke sees this work as “operatic”.  The Chorus and ensemble sections, he says, “provide the recitatives advancing the story, while the pure dance moments are like arias – stopping the action and allowing the emotion to be expressed.”  His score is based on a unique orchestration of eight instruments: two clarinets, two bassoons, two French horns, a cello, and contrabass.

On Distant Shores – the result of a collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, Aaron Jay Kernis – is a re-imagining of another Greek heroine, Helen of Troy, evoking ancient myths whilst still having a decidedly contemporary feel to it.  “I always thought that Helen got a bad rap,” says Rioult.  So, determined to redeem her reputation, his work sees Helen being  brought to Troy against her will.  She is joined by four god-like warriors who join her in fleeting duets, but ultimately she walks alone in a path of light as the war heroes fade into a dream.


‘Prelude to the Night’
Credit: Basil Childers

Prelude to Night – created in 2002 – is set to three pieces of music by Maurice Ravel – his Prelude a la nuit, Alborada del Gracioso, and Feria.  It portrays a journey by the central character – through her imagination, dreams and nightmares – from one state of being to another.


Penelope Gonzalez in ‘Prelude to the Night’
Credit: RIOULT-1

The final work on the programme is Bolero.  A co-commission by Cal Performances and The Théâtre de Saint Quentin en Yvelines, France, it is set to Ravel’s most famous musical composition which, in turn, was originally composed as a commission for Russian ballerina, Ida Rubinstein, and premiered in 1928.  Rioult’s Bolero – which premiered in 2002 – has become one of the company’s most acclaimed works, and is described as “a bold and unique interpretation” of Ravel’s score.


The Company in ‘Bolero’
Credit: Basil Childers

RIOULT Dance NY has an established repertoire of over 40 works.  The Company presents an annual season in New York, and tours both nationally and abroad.  Education and community outreach have always been an important part of the Company’s output, its DanceREACH program – founded in 1997 – introducing students at public and private schools in the New York metropolitan area to the art of modern dance.

The RIOULT Dance NY season opens at The Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street, on June 4th, and runs until Sunday June 9th.  For further information on the Company, its New York season and the Gala dinner, please visit the RIOULT Dance NY website  For information on ticketing for this season, please visit the website of The Joyce Theater.

Camerata New York Orchestra

Michael Torke 

Aaron Jay Kernis

Stars of the White Nights sparkle in St Petersburg


Yekaterina Kondaurova and the Mariinsky Ballet in ‘Swan Lake’
Credit: Natasha Razina

The Mariinsky Theatre’s Stars of the White Nights Festival opened last evening – with performances of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Dargomyzhsky’s opera, Rusalka. This celebration of the finest in opera and ballet productions, great symphonic works, masterpieces of chamber music and premieres, takes place in the city of St Petersburg each summer, from May to July.  With at least one performance on each night of its nine-week duration, it must surely be the most magnificent and spectacular festival of the performing arts anywhere.  It’s certainly a stunning showcase for the world renowned artistry of the Mariinsky Theatre Ballet, Opera and Symphony Orchestra.

The Stars of the White Nights Festival takes its name from the short Russian summer season, when the sun never sets, and the beauty of the the White Nights of St Petersburg lends a special magic to the city.  Audiences emerge at midnight from the  world-class performances at the historic Mariinsky Theatre, the recently-opened Mariinsky New Theatre and the Mariinsky Concert Hall, to stroll along the streets of St Petersburg – in daylight.


Artistic and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre, Valery Gergiev
Credit: V Baranova

The Festival was created in 1993 by Valery Gergiev, Artistic and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre, as a “musical gift” to the city from the Mariinsky and its stars.  From its inception – as a 10-day event – the Festival has focused on masterpieces from the world of ballet, opera and music, and over the years has increased in strength, popularity and international acclaim.  World renowned conductors and artists accept with honour the invitation to appear at the Stars of the White Nights Festival.


The London Symphony Orchestra performs on May 26th
Credit: Gautier Deblonde

The history of the Mariinsky Theatre Ballet and Opera can be traced back to 1783, with the establishment of a committee “for performances and music” as decreed by Empress Catherine the Great.  The magnificent Mariinsky Theatre of today was named in honour of the Empress Maria Alexandrovna, wife of Alexander II.  It opened on Theatre Square on October 2nd, 1860, with a production of  Glinka’s opera, A Life for the Tsar, under the baton of Konstantin Lyadov, conductor of the Russian Opera Company, and father of the renowned composer Anatoly Lyadov.  The theatre’s glorious white sculptures, glittering gilt chandeliers and pale blue decor created the perfect atmosphere in which to herald a golden period in the history of St Petersburg.


The Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg
Credit: Mariinsky Theatre

The Mariinsky Theatre occupies a unique position among the world’s performing arts organisations, with a touring schedule and residencies abroad giving more than 200 performances each year.  The artistic impact of the Mariinsky, and its ambassadorial role on behalf of Russian culture, have been recognised by governments and international organisations across the globe.

An artist's impression of the new Mariinsky II Photo:  Mariinsky Theatre

An artist’s impression of the Mariinsky New Theatre
Credit: Mariinsky Theatre

In 1862, Verdi’s La Forza del Destino premiered on the Mariinsky stage, paving the way for Russian masterpieces such as Boris Godunov (1874), Prince Igor (1890), and The Queen of Spades (1890).  Under conductor Eduard Napravnik, the Theatre rapidly took its place amongst the leading opera houses of the world.  The Theatre‘s ballet company – under director Marius Petipa – achieved equal international acclaim.  Premiering Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, it influenced the development of classical dance for generations to come, with legendary figures such as Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky amongst its star artists.


The Mariinsky Theatre Opera in ‘Gotterdammerung’
Credit: V Baranovsky

Under Soviet rule, the Mariinsky Theatre was renamed the Kirov Theatre, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it reverted to its pre-revolutionary name.

In 1988 Valery Gergiev was appointed Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Kirov Opera, and in 1966, was named Artistic and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre.  Under his leadership, the Mariinsky Theatre Ballet, Opera and Symphony Orchestra have continued to attract international acclaim.


Yekaterina Kondaurova and the Mariinsky Ballet in Sasha Waltz’s production of ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’
Credit: Natasha Razina

The programme of performances taking place during the Festival is simply astounding, and the stellar list of performers quite superb – over 40 evenings of ballet, more than 40 opera productions and over 30 of orchestral music and recitals.  For a complete schedule – and further information – see Stars of the White Nights Festival.


The Mariinsky Concert Hall
Credit: Natasha Razina


The Stars of the White Nights Festival runs until July 28th

Mariinsky Theatre

 Mariinsky New Theatre

Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall

Valery Gergiev 

The Jazz Effect at Lincoln Center


Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert
Credit: Chris Lee

New York’s Lincoln Center will swing to the sound of Wynton Marsalis, Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky and Dmitri Shostakovich, as Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic present the first program in Gilbert’s Playlist at the end of May.  A showcase for the themes and ideas synonymous with Gilbert’s tenure as Music Director, this four-week season opens with a look at the influence of jazz on orchestral music.

In this program, Alan Gilbert conducts the New York Philharmonic in a performance of Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, and Wynton Marsalis’ Swing Symphony, featuring the celebrated musician and composer himself, with his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.  Also featured are Stravinsky’s Ragtime and Tahiti Trot by Dmitri Shostakovich – both works conducted by Case Scaglione.


Aaron Copland
Via Wikimedia Commons

Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto – written in 1947-48 – was commissioned by Benny Goodman, at a time when big band jazz was losing its popular appeal.  Copland drafted the concerto whilst he was in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, so a hint of Latin influence doesn’t come as a surprise. It was first heard publicly in a broadcast by NBC on November 6, 1950, with Goodman on clarinet and Fritz Reiner conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra.  In 1951 the work was choreographed for New York City Ballet by Jerome Robbins for his ballet, Pied Piper.  The soloist in this performance is Mark Nuccio, Acting Principal Clarinet of the New York Philharmonic.


Alan Gilbert conducting the New York Philharmonic
Credit: Chris Lee

Alan Gilbert has been Music Director of the New York Philharmonic since 2009.  The first native New Yorker to hold this post, he is well known for the creativity of his programming.  He has also established artistic partnerships, introducing the position of The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence – held by Christopher Rouse during this 2012-13 season – and The Mary and James G Wallach Artist-in-Residence – currently held by pianist Emanuel Ax.  He has instigated an annual, multi-week festival which this season is The Bach Variations, in collaboration with 92nd Street Y, and CONTACT! a series in which Philharmonic musicians perform works by leading and emerging contemporary composers in some of the more intimate venues in New York.

“One thing I’ve been interested in pursuing with the Philharmonic,” says Gilbert, “is collaboration with important cultural institutions across New York City.  Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis were an obvious choice. Wynton is such an iconic figure: a great artist, instrumentalist, teacher, and communicator who really believes in the power of music and the importance of bringing people into our world.”


Wynton Marsalis and Alan Gilbert
Credit: Chris Lee

Bandleader, educator and a leading advocate of American culture, Juilliard-educated Marsalis is also an outstanding classical performer, and the first jazz composer to earn a Pulitzer Prize.  His versatility extends from music for quartets to big bands, from chamber music ensembles to symphony orchestras, and from tap to ballet.   He is music director and trumpet of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and managing and artistic director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center program – which he co-founded in 1987.  His orchestra, comprising 15 of the finest soloists, ensemble players and arrangers in jazz today, has been resident there since 1988.


Wynton Marsalis
Credit: Frank Stewart

Wynton Marsalis describes his Symphony No 3 (the Swing Symphony) as “a symphonic meditation on the evolution of swing”.  A co-commission by the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, it was premiered on the opening night of the New York Philharmonic’s 2010 season, under the baton of Alan Gilbert, of whom The New York Times wrote that he “seemed totally in his element, conducting with a mix of cool command and jazzy swing”, and that the Philharmonic “played with verve and color, never sounding like classical music stiffs”.


Alan Gilbert, the New York Philharmonic and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
Credit: Chris Lee

This first Gilbert’s Playlist program opens with Stravinsky’s Ragtime, followed by the Shostakovich Tahiti Trot – both led by Case Scaglione, Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic since 2011, the year in which he was named a Solti Fellow by the Solti Foundation US, an award given only three times in the history of the foundation.

Stravinsky wrote his Ragtime for Eleven Instruments in 1917-18, when jazz was all the rage in Paris.  He called it  an “essay in jazz portraiture”.  The origins of the work, according to music historian, Barbara Heyman, came via conductor Ernest Ansermet, who – returning from the Russian Ballet’s American tour in 1918 – handed Stravinsky a “bundle of ragtime music in the form of piano reductions and instrumental parts”, which became the composer’s inspiration for his L’histoire du soldat, included in which is a section called Ragtime.  It was twice used by George Balanchine to create works for New York City Ballet – Ragtime I  in 1960 and Ragtime II in 1966.


George Balanchine with Igor Stravinsky
Credit: Martha Swope courtesy New York City Ballet

It’s followed by Tahiti Trot – an orchestration by Shostakovich of the song, Tea for Two, from the Vincent Youmans musical, No, No, Nanette.  It was deemed sufficiently “decadent”, when it was written in 1927, for the composer to be chastised by the then Soviet régime.  Shostakovich wrote it in response to a bet made with him by the conductor, Nikolai Malko, who apparently set him a challenge to orchestrate the piece – known in the Soviet Union as Tahiti Trot – within an hour.  Shostakovich delivered on the bet within 45 minutes.  It was premiered by the Leningrad Philharmonic in Moscow in late 1928 and became enormously popular with audiences and dance bands.  Shostakovich also used it at the beginning of Act II for his 1929-30 ballet, The Age of Gold.

The first Gilbert’s Playlist program takes place on May 31 at 11.00 am and June 1 at 8.00 pm.  There’s also a Rush Hour Concert on May 30 at 6.45 pm.  Led by Alan Gilbert, it features Swing Symphony with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

The second program takes place from June 6 to 11, with Dallapiccola’s Il Prigioniero, featuring Gerald Finley, Patricia Racette and Peter Hoare, and Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No 1, with soloist Lisa Batiashvili.

In the following program – from June 20 to 22 – the Haydn Piano Concerto No 11 is performed by Emanuel Ax, there’s the New York premiere of Christopher Rouse’s Symphony No 3, and the final work is A Ring Journey, Alan Gilbert’s own synthesis of orchestral music from Wagner’s Ring Cycle, based on the arrangement by Erich Leinsdorf.

The final Playlist program – from June 27 to 29 – features A Dancer’s Dream:  Two Works by Stravinsky.  It’s described as a “theatrical reimagining” of two ballets – The Fairy’s Kiss and Petrouchka –  combining orchestral music, ballet, puppetry and filmmaking.  Directed by Doug Fitch and created by Giants Are Small, it stars New York City Ballet principal dancer, Sara Mearns.

All performances take place at Avery Fisher Hall, on the north side of Lincoln Center, at Broadway and West 65th Street

For further information and ticketing, please visit the New York Philharmonic website

Alan Gilbert

Jazz at Lincoln Center

Wynton Marsalis

Mark Nuccio

Case Scaglione

BBC Proms season opens in July


The Royal Albert Hall
Credit: BBC

The BBC has announced details of its 2013 Proms season, and – as ever – there’s a wealth of wonderful concerts to enjoy.  The 119th season of what is undoubtedly the greatest classical music festival in the world opens at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 12th July, with an impressive line-up of some of the greatest artists, orchestras and ensembles appearing over 92 concerts in the biggest ever broadcast Proms festival.


Daniel Barenboim
Credit: Chris Christodoulou

Amongst the highlights are Daniel Barenboim’s complete Ring Cycle, with the Staatskapelle Berlin.  Part of the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Richard Wagner, these performances mark not only the first complete Wagner Ring Cycle to be performed at the Proms in one season, but also Barenboim’s first performance of a Wagner opera in the United Kingdom.

The  Wagner anniversary will be celebrated further with performances of three of his operas by British orchestras, under the direction of leading exponents of his work –Tristan and Isolde by the BBC Symphony Orchestra led by Semyon Bychkov, Tannhäuser by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Donald Runnicles, and Parsifal by the Hallé under Sir Mark Elder.


Semyon Bychkov
Credit: Chris Christodoulou

Guiseppe Verdi’s bi-centenary will be marked with performances of his works by two Italian orchestras, and two centenaries will also be celebrated during the season – those of Benjamin Britten and Witold Lutoslawski – with Britten’s Four Sea Interludes on the programme for the opening night of the festival.

Of special interest is the concert on 20th August which was to have been conducted by the late Sir Colin Davies. Daniel Harding, in his role as Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, will lead the LSO in a concert dedicated to the memory of Sir Colin who, from 1960, led more than 140 Proms over a period of more than 50 years.  Harding also conducts a Prom with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra earlier in the season.


Marin Alsop
Credit: Grant Leighton

The Last Night of the Proms will also take its place in history this year, as Marin Alsop becomes the first woman to conduct this world-famous event.  She’ll be joined by Nigel Kennedy – who appears in an earlier Proms performance with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – and mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.  There are four Proms in the Park events that evening – in London’s Hyde Park (where Nigel Kennedy and Joseph Calleja will appear), on Glasgow Green, in Caerphilly in Wales, and another in Northern Ireland.  As before, there’ll be a live link-up to the Royal Albert Hall for the traditional Last Night of the Proms singalong.

Other concerts of note include a complete cycle of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies and some of the more rarely performed piano concertos, including Malcolm Arnold’s Concerto for Two Pianos (Three Hands), the Piano Concerto No 2 by Glazunov and Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments.

There’s a celebration of 50 years of the BBC’s Dr Who television series, and two Proms dedicated to music from the big screen – the John Wilson Orchestra presents an evening of Hollywood glamour, and classic British and American film scores will be performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra.

The programmes also include a number of BBC commissions – a selection from contemporary UK composers, three celebrating India’s musical heritage, and a piano concerto by experimental composer Frederic Rzewski. There will also be a world premiere performance of a work by Benjamin Britten, and a new orchestration by Anthony Payne of Vaughan Williams’ Four Last Songs.


A Proms concert at the Royal Albert Hall
Credit: Chris Christodoulou

The impressive line-up of conductors also includes Sakari Oramo – who conducts the First Night of the Proms, marking the beginning of his tenure as Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra – Sir Andrew Davis, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Charles Dutoit, Yannick Nézét-Seguin, Jonathan Nott and Osmo Vänskä,

Notable pairings include include Valery Gergiev with the London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Antonio Pappano conducting the Orchestra of the Academy of Santa Cecilia, Rome, Lorin Maazel with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko directing the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra – of which he’s the newly appointed Chief Conductor – and Mariss Jansons – who celebrates his 70th birthday this year – conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

The Warsaw Philharmonic – under Antoni Witt – and the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Guiseppe Verdi, led by Xian Zhang, make their first appearances at the Royal Albert Hall.  The mainstay of the season will once again be provided by the six BBC performing ensembles.


Stephen Hough
Credit: Sim-Canetty-Clarke

Amongst popular artists making a return visit to the Proms are Stephen Hough – performing on the opening night – Imogen Cooper, Midori, Mitsuko Uchida, and star of the 2012 Last Night of the Proms, Joseph Calleja.  Also appearing are Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Tine Thing Helseth, Vadim Repin, Daniel Hope and Daniil Trifonov.

The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain gives the first ever free main evening Prom, and Joshua Bell appears with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America.  On the opening night of the season, the Proms Youth Choir joins forces with the BBC Symphony Chorus to form a 450-strong choir for Vaughan Wiliams’ A Sea Symphony.


Joshua Bell
Credit: Lisa Marie Mazzucco

This Proms season will be broadcast on more BBC platforms than ever before – across BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three and BBC Four.  BBC Radio 3 will carry live broadcasts of every Prom and the audio will be streamed online in HD quality, with additional broadcasts on Radio 1, 1Xtra, Radio 2, 4 Extra, 6 Music and the Asian Network.  The Cadogan Hall Proms chamber music concerts will be filmed for the BBC website and a selection will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Four.

Booking for the Proms opened on May 11th, and a record number of 114,000 tickets were sold in the first 12 hours.  Tickets are still available for the vast majority of events, though, and can be bought on the day of the concerts as well.

The 2013 Proms season runs from July 12th to September 7th at the Royal Albert Hall.  For full details of the season and booking, please visit:

Royal Albert Hall

Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy


Credit: Athena

“Jewish composers and lyricists created the Broadway musical.  Along with a handful of other talents like George M Cohan and Cole Porter, they fashioned a new, quintessentially American art form.”  So says Barbara Brilliant, Creator and Executive Producer of Broadway Musicals:  A Jewish Legacy, a documentary which was screened by the PBS television network in the United States in January, and which has just become available on DVD.  Produced, written and directed by Michael Kantor, this is the first documentary film to explore the phenomenal contribution to the Broadway musical made by Jewish Americans between 1920 and 1970.


Lena Horne in ‘Showboat’
Credit: Athena

This fascinating film, narrated by Tony® and Academy Award® winner, Joel Grey, tells the story of “a small group of songwriters who created such a powerful art form that it has resonated for generations”, says Barbara Brilliant.  “America changed the Jews, and Jews changed America …. for good.”  The documentary looks at the lead taken in the creation of the Broadway musical by Jewish composers and lyricists, and features the work of legendary figures such as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.

Providing a unique, engaging and often humorous insight into the Jewish contribution to the golden age of Broadway, this documentary features interviews with composers and celebrities including Sheldon Harnick, Stephen Schwartz, Harold Prince, Arthur Laurents, Charles Strouse, Mel Brooks, and Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, whose grandparents were pioneers of the American Yiddish theater.

One delightful anecdote comes from Leonard Bernstein’s daughter, Jamie.  Bernstein’s father was apparently devastated that his son would want to become a musician instead of inheriting the family business, the Samuel J Bernstein Hair Company in Boston.  When asked, much later, by a journalist whether it was true that he’d refused to pay for his son’s piano lessons so as not to encourage him, he replied:  “Well how was I supposed to know he’d turn out to be Leonard Bernstein?”.


Irving Berlin
Credit: Athena

The film also delves into the question as to why Jewish songwriters and lyricists were so successful in creating what Michael Kantor describes as “a uniquely American art form with the Broadway musical”.  As composer Maury Yeston says, “You cannot simply say there is one monolithic style or element to Jewish music that affects Broadway.  There are numerous incredibly important musical streams.”

Whatever it was that gave rise to this phenomenon, the film is an entertainment in itself – as captivating as any of the shows which it features – productions such as Showboat, Porgy and Bess, On Your Toes, Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific, Annie, Cabaret, West Side Story, Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof, Funny Girl, On the Town – some of which are a reminder that the Jewish contribution to Broadway came not only from composers and lyricists.  West Side Story, Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof, Funny Girl, and On the Town, for example, owe their existence to the creative genius of choreographer and director, Jerome Robbins, the son of  Jewish immigrants.


Barbra Streisand in ‘Funny Girl’
Credit: Athena

This two-disc DVD set from Athena includes a bonus disc with three hours of additional interview clips and performances, and a 16-page viewer’s guide featuring reflections on Jewish Broadway, with an introduction by Barbara Brilliant, and a biography of narrator, Joel Grey.  It’s available in North America only at present, and we’re awaiting information on an international release.  At present it can be ordered from Acorn Online  as of today, May 7th.


And, right on cue, the New York City Center opens a production of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s On Your Toes tomorrow, May 8th.  This show, featuring an unlikely combination of gangsters, vaudeville and classical ballet, first appeared on the stage of the Imperial Theatre on April 11th, 1936, and ran for 315 performances.  It was the first musical to successfully integrate classical ballet into the Broadway musical format, and the first show to credit a “choreographer”- George Balanchine in this case – as opposed to “dance maker”.

This latest production is directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, and included in the cast are principal dancers Irina Dvorovenko (American Ballet Theater) and Joaquin De Luz (New York City Ballet).  Songs include Glad to be Unhappy, There’s A Small Hotel and Balanchine’s legendary ballet Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.

New York City Center Encores!  has presented 57 musical productions since its founding in 1994, for an audience of more than half a million people. This series celebrates the rarely heard works of America’s most important composers and lyricists. Each season, Encores! gives three wonderful scores the chance to be heard as their creators originally intended. Each production is a whirlwind, put together with just eight days of rehearsals, one day of dress rehearsal and seven performances. The cast is backed by the Encores! Orchestra, often more than 30 players strong.

For more information on this production of On Your Toes, visit the New York City Center website.


L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande returns to the UK


L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Victoria Hall, Geneva
Credit: Grégory-Maillot

For the first time in five years, L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande returns to the United Kingdom.  This three-concert tour, which will take in Birmingham, Manchester and London, marks the first occasion on which Neeme Järvi will lead the Orchestra in Britain since taking up the role of Artistic and Music Director of the Suisse Romande in September 2012.

It was in 2008 that the Geneva-based Orchestra last visited Britain, under its previous Music Director, Marek Janowski.  This 2013 tour will enable the ensemble to showcase the style which it has acquired under Järvi’s visionary approach to directing, his musical flair and a wide-ranging repertoire.

L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande was founded in 1918 by legendary conductor, Ernest Ansermet, during a collaboration with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.  Initially comprising 62 musicians who were engaged for six months each year, the Orchestra performed mainly in Geneva and Lausanne, as well as in other centres in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

Ansermet went on to direct the OSR for 50 years, and throughout its history, the Orchestra has enjoyed an enviable reputation both for the vast legacy of recordings which it has created and for its interpretation of French and Russian music in particular.  It has also been associated with the promotion of  contemporary music, having premiered works by Benjamin Britten, Claude Debussy, Arthur Honegger, Frank Martin, Darius Milhaud and Igor Stravinsky, and more recently works by William Blank, Michael Jarrell, Heinz Holliger and Peter Eötvös.

There are now 113 full-time members of the OSR, which has its home at Victoria Hall in Geneva, and also tours extensively around the world.  Traditionally it has also performed in opera at the Grand Théâtre of Geneva, and undertakes an entire programme for young audiences.

A note of interest, particularly for British audiences, is the fact that Victoria Hall was built between 1891 and 1894 as a tribute to Queen Victoria.  Owned by the City of Geneva, the Hall was renovated in 2006, and is renowned throughout the whole world for the high standard of its acoustics.

On this 2013 three-day tour to the United Kingdom, Neeme Järvi will lead the OSR in a programme which features Arvo Pärt’s Silhouette – a tribute to Gustave Eiffel – Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 6, and the Grieg Piano Concerto, with celebrated Russian virtuoso, Boris Berezovsky as soloist.


Conductor Neeme Järvi
Credit: Simon van Boxtel

Estonian conductor, Neeme Järvi, has appeared with many of the world’s most prominent orchestras.  He is Chief Conductor Emeritus of the Residentie Orkest in The Hague, Conductor Laureate and Artistic Advisor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Music Director Emeritus of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Principal Conductor Emeritus of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, First Principal Guest Conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, Conductor Laureate of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and Music Director of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra.  He also has a distinguished operatic and recording repertoire.

Maestro Järvi is delighted to be appearing in Britain. “To conduct the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in the UK for the first time in 5 years is tremendously exciting and a great privilege,” he says. “The orchestra has had such a strong connection with the UK since its first tour in 1949, and its audiences and critics remain among the most discerning in the world. I look forward to our concerts there immensely and invite audiences to celebrate with us through music.”


Russian virtuoso Boris Berezovsky
Credit: David Crookes – Warner Classics

Boris Berezovsky started piano lessons at the age of five, receiving private tutoring from Alexander Satz before attending the Moscow Conservatory, to study under Elisso Virsaladze.  He was 18 when he made his London debut, at the Wigmore Hall, and two years later he won first prize in the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.  His international career now includes performances in the major centres of Europe, Japan and America, and orchestras with which he has appeared include the New York Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic.  He has a particular affinity for the Romantic and Russian repertoire, and in 1995 he organised a festival of Medtner’s music in Moscow, Medtner being a composer whom Berezovsky has promoted since his student days.  Boris Berezovsky also appears in chamber concerts with violinist Vadim Repin.

L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, conducted by Neeme Järvi, with soloist Boris Berezovsky, will appear at:

Birmingham Symphony Hall on May 21st 

The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester on May 22nd

The Royal Festival Hall in London on May 24th

Neeme Järvi

Boris Berezovsky

L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande

New York City Ballet pays tribute to Jerome Robbins


Daniel Ulbricht, Robert Fairchild, and Andrew Veyette in Jerome Robbins’ ‘Fancy Free’
Credit: Paul Kolnik

Choreographer Jerome Robbins is next to take the spotlight in New York City Ballet’s American Music Festival. Featuring 25 ballets and the music of 17 American composers, this star-spangled celebration marks the 25th anniversary of the 1998 American Music Festival, during which NYCB presented more than 20 new works, all set to the music of American composers. The three Robbins favourites on this programme are Interplay, Fancy Free  and I’m Old Fashioned.


Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild in Jerome Robbins’ ‘Interplay’
Credit: Paul Kolnik

Interplay – according to Robbins’s biographer, Amanda Vaill – is about dancers dancing, “its eight young people …. leaping and cartwheeling about the stage …. daring one another to toss off fusillades of fouettés and air turns …. characteristic of the street kids Jerry had grown up with”.  Although the ballet appeared to be simply a romp, the Times’ John Martin presciently saw it as “the foundation of an American mid-forties classical style”.  The score is by Morton Gould, whose centennial is celebrated this year.  It’s humorous, jazzy and totally at one with the swingtime rhythms of the 1940s, yet at its centre, and in complete contrast to the rest of the score, it gives way to a bluesy style pas de deux.  An extract of Interplay can be seen in this video clip


Daniel Ulbricht, Robert Fairchild, and Andrew Veyette in Jerome Robbins’ ‘Fancy Free’
Credit: Paul Kolnik

Fancy Free, choreographed in 1944, was Robbins’ first ballet – with a score by the then-promising young composer, Leonard Bernstein. It tells of the escapades of three footloose young sailors on shore leave in Manhattan during World War II, looking for excitement, women, drink and fun. It received rave reviews – and two dozen curtain calls – at its premiere, and was the inspiration for a later, full-length musical, On The Town, which was just as successful, and from which Robbins and Bernstein went on to collaborate on another Broadway hit, West Side Story.  Watch a video clip of Fancy Free.

I'm Old Fashioned-1

Rebecca Krohn and Adrian Danchig-Waring in ‘I’m Old Fashioned’
Credit: Paul Kolnik

Morton Gould again provided the score for the third work on the programme, I’m Old Fashioned,  based on a theme by Jerome Kern, which was originally sung by Johnny Mercer.  The ballet was Robbins’ tribute to Fred Astaire – whom he admired enormously – and it was inspired by a dance sequence in the film You Were Never Lovelier, performed by Astaire and Rita Hayworth.  As a backdrop to his glamorous and elegant waltzes, Robbins had this scene from the film playing on a screen behind the dancers, his choreography taking its cue from the changing style of the onscreen variations.

On the three days following this All Robbins programme are performances featuring two more of his works, together with one by George Balanchine.  Entitled Balanchine and Robbins: Masters at Work, the programme comprises Western Symphony, N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz and Glass Pieces.


George Balanchine
Credit: Tanaquil LeClercq

In Balanchine’s lively Western Symphony, a group of cowboys and dance-hall girls are out on the town, just having fun.  Set to a score of traditional American songs – orchestrated by Hershy Kay – this classically-based ballet bears all the hallmarks of Balanchine’s unique style, but with elements of American folk dancing skillfully woven into the choreography.   See some excerpts in this clip.


The Company in Robbins’ ‘N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz’
Credit: Paul Kolnik

Robbins’ N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz is another example of the themes of urban life which so fascinated him.  Set in the late 1950s, to a score by Robert Prince, it focuses on the Beat Generation, reflecting the style of cool jazz and rhythmic dances associated with the teenagers of the post-war era.  After its first performance it became an overnight sensation, eliciting the comment from Lincoln Kirstein that “No one but you has understood Jazz in its flexibility, and no one has had the gift to make it so interesting”.  (Amanda Vaill – Somewhere, the life of Jerome Robbins)  Here’s a short excerpt.


The Company in Jerome Robbins’ ‘Glass Pieces’
Credit: Paul Kolnik

Glass Pieces also has an urban theme, capturing the pulsating beat of city life, and set to a score by contemporary composer, Philip Glass.  This was an inspired choice by Robbins, with Glass’s “repetitive structures” providing the perfect setting for the momentum of Robbins’ rhythmic concepts, shifting patterns and athletically-charged choreography.  See an extract in this video clip.


Jerome Robbins
Credit: Didier Olivre

The All Robbins programme takes place on May 3rd, 4th and 9th, and Balanchine and Robbins: Masters at Work on May 10th, 11th and 12th – at the David H Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza  New York, NY 10023.  For further information  and tickets visit the New York City Ballet website.


Jerome Robbins

PBS American Masters Series – Something to Dance About

George Balanchine

Lincoln Kirstein