Friday, December 11, 2009

Playhouse Square: Nutcracker (Royal Winnipeg Ballet)

Ballet is perhaps the only performing art medium that I'm less qualified to comment on than Opera.

I enjoy ballet for artistic reasons (the music and grace of the human body in motion) and I'm-a-guy-so-shoot-me reasons (ballet dancers are, as a whole, a very attractive group physically). There's not much of a professional ballet presence, that I've found at least, in greater Cleveland. Sure there's plenty of contemporary dance but I just don't find it as compelling as ballet.

Tonight's performance marked the fourth time I've seen the Nutcracker; the first was 3 years ago here in Cleveland at Playhouse Square... The past two years were in Southern California. I don't remember much of the original Playhouse Square performance besides a general enjoyment; the California performances were, in a word, awful. (Any time the director's note implies "The original story doesn't make any sense, so I decided to fix that" by completely reordering things RUN.)

Fast forward to tonight.

The performance was the most innovative staging of the four. The first act flew by and held my undivided attention. There was a hideous, prolonged noise at one point where the mouse king was doing his thing, but giving the benefit of the doubt it could have been an intentional sound effect.

The 2nd act was, as it should be, dancing for dancing sake and my interest was fading rapidly by the time the finale rolled around. The end of the Nutcracker has always felt like the story arc was left incomplete...this staging I felt much better about, but still felt like it was missing part of the resolution.

The music produced by the orchestra in the pit was fantastic. For whatever reason it was amplified and I was a little distracted by hearing the violins (through a speaker) coming from my right instead of the left which is what I am accustomed to. I have a feeling I was the only one in the audience who noticed, and aside from the "oh, that's odd" feeling it wasn't remarkable.

Of course, much of the music from the Nutcracker has fallen into the category of "holiday staple" divorced from its relationship to the ballet (dum-dum-da-da-dum-dummmmm). Sitting there I had to wonder if Mr. Tchaikovsky had any inclination while he was composing of the enduring and wide-spread popularity the piece would enjoy... for that matter if any of the great dead ones -- be it Shakespeare or Beethoven -- knew the endurance of their work.

Have you done anything enduring?


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