Thursday, July 05, 2007

Saratoga Dispatch — or — The Various Pleasures of Summer Festivals

In back of SPAC there are windows on two large rehearsal rooms where the New York City Ballet company takes class. Before shows, they are crowded with audience members, watching the work that becomes ballet. I want to watch, too. We see almost nothing from the pit. All that beauty is so close yet quite out of view.

This is the essential difference between an opera orchestra and a ballet orchestra. Without being able to see the production, an opera orchestra still hears the essential stage product, the singing. The ballet orchestra is, in the main, separated from the principal part of the performance through bad sight lines. There are moments in certain pieces when sounds from the stage remind us we’re not alone. In the last movement of the Stravinsky Violin Concerto, there is a quick gathering of ballerinas that registers in the pit as a burst of tapping. I love that sound and miss it when playing the piece in concert.

How did music and dance—the fraternal twins of the arts—become so separated? How much more intentionality could a musical phrase embody if the musicians knew “at this moment on stage she . . . " did some exquisite something? It puts great onus on the conductor to coordinate the level of engagement between music and movement. The City Ballet’s exciting choice of Fayçal Karoui as music director promises good things for this company. He clearly loves dance and loves to put it to music.

George Balanchine said, “Choreography can only be the result of music.” Harpsichordist, Albert Fuller taught his students that discovering the physicality of dance was key to understanding Baroque music, “even the St. Matthew Passion is full of dances.”

Duo Concertante, Stranvinsky/Balanchine, NYCB

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