BuenosAiresHerald.com | Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Paloma’s Juliet: a fitting end to a great career
Argentine ballerina Paloma Herrera dancing Juliet at the Colón Theatre on October 11.
By Pablo Bardin For the Herald
Famous Argentine dancer bids farewell to the BA stage with radiant performance
Sunday, October 11: full to the rafters, the Colón waited with bated breath for the 5pm performance to begin. Paloma Herrera was bidding farewell to her BA career a couple of months before her 40th birthday. And, as she said in several interviews, she is leaving happy and in full form. Months ago she said goodbye to her home company, the American Ballet Theater, with a triumphant Giselle. Here the vehicle was Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as seen by composer Sergei Prokofiev and choreographer Maximilano Guerra.
Originally, the idea was that she would dance four Tatianas in Onegin, the Cranko ballet based on Pushkin’s story, but the Colón didn’t reach an agreement with Stuttgart; the official version was that the Germans posed unacceptable conditions; however, once the decision was made to stage Romeo and Juliet instead, the choreographer’s representatives proved more amenable and we’ll see Onegin next year.
In fact, Guerra presented his Romeo and Juliet in 2009 at La Plata’s Argentino. And as it is deeply influenced by the great MacMillan version, and since Paloma had danced it, she had no trouble in adapting to Guerra’s perspective. She will do four performances, but this won’t be her last hurrah in Argentina: she will dance her beloved Giselle several times with the Colón Ballet in several provinces, just days away from her next birthday.
Allow me to say unequivocally that I believe Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet to be, musically speaking, the most important long ballet of the 20th century. The composer proves himself adept at portraying the most varied situations: deep unconditional love, aggression, wry sarcasm, pomp, humour, parental domination, political power, light sexual innuendo, and so on. The music has melody, innovative orchestration, punch, subtlety, cunning harmony, danceable rhythms, incidental ambience in pantomimic scenes. I would only argue that the death throes of Mercutio be shorter.
Guerra has done a good job, especially in the abundant crowd scenes; the group dances are elegant, in neoclassic style. The solos and duets are sensitive and likable, with particular demands of dexterity and suppleness for Juliet. The fights are aided by Lucas Garcilazo, fencing instructor, who has obtained decent results in group sword attacks. The weak side was in the handling of pantomime, often undramatic and insufficient, even from Juliet in the suicide scene. The production had two aspects: the costumes by Eduardo Caldirola were agreeable, with fine colour gradations, sumptuous in the cases of Lady Montague and Lady Capulet, and the lighting by Rubén Conde was quite adequate for the different moods. The stage designs by Daniel Feijóo and Adriana Maestri resorted to the unit set and were dominated by a central staircase; there was no balcony for Juliet; aesthetically they were functional rather than beautiful.
Before I go on, a few data about Romeo and Juliet’s stagings. It’s an abundant history. The original première was in Brno (Czechoslovakia), December 1938, due to differences of opinion with the Leningrad Kirov; after a revision (necessary because there was a silly happy ending), the 1940 Kirov first night was a triumph, and Galina Ulanova eventually starred in the film of the Lavrovsky choreography (it was thus that as a teenager I met this work).
In BA, the first was Tatiana Gsovsky’s in 1951, followed by George Skibine’s in 1970 (with the wonderful pair of Olga Ferri — Paloma’s teacher — and José Neglia); then Vittorio Biagi’s in 1983; the best was MacMillan’s in 1992, 1994 and 1997; and that of Oscar Aráiz in 2005. We also saw other versions of the love story: in 1955, the American Ballet Theater presented a lovely staging by Anthony Tudor based on Frederick Delius’s opera A Village Romeo and Juliet, which I saw; and later on, the controversial choreography by Maurice Béjart based on the great dramatic symphony by Hector Berlioz.
And now, to Paloma’s performance: she was radiant, looked young, unbelievably supple, her technique honed to perfection. Indeed she proved that she is retiring in the fullness of her art. Her partner was Gonzalo García (Spain), member of the American Ballet Theater (the original announcement paired her with Juan Pablo Ledo, Principal Dancer of the Colón). He has the splendid technique required of soloists at the ABT and he is personable; he proved a very good partner to the great star.
You may think that I’m nitpicking, but I did miss that extra something of communication and magic that I experienced when Alessandra Ferri and Julio Bocca danced the Macmillan here. That was unforgettable and a true milestone; Herrera with García were very good, but what will make it important in the minds of ballet enthusiasts was that they would never see Paloma again. She is a great dancer, but not a great personality such as Ferri or Plissetskaya.
Among the others, I admired the dramatic presence of Vagram Ambartsoumian as Tybalt the villain (more so in this version for he kills Mercutio treacherously from the back) and the vital and virtuosic dancing of Edgardo Trabalón as Mercutio. I also liked Norma Molina as the Wetnurse. The rest were in the picture (several have mime roles).
The Corps de Ballet was in fine form. Emmanuel Siffert conducted the Buenos Aires Philharmonic with a firm hand and good phrasing, so that the beauty and impact of the music came through.
where and when
Teatro Colón (Cerrito 628). October 13, 15 and 17 at 8pm. Tickets from 150 to 2,300 pesos available at the theatre’s box office or online at http://www.tuentrada.com. On the Web: http://www.teatrocolon.org.ar