From the very beginning of the piece, I was completely charmed by Peter Martins’ The Magic Flute. The ballet, originally created for an SAB workshop performance, was hilarious, colorful and clever, full of laughs, pratfalls and slapstick. This was not something that I’d have expected from New York City Ballet and I was very pleasantly surprised.
The sets seemed to be off the beaten path too. The story, which bears no resemblance to Mozart’s Magic Flute, takes place at dusk, under a billowing red sky, when the villagers are returning home from a long hard day in the fields. The backdrop looked almost like an architectural line drawing, with its outlined clouds and perfectly parallel lines indicating a horizon off in the distance. The villagers danced in costumes that were subdued in terms of detail, but bold in terms of color, with sunny yellows against bold turquoise belts or breeches.
We meet Lise, played to adorable perfection by Megan Fairchild, who is in love with the intrepid Luke, played by Robert Veyette. One could have predicted that her parents would not approve. The opening scenes have Lise dashing toward Luke and dancing with him, only to be pulled apart by her parents. Luke is constantly sent on his way, but Luke is nothing if not persistent, and he returns to Lise just as quickly as he is booted out.
Lise’s parents have bigger ambitions for her. They want her to marry the Marquis, played with comic brilliance by Adam Hendrickson. The man appears to be old enough to be her grandfather and he can barely stay on his feet. But he instantly warms to the idea of marrying Lise and proceeds to court her.
Lise tries to please her parents and takes a few steps toward the Marquis, but winds up shuddering with revulsion and returning to hide behind her parents or to seek out Luke.
Finally, Luke is cast away again and the villagers all go home. At this point, a beggar appears and Luke is kind enough to give him some money, but he also unloads his burden on the beggar, seeking advice on how to convince Lise’s parents to allow him to marry her. The beggar prophesies that a Magic Flute will come down from the heavens and help him.
This Magic Flute, when played, will get people to dance against their will. Within moments, the Magic Flute appears and Luke gives it a quick test on an unsuspecting Lise. So when the villagers all return to the town square and Luke finds himself in trouble again for pursuing Lise, with a cast of characters chasing him for arrest, he plays his flute and gets all the villagers and law officers whipped up in to a comic dance.
The choreography was clever and cute, especially in the moments when the Marquis attempts to kiss Lise’s hand or to hug her, only to have Lise slip away and Luke appear in her place. The gags and the pratfalls did nothing to detract from the dancing and the audience seemed to be well in to the spirit of the comedy and very entertained. When Veyette couldn’t stick his landing after a series of turns and jumps, he didn’t even attempt to disguise it, and the audience ate it up.
I enjoyed the ballet and the cast. Good work from the young SAB students who joined in the village scenes and executed their roles well. I think that any child old enough to sit still in the theatre would really enjoy this ballet.
Also on the bill were Serenade and Stars and Stripes. Serenade featured a performance of heartbreaking magnificence by Jenifer Ringer. The audience let out a collective gasp when, during the Rifle Regiment of Stars and Stripes, Savannah Lowery made her entrance, fell, and had difficulty recovering. She did not return to the stage. For several counts of 8, the corps just smiled at the audience while Lowery’s solo was not danced. Another dancer stepped in for her in the Fifth Campaign. The entire dance is good fun, but I especially love seeing Charles Askegard in the role of El Capitan, in this case partnering the amazing Sara Mearns who danced the Liberty Bell. And every time that I see this ballet, I am always knocked out by the precision of the men in Thunder and Gladiator. Daniel Ulbricht’s turns and jumps are always a crowd pleaser.
A great night in which Lola and I got to play the part of Cinderella, sitting in the orchestra rather than the 4th Ring which we usually haunt, thanks to the very good graces of a friend who gifted us with the tickets.