Pacific Northwest Ballet
September 23, 2017, evening
This past weekend was one for monumental works. Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Mahler’s Second Symphony, aka Resurrection, and the opening run of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s presentation (and new production) of George Balanchine’s 1967 Jewels. Both come at life from different ends of the spectrum – the former musically tackling the topic of rebirth and the concept of immortality following “doffing this mortal coil” and the latter with its variety of range and color, literally, in each of its three distinct yet connected sections.
Inspired by actual jewels, this Balanchine work begins with the perfume of the French Emeralds, followed by ruby red Rubies and concluding with sparkling Diamonds. New costumes (designed by Frenchman Jerome Kaplan and built jointly by PNB’s Costume Shop and Mark Zappone’s Z), tiaras and set designs made their much-anticipated and glorious debut. This was $500K well invested.
PNB was so fortunate to have invited some members of the original cast to come to Seattle to coach in 2014. These included Mimi Paul, Violette Verdy, Jacques d’Amboise, and Edward Villella. You can easily see the authority for choreography and the dancers’ commitment to it in each section, movement and phrase.
I don’t really have a favorite section exactly, but I do like how the ballet builds over the course of the evening, concluding with the very exciting group Polonaise in Diamonds.
In Emeralds, Elizabeth Murphy was effervescent in the part created by Verdy and Lindsi Dec was elegant and other-worldly in the Paul role. Steven Loch and Karel Cruz were their respective and attentive partners. One of the loveliest bits of Emeralds is the trio, here perfectly performed by Leah Merchant, Carli Samuelson, and Price Suddarth. The trio was clean, clear, imbued with aroma and undergirded by tensile technique.
Rubies sizzles, snaps, crackles and pops throughout. Angelica Generosa was crackling with electrical sparks in the first part created by Patricia McBride, and James Moore more than delighted in eating up the stage in the Villella part, pulling along his “hood” buddies. Sarah Pasch was literally outstanding as the tall girl whose leggy length attracts and draws the attention of each of the four male dancers to her – Ryan Cardea, Loch, Suddarth, and Ezra Thomson. I miss the great former PNB Principal Ariana Lallone in this role – as she practically owned the copyright on it outright (not to mention Colleen Neary who first staged Rubies and danced this part for PNB in 1988), but Pasch brought her own intelligent and sassy interpretation that also sizzled. The piano soloist was the excellent Allan Dameron.
It was a definite treat being able to enjoy Noelani Pastastico and Seth Orza in the Diamonds duet, as well as the polished and tempered full cast, who were elegant and full-bodied. What fun and a joy to be moved and uplifted by this exciting finale!
The mighty PNB Orchestra was led by the watchful eye and care of maestro Emil de Cou.