“World Passions,” the collection of four works that Boston Ballet opened at the Opera House last Thursday, is more pleasant than passionate until Kathleen Breen Combes sashays out as the title character in Jorma Elo’s Carmen. (Ann-Margret emerging at one of Bob Hope’s USO tours in Asia: “Hi, boys!” Loud roar from the troops. Bob: “Ann, they were boys before you came out. They’re men now.) For the next 45 minutes, there’s enough energy on stage to fill an entire evening, Elo’s work looking like West Side Story as choreographed by William Forsythe, and Breen Combes and her Don José, Yury Yanowsky, all stormy weather. It’s more satisfying than many opera stagings of Bizet’s work.
Repertory programs are generally designed on the “something old, something new” principle. “World Passions” is mostly new: company ballet master Pino Alosa’s world-premiere adaptation of Marius Petipa’s choreography for the 1881 ballet Paquita; the world premiere of Helen Pickett’s Tsukiyo; former company principal Viktor Plotnikov’s Rhyme, which had its world premiere at Boston Ballet’s 2008 “Night of Stars” gala; and Jorma Elo’s Carmen, which had its world premiere at Boston Ballet in 2006 but has since been revised and is now going under the name Carmen/Illusions. Two sizable pieces sandwiching two short ones make for a long evening: with two intermissions, the program runs nearly three hours.
PAQUITA Pleasing but no showstopper.
Paquita began life in 1846 in Paris; in 1881 Petipa updated it for St. Petersburg, with a new Grand Pas de Deux Classique and Pas de Trois and children’s mazurka by Don Quixote composer Ludwig Minkus. Petipa’s additions are pretty much all that’s left of the ballet (though it’s been reconstructed for the Paris Opera Ballet), and they make for a popular classical divertissement. Boston Ballet last did it, in a version by Tatiana Legat, in 2007, on a bill with Dace Dindonis’s ill-starred Carmen. (The plot of Paquita has to do with a Gypsy girl, hence the connection with Carmen, and with “passions.”) It’s the kind of showstopper you expect to see at ABT, with fans whistling for their favorites.
That’s never been the Boston Ballet way, though the 1997 opening-night Paquita, Larissa Ponomarenko, was electrifying. This time out, Ponomarenko is on crutches, having broken a bone in her foot. Thursday we got Lorna Feijóo and Nelson Madrigal in the Grand Pas de Deux. Feijóo shines in her closing fouettés, which she does while revolving in a circle while staying smack on the beat, but she doesn’t have Ponomarenko’s elasticity of phrasing, and both she and Madrigal look oddly pulled in. He has his best moments in the air, especially two big ciseaux, and the way he hung mid air in attitude during his manège, but opening night he also stumbled out of a couple of jumps. On the weekend, when he seemed to have simplified his big solo, he looked better.