The star of this production was the eight-member corps, whose ensemble and idiom eclipsed what the company did in 1988 and didn’t suffer, if memory serves, by comparison with the New York City Ballet performances I saw in 2003 and 2006: they hopped in unison, their tricky Allegro arm movements were crisp, and their phrasing was hypnotic. The opening-night “violins,” Romi Beppu and Melissa Hough, weren’t ideally matched, Hough tough and jazzy, Beppu soft and classical and without big extension, but their interaction was sisterly. (Sunday afternoon Hough was replaced by Misa Kuranaga, and she and Beppu were soft and classical together.) In the Largo, Roman Rykine didn’t duck and turn smoothly under Beppu’s arm, there was some daisy-chain bumping, and the seven big arabesque lifts struggled. Beppu was, however, pristine in the big attitude turn (after all those arabesques) that ends the movement.
In the second cast, Melanie Atkins danced with greater clarity and abandon, especially in her brief fling of a third-movement solo. She has “Balanchine legs”: offered, with teasing good humor, and at the same time withheld. Lia Cirio was substantial, not as nuanced or witty, but generous in the air, and the steps in her double-pirouette-and-developpé-to-the-side series were right on the beat. She and Pavel Gurevich — a regal, heroic partner (sign him up for Ballet Imperial) —made the arabesque lifts sing. The two violin soloists, Michael Rosenbloom and Lisa Crockett, and the rest of the Boston Ballet Orchestra under Jonathan McPhee managed to be period-sensitive and romantic.
Dark Elegies was created in 1937 for London’s Ballet Rambert; American Ballet Theatre gave the American premiere three years later. Set to texts by 19th-century German poet Friedrich Rückert, Gustav Mahler’s five Kindertotenlieder (“Songs on the Death of Children”) — sung here by baritone Philip Lima, who was seated downstage left — weave grief and denial and submission to fate: a dead child’s eyes become stars in the sky; the singer decides his children have only walked on ahead and he’ll catch them up “on the heights”; the singer would not have let his children go out in the storm, but he was overruled, and now they rest in God’s shelter. Mahler’s tonalities reflect the poetry’s ambivalence; the third song doesn’t even resolve.
Tudor’s ballet is a communal affair for a dozen villagers in shirts and vests and pants and dresses and headscarves, with a solo or duet for each song and then an ensemble as the last one rises into D major. A solo woman begins “Nun will de Sonn’ so hell aufgeh’n” (“Now will the sun rise so brightly”) framed by six kneeling women; she stumbles about on pointe, makes cradling movements with her hands and what might be gravedigging gestures. She’s followed in “Nun seh’ ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen” (“Now I can see why with such dark flames”) by a keening couple who seem to implore the singer’s intercession as he sings the word “Leuchten” (“lights”), the music bursting into a D-major triad. “Wenn dein Mütterlein” (“When your sweet mother”) is a line or folk dance that a solo man leads and then steps out of; “Oft denk’ ich, sie sind nur ausgegangen!” (“Often I think they have only gone out!”) has a solo woman scurrying from one neighbor group of three to the next, as if seeking assurance that her children are only around the next bend. After a flailing male solo at the beginning of “In diesem Wetter, in diesem Braus” (“In this weather, in this storm”), the dancers circle in groups, offering comfort to one another; then they process out, some alone, some in couples (man and woman or woman and woman), the initial solo woman trailing them, the major key and the now sunlit misty-mountain backdrop a morning that does not preclude mourning.