More Jewels

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  March 4, 2009

WHAT TO READ

Crowning Glory: Boston Ballet's Jewels at the Wang Theatre. By Jeffrey Gantz.
Looking to get your Jewels bearings? A good place to start is Arlene Croce's 1983 New Yorker essay "A Balanchine Triptych," which was gathered into her collection Sight Lines (Knopf, 1987) but is more readily available in the more recent Writing in the Dark, Dancing in the New Yorker (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005). From there you could go on to Laura Jacobs's 1998 New Criterion essay "Balanchine's Castle" — which is collected in her indispensable Landscape with Moving Figures (Dance & Movement Press, 2006) and may also be purchased at the New Criterion Web site — and her "The Balanchine Tapestries" essay in the Summer 2008 volume of Ballet Review, and the "Jewels" chapter of Nancy Goldner's Balanchine Variations (University Press of Florida, 2008).

WHAT TO WATCH
The good news is that there's a complete performance of Jewels on DVD, from the Paris Opera Ballet (Opus Arte, 2006). The bad news is that the performances are arch and cold, and there's a technical flaw: whenever the dancers move, they move out of focus. Your only other option is the Choreography by Balanchine DVD (Nonesuch, 2004) that includes sections 1, 4, 6, 7, and 8 of Emeralds (with Merrill Ashley and Karin von Aroldingen) and the pas de deux from Diamonds (with Suzanne Farrell and Peter Martins, and worth it for that alone), but here too there are technical problems, the audio being out of synch with the video, so you might want to track down Nonesuch's VHS version.

WHAT TO LISTEN TO
Recordings of the music Balanchine used for Jewels are not legion. The Balanchine Album (Nonesuch; two discs) has the eight movements of Emeralds, drawn from Faurû's incidental music for Pellûas et Mûlisande and Shylock, in the order in which they appear in the ballet. And there are incisive and idiomatic performances of Tchaikovsky's first three symphonies by Igor Markevitch and the London Symphony Orchestra in an inexpensive two-disc Phillips box. But you can also do just fine with the Naxos discs that Boston Ballet is offering at its boutique in the Wang Theatre Lobby: John Georgiadis and the RTE Sinfonietta in the two Faurû suites; Mark Wait, Robert Craft, and the Orchestra of St. Luke's in Stravinsky's Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra (no mention of the piece on the CD cover, but it is on the disc); and Antoni Wit and the National Symphony Orchestra of Polish Radio and Television in Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 3.

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