Dark victory

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  October 31, 2007

I wish Ponomarenko had been cast as the Sylphide. Erica Cornejo and Misa Kuranaga both float over Herman Severin Løvenskiold’s score, with æthereal cabrioles and ronds de jambe en l’air and ballottés. Kuranaga seems more otherworldly; Cornejo (“She Floats Like a Butterfly but Stings Like a Bee” was the headline to Jennifer Dunning’s review in Tuesday’s New York Times) is more like a rival for Effie, but I thought the articulation of her footwork was sharper, and she created more memorable moments, like her sly hesitation before hiding on the armchair. As James, Roman Rykine has the strongest beats and entrechats six, and he changes direction well, but his acting isn’t nuanced. Carlos Molina is softer and more natural, a better actor but not as good a technician. Nelson Madrigal’s Peter Pan affect is just right for Kuranaga; the drawback in his performance is that he gives off the same boyish energy with Effie as he does with the Sylphide.

Kathleen Breen Combes is a nubile Effie reveling in her youth and beauty; corps member Tempe Ostergren shone in her tender interchanges with Madrigal. Gurn is a problematic figure: he has to try to woo Effie away from James even as she’s preparing for her wedding. Reyneris Reyes is likable and a little desperate, John Lam self-righteous and a little sneaky, with perhaps better insight into James’s Romantic vulnerability. Elizabeth Olds (the assistant to company artistic director Mikko Nissinen) is a youngish, appealing Madge, though she doesn’t push the envelope as far as Atkins; Heather Myers is more conventionally tough.

Sarah Wroth, in a Jane Eyre governess outfit, is such a natural as James’s mother, the company could rent her out to other productions. Jonathan McPhee again confirms his reputation as a Tchaikovsky conductor — particularly in the Waltz, which can so easily turn saccharine. In La Sylphide, the strings of the Boston Ballet Orchestra sound better than they did in 2004; McPhee brings a wild glint of moor and mountain to the music, and even some intimations of Berlioz.

PS: At the Ballet’s final performance of La Sylphide, Sunday October 28, I finally caught up with Lorna Feijóo in the title role. She had a big, melodramatic concept of the Sylphide that read well from any distance, with lucid motivation at every point (as in the surprise and delight she registered when she first caught sight of the shawl) and a lot of detail in her arm movement — Kitri as sylph. She wasn’t as light and Bournonvillean as either Cornejo or Kuranaga, but she compensated with her regal air and her precise footwork and a sexy “No sex, please, we’re sylphs” smile. The Gurn that afternoon was Raul Salamanca, and though he might not be the company’s best dancing Gurn, he made the most sense of the part: boyish, hopeful, inviting rather than demanding when Madge predicted he’d be the groom and not James, a perfect partner to Tempe Ostergren’s equally modest and innocent Effie and a perfect foil to Roman Rykine’s more insistent and harder-edged James.

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