PBT’s Nutcracker: Stunning; Ochanine, ballet master

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Rosalinda L. Orosa

Rosalinda L. Orosa

The story of the Christmas’ classic ballet The Nutcracker is too familiar for re-telling; this reviewer will focus on how the Philippine Ballet Theater’s presentation, under the artistic direction of Ranilo Jaynario, left a tremendous impression and impact on balletomanes at the CCP auditorium.

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The huge cast, nearly a hundred, with some dancers from other ballet companies participating, ranged from virtual toddlers to grown-ups: fluidly graceful, precise, disciplined ballerinas and buoyant, virile danseurs in soaring leaps and controlled multiple pirouettes.

No production or performance detail was overlooked. In fetching, eye-catching costumes—amidst fabulous stage seta and décor that included a sparkling Christmas tree which on the instant shot up to the ceiling—the assemblage performed. Responsible for the splendid, over-all dancing was ballet master Anatoly Panasyukov, formerly with Russian’s Bolshoi Ballet, who also vivaciously portrayed Herr Droselmeier, godfather to Clara and Fritz in The Nutcracker.

The Ballet Blanc (in Act I) created an exquisite vision: ballerinas lithely moving, gliding, turning and leaping in perfect unison, the apparition later reappearing with the ballerinas in light green bodices. Their performance interspersed with hearty applause.

The height of audience admiration reached its apex when Joseph Phillips, America’s “Golden Boy of Ballet” appeared onstage as the Nutcracker Prince.

The printed program describes his performance best: “Controlled intensity, youthful athleticism, technical refinement and an ability to deftly translate emotion into kinetic artistic expression.” Furthermore, Phillips was an excellent partner, unwaveringly extending firm, gallant support to the ballerina in breath-taking lifts and fish dives.

Immensely enhancing the presentation were Regina Magbitang, delightfully delicate as Clara, Loby Pimentel as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Kim Abrogena as the Dew Drop Fairy, both of whom manifested a high degree of proficiency and expressivity. Arresting attention likewise were Rofel Artaig and Mark Pineda, Jani Galeste and Crimson Guirejem, Gladys Baybayan and Michael mFernandez, Matthew Davo and Julafler Fegorido robustly evoking in their respective Spanish, Arabian, Chinese and Russian dances the distinctive national characteristics of each. Maika Samson and Marika Desembrano were fascinatingly languid as Reed Flute dancers.

The ambiance of fairy tale and fantasy was admirably sustained by the picturesque figures—the puppets, mice, dolls and soldiers and Mother Gigogno from whose towering, enormously wide skirt emerged beguiling, amusing dancers.

How prolonged, how thunderous was the applause garnered by the stunning, spectacular show! PBT President Sylvia Lichauco de Leon and German Ambassador Thomas Ossowski gave opening remarks. Makati Rotary Club President Eduardo “Eddie” Yap, avid classic music lover and art patron, assuringly stated in his message that the gala concert proceeds would go to the Rotary’s “long-running” projects.

Les Biches Suite—biche is an adult female deer—is ballet music which Serge Diaghilev, artistic director of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, had commissioned Poulenc to compose. The ballet depicts a house party wherein present are a young attractive girl, two athletes and an aging, wealthy dowager who is drawn to the athletes.

Olivier Ochanine, authoritatively wielding the baton over the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO), hewed faithfully to the rhythms distinctively demanded by the compositions five movements, manifesting the unerring instincts of a ballet master on the podium. Ballerinas and danseurs present would have been delighted to perform to the maestro’s beat.

The international French horn soloist, Spanish Javier Bonet, immediately manifested mastery of his instrument, challenging as Mozart’s Horn Concerto in E and Gliere’s Horn Concerto, Op. 91 were, with the PPO directed by Ochanine, extending gratifying assistance. In response to the lusty applause, Bonet gave a brief encore.

Regarded as one of Mendelssohn’s best works, the Symphony No. 3 “Scottish” is programmatic music and Maestro Ochanine interpreted it as such, the first movement (allegro) depicting a landscape of “wild scenery, ruined abbeys” while evoking widely ranging moods. Only the Scots would recognize the brief melody as Scottish; a brief thunderstorm breaks out. The second and fourth movements are lively, spirited dances, musicologists consider the third movement a not-too-successful attempt at grandeur while pointing up the “Scottish” Symphony as one of Mendelssohn’s masterpieces. Masetro Ochanine gave it gratifying justice. Typical of his graciousness and generosity of spirit, Ochanine asked solo instrumentalists to take a bow along with him.

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