American Ballet Theatre | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

American Ballet Theatre 

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Swan Lake is that rare bird, a 19th-century story ballet for grown-ups. True, an evil sorcerer turns a princess into a wildfowl. But Tchaikovsky's music, though familiar, is rich and stirring. And the tale enmeshes us in issues of freedom and responsibility, pulling us into a world where nature and civilization are at odds, where logic and order battle emotion and magic. Prince Siegfried is the fulcrum of this conflict, intensely Romantic though the battleground is bourgeois: whom should he marry? Self-described traditionalist Kevin McKenzie, American Ballet Theatre's artistic director, said in a Dance Magazine interview that his 2000 version for the company is governed by "the way I made sense of the ballet as Siegfried when I danced it." He also beefed up the role of Rothbart, adding a prologue that shows him transforming Odette from a woman into a swan and a demanding, entrancing solo in the third act, when the sorcerer appears at court with his daughter, the Black Swan Odile. On the tape I watched, McKenzie had divided the role between two men--and Marcelo Gomes danced the third-act solo with exquisite flash and charisma. Lucky for us this tall, powerful performer is scheduled to play the prince on opening night and at the March 28 matinee. Angel Corella, chuck-him-under-the-chin charming as the prince on video, is Siegfried at the March 25 matinee and March 28 evening performance; Ashley Tuttle plays opposite him at these shows. Paloma Herrera is Odette-Odile on opening night and March 26, and Gillian Murphy dances the part on March 25. Various soloists debut in lead roles during this engagement. Zack Brown's costumes are appropriately pretty, but his sets are breathtaking, especially as lit by Duane Schuler: every act but the last sinks almost imperceptibly into darkness, subtly but powerfully communicating the ballet's tragic dimensions. Though ABT made Chicagoland appearances in 1995 and '96, this is the first time in ten years that the company will perform Swan Lake here. Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-902-1500; 312-943-5056 for groups of 15 or more. Opens Wednesday, March 24, 7:30 PM. Through March 28: Thursday, 2 and 7:30 PM; Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 2 and 7:30 PM. $15-$85. Note: The Saturday matinee is an abbreviated version of Swan Lake followed by a photo and autograph session with storybook character Angelina Ballerina.

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