Monday, June 5, 2006

Dance al Dente

Posted by Joshua Curry on Mon, Jun 5, 2006 at 6:47 PM

On Sunday morning, the only thing that could have been as welcome as a Bloody Mary was several tables of fried shrimp and oysters and assorted other toothsome brunch fare, so you can imagine this blogger’s relief to find it all at Frederick, Martine, and Emilie Dulles’ Tradd Street home, where they were hosting a press brunch for Spoleto press and artists. The blogger noshed to his heart’s hungover content, and eased the ache with a trip or two to the bar. In between, there were enough Spoleto bigwigs to throw an impromptu chamber concert: music director Emmanuel Villaume, Christine Abraham, Nicole Cabell, and Frédéric Antoun from Roméo et Juliette; pianist Andrew von Oeyen, and Nmon Ford, to drop just a few names.

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Afterward, I was back at Emmett Robinson Theatre at 2 pm for the final performance of ASzURe & Artists’ dance program, which I found one of the highlights of the festival to date. Dancer and choreographer Aszure Barton is awfully young to have experienced such success, but the Baryshnikov protége has by all accounts earned it, making a name for herself in film, on stages around the country, and even on Brodaway with the current revival of Threepenny Opera, which she choreographed.

It’s impossible to talk about the first work in the program, Lascilo Perdere: A Journey of Letting Go, without mentioning what everyone else mentions when they discuss it: one of the young female dancers spends about four minutes with the tongue of another male dancer clenched firmly between her teeth, all the while being swung about in a dance that includes an overhead lift. Call it a gimmick if you like, but nobody at the matinee was sleeping during it.

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Sunday evening saw me at Don Giovanni redux, where our Speedo-clad protagonist finds that “being loyal to just one is cruel to so many others,” as the Don tells faithful flunky, Leporillo.As much as you’ve probably heard about Don Giovanni, it’s impossible to convey not just how unorthodox a production it is but how beautiful. From the very beginning, director Gunther Kramer is poking holes in operatic convention: after the Sinfonia, one of the orchestra’s violin players begins to sing, slowly rising and stripping off his dress blacks to reveal that he’s Leporillo (Brian Banion), the Don’s fair-weather flunky. Once Banion’s shed his orchestra duds, he takes a place beside Emmanuel Villaume and pretends to mock-conduct the orchestra until Villaume shoves him aside.

Even without the remarkable music, though, the set design at the Memminger is ravishing. There have evidently been changes to the lighting design this year. I can’t point them out specifically, but the whole effect of being in the theatre during the opera is of having stepped into a J. W. waterhouse painting. Don Giovanni is immersive opera in both a figurative and a breathtakingly literal sense.

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