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The Philadelphia Ballet is set to perform a trio of neoclassical ballet works with Bold, Brilliant, Balanchine. The program features two of Balanchine’s biggest ballets: Symphony in C, set to the music of George Bizet, and Stars and Stripes, Balanchine’s celebration of the marches of John Philip Sousa. Divertimento no. 15 rounds out the program. For Bold, Brilliant, Balanchine, Philadelphia Ballet’s artistic director Angel Corella promises fireworks. “I wanted to bring ballets that are really fun to watch, high energy,” he said.
More than a spark
Symphony in C is perhaps the most interesting of the three. Balanchine created it as Le Palais de Cristal in 1947 during a brief stint as ballet master of the Paris Opera—a post held by Serge Lifar until his ouster as a collaborator in World War II. The war left the company in disarray, and Balanchine was part of a new start that included this ballet in the classical Russian style, but with his trademark speed, precision, and musicality. The music was also both old and new: Bizet wrote the symphony when he was 17 but it remained unknown until its rediscovery in the 1930s, decades after his death. The ballet delivers the fireworks, but watch for the second movement—the choreography seems to float on the haunting oboe solo.
Corella calls Stars and Stripes uplifting: “just pure American fireworks and enjoyment.” Set as five “campaigns” or regiments, each with its own Sousa theme, the ballet reflects Balanchine’s fascination with mythic America. In the 1950s, the Cold War was heating up and Balanchine, an immigrant from Russia, cast his lot with his new country in ballets that celebrated the Wild West of Western Symphony and a red, white, and blue Fourth of July for Stars and Stripes. These are complicated times, and I expect the piece will land differently now than it would have even a month ago. But the exuberance of the music and the choreography is an irresistible reminder that we are a nation that shapes and is shaped by the creative force of immigrants.
Balanchine loved Mozart, and the Divertimento no. 15 in particular. Corella describes the piece as “playful, with all the different couples,” so expect the duets and the solos to rule.
The program is ambitious. According to Corella, “Usually you do one big [ballet] and then two small; we are doing two big and one medium.” So you can expect to see the whole company on stage for Symphony in C and Stars and Stripes. As Corella said, “I don’t want to hide anyone.”
Audiences can catch this and the rest of the regular season at the Academy of Music, now the company’s home for all but its annual world premiere series, which will continue at the Perelman theater.
What, When, Where
Bold, Brilliant, Balanchine. Choreography by George Balanchine. Philadelphia Ballet; presented by the Academy of Music. $25-$199. March 17-20, 2022, at the Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia. (215) 893-1999 or philadelphiaballet.org.
The Academy of Music is an ADA-compliant venue. Covid-19 requirements are posted online.
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