Saturday, February 13, 2016

Nutcracker Score

A few thoughts for which I didn't have space in today's review of the musical slice of Pennsylvania Ballet's The Nutcracker:

Nutcracker Score

CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

A few thoughts for which I didn't have space in today's review of the musical slice of Pennsylvania Ballet's The Nutcracker:

- It's terribly jarring to hear that stretch of non-Nutcracker music in the first act scene change. This is a Balanchine addition - this violin solo from The Sleeping Beauty - and the Balanchine Trust is orthodox in its enforcement of certain production elements. But times have changed. There's the question of being true to Tchaikovsky, too, and it's time to restore the score to its original state. The re-arrangement of the order of certain dances? Balanchine's moving of the bell chimes to another spot in the score? These are small transgressions compared to the intrusion of an entirely different piece.

- There's a lot of concern these days about finding ways to more deeply engage audiences, and after Friday night's production a line of fans waited near the Academy of Music's Green Room to catch sight of dancers leaving the hall. Ushers broke up the crowd, giving patrons the "move along, nothing to see" treatment. Here was a group of self-identifying ballet fans - some children - who wanted to connect with dance in a more meaningful way. They were asked to leave. Big lost opportunity. (BTW, about the Mouse King in the lobby offering $20 for a photo of your child on the lap of the large rodent: that's not engagement, it's a revenue center.)

- It's time for more renovations to the Academy of Music. Not only should the orchestra pit be enlarged for a bigger ensemble, but the golden mural above the newly restored chandelier is in a sorry state (note the plaster patches). The mural was spruced up a few years ago, but now what it needs is a full-scale restoration.

- The Blythe Danner-narrated Academy of Music show before the show is a step in the right direction. But it's slim on content. The lights are lowered, and you hear the Philadelphia actress telling you a bit about the building as certain architectural elements are individually lighted. But those walls could do more talking. In a city of great musical history, there's much more.

The Nutcracker is a critical point of entry - the first ballet for many children, the first visit to the Academy of Music for some parents, a first encounter with a great musical score for a lot of listeners. Shouldn't audiences be dazzled by the entire experience?

Inquirer Classical Music Critic
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About this blog

Peter Dobrin is a classical music critic and culture writer for The Inquirer. Since 1989, he has written music reviews, features, news and commentary for the paper, covering such topics as the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the Venice Biennale, expansion of the Curtis Institute of Music, the Philadelphia Orchestra's bankruptcy declaration in 2011, Philadelphia's evolving performing arts center and the general health of arts and culture.

Dobrin was a French horn player. He earned an undergraduate degree in performance from the University of Miami, and received a master's degree in music criticism from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied with Elliott Galkin. He has no time to practice today.

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