REVIEW: Boston Ballet presents William Forsythe’s brilliantly compelling ‘Artifact’

World-renowned choreographer William Forsythe, dressed in a baseball cap and modest attire, addressed an eager, mesmerized audience in a post-show talk with Boston Ballet’s acclaimed Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen after the evening performance of William Forsythe’s Artifact on Saturday, March 25.  Mikko Nissinen introduced Forsythe with enthusiasm and said that working with him has been a lifelong dream fulfilled.  William Forsythe and Boston Ballet’s Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen have a five-year partnership, working together to establish each season’s performances, highlighting one of Forsythe’s exceptional works each year.

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The Boston Ballet Photo courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor/Boston Ballet

Friendly and unassuming, Forsythe spoke about his beautifully-unconventional production, Artifact, a piece he created over 30 years ago and a work that audiences and critics alike have embraced ever since.  Veiled on the Boston Opera House stage and enhanced with minimal props, lies a complex, timeless, and thought-provoking masterpiece which makes a powerful statement on the essence of the art of ballet.  Shown in its full length, Forsythe revised Artifact’s finale specifically for the Boston Ballet, which is a thrilling, compelling spectacle that blends classical and contemporary dance in a unique way.

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Boston Ballet presents ‘Artifact’ Photo courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor/Boston Ballet

Boston Ballet presents William Forsythe’s Artifact through Sunday, March 5 at the Boston Opera House.  Click here for tickets, call 617-695-6955, or visit the Boston Ballet box office at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Take a closer look at William Forsythe’s Artifact here.

Blending humor, philosophy, drama, and a wide range of traditional and contemporary ballet, William Forsythe’s Artifact, since the show was introduced, set a significant precedent in the inspiring works that followed.  A production packed with a wide range of welcome surprises, each distinct character offers their own insight into this mysterious tale.  Featuring a shimmering backdrop that matched the majestic, glittering black gown worn by Dana Caspersen, a statuesque woman in grey portrayed by Caralin Curcio, and a dapper, yet frustrated older man with megaphone portrayed by Nicholas Champion, Artifact is an intensely fascinating work from its start.

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Raina Sawai as Woman in Gray and Nicholas Champion as Man with Megaphone

Caspersen’s performance is  full of jubilance and inquisitiveness from the moment she welcomed the audience with a peerless smile.  Curcio delivers a haunting, athletic, and captivating non-verbal performance, her movements sharp, poised, and vigorous while she appears in unexpected places.  Dignified and authoritative, Champion’s dynamic performance boasts comedic moments, especially in his interaction with Caspersen.  While Champion’s musings are incomprehensible and muffled, Caspersen’s seem philosophical and poetic.

Artifact, divided into four parts like a symphony, features piano by Margot Kazimirska and delves into a full range of emotions as the piano seems to have a mind of its own, often breaking convention.  The music, featuring J.S. Boch: Chaconne from Partita Nr. 2 BWV 1004 in D-Minor by Nathan Milstein, Sound Collage by William Forsythe, and music from composer and pianist Eva Crossman-Hecht, progresses from playful to somber then frantic to rhythmic.

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Sao Hye Han and Paul Craig in William Forsythe’s ‘Artifact’ Photo courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

Dressed in rich, vibrant color and launching into choreography ranging from romantic and sweeping to freestyle to stiff and regimented, the Boston Ballet often break convention under the direction of Curcio.  A few of the highlights are ballet dancers breaking away into romantic, sweeping duets as they spin, sway, and soar.  With a verbal countdown, they perform intrinsic dance combinations such as a row of dancers drop to the floor in unison, embracing.  Another thrilling highlight is the ballet directs the curtain to lift and close, creating snapshots of various, choreographed scenes.  As Artifact culminates into an unpredictable, uplifting, and magnificent finale, unified dancers are as mesmerizing as the dancers breaking away into frantic, dynamic arrangements, performing pirouettes to a wild rhythm, blossoming into a new entity.

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Seo Hye Han and the Boston Ballet in ‘Artifact’ Photo courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor/Boston Ballet

Click here for tickets, call 617-695-6955, or visit the Boston Ballet box office at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Subscriptions and group rates are also available. Follow the Boston Ballet on Twitter.

The Boston Ballet’s 2017-18 season boasts masterful works such as Kylian/Wings of Wax from March 23 through April 2, Robbins/The Concert from May 5 through May 27, Obsidian Tear from November 3 through November 12, and the return of Tchaikovsky’s beloved holiday classic, Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker from November 24 through December 31, 2017.  Click here for a closer look at all of Boston Ballet’s 2017-18 season highlights.

New England Philharmonic President Ann Teixeira talks anniversary concert, NEP’s future plans, & more

New England Philharmonic President Ann Teixeira is often encouraging music lovers to broaden their horizons.  From taking field trips to see the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to becoming the President of the New England Philharmonic (NEP), Ann became a music lover at a young age having been exposed to a variety of music throughout her life.  The NEP offers a unique blend of contemporary and traditional classical music, which has enraptured audiences for decades.

The New England Philharmonic has a great deal to celebrate.  Led by Music Director Richard Pittman, who is starting his 20th anniversary year, New England Philharmonic presents its 40th Anniversary Concert:   A Child of Our Time. This exciting concert, featuring a number of special guests, soloists, and musicians, takes place at the Tsai Performance Center at Boston University on Saturday, March 4 at 8 p.m.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Ann Teixeira gives an inside look at the NEP orchestra, shares her music background, fond memories with the New England Philharmonic, and NEP’s future plans.   The New England Philharmonic thrives on the support of the community.  Click here to support the NEP, sign up for their newsletter for upcoming performances, and more.

Jeanne Denizard:  What first inspired your love for music and what led you to pursue a career in the music industry?

Ann Teixeira:  I was fortunate to grow up in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan with an excellent and well-funded school system.  We took field trips to Detroit to hear the Detroit Symphony, attend plays, and visit the art museum.  I participated in music and art classes at school and had friends who took piano lessons, ballet, and acting.  That gave me a great deal of exposure to the arts and I found myself attracted to music.

By the time I was in junior high school, I was part of a music club and we attended performances.  I also took piano lessons until my piano teacher told my parents it was not a good use of their money.  That didn’t dampen my interest in music, but it did puncture a hole in my balloon.  Growing up in the 1950s, I was always exposed to classical music and the only contemporary or popular music I heard was on the radio.

JD:  Please tell me how you first got involved with New England Philharmonic.

AT:  At intermission at the Boston Symphony, I often chatted with a man I worked with a number of years ago and he was on the NEP board.  Seeing me at Symphony, he thought I might be interested in joining the board of an orchestra and asked if I’d be interested.  He told me about NEP and the rest is history.

I had been a member of the Board of Overseers of Opera Boston which had closed down about a year before and was wondering how I might get involved with another music organization.  That was spring 2012, and the New England Philharmonic had distinctive programming like Opera Boston, so I thought it would be a good fit for me.

JD:  What is it like as President of NEP?  I’m sure being part of the arts everyday is an exciting venture with its share of surprises.

AT:  It is interesting, challenging, gratifying, and demanding.  Having a Composer-in-Residence program with a volunteer orchestra, a Call for Scores competition, and a Young Artist Competition, NEP is unusual if not unique.  In Boston’s rich music environment, NEP’s programming, which includes composers and compositions without wide-name recognition and premieres of new works during almost every concert, makes it a constant challenge to attract an audience.  Though reviewers laud the challenge, creativity, and interest of NEP’s programs, it is challenging to fill the hall with people willing to try something new.

The surprise has been the success of the Chamber Players small ensembles from within the orchestra who have been welcomed by major institutions in the area to present chamber concerts, such as the Boston Athenaeum, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Children’s Museum, King’s Chapel, the Newton Library, and the Harvard Business School Chapel among others.  These ensembles are greatly expanding the audience for the NEP, and the musicians love the opportunity to prepare pieces written for quartets, quintets, and septets.

JD:  Do you have any exciting or memorable stories over your time in NEP that you’d like to share?

AT:  Several experiences stand out.  In April 2013, the NEP played former Composer-in-Residence Michael Gandolfi’s Chesapeake: Summer of 1814 which culminated with The Star Spangled Banner which was written in the summer of 1814, a piece just written that summer.  The chorus sings the verse we are know very quietly, and then sings three unfamiliar verses, rising in volume along with the orchestra for each subsequent verse.  It still gives me goose bumps.

Gunther Schuller, a good friend of our Music Director, Dick Pittman, whose music the NEP often played, continued to attend performances throughout his life.  In 2014, he was named NEP Composer Laureate.  The last time he attended a concert and spoke with the audience, he was in a wheelchair and quite weak.  His appearance at our concert may have been his last public appearance.  He died six weeks later.

I remember their fondness for the NEP and the generosity of former Composers-in-Residence who contributed compositions, fanfares to start the three principal concerts this season.  Robert Kyr, the first Composer-in-Residence, wrote a lovely tribute to the longevity of the NEP, its commitment to contemporary music, and the fact that there is only ‘one music.’

I am also so proud  for the NEP that The Boston Globe recognized NEP’s 2012 War Requiem by Benjamin Britten as the ‘best classical performance of 2012’ and ArtsFuse called NEP ‘best local musicians’.

The NEP Chamber Players emerged as a new component of the NEP, enthusiastically supported by musicians who already hold full-time jobs outside the NEP, play in the NEP and sometimes in other orchestras as well.  They have families and are still willing to take on new music in new ensembles playing in new venues, all for NEP’s benefit.

JD:  I understand part of what sets NEP apart from other orchestras is it is an all-volunteer orchestra with a composer-in-residence.  The NEP sets great stock in original, contemporary work and commissions a new work each season from its resident composer.

AT:  Yes, NEP is one of a few all-volunteer orchestras.  Ours is made up of trained musicians, many of them from major university schools of music and nationally-known conservatories who make their living in another profession including research scientists, physicians, a pilot, sales people, music teachers, and many other professions.  Dick Pittman’s challenging music programming requires substantial personal practice between orchestra rehearsals and sometimes section rehearsals.  Their time commitment to the NEP is mind-boggling and impressive.

The Composer-in-Residence and Call for Scores programs were established in 1985. The Call for Scores is an open competition.  Composers are invited to submit a recently composed work without regard to any theme or other programmatic criteria. The Composer-in-Residence writes a new composition each season to be premiered by the NEP, and he judges the compositions submitted to the Call for Scores competition, selecting finalists for review by the Music Director and their joint decision on a winner.

The winner almost always attends and speaks to the audience about the winning piece, when it is performed during the following season.  Thus the Composer in Residence program ensures a minimum of two premieres each season, one a world premiere and the other a Boston or U.S. premiere.

However, it is not unusual for each program during the season to a premiere of a recently composed piece.  Consistent with the NEP’s tagline: ‘Innovation and Tradition in Concert,’ every program includes several contemporary classical music and typically one lesser known or less frequently performed traditional classical piece.

JD:  Please tell me what other works you are looking forward to this season and what are NEP’s future plans?

AT:  Our final concert of this season is on April 29.  We are particularly looking forward to Concertmaster Dani Maddon’s annual performance as soloist for a violin concerto.  This year, it will be the world premiere of Current Composer-In-Residence David Rakowski’s Violin Concerto No.2 written for her to perform on this occasion.  Andy Vores and Bernard Hoffer also have written pieces for Dani to perform.

We also look forward to performing the Boston premiere and Call for Scores 2016 winner, Liliya Ugay’s Oblivion.  Former Composer-in-Residence Peter Child is also contributing a world premiere fanfare to open the concert.

The program is rounded out by Aaron Copland’s Orchestral Variations, Sebastian Currier’s Microsymph and Zoltan Kodaly’s Peacock Variations.  This program should be a wonderful end to the 40th Anniversary season.

New England Philharmonic presents the 40th Anniversary Concert:  A Child of Our Time at the Tsai Performance Center at Boston University on Saturday, March 4 at 8 p.m.  Click here for tickets, how to become a subscriber, and more.