REVIEW:  Mikko Nissinen’s ‘Swan Lake’ returns in riveting and enchanting splendor

Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake will enchant you from the start.

Swan Lake has stood the test of time for generations and it is no mystery why.  Seeped in regal splendor, Swan Lake is a visually-striking portrait of elegance and grandiosity similar to another one of Tchaikovsky’s classics, The Nutcracker. Both known for their iconic scores, mystical elements, and magnificent presentation, but Swan Lake’s sophisticated splendor, dark charm, intricate choreography and mirror image story of true love sets it apart from the rest.  Like The Nutcracker, Swan Lake has a universal appeal and memorable qualities that even those who don’t care for ballet will still enjoy Swan Lake.

Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet

With seamless musical-direction by Mischa Santora, Tchaikovsky’s majestic score navigates a classic tale of love, torment, betrayal, magic, and unbridled joy as Boston Ballet rises out of Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake continuing live and in person at the Citizens Bank Opera House in Boston, Massachusetts through Sunday, June 5. Swan Lake will then stream from the comfort of your home from June 9 through June 19.  Performed in memory of John W. Humphrey, Swan Lake has returned to the Boston Opera House for the first time since Mikko Nissinen re-imagined the ballet in 2016.  This four-act performance has one intermission.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Taking a mysterious and thrilling tone from the start, Swan Lake is a fanciful tale involving sought-after Prince Siegfried, portrayed with zest and charm by Patrick Yocum, who sets his sights on a flock of swans drifting over a misty and enchanted lake.  Swan Queen Odette, portrayed with graceful fragility by Lia Cirio, catches his eye and it is love at first sight.  It soon becomes clear that the swans were once women cursed by sorcerer Von Rothbart, depicted menacingly by Tyson Clark.  Tyson Clark as Rothbart is an incredible and unpredictable force as he athletically and perilously tears through the mist as Prince Siegfried vows to set Odette free.

Golden-braided, ornate headpieces, flowing pastel garments, parasols, garlands, exquisitely feathered tutus and pristine crowns are just a glimpse into Robert Perdziola’s opulent and meticulously-detailed, handmade costumes that enrich the lush and picturesque royal garden setting as well as the haunting mirror image and mystical lake bathed in luminous blue moonlight by lighting designer Mark Stanley.

Marked by such precision, Mikko Nissinen’s choreography is ballet at its finest.   Emily Entingh and Sage Humphries are visually-stunning rising gracefully and beautifully fluttering out of the mist.  A gathering of cygnets demonstrate perfect synchronicity as they glide in lithe, delicate strokes.  The swans are ethereal and immaculate as they simultaneously rise exquisitely out of a swallowing mist.  It still stands as one of the beautiful displays of ballet I have ever seen.

Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake; photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy of Boston Ballet

In the castle gardens, dancers whimsically join together in a feast dance with goblets and joyfully present the prince with rich garlands.  While the castle garden depicts almost a dreamlike setting, an equally opulent ballroom with vast ceilings lit in red later depict a livelier setting as a  grand and dynamic lineup of guests gather to charm the kingdom including princesses, czardas, and Neapolitans.

Patrick Yocum is impressive as Prince Siegfried as he evokes loneliness and melancholy in an emotive and carefully-executed variation and then later in a flawless and joyful dance as if floating across the stage.  Light and dark in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is demonstrated impeccably in Lia Cirio in a complex, dual role.  As guarded Odette, her every move diligent and yet her statuesque beauty and downcast demeanor enrich her mysterious and powerful presence.  Tingling violin resonates in Tchaikovsky’s emotive score as Cirio and Yocum share a hesitant and sweet encounter.  He tenderly lifts and comforts her at every turn.  Cirio can craftily engage an audience and masters her dual role as mysterious and confident Odile.  That striking look she gives reminded me of the fire she brought to her 2020 performance in Boston Ballet’s Carmen.  Cirio’s cunning smile and playful charisma gleam as Yocum takes her hand playfully and yet, almost possessively in a spellbinding and exhilarating dance.    

Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Swan Lake is such a haunting and beloved tale of tender grace and arduous passion that, like The Nutcracker, it has been adapted in various forms for stage and screen over the years including Darren Aronofsky’s Academy award-winning Black Swan.  Mikko Nissinen has adjusted a few scenarios in Swan Lake since its re-imagining in 2016, but only for its betterment to create an even more thrilling, illuminative and memorable experience.    

Mikko Nissenen’s Swan Lake continues live and in person at the Citizens Bank Opera House in Boston, Massachusetts through Sunday, June 5. Swan Lake will then stream from the comfort of your home from June 9 through June 19. Click here for more information and tickets.

REVIEW: Featuring Grammy award-winning mezzo-soprano Krista River and special guest musicians, A Far Cry ended season with a stirring ‘Sunset’

Having witnessed A Far Cry’s triumphant return to performing live and in person last September as they kicked off their 15th season with Circle of Life, it was an honor and fitting to review Sunset, A Far Cry’s final concert of the season.  Sunset was originally scheduled for March 2020 and this Grammy-nominated, self-directed chamber orchestra was thrilled to finally present it onstage.  With a heartfelt introduction by Sarah Darling, Boston-based A Far Cry brought a diverse repertoire of suspense, tragedy, and soaring vocals by mezzo-soprano Krista River before joining a collection of promising musicians including Project STEP for a robust finale.

A Far Cry criers at Jordan Hall Boston MA Photo credit to A Far Cry

Following opening group Project STEP, A Far Cry took the gorgeous Jordan Hall stage in Boston, MA for their final concert on Friday, May 13 for 90 minutes with no intermission.  A Far Cry will cap off their 15th season with a Spring Soiree on June 1 at the Nathaniel Allen Center for Arts and Culture in Newton, MA.  The event includes a sneak peek of next season, outdoor cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a charity auction with the option to attend in person or virtually.  Click here for more information and here for a look at A Far Cry’s upcoming season.

Grammy-nominated Chamber Orchestra A Far Cry Photo courtesy of A Far Cry

Elegantly dressed in flowing dresses and suits, A Far Cry opened their final concert with all 18 criers for Julius Eastman’s Joy Boy.  A piece likened to the feeling of falling in love, Joy Boy has a trickling and mounting intensity as the orchestra gradually comes to life.  It is fascinating to watch the ebb and flow in Joy Boy’s soothing opening rhythms which escalate to a gripping crescendo before lulling into its resonating finale.

Imagine moments before a stunning discovery in a suspenseful film.  That’s the escalating tension built around Lutoslawski’s fiery Musique Funebre, Spanish for Funeral Music.  A Far Cry performs this chilling and somber dirge with rich, Hitchcockian flair enhanced by a stroke of the viola and plucking, creeping rhythms.  Fueled by searing drama and violin-tinged, pulsing urgency, A Far Cry plays furiously to bring this masterful work to an exciting and astounding climax that might leave you with a few goose bumps by the finale.

‘Il Tramonto Photo credit to Sarah Darling/A Far Cry

Led by Grammy award-winning mezzo-soprano Krista River’s airy and soaring vocals, A Far Cry took on Respighi’s classic piece, Il Tramonto, which is an Italian phrase translated as The Sunset.  It is a popular piece having been featured in films such as the western classic, The Good the Bad and the Ugly.  Adorned in a shimmering blue gray gown with her hair swept into an updo, River’s expressive vocals and her stirring countenance brings out the surreal poignancy of this tragic romance.  Based on a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Il Tramonto has a moving story behind it and possibly inspired by a real life disaster in Indonesia. 

Mezzo-soprano Krista River Photo credit to A Far Cry

A Far Cry recalled how music has been “cathartic journey” and like many in the arts and beyond, the love for the arts has been tested, especially in the last few years.  Joined by promising musicians in New England Conservatory, NEC Prep, and Project STEP, A Far Cry brought this concert to a robust and wondrous close with Vicente Lusitano’s Aspice Domine and Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme, the latter dedicated to an inspiring teacher that encouraged young musicians to pursue their musical aspirations.  Highlighted by a duo of skilled violinists, this group of musicians brought A Far Cry’s 15th season to a glorious close with a mix of fragility, power, and a stirring finale.

Students in Project STEP Photo credit to Project STEP/A Far Cry

A Far Cry will cap off their 15th season with a Spring Soiree on June 1 at the Nathaniel Allen Center for Arts and Culture in Newton, MA.  The event includes a sneak peek of next season, outdoor cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a charity auction with the option to attend in person or virtually.  Click here for more information and here for a look at A Far Cry’s upcoming season.

REVIEW:  Boston Ballet’s elegant and edgy ‘DREAMstate’ a fascinating departure from reality

From classically fanciful to electrifying to distinctive, unconventional artistry, the Boston Ballet’s DREAMstate is an astute exploration of the delicate nature of dreams and a fascinating escape from reality.  Aside from Boston Ballet’s traditional Nutcracker in December, Mikko Nissinen’s DREAMstate is the first live and in person return to Boston Ballet’s regular season since the pandemic.  Excitement was in the air and the Boston Opera House was full.

Boston Ballet in George Balanchine’s Chaconne © The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Liza Voll; courtesy of Boston Balle

Boston Ballet’s DREAMstate continues through Sunday, March 27 at live and in person at the Citizen’s Bank Opera House in Boston, MA.  The show is approximately two hours with two intermissions and the final piece contains partial nudity.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Rolling Stones tribute DEVIL’s/eye Photo credit to Boston Ballet

Though all three Boston Ballet pieces had its highlights, the stellar world premiere of Boston Ballet’s tribute to the Rolling Stones, DEVIL’S/eye was the most uniquely compelling.  Weaving in live concert elements and classic hits such as Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Paint it Black and much more, dancers take the stage in shadow bathed in purple, red, yellow, pink, and blue glimmering from an incredible, multi-functional sound system lit by Brandon Stirling Baker.  With exhilarating choreography and edgy and exotic costume design both by Stephen Galloway, lively dancers in silk, sequins, fishnets and windswept hair complete the full glamour of a rock and roll concert showing off thrilling, contemporary freestyle moves.  The entire performance is an electrifying spectacle as dancers let loose to the Stones concert footage with epic alicicone spins, but a brief pause in the guitar-tinged, horn-infused rhythms showing off each dancer’s glowing silhouette cannot be properly conveyed here and those sensational moments are best witnessed in person.

George Balanchine’s Chaconne brings to life a regal and fanciful daydream to the heavenly sounds of the Christoph Willibald von Gluck opera, Orfeo ed Euridice.  Elegantly adorned in a flowing and ethereal skirt and crown by Barbara Karinska in front of tranquil green blue backdrop, the always fresh-faced and charming Viktorina Kapitonova performed a beautiful and romantic pas de deux with Lasha Khozashvili, dressed in white.  Khozashvili lifts and leads Kapitonova delicately as they sporadically intertwine.  The piece is primarily playful as dancers bow and sway in gleaming, royal costumes as they float along this lighthearted daydream, the flutter of slippers sweeping across the stage.

Misa Kuranaga and Patrick Yocum in George Balanchine’s Chaconne © The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Liza Voll; courtesy of Boston Ballet

The final piece is probably one of the most unconventional performances the Sleepless Critic has ever witnessed with the Boston Ballet because after a brief intermission, the piece begins before the music starts and dancers are already in motion as the rehearsal blurs into the performance.

Altan Dugaraa, Sarah Wroth, Yury Yanowsky in Jiří Kylián’s Bella Figura; photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy of Boston Ballet

 Jiri Kylian’s Bella Figura, a fan favorite, often departs from reality and the structure of how a performance would normally flow.  In many ways, it bucks tradition as the dancers float and slide between closing curtains as Seo Hye Han, topless, wraps herself in only a black stage curtain.  Bella Figura has some captivating choreographed indignation and intensity as Ji Young Chae struggles not to be held or controlled by Paul Craig, shaking Craig away.  Bella Figura seems an abstract piece with haunting and mysterious elements as female dancers are manipulated in sharp, robotic movements.   It seems Bella Figura represents the vision of a perfect female specimen as women bend under the intensity and pressure to be perfect.  In gathering rich red skirts, men and women, all topless and all looking the same, glide along the stage.  It is a memorable, distinctive performance as the piece continues even as the music concludes.

 Boston Ballet’s DREAMstate continues through Sunday, March 27 at live and in person at the Citizen’s Bank Boston Opera House.  Click here for more information and tickets.

REVIEW: Boston Lyric Opera’s season opener ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ a passionate and magnificent affair

Not even Easter Sunday can stop a scandal in the Sicilian countryside.

Featuring distinct, eye-popping costumes, a glorious Opera Chorus led Brett Hodgdon, and a full orchestra, Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) opened their season on a grand scale with the renowned one act Italian libretto, Cavalleria Rusticana for just two performances on October 1 and 3.  Boston Lyric Opera was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd anticipating BLO’s return to a live venue for 18 months.  Delivered on a concert scale, Cavalleria Rusticana was presented under Leader Bank Pavilion’s open air tent in the Seaport District in Boston, Massachusetts.  It ran for 1 hour and 10 minutes with no intermission.

JAVIER ARREY AS ALFIO WITH DANCERS VICTORIA L. AWKWARD, MICHAYLA KELLY, AND MARISSA MOLINAR Photo by Liza Voll/Boston Lyric Opera

Loyalty, love, honor, and faith are tested among this group of passionate players.  Led by Music Director David Angus, the seemingly joyous overture delivers an exciting rush woven into a sense of foreboding, hinting at turmoil among still waters on the holiest of days, Easter Sunday.  Introducing the libretto is an interactive and unparalleled performance of Pagliacci’s Prologue by Javier Arrey.  Taking a reflective, humorous, and philosophical tone addressing the audience over what they are about to see, Cavalleria Rusticana becomes a passionate and cautionary tale, pleading about the affects of love and the human spirit.

Julia Noulin-Merat’s standalone set pieces, including overturned chairs piled high in pale pink as well as bright yellow chairs lining the stage, pop as does Gail Astrid Buckley’s distinct, vivid costumes with blooming flowers set against the orchestral backdrop depicting the emergence of a Sicilian spring. 

CHELSEA BASLER AS LOLA WITH DANCER MICHAYLA KELLY Photo by Liza Voll/Boston Lyric Opera

It is easy to get invested in these headstrong characters and Cavalleria Rusticana hits the ground running steeped in a complex love affair as the sacredness of Easter surrounds them, emphasized by ethereal dancers Victoria Awkward, Michayla Kelly, and Marissa Molinar and the swelling of the Boston Lyric Chorus’s powerful and spiritual lyrics.

Michelle Johnson as conflicted Santuzza leads this magnificent cast, delivering a splendid, heartrending performance.  Filled with sorrow and longing, Johnson’s tremendous vocals and her searing confrontation with Turiddo, portrayed with a charismatic yet manipulative mystique by Adam Diegel, show Johnson is a force to be reckoned with.  Chelsea Basler depicts alluring and complicated Lola with infuriating and masterful charm and the heart of the show lies with loyal and compassionate Nina Yoshida Nelsen as Mamma Lucia who observes it all much like the audience, with bated breath.

The show is delivered entirely in Italian and with subtitles at significant parts of the production.  However, for someone who does not know Italian and with a production so captivating, it is difficult having to forego not knowing every single word spoken from this enthralling cast.

Cavallaria Rusticana takes place in 1900’s Sicily and yet this opera is as timeless as any contemporary story told today and a perfect choice to open Boston Lyric Opera’s new season which includes virtual and live and in-person performances including jazz-themed opera Champion and Svadba through operabox.tv.  Click here for more information and a closer look at BLO’s new season.

Kristen H. Tremblay talks role in Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s ‘Cabaret’ to kick off 70th anniversary season

Hingham Civic Music Theatre (HCMT) is thrilled to kick off their 70th anniversary.  Over the past 7 decades, The Wizard of Oz, Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma, Young Frankenstein, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and The Sound of Music are just a few of the wide range of musical productions HCMT has produced on the South Shore of Massachusetts.  They are launching their milestone season with award-winning spring musical, Cabaret, a captivating musical which celebrated its 50th anniversary just a couple of years ago.

HCMT Cabaret poster

Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

Set in the Kit Kat Club in Berlin, Germany as the Nazi Party was rising to power, Cabaret focuses on nightclub girl Sally who becomes embroiled in a love triangle.  Winner of multiple Tony awards, Cabaret is known for its glamorous dance numbers while dealing with serious issues of the era.  The 1972 film was directed by dance legend Bob Fosse and starred Liza Minnelli in her star making role.  This show is not intended for children and contains mature themes.

Sleepless Critic caught up with Kristen H. Tremblay who will make her HCMT debut as Sally Bowles in Cabaret for two weekends only from Friday, April 20 through Sunday, April 29 at Sanborn Auditorium in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.

HCMT Kristen as Sally

Kristen H. Tremblay as Sally Bowles

Sleepless Critic:  How does it feel to star in the first show of Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s 70th season?  It is quite a milestone.

Kristen H. Tremblay:  I’m so thrilled to be playing a leading role in such a great show as part of this wonderful theater group’s 70th anniversary season! A very special honor for sure!

SC:  What do you like most about being part of Hingham Civic Music Theatre?

KHT:  This is my first production with Hingham Civic Music Theatre. They have such a wonderful reputation and it’s been great getting to know everyone in the group.

SC:  This season also includes the beloved musical, Annie this fall.  You star as Sally Bowles in Cabaret.  Have you ever done this show before?  What was the audition process like for you?

KHT:  I’m a classical soprano and usually play roles very different from Sally. As I get older, I’m trying to challenge myself by going out for roles that might be a stretch for me creatively. Sally Bowles is a complicated, meaty character and love every moment in her shoes.

I auditioned to challenge myself and because I have known the director, Nathan Fogg, for years and think he does great work. I didn’t think I had a shot at getting Sally, but felt really positive about my audition. The day after the audition, I was in line at the grocery store when I got the call. I was shocked and incredibly thrilled.

SC:  The multiple Tony award-winning musical, Cabaret celebrated its 50th anniversary a couple of years ago.  It is a unique musical with memorable songs such as Maybe This Time, Wilkommen, and its famous title track, Cabaret.  What was most challenging about this role?

KHT:  Sally is an iconic character in musical theater. There’s some intimidation associated with the pressure of doing her justice!  She has many sides to her and many intriguing levels. It’s been fun exploring how best to portray her.

HCMT Cabaret production photo 2

Aaron Stolicker as Emcee with cast in production photo

SC:  How has it been putting the show together?

KHT:  I adore everyone in this cast. They are such a fantastic group of kind, talented, and hard working people. We are having a blast and we all have deeply bonded. No question I’ve made lasting friendships.

SC:  What is the best reason one should see Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s Cabaret?

KHT:  Cabaret is a very different theatrical experience unlike anything else out there right now. It will not disappoint!  It’s edgy, honest, shocking, funny, and thought provoking.

Directed by Nathan Fogg, Hingham Civic Music Theatre proudly presents their spring musical, Cabaret for two weekends from Friday, April 20 through Sunday, April 29 at the Sanborn Auditorium, 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Click here to take advantage of “Facebook Friday” offer exclusively for the April 20 performance.  Use password “pineapple” to get a pair of tickets for 35 dollars.  Follow HCMT on Facebook.

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Company Theatre proudly presents the uplifting musical comedy, ‘Sister Act the Musical’

With an incredible lineup of catchy, uplifting songs by Academy award-winning composer Alan Menken, Company Theatre proudly presents the hilarious musical comedy, Sister Act the Musical from Friday, March 17 through Sunday, April 9 at the Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts.  Based on the 1992 smash hit film starring Whoopi Goldberg, Sister Act the Musical is a humorous, inspiring story about loyalty, friendship, and discovering what is really important.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Set in Philadelphia, lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier finds herself in a terrible predicament and needs protection.  She finds it in a convent with a group of dutiful nuns led by rigid Mother Superior, but she has never felt more out of place until the power of music steps in.  Featuring a cast that will bring audiences joyfully to their feet, see Sister Act the Musical from Friday, March 17 through Sunday, March 19 then Wednesdays through Sundays through April 9.

Company Theatre Sister Act 2

‘Sister Act the Musical’ cast Photo courtesy of Michelle McGrath/Company Theatre

Sister Act the Musical is part of Company Theatre’s stellar 2017 season which includes Disney’s The Little Mermaid with an adult cast this summer.  Auditions will be held on May 3.  Click here for audition details.

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Company Theatre presents Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ this summer. Courtesy of the Company Theatre

Other highlights of the season include the psychological thriller, Lizzie Borden in October and the holiday family musical comedy, Company for the Holidays in December.  All performances take place at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.  Get discount tickets on Family & Friends Fridays. Click here, call the box office at 781-871-2787 for tickets or email sally@companytheatre.com for more information.  Follow the Company Theatre on Facebook.

South Shore Conservatory offers spring classes for young students in March

From learning music instruments to singing, dancing, exercise, theatrical play and more, South Shore Conservatory has a stellar reputation of immersing students of all ages in a wide spectrum of exciting activities as the spring warmth approaches.  Ranging from basic to more advanced skill levels, spring registration is now open for young children with Music Together and Music Sprouts programs starting on March 13. South Shore Conservatory is located at convenient locations on the South Shore of Massachusetts. Click here for a list of classes available.

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Young students enjoying Music Together class at South Shore Conservatory, image by Michelle McGrath PR

A few of the classes offered for children ages 0 through 9 are Time TrainMusic SproutsDrum and SingCreative DanceHip HopTot YogaBallet, Move and Groove Music Therapy Group, Piano FUNdamentals, Curtain Going UpPrimo Voice Class, and Let’s Put on a Show.  South Shore Conservatory also offers classes for ages 10 through 18 such as Rock BandFiddle ClassSaturday Stage ClubPop Rock Vocal Tech, and Let’s Put on a Show.  Take part in adult classes such as Adult Rock Band, Golden VoicesSSC Community VoicesAdult Jazz Workshop, and Shake Your Soul. Classes are also available for dance and musical instruments at beginner levels.

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Drum class at South Shore Conservatory Photo courtesy of Michelle McGrath and South Shore Conservatory

South Shore Conservatory has created a comfortable, inspiring, and exciting learning environment for students at all levels at their Duxbury and Hingham campuses.  Satellite classes are offered at the South Shore Community Center in Cohasset, Massachusetts. South Shore Conservatory also offers financial aid. For further details and to register, call Early Childhood Program Coordinator Jana Kahn at 781-749-7565 ext. 33 or online at sscmusic.org.

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South Shore Conservatory partners with the American Ballet Theatre. Photo Courtesy of Michelle McGrath and South Shore Conservatory

Click here to learn about all of South Shore Conservatory’s upcoming events.  Follow South Shore Conservatory on Facebook and Twitter.