Masque of the Red Death
I’ve delayed this review by a few days to let my thoughts on the performance settle fully. I came away Saturday gushing praise. I have now ceased to gush and may present a more sedate assessment.
The performance was in two parts. First was The Masque of the Red Death (Masque, hereafter). Masque was choreographed by Robert Weiss. Music was by J. Mark Scearce. Both men excelled. The choreography was seamlessly a translation of Prince Prospero’s party. The music was understated and fit the gradually changing mood of the dance smoothly.
I must single out a few dancers for extraordinary performances.
Richard Krusch – the Red Death – can fly. He uses the ground only to keep some secret government agency from seizing him and studying him in some hidden laboratory. His performance as the Red Death was uncommonly good. In the early stages of the Prince’s party, he moved swiftly and lightly about the stage, hovering, waiting, unseen. Later in the party his movements became forceful, deliberate and, finally, dominant. His abrupt unmasking as the finale was flawless.
Alain Molina – Prince Prospero – is built. Most dancers have a lean wiry strength. Mr. Molina seems to be built more like a college wrestler.This in no way impedes his dancing. I’m freely concede that dancers are athletes. The kind of grace they exhibit and the manner of its exhibition require not just muscle, and musculature, but stamina unmatched in few athletic endeavors. Prince Prospero was the very embodiment of the strength and power that befits a prince. He danced with his Duchess gracefully and in stately fashion. He had my full attention whenever he came to the fore.
Lola Cooper – The Ballerina – made it hard for me to pull my eyes away to see the whole of the dance being performed. Her fluidity and grace were insistent – I was made to watch her. I am a fan. I confess I’ll be watching for her every time I attend the Carolina Ballet.
Masque was well conceived, quite entertaining, and well executed. It was almost sprightly in the beginning, spinning to feverish whirl as midnight (and the Red Death) approached. I found each couple engaging and all of them deserve considerable praise for Saturday’s performance. At times, I found my neck on a swivel as I sought to follow everything or everyone interesting that was happening on-stage.
I was very pleased.
I must make one more observation: The music was augmented superbly by the vocalist who sang some subtle pieces that melded well with the action on-stage. This may have been Christopher Nolan or Al Sturgis. I am at a loss as to how to identify them. The singing, in any event, impressed me. There’s a beautiful and powerful voice in the orchestra pit. I hope to hear it often.
The second offering was Dracula. I have been aware of Dracula as a ballet for many years, but have never seen it nor seen it reviewed. J. Mark Scearce did the music for this performance. The adaptation and choreography was by Lynne Taylor-Corbett. I found the music and the dance fitted the story very well. I must mention Jeff A. R. Jones who did the scenic design. I found it innovative and seamless to the performance. You did a good job, Jeff!
Eugene Barnes was a fleet, menacing Count Dracula. He brought tremendous presence to the performance. I applaud his ability to drive the story. As I watched, I waited for Dracula’s next appearance. Once he had gone, I watched closely to see what everyone would do before his return.
Alan Campbell – Dr. Seward – was narrator and the only voice in the performance. The choice to have him narrate was a good one. Pleasing, articulate, and with a powerful voice that reached the entire theater, but still sounded as though spoken from just before you, Mr. Campbell led us through the ballet.
Pablo Javier Perez – Renfield – had a standout performance. His role was a comedic one and he played it in an animated and energetic fashion. He moves fluidly and very swiftly. I await his future roles with considerable anticipation.
I confess that I found Dracula a bit somber compared to the more sprightly Masque. The dancers were workmanlike in their performances. Some of the dancers seemed a little deadpan. On more than one occasion, it seemed to me that I saw a look of genuine surprise on some dancer when they turned and found their partner precisely where they should be. Despite a few bobbles – and what performance has none – Dracula was enjoyable, sometimes funny, and an all-around good job.
I recommend Masque and Dracula to anyone.
You can see the season’s offerings at http://www.carolinaballet.com/1112season.html
I wish I had a season ticket.