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New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theatre, NYC
September 30–October 6, 2010
Reviewed by Susan Yung
Boy meets girl: Fairchild and Veyette in The Magic Flute. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtsey NYCB.
The most indelible memories that remain after watching Peter Martins’ The Magic Flute are of the broad smiles worn by the lead couple, Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette. They seemed heartfelt, not merely a stylistic courtesy, as is the case with many of the NYCB dancers, particularly the corps women. Who could resist grinning through the antics of this winking spoof on romantic ballet, which feels like a patchwork of every boy-meets-girl warhorse since Ivanov, who in fact choreographed a version in 1893? (Martins created this version, which has no direct relation to the famous Mozart opera, for the School of American Ballet Workshop in 1981; NYCB last performed it in 1983.) Even the sets (by David Mitchell) and costumes (by Ben Benson) contribute to the cartoon-like feel, with their crayon colors and graphic black lines. Best to sit back and enjoy it, picking out the numerous plot twists familiar from a number of sources.
The beginning recalls Don Quixote, wherein ingénue Lise (the perfectly cast Fairchild) falls in love with the peasant Luke (Veyette), despite her parents’ plans to marry her off to the buffoon Marquis (Adam Hendrickson, in a wicked slapstick turn). Luke shows kindness to a hermit, who gives him a flute that, when played, makes everyone dance unwillingly in several hysterical, chaotic scenes. (The flute is somewhat less than magically conveyed via a signboard lowered from the rafters.) Of course, this power convinces all to permit the couple in love to marry. Logic may not prevail, but happy endings do.
It’s a lot to pack into a one-act ballet, but Martins used a light, jocular touch that manages to pay respect to the art form while hurling spitballs at some of its conventions, like mime and plot. He is a musical choreographer, and here, to a score by Riccardo Drigo, the short scenes and the underlying structure of the story allowed him to create organic phrases that flow with the music. In some of Martins’ works, his dancers can struggle with the speed and accuracy he demands, but they looked comfortable here.
Fairchild brought to her coquette accomplished, clean technique, and Veyette clearly relished the bravura aspects of his roguish character. The corps danced and acted enthusiastically in group scenes, and it was gratifying to see the dancers with larger roles reveling in their portrayals. This company, best known for its plotless ballets, has recently performed several narrative works. The Magic Flute joins those ranks to provide an even broader showcase for the company’s talented dancers.