Ballet Estable del Teatro Colón

February 1, 2013

Ballet Estable del Teatro Colón

Teatro Colón
Buenos Aires, Argentina

October 31, 2002

Reviewed by Paula Durbin

Tough times here reduced the 2002 spring season of the Ballet Estable del Teatro Colón to a bare handful of performances, but this didn’t keep the troupe from delivering a fabulous treat on Halloween: Swan Lake in all its glory.

These dancers look the best they have in decades, and they’re on a roll despite Argentina’s economic and political disarray and Ballet Estable’s own problems. The company, the oldest in South America, has, after all, spent the past half-century mired in politics, bureaucracy, and overprotective labor practices that limit rehearsal time, control casting, and delay retirement to age 63, severely limiting the infusion of new blood from the institution’s excellent professional school. And the Colón’s long tradition as an opera house too has often relegated its dancers to bench-sitting while the singers moved center stage.

At least some of the credit for the October triumph should go to former American Ballet Theatre principal Ricardo Bustamante, who briefly directed the ballet from 1998 to 1999. Bucking the system cost him his job, but he lasted long enough to spark the unstoppable growth of some of the talent so evident in this recent performance.

Colón’s current director, Cuban ballerina Marta García, and her husband and rehearsal assistant, Orlando Salgado, also a veteran of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, have been praised and chided for tinkering with Marius Petipa’s venerable warhorse�streamlining some sequences, fleshing out characters, splicing Tchaikovsky’s score (adroitly conducted by Carlos Calleja), compressing the four acts into three, and crafting a happy ending. Intentionally or not, the liberties taken with the original allowed two male soloists to shine.

To display the considerable gifts of the budding virtuosi alternating in the part, Act I featured a court jester who introduced each variation and entrance with a burst of acrobatic bravura, often to silence since even the tweaked score couldn’t accommodate this innovation. Leonardo Reale’s fascinatingly off-kilter gymnastics made him the first act’s star�distracting from the story unfolding, but also from an initially uneven male corps and, in the pas de trois, the shaky support José María Varela provided to Laura Beccaceci and Marta Desperés. both strong, clean artists.

Strapping, athletic Jorge Amarante, resplendent in shimmering green feathers that matched Ricardo Reymena’s gorgeous, opalescent set, had a full-blown dance role as the evil enchanter Rothbart, who became all the more sinister because of the interpreter’s bulk. Attempts to beef up the role of Prince Siegfried, here Dalmiro Astesiano, were less successful. But so what? Swan Lake belongs to the women in the white scenes anyway, and the Ballet Estable’s female corps provided much more than an enhancement to the central pas de deux as it shaped itself into pure classic poetry. Leading them as Odette, Gabriela Alberti evinced an ethereal grace that recalled the Bolshoi’s Natalia Bessmertnova, only lankier and leggier. The role suits Alberti well, with her fluttery bourées, eloquent spine, and regal demeanor, although her endless arabesques penchés dwarfed Astesiano.

The extended third act was also a seamless wonder. Well schooled in the character idiom, the corps sparkled in the national dances. Alberti easily carried the Black Swan tour de force with Artesanio’s generous support. He is a steady partner, but not until the epilogue (what would have been Act IV), when his hurtling leaps drove the villain to his doom in one of the ballet’s best moments, did he get to prove his nobility as a danseur. With love’s victory over evil, Odette, restored to her human form, embraced her hero para siempre, as they say on the pampas.