By Carol Norris
Cincinnati Ballet is closing out the season this weekend with two of its most popular ballets - Carmina Burana and Serenade - two complete opposites.
George Balanchine's Serenade takes Tchaikovsky's "Serenade in C Major" for strings and romanticizes a dance in the light of the moon. Although it developed during the course of ballet classes he taught in 1934, it is both timeless and masterful. While not slavish to the luscious string score Tchaikovsky has written (interpreted beautifully by the ballet orchestra), Balanchine has created a visualization of the music nonetheless, with a romanticist's understanding of the music.
He's written that there is no story, but like everyone else, I have my own ideas. Balanchine, who's known to have fallen in love with more than one of his ballerinas (and married a few, too) seems to have created a fantasy world where gorgeous women dance like angels, let down their long hair and contend for the leading male's attention.
In soft, flowing ballet skirts originally designed by Barbara Karinska, the women are led brilliantly by Kristi Capps, Mishic Marie Corn and Lorna Feijoo, who captures the eye with her remarkable clarity.
The erotic Carmina Burana pushes you to the edge of your seat from its first powerful notes to the last. Set to Carl Orff's choral theater piece, John Butler's 1959 work still scorches today.
Although it includes poems written by Bavarian monks, the work is secular, not sacred. With obvious couplings and dancers in various stages of undress throughout, these monks no doubt were in the confessional often telling of their unclean thoughts.
The leading males - Jay Goodlett and Nelson Madrigal - are in their elements in this work - Goodlett for a dramatic and commanding presence and Madrigal for fluidity and ease. His range is such that he throws off incredible leg extensions and torso isolations without a care. Feijoo and Corn, leading females, match the men in their intensity.
Vocal soloists John Michael Koch, Cecily Nall and Paul Sperry fill Music Hall with their wonderful voices, backed by the Miami University Collegiate Chorale under the direction of Ethan Sperry.
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