My wife and I attended the Sunday matinee of Oregon Ballet Theatre‘s final performance of the 08-09 season.Â It was an amazing show all around.Â First of all, the sets and lighting were phenomenal.Â The orchestra, under music director Niel DePonte, sounded as good as I’ve ever heard them, which was especially gratifying as the pieces presented were difficult fare. And the dancing…Â What a great ballet company this is – full of depth and artistry and passion.Â The ability of all of the solo dancers to functionally act as well as dance the choreography was exceptional – and I think altogether rare until you get to the top-ranked companies.
Dance is not my area of expertise, so that’s all I’ll say about that, but there are some additional kudos due to the musicians of the Oregon Ballet Theatre Orchestra.Â The opening work by Martinu was first of all, beautiful, I had never encountered this piece before, but it has a lot of similar material to his Rhapsody-Concerto for viola that I have performed before, and the entire orchestra played a polished account of the score, especially the full-toned and burnished trumpet playing from principal trumpet David Bamonte. Â Acting concertmaster Margaret Bichteler played her extended solo at the end of Debussy’s Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun beautifully, no doubt inspired by the mellifluous and effortless note-spinning of principal flute Georgeanne Ries and principal oboe Kelli Gronli.Â The entire orchestra was tight and stylish in Stravinsky’s Concerto in D for string orchestra, with superb viola solos by principal viola Michelle Matthewson.Â The final work, set to pieces by Chopin, largely performed by OBT pianist extraordinaire Carol Rich, was a delight – not just because of the fine piano playing and sensitive accompaniment of the orchestra, but because the Robbins choreography was so funny, witty, and naughty.
There was such great energy from the pit this afternoon – and you could tell that the dancers were just feeding on it.Â A live orchestra is really much more than a luxury for a ballet company.Â It’s a necessity.Â It will be sad to see the darkened pit next season, with no warming up happening before the performances, and no bows of the musicians and Niel DePonte afterward.Â I hope that the orchestra is brought back as soon as it’s fiscally responsible to do so.
Please go to this Friday’s DANCE UNITED benefit for OBT – your ticket could be the one to make the difference between darkness and light on the Keller stage next season.
Here’s the tally so far, in graphical form: