Monday, June 26, 2017

A Farewell Performance

The final curtain call for Diana Vishneva's farewell performance with ABT. 10:00 PM, Friday, June 23, 2017. Photos: JH.
Monday, June 26, 2017.  A weekend of sunshine, as well as storm clouds passing through sometimes massive and dark but precipitation-less; sometimes a very brief spritz, then back to sunshine with a little breeze to ease the senses. Otherwise a quiet one here in New York and in the neighborhood near the river.  In the late quiet, traffic-less night you hear the dull but heavy din of the thousand air conditioners. In the mid-afternoon to the evening just before dark, you hear the dull but heavy din of the ice cream truck parked at the end of the block by the park.

Out West, as we’ve been hearing, the weather is a scorcher, especially, according to the weather forecasters, in Arizona. I asked our contributor Blair Sabol, who lives in Scottsdale, what it was like: "Today it was a mere 113. We are in a heat warning till Monday night — meaning  86 low 115 high! Then we go to 108. Mom and I stayed in all day — most people do, and remember the real celebrities and rock stars where I live are the AC guys who have made a fortune this week.  Also, this is not unusual. It still didn't break the record of 122 in 1990.  However, it is like a furnace at 9 p.m.  You open your door and everything melts — the tires, the mailbox — and no dogs should walk. Except at 4:45 a.m. By 5:30 a.m. it is over! June is always out hottest month. It is our January. Hopefully we get the monsoons by July and it cools off to a mere 108. And that is the story till Halloween when our nights go down to 78."
I am not a balletomane and can't consider myself a dance fan, by which I mean a passionate follower. I have the good fortune to attend many gala performances (fund-raising) of the ABT and the NYC Ballet, and have enjoyed them all immensely. But alas, I am always a newcomer at any performance unlike many I know who are avid, ardent and converted. Every time I see a performance, however, I understand that point of view.
Walking through the Josie Robertson Plaza towards the Metropolitan Opera House for ABT's Friday night performance of Onegin.
Moving with the crowd towards the Met's Lobby.
For example, I was unfamiliar with the name Diana Vishneva. JH — who following his wife has become somewhat avid and ardent and knowledgeable — informed me that she is considered one of the greatest ballerinas. And this was her Farewell Performance with ABT as Tatiana in a role opposite Marcelo Gomes as Onegin. Eugene Onegin is a classic Russian novel, written in verse by Alexander Pushkin.
The view of the multi-story lobby.
Spotted: Irina Dvorovenko, former principal ballerina of ABT. Seemingly, the whole ballet world was in the house on this night to honor Ms. Vishneva.
This was the first full performance I'd seen at the ballet. Three acts with two brief intermissions. Onegin takes place in Imperial Russia in the third decade of the 19th century. The Metropolitan Opera stage transports your imagination to another sphere. The sets by Santo Loquasto on that great stage were spectacular. Tchaikovsky's music enlightens and heightens the atmosphere you're drawn into.

Even if you know nothing about Pushkin's story, Gomes as Onegin tells you everything by his interpretation. Vishneva is a dream. She moves as if transported by the air under her feet. She does a leg stretch that leaves you in wonder at her agility and energy and yet it all looks effortless — as if it's the air levitating her. She is an astounding ballerina and in this role, her innocence that charms and captures you is entirely reflected in her movement. Gomes brings the same illusion of effortlessness to his role.
Entering the auditorium.
The audience taking their seats.
I could go on but as you can see I'm not well-versed in describing the poetry of Pushkin's dancers except to say that it was all a divine wonder, a voyage far away from the world around us; the secret of great theatre and great ballet. At the end of course, came the curtain call. The packed to the fourth tier of the Metropolitan Opera House rose to their feet — cameras coming out of every pocket — cheering, whistling, shouting with joy, tossing of flowers from the audience, bouquet after bouquet being delivered onstage to the wondrous Diana Vishneva, applauded by her company of principals, by Mr. Gomes with loving grace. A full fifteen minutes of pandemonium ensued.

No cameras are allowed for the performance but when the curtain rang down, the audience leapt to its feet with dozens, maybe hundreds of cameras pointing at the stage, so that when the curtain came up with the entire cast of the ballet, JH was up with his camera catching the highly emotional moment (at least 15 minutes) when everyone was cheering the stupendous performance and unforgettable farewell of Ms. Vishneva, an unforgettably brilliant ballerina.
Audience members in the midst of a 15-minute standing ovation.
Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes take their first bows.
Diana presenting a single rose to Marcelo.
Along with a hug ...
And a bow ...
Teary-eyed, Marcelo takes Diana's face in his hands ...
And holds on tight ...
Marcelo bows to Diana ...
And expresses his admiration ...
Diana consoles ...
Alas, a kiss ...
And another hug ...
Admiration for each other ...
And for the audience ...
The company flower throws ...
Diana accepts ...
ABT company dancers are next in congratulating Ms. Vishneva and bidding her farewell ...
Isabella Boylston congratulates ...
Gillian Murphy is next in line ...
Hee Seo presents ...
And hugs ...
Stella Abrera ...
Roberto Bolle ...
Conductor Ormsby Wilkins embraces ...
A parade of flowers follows from more ABT company dancers ...
The pile of flowers grows taller ...
On to ABT Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie ...
Leaping into Marcelo's arms as rose petals fall around them ...
A twirl ...
Another hug ...
Another kiss ...
Irina Kolpakova, who has been teaching dancers at ABT for 25 years, hands Diana a bouquet of sunflowers.
An expression of gratitude for the audience.
Over a dozen bouquets of flowers were bestowed upon Diana over the course of the 15-minute standing ovation.
Holding on tight ...
Saying goodbye ...
Exiting the auditorium 25 minutes after the performance ended.
Fans patiently waiting to catch a glimpse of the star.
Back out on the Plaza, 10:30 PM.
At around 11 PM, there was an intimate cocktail reception at the Lincoln Restaurant following Diana's performance ...
Guests waiting for Diana's arrival.
Diana thanking her patron Theresa Khawly and her longtime dance partner, Marcelo Gomes.
Theresa Khawly, Diana Vishneva, and Marcelo Gomes.
Maxim Beloserkovsky and Irina Dvorovenko with their daughter Emma. Irina, a former ABT star, currently plays a Soviet émigré on FX's The Americans. "She's a natural," says JH. Max and Irina also run an International Ballet Summer Intensive in New York, which begins in July.
Diana's manager and husband Konstantin Selinevich kissing the sign in board. One of the messages reads: To my dear Diana, Thank you for all you have given me and everyone around you. I love you. — Marcelo Gomes


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