Baltimore orchestra will accompany ballet for `The Nutcracker'

Conductor says his focus is on making music conform to the dancers

November 15, 2001|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For the first time in its 21-year history, the Ballet Theatre of Maryland's production of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker will include a live orchestra.

Joining the ballet will be the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, which has become one of the East Coast's premier ensembles during its nearly 20-year existence.

Nothing heralds the holiday season in Anne Arundel County like The Nutcracker. The orchestra's operations manager, Ted Jones, said having a live orchestra might start a trend.

"Live music makes The Nutcracker more exciting and more authentic and more what Tchaikovsky intended," Jones said. "It's good for the ballet company to have a conductor because then the music can mold itself more to what's happening on stage, as opposed to the dancers having to follow what's rigidly on tape."

Charles Rosekrans will conduct The Nutcracker. Music director of the Westchester Hudson Opera, Rosekrans was for many years associated with the Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Opera Carolina. He founded the Houston Chamber Orchestra, where he served as conductor for 12 seasons.

In a recent telephone interview, Rosekrans explained that he and the ballet company's executive director, Henry Holth, have been friends since 1972, when he conducted The Nutcracker for the first time. Rosekrans later conducted a Holth production of The Nutcracker in Dallas and another in Las Vegas in 1995.

Primarily an opera conductor, Rosekrans knows the local opera scene, with an awareness of diva Rosa Ponselle's early influence on the Baltimore Opera. He remembered that her protege, James Morris, is a Baltimore native.

Equally knowledgeable about the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, he recalled former music directors Sergiu Comissiona and David Zinman and current maestro Yuri Temirkanov.

"I'm looking forward to coming to Annapolis the end of November because I've never been to Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay, and I want to see the territory," he said. "I've been through Baltimore, but have spent little time there. And I've heard very nice things about the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. A live orchestra for a ballet makes all the difference in the world."

Rosekrans plans to observe rehearsals and get to know the production.

"You have to get to know the company, get to know the dancers, what they can and can't do, what is comfortable for them," he said. "My job is to come and get to know the company. If you do a run of performances, maybe the girl who dances `Sugar Plum Fairy' on Thursday is different from the girl who does it on Friday, and she might want it a smidgen faster. It's a tremendous challenge, and it's important for me to keep my head out of the score and watch the stage."

The Nutcracker will star principal dancer Zhirui "Regina" Zou as Clara, with her Prince and the Nutcracker danced alternately by Sergei Vladimirov and Bat-Erdine Udval, both formerly principal dancers with Russian companies.

Also new to the company this season, Ji-Hoon Yeom will dance the roles of Fritz and the Chinese dancer. Anmarie Touloumis and Jeffrey Watson will alternate in the roles of the Snow Queen and King with Jennifer Waldon and Dmitri Malikov. Ninel Cherevko will dance as the Princess of the Kingdom of the Sweets.

Joining the company's soloists and professional dancers will be 100 local ballet students performing this two-act Nutcracker, choreographed by artistic director Edward Stewart.

Performances are at 2 p.m. Dec. 8, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 15, and 3 p.m. Dec. 16 at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. For information and to order tickets, call the box office at 410-263-2909.

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