Ending the season with skill and flair

Series: A Naval Academy program closes in spectacular fashion with the ASO, three choruses and the Ballet Theatre of Maryland.

April 18, 2002|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Ballet Theatre of Maryland joined the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Naval Academy's Glee Club and two college choruses to cap the season's Distinguished Artists Series at the academy with a spectacular performance of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana.

The large stage at the academy's Alumni Hall was brimming last weekend with an array of talent. The musicians produced a wondrous sound, and the ballet dancers added a visual dimension. The resulting synergy reflected well on the collaborative efforts of John Barry Talley, the academy's music department chairman, and Edward Stewart, BTM artistic director and choreographer.

Carmina Burana is a highly dramatic cantata based on literature - discovered in the 19th century - that was created by 13th-century runaway Benedictine monks, unfrocked priests and students. It is divided into three sections, each singing the joys of spring with strong sensual elements.

The first section sung to the goddess of fate and fortune, describes the awakening of spring. The second section, "In the Tavern," describes the seductive power of wine through the songs of a baritone who cares more for drink than virtue.

The third part, "The Court of Love," pits the merits of chastity against passion and concludes with passion winning in the soprano's solo "Dulcissime." The work concludes with a nod to innocence, before returning to the beginning strains.

Together, the choruses added texture to the symphony, whose musicians projected electricity. The soloists - soprano Elizabeth Kluegel, tenor Justin Carrell, and baritone Tony Holds - personified each section's theme with sensitivity.

The drama of blazing strings, insistent percussive rhythms and clashing cymbals, gained intensity at the arrival of BTM's dancers - a group of female dancers in monks' garb of brown sackcloth hooded robes. They glided across the stage, pausing at the center, leaning back to reveal dancers' legs and long lustrous hair as their hoods fell.

The dancers soon returned in burnt orange leotards, with bare-chested male dancers wearing tights of a similar color. The women - Amber Lynn Zecker, Laura Babel Snow, Christi Bleakly, Anmarie Touloumis and Jennifer Dancesia Waldon - were brilliant. The men - Dmitri Malikov, Robert Michalski and Jeffrey Watson - danced with riveting power.

Adding to their reputations were Ninel Cherevko, who danced with a sense of freedom and lyricism, and Zhirui "Regina" Zou, who combined her incomparable grace with sensuality. Bat-Erdene Udval and Sergei Vladimirov executed astonishing leaps and spins.

Not only was this concert the last of the Naval Academy's Distinguished Artists Series, but it also marked the end of the season for Ballet Theatre of Maryland. Once again, BTM's artistic director revealed an ability to add fresh elements and color to an existing ballet, and demonstrated his skill at choreographing to his dancers' strengths.

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