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The Mozart Dances at Lincoln Center's 2016 Mostly Mozart Festival
By Elyse Sommer
Having covered the arts scene in the Berkshires for many years, I've enjoyed the Mark Morris Dancers at that area's Jacob's Pillow, and Olsen's annual appearances at the Tanglewood Music Festival. Wonderfully enjoyable and atmospheric as the Jacob's Pillow dance performances are, there's no pit and the music is generally recorded as is the case at most dance venues. On the other hand, at Tanglewood what you see on stage at a concert featuring Ohlsson, is the pianist and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. There is no dancing but it consists of of Ohlsson's fingers on the keyboard; and this big man does indeed have the delicate touch of a dancer.
At the Koch Theater, Ohlsson was seen only when he stood up to take a bow. Instead the three Mozart works for piano and orchestra were given vivid visual life on stage by the Mark Morris dancers lending their signature leaps and body language to Morris's visual interpretation of these works. It was a treat for me as well as everyone smart enough to buy a ticket.
Unsurprisingly, the orchestra in the pit with Mr. Ohlsson as helmed by Louis Langree was in fine form. Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan who joined Ohlsson for the program's middle piece, "Double" (to Mozart's Sonata in D Major for Two Pianos) enhanced the robustness of the music and dancing. Together the musicians and dancers proved that, contrary to many choreographers and musicians' opinions, Mozart isn't just for listening, but very danceable indeed.
The separately created scores are connected by Mr. Morris's way with repetition, combination of leaps and ground hugging, hand gestures, and an emotional sense of narrative, build beautifully. It starts with "Eleven" (to Concerto No. 11 in F Major) which features mostly female dancers, and moves on to the middle piece focusing on men. There's a vague sense that there's a story of love, realized and not realized, that reaches a crescendo in the post intermission "Twenty-seven" that makes us see everything in the way of movements and everyone in the superb ensemble coming together.
Costumer Martin Pakledinaz, whose work I know from reviewing stage plays and musicals, has dressed the dancers to echo the look and feel of the giant feathery paintings by Howard Hodgkin projected on a backup screen. Lighting designer James F. Ingalls (another theater, dance and opera hopping designer) enhances and deepens the link between Hodgkin's abstract images and the mood being expressed by the dancers.
If Mozart oould come back to earth long enough to see these works written during his time turned into a visual fantasia, he'd be right there joining the audience in their bravos.
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Choreographer: Mark Morris
Conductor Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra: Louis Langree
Pianists: Garrick Ohlsson and Inon Barnatan
Set design: Howard Hodgkin
Costume design: Martin Pakledinaz
Lighting design: James F. Ingalls
Dancers: Chelsea Acree, Sam Black, Durell R. Comedy,Rita Donahue, Domingo Estrada Jr., Lesley Garrison, Lauren Grant, Brian Lawson, Aaron Loux, Laurel Lynch, Stacy Martorana, Dala McMurray, Maile Okamura, Brandon Randolph, Nicole Sabella, Billy Smith, Noah Vinson, Jenn Weddel, Michelle Yard
Running Time: 2 hours, including intermission Continues ontinues through Saturday 8/28/16 at the David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at 8/25/16 perfromance
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