Call it a summer rerun: a Tchaikovsky program by the Pacific Symphony Orchestra that began with a generous sampling of "The Sleeping Beauty" (last played by the PSO in May during the Royal Ballet's Costa Mesa engagement) and ended with--what else?--the 1812 Overture (last played by the PSO in April, according to company data).
Staged outdoors at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre on Saturday, this "Tchaikovsky Spectacular" boasted the usual fearsome cannons and decorative fireworks in its finale, plus another kind of pyrotechnics early on: four dancers from American Ballet Theatre performing celebratory Petipa duets on the forestage in front of the orchestra. However, the evening's most memorable moments came in a score free from the distractions of either gunpowder or greasepaint: the "Romeo and Juliet" Overture-Fantasy, conducted by Jack Everly with faultless control over the slippery transitions that link the church, love and dueling music in this dramatic orchestral showpiece.
The score, recently botched at the Hollywood Bowl, inspired Everly to achieve a sense of intimacy and a remarkable singing quality in lyrical passages that he also brought to the early portions of the 1812 Overture--before the aerial display by Fireworks and Stage FX America became the main event.
Unfortunately, some of Everly's other interpretations suffered from an obsession with speed and a consequent lack of majesty. The Polonaise from Suite No. 3 (known to balletomanes as the finale to Balanchine's "Theme and Variations") grew particularly problematic, with passages of rough tone also helping make it the evening's biggest lapse. And you'd have guessed from some of the "Sleeping Beauty" tempos that Everly is a veteran of the alarmingly rushed Peter Martins/New York City Ballet production instead of the more sedate American Ballet Theatre version.
The opening pages of the ballet went splendidly, but the march that followed sounded doggedly military rather than royal. The Garland Waltz had vigor in its favor, plus carefully highlighted detail, but sacrificed its natural surge to a harsher, enforced propulsion--and the final Grand Mazurka went over the top in a race with no winners.
Obviously, as Ballet Theatre music director, Everly knew the dancers on view Saturday and attended conscientiously to their needs. Julie Kent appeared especially free and relaxed in the Grand Pas, sailing happily into the fish dives and bringing a radiant elegance to her solo--though also, alas, an over-literal sense of musicality. Opposite her: the noble Guillaume Graffin, prevented by the narrow dance-space from achieving a smooth stage-sweeping circuit of turns in his solo but, as always, partnering stylishly. On this occasion, however, Aurora and her Prince didn't risk the no-hands dive-and-pose at the end but opted for a safer alternative.
The Bluebird pas de deux featured the sweet, delicate and accomplished Yan Chen (no stranger to praise in these pages) and a Ballet Theatre newcomer: Joaquin de Luz, the company's latest diminutive, boyish, ever-smiling virtuoso from Madrid. Replacing the scheduled, injured Parrish Maynard, he soloed with impressive lightness and precision, partnered effortfully and at all times looked not so much touched by an Angel as cloned by one.