Art and culture are alive and vibrant in this time of fear and chaos. Poets have claimed throughout the ages that the arts provide salvation and inspiration when humanity is in crisis.
Barely a week and a half prior to the quarantine of much of America, American Ballet Theatre arrived in Costa Mesa with its full troupe of world-class dancers, musicians, designers, artists and crew to present a West Coast debut of a new work, “Of Love and Rage.” The production plans to stage its New York debut at the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center June 2-6.
The talk of the town event over the first weekend in March filled Segerstrom Hall for all performances as appreciative crowds cheered “Bravo!” in standing ovations of enthusiastic applause.
The book for “Of Love and Rage” was inspired by a 1st century Greek novel, “Callirhoe,” by Chariton of Aphrodisias. . The breathtaking choreography was in the talented hands of ABT artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky, a MacArthur fellow, set to music by Aram Khachaturian with arrangements by Philip Feeney.
Pacific Symphony performed the score. Most notably, the acclaimed libretto was adopted by actor, director, screenwriter and Molière Award winner Guillaume Gallienne working with set and costume designer Jean-Marc Puissant.
Following the opening-night performance on March 5, cast, crew and hundreds of patrons gathered at the Hall Global Eatery in South Coast Plaza for late-night supper and champagne toasts, orchestrated by chef Amar Santana.
On March 7, South Coast Plaza Managing Partner Elizabeth Segerstrom celebrated the week of ballet in California with a pre-performance dinner in Leatherby’s Café Rouge.
SCFTA’s new president, Casey Reitz, joined Segerstrom in welcoming an international guest list and thanking Segerstrom for her exemplary support. Joining in the praise were dignitaries from ABT, including artist in residence and choreographer Alexei Ratmansky with wife, Tatiana.
Arrivals were greeted with staff in white gloves passing flutes of champagne fronting a dramatic caviar bar set in ice sculptures created as a nod to ancient Greek statuary and adorned with a floral headdress of roses, Vanda orchids, Icelandic poppies and ferns.
The Ancient Greece theme was visually stunning and whimsical, carried over into the dinner setting featuring marbleized china service, vases fashioned of classic Greek busts, and a veritable sea of flickering white tapers in all lengths and sizes on every table.
Segerstrom has become something of a salon hostess, a latter-day Perle Mesta, the late Washington hostess and social ambassador to presidents in mid-century America. Her passion for the arts is documented on both coasts and across the pond.
Bringing together influencers from the worlds of business, politics and industry with actors, musicians, writers and artists of all kinds is an art and a gift in and of itself.
On this night touting the accomplishments of ABT in California, Segerstrom chose to invite a contingent of friends and confidants associated with American Friends of the Louvre.
Among them was Christopher “Kip” Forbes, vice chairman of the board of directors. He was joined by Peter McDowell, director of development for the society supporting the French museum in America.
South Coast Plaza partner Anton Segerstrom joined his wife, Jennifer, visiting with Casey and Naomi Reitz, Judy Morr and ABT cast members, including Christina Shevchenka, Thomas Forster, Blaine Hoven, Alexandre Hammoudi, Keith Roberts and Katherine Williams.
Also in attendance were ABT Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie and David Lansky, general manager of the ballet, and television producer Nigel Lythgoe.