Marcello Angelini gets chills every time he hears Carl Orff's score for Carmina Burana.
The artistic director for Tulsa Ballet commissioned a new version of the ballet from the company's principal dancer Ma Cong in 2006. Carmina Burana opened TB's 50th season and will be presented again this weekend in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.
Angelini calls it "a work that celebrated the future and the evolution of Tulsa Ballet" and credits its presentation this season with an emphatic demand from audiences.
"I commissioned Ma's first work, Festa, in 2004, as I felt he had a lot of potential as a choreographer," Angelini said. "After seeing the results of this work, and Samsara the following year, I felt he was ready to take the next step, a longer ballet -- almost one hour -- with a compelling story: Carmina Burana.
"I talked to him about the project, and he was both excited and anxious about it," Angelini said. "However, after thinking about it for a couple of days, the anxiety gave way to eagerness. The result is a powerhouse of a ballet..."
"What most inspired me about this work is the music," Cong said. "It is a thrilling, passionate musical masterpiece and one of the most recognized classical works of all time, and what most attracted me is the seemingly perfect merging of modern and ancient."
The ballet is based on 800-year-old poetry written by the monks of a 13th century Benedictine monastery and "examines the undeniable power of love and the unexpected discoveries it brings," according to Angelini. It features accompaniment by Tulsa Symphony Orchestra and Tulsa Oratorio Chorus.
"I always wanted to make this performance a celebration of the performing arts in Tulsa," Angelini said. "For this reason, we hired both the Tulsa Opera and the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus, as well as the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, to accompany the show.
"Seldom do we perform ballets that give us the opportunity to work with so many artistic mediums," he said. "Carmina is the perfect vehicle to show Tulsans the quality and achievements of its performing arts."
Angelini said as soon as audiences saw it in 2006, they began requesting repeat performances.
"The response of the audience was overwhelming to say the least," he said. "It was more than I expected at the time."
Angelini said response to this season's program has been so great that he expects each performance to sell out.
But, the ballet won't be identical to the version presented in 2006. Cong rechoreographed some portions.
"(Cong) has grown as a choreographer during the last four years and, as a result, he has modified certain sections to bring them up to his current standards and level of experience," Angelini said.
"My version of Carmina, as far as movement, uses contemporary upper body language, based on classical technique, to present this neo-classical version of the work," Cong said.
Tulsa Ballet will also present William Forsythe's The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, critically acclaimed as one of the most exciting and fast-paced ballets ever choreographed.
"It's exactly what the title says it is," Angelini said. "It's so fast that it gives you vertigo; it's so thrilling that you will be exhausted just watching it; and it requires a level of exactitude from its performers that goes beyond anything else they have ever danced.
"It's a fast and furious work meant to push the performers beyond their physical and technical skills. It's the ultimate 'master's degree' in classical ballet."
Forsythe is considered one of the top living choreographers today.
TB presents Carmina Burana and The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude Friday, May 21 and Saturday, May 22 at 8pm and Sunday, May 23 at 3pm in the Tulsa PAC's Chapman Music Hall, at 110 E. Second St. Tickets start at $19 and are available at www.tulsapac.com.
Next month, Tulsa Ballet will dance at Washington, D.C.'s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of the Ballet Across America Festival.
Women in Prison
Odeum Theatre Company presents a new version of Euripides' ancient tragedy The Trojan Women, translated by Choregus Productions' Ken Tracy and directed by Erin Scarberry.
Tracy suggested the troupe, which operates under the umbrella of his production company, perform the play, but as they sought a modern translation they felt would resonate with today's audiences, they came up short.
So Tracy took a stab at it.
"The first thing I did was to go through and get rid of all the old sentence structure, get rid of the 'thees' and 'thous' and use contemporary English," Tracy said. "(I wanted to) make it a little more accessible to today's audience."
Tracy also removed Greek references that weren't relevant to the plot and might confuse audiences, and he added content to fill in gaps in the story.
Once Tracy was finished with the translation, Scarberry began working with the script, which is broken up into large sections of monologues, to make it more "conversational."
"It's so heavy -- it's heavy material -- and I wanted to be able to find a way to do that but also have some other things in it," Scarberry said. "So we put a lot of comedy into the show; the music helps with that. Just trying to find a way to make it more of an ebb and flow as opposed to all crying and wailing."
Scarberry said the addition of songs -- mostly 20th Century repertoire -- helps bridge the play to modern audiences.
The Trojan Women tells the stories of four women -- Hecuba (Sally Adams), Cassandra (Cassie Hollis), Andromache (Sara Cruncleton) and Helen of Troy (Annie Ellicott) -- who have been captured by the Greeks during the Trojan War. The play begins after the Greeks have invaded Troy in the Trojan Horse, killed the men and children and taken the women as slaves.
Tracy and Scarberry believe, though the play premiered in 415 BC, it will still resonate with modern audiences.
"Odeum has always done these plays where they'd like for the audience to think," Tracy said. "And there's one particular moment toward the end of the play, where the Queen of Troy, Hecuba, realizes the wealth of Troy and their own slaves and servants were a result of exactly what was done to them. Because the Greeks conquered the Trojans, but the Trojans had their wealth and their own slaves because they had conquered someone else.
"And there's a reference in here to a couple of bad things the Americans have done..." he said. "That our own country's wealth was built on aggression against other counties. We're all guilty."
The Trojan Women plays May 20-22 at 8pm, May 23 at 2pm, May 27-29 at 8pm and May 30 at 2pm in the Tulsa PAC's Liddy Doenges Theatre. Tickets are $25 and available at the PAC's website.
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