by Michael Caruso
The Pennsylvania Ballet will present Christopher Wheeldon’s staging of ‘Swan Lake’ by Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky March 3 – 12 in the Academy of Music. These performances will mark the first time the company, which has its studios and offices in East Falls, has performed this mounting of the timeless classic since its world premiere in 2004 as part of the Edinburgh, Scotland, Festival and its 2005 series of renditions in the Academy of Music, Broad and Locust Streets.
Performances are scheduled for Thursday, March 3, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, March 4, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 5, noon and 8 p.m.; Sunday, March 6, 2 p.m., and Saturday, March 12, 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are priced from $20 to $139 and can be purchased at 215-893-1999 or in the box office of the Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce Streets. They can also be purchased at the box office of the Academy of Music prior to performances.
This production marks the return of one of the Pennsylvania Ballet’s most popular dancers, Meredith Rainey, who retired from the company in 2006. Rainey will return to portray the evil sorcerer, Baron von Rothbart. Newcomers Lauren Fadeley and Brooke Moore are cast in the double roles of the White and Black Swans, Odette and Odile. Veterans Zachary Hench and Francis Veyette are cast in the role of Prince Siegfried.
Roy Kaiser, the company’s artistic director who recently moved to West Mt. Airy from Erdenheim, explained the popularity of “Swan Lake” with audiences by pointing to its magnificent score. “Both ‘Nutcracker’ and ‘Swan Lake’ are synonymous with the art form of ballet,” he said in a recent conversation. “Both scores are incredibly beautiful, and both tell their stories compellingly. It’s music that was composed specifically to be danced and specifically to tell a story and specifically to project character through the dance.”
Kaiser pointed out that the Pennsylvania Ballet, unlike some ballet companies striving to cut costs, still employs its own “live” orchestra in the pit of the Academy of Music. “It’s important that we do so,” he assured, “because dancers lose that spark of spontaneity whenever you use a recorded performance of a score. When there’s a ‘live’ orchestra, every performance is slightly different from every other performance, and I think that adds something special to each performance.”
After deadline last week, I received an e-mail from former Chestnut Hiller Ignat Solzhenitsyn commenting on his return to the podium of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia for concerts March 6, 7 and 8. Solzhenitsyn will conduct Lutoslawski’s “Funeral Music in Memory of Bela Bartok” and Haydn’s “Drum Roll Symphony No. 103 in E-flat major.” He will conduct and be the soloist in Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor.”
Solzhenitsyn, his wife and three children are now living in Manhattan. He still teaches, however, at the Curtis Institute of Music on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, where he studied both piano (with Gary Grafmann) and conducting (with Hans-Werner Mueller).
“I have three students at Curtis,” he explained, “along with coaching chamber music and a piano seminar.” Solzhenitsyn takes up to four private students, explaining that “I don’t have much time for private teaching because we have three small children and because of my touring.” His recent tours have taken him to Europe, Russia (the Maryinsky Opera in St. Petersburg), Toronto and Montreal.
Solzhenitsyn and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia will perform Sunday, March 6, 2:30 p.m., and Monday, March 7, 7:30 p.m., in the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater, and Tuesday, March 8, 7:30 p.m. in the newly restored Baptist Temple, 1837 North Broad St., on the campus of Temple University. For tickets, call 215-545-1739 or visit www.chamberorchestra.org.