by Michael Caruso

The Pennsylvania Ballet returns to the  boards Feb. 9 through 12 with “Pushing Boundaries” at the Merriam Theater. The East Falls-based company will perform William Forsyth’s “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” to music by Schubert plus two works by its choreographer-in-residence, Matthew Neenan: “Keep,” to music by Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov, and “11/11” to songs by Rufus Wainwright.

The set of performances will mark the final appearance with the company by Riolama Lorenzo. The Manayunk resident will be retiring after 10 years with the ballet troupe to focus her life on her husband, Javier Lasa, a doctor at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and their two children, six-month-old Rio Maria and four-year-old Sebastian.

Riolama Lorenzo had been a dancer with America’s premiere company, the New York City Ballet, for five years when she left the company in 2000, returning to Miami. It was there that she met the man who would become her husband. He was planning to move north to Baltimore to attend medical school at Johns Hopkins University.

“I realized that Baltimore was very close to Philadelphia,” Riolama recalled, “and I knew of the Pennsylvania Ballet.” The company was founded by Barbara Weisberger, a disciple of the late George Balanchine, the founder of the New York City Ballet (in 1933 with Lincoln Kirstein) and one of the greatest choreographers of the 20th century. The Balanchine repertoire has been at the very center of the Pennsylvania Ballet throughout its history.

“I got back into dance shape,” Riolama remembered, “started taking classes, came to Philadelphia and auditioned for Roy (Kaiser, the West Mt. Airy resident and artistic director of the Pennsylvania Ballet) on the stage of the Academy of Music, where the company was performing ‘Coppelia.’ He hired me on the spot and recalled having seen me dance at the New York City Ballet with his brother, Russell.”

Riolama included Roland Petite’s “Carmen,” Christopher Wheeldon’s “Swan Lake” and “Giselle” among her favorites. “I wanted to retire at the high point of my career,” she explained, “and not go out at the lowest of the lows. Now it’s time.”

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The Philadelphia Orchestra welcomed Herbert Blomstedt to its podium and pianist Leif Ove Andsnes to its solo spot this past weekend to perform the music of Beethoven. In concerts heard Thursday and Saturday nights and Friday afternoon, Jan. 19 – 21, in the Kimmel Center’ s Verizon Hall, Andsnes was featured in the “Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor;” in the second half of the concert, Blomstedt led the Philadelphians in “Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, ‘Eroica.’”

The Third Piano Concerto is the first in which Beethoven leaves behind the strictures of Mozart’s brand of piano concerto and launches his own interpretation of the form, just as the “Eroica” Symphony is the first manifestation in that form of where he intended to take the symphony once into the 19th century.

In the concerto, Beethoven expands both the size and the scope of the music. No longer is the piano concerto an enlarged version of chamber music as it was for its creator, Mozart; for Beethoven, the piano part, though virtuosic, is integral to the scheme of organic development that can be found in all of his music.

Andsnes’ rendition of the solo piano part in the Third Concerto was exemplary for its technical precision and tonal clarity, but it still left me a little cold and unmoved Saturday night.

On the podium, Blomstedt is something of a minimalist. His interpretation seemed to be both solid and expressive, but the score’s inner workings were not particularly well served Saturday evening.


“Music from the Back Porch” will present cellist Linda Metzler and soprano Rachel Levine in recital 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 29, in Fort Washington’s Or Hadash Congregation, 190 Camp Hill Road, and 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 5, in Christ Ascension Lutheran Church at 8300 Germantown Ave. The duo will be joined in performance by pianists Hui Sy Long and Barbara Browne. Levine has lived in Chestnut Hill, West Mt. Airy and Wyndmoor and now resides in Ambler; Metzler has lived in Germantown and now resides in Conshohocken.

Their program will include works by Scott Robinson of Chestnut Hill, William Sydeman, Betty Roe, Strauss, Dvorak and Bernstein. Admission is $10 and $15 for couples and families. For more information e-mail