Classics Series

maya-michael500The Glory of Russian Ballet

Wed, June 24, 2015
6:30pm Concert Insights*, 7:30pm Show
Tickets $68-$12
Amaral Center at the Nevada County Fairgrounds
Daniel Stewart, Conductor Featuring Maia Wilkins and Michael Levine, former principal dancers of the Joffrey Ballet

Add the Bravo Package– just $25 per Classics Series concert gets you a post-concert champagne party at each of the three concerts! (Limited number of tickets available)
*Concert Insights: Join us for a pre-concert forum at each of the Classics Series concerts where the conductor takes us behind the scenes.  Talks take place in the Amaral concert hall.

Daniel Stewart conducts three of the greatest Russian ballet scores ever written including Tchaikovsky: Selections from Swan Lake, Stravinsky: Firebird Suite, and Prokofiev: Selections from Romeo and Juliet.  Maia Wilkins and Michael Levine, former principal dancers of the Joffrey Ballet, will perform selections from Romeo and Juliet.

“Swan Lake,” composed in 1875-76, was the first of Tchaikovsky’s three great ballet scores. It grew from a “house ballet” that he wrote for his two nieces during a family holiday four years before. After a poorly choreographed and staged premier, it was criticized as “undanceable,” “too noisy and symphonic,” and for music that “overwhelmed the dance and drama.” Some of Tchaikovsky’s music was even omitted, and it was proposed to replace some with different music by “specialist” ballet composers, but Tchaikovsky protested and his music was reinstated. After a successful new production in 1895 (two years after Tchaikovsky’s death), Tchaikovsky’s music has triumphed and is now among the most beloved ballet scores.

While again featuring enchanted birds and princesses, “The Firebird” had a very different reception at its premier than “Swan Lake.” The 26 year-old Stravinsky was eager to have his music heard in Europe when Diaghilev approached him (after striking out with Tcherepnin and Lyadov) to compose music for a nationalist ballet based on Russian folk themes for the Ballet Russes (of Paris). The ballet was an instant hit, praised for perfectly balancing dance, drama, music and décor. Stravinsky became an immediate sensation, and within four years had also completed “Petruschka” and “Rite of Spring” for Diaghalev. He went on to be . . . well . . . Stravinsky!

Like “Swan Lake,” Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” had to survive a rocky start before ascending into the pantheon of beloved ballets. Originally scheduled to premier at the Kirov, it was moved to the Bolshoi when an artistic restructuring at the Kirov made it impractical. After a bureaucratic dissension caused an indefinite delay of that premier, it was first mounted at the Mahen Theater in Brno, Czech Republic. Today, it is revered as some of the most beautiful music ever composed for any medium, and as possibly the most moving of the many evocations of Shakespeare’s tragedy.

Maia Wilkins was born and raised in Truckee, California, began her dance training in tap, and then the opportunity to study ballet came when she was eleven. From Balanchine pointe to Pilobolus bare feet; from favorite ballerina fairies to flying on a trapeze, during the course of her 18-year history with The Joffrey Ballet, Wilkins danced featured roles that showcased her artistic range and physical versatility. Wilkins has gotten to work with numerous répétiteurs and choreographers including pieces by Tudor, Cranko, Parsons, Tharp, Kylian, Ashton, and Nijinsky. Maia Wilkins has performed more Joffrey and Arpino ballets than any other ballerina.  In 2006, along with Gerald Arpino, Wilkins was named one of the Chicagoans of the year for her important contribution to the arts in Chicago. She can be seen in the feature films Save the Last Dance and Robert Altman’s The Company.

Michael Levine is from Grass Valley, California. He trained and danced with Sacramento Ballet and San Francisco Ballet before joining The Joffrey Ballet. As a principle with the Joffrey Ballet Levine had the pleasure of dancing numerous leading and historical rolls. He has been involved with many world premier collaborations with The Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and other independent choreographers. Levine has received recognition for his technical ability and classical line as well as for his excellent character portrayal.  He is currently with the San Francisco Opera.