Above photo: Stella Abrera, Giselle, May 23, 2015 American Ballet Theatre released its schedule and casting for its 2020 Met season, May 11-July 4. This will be ABT’s last eight-week spring season in the Metropolitan Opera House. In an attempt to halt a flagging ticket sales trend, the Metropolitan Opera will take a three-week break in February when there are few competing activities for opera fans and extend its season into late May when people have numerous fun alternatives (beach, sports, outdoor activities). How substituting February performances for May will increase opera ticket sales is beyond me. As a result of the opera change, ABT will likely have a two-week season at Koch Theater after the New York City Ballet season followed by a five-week season at the Met.
My thoughts on the 2020 ABT Met schedule are below. Overall, the rep and casting is interesting with fewer filler works with more debuts in lead roles.
- The rep looks solid, with few productions that I do not want to see, unlike previous years sprinkled with Golden Cockerel, Whipped Creme, Harlequinade. On the bill are: ABT Then (Theme and Variations, Jardin aux Lilas, Fancy Free), ABT Now (Garden Blue, A Gathering of Ghosts, The Seasons), La Bayadére celebrating the 40th anniversary of Natalia Makarova’s staging of the work, Romeo and Juliet, an Alexei Ratmansky premier Of Love and Rage, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Jane Eyre, and Swan Lake. The new Ratmansky work looks intriguing. According to the brochure: “Set in ancient Greece, this thrilling new production is based on Callirhoe, one of the earliest novels ever written. Of Love and Rage weaves the epic tale of the legendary beauty Callirhoe, her lover Chaereus, and the daunting obstacles they navigate.”
- The spring season always has special events including guest artists and dancer retirements. Stella Abrera will retire and give her last performance in Giselle June 13. She will be missed. Guest artists, limited these days at ABT relative to the Rachel Moore years, are Olga Smirnova of the Bolshoi and Kimin Kim of the Mariinsky in La Bayadére, Natalia Osipova and David Hallberg in Romeo and Juliet and Giselle. It is interesting that guest artists Smirnova and Kim will fill the lead roles in the 40th anniversary celebration performance rather than ABT dancers. Not sure what the celebration will entail.
- Giselle will be an interesting run with several debuts: Christine Shevchenko and Calvin Royal III, Thomas Forster, and Aran Bell.
- In Swan Lake Joo Won Ahn and Forster will debut as Prince Siegfried. Forster will have two big debuts in the Met season, bypassing another deserving dancer Blaine Hoven. Calvin Royal will also see two debuts in Romeo and Juliet with Misty Copeland and Giselle with Christine.
- When I first perused the schedule, I thought that stellar Soloist technician Skylar Brandt entered the witness protection program. On second viewing, one of my favorite dancers will debut as Aurora in Sleeping Beauty Saturday matinee, June 20. In other big news, she will debut as Giselle at the Kennedy Center February 16, although she is not scheduled to dance the role at the Met. I never wish an injury on a dancer, but it would be great to see her in the role in New York.
- At age 39 when the season starts, Herman Cornejo does not have many more years remaining in his illustrious career. The good news is that he is cast in five full-length roles: La Bayadére, Romeo and Juliet, Giselle, and Swan Lake for two performances. On the downside, Herman has not found a top-notch technician to match his stellar skills. For some unknown reason, he is not paired with Sarah Lane after sterling work in Sleeping Beauty and Manon last year. He is paired with Misty Copeland in both Swan Lake and Giselle performances (also in Gisselle at the Kennedy Center February 13 and Durham, NC March 26), and Isabella Boylston in La Bayadére. Although compatible from a height perspective with Misty, the pairing is not ideal given the mismatch in technical abilities.
- Gillian Murphy is back after maternity leave and will appear in six performances. Daniil Simkin is only on the bill for one performance, Giselle with Sarah Lane. They will also dance the role at the Kennedy Center in February. I hope ABT finds more work for Daniil, a truly special talent.