By Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times
9:34 AM PST, February 25, 2014
What if the story of Eva Peron were told by Argentine dancers and musicians performing traditional tangos from Argentina instead of a Broadway score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice?
Will Southern California audiences, who apparently never have seen it performed in a prominent professional venue, take to a Soviet-era Russian ballet about the French Revolution that’s said to have been Josef Stalin’s favorite?
And does $2.5 million in seed money from billionaire businessman and arts philanthropist David H. Koch guarantee that American Ballet Theatre’s new take on “The Sleeping Beauty,” choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky and designed by Richard Hudson (Broadway’s “The Lion King”) will play like a dream?
The answers will be forthcoming in the 2014-15 season announced Monday by the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa.
Although touring Broadway shows often are its most popular draws, the Segerstrom Center’s International Dance Series has been an artistic signature.
“The Sleeping Beauty” (March 3-8, 2015) will have its rollout in Costa Mesa before moving on to become part of ABT’s season at Lincoln Center in New York. Koch’s $2.5 million is said to be a matching grant, suggesting that this is a $5 million (or more) production, with all-new visuals for the Tchaikovsky score.
Segerstrom Hall was also the launching pad, in 2012, for Ratmansky’s new version of Stravinsky’s “Firebird” ballet, which a Times review described as “a pop-up book of bold wonderment,” albeit one yielding “mixed choreographic results.”
One of Ratmansky’s last works as director of the Bolshoi Ballet, which he left to become ABT's first resident choreographer starting in 2009, was a revisionist version of composer Boris Asafiev’s “The Flames of Paris.” The original 1932 ballet choreographed by Vasily Vainonen glorified the French Revolution as an idealistic toppling of craven aristocrats.
Ratmansky, according to the Guardian newspaper, added a new character, an aristocratic woman who sides with the revolution, and a less uplifting ending: The revolution turns bloodthirsty, as they sometimes do, and sends the sympathetic aristocrat to the guillotine.
A more traditional approach to “The Flames of Paris” (Nov. 28-30) is in store from the Mikhailovsky Ballet of St. Petersburg and its orchestra, making their Segerstrom Center debut. They’ll perform Vainonen’s original heroic story, no beheadings involved, although with substantial choreographic revisions by company ballet master in chief Mikhail Messerer.
The season’s second Russian company, Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg, will perform the West Coast premiere of an American story, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender Is the Night,” choreographed by artistic director Boris Eifman (June 5-7, 2015).
Tango Buenos Aires will offer “Song of Eva Peron" (Jan. 17-18, 2015), drawing on traditional Argentine music to tell the flamboyant story of national heroine Eva Peron, with choreography by Susana Rojo. Free pre-show tango lessons will be on offer, although the announcement doesn’t go so far as to say that dancing in the aisles will be encouraged during the show.
The National Ballet of Spain will return to the Segerstrom Center for the first time since 1992, with a program to be announced (April 24-26).
The Broadway lineup includes “Pippin” (Nov. 11-23), 2013 best musical Tony Award winner “Kinky Boots” (Dec. 30, 2014-Jan. 11, 2015); “Dirty Dancing” (Feb. 2-15, 2015), “Annie the Musical” (May 13-24, 2015), “Motown the Musical” (June 16-28, 2015) and Cameron Mackintosh’s refreshed production of Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” (July 29-Aug. 9, 2015), featuring mostly new scenic and design elements (the chandelier stays), new choreography and a new staging by director Laurence Connor.
“Pippin,” “Kinky Boots,” “Motown” and “Phantom” all will play the Pantages Theatre in L.A. shortly before their Costa Mesa tour stops.
Three other musicals will be sold as a separate Segerstrom Center subscription series: “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” (Dec. 10-14), “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” with old songs by George and Ira Gershwin woven into a new 1920s period story by Joe DiPietro (March 17-22, 2015) and “Guys and Dolls” (April 14-19, 2015).
Other highlights of the season include a talk by Shirley MacLaine (Sept. 19), concerts by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (Aug. 16), Yanni (Sept. 21), Brian Stokes Mitchell (Oct. 10); pianist Billy Childs and singers to be announced in a "reimagining Laura Nyro" concert (Oct. 17), Johnny Mathis (Nov. 8), Judy Collins (Dec. 6), Dianne Reeves and Gregory Porter (Jan. 16, 2015) and New Orleans soulstress Irma Thomas heading up a blues-R&B revue (Feb. 7, 2015).
The holidays will have a traditional Mexican flavor as Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan makes its Segerstrom Center debut (Nov. 29) and Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano presides over a “Fiesta Navidad” (Dec. 23).
With orchestral concerts the primary domain of two resident companies, the Pacific Symphony and the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, the Segerstrom Center’s own classical offering is a chamber music series in the Samueli Theater: the Emerson String Quartet in an all-Beethoven program (Oct. 10), Austria’s Hagen Quartet offering Mozart, Shostakovich and Brahms in its Segerstrom Center debut (Oct. 30), the Szymanowski Quartet, augmented by pianist Joseph Kalichstein playing a mostly Polish program of Penderecki, Chopin, Bacewicz and Dvorak (Feb. 1, 2015), the L.A.-based Calder Quartet playing Britten and Beethoven, plus the world premiere of “Sabina” by Andrew Norman, which the Segerstrom Center commissioned with Orange County music patrons Elizabeth and Justus Schlichting to celebrate the chamber music series' 25th anniversary (April 15, 2015) and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center performing piano quartets by Mahler, Schumann and Brahms (April 15, 2015).
Only subscriptions to the various series are available initially, with single ticket sales held back until about six weeks before each event.