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“See the beautiful youth, bathed in purple blood!” sang the chorus (in French) — and it sounded lush, hauntingly beautiful. A twice-martyred saint, according to legend, Sebastian was a secret Christian in the Roman army, who was cudgeled to death when the arrows didn’t do their job. Yet as it comes down to us here, this gruesome tale — even with its occasional kitsch and undeniable vagaries — is exquisitely beautiful. And very French. At Davies Symphony Hall, one need only focus on the spoken narration by mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade to understand the aesthetic at work: the sound of the French language is irresistibly sensuous where to buy ballet shoes near me uk online.
Tilson Thomas has long championed this piece, which defies category, while partaking of oratorio, ballet and theater. (His 1992 recording with the London Symphony Chorus and Orchestra is ravishing). It finds Debussy — who delegated much of the orchestration and possibly some of the composing to a protégé, Andre Caplet — building his whole tone scales into dream-castles, while drawing on medieval balladry, the Indonesian gamelan and much else, including Wagner. In fact, the first performance of this work, in 1911 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, was of Wagnerian proportions, lasting more than five hours where to buy ballet shoes near me uk online.
Intended as an updated Christian mystery play, it was conceived by Gabriele d’Annunzio, a controversial character: poet, novelist, socialite, soldier and tough-guy politician; some call him a forerunner of Mussolini. He recruited Debussy (not his first choice as composer) and other leading lights: the choreographer Michel Fokine, the designer Léon Bakst and the ballet star Ida Rubinstein — a long-legged, rather androgynous Jewish beauty whose portrayal of Sebastian ticked off the Archbishop of Paris, who banned the production where to buy ballet shoes near me uk online.
In this new semi-staged production, so imaginatively directed and designed by Anne Patterson (with design assistance from Matthew Frey and Adam Larsen), the saint is a man: that slim, sweaty torso belongs to Damian Smith, a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet. We see his slow-dancing, videotaped image in the overhead projections, with plenty of close-ups of nipples and armpits. Choreographed by Myles Thatcher, these sequences may not be everyone’s cup of tea — yet they tap into a tradition of homoeroticism that has surrounded depictions of Sebastian since the Renaissance where to buy ballet shoes near me uk online.
Advancing through five acts (d’Annunzio called them “Mansions”) the spectacle brings several outstanding soloists to Davies Symphony Hall where to buy ballet shoes near me uk online. As the Twin Brother Marcellian, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke once again exhibited her plush and darkly fragrant voice; as the Twin Brother Mark, mezzo-soprano Leah Wool’s voice was only slightly less sumptuous. Soprano Karina Gauvin handled several roles, including that of the Virgin Erigone: Her unblemished singing seemed to capture the very light and shadow of Debussy’s score. Overcoming early jitters, soprano Joanna Taber, as the Celestial Voice, offered her own share of wing-tipped expressiveness. Directed by Ragnar Bohlin, the chorus shined throughout this taxing performance; the male chorus was especially well balanced and firmly blended. As for the orchestra, well, it was like paradise — which is where our man Sebastian lands in the end..