Shaken, not stirred — Marigny Opera Ballet Is Serving Up “Christmas Cocktails”

Sharon O'Brien

A holiday celebration of three dances opens December 1

 

When you start out with a vision of each dance as a cocktail, it doesn’t take long for things to get merry. And, that’s just what Company Director Dave Hurlbert has in mind.  He’s envisioned Marigny Opera Ballet’s second production of the season as pure fun — a lighthearted break from the dramatic intensity of the recent “Book of Saints” and last season’s powerful “Orefo.”

Two “cocktails” — Diversorios and I Was told there’d Be Cake — are reprises from 2015’s “Christmas Concerto.”  In fact, choreographer Nikki Hefko uses Arcangelo Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto” as the music for Diversorios, which is meant to evoke an Italian Christmas crèche – a scene where villagers become pilgrims visiting the Holy Family.   “We decided to bookend this dance with new works that would serve as contrasts, while also retaining a sense of continuity for the evening,” Hurlbert continues.

Choreographer Maritza Mercado-Narcisse is using another orchestral work from the same period as the Corelli: a concerto grosso by George Frederick Handel. “The contrast,” says Hurlbert, “is that although the music is from the 18th century, it is inimitably English. There is a sprightly formality to it, where the Corelli is characterized by its melodic poignancy.”  Truth told, Mercado-Narcisse’s ballet is as far as you can get from the delicacy of Diversorios. Her work, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, is set at a New Orleans holiday cocktail party. Old friends flirt, have too much to drink, and celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza in a lovely synthesis of the holidays.

For a real change of pace, Hurlbert is tossing into the mix the world premiere of original work based on Brazilian Christmas music. But don’t expect dances to quaint, unfamiliar folk tunes from composer Larry Sieberth and choreographer Diogo de Lima. Brazil has no indigenous holiday music – just variations on standard American songs and carols.  And, since Christmas falls at the height of the summer, Brazilians find themselves dancing to holiday music with a lively Brazilian beat— at beach parties. Aguas de Dezembro is one new dance in Hurlbert’s flight of cocktails that promises to be a show-stopper.

What else is in store for Marigny Opera Ballet attendees? “ Our audience always looks forward to the performances of veteran dancers Kellis McSparrin-Oldenburg, Gretchen Erickson, John Bozeman, Joshua Bell and Lauren Guynes, “ Hurlbert says. “I would think audiences will still be getting to know the dancers who are new to the company this season: Edward Spots, Niklas Nelson, Derwin May Jr., and Lauren Ashlee Small –as well as our two apprentices who will be performing: Kentro Mason and Sarah Noelle Prescott.”

Performances of “Christmas Cocktails” are scheduled at the Marigny Opera House, 725 St. Ferdinand St. on Friday, December 1- Sunday, December 3. Tickets $40/$25 (students and seniors) are available at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3103437  or at the door. Additional information: www.marignyoperahouse.org.

 

 

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