The piece opens with the familiar framing device of the “Thousand Nights and a Night.” The Vizier (“Evil Vizier” is a redundancy--) reveals to the Caliph his favorite wife’s dalliance with a slave. They are taken in the act and slain, and the Caliph also kills the other women of his harem. Scheherazade becomes the Caliph’s wife in an attempt to bring his murder spree to an end. She beguiles him with her tales, “Sinbad”, “Aladdin,” and “The Flying Horse.” Each of these scenes is a story ballet within the ballet. “Sinbad is particularly effective, with dancers representing the powers of the ocean manipulating a large piece of water-colored silk in wave motions that roll over Sinbad, swirl around him, and drag him into an undertow, from whence he finally drags himself to safety. “Aladdin” has the second-best dancing role in the part of the Djinn, and the costume and set of the “Flying Horse” are just beautiful. The climactic scene, “The Massacre in the Harem,” begins when the woman-hating Vizier falsely accuses Scheherazade of infidelity, which triggers another bloodthirsty rampage on the part of the Caliph. A mad chase through the palace ensues as the guards seek to carry out his edict of death, and the characters from Scheherazade’s stories materialize and take part in the battle. At last, the harem women, guards, and characters all lie dead, and the Vizier is dragged to perdition by the spirits of the women he has betrayed, leaving only the Caliph and Scheherazade alone in the ruin. Scheherazade berates, then, reasons with the Caliph, who is overcome with remorse for his actions. Picking up the Magic Lamp where it has fallen from Aladdin’s hand, she gives it to the Caliph and directs him to summon the Djinn, who appears and grants the Caliph’s one wish—to undo all the damage he has done. Women, guards and characters all arise from death, and live happily ever after.
The program opened with a premier production of “Coronach,” a ballet by Lila York to the music “Maninyas,” by Ross Edwards. This is a second Milwaukee Ballet production for York, who created a work called “Celts” last season that was well received. If there was a Celtic connection to this piece other than the name, I could not see it. Georgie, who is more ballet-savvy than I am, was impressed with the challenging choreography and skillful dancing. While I can’t disagree with that, I was looking in vain for some thematic component tying it together. “Maninyas” is a pleasantly melodic piece made up of a number of short movements or motifs, and the dancers recombined in solos, duets, quartets, and company pieces as the music changed.
We have been very pleased with the Ballet performances we have seen lately, and are planning on getting some series tickets for next season, which includes a revival of the Ballet’s original production of “The Virgin Forest,” which we have enjoyed, and versions of “Don Quixote” and “Romeo and Juliet,” both choreographed by Michael Pink, who so pleased us with this season’s “Dracula”.