Cleveland Orchestra, Joffrey Ballet have gloomy gem in 'Bartok on Stage' collaboration (review)

Joffrey Ballet , Cleveland Orchestra
The Cleveland Plain Dealer

By Zachary Lewis

Nights at Severance Hall don't get any bleaker. Neither, though, do they get much more gripping, or more darkly beautiful.

Yes, "Bartok on Stage," the latest collaboration between the Cleveland Orchestra and Chicago's Joffrey Ballet, is a gloomy gem. For every shocking or illicit deed depicted on stage Thursday, there was a redemptive lovely gesture by a musician, dancer, or singer.

Rarely does tension, in a concert, run so high or so long. Then again, rarely are "The Miraculous Mandarin" and "Bluebeard's Castle," two of Bartok's most emotionally demanding works, presented back-to-back on the same evening. Often superfluous, intermission Thursday was truly indispensable, a much-needed break from the edge of one's seat.

Inside and out this frame, dancer Victoria Jaiani was a sultry, commanding presence, ordering around her thugs (ably danced by Raul Casasola, Paulo Rodrigues, and Joan Sebastian Zamora) and twining her long limbs around her victims in elegant false embraces. Chairs did striking triple duty as seats, blades, and restraining devices, and chanting by concealed singers from the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus ratcheted up the already spooky atmosphere.

No less electric was "Bluebeard's Castle." Though staged more frequently, the opera as rendered here Thursday still boasted all the shocking dramatic power and visual appeal of its predecessor on the program.

Read the full review here.