Oregon Ballet Theatre has opened its 26th season with a program titled Amore Italiano, reveling in the culture and music of Italy. The threads of Italian culture dance throughout the program, from the costumes to the music and the passion interlaced into every number. The playbill offered two very different but equally engaging premieres: Sub Rosa and Napoli Act III, but it also included some additional surprises. On opening night the show kicked off with a stirring modern interpretation of the music of Vivaldi by Aaron Meyer and His 6-Piece Band. This opening piece set the stage perfectly for the dance numbers to follow, seamlessly integrating the modern with the traditional.
After the opening band, the audience was presented with two more unexpected treats. First, there was a short dance piece which was actually a sneak preview of the upcoming Beautiful Day that will be presented next April. Then Oregon Ballet Theater made a show of offering two lucky audience members tickets to Napoli! A trip to Italy turned out not to be in the cards: instead, the two lucky audience members ended up performing alongside the artists in the production of Napoli Act III later in the show!
Both the featured dance numbers were perfect for the theme of Amore Italiano, as you’ll see from the notes below.
Sub Rosa (World Premiere) James Kudelka / Carlo Gesualdo
James Kudelka returns to Portland to choreograph a new work based on the enchanting music of late Italian Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo, who was most likely born at Venosa, then part of the Kingdom of Naples. The inspiration for the work is a 400 year old crime of passion and the music is hauntingly modern in this balletic context.
Gesualdo is best-known for his intensively expressive madrigals and sacred music using a chromatic language that was far ahead of its time. Similar tonal progressions did not reappear in composition until the 19th century. It is no wonder that the music of this experimental and expressive composer of the Renaissance lends itself so well to adaptation.
Napoli Act III (OBT Premiere) August Bournonville/ Holger Simon Paulli
August Bournonville’s Napoli was created in 1842 for Denmark’s Royal Ballet and features dancers of all ages, notably a group of children who dance on the ridge overlooking the main square. This ballet has been popular since its inception and many of the young dancers move on to participate in their companies as adults.
The story of Teresina, a young Italian girl who falls in love with Gennaro, a fisherman, comes to life on the stage with all of the bright colors of the era. The work truly reflects the exuberance of Southern Italy and is recognized for its lightening quick footwork, breathtaking leaps, and fiery tarantella.
Amore Italiano continues until the 17th of October, so there is still time to step into a lively burst of Italian culture at Oregon Ballet Theatre.