Point of View


Huge Crowds for the Season Kick Off
October 28, 2009, 10:06 pm
Filed under: At the Center

The Adrienne Arsht Center was swirling with activities this past weekend. For the first time this season, the Center’s two large houses, the Ziff Ballet Opera House and Knight Concert Hall, hosted performances simultaneously as Adrienne Arsht Center resident companies Miami City Ballet and New World Symphony launched their 2009–2010 Adrienne Arsht Center season of programming. Meanwhile, the Center’s ambitious international performing arts festival, Tel Aviv at 100, got off to a magnificent start and the Venezuelan musician Hernan Gamboa performed music from five continents in the Carnival Studio Theater.  Adding significant buzz to the eventful weekend was the public opening of the Center’s new on-site restaurant, Prelude by Barton G

After months of mouth-watering anticipation, Prelude opened its doors on Friday night, October 23, adding new luster to the already thriving downtown dining scene and bringing full-service dining six nights a week to the Adrienne Arsht Center at long last. The restaurant was packed all weekend—each evening until the wee hours and Sunday afternoon with dance and music lovers enjoying Barton G’s artistic dishes and drinks before settling into their theater seats, followed by foodies who were making the magnificent meal itself the main attraction, and then later still with patrons who extended their Adrienne Arsht Center theater-outing with a post-show culinary treat or cocktails at the bar. Located on the second floor of the Ziff Ballet Opera House and accessible both from within the theater and directly from Biscayne Boulevard through its own entrance off the Thomson Plaza for the Arts, Prelude by Barton G was an instant hit and already the talk of the town.

And what did the nearly 7,000 people who filled the Center theaters all weekend come to see? Two of this city’s great performing arts companies in top form.

At the Ziff Ballet Opera House, Miami City Ballet opened its 24th season with the same ballet that opened the company’s first performance in 1986 – George Balanchine’s ebullient Allegro Brillante. The title of the piece says it all – it’s fast and brilliant—and Balanchine himself once described it as containing “everything I know about the classical ballet – in thirteen minutes.” It’s set to the Piano Concerto No. 3 by Tchaikovsky, whose music also inspired Balanchine to create the second piece on the program—the tour de force Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux. This one is even shorter—just 8 ½ minutes of dazzling surprises and pure joy, guaranteed to bring down the house every time it’s performed. And it did just that—at all three performances.

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The program concluded with Balanchine’s grandly complex and ingeniously patterned Symphony in Three Movements. It’s a large ensemble work for the entire company, danced to Stravinsky’s thrillingly jazzy score, full of remarkable walking and jogging sequences that seem as if an entire city is moving about, leading up to one of the most arresting final stage pictures ever created. The word masterpiece is thrown around pretty casually, but this piece is the real thing. Wedged into the middle of the Balanchine program, and proving that Miami City Ballet is a lot more than a neo-classical company, was Paul Taylor’s wildly entertaining Company B, set to World War II-era recordings of the Andrews Sisters, with richly varied choreography that ranges from ballet to ballroom and from Taylor’s own signature vocabulary to 1940s popular dances. It’s a piece at once exhilarating and heartbreaking, haunted by the spirits of soldiers and sweethearts who once loved each other but are no more.

Meanwhile the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy, opened its third Adrienne Arsht Center season with an ode to joy—actually, the “Ode to Joy.” It’s the nickname of the famous choral finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, one of the best-known works in Western music. Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas led the combined forces of the NWS, the Master Chorale of South Florida, the University of Miami Frost Chorale and soprano Christine Brewer, mezzo Kendall Gladen, tenor Anthony Dean Griffey, and bass Luca Pisaroni in this massive work. Five excerpts from Fidelio, Beethoven’s operatic ode to freedom, opened the program.

For these special performances, the New World Symphony was augmented by three guest Israeli musicians—violist Adam Klarfeld, cellist Elad Kabilio and bassist David Segal—and the October 25th concert also served as the launching of the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Tel Aviv at 100 festival, a three-month tribute to the arts and culture of the first Hebrew city established in the modern era. Upcoming Tel Aviv at 100 artists include world music star Idan Raichel on November 21, Batsheva Ensemble dance group on December 5 and 6, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Pinchas Zukerman on December 16, and violinist Itzhak Perlman in recital on January 12.

There’s lots more world-class dancing and music-making to come from Miami City Ballet and the New World Symphony. Last week saw the season premieres of the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Family Programs, with Marionetas de la Esquina; Cocktails and Cabaret, with Sherie Rene Scott; Celebrity Chefs, with Ingrid Hoffmann and Daisy Martinez; and Free Gospel Sundays, with special guest CeCe Winans. This week, The Color Purple takes Miami by storm for the opening of the new Broadway in Miami series. It’s safe to say the 2009 – 2010 Season is well under way, and these first few weeks of stunning performances and happy audiences will be the first of many.

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