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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 4, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 23
Mark Morris excites with SSO and Tudor Choir
Arts & Entertainment
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Mark Morris excites with SSO and Tudor Choir

by Rod Parke - SGN A&E Writer

Mark Morris Dance Group
with the Seattle Symphony
and The Tudor Choir
May 21
Paramount Theatre


If I say I was disappointed in the latest appearance in Seattle of the Mark Morris Dance Group, that is not to say is wasn't beautiful, musically sublime, and lovely overall. But two things conspired to dim my pleasure, one of them having nothing whatsoever to do with the MMDG. At our mid-orchestra location, the air was stagnant, and the temperature was at least 80ºF. Being used to over-heated auditoria like Meany Hall, I wore a dress T-shirt so that I could minimize the heat. But, despite the beauties of the performance, I kept wishing I were home.

The other problem was the over-expectation wrought by memories of other MMDG performances such as Violet Cavern or L'Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato, that were unforgettable in their exuberance and joy. The much earlier works in this program of all-Baroque music were simply not as exciting to see. The quieter loveliness of these performances was not enough to overcome the oppressive heat. Perhaps it's time for the MMDG to move up to first-class, modern venues such as McCaw Hall or Benaroya, or at least that the management of the Paramount notice when it's time to turn on the A/C.

The dancers and musicians could hardly have been better. The evening became a kind of showcase for longtime member David Leventhal, often with his wife, Lauren Grant. Blessed with a lithe body and superb technique, Leventhal was as graceful and buoyant after dancing prominent parts all evening as he was at the beginning. His concentration and artistry were awesome to behold. Thirteen seasons with the MMDG have not diminished his appeal. In general, the group seemed elegant and precise, leaving little to be desired.

MMDG performances can be counted on always to be worth the price of admission for the music alone. This was no exception. Members of the Seattle Symphony, The Tudor Choir, and soloists soprano Leena Chopra, and mezzo-soprano Katherine Growdon were aided by judicious use of amplification such that one was never aware of the boost. The always reliable Christian Knapp led the forces for the Bach and Haydn pieces. The big bonus turned out to be Mark Morris' conducting of the Vivaldi "Gloria." Where Knapp was merely excellent, Morris was indeed inspired. The "Gloria" has never sounded more airy or buoyant; all was sweetness and light and full of energy at the same time as it seemed restrained in volume, giving everything a sense of energy held in reserve, like a coiled spring.

The works presented were "A Lake" (1991) set to Haydn's "Horn Concerto No. 2 in D major," Bach's "Jesu, meine Freude," and the aforementioned "Gloria" by Vivaldi. Mark Robbins played a flawless and lovely solo for the Haydn, while The Tudor Choir suffered only slightly from the lack of cathedral acoustics and the presence of microphones.

Seattle is blessed that the defiantly Gay Mark Morris was born here (in 1956) and chooses to return with his dancers nearly every spring.

Reviewer Rod Parke can be reached at rmp62@columbia.edu.

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