'Carmina Burana' beautiful despite the chatter

Memo to the flock of starlings seated in row V: When the curtain goes up and the choir begins to sing, that's your signal to SHUT UP.

Obviously, given the number of questions that the swelling music coming from the orchestra forced you to voice in louder and louder whispers, you had never attended a ballet before. And given the extraordinary politeness of a Seattle audience, you even lived to attend a ballet again.

Let me now satisfy your curiosity about the proceedings occurring in front of you during the opening night of Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Carmina Burana/Pacific."

As stated earlier, the rising of the red curtain generally indicates the beginning of a performance - so, the answer is affirmative, dear Starlings, in answer to your first question: "Oh, is it starting?"

Myself, I felt sincere regret that you had not had enough time to read the program during the intermission. Sweet of you to ask your seatmate if she had been able to read it. However, "Carmina Burana" does not have a plot, so you did not need to worry about not understanding the story.

You were also quite correct to spot that the choir was not singing in English. Carl Orff's oratorio uses a series of 13th-century poems written by monks and troubadours. The majority deal with the lure of the secular life (sex and alcohol) vs. the appeal of the sacred. If you watch Kent Stowell's choreography (i.e., the movement of the dancers), you can tell what the theme of each song is without needing to understand the words; that's one of the beauties of ballet. Personally, I find the blend of live dance, live singing and live music breathtaking. This is my third time seeing "Carmina Burana," and I enjoy it more each time.

And, yes, dear Starlings, the people lying flat on the stage beneath the giant golden wheel as the curtain went up were the dancers of Pacific Northwest Ballet. The people in the balcony with their mouths open and sound coming out (I'm referring to the area above the stage, not in the auditorium) were members of the Seattle Choral Company, sounding splendid as always. No, the dancers were not singing during this piece.

And, since you asked, the reason that the PNB Orchestra is in a pit, and not on above the stage with the choir, is that the savage musicians need to be confined to keep them from leaping forth to beat to death the people talking through the music (oh, sorry, that's just my fantasy - they always sit, and the acoustics of McCaw are constructed in such a way that the orchestra can be heard throughout the hall without further amplification.)

The conductor Stewart Kershaw was the silver head that you could see just above the edge of the orchestra pit. He's a jewel of a ballet conductor and, as always, kept this delicate balance of two groups (chorus and orchestra) beautifully supportive of the dancers on the stage.

As "Carmina Burana" progressed, I'm glad that your interest in the dancers began to rise. Yes, indeed, the tall gorgeous blonde in the nude leotard was principal dancer Patricia Barker. The gentleman so ably partnering her throughout was Olivier Wevers. I've always loved the delicate intertwining of their pas de deux toward the end of "Carmina Burana," and I hope you enjoyed it, too.

Barker is ending a splendid career at PNB this season, but you will have several other opportunities to see her before the season closes in June.

The even taller brunette in the red costume was Ariana Lallone, another principal dancer. Lallone shoved around a fine group of male dancers in a swaying medieval conga line. Principal dancer Batkhurel Bold, principal dancer Jonathan Poretta and corps de ballet dancer Jordan Pacitti were particularly notable for this "In Taberna" section.

But as fabulous as individual dancers are, and I don't have room here to name them all, "Carmina Burana" is a piece designed to show off an entire company, and it does that splendidly. The audience certainly responded with a roar when the curtain fell, and rose for standing ovation when it rose again.

And that, dear, dear Starlings, marks the end of a performance and a signal that you can start talking to your friends again.

Postscript to memo: Thank you so much for missing the Mark Morris piece that opened the evening. The lovely meditative "Pacific" soothed the soul and had the same restorative qualities as an afternoon spent on a tropical beach. If someone had chattered through that, strong critics would have wept.

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