Dracula at Ballet West
Adam Sklute sat down with us to give you a taste of what this thrilling ballet has to offer. Watch the interview HERE!
After 18 months of scaled-back Covid-safe performances, Ballet West returned to the Capitol Theatre with a spooky tale of blood-drinking vampires. This engaging story ballet drew large crowds and rave reviews.
Adapted by Ben Stevenson
Ben Stevenson, a master at ballet and opera, is no stranger to creating story ballets. And he has certainly created one for Halloween with his adaptation of Dracula. But unlike most of his other bigger extravaganzas, this one is a bit more chilling.
The dress rehearsal on Friday showed that the production has settled in. While it still teetered between exciting melodrama and sometimes campy stylization personified by Susan Cummins’ silent-movie Flora, the dancers were able to keep their cool, offering a balance of first-rate dancing with excellent characterization.
The cast is largely composed of returning artists with a few new faces to add fresh perspectives. David Paul Kierce has a commanding stage presence as Dracula, and Carrie West and Elizabeth Zengartzstein are a fiercely strong pair of his victims. The newcomers include Miguel Anaya as Count Dracula’s son, and Caitlin Valentine and Francesca Dugarte as his conflicted daughters. All have the ability to make their characters seem real and credible.
Music by Franz Liszt
Dracula’s evocative music by Franz Liszt, the 19th-century Hungarian composer and pianist, adds a menacing atmosphere to Ben Stevenson’s devilishly clever adaptation. His sweeping themes, dramatic crescendos and technical fireworks are the perfect backdrop for ballet’s dark tale of a vampire’s seduction of Mina Van Helsing.
Liszt’s life was stranger than fiction and fueled fan fever known as “Lisztomania.” His innate flamboyance and astounding piano technique were intoxicating to audiences and fellow musicians alike. He turned operatic melodies into keyboard showpieces charged with technical fireworks, and composed works that made pianists weak at the knees.
Inspired by the legend of the ferocious Ivan Mazepa, Totentanz (Dance of Death) pairs a breakneck pace with jaw-dropping piano feats. The piece opens with a raucous brass statement of the plainchant Dies Irae, an ancient motif that signifies death.
Costumes by Phil R Daniels
With wraithlike costumes and foreboding sets, Ballet West delivers a dramatic telling of this classic story. Pair that with Franz Liszt’s haunting music and you have a night of horror and romance.
Act one begins with a corps of ethereal vampire brides sweeping across the stage in fluid, phantom dance. Each movement feels half finished and trance-like as they shift in complete obeisance to their vampire lord. Emily Adams (Flora) was a fresh face, her crisp movements and bright red hair creating a stark contrast to Dracula’s dark castle which made her eventual succumbing to the count even more horrific.
Tyler Gum was an aptly Mephistophelean Prince of darkness, rebounding smoothly from a minor slip in Act I. He was well matched by Katlyn Addison’s Svetlana, her fear and confusion at being re-captured by Frederick nicely conveyed as she flitted effortlessly around the stage and through the air.
Sets by Charles Cusick Smith
Spectacular pyrotechnics, flying vampire brides and a ghostly horse-drawn carriage add to the eerie spectacle of this epic ballet. It is a feast for the eyes as well as the senses, and it is clear that Utahns love it!
Act I opens in the crypt of Dracula’s castle. The Count (Chase O’Connell) wakes and summons his brides, who writhe languidly in groups of 20, moving with spectral ripples that suggest their undeath.
The Count lures an innkeeper’s daughter, Flora (Emily Adams), to his castle and transforms her into one of his undead victims. He also beguiles his henchman, Renfield, with one of his bewitched brides and hunts for the betrothed Svetlana.
When Svetlana (Katlyn Addison) and her dashing lover Frederick (Hadriel Diniz) arrive at the castle, a savage battle between Dracula’s eerily beautiful brides and the villagers ensues. Cusick Smith and Daniels have crafted sets that are evocative and believable, even when the action takes place in the gloomy bowels of Dracula’s castle.