American Ballet Theaterâs gala at the Metropolitan Opera House on Monday was a triumph on many levels. Alexei Ratmanskyâs two-act âWhipped Cream,â an exuberantly nutty piece, new this March, in which a candy shop coming to life is only the start of the taleâs subversive craziness â made its New York debut with high-spirited success.
The illustrious David Hallberg returned from injury to give his first New York performance (as Prince Coffee) in almost three years. Mark Rydenâs color-abundant sets and costumes turned the evening into a rising wave of visual glee. And Richard Straussâs two-act score, heard only a few weeks after âDer Rosenkavalierâ in the same house, proves to be a revelation.
Above all, Ballet Theater is looking more like a company than ever before â an important, world-class one, vividly musical, excitingly refined, with performers seizing the moment again and again. Mondayâs cast was the same as in the March world premiere (in Costa Mesa, Calif.), but the second cast I saw in California was quite as fine, and later casts are likely to be quite as individually rewarding. The subtle tilt of a torso, the spiraling flourish of one raised arm amid supported pirouettes, the flicker of legs beating or circling in the air: these and many other details â delivered with grace and panache â add up cumulatively, like threads in a tapestry, so the ballet becomes a complex visual luxury.
Thatâs as it should be in the Ratmansky…