Giselle Live

By staff November 20, 2009

Live music for Giselle and other Sarasota arts news.

By Charlie Huisking

Much of the buzz surrounding the upcoming Sarasota Ballet production of Giselle has centered on the prestigious guest artists. Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg, internationally known stars of London’s Royal Ballet, will alternate the lead roles with Sarasota Ballet’s Victoria Hulland and Octavio Martin.

But Giselle is exciting for another reason. The production, which opens Nov. 27 at the Sarasota Opera House, will be performed with a live orchestra—a rare occurrence in these budget-strapped times. Leading the orchestra of local musicians will be Emil DeCou, the associate conductor of the National Symphony in Washington, D.C., and a man with extensive ballet experience.

Emil DeCou studies the score at a rehearsal for Giselle.

DeCou’s first conducting job was with the American Ballet Theatre, after he got the nod from Mikhail Baryshnikov. He later became the music director of the San Francisco Ballet.

At a recent Giselle rehearsal, the dancers did a run-through to taped music. But DeCou was at the edge of the floor, watching the dancers intently and occasionally making notes in the score.

“Ballet is the most spontaneous of art forms,” he says. “It can be different each time, depending on the dancers’ bodies and the energy they are bringing. In rehearsals, I could see occasions when a dancer might need more time at the end of a phrase, and I was making notes to reflect that.”

DeCou says dancers need to feel free, “And they can really be free only if they have a collaborator in the pit allowing them to be free, helping them to solve a momentary difficulty so the audience will never know. That freedom is so essential to ballet, that when things are really going well, it feels as if the music is coming from the dancers themselves.”

DeCou, who has conducted the Sarasota Orchestra in a concert of film music at Van Wezel, notes that Giselle is the oldest continuously danced production in the ballet repertory.

 “It is a very delicate piece, reflecting the magic and wonder of the woods,” he says. “Sometimes, with recorded music, it can sound like a plastic knock-off. And these Sarasota Ballet dancers deserve better than that. I was so impressed with their high level of performance, even in the early rehearsals. They could dance on any stage in the world.”

For ticket information, call 359-0099, ext. 102, or go to


Sour note

The management of the Sarasota Orchestra may have been within its rights to stop a concert/informational meeting that its musicians had scheduled at a local church earlier this month.

But by threatening to sue the musicians personally if the concert was held, management has suffered a public-relations blow, and has added to the sympathy the musicians have enjoyed during the protracted labor dispute.

Even though they didn’t play, the musicians held the informational meeting anyway, and more than 200 showed up to listen. Noted in the audience was Victor DeRenzi, artistic director of the Sarasota Opera. DeRenzi worked closely with the musicians when they performed in the recent production of La traviata.

Was his presence at the meeting a sign of solidarity with their cause? DeRenzi was noncommittal. “I went there expecting to hear a concert,” he said, smiling.


A Film Festival hit

The opening night film for last year’s Sarasota Film Festival was a brave choice. The Messenger starred Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster as soldiers who inform family members that their loved ones have died in Afghanistan or Iraq. The movie was warmly received here, and now it’s getting rave reviews after its nationwide release this month.

The New York Times called it a “sober and satisfying drama” that is “remarkably textured, with room for humor as well as anguish.” The New Yorker called it “a fully felt, morally alert, marvelously acted piece of work.” It’s nice to think that the Sarasota festival helped pave the way for the national attention this film deserved.


Asolo Rep news

Real-life husband and wife Sam Osheroff and Kris Danford will play the ultimate married couple in Searching for Eden: The Diaries of Adam and Eve. Based on writings by Mark Twain, the play opens Dec. 18 at the Asolo Rep. Osheroff and Danford are familiar to local audiences, as they met while they were students at the FSU/Asolo Conservatory.

More tidbits I learned at the Asolo’s town hall meeting this month: Choreographer Jim Hoskins, who will work on three shows this season, has been involved with 75 productions during his long association with the Asolo Rep. And speaking of long associations, Marian Wallace will retire as production stage manager at the end of the year, her 41st with the company. Can the Asolo really exist without Marian? I’m not sure, but she says it’s time “to let someone else share in the fun.”

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