A noir sensibility spiked with nightclub crooner glitz, dazzling dancers, vivid imagery and dramatic storytelling distinguish choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s outstanding Vendetta, the tale of a woman’s rise to power in the male-dominated world of the Mafia. Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s immense production is an artistic feat, featuring a cast of 50 dancers and over 20 scenes flowing with swift ease and theatrical flair. All aspects of Vendetta – choreography, music, set and costumes – are creatively and meticulously designed, contributing to an experience that is at once exhilarating and thought-provoking.
Set in the late 50s, the ballet tells the story of Rosalia Carbone, the cherished daughter of the Carbone clan, one of three Mafia families ruling the Chicago underworld. Keenly aware of the power of unexpected shifts, tension and its release, Ochoa chooses to open the ballet with a singer (Matthew Cluff) clad in a flashy gold jacket, entertaining with comic brilliance. At first, the story appears to be familiar as Rosalia grows from a sweet girl in a red dress dancing and playing with her father, to a young woman in love, yet it soon ventures into new vistas. Anya Nesvitaylo is magnificent as Rosalia. Her duet with Stefano (Alessio Scognamiglio), the son of the competing Bartoni clan, conveys the sense of discovery, romance, and shy delight of first love. Yet it soon becomes apparent that Rosalia is more than just another pretty girl, as she watches on the sidelines while the men of her family conduct their business, observing and learning. The development of Rosalia’s character over the course of the ballet is wonderfully complex and accurate, as she experiences the joys of motherhood, the pain of loss, and ultimately, the price of power. The soft curves of her movement become angular and sharp, yet as the narrative arc progresses, she is no longer a pretty girl in a red dress, but rather as the strong Mafia Don, she’s wearing the pants.
Thrilling action scenes with stylized fight choreography and family gatherings with plenty of pasta make a life of crime seem quite glamourous, yet just as palpable and immediate is the constant sense of danger. Olivier Landreville’s stage design, dominated by the El, evokes the ambiance of Chicago streets. In addition to providing a strategic location for secret meetings and discreet shootings, the line of the elevated train cuts through the space, literally transforming the stage into the underworld. Danielle Truss’s costume designs are a colorful delight, denoting the era and the familial allegiance. The Cordones in red, the Bartonis in blue, and the Trassi family in green, while the singer and dancers flaunt a new fantastic look in every scene. By the story’s end, the 50s have given way to the 60s as the singer grooves in purple velvet trousers, the dancers groove in white go-go boots, while Rosalia and her love do the Twist at the family party. And Stefano Bartoni is now wearing red. The times are certainly a-changing.
All the dancers are amazing in their strength, grace, and expression. From the cold-blooded mafia kills to the comic acrobatics of less-than-competent cops, the range of mood and movement is endlessly captivating. They say that children always steal the show, and all the children in the cast contribute a unique charm to the production, but the boy in the blue suit, dancing with a huge smile on his face stole my heart.
Performances will take place at the Israeli Opera:
Thursday, February 28th at 20:00; Friday, March 1st at 13:00.
Ticket prices range from 190 – 370 NIS and may be ordered online from the Israeli Opera.
Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal present Vendetta: Storie di Mafia
Choreography: Annabelle Lopez Ochoa; Playwright: Titus Tiel Groenestege; Stage Design: Olivier Landreville; Costumes: Danielle Truss; Lighting Design: Marc Parent; Accessories: Normand Blais.