The North American premiere of Royal Ballet resident choreographer Wayne McGregor’s “Obsidian Tear,” a world premiere by Boston Ballet resident choreographer Jorma Elo, and John Cranko’s “Romeo and Juliet” are among the highlights of Boston Ballet’s 2017-18 season.
The season opens with “Obsidian Tear” (Nov. 3-12), a co-production with the Royal Ballet that had its world premiere last year at Covent Garden. The score is by Finnish conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen, notes Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen. “So I thought, why don’t we make it an evening of premieres and Finnish music?” The program, which will honor the Finnish heritage of Nissinen and Elo and celebrate the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence, will begin with an orchestral performance of Jean Sibelius’s tone poem “Finlandia.” “Obsidian Tear” will follow; after intermission there will be a second orchestral piece and then the Elo world premiere set to Sibelius’s transcendent Fifth Symphony.
“Obsidian Tear” is a 30-minute work for an ensemble of nine men. “You have these men onstage really pushing themselves,” Nissinen says, “and while the ballet is abstract, it’s primal and it’s impressive and hypnotic.” The Elo premiere, he says, will be “a massive full-company work, on a grand scale to match the volume and scale of the Fifth Symphony.”
After “The Nutcracker” (Nov. 24-Dec. 31), the spring season will open with “Parts in Suite” (March 9-April 7), featuring William Forsythe’s “Pas/Parts 2016,” New York City Ballet resident choreographer Justin Peck’s “In Creases,” and Elo’s “Bach Cello Suites,” which the company premiered in 2015.
Nissinen says Peck’s piece, for eight couples and set to music by Philip Glass for two pianos, has been a long time coming; he’s wanted to add a work by Peck to the repertoire for years. “Pas/Parts 2016,” he adds, “was originally created for Paris Opera, and then Bill created another version of it for San Francisco Ballet last year, so let’s see what he’s going to do with us.”
Next up is Cranko’s “Romeo and Juliet” (March 15-April 8), which the company last did in 2011. Nissinen calls Cranko’s version “great drama, very good dancing, and I also think it matches the music very well. This time we’ll use the Jürgen Rose sets and costumes, so that will be new for the company. Jürgen Rose was the star designer for many Cranko ballets, and we decided to go and purchase the sets.”
“The Sleeping Beauty,” which the company is presenting this spring, will return next season for a one-week engagement (May 11-19). “We realized when we did ‘Swan Lake’ in back-to-back years that a lot of the audience doesn’t get in on year number one,” Nissinen explains.
A program devoted to choreographer George Balanchine, “Classic Balanchine” (May 17-June 9), will comprise “Chaconne,” “Prodigal Son,” and “Stravinsky Violin Concerto.” That last piece is being reprised from the current season, but Boston Ballet hasn’t done “Prodigal Son,” with its wrenching Prokofiev score, since 2009, and “Chaconne,” Nissinen says, “is an addition to the company’s Balanchine rep, and also a work that’s not done as much. It’s very accessible, and the music [from Gluck’s opera “Orfeo ed Euridice”] is beautiful.”
The season will conclude with an August Bournonville program showcasing “La Sylphide” (May 24-June 10). Nissinen says the 19th-century Danish choreographer’s Scottish-set “Sylphide” “is for me the masterpiece of the romantic ballet. But I also wanted to give more opportunities for the company to dance.” So the evening will begin with “Bournonville Divertissements,” which he expects will include the “Jockey Dance” from “From Siberia to Moscow” and excerpts from “Flower Festival in Genzano” and “Napoli.”