Opus 19/The Dreamer: A PNB premiere

Jerome Robbins’ Opus 19/The Dreamer follows one main character, “the dreamer,” through a night of sleep. An ethereal romantic interaction crescendos into a fevered dream, then peacefully fades. Opus 19’s hectic and passionate score, Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, completes the dream’s obscurity with three movements of frenzied violin.

Pacific Northwest Ballet has never performed Opus 19/The Dreamer. We’ll premiere the work at our last repertory production of the season, PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION, June 2–11 at McCaw Hall. Read on to delve into this ballet!

“It’s an emotional and physical marathon with enormous rewards for audience and artists alike,” says PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal. He chose Opus 19/The Dreamer  for his farewell performance at New York City Ballet in 2005.

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Peter Boal with Wendy Whelan. Photo by Tyler Hicks.

“Clarity, lucidity, and intelligence are the nouns that come to mind. It is hard to imagine City Ballet without him,” said New York Times critic Jennifer Dunning, describing Peter’s farewell performance in 2005.

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Peter Boal. Photo by Steven Caras.

Peter is also staging Opus 19 for its PNB premiere. Staging a ballet involves teaching the choreography to dancers and coaching them to performance level.

“Jerry and I worked for endless hours on Opus,” Peter says. “I felt I always gave 100% in everything I danced, but for Opus Jerry wanted more—a level of physicality and commitment that was almost beyond human ability.”

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Robert Fairchild performs Opus 19 with fellow members of the New York City Ballet.

“Inevitably the Prokofiev violin concerto to which it is choreographed—music redolent of Prokofiev’s ballet or film scores—imposes a febrile scenario of dreaming and walking,” says Joel Lobenthal of The New York Sun, who finds that Opus 19 is “all about the music.”

The “dreamer” role in Opus 19 was originally created for Mikhail Baryshnikov. “He’s a bit of an outsider, a bit of a loner, a bit of a thinking man; there’s a bit of action, a bit of unrealized romance, which is very much Jerry’s life,” Baryshnikov once said about his character.

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Mikhail Baryshnikov in Opus 19/The Dreamer, courtesy of New York Public Library.

“Was Jerry—who wrote down his dreams and recounted them to his companions—projecting some of himself, including his difficulty maintaining relationships, onto Baryshnikov’s role? Or did he see in the dancer, who in Balanchine’s company might have been considered a balletic stateless person, a kindred spirit?”
(Amanda Vail, in Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins)

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Wendy Whelan with members of New York City Ballet. Photo by Andrea Mohin/The New York Times.

See Opus 19/The Dreamer in PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION June 2 – 11 at McCaw Hall.

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