Ballets that tell a story

'Firebird'

Whereas Bettis has tried to elucidate as many themes from the play as possible, Taras's new ''Firebird'' is deliberately reductionist. It is true that he works from a fairy tale and not dramatic literature. Nevertheless, there's a poetic aspect to the bird that makes the story much more than a ''shoot-'em-up'' between good and evil. Taras's version has lots of good and lots of evil and lots of action. Indeed, when the firebird subdues the monsters, the audience roars with approval.

The choreography for the gleaming bird, however, is mundane. She seems more a champion racer than an enchanted creature. Likewise Geoffrey Holder's tropical set with Rousseau overtones is more flashy than mysterious. Sometimes this ''Firebird'' borders on camp sensibility. Stravinsky played host to so many versions of his score during his lifetime that he must have become fairly sanguine about them all, but I think he would have raised an eyebrow over this one.

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