Few dancers have been as popular with audiences as Angel Corella. When he gave his farewell performance with American Ballet Theatre last night, the vast Metropolitan Opera House, rarely full to the rafters, was sold out. Ballet lovers had come from all over to say goodbye.
Corella first dazzled on the Met stage as an ebullient teenager. His trademark grin made him a natural charmer, and audiences responded deeply to his love of performing. He was a prodigy—their prodigy. As the years went on, his technique deepened, he added dimension to his roles and his partnering gained sensitivity. He was always a star; he became a prince.
Corella chose Kevin McKenzie’s Swan Lake for his last bow to the ABT audience. McKenzie made his Siegfried on Corella, adding a solo and several passages that tapped a subtle melancholy within the dancer. Few of the guest artists whom ABT brings in today capture this Siegfried’s introspective quality, or recognize that he, and the Swan Queen he loves, are forever a breed apart.
Last night’s Odette, Paloma Herrera, had been one of Corella’s first partners at ABT. Audiences went wild for their youth and exuberance in ballets like Don Quixote. They were overnight sensations; few could have predicted that their paths would lead them far from the pyrotechnics that made them famous.
Lyrical and gentle, Herrera’s Odette today has classical purity and true radiance. Her dignified Swan Queen represents years of discipline and heart she has given to refining her technique and understanding. And Corella’s Siegfried met her with ardent tenderness, expressive yet solicitous in his partnering. He was a man who sought more than mere beauty and found his dream unexpectedly fulfilled.
Corella’s appearances at ABT have been rare in recent years. He cut back performing four years ago to launch his own company in Spain, now called Barcelona Ballet, the country’s only major classical company. While it has been challenging to steer his troupe through the vicissitudes of Europe’s financial crisis, he has committed himself to a fulltime role as director.
Corella’s curtain calls were tumultuous. The audience refused to let him go, hurling flowers and stamping their feet, bringing him back again and again in front of the curtain. After the first bows, Herrera hugged him, and left him alone. Getting older is hard; growing up is harder. Corella will be always missed, always loved.