Scarlatti Portfolio is set to Benjamin Lee's brilliant orchestral arrangements of seven Domenico Scarlatti keyboard sonatas. The spirited and distinctive Italian quality of the music is reflected in Christensen's witty and ingenious choreographic vignettes.
Christensen had been fascinated with the form and style of Italian commedia dell'arte throughout his career and as early as 1952 had choreographed a commedia dell'arte sketch for NBC television's "Standard Hour." Christensen believed that the style and subject matter of commedia dell'arte was a classic and timeless account of societal mores.
In the tradition of commedia dell'arte, the seven sections of Scarlatti Portfolio are arranged as a collection of ingenious sketches full of witty twists and bawdy humor executed with Christensen's exquisite sense of comic timing. In one scene, the ill-featured Franceschina, an elderly, wealthy widow efficiently equipped with a mobile bosom that she comically manipulates by pulling strings behind her back-- resolutely searches for a husband.
Scarlatti Portfolio's most celebrated sequence is the tour-de-force hoop dance which one critic described as "one of the most exciting pieces of choreography San Francisco Ballet has enjoyed in years." At the 1979 prestigious International Ballet Competition, Christensen was awarded the bronze medal for his choreography of the `hoop dance' and San Francisco Ballet dancer David McNaughton captured the silver medal for his execution of the virtuosic choreography.
Scarlatti Portfolio has been praised as "vintage Christensen" and "first-rate dance theater." Scarlatti Portfolio has taken its place beside Filling Station and Con Amore as one of Christensen's comic masterworks.
Photograph: David McNaughton in the `Hoop Dance' from Scarlatti Portfolio, 1979. Photo by Marty Sohl.
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