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Beyond Tutus and Toe Shoes: Executive Director Dave Hurlbert talks about Marigny Opera Balle

Marigny Opera House’s resident ballet company encapsulates the spirit of New Orleans: Live music is at the center of performances, loving tradition but embracing the new and weird. Shows happen in the casual, but grand, setting of the Bywater performance space. During its inaugural season in 2014, the ballet company, then the Marigny Opera House Dance Company, drew rave reviews. The company’s 2015-’16 season opens Oct. 2 with the original full-length Orfeo. The rest of the season continues with Christmas Concerto (Dec. 10-13); “Emerging Choreographers,” new works from Louisiana choreographers (March 18-20, 2016); and “Program 4 – Mixed Repertory” (May 20-22, 2016), which will consist of audience favorites from the season. Marigny Opera House executive director Dave Hurlbert, who once served as the principal pianist for San Francisco Ballet, talked to us about this uniquely New Orleans troupe.

Live music is a big part of the ballet’s performances. What are some of the cool musical aspects of the upcoming season? Our music director and conductor this season will be Francis Scully, who’s the director of New Resonance Chamber Orchestra. I think this in itself is pretty exciting. Maybe the biggest news, though, is the world premiere of Orfeo, which features a newly commissioned score by local composer Tucker Fuller. The work is for a two-act ballet and has been composed for a chamber ensemble of 13 musicians – including strings, woodwinds and harp. In December the ballet will perform another premiere: Christmas Concerto. The accompaniment to this three-act work will be baroque concerti by Handel and Corelli, all conducted by Francis.

The theater offers classical arts programing in a nontraditional, more casual setting. Does that nontraditional spirit factor into the style and selections of the ballet? Yes, indeed. Our aesthetic is far from the world of tutus and toe shoes. I would say we’re a classically trained ballet company performing in a modern idiom. In our inaugural season, we performed nine new works ranging from a fresh look at Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” to a work set to the Young Fellaz street musicians’ music (“Blast”).

Tell me a little bit about the season opener. Orfeo has been in the works for over a year. Our inspiration has been the 17th-century opera, Orfeo, by Claudio Monteverdi. The piece tells the story of the demigod Orpheus, his love for Eurydice, and the tragedy they encounter. It’s a two-act dramatic ballet being choreographed by Maya Taylor, with a cast that includes our hero Orfeo, Eurydice, an hypnotic river snake, the King and Queen of the Underworld and forest nymphs and animals. The theater and film designer C. Robert Holloway is creating sets, projections, lighting and costumes for the production, which we’re very excited about. Our opening night patron party this year on Oct. 2 celebrates Mignon Faget, lead corporate sponsor, and will be held after the premiere at Feelings Café. Judging by advance subscription ticket sales, the party is going to be a crush!

For more information on the Marigny Opera Ballet, visit

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