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Ballet company takes on ‘Phantom’

Christine (Kira Petersen) and Phantom (Robbie Rodriguez) star in "Phantom of the Opera." (Courtesy of Justin Day)

Christine (Kira Petersen) and Phantom (Robbie Rodriguez) star in “Phantom of the Opera.” (Courtesy of Justin Day)

Say “Phantom of the Opera,” and many fans think Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The New Mexico Ballet Company is staging its own version of the classic story with the New Mexico Philharmonic against a classical soundtrack. The performance includes music by Bach, Tchaikovsky, Smetana, Handel, Gounod, Khachaturian and Wagner. The production is slated for two shows on Saturday, March 16, at Popejoy Hall.

“We’re not using any of the music from the musical or the movie,” NMBC artistic director Natalie Harris said. “It’s already being performed by Albuquerque Academy.”

The music rights contract stipulates that two Webber productions cannot be performed simultaneously, she said.

So Harris worked with conductor David Felberg to match the music to the motion in this tale of outcasts, love and obsession.

“I don’t think it’s ever been done as a ballet,” she said.

The exiled Phantom hides a romantic heart and a sensitive soul beneath his physical ugliness. Driven by hopeless love for the beautiful soprano Christine, he becomes a specter in a sinister world of his own creation deep within the opera house dungeon.

Lush costumes and neoclassical choreography will conjure the world of this fantastical love triangle.

“I choreographed it,” Harris said. “I’m the type that really likes to see the music through the movement. It was a lot of fun, because ‘Phantom’ isn’t all about princesses and the princes who rescue them. He lives in the shadows because his features are deformed.”

The neoclassical style offers the dancers more flexibility with less rigid lines, she said.

The costumes will set the scene during the Edwardian period of 1904, with abundant ruffles fluttering from collars and sleeves.

“The only risque part is the tango,” Harris said. “It’s the part where the Phantom comes to the stage with this Spanish-style ballet when he’s going to kidnap Christine and take her away. They’re in all black and they have a red rose in their hair.”

The company’s more than 60 dancers range in age from 8 to 60. The production will incorporate as many children as possible, Harris said.

Albuquerque native Robbie Rodriguez will star as the Phantom, with Kira Petersen as Christine. Rodriguez trained with both State Street Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet School in New York. He most recently played Aladdin in “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp.” Petersen grew up in Minnesota and trained with the Joffrey Ballet School. She danced with the New Mexico Ballet Company from 2012 to 2015 and rejoined in 2017.

“We collaborate with the Phil every spring,” Harris said. “We like to do something new. It’s still a great story; we’re doing our own interpretation of it.”