Bountiful Ballet Footnotes Unmasked, Part 1: Tulsa Ballet Revives ‘Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music’ this weekend

By Glenda Rice Collins

Tulsa, Okla., USA – Just three years ago, in March 2020, as the COVID 19 pandemic lockdown went into full effect, Tulsa Ballet employees geared up to make and widely share much-needed health-protective (and scarce) masks made from humanitarian efforts in their costume department.

Now, following recently dazzling 2022-23 season world premieres of unmasked, seductive Carmen and elaborately-staged Cinderella productions, Tulsa Ballet artistic director Marcello Angelini brings us Ma Cong‘s poignant and beautiful masterpiece, Tchaikovsky, the Man Behind the Music, March 23-26 at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.

Cong’s brilliant-tribute ballet made its World Premiere just four years ago on March 29, 2019 here. the performance then called “…simply, a triumph,” by the Tulsa World, just a year before the pandemic lockdown. Creative genius now prevails once again!

Cong’s Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music delves into the complicated personal life of the gifted and acclaimed musician who brought the world the essence and depth diverse emotions in the enduring Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker ballet themes and evocative variations cherished for centuries.

He raised the bar for Russian Ballet Music

According to Wynne Delacoma in a 2021 Experience website post for Chicago Symphony Orchestra,

“Between the 1877 premiere of Swan Lake in Moscow and the debut of The Nutcracker in St. Petersburg in 1892, Tchaikovsky raised the bar for Russian ballet music. He replaced the hackneyed tunes and predictable rhythms typically found on Russia’s ballet stages with music full of soaring, inventive melodies, daring harmonies and rhythmic vitality. His three ballets have become classics that endure to this day.”

While Tchaikovsky was celebrated for his professional success and popularity, the societal constraints of life in 19th century Russia created constant inner conflict between his private life and the public persona society required of him. 

Imagine all this beautiful music coming from such a tormented soul,” says Tulsa Ballet artistic director Marcello Angelini. Details become clear in the staged details of the gifted Ma Cong’s full-length ballet about the now revered composer.

To bring Tchaikovsky’s story to life, in 2017 Angelini assembled a stellar creative team, that included: composer and librettist Oliver Peter Graber (Dorothy & the Prince of Oz), Russian historian Daniela Kolic, New Zealand’s top designer Tracy Grant Lord (The Nutcracker, and the then Tulsa Ballet resident choreographer Ma Cong. The musical score features a blend of Tchaikovsky’s greatest works along with other influential composers of the time, as well as some original music by Oliver Peter Graber.


Preview Night: Beer & Ballet on Thursday, March 23rd Tulsa Ballet will give glimpses of the “magic” behind the curtain. A curated pre-show experience allows audiences to watch the dancers prepare, see the crew transform the stage for show time, and gain insight from members of the artistic and production team. Preview Night patrons will also have the opportunity to purchase unique craft beer, available only on Thursday night. Tickets for Preview Night are $25 or $50!

Tickets for Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music this weekend start at $25 at


Tulsa Performing Arts Center | 110 E 2nd St. Tulsa, OK 74103
Thursday, March 23      | 7:00 pm
Friday, March 24           | 7:30 pm
Saturday, March 25       | 7:30 pm
Sunday, March 26         | 2:30 pm

AT A GLANCE: 2020-2023 Recent Pandemic Time-Frame Progress for Tulsa Ballet

While 2020 dancers took several pandemic-related steps back, and potential audiences mostly stayed home during the COVID 19 lockdown if possible, as theaters closed, it was hard to imagine how long creativity, choreography, classes, live music and workouts would be sidelined. But, resilience has prevailed, and the 2022-23 season brought major new works and significant recognition to Tulsa Ballet, with dazzling world premieres of both Kenneth Tindall’s vibrant and seductive Carmen, set to Georges Bizet’s evocative, provocative music; and Andrew McNicol’s extravagant “surprise, feast for the eyes” Cinderella productions.

— and significant Oklahoma Five Moons Dance Festival prima ballerina special recognition to Tulsa Ballet co-founder, and Oklahoma Cultural Treasure Moscelyne Larkin Jasinski (1925-2012), at the September 2022 Five Moons Dance Festival events at the University of Oklahoma Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts, and at the new First Americans Museum related events in Oklahoma City.

Each of Oklahoma’s renowned Five Moons acclaimed prima ballerinas of American Indian descent, and global fame, designated as Oklahoma Cultural Treasures, will receive individual special recognition, from year to year, at the Five Moons Dance Festival.

Prima ballerina Yvonne Chouteau (1929-2016), a co-founder of the University of Oklahoma School of Dance, and the Oklahoma City Civic Ballet, received the first such individual recognition at the 2021 Five Moons Dance Festival. Prima ballerinas Maria Tallchief, Rosella Hightower, and Marjorie Tallchief will receive individual special focus during similar events in the coming years.*

*(See related feature articles referencing the Five Moons, in feature articles coming soon to this website:

CREDITS: 2019 World Premiere images from Ma Cong’s Tchaikovsky, the Man Behind the Music provided by Tulsa Ballet.


Bountiful Ballet Footnotes Unmasked, Part 2: Oklahoma City Ballet From ‘Future Voices’ to ‘Shorts’ & Beyond!


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