Monthly Archive: April 2015

Go All Out Again!

Semperoper Ballet
Dresden, Germany
April 18, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. C.Richardson and F.Voranger, “Giselle” by D.Dawson, Semperoper Ballet Dresden © I.Whalen 2015Earlier this year, Courtney Richardson and Fabien Voranger enthralled Semperoper Dresden’s audience in the leading roles of David Dawson’s “Tristan + Isolde”. In April both had their debut in Dawson’s “Giselle”. I was curious as to how the two would tackle this quite different love story. The performance on April 18 – the second for Richardson and Voranger – was the last of this season’s run of “Giselle”.
For the specifics of Dawson’s version I would like to refer to what I wrote almost exactly one year ago (Landgraf on Dance: Last Dance). In short, Dawson’s reading of the classic is timeless yet modern. The roles of Berthe (Giselle’s mother) and the Duke of Courland are dropped; the first act’s hunting party is replaced by a wedding party; the miming scene foreboding disaster takes place in the course of the wedding festivities. The second act depicts Abrecht’s memories, his mental state, his process in coping with what had happened. Neither Hilarion appears again nor is there a grave. Nor are the Wilis avenging spirits. Rather, they remind one of impartial beings. (more…)

Emotions – that’s what it’s all about

“Lady of the Camellias”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
April 10, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Rademaker and Jongh, “Lady of the Camellias” by J.Neumeier, Dutch National Ballet © A.Sterling 2015One feels immediately comfortable at the Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Amsterdam’s principal opera house. Its spacious foyers are flooded with light provided by large windows which allow a panoramic view over the Amstel River. Terraces on various levels are favorite meeting spots of the audience. The house radiates the city’s atmosphere: Amsterdamers are open-minded, easy-going and kind. Special excitement and anticipation was in the air on April 10 at the premiere of John Neumeier’s “Lady of the Camellias”.

After “Sylvia” in 2011, it is the second piece by Neumeier that the company’s director Ted Brandsen has added to the repertory. Ballets by Hans van Manen, established as the company’s associate and resident choreographer for more than five decades, by Krzysztof Pastor and by David Dawson are the backbone of the schedules. Rudi van Dantzig (1933 – 2012), for twenty years at the helm of Dutch National Ballet, also left his mark as a choreographer. (more…)

Safety and Comfort are Rare

“Winterreise” (“Winter Journey”)
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
March 29, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Martínez, “Winterreise” by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet © H.Badekow 2015Reviving John Neumeier’s “Winterreise” in early spring seems odd programming. The ballet is based on Franz Schubert’s somber song cycle of 1828 as rendered musically by German conductor and composer Hans Zender. The twenty-four songs’ verses seem simple at first glance, almost folk-like, but plumb deeply into existential states of mind. Center stage are a young wayfarer’s experiences – encounters he has had with others along his life’s passionate path. Even if spring moods must be left aside “Winterreise” was a good opener the week before Easter.
Schubert had based “Winterreise” on poems by Wilhelm Müller (1794 – 1827), and he set them without informing the poet. Some attribute Müller’s death, which was untimely, to complete exhaustion; others speculate that he committed suicide due to unbearable depression. His verses exude gloom. He died in September and Schubert began composing in October. The two never met. Allegedly, Schubert secluded himself while composing. Eventually, when visiting friends he seemed to be unhinged. Zender suspects that the first concert performances of the piece must have caused fright rather than delight. Schubert died only one year later, in 1828. He was just thirty-one years old. (more…)