Monthly Archive: May 2023

A Farewell and a Fresh Start

“Pavilion of Armids” / “Hungarian Dances” / “Sextus Propertius”
Ural Opera Ballet
Yekaterinburg State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre
Yekaterinburg, Russia
April 14, 2023 (video)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Lazarev (Museum attendant), “Pavilion of Armids” by M.Petrov, Ural Opera Ballet 2023 © I.Mohnatkin / Ural Opera BalletPerseverance pays off. A few weeks after the premiere of the Ural Opera Ballet’s new triple bill in mid-April I finally got access to its recording. Three Russian choreographers contributed to the program: the Maryinsky Ballet’s dancer-choreographer Maxim Petrov, the artistic director of the Perm Opera Ballet Anton Pimonov, and the Yekaterinburg company’s own artistic director Vyacheslav Samodurov.

Petrov chose to reinterpret Michel Fokine’s “Le Pavillon d’Armide” – one of the ballets that manifested the Ballet Russes’ legendary tour to Paris in May 1909. Its libretto by Alexandre Benois (which is based on Théophile Gauthier’s novel “Omphale”) tells of the sorceress Armida who descends at night from a magic tapestry in a marquis’s garden pavilion to bewitch an aristocrat. Petrov relocated the action to a modern-day museum and swapped the tapestry for a wall-sized modern field painting, evoking the work of Mark Rothko (set design by Aliona Pikalova). Instead of an aristocrat, Armida (Anna Domke) beguiles (or rather befools) a young, bored museum attendant (Alexandr Merkushev). Petrov didn’t stint on satire when portraying Armida’s maneuvers, reinstating the humor Benois had deleted when adapting Gautier’s “Omphale”. (more…)

An Insidious Cultural Erosion

“La fille mal gardée”
Ballet of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma
Teatro Costanzi
Rome, Italy
May 06, 2023 (matinee and evening performance)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Simkin (Colas) and R.Bianchi (Lise), “La fille mal gardée” by F.Ashton, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma 2023 © F.Sansoni / Teatro dell’Opera di Roma Two performances of Frederick Ashton’s hilarious “La fille mal gardée” in sunny Rome – doesn’t that sound irresistible? Laughter is inevitable when Lise, the wayward peasant’s daughter, mischievously arranges tête-à-têtes with her lover Colas. That’s how I’ve experienced “La fille mal gardée” previously.
This time, though, the laughter stuck in my throat. Too much did the overexcited quirks of Lise’s mother Simone – a role traditionally danced in drag – remind me of reality. A reality that – at least in some of the western countries – has been shaped by the LGBTQ+ community’s persistent effort to be celebrated within mainstream culture. Bearing in mind some of their avid advocates (the transgender model Dylan Mulvaney, for example, or the drag queen Joshua Kelley who recently was appointed the US Navy’s first digital ambassador), I don’t find Simone funny anymore. And worse, the moment a sense of reality sneaks into Ashton’s village folk, the characterization of Alain (Simone’s favorite son-in-law) as the village idiot becomes unbearable too. Though of marriageable age, he clings to his wealthy father’s coat-tails like an infant. Lise disdains him; the village youth laughs down at him – and so do we. But isn’t he actually the victim of nasty bullying? (more…)

A Gain

“Goldberg-Variationen” (“Tabula Rasa” / “Goldberg-Variationen”)
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
April 27, 2023 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Vandervelde, D.Dato, G.Fourés, and ensemble; “Goldberg-Variationen” by H.Spoerli, Vienna State Ballet 2023 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor Since Martin Schläpfer took over the reins of the Vienna State Ballet in 2020, his pre-existing and new choreographies entered the company’s repertoire. Most of them I wouldn’t call assets. However, the most recent double bill is a gain. It combines Ohad Naharin’s “Tabula Rasa” (1986) and Heinz Spoerli’s “Goldberg-Variationen” (1993). Sadly, the livestream of the premiere began only after the break, omitting “Tabula Rasa”. Hence, I can only comment on “Goldberg-Variationen”.

I should have known better, but I was not prepared to read the name of Horst Koegler (1927 – 2012) in the piece description on the Vienna State Ballet’s website. It quotes Koegler who labeled “the Goldberg-Variationen as one of the works from Spoerli’s Bach ballet cathedral which describes people and life in a series of poetic, choreographed images and scenes (…)”. Koegler, one of Germany’s renowned ballet critics and the author of a book about Spoerli, was very well versed with the latter’s oeuvre. He loved “Goldberg-Variationen” – both Bach’s music and its interpretation through dance. Would he have liked Vienna’s one? (more…)