Ballet Zurich

Can Dance Add to Verdi’s “Requiem”?

“Messa da Requiem”
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
January 08, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. W.Moore and ensemble, “Messa da Requiem” by C.Spuck, Ballet Zurich © G.Batardon 2017In mounting Giuseppe Verdi’s “Messa da Requiem”, the Zurich Opera House is bold but has set its sights quite high. Bold, because Christian Spuck, the ballet company’s artistic director, in charge of choreography and staging, involved the whole house, the entire ballet company, singers and the orchestra. Yet that the project would have weak points was predictable. Spuck himself declared in the program book, that this music needed no visualization. “Merging dance with singing is always prone to failure”, he moreover stated. So why did he try? (more…)

Creating an Image

Ballet Companies in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland
Semperoper Ballet, Bavarian State Ballet, State Ballet Berlin, Stuttgart Ballet, Ballett am Rhein,
Dutch National Ballet, Zurich Ballet
October 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

What kind of image distinguishes Stuttgart Ballet from Dutch National Ballet? Or the Bavarian State Ballet from the State Ballet Berlin? What is it the dancers – and their audience – identify with as their company? How do companies present themselves to the public? Such were my thoughts when seeing the Semperoper Ballet’s new image campaign, #WHYWEDANCE. I asked several major companies to send me images of their choice representing their respective company’s image.

1. R.Martínez, #WHYWEDANCE, Semperoper Ballet © I.Whalen 20162. J.Gray, #WHYWEDANCE, Semperoper Ballet © I.Whalen 2016Semperoper Ballet chose four of the sixty-one dancer portraits of #WHYWEDANCE. The new ensemble brochure presents each in full-page size. In addition they are spread via social media and on billboards and advertising pillars in Dresden. Aaron S.Watkin, in his eleventh year as artistic director, put the spotlight on his company this season whose face has changed since his beginning in 2006. Next to the dancers, Ian Whalen, the troupe’s photographer and multimedia expert, also shot Watkin and staff members. Names, places of birth, ranks within the company and the year when joining the ensemble come along with each portrait. In addition, every dancer sums up their motivation for the profession, the why and wherefore of choosing a career with dance in a single word. (more…)

“Swan Lake” – Purged and Restored

“Swan Lake”
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
February 06, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Kapitonova and ensemble, “Swan Lake” by M.Petipa and L.Ivanov with additional choreography by A.Ratmansky, Ballet Zurich Germany’s ballet world can count itself lucky. Alexei Ratmansky works regularly within reachable distance. We had the chance to see his own choreography – “Namouna” in Berlin and “Tanzsuite” at the Semperoper Dresden – and his reconstructions of Marius Petipa’s masterpieces: “Paquita” at the Bavarian State Ballet, followed by “The Sleeping Beauty” at La Scala, Milan. Now the best known ballet of all, “Swan Lake”, has just premiered with Zurich Ballet. It is a coproduction with La Scala where it will be on the schedule from late June onwards.
By chance, one can see swans and seagulls floating on Lake Zurich from the opera house’s balcony. Could there be a better Place for the famous swan story? (more…)

An Attempt to Live Up to an Epic Story

“Anna Karenina”
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
November 29, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Kapitonova and D.Vieira, “Anna Karenina” by C.Spuck, Ballet Zurich © M.Rittershaus 2014Adapting a complex novel of remarkable scale for a ballet is a courageous undertaking. Christian Spuck, Ballet Zurich’s artistic director, took up the challenge. “Anna Karenina”, his new work, premiered earlier this season. It is based on Leo Tolstoy’s eponymous novel, more than one-thousand pages of intricate family histories, written within 1873 – 1878. Spuck boiled them down into a two-hour ballet. How did he approach this task and with what success?

Next to the triangle between Anna Karenina (Viktorina Kapitonova), her husband Alexei Karenin (Filipe Portugal) and her lover Count Alexei Vronsky (Denis Vieira), Spuck also portrays the other protagonists’ love affairs as well as other lesser characters: Dolly’s and the unfaithful Stiva’s messed up marriage (Dolly: Galina Mihaylova, Stiva: Arman Grigoryan) as well as Kitty’s and Levin’s tentative approach to each other, their wedding and apparently happy rural life (Kitty: Katja Wünsche, Levin: Tars Vendebeek). Princess Betsy (Giulia Tonelli), a socialite with dubious morals, and her companion (Wei Chen) – a wimp whom she makes look like fool – are featured as is the rigid Countess Lidia Ivanovna (Eva Dewaele), Alexei Karenin’s later life partner. The settings include those of Moscow’s and St. Petersburg’s high society, the Karenin’s home, a farm harvest with hands at work (Levin’s environment), the famous horse race, Anna’s and Vronsky’s sojourn in Italy and, of course, some train journeys to get from A to B plus Anna’s last fatal encounter with a train. (more…)

Lifeworlds

“Forellenquintett” (“A-Life“, “Wings of Wax“, “Forellenquintett“)
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
November 28, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Brunner, F.Portugal, T.Gurfein, E.Pérez Samper, M.Ligurgo, C.Alex Assis and M.Borel, “A-Life” by D.Lee, Ballet Zurich © B.Stöß 2014A high-tech artificial world confronting vivacious goings-on of trouts in a streamlet – that is roughly the basic point of Zurich Ballet’s triple bill “Forellenquintett”. The middle piece, a thought-provoking reflection about human hubris, about the shattered dream of commanding nature, is the connecting link between both extremes.

“A-Life“ is Douglas Lee’s first choreography for Zurich Ballet. “A-” stands for “Artificial”. Artificial life is an object of research but also an art movement. In both cases computer simulations, robot technology and biochemical knowledge is used to focus on processes in life systems. Lee was interested in what happens when people, emotional beings, are confronted with the digitalized, abstract world; how, for example, an installation determines the movement of dancers. (more…)

Differences in Quality

“Notations”
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
June 15, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Jan Casier, William Moore, Manuel Renard, Denis Vieira and Surimu Fukushi, Kairos by Wayne McGregor, Ballet ZurichA huge, metallic green gleaming ant decorates the playbill and the advertising posters of Ballet Zurich’s ballet evening “Notations”, which premiered in April this year. What kind of connection is between the ant and the dance? A riddle! But maybe I’ll get it later.
“Notations” unites no less than three world premieres: Wayne McGregor, working for the first time with the Swiss company, created “Kairos”. The second piece, “Sonnet”, was contributed by Ballet Zurich’s artistic director Christian Spuck and “Deer Vision”, the third piece, is by Marco Goecke, Stuttgart Ballet’s resident choreographer. (more…)

Dark times for the love

“Romeo and Juliet”
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
June 15, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Eva Dewaele , Cristian Alex Assis, Katja Wünsche and ensemble, Romeo and Juliet by Christian Spuck, Ballet ZurichChristian Spuck, formerly Stuttgart Ballet’s resident choreographer, is in his second year at the helm of Ballet Zurich. “Romeo and Juliet” was his first work for Zurich in 2012. A challenging and appealing task for the newly assembled company back then and a chance for Spuck to contrast with Stuttgart’s Cranko heritage. Spuck deemed Jürgen Rose’s set design for Cranko’s version of “Romeo and Juliet” as too sweetish for the story’s hardship and aimed for more emotional authenticity. He got to work with set designer Christian Schmidt and costume designer Emma Ryott. Did he finally come up with a new, convincing approach? (more…)

The Recurring Chance to Awaken the Beauty

“Sleeping Beauty”
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
April 13, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Y.Han and O.Kollmannsperger, Sleeping Beauty by Mats Ek, Zurich BalletHaving the Royal Ballet’s gorgeous production of Marius Petipa’s “The Sleeping Beauty” in mind (with Alina Cojocaru in the title role), I faced Mats Ek’s modern version, currently performed by Ballet Zurich, with mixed feelings. A drug-addicted Aurora seemed to be an all too tasteless twist on the iconic fairy tale. The Zurich company, however, disabused me. Ek’s “Sleeping Beauty” provided around two hours of fascination during which I kept my eyes glued to the stage to miss no single detail. (more…)

Murder as the Last Resort.

“Woyzeck”
Ballet Zurich
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
November 28, 2013

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2013 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Manuel Renard, Filipe Portugal, Christian Alex Assis, William Moore and Jan Casier, Woyzeck by C.Spuck, Ballet Zurich “Woyzeck” is Christian Spuck’s second work of choreography based on a piece by the German writer Georg Büchner. In 2008 Spuck already had staged the comedy “Leonce and Lena”, two years later the gloomy “Woyzeck” premiered in Oslo. Formerly resident choreographer of Stuttgart Ballet and since 2012 artistic director of Ballet Zurich, Spuck literally brought “Woyzeck” home. Büchner, who died well ahead his time in 1837 at the age of twenty-three due to a typhus infection, spent his last month in Zurich and moreover was buried there. Yet “Woyzeck”, the last piece of his small oeuvre, couldn’t be finished. The handwritten fragments later were assembled and underwent several edits. (more…)