European Companies

Celebrating Hans van Manen

“Ode to the Master” (“On the Move” / “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” / “Sarcasm” / “5 Tango’s”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
September 17, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Hans van Manen at the curtain call, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © M.Graste“Were you asked to choreograph about cheese?” the late Stuttgart dance critic Horst Koegler jokingly asked Hans van Manen in a 1982 interview when discussing Van Manen’s first-ever choreography. This first piece premiered at the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam in 1957, was “nationally tinged,” but by no means about cheese, and has been performed more than 350 times. It was a thorough success. Sixty years later Hans van Manen is still choreographing and still successful. His works have won the acclaim of audiences all over the world.

2. Q.Liu and E.Wijnen, “On the Move” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.GerritsenJust in July of this year – the month Hans van Manen celebrated his 85th birthday – the French Ministry of Culture awarded him the title Commandeur des Arts et Lettres during a guest appearance of Dutch National Ballet at the Montpellier Danse Festival. At home in Amsterdam the company opened the season with a tribute to its doyen of choreographers. “Ode to the Master,” an all-Van Manen-program, premiered on September 15th. One of its five pieces, “Alltag,” was choreographed for Ballett am Rhein in 2014, and was only presented at the premiere. Ballet am Rhein’s artistic director Martin Schläpfer especially came to Amsterdam to perform it. I saw the other four pieces – “On the Move,” “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden,” “Sarcasm,” and “5 Tango’s” – at the matinée two days later.

3. E.Wijnen and Q.Liu, “On the Move” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.GerritsenMost admirably, Van Manen’s style has never diluted. His sense for exactly the right dose is infallible. His pieces are neither overdone nor lightweight and certainly none is too long. Van Manen is not a babbler. His choreographic language is clear, fresh, and substantial, sometimes humorous, and always thrilling. His ballets do not age.

“On the Move,” the program opener, premiered in 1992 with Nederlands Dans Theater, when Van Manen was resident choreographer of the company. Dutch National Ballet danced it for the first time this September. (The photos of “On the Move” show a different cast.)

4. A.Shesterikov, Jongh, E.Wijnen and Q.Liu, “On the Move” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsen The stage, decorated with a black backdrop and black drapes at the wings, had velvety depth. The moment Suzanna Kaic and Remi Wörtmeyer entered, the space looked enormous. Both wore skintight unitards with side slits in a strawberry red fabric with a velvety shine (costumes credited to Keso Dekker). Kaic and Wörtmeyer, together with Sasha Mukhamedov and Marijn Rademaker – the latter in black unitards – were the leading couples. They were surrounded by five male / female pairs dressed in blue, green and gray. Kaic and Wörtmeyer’s movements shifted between smooth and jagged. The group shooed both off stage, but moments later they made the group leave.

5. Ensemble, “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017© H.Gerritsen The relationship Mukhamedov and Rademaker portrayed was intimate and playful. When Mukhamedov’s arms and legs reached out, as if in an attempt to explore the space, Rademaker was her safe support. One could talk about the stunning clarity of the group formations that made even simple walking look exciting or about the dancers’ dynamic – the suspense they raised merely with their looks, but that wouldn’t get one to the heart of the matter. Somehow, “On the Move” slipped away from the grip of the mind. It made one stop thinking and just watching. Was this because of the clever way Van Manen interpreted the music, Sergei Prokofiev’s multi-faceted Violin Concerto No 1, opus 19? One couldn’t imagine one step being altered; the choreography could not be any different than it was.

6. Ensemble, “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017© H.Gerritsen “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” was choreographed on the occasion of Amsterdam being European Capital of Culture in 1987. It too has the dancers move in clear, orderly lines and rows, but compared to “On the Move” this ballet kept one entirely alert. Its music, by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, gave the piece its title. Its lively march music has strong infusions of jazz rhythms. The cast of twenty-four dancers – twelve female, twelve male – marched like a guard, turned in unison, bended their torsos, stretched their arms up and posed with one leg placed in front. Their light blue pants with high waistlines, half black / half white tops, and some golden accessories and studs gave them the look of an honor guard (costumes again by Keso Dekker). Order was 7. Ensemble, “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017© H.Gerritsen everywhere. Lines of dancers interlocked to a square, rows lowered or raised as if the group was being arranged for a photo. When the women stepped over the men who rolled across the floor, repeatedly pushing themselves into planks, I thought of the breaking waves of the surf that constantly surge toward the shore. At one point single dancers collapsed to the ground as if badly wounded, but swiftly stood up and reintegrated into the lines. Space-consuming gallops, interspersed with leaps, shaking shoulders and slaps on the thighs, concluded the upbeat parade.

8. M.Rademaker and Jongh, “Sarcasm” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.GerritsenWhen I talked with Rademaker this June, he had just danced his comeback onstage with “Sarcasm” after an almost two-year absence due to injury. He confessed to being “a bit on a high.” I missed his performance in June, but was able to see it at the matinée. His partner was Igone de Jongh again. The music, Prokofiev’s “Five Sarcasms, opus 17,” was played live onstage by pianist Robert Greuter.
The pas de deux dates from 1981 and is about the power games in a couple’s relationship. Who dominates, who wears the pants? Its title suggests “Sarcasm” is solely about mutual mockery and 9. Jongh and M.Rademaker, “Sarcasm” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsen10. Jongh and M.Rademaker, “Sarcasm” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsenscorn, but in fact the couple loves each other. At first Rademaker tried everything to impress De Jongh. He was lyrical, masculine or resolute. He pretended to be uninterested in De Jongh, performed some light jumps right under her nose, but she didn’t deign to even look at him. Instead, she threw blasé glances into the air and puffed up her cheeks in disapproval until deciding to dance a solo herself. And while, for her part, she pressed every button to draw Rademaker’s attention – switching from playing tender to energetic to playful; mimicking a pose from the Dying Swan 11. Jongh and M.Rademaker, “Sarcasm” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsenbefore spreading her legs apart suggestively while sitting on the floor – he leaned towards the piano without the faintest idea how to comprehend that woman.

Finally, both danced together, or rather, they wrestled for superiority while dancing. And although Rademaker approached De Jongh on his knees afterwards and kissed her hand, he swiftly ridiculed his behavior. De Jongh brought the game to a short stop by provocatively grabbing Rademaker in the crotch. After collecting himself he ventilated his indignation (Or excitement? Was he flattered?) in a brisk solo. Just when the couple entered harmonious 12. M.Makhateli and D.Camargo, “5 Tango's” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsenwaters, Greuter stopped playing, but upon Rademaker’s instant intervention, returned to his keys. At the end De Jongh and Rademaker sealed their peace with an embrace.

The dancers of “5 Tango’s” were greeted with applause the moment the curtain went up. The five tangos, to which the piece is set, are by Astor Piazzolla. Each tango has a different mood. The cast of seven couples was led by Maia Makhateli and Daniel Camargo. Maria Chugai / James Stout and Emanouela Merdjanova / Jared Wright danced solo parts.

13. D.Camargo and M.Makhateli, “5 Tango's” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsen“5 Tango’s” premiered forty years ago but it could have been created just recently. Van Manen’s blend of classical ballet and sensual tango passion will never feel dated. Brazilian Camargo made his role a cool mix of macho and gentleman. He controlled his vigor like a sleek panther. After his solo to “Vayamos al diablo” he was called out to take an extra bow. Makhateli depicted a proud, but curbed diva. When kneeling motionless at the front stage, the white light in which she bathed made her look like the Madonna. Her dance with Camargo was like a chocolate whose spicy filling is hidden beneath a classic dark chocolate coating.

Matthew Rowe and Het Balletorkest provided fine musical accompaniment. Liza Ferschtman played the viola in “On the Move.”
“Ode to the Master” is complemented by an exhibition of rehearsal videos, portraits of Van Manen, and photos of his pieces in the foyer of Dutch National Opera & Ballet. One 1960 photo shows him with Roland Petit and Cyd Charisse in the movie “Black Tights” in which Van Manen performed the role of the jealous man among others. In a 2005 photo, he and Queen Beatrix bend over a shared plate and pick slices of salmon. The exhibition will be running until September 30th.
14. D.Camargo, M.Makhateli and ensemble, “5 Tango's” by H.van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsen

Links: Website of Dutch National Ballet 
Trailer “Ode to the Master”
In the studio for an Ode to Hans van Manen, video
Dancers and ballet lovers honor Hans van Manen, video
Photos:  1. Hans van Manen at the curtain call after the premiere, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © Michael Graste
“On the Move” (The photos of “On the Move” show a different cast.)
 2. Qian Liu and Edo Wijnen, “On the Move” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
 3. Edo Wijnen and Qian Liu, “On the Move” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
 4. Artur Shesterikov, Igone de Jongh, Edo Wijnen and Qian Liu, “On the Move” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
Symphonieën Der Nederlanden”
 5. Ensemble, “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
 6. Ensemble, “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
 7. Ensemble, “Symphonieën Der Nederlanden” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
 8. Marijn Rademaker and Igone de Jongh, “Sarcasm” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
 9. Igone de Jongh and Marijn Rademaker, “Sarcasm” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
10. Igone de Jongh and Marijn Rademaker, “Sarcasm” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
11. Igone de Jongh and Marijn Rademaker, “Sarcasm” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
“5 Tango’s”
12. Maia Makhateli and Daniel Camargo, “5 Tango’s” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
13. Daniel Camargo and Maia Makhateli, “5 Tango’s” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
14. Daniel Camargo, Maia Makhateli and ensemble, “5 Tango’s” by Hans van Manen, Dutch National Ballet 2017
photos 2-14 © Hans Gerritsen
 Editing: Julie Bradley


State of Affairs in Munich and News from Berlin

Bavarian State Ballet / State Ballet Berlin
Munich / Berlin, Germany
September 12, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. I.Zelensky © W.HöslAt the end of last season, the first under director Igor Zelensky, a second wave of dancers left the Bavarian State Ballet. Exact numbers and names weren’t announced by the press office, but according to information from within the company 22 out of a total of 69 dancers packed their bags. My report prompted an email by the press office that corrected the number to 21 and denied that the principals Maria Shirinkina and Vladimir Shklyarov would quit the company. What did finally come of it?

First, over the summer break the number of those leaving increased to 23, because demi-soloist Wentao Li had meanwhile returned to China, his home country, for family reasons and guest ballerina Svetlana Zakharova had withdrawn her commitment. Yet in the course of the last season Zakharova had performed only once in Munich. Secondly, Shirinkina and Shklyarov indeed did bid farewell to the core company and returned to the Maryinsky Ballet. They will appear in Munich as guest dancers.

So the gaps were considerable. How did Igor Zelensky fill them?
The company starts the new season with 66 dancers, four of them guest dancers (Shirinkina & Shklyarov and again, as last year, Natalia Osipova & Sergei Polunin). Five dancers of English National Ballet have joined: (more…)

Society’s Boggy Grounds

Semperoper Ballet
Dresden, Germany
September 04, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. R.Arndt, M.Madar, A.Ol, J.Vallejo and A.Gibson, “Manon” by K.MacMillan, Semperoper Ballet 2017 © I.Whalen Semperoper Ballet opened the season with a final run of Kenneth MacMillan’s “Manon.” In most performances since the Dresden premiere in fall 2015 Melissa Hamilton danced the title role. Hamilton returned to her home company, the Royal Ballet London, in May this year. The gap she left was filled by two guest ballerinas familiar with the role – Anna Ol (Principal of Dutch National Ballet) and Dorothée Gilbert (Étoile of Paris Opera Ballet). Both dance twice. The Semperoper Ballet’s Gina Scott is cast for the final two performances in mid-October. I saw the opening night with Ol alongside Julian Amir Lacey as Des Grieux. (more…)

Oh Rudolf…

“Romeo and Juliet”
English National Ballet
Royal Festival Hall / Southbank Centre
London, Great Britain
August 02, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Romeo and Juliet” by R.Nureyev, English National Ballet © L.LiotardoEnglish National Ballet’s revival of Rudolf Nureyev’s “Romeo and Juliet” this August celebrated two birthdays at once. The 40th birthday of the ballet itself and the 90th birthday of the one who commissioned it, Dame Beryl Grey, the company’s President and former artistic director. The six performances given in early August at the Southbank Centre, London, included five castings for Romeo and four ballerinas in the role of Juliet. I saw Josua Hoffalt and Laurretta Summerscales as the star-crossed lovers. Hoffalt, étoile of Paris Opera Ballet, guested with English National Ballet for the first time. For Summerscales it was one of her last performances this year with her home company. She will take a sabbatical year with the Bavarian State Ballet in the next season. (more…)

“Anna Karenina” – Another Lesson By Neumeier

“Anna Karenina”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
July 14, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Arii, M.Huguet, I.Urban, A.Laudere, L.Wang / G.Fuhrman and ensemble, “Anna Karenina” by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet © S.Ballone Several choreographers have adapted Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel “Anna Karenina” for the dance stage. Maya Plisetskaya choreographed the piece for the Bolshoi in 1972 and danced the title role; Alexei Ratmansky created several versions, his latest for the Maryinsky in 2010; Christian Spuck, artistic director of Ballet Zurich, premiered his version in 2014. Now John Neumeier has tackled the subject with Hamburg Ballet. It is a co-production with the Bolshoi Ballet and The National Ballet of Canada, but has been solely produced in Hamburg. (more…)

Young Choreographers of the Ballett am Rhein

“Young Moves”
Ballett am Rhein
Opera House Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf, Germany
July 09, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. C.Jaroszewski and A.Pinet, “No Destination” by W.S.Chan, Ballett am Rhein © G.Weigelt For the second time, Ballett am Rhein presented works by young choreographers. All six ballets of “Young Moves” were created by members of the company. Four of them – Wun Sze Chan, Boris Randzio, So-Yeon Kim and Michael Foster – already participated in last year’s event; Sonny Locsin and Chidozie Nzerem were novices. The program was shown three times during the first half of July. I saw the second show, an afternoon matinee. Maybe it was because of the gorgeous summer weather that many seats in the auditorium remained empty. Applause was, however, warm and intense. (more…)

Conversations with Marijn Rademaker and Jozef Varga

Dutch National Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
June, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Dutch National Opera & Ballet © L.KramerThe beautiful opera house and national ballet company are as welcoming and open as Amsterdam itself. During my last visit for the premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s “Shostakovich Trilogy” in mid-June, I took the opportunity to talk with two principal dancers, Marijn Rademaker and Jozef Varga, about their career and their plans for the future.

Rademaker, a Dutchman, returned home in 2015 after many years with Stuttgart Ballet. We met in a cafe opposite the opera house a few hours before the premiere. Rademaker’s answers are in italics. (more…)

Drain of the Bavarian State Ballet Worse Than Thought

Bavarian State Ballet
Munich, Germany
July 12, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

Igor Zelensky © Wilfried HöslAccording to media reports one week ago, 18 out of a total of 69 dancers are leaving the Bavarian State Ballet at the end of this season. Names weren’t given. Yesterday the company’s press office emailed its newsletter. It contains messages of success – around 95% of seats were sold throughout the season and important pieces entered the repertoire – as well as announcements of promotions: Jonah Cook to principal, Alexander Omalchenko and Erik Murzagaliyev to first soloists, Dmitry Vyskubenko to demi soloist (Prisca Zeisel had become first soloist already in April); and that Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin will appear in Cranko’s “Shrew”.

The press office was, however, economical with the names of the ones leaving. The newsletter’s second to the last paragraph contains only seven names:
First Soloist Matêj Urban (→ Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo)
Demi Soloists: Mai Kono (→ Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal), Adam Zvonaŕ (→ Czech National Ballet, Prague)
Corps de Ballet: Nicha Rodboon (→ Royal Ballet of Flanders, Antwerp), Radka Příhodová (→ Czech National Ballet, Prague), Robin Strona (→ Semperoper Ballet, Dresden) and Gianmarco Romano (→ Finish National Ballet, Helsinki). (more…)

More Than a Quarter of the Company Leaves the Bavarian State Ballet

Bavarian State Ballet
Munich, Germany
July 07, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. I.Zelensky © W.HöslTwenty-nine dancers – around forty percent of the company – left the Bavarian State Ballet last summer when Igor Zelensky took over directorship in Munich. Now, after the first year under his guidance, another 18 of 69 dancers in total (26% of the company) are leaving.

Zelensky declined an interview on this matter, communicating through his press office that two days before going into the summer break he would have no time. A few days ago he drew up a balance on his first season with the German Press Agency (Deutsche Presseagentur dpa) though including some comments on the personnel changes within the company. Those were echoed in the German press (see links below). Zelensky said, “Some [dancers] leave, some I fired. I wanted more quality according to my taste – those are no bad dancers, but I have my vision of what I want to do in the future. […] It’s a huge drama, 18 of 69 are really many. It will take much time to bind all together anew.”* In an interview with the German Press Agency this spring Zelensky had envisioned a larger ensemble, four new productions per season and more than 74 performances. Where will he now draw the resources – the dancers – from? (more…)

Works By Four Young Choreographers in Munich

“Young Choreographers”
Bavarian State Ballet
Prinzregententheater / Prince Regent Theatre
Munich, Germany
July 02, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Mama, ich kann fliegen” by D.Klein, Bavarian State Ballet 2017 © W.Hösl After a break of more than a decade the Bavarian State Ballet revived its “Young Choreographers” evenings last weekend. Of the four up-and-coming choreographers who presented their works on three consecutive nights at Munich’s Prince Regent Theatre, German-born Dustin Klein was the only one from within the ranks of the company. He was joined by the Swiss Benoît Favre, a dancer from Ballet Zurich. and two Russian colleagues: Anton Pimonov from the Maryinsky Ballet and Andrey Kaydanovskiy from the Vienna State Ballet. (more…)

Just Dance?

“Shostakovich Trilogy”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
June 17, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Shostakovich Trilogy” by A.Ratmansky, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsen“Ted, I don’t know what you’re doing with the company,” Alexei Ratmansky said after the premiere of his “Shostakovich Trilogy” at Dutch National Ballet, “but they get better and better.” He was right to praise the dancers. Their dedication and attention to detail – and this piece is replete with details – made the evening a thorough success.

“Shostakovich Trilogy” is the sixth piece by Ratmansky to enter the company’s repertoire and, next to “Don Quichotte”, is the second full-evening one. (more…)

Searching for the Soul

“Corpus” (“disTANZ” / “Lady with a Fan”)
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
June 10, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. F.Dell'Aria, J.Fraser, E.Wisenberg and D.Slavkovský, “disTANZ” by F.Portugal, Ballet Zurich 2017 © G.BatardonHow does the soul get into the dance? What relationship does the soul have to the body? Such were the questions, Filipe Portugal and Douglas Lee, the two choreographers of “Corpus” tried to explore in their new works. The double bill premiered at the end of May. Portugal, principal of the company, has been choreographing several years now for his Zurich colleagues as well as for Zurich’s Junior Ballet. “disTANZ”, his most recent creation, was the first on the program. Like Portugal, Lee, a Berlin-based choreographer with British roots, is familiar with the company as well. “Lady with a Fan” is his third creation for Ballet Zurich. Both Portugal and Lee choreographed group pieces. (more…)

Substance versus Effects

“Quintett” (Triple Bill: “rituals from another when” / “Kammerballett” / “Quintett”)
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
June 09, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble and Junior Ballet Zurich, “rituals from another when” by J.Godani, Ballet Zurich 2017 © C.QuezadaUnlike its title suggests, “Quintett”, Zurich Ballet’s mixed bill which premiered in February this year, is made of not five but three pieces. William Forsythe’s “Quintett”, rarely performed choreography from 1993, lent the evening its caption. The other two ballets were “rituals from another when,” a new creation for Zurich Ballet by Jacopo Godani, and Hans van Manen’s “Kammerballett.” All three pieces were danced to recorded music. (more…)


“Don Quixote”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
June 03, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Badenes, A.Soares da Silva and ensemble, “Don Quixote” by M.Guerra, Stuttgart Ballet 2017 © Stuttgart BalletStuttgart Ballet is facing a time of great change. Just recently, artistic director Reid Anderson announced that the company will part at the end of this season with Demis Volpi, who had been its resident choreographer since 2013. Whether the contract of Marco Goecke, the company’s second in-house-choreographer, will be extended beyond summer 2018 (after which Tamas Detrich will take the reins from Anderson) is still the subject of rumors. What is certain, though, is that this season will be the last for an icon of Stuttgart Ballet. After more than seventy years as dancer, choreologist, coach, ballet master and linchpin for the company, 89-year-old Georgette Tsinguirides will retire in July. (more…)

A Masterpiece?

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
May 26, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Ryshkova, “A Midsummer Night's Dream” by J.Neumeier, Bavarian State Ballet 2017 © W.Hösl Balmy nights that follow days of 86°F are ideal to get one in a dreamy midsummer night’s mood. It was just the right time for reviving John Neumeier’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s iconic comedy, as danced by the Bavarian State Ballet this May. The amorous entanglements Shakespeare invented in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” are confusingly intricate and very juicy. Theseus, the duke of Athens, is about to marry Hippolyta, the former queen of the Amazons. Oberon, king of the fairies, and Titania, his queen, have come to the forests surrounding Athens to attend the wedding. A bit short of domestic bliss, their quarrels cause great trouble among the four lovers of the human world, Lysander & Hermia and Demetrius & Helena. Chaos intensifies because of Puck, Oberon’s shrewd and knavish sprite. A group of incompetent, amateur actors, preparing to entertain the royal wedding with “Pyramus and Thisbe” adds to the overall confusion.

Neumeier streamlined the knotty story by dropping side characters and subplots and allocating distinct music to the three lifeworlds. Felix Mendelssohn’s compositions for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (and other pieces by him) accompany the events at court. The mechanicals rehearse and perform to barrel organ music. Oberon, Titania and their fairies live inside György Ligeti’s electronic soundscapes. The Mendelssohn was played live by the Bavarian State Orchestra under the baton of Michael Schmidtsdorff; of Ligeti, we heard a recorded version. James Lyttle, one of the mechanicals, played the barrel organ. (more…)