European Companies

“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…)

Changes

“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…)

Real Life and Ideals – Nureyev’s “Swan Lake”

“Swan Lake”
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
May 14, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Chudin and O.Smirnova, “Swan Lake” by R.Nureyev after M.Petipa and L.Ivanov, Vienna State Ballet © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor “French and Russian style differ, so everything is a bit new at the moment,” Semyon Chudin told me in an interview a few weeks before his premiere in Rudolf Nureyev’s “Swan Lake” in Vienna. He and Olga Smirnova, both figureheads of the Bolshoi, guested in the leading roles with Manuel Legris’s company. I saw the first of two performances. How did they do?

Nureyev’s version differs in style, choreography and the weight given to several characters in comparison to other traditional interpretations of “Swan Lake”. The role of Benno, Prince Siegfried’s friend, is gone and, unlike in Russian productions, there is no fool either. Instead the focus shifts towards Siegfried, whom Nureyev danced more than fifty times himself; his last performance was in 1988 a few days after his 50th birthday. Nureyev’s Siegfried has more to dance – a formal Pas de cinq at his birthday party followed by a melancholy solo, for example – and allows deeper insight into his psyche. At the end he falls victim to Von Rothbart’s revenge and drowns in the floods of the lake, whereas Odette, still alive, stands at the lakeside like the idealized female. However desperately Siegfried stretches his arms towards her she is unattainable. He is doomed to die. (more…)

State Ballet Berlin – The Die is Cast

State Ballet Berlin
Berlin, Germany
May 04, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Waltz and J.Öhman © A.RivalAround six months ago, questions were raised about the legitimacy of Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman’s contracts as future artistic directors of the State Ballet Berlin. Their appointments needed the approval of the Stiftungsrat of the Opera, but because of the upcoming elections, the board hadn’t (and still hasn’t) the required quorum of members for making valid decisions. Having firmly protested against the appointment of the new directors for months, the dancers intensified their opposition at that time.

Apparently hoping that the furor would die down in the meantime, Waltz and Öhman, together with Berlin’s new cultural senator Dr. Klaus Lederer (DIE LINKE), talked with the dancers as part of a staff meeting at the end of April. Their aim was to provide insight into their artistic program, and to start “an open and constructive dialogue”*. On the following mid-morning, Waltz and Öhman gave a press conference in which they tried to imply that the waves had calmed and that all were eager to establish a “trustful and creative atmosphere”*.

The facts are as follows: (more…)

An Ordeal

“Don Quixote”
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
April 28, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Sasaki, R.Scott and ensemble, “Don Quixote” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2017 © J.Vallinas“Don Quixote” is best associated with the showy dancing of snappy youth, lighthearted joie de vivre and air sizzling with eroticism. The Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg’s new “Don Quixote” offers the opposite. Goyo Montero, artistic director of the company of around twenty dancers, boiled down the traditional three acts to a single one lasting 90 minutes. According to the program booklet, the production begins in a mental institution, a prison or a refugee camp. Given the huge gunny sacks serving as seats, buffers or protective wall (set design by Eva Adler and Montero), the scruffy gray and brown costumes and the simple bag-like headdresses credited to Angelo Alberto and Montero, I thought of mill hands kept in arrest. But regardless of the place one imagines the figures inhabiting it are insane. (more…)

Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin on “Swan Lake”

“Swan Lake”
Vienna State Ballet
Moscow / Vienna
April 28, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Chudin and O.Smirnova, “Swan Lake” by Y.Grigorovich after M.Petipa, L.Ivanov and A.Gorsky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / D.YusupovIn mid-May Vienna State Ballet revives Rudolf Nureyev’s “Swan Lake,” the version he choreographed for the company in 1964. The new set and costumes are by Luisa Spinatelli. Four guest dancers will take the leading roles in the course of the run. The Bolshoi’s Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin dance twice, on May 14th and 17th; on June 4th Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov of The Royal Ballet guest in Vienna. The last performance on Monday, June 12th, will be streamed live on the internet.

While “Swan Lake” is Smirnova’s debut in Vienna, Chudin returns for the third time to the Austrian capital. Two weeks before opening night I asked both about their roles and about Nureyev’s production in particular. Smirnova, who at that time was in Moscow, answered in written form. Katerina Novikova, head of the Bolshoi’s press office, kindly translated Smirnova’s answers into English. Chudin, already rehearsing with the company in Vienna, talked with me via Skype. (more…)