Bavarian State Ballet

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…)

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…)

Munich Opens Wonderland

“Alice in Wonderland”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
April 03, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Alice in Wonderland” by C.Wheeldon, Bavarian State Ballet 2017 © W.Hösl The first day of Munich’s Ballet Festival Week heralded the start of an extended cricket season at the city’s National Theater. Captains of noble descent lead the competing teams. Which of the players – half a zoo plus numerous playing cards – fight for the Queen of Hearts and which fight for the Duchess isn’t always clear. Games aren’t played by the rules in Wonderland. (more…)

Rural Idyll

“La Fille mal gardée”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
January 24, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Alberton and ensemble, “La Fille mal gardée” by F.Ashton, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2017Given the uncomfortable winter cold in Munich and the even more uncomfortable general political climate, being carried off by “La Fille mal gardée”, a rural late-summer idyll, in the National Theater was a welcome time-out. Frederick Ashton’s work, revived by the Bavarian State Ballet this week, brought us a harvest of good feelings.
The ballet, which premiered with the Royal Ballet London in 1960, is set in a time in which crops were harvested manually and women turned their spinning wheels at home. The tranquil, peaceful farming life “La Fille” depicts and its well-functioning village society with a sweet romance blossoming in secret, remind one of a time gone by. (more…)

A Gala without Glamor

“Gala With Stars of the Bavarian State Ballet”
Bavarian State Ballet
Prinzregententheater / Prince Regent Theatre
Munich, Germany
January 15, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Shirinkina and V.Shklyarov, “Parting“ by Y.Smekalov, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2017Half a year after Igor Zelensky assembled his new company in Munich, a gala seemed like the ideal opportunity to showcase his dancers’ individual talents. The gala was scheduled for three evenings in the city’s Prince Regent Theatre; the third evening, the one I saw, was even streamed live on the internet. Sadly, the Bavarian State Ballet didn’t take advantage of this opportunity. That wasn’t due to the dancers but mainly because of organizational failures. From the outside, it appeared the gala was a necessary ingredient to promote the repertory for this season, but when the time came, resources were inadequate to make the event special. (more…)

Spartacus versus Crassus

“Spartacus”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
January 03, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. O.Gouneo and ensemble, “Spartacus” by Y.Grigorovich, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2017Yuri Grigorovich’s “Spartacus” has four leading characters: Spartacus, the heroic fighter for freedom, his antipode, the Roman consul Crassus, and the two men’s lovers, Phrygia and Aegina. The dynamics between the four characters varies depending on the dancers. Having already seen the ballet before Christmas, I was curious as to how the dynamics would be re-balanced by another cast. This time Cuban-born Osiel Gouneo danced Spartacus alongside Ivy Amista as Phrygia. Erik Murzagaliyev replaced the injured Matêj Urban in the role of Crassus. Prisca Zeisel was Crassus’s concubine Aegina.

Gouneo’s Spartacus melded feline suppleness with focused power. He is a fine jumper and turns with elegant ease. With confidence and natural pride, his chest cut through the air like a stately ship’s figurehead. His Spartacus was driven by inner visions, by an intense desire which the flash of his eyes also strongly expressed. Gouneo’s acting, be it when protecting Phrygia, uniting his fighters or struggling as a captive, was credible throughout. He made Spartacus a charismatic, likeable leader. (more…)

Munich’s Heroes

“Spartacus”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
December 23, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Shklyarov and ensemble, “Spartacus” by Y.Grigorovich, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2016Since last Thursday, shortly before Christmas Eve, heroic fighters have commanded the stage of Munich’s National Theater. Hordes of men together with a few women all of them representing characters of either Thracian or Roman lineage, dance “Spartacus”, the epic about a Thracian man who, after having been enslaved by the Roman consul Crassus, engineers a revolt. What will happen, happens: Spartacus dies a hero’s death.

Big doses of fierce fighting and repeated displays of valor need a strong portion of the erotic in order to make them palatable to the audience. That is supplied by two women – Phrygia, Spartacus’s faithful mistress, and Aegina, Crassus’s conniving courtesan. The ballet’s action is based on the novella “Spartaco”, penned in 1874 by Raffaello Giovagnoli, who likely took liberties with historical material from before the Christian era.

There are plenty of “Spartacus” ballets in existence. Budapest, Vienna, Hong Kong and Cape Town have their own productions. Russia has seen four versions: the most recent is Georgy Kovtun’s for the Mikhailovsky Theatre. Aram Khachaturian had composed the music in 1954, and the first staging, by Igor Moiseyev for the Bolshoi in 1956 was short-lived. It was given only two performances, perhaps because it contained much pantomime but too little dancing. (more…)

The Bavarian State Ballet Prepares for the Slave Uprising

“Ballet Extra: Open Rehearsal for Spartacus
Bavarian State Ballet
Ballet Rehearsal Premises, Platzl 7
Munich, Germany
December 16, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Urban and P.Zeisel, “Ballet Extra: Open Rehearsal for Spartacus”, chor.: Y.Grigorovich, Bavarian State Ballet © N.Rodboon 2016Yuri Grigorovich’s “Spartacus” premieres the day before Christmas Eve in Munich. Since September the Bolshoi’s Oksana Tsvetnitskaya and Ruslan Pronin have been rehearsing the troupe. Grigorovich also arrived from Moscow to supervise the production. He didn’t attend Friday evening’s open rehearsal, but Tsvetnitskaya and Pronin were present.

Compared to the last “Ballet Extra,” the queue in front of the company’s rehearsal premises in Munich’s city center was shorter, certainly not because of a lack of interest or Christmas shopping, but due to the limited space in the Bosl-Studio where the event took place. (more…)

Séverine Ferrolier – Queen of the Night, Ballerina and Osteopath-to-be

Bavarian State Ballet
Munich, Germany
October, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Ferrolier rehearsing “Giselle”, chor.: P.Wright after M.Petipa, J.Coralli and J.Perrot, Bavarian State Ballet 2016 © S.Ballone“I was a little catastrophe”, said Séverine Ferrolier, soloist of the Bavarian State Ballet. “I had so much energy as a child, I was always joking, horsing around and teasing my older brother. Like a little actress. I wasn’t shy.” Her self-description surprised me. The women, I was sitting opposite to in the rehearsal premises of the Bavarian State Ballet in Munich, was mindfully serene, warm-hearted and centered in herself. We met in mid-October to talk about her career and her plans for the future. (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…)

The First Run of “Giselle” in Munich

“Giselle”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
October 02, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Giselle” by P.Wright after M.Petipa, J.Coralli and J.Perrot, Bavarian State Ballet © W.Hösl 2016The Bavarian State Ballet opened its first season under Igor Zelensky with the revival of Peter Wright’s “Giselle”. Each of the six performances was led by a different couple. Of the guest dancers Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin created major excitement on opening night. Further guests included the Bolshoi’s Svetlana Zakharova and Vadim Muntagirov from the Royal Ballet London. Both were paired with Munich principals. Of the four ballerinas cast as Giselle, Osipova and Maria Shirinkina danced twice, Zakharova and Ksenia Ryzkhova once. Albrechts coming from within the ranks of the Bavarian State Ballet were Osiel Gouneo and Vladimir Shklyarov. (more…)

Behind the Scenes at the Bavarian State Ballet

“Ballet Extra: A Day of Rehearsals”
Bavarian State Ballet
Ballet Rehearsal Premises, Platzl 7
Munich, Germany
September 10, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. K.Ryzhkova and O.Gouneo rehearsing “Giselle”, Bavarian State Ballet © S.Ballone 2016Igor Zelensky’s directorship at the Bavarian State Ballet kicked off for the public last Saturday with a “Ballet Extra”. The doors of the rehearsal studios in Munich’s City Center were open from 9:45 AM well into the afternoon. The company – or more precisely its principals, soloists and demi-soloists – rehearsed “Giselle”, the season’s first production, and “Spartacus”. Corps dancers weren’t involved.

People queued up in front of the entrance that morning and it seemed a sizeable crowd although, according to new press spokesperson Annette Baumann, it was slightly smaller than last year’s. Given that it was a lovely late summer day, people may have preferred to spend their free time outdoors rather than in stuffy studios full of hard working dancers. (more…)

For the last Time

“Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen”
Bavarian State Ballet
National Theater
Munich, Germany
June 29, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Sukhorukova, N.Losada, Z.Zahradniková, J.Cook, J.de Andrade, L.Engel, N.Strada, G.Romano, S.Ferrolier, M.Dilaghi, A.Tuzil, R.Strona, S.Throop, M.Navarrete Villalba and M.Urban, “Für die Kinder...” by P.Bausch, Bavarian State Ballet © Bavarian State Ballet 2016Last Wednesday Ivan Liška’s era at the helm of the Bavarian State Ballet ended after a final performance of Pina Bausch’s “Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen” (“For the Children of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”). Together with him a large part of the company is leaving. There could have been no better piece than Bausch’s for this event. “For the Children…” tells of what makes life alive: being foolish, crazy, full of joy, desperate, sad and over the top, showing off, trying togetherness, falling in love, quarreling and playing mean games. Many situations are absurd, all are touching. Love is a core topic, emotions in general are. (more…)