German Companies

Berlin’s New “Nutcracker” – No Cracker Jack!

“The Nutcracker”
State Ballet Berlin
Deutsche Oper Berlin
Berlin, Germany
October 25, 2013

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2013 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Nikolai Petrak, Michael Banzhaf and Sabrina Salvia Gaglio, The Nutcracker, State Ballet BerlinDespite the amazingly mild weather so far, State Ballet Berlin’s premiere of its new “Nutcracker” heralded an early start for this year’s Christmas season. Vladimir Malakhov, in his last year as artistic director of the company, decided to replace Patrice Bart’s production – which had been in repertory from 1999 until two years ago – with one based on St. Petersburg’s 1892 original. Entrusted with the choreography were Russia’s Yuri Burlaka and Vasily Medvedev, both familiar with their homeland’s ballet tradition. Neither of them is unknown in Berlin, having staged an adaption of “La Esmeralda” for the State Ballet in 2011.

A huge spectacle, more splendid, more fairytale-like and magical than ever – those were the superlatives with which Malakhov advertised this “Nutcracker”. Was it to be his proud parting gift (and certainly no cheap one) after his more than ten years tenure? (more…)

Who’s as Big?

“Made in Germany”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart Schauspielhaus
Stuttgart, Germany
October 10, 2013

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2013 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Constantine Allen in Fancy Goods by Marco Goecke, Stuttgart Ballet 2013, photo Stuttgart BalletOnce upon a time the label “Made in Germany” conveyed craftsmanship and reliability. Innovation, novelty and experimentation weren’t features associated with this phrase in any primary way. Now, Stuttgart Ballet has proven the opposite. “Made in Germany” is the ever so self-confident title of the company’s new ballet program which premiered earlier this month. A mixed bill of twelve little pieces, specially created for the dancers of Stuttgart Ballet by nine choreographers, it serves as nibbles for various tastes. In addition to these miniatures, a vast number of works have been made for the company since Reid Anderson’s directorship began in 1996: more than eighty, seven of them program-filling story ballets. Where else can one find such fertile creativity alongside the careful guardianship of tradition?

Crucial for spotting new choreographic talent is Stuttgart’s Noverre Society. Founded during Cranko’s era, it annually gives as yet unknown choreographers the opportunity to show their creations to an audience. For six of the current evening’s choreographers the Noverre presentations were the doorway to the big stages for which they have subsequently been making work. (more…)

Bonbons from Stuttgart

The Taming of the Shrew”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
September 28, 2013

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2013 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Alicia Amatriain and Alexander Jones, The Taming of the Shrew by John Cranko, Stuttgart Ballet, photo Stuttgart BalletStuttgart Ballet opened its season with a revival of one of John Cranko’s classics:”The Taming of the Shrew”- a turbulent, crisp comic. Audiences find it irresistible, like a bonbonnière filled with colorfully wrapped sweets.

At its premiere in 1969 the success of “Shrew”was all the more momentous given that narrative ballets were not in vogue during the preceding decade and ballet comedies were unusual. Next to Cranko’s “Romeo and Juliet”, “Shrew” added considerably to what the New York Times’ Clive Barnes termed “The Stuttgart Ballet Miracle” following the company’s 1969 visit to the Metropolitan Opera House. The premiere’s cast list reads like the “who’s who?” of ballet: Marcia Haydée and Richard Cragun in leading roles, with John Neumeier, Egon Madsen and Heinz Clauss as Bianca’s (Susanne Hanke) three suitors, and in the corps de ballet: Jiří Kylián. Almost forty-five years later “Shrew” hasn’t gathered dust. On the contrary the Stuttgart audience thrilled to it and the atmosphere was splendid. (more…)