German Companies

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…)

More of the Same

“The Song of the Earth”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
December 09, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. H.Bouchet and A.Trusch, “The Song of the Earth” by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet © S.Ballone 2016While the Nutcracker-season is in full swing elsewhere, some ballet stages in German-speaking countries bring up serious and even fierce topics during Christmas time. Just recently, Christian Spuck premiered “Messa da Requiem”, his new creation for Zurich Ballet; the Bavarian State Ballet is in its final rehearsals for “Spartacus” awaiting Yuri Grigorovich’s finishing touch. In Hamburg, John Neumeier added another ballet, his fifteenth, to his encyclopedic collection of choreographies to music by Gustav Mahler. (more…)

Welcome Innovations

“Oracle”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
November 25, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Gibson, “Oracle” by J.Hernandez, Semperoper Ballet © I.Whalen 2016With the new year quickly approaching, the art of prophecy is in great demand in Dresden. One clairvoyant resides in a cozy, tiny hut on a beautiful, rustic Christmas market in the old stable yard next to the Dresden Castle. An expert in palm reading, cartomancy and runes magic, the white-haired lady offers glances into what next year will bring.

Not far from her stall, in the former opera restaurant just recently altered into the studio stage “Semper Two,” another soothsayer, a quite prominent lady, is at work. Or, to be precise, is fed up with work. Alas, there is currently no chance to receive advice from her. Joseph Hernandez, coryphée of Semperoper Ballet and a fledgling choreographer, attended to the matter in the dance theater “Oracle”, his first piece for Semperoper Ballet. Accompanied by a musical mix consisting of vintage jazz as well as cello and violin sounds of various atmospheres, it unveils the Oracle of Delphi’s problem. Exhausted from putting herself into a trance to answer the never-ending questions, the woman priest, simply called Oracle (Aidan Gibson) by Hernandez, wants to get off the hot seat. But how? (more…)

Straightforward Towards Mediocrity

“Don Quixote”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
November 13, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Gileva, I.Simon and ensemble, “Don Quixote” by A.S.Watkin, Semperoper Ballet © S.Ballone 2016One wishes for better program coordination given the fact that three German companies, Stuttgart Ballet, the Aalto Ballet Essen and Semperoper Ballet are offering “Don Quixote” almost at the same time. Premieres in Essen and Dresden were even scheduled for the same day, November 5th. The versions in Stuttgart and Essen are traditional adaptions; in Dresden, artistic director Aaron S.Watkin came up with his own creation. The idea sprang from set and costume designer Patrick Kinmonth to strip the adventurous story of Alonso Quixano alias Don Quixote down to a mere framework on which a new, “more real and convincing story” was hung. (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…)

State Ballet Berlin – Do Incorrect Procedures Mar Waltz and Öhman’s Appointment?

State Ballet Berlin
Berlin, Germany
October 28, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Waltz and J.Öhman © Landesarchiv Berlin 2016Reportedly, Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman’s contracts as future artistic directors of the State Ballet Berlin were ratified a few days ago. The procedure as taken by Berlin’s Senate Chancellery for Cultural Affairs puzzles one though. Personal decisions of this caliber require the approval of the Stiftungsrat of the Opera. The Stiftungsrat is the board of the Berlin Opera Foundation, a corporate body under public law, integrating Berlin’s three opera houses, the ballet company and the Stage Services Company as individual organizations under one roof. Seven members constitute this board, among them Micheal Müller, the cultural senator and governing mayor of Berlin. The Stiftungsrat requires a quorum of at least half of all the members. (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…)

Almost Holy

“The World of John Neumeier”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Festspielhaus Baden-Baden
Baden-Baden, Germany
October 08, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. L.Riggins and ensemble, “Bernstein Dances” by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet © K.West 2016Calling two big stages home is a luxury few can call their own. Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier enjoyed it for the seventieth time this autumn when touring the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden for one week. Usually they bring along two pieces and one workshop moderated by Neumeier himself. This year the two ballets were “Romeo and Juliet”, scheduled three times with different leading couples, and “The World of John Neumeier”, a collection of excerpts from autobiographically significant pieces. It premiered in Tokyo earlier this year and was shown on two consecutive evenings in Baden-Baden. I saw the first performance. (more…)

State Ballet Berlin: An Update

State Ballet Berlin
Berlin, Germany
October 07, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Duato, D.Vieira and K.Ovsyanick, rehearsal of N.Duato's “Nutcracker”, State Ballet Berlin © Y.Revazov 2016 While the State Ballet Berlin is about to kick off its “Nutcracker” season with the newly acquired version by artistic director Nacho Duato, a suspicious silence has spread over the controversial issue of Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman’s assignment as Duato’s successors in 2019.

Getting background information about the candidate search process for the director’s post was laborious, as the Senate Chancellery’s spokesman for cultural affairs, Lars Bahners, was ungenerous in providing substantial information. Hollow words are his metier. (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…)

Quarrels at the State Ballet Berlin Continue

State Ballet Berlin
Berlin, Germany
September 22, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble of the State Ballet Berlin © State Ballet Berlin 2016The announcement that Sasha Waltz and the Royal Swedish Ballet’s artistic director Johannes Öhman will succeed Nacho Duato at the helm of the State Ballet Berlin in the 2019/20 season is still creating massive waves. Michael Müller, Berlin’s governing mayor and cultural senator since 2014, and Tim Renner (both SPD), state secretary for cultural affairs, announced the news on September 7th, just before the elections in Berlin. Since then, the two men have been facing trouble. Recently, another decision of theirs, the appointment of the Belgian Chris Dercon, director of the Tate Modern in London, who will follow Frank Castorf at the Berlin Volksbühne, caused harsh criticism as well. Müller and Renner are accused of making these decisions alone, behind closed doors, resistant to the advice of others. (more…)