Stuttgart Ballet

Brisk Steps

“Young Choreographers”
Noverre Society
Schauspielhaus Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
May 11, 2016


by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Miccini and B.E.Comak, “Cello contra bass” by R.Novitzky; Noverre Society, Young Choreographers © Carlos Quezada Since the era of John Cranko, Noverre Evenings have been firmly established in Stuttgart. They offer fledgling choreographers a chance to present their works to the audience. This year Rainer Woihsyk, head of the Noverre Society, had chosen thirteen pieces. “The evening is a bit too long”, he told me, “but I never know if one or the other backs out shortly before the premiere. That’s why I usually accept a few more applicants.” This time all succeeded and, as Woihsyk does not withdraw a promise once given, the program amounted to three hours including a break. Yet the pieces had been cleverly arranged, their variety kept one’s attention. (more…)

A Ravishing Cast

“Romeo and Juliet”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
March 25, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Badenes and D.Camargo, “Romeo and Juliet” by J.Cranko © Stuttgart BalletThough spring is still dawdling away in Stuttgart, in the opera house spring fever has grown into fervent passion. Behind that is Cranko’s “Romeo and Juliet”, back for three performances within one week. The first one was led by Anna Osadcenko and Jason Reilly, followed by Elisa Badenes and Daniel Camargo. Later in the week, Miriam Kacerova and Constantine Allen had their Stuttgart debut as the star-crossed lovers. I saw Badenes and Camargo, each a marvelous dancer, superb when together.

But not until the first encounter of Romeo and Juliet did the story liven up. What was the sticking point? It was not the music, even if James Tuggle and the State Orchestra Stuttgart delivered Prokofiev’s score in a less richly way than on other occasions. Certainly the dancers are not to blame. They were fully engaged. Might it be Jürgen Rose’s sets, used unchanged since the piece’s premiere more than fifty years ago? (more…)

Those Who Can – Anderson’s Jubilee Menu No. 3

“Kammerballette” (“Kammerballett”, “Arena”, “Neurons”)
Stuttgart Ballet
Schauspielhaus Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
March 04, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.F.Paixa, A.Amatriain, J.Reilly, P. v.Sternenfels, D.Camargo and A.Osadcenko, “Kammerballett” by H.v.Manen, Stuttgart Ballet 2016Reid Anderson’s third new ballet evening sticks to the format of the previous ones. Again, three short ballets are assembled on a mixed bill, this time shown on the stage of the Stuttgart Schauspielhaus. Hans van Manen’s “Kammerballett”, choreography from 1995 for the Nederlands Dans Theater, opened the program. It is new for the company enlarging Stuttgart Ballet’s already vast van Manen repertory. “Arena”, the middle piece, is by Glen Tetley, the company’s director in the period 1974 – 1976. Anderson had danced under Tetley’s reign. Their longstanding collaboration originated then. The new piece was saved for the finale: “Neurons”, a world premiere by the Polish choreographer Katarzyna Kozielska. (more…)

Bridging the Established and the New: Resident Choreographers – Anderson’s Jubilee Menu No. 2

“Forsythe / Goecke / Scholz”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
January 29, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Morita, R.Robinson, H.-J.Kang, C.Allen, A.Zuccarini, A.Soares da Silva and M.Kacerova, “The Second Detail” by W.Forsythe, Stuttgart Ballet For his twentieth anniversary as artistic director of Stuttgart Ballet, Reid Anderson picked works by his favorite choreographers. In October an evening with pieces by Jiří Kylián, Hans van Manen and John Cranko premiered. Now, in the second new program, the company proves its versatility by yet again indulging in different styles. The triple bill combines ballets by William Forsythe, Marco Goecke and Uwe Scholz (1958 – 2004). All were or, in the case of Marco Goecke, are resident choreographers of the company. And they were all fledgelings of Stuttgart’s Noverre Society, whose Noverre evenings serve as a springboard for young choreographic talents. (more…)

Keeping Cranko’s Heritage Vivid

Georgette Tsinguirides
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart, Germany
December, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Georgette Tsinguirides © Roman Novitzky 2015Reviving a ballet from the repertory or mounting it for another company isn’t just learning the steps. The most crucial part of the work is to make the role speak. In story ballets, the characters’ personalities have to come across authentically. Most of all the choreographer’s intentions must have priority.

Today, when starting rehearsals, ballet masters and dancers usually refer to videos of former performances. They are the perfect tools to convey a piece’s atmosphere, the steps and lifts of a pas de deux or a solo variation. Depending on the perspective of the camera they also depict group patterns. But other details are lost. What exactly is each member of the corps doing from the third line back? What is the posture hidden by the costume? Learning from videos promotes copying. But isn’t the goal to develop one’s own interpretation of the role?

Stuttgart Ballet also draws on videos when reviving old choreography. The ballet masters’ and Reid Anderson’s recollections are trustworthy too. They have danced the ballets many times themselves. But first and foremost the company relies on Georgette Tsinguirides, choreologist, ballet mistress and coach. (more…)

Anderson’s Jubilee Menu No. 1

“Kylián / Van Manen / Cranko”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
October 27, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Kacerova/F.Vogel, A.Amatriain/J.Reilly, E.Bushuyeva/M.Crockard-Villa, “Forgotten Land” by J.Kylián, Stuttgart Ballet 2015Shortly before setting off on a tour to Korea and Japan Stuttgart Ballet premiered a mixed bill of four pieces by three choreographers. This season is Reid Anderson’s twentieth for which he chose his favorites. Combining choreography by Jiří Kylián, Hans van Manen – both long-term collaborators of the company – and John Cranko is a safe play, yet also a welcome treat. Especially as the company was in sunniest form. (more…)

Only a Fairytale?

“Sleeping Beauty”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
July 25, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Reilly and M.Simon, “Sleeping Beauty” by M.Haydée after M.Petipa, Stuttgart Ballet 2015 © Stuttgart BalletStuttgart closes this season in high spirits with several performances of Maria Haydée’s “Sleeping Beauty”. The company has every reason to be in good mood. Recently, quite some intricate issues were resolved: after years of debate about financing, the first sod for the new Cranko School building was cut a few days ago. It is scheduled to be ready for the 2018/19 season. Renovation of the Stuttgart Opera House is also pending and, though it is not yet clear where the interim stage will be located during the projected five years of construction, the management, backed by the company’s team spirit, radiates confidence. Also a tricky personnel matter – who should succeed artistic director Reid Anderson? – was solved shortly before the end of the season. (more…)

Hope is the last to die

“A Streetcar named Desire”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart Schauspielhaus
Stuttgart, Germany
May 30, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Amatriain, “A Streetcar named Desire” by J.Neumeier, Stuttgart Ballet © Stuttgart Ballet 2015John Neumeier’s “A Streetcar named Desire”, based on Tennessee Williams’s drama of the same title, is probably not a piece one would be eager to see several times in a row. Unless one is hard-boiled. Calling it disturbing is too lenient. Its dense, oppressive atmosphere and brutal physicality that finally seals the mental destruction of its main character, Blanche DuBois, devours one. As food for thought, a single dose of this ballet brings along with it more than enough indigestion.
Neumeier has woven a masterful psychological drama, whose intensity might even surpass the stage play. What the dancers’ bodies express is more direct than any spoken word. Stuttgart Ballet has now again revived the two-act piece which Neumeier had created for the Baden-Wuerttemberg company in 1983. Back then the forty-six year old Marcia Haydée and Richard Cragun danced the leading characters, Blanche and Stanley.

Neumeier begins the story with its end. When the curtain rises we see Blanche (Alicia Amatriain) sitting on a bed in an asylum. She is elegantly dressed but looks distraught. Flashbacks are tormenting her, making her tremble. What has happened unfolds in cross-fades, not necessarily following the story’s chronological order. Music from Prokofiev’s “Visions fugitives op.22”, fragmented like Blanche’s memories, underscores the first act’s nostalgic, subdued mood. (more…)

Still enigmatic

Marco Goecke
Stuttgart, Germany
May 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Goecke © Die arge lola 2015Marco Goecke is a well-established German choreographer. Though he is open, kind and easy-going, he is mysterious, with an air of inscrutability surrounding him. His choreography can hardly be classified among the existing canon of styles. He has established something new. Meanwhile “Goeckes” are in the repertory of ballet companies all over Europe and abroad, but, above all, they are integral to the repertory of his two home bases: Stuttgart Ballet and the Nederlands Dans Theater.

We met on the occasion of a rehearsal with Thomas Lempertz in a basement studio belonging to Stuttgart’s Theaterhaus. Lempertz, ex-first soloist of Stuttgart Ballet, is planning to come back on stage with a solo by Goecke. The premiere is scheduled for November.

At first sight one could easily think Goecke stepped out of a detective film. His dark sunglasses – signature features of his outfit – contrast with his fair skin. He wears a trench coat, robust shoes, smokes a lot, and has his steady companion, a sausage dog named Gustav, at his side. (more…)

Four Re-encounters

“ALL Cranko!” (“Concerto for Flute and Harp”, “Holberg Pas de Deux”, “Opus 1”, “Initials R.B.M.E.”)
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
May 07, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, "Concerto for Flute and Harp" by J.Cranko, Stuttgart Ballet © Stuttgart Ballet 2015“ALL Cranko!”, Stuttgart Ballet’s new mixed bill, assembles four abstract ballets by John Cranko: the “Concerto for Flute and Harp”, premiered in 1966 and for more than a quarter of a century absent from stage, the “Holberg Pas de Deux” (1967), “Opus 1” (1965) and the repertory’s reliable asset “Initials R.B.M.E”, performed more than 230 times since its premiere in 1972.

Certainly many of the older Stuttgart balletomanes remember the original casts, the troupe’s signature dancers Marcia Haydée, Birgit Keil, Egon Madsen, Richard Cragun (1944 – 2012), later also Heinz Clauss (1935 – 2008). They are spoken of with great respect. Critical comparisons thus suggest itself. Would the ballets work with entirely new casts? (more…)

Re-exploring Stravinsky

“Stravinsky TODAY” (“Le Chant du Rossignol”,”L’Histoire du Soldat”, “The Firebird”)
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
March 21, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Camargo, “Le Chant du Rossignol” by M.Goecke, Stuttgart Ballet © Stuttgart Ballet 2015Stuttgart Ballet’s new triple bill is an all-Stravinsky evening. Three choreographers – Marco Goecke, Demis Volpi and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui – explored the exceptional composer’s music for their works. Two ballets are world premieres: Volpi’s “L’Histoire du Soldat” to Stravinsky’s suite from 1919 and Cherkaoui’s “The Firebird” to the Firebird-suite for orchestra, while Goecke presented a revision of his “Le Chant du Rossignol” originally created for the Leipzig Ballet in 2009.
Around a century ago Stravinsky’s unfamiliar, bold compositions set the ballet community abuzz. The scandal the Ballets Russes caused in Paris in 1913 with Nijinsky’s choreography of “Le Sacre du Printemps” has no equal. Stravinsky, Diaghilev, the Ballets Russes – an explosive, cross-fertilizing artistic collaboration. What impact has Stravinsky today? A question raised in the program book, which in the same breath mentions that using Stravinsky’s music already has a long tradition in Stuttgart: “The Soldier’s Tale” was Cranko’s first choreography in Cape Town in 1944. Ten additional ballets by Cranko set to Stravinsky followed, among them “The Firebird” (1964, a production for the Deutsche Oper Berlin) and “Le Chant du Rossignol” for Munich (1968). (more…)

Bliss and Grief of Love

“Onegin”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
January 10, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Amatriain and F.Vogel, “Onegin” by J.Cranko, Stuttgart Ballet © Stuttgart Ballet 2015John Cranko’s “Onegin” is not only in the repertory of companies all over the world but for nearly fifty years has been revived time after time by its company of origin, the Stuttgart Ballet. The piece’s charisma has not faded a bit. Jürgen Rose’s set and the costumes are still drop dead gorgeous. In short, “Onegin” is a pearl of the repertory and a darling of the audience. In Stuttgart ballet connoisseurs flock into the opera to compare various casts or to witness a role debut. Just recently principal dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet guesting in “Onegin” caused a great rush. Some days later the opera house was again packed as Friedemann Vogel, the company’s well-traveled premier dancer, danced for the first time as Onegin on his home stage. He had already made his role debut in Bangkok during the troupe’s tour to Asia last fall. Many times he had portrayed the emotional poet Lenski but, having watched the piece since childhood again and again, Vogel was very familiar with the role of Onegin. This time the other central characters were danced by Alicia Amatriain (Tatiana), Elisa Badenes (Olga), Daniel Camargo (Lenski) and Roland Havlica (Prince Gremin) – truly a dream cast!

(more…)

Old Friends

“Hommage à MacMillan”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
January 03, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.J.Kang, “Requiem” by K.MacMillan, Stuttgart Ballet, © U.Beuttenmüller 2015Kenneth MacMillan (1929 -1992) would have celebrated his 85th birthday in December 2014. Stuttgart Ballet used this date as an opportunity to bring its close connection to the choreographer to mind. The double bill “Hommage à MacMillan” comprises “Song of the Earth” and “Requiem”, ballets with a special genesis and both created for the Stuttgart company. I saw the last performance of the first run. A second will take place in April.
In 1963 MacMillan had already created “Las Hermanas” for Stuttgart Ballet. Back then John Cranko had been at the helm of the company for two years. In 1965 the Royal Opera House refused to give MacMillan, who was its resident choreographer, permission to use Gustav Mahler’s “The Song of the Earth” for a new piece. Mahler’s music was considered untouchable, definitely not made for dancing. Besides no one had ever dared airing such an unreasonable idea. Fortunately times have changed. John Neumeier, for example, choreographed pieces to all of Mahler’s symphonies, except the 2nd and 8th symphony. Currently he is preparing a new work to “The Song of the Earth” for the Paris Opera Ballet. In any case MacMillan found the doors opened by Cranko in the mid 60s. Both had met as teenagers when studying at the Sadler’s Wells Ballet School and became friends. Cranko was the one who encouraged MacMillan to start choreographing because the Scot, who was two years younger, was heavily afflicted by stage fright when performing. (more…)

Fostering Ballet’s Future

Noverre Society Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
December 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Logo of the Noverre Society Stuttgart © Noverre Society 2014The dance critic Horst Koegler once compared him with a F1 World Champion who – second to none – has held his title for more than half a century: Fritz Höver, founder and longstanding chairman of Stuttgart’s Noverre Society. How would the Stuttgart Ballet have developed without Höver? Back in the early 1960s no one knew John Cranko in Stuttgart, not even Stuttgart Opera’s general director Walter Erich Schäfer. It’s hard to believe these days but in the late 1950s Stuttgart’s audience had not yet acquired a taste for ballet. The genre’s main function, since 1957 in the hands of artistic director Nicholas Beriozoff, ex-dancer of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, still was to take part in opera productions. Beriozoff, paving the way for the company’s ascent, put considerable effort in promoting ballet. It was due to the relentless persuasive power of Höver, that the young Cranko was invited to Baden-Wuerttemberg’s capital. In 1960 Cranko staged his first work in Stuttgart, “The Prince of the Pagodas” which had premiered three years earlier atNich The Royal Ballet. One year later he took over the reigns of “The Stuttgart Ballet”. (more…)

A Big Yawn

“Leonce & Lena”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
October 11, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Camargo and E.Badenes, "Leonce and Lena" by C.Spuck, Stuttgart Ballet Stuttgart Ballet opened its season with a revival of the comedy “Leonce & Lena”, a ballet that Stuttgart’s former resident choreographer Christian Spuck originally created for the Aalto Ballet Essen in 2008. The piece is based on a short, eponymous comedy written by the German author George Büchner in 1836. It’s about the goofy King Peter of the Kingdom Popo aiming to marry his son Leonce, heir to the throne, to Princess Lena of the Kingdom Pipi. “Popo” and “Pipi” are German children’s language and mean “Buttock” and “Urine”. Leonce, being absolutely uninterested in reigning affairs, is unwilling to marry the unknown bride. Stricken by overwhelming boredom he buries his love for his mistress Rosetta, who departs sadly. On the brink of his bride’s arrival, Leonce absconds with his friend Valerio towards beautiful Italy. After half a day’s walk through “a dozen Principalities, half a dozen Grand Duchies and several Kingdoms” they rest at an inn. Princess Lena, for her part, likewise deeply disinclined to the marriage, runs up and away with her governess. As chance would have it, they also turn up at the inn. There, Leonce and Lena naturally fall in love not knowing each other’s real identity. Disguised as automatons the couple returns to King Peter’s court. Monarch Peter, despite lacking his son, is determined to strictly adhere to the original planned wedding. He marries the two automatons as a substitute. Finally Leonce and Lena reveal themselves and become aware of whom they got married to. Deceit, coincidence or providence? Meanwhile Valerio envisions paradise-like conditions in Popo and, above all, a lazy life in the future. (more…)