Stuttgart Ballet

Formative Figures Bid Their Farewell

“Romeo and Juliet”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
July 19, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Amatriain, F.Barankiewicz, "Romeo and Juliet" by John Cranko, Stuttgart BalletStuttgart Ballet closed its season with a set of performances of John Cranko’s “Romeo and Juliet”. Five different couples danced the star-crossed lovers. A remarkable number of these renditions were first rate. Again, the Stuttgart company upheld its high standard. For one of the lead pairs, more precisely for one Romeo, Shakespeare’s tragedy was a special event. Filip Barankiewicz bid his farewell to the stage last Saturday.

After studying at the State Ballet School of his home country Poland and, later, with Marika Besobrasova in Monte Carlo, Barankiewicz joined Stuttgart Ballet in 1996. It was at the time when Reid Anderson had assumed the directorship and was assembling a rejuvenated company. Barankiewicz quickly rose through the ranks. In 2002 he was promoted to first soloist. Blessed with irrepressible high spirits, a captivating stage presence and especially a virtuoso talent for jumps – Japanese fans call him ‘Mr Jump’ – the charming Pole brought down the house on many an occasion. One connoisseur thought he was unforgettable in the “The Flames of Paris” duo. No question but that Barankiewicz was world-class! One of his most striking characteristics, however, is his courtesy. A gentleman, he has been highly regarded by his colleagues and – after eighteen years with Stuttgart Ballet – is a shining example for the ensemble’s younger generation. Barankiewicz will certainly be missed. (more…)

Stuttgart Ballet’s Front Line Dancers

Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart, Germany
March 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Alexander Jones and Alicia Amatriain, The Taming of the Shrew, Stuttgart Ballet, photo Stuttgart Ballet“Stuttgart Ballet” – the name conjures memories. The company became famous overnight in 1969 as ‘The Stuttgart Ballet Miracle’ following its visit to New York’s ‘Met’ (The Metropolitan Opera House). Luminous ballet stars like Marcia Haydée, Richard Cragun, Ray Barra, Egon Madsen, Vladimir Klos and Birgit Keil shaped the company. At the heart of things was John Cranko. The late director’s imprint remains present to this day on the walls of Stuttgart’s Opera House but above all on the minds and hearts of everyone. Since 1996, Reid Anderson has been at the helm of Germany’s flagship ballet troupe, which flourishes still today at the forefront of the dance world. Who are the dancers shaping Stuttgart Ballet now? Here are a few medallion portraits.

Alicia Amatriain, a Spaniard, currently is Stuttgart’s most versatile ballerina. In her prime technically, the thirty-three year old’s extensive repertory encompasses the most diverse of characters. The multifaceted Amatriain always immerses herself deeply in a role’s psychology, be it that of the hilarious Katharina (in Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew) or the innocent Desdemona (in John Neumeier’s Othello). Amatriain intensifies dramatic atmospheres and stirs spectators’ emotions. Not only classic characters but modern women belong to Amatriain’s territory. She has relished working on new creations with many a choreographer (Marco Goecke, Demis Volpi, Christian Spuck and Douglas Lee among them). (more…)

A lightweight legend of lovers

“Orphée et Euridice”
Stuttgart State Opera and Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
May 08, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Yuko Kakuta and ensemble (2009) Orphée et Euridice by Christian Spuck, Stuttgart Coproductions of opera and ballet are not the order of the day in Germany. Hence I looked forward to Stuttgart’s revival of “ Orphée et Euridice”, a 2009 production based on Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera, directed and choreographed by Christian Spuck. Then Spuck was Stuttgart Ballet’s resident choreographer. Now he heads the Zurich Ballet.
Spuck used Gluck’s French version of the opera, a quite radical revision of the initial Viennese “Orfeo ed Euridice” from 1762, tackled in 1774 for Paris. Regarding French opera tradition and Parisien taste, Gluck adapted the original score and reworked the orchestration. As castrati singers weren’t established in France, he transposed the part of Orpheus to tenor. Further, the original’s ninety minutes were expanded into the dimensions of a full-evening to make room for extended ballet scenes. (more…)

Where’s this route taking them?

“Wayfarers”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
April 25, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Edward Clug, Maurice Béjart, Demis Volpi, Wayfarers, Stuttgart BalletStuttgart Ballet’s innovative energy seems unstoppable. Some days ago this season’s third premiere, “Wayfarers” went smoothly, a fourth will follow this month and the annual evening of the Noverre Society, featuring young choreographers, is yet to come. “Wayfarers” is a triple bill consisting of two world premieres, Edward Clug’s “No Men’s Land” and Demis Volpi’s “Aftermath”, framing  Maurice Béjart’s “Songs of a Wayfarer”, a work familiar to the Stuttgart audience.

Sparing neither trouble nor expense, both new creations had new music. Slovene Milko Lazar had been commissioned for the music of “No Men’s Land”. His suite of five movements for cello and full orchestra, belonging to the field of minimal and postmodern music, evokes an energetic, martial atmosphere. Only a cello solo by Zoltan Paulich provided a little lyricism amidst the unvaryingly pulsing rhythm. (more…)

Between this World and the Afterworld

“Giselle”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
March 21, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Alicia Amatriain, Giselle, Stuttgart Ballet The revival of “Giselle” in Stuttgart generated a buoyant atmosphere in the Opera House. Though it’s only four years since Albrecht last double dealt here in affairs of the heart, the return of this archetypical romantic ballet had, it seemed, been waited for with anticipation.
Stuttgart Ballet’s tradition with “Giselle” goes way back. From 1851 on “Giselle” was in the repertory, but often squeezed in between musical comedies, drolleries and divertissements on entertaining mixed bills – strange, motley assemblies from a current perspective. With the end of the 19th Century, “Giselle” disappeared completely from Stuttgart’s stage for quite some time (as it did from many another European theater). Not until 1955 were a number of new stagings undertaken, of which Peter Wright’s 1966 production certainly is the best known. In charge of the current version – modeled on the original choreography of Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot and on Marius Petipa’s revisions – were Stuttgart’s artistic director Reid Anderson and Valentina Savina.

(more…)

Stuttgart’s Bewitched Ravens

“Krabat”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
February 14, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Roman Novitzky and ensemble, Krabat by Demis Volpi, Stuttgart BalletTerrifying things happen in “Krabat” by Demis Volpi, resident choreographer of Stuttgart Ballet. It is the story of a beggar boy apprenticed along with eleven other fellows to a mill master who is an evil magician. Only a young girl’s love for Krabat, the central boy, finally breaks the magician’s power.
This, Volpi’s first program-filling ballet, is based on a novel of the same name by Ottfried Preußler (1923 – 2013). Born in Bohemia, Preußler wove his experiences during World War II, including five years spent in Russian captivity, into the story. However, he set the plot in the 18th Century, during the Great Northern War (1700 – 1721) in Lusatia. The mill represents a place where humans are scorned and killed, literally ground, as the millstones not only pulverize grain but also human bones that are regularly delivered by the Grim Reaper – a figure even the mill-master/magician dreads.

(more…)

Bleak Prospects for the Future

“Ground Breakers”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
December 15, 2013, 2pm

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2013 by Ilona Landgraf

1. P.von Sternenfels, H.MacIsaac, workwithinwork by William Forsythe, Stuttgart BalletStuttgart Ballet, seldom lacking self-assurance, titled its new ballet evening “Ground Breakers”. The German term “Fort//Schritt//Macher” better conveys this triple bill’s intention: Presented are works by three choreographers of different epochs, all driving forces behind European modern ballet’s progress, in short true trailblazers. And further all three – William Forsythe, Hans van Manen and Marco Goecke – are closely associated with the company or are even home-bred.

William Forsythe spread his choreographic wings in Stuttgart. There he made his debut at an evening of the Noverre Society, which promotes up-and-coming talent. Several pieces for Stuttgart Ballet followed and, after some years as freelance choreographer, Forsythe was appointed artistic director of Frankfurt Ballet in 1984. Striving after continual development, he modernized 20th century ballet by deconstructing all aspects of ballet, reassembling the fragments into abstract and speedy movements. Off-balances and overexpansions are his hallmarks. Forsythe also became more and more interested in other fields such as literature, philosophy, media and architecture, which he draws upon for inspiration. His approach is as cognitive as a researcher’s. Though Frankfurt Ballet was liquidated in 2004 for financial reasons, Forsythe continues his search for innovation with “The Forsythe Company”, founded in 2005, which resides in Dresden/Hellerau and in Frankfurt’s Bockenheimer Depot.

(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…)