Vienna State Ballet

Real Life and Ideals – Nureyev’s “Swan Lake”

“Swan Lake”
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
May 14, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Chudin and O.Smirnova, “Swan Lake” by R.Nureyev after M.Petipa and L.Ivanov, Vienna State Ballet © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor “French and Russian style differ, so everything is a bit new at the moment,” Semyon Chudin told me in an interview a few weeks before his premiere in Rudolf Nureyev’s “Swan Lake” in Vienna. He and Olga Smirnova, both figureheads of the Bolshoi, guested in the leading roles with Manuel Legris’s company. I saw the first of two performances. How did they do?

Nureyev’s version differs in style, choreography and the weight given to several characters in comparison to other traditional interpretations of “Swan Lake”. The role of Benno, Prince Siegfried’s friend, is gone and, unlike in Russian productions, there is no fool either. Instead the focus shifts towards Siegfried, whom Nureyev danced more than fifty times himself; his last performance was in 1988 a few days after his 50th birthday. Nureyev’s Siegfried has more to dance – a formal Pas de cinq at his birthday party followed by a melancholy solo, for example – and allows deeper insight into his psyche. At the end he falls victim to Von Rothbart’s revenge and drowns in the floods of the lake, whereas Odette, still alive, stands at the lakeside like the idealized female. However desperately Siegfried stretches his arms towards her she is unattainable. He is doomed to die. (more…)

Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin on “Swan Lake”

“Swan Lake”
Vienna State Ballet
Moscow / Vienna
April 28, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Chudin and O.Smirnova, “Swan Lake” by Y.Grigorovich after M.Petipa, L.Ivanov and A.Gorsky, Bolshoi Ballet © Bolshoi Theatre / D.YusupovIn mid-May Vienna State Ballet revives Rudolf Nureyev’s “Swan Lake,” the version he choreographed for the company in 1964. The new set and costumes are by Luisa Spinatelli. Four guest dancers will take the leading roles in the course of the run. The Bolshoi’s Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin dance twice, on May 14th and 17th; on June 4th Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov of The Royal Ballet guest in Vienna. The last performance on Monday, June 12th, will be streamed live on the internet.

While “Swan Lake” is Smirnova’s debut in Vienna, Chudin returns for the third time to the Austrian capital. Two weeks before opening night I asked both about their roles and about Nureyev’s production in particular. Smirnova, who at that time was in Moscow, answered in written form. Katerina Novikova, head of the Bolshoi’s press office, kindly translated Smirnova’s answers into English. Chudin, already rehearsing with the company in Vienna, talked with me via Skype. (more…)

Premiering Next to a Genius

“Balanchine / Liang / Proietto”
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
November 01, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. L.Konovalova, V.Shishov and ensemble, “Symphony in C” by G.Balanchine © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor 2016Vienna State Ballet’s new mixed bill traces an arc from a piece capturing Balanchine’s pure classicism to a new, multi-art form work honoring the tradition of romantic ballets. The fascination of flying and the idea of weightlessness unites the three pieces. Edwaard Liang’s “Murmuration”, 2013 choreography for Houston Ballet, deals with the flight formation of flocks of birds. For “Blanc”, the evening’s world premiere, Argentinian choreographer Daniel Proietto took inspiration from Michael Fokine’s flying sylphs. The opener, George Balanchine’s “Symphony in C”, doesn’t involve aviation but leaves one in the most elevated of moods when it is danced well. And so it was. The company was in sunniest form on opening night.

Natascha Mair and Jakob Feyferlik led the first movement of “Symphony in C.” Both were precise, swift and conveyed an infectious good mood. Í liked Liudmila Konovalova and Vladimir Shishov, the second movement’s main couple. Konovalova, blessed with a refined technique, subtly nuanced between composed grief and almost playful cheerfulness. Her tender fragility was met by Shishov’s caring look and fine partnering. (more…)

Pirate’s Luck

“Le Corsaire”
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
October 14, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Manolova and R.Szabó, “Le Corsaire” by M.Legris after M.Petipa et al. © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor 2016Spared for a very long time, Vienna’s State Opera was finally conquered by pirates earlier this year. Solely Manuel Legris, artistic director of the ballet company, is to be held to account for this invasion. Yet I assume he bears responsibility with pleasure as his “Corsaire” is well received.

According to the program book, around 70% of the choreography is Legris’s, the rest is based on Marius Petipa’s tradition. I missed the “Corsaire”, which Doug Fullington reconstructed from the Stepanov-notation of Petipa’s 1899 version for the Bavarian State Ballet in 2007, so I cannot compare the Viennese choreography with what is thought to come closest to the original. Lord Byron’s 1814 poem “The Corsair” is the initial source of inspiration for opera and ballet adaptions alike. But already in the first “Corsaire” ballet, Joseph Mazilier’s 1856 version for the Paris Opera Ballet, little of the original was left. Subsequent choreographies weren’t more faithful to the text source either. Apart from a few changes in the libretto Legris’s three-act piece has the ingredients familiar from other versions: a great portion of classical variations, character dance, heroism, romance and a hefty dose of kitsch. (more…)

Keep it Up!

“Verklungene Feste/The Legend of Joseph”
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
February 14, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Dato and L.Konovalova, “Verklungene Feste“ by J.Neumeier, Vienna State Ballet © M.Pöhn 2015In June of this year Richard Strauss would have celebrated his 150 birthday. In honor of the occasion the Vienna State Opera, which Strauss directed from 1919 to 1924, staged two works by John Neumeier to Strauss’ music, “Verklungene Feste” and the biblical story “The Legend of Joseph”.
In contrast to “The Legend of Joseph” which has quite some history with the Vienna stage, “Verklungene Feste” was seen for the first time in the Austrian capital. Originally, Neumeier admitted, he had known nothing of the existence of Strauss’ “Verklungene Feste” but in 1978 was made aware of it by August Everding, back then general director of the Bavarian State Opera. Everding deemed “Verklungene Feste” would perfectly complement Neumeier’s already existing “The Legend of Joseph” in a double bill. However, as neither a piano score nor other recorded material of the music was available, the idea was buried in oblivion. In 2008 Neumeier’s “Verklungene Feste” finally premiered in Hamburg – in the meantime recordings of all three Strauss ballets, “The Legend of Joseph (1914), “Schlagobers” (Whipped Cream, 1924) and “Verklungene Feste” (1941) had emerged conducted by a Japanese. (more…)