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Magnificent!

“Raymonda”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
May 06, 2022 (stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.van Poucke, S.Velichko (Jean de Brienne), M.ten Kortenaar, and ensemble, “Raymonda” by R.Beaujean after M.Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022 © M.Haegeman A mid-January newsletter from the Dutch National Ballet did little to hide the company’s disappointment at having to postpone their premiere of “Raymonda” from mid-February to early April. At the time, ongoing COVID-19 restrictions made uncertain the possibility of re-opening the house at full-capacity, but artistic director Ted Brandsen wanted the production – the biggest of the season – to be seen by as many people as possible. So he chose to wait.

Brandsen’s patience paid off. I watched the online stream on May 6th (filmed on April 19th) and from the moment the new front curtain rose (itself a gorgeous art nouveau design), it was instantly clear that this “Raymonda” would be a marvel. (more…)

Haydn Makes it Possible

“Die Jahreszeiten” (“The Seasons”)
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
April 30, 2022 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Dato, H.-J.Kang, and M.Menha, “Die Jahreszeiten” by M.Schläpfer, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.TaylorThe third premiere of the Vienna State Ballet in this season – “Die Jahreszeiten” (“The Seasons”) – is entirely by Schläpfer. Past experience with his oeuvre made me skeptical of this new work, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The piece is set to Joseph Haydn’s 1801 oratorio “The Seasons” (which coincidentally also premiered in Vienna), for which Gottfried van Swieten penned lyrics based on extracts from a poem by James Thomson. Thomson’s verses describe the ordinary daily and seasonal life on the countryside: spring thaw and early field work, the lush countryside, harvest time, and a sudden thunderstorm, which cools down the sweltering summer heat. An autumnal hunt is followed by cheers for the new wine. Amidst winter gloom and the coziness of a warm cottage a fleeting romance blossoms. (more…)

Homage to Iván Nagy

“6th Iván Nagy International Ballet Gala”
Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera
Hungarian State Opera
Budapest, Hungary
April 23, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.Solymosi and O.Chernakova, Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera 2022 © A.Nagy / Hungarian State Opera Iván Nagy (1943 – 2014), a ballet dancer born and trained in Hungary, rose to stardom as a principal for the American Ballet Theatre in the 1970s. He later embarked on a second career as an artistic director – first at the Ballet de Santiago, and subsequently at the Cincinnati/New Orleans Ballet and the English National Ballet. In his final years, he returned to his homeland to support the ballet of the Hungarian State Opera as an artistic advisor. Since 2015, the company has paid tribute to him at a yearly international gala, which was canceled due to the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. (more…)

A Whole Lot

“Without Limits”
Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera
Eiffel Arts Center
Budapest, Hungary
April 23, 2022 (matinee)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Students from the Hungarian National Ballet Institute, “Paquita Suite” by T.Solymosi, A.Mirzoyan, and I.Prokofieva after M.Petipa; Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera 2022 © P.Rákossy / Hungarian State Opera The new triple bill from the Hungarian State Opera’s ballet company, aptly titled “Without Limits”, certainly offers a whopping amount of dance. Harald Lander’s “Études” (1948), a one-act homage to the formal classical technique, contrasts with William Forsythe’s sprightly “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” (1996). A new version of another purely classical ballet Marius Petipa’s Paquita Grand Pas (“Paquita Suite”) – opened the program. “Without Limits” was shown at the Eiffel Arts Center, a former railway maintenance and engineering complex transformed in 2020 into the Hungarian Opera’s second stage in Budapest. The capacious, light-filled venue houses a modern 500-seat stage, rehearsal and storage space, production workshops, and an exhibition area. The toot-toot of the historic locomotive located in the foyer calls the audience back after breaks. (more…)

Great Moments

“Giselle”
Ballet Estable del Teatro Colón
Teatro Colón
Buenos Aires, Argentina
April 17, 2022 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Osipova (Giselle), D.Camargo (Duke Albrecht), and ensemble, “Giselle” by G.Mollajoli after J.Coralli, J.Perrot, and M.Petipa, Teatro Colón 2022 © Prensa Teatro Colón / M.Parpagnoli Last weekend, the Teatro Colón scored a ballet coup par excellence with two performances of “Giselle” that starred two extraordinary guest dancers: the Royal Ballet’s Natalia Osipova, and Daniel Camargo, a former principal of Stuttgart Ballet and Dutch National Ballet who played Franz in the recently released dance film “Coppelia”. The second “Giselle” was streamed live – and it felt as if Christmas and Easter had been rolled into one.

Unfazed by technical challenges, Osipova plumbed the depths of her role with stunning intensity and freshness. (more…)

Overdone

“Narrenschiff” (Ship of Fools)
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
April 10, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Maria” by G.Montero, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg 2022 © J.Vallinas“Narrenschiff” (Ship of Fools), the first premiere of the season for the State Theater Nuremberg, is a double bill choreographed by the company’s artistic director Goyo Montero. It is comprised of two ensemble pieces: “Maria”, a ballad about the bible’s Maria Magdalena co-produced with the Diana Vishneva Foundation, St. Petersburg (Vishneva danced the leading role at the premiere in December; the photos below show her), and “Narrenschiff”, which gave the program its title. I saw the – for now – final performance. (more…)

Pleasureless

Nederlands Dans Theater
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
March 26, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. “Toss of a Dice” by J.Kylián, NDT I 2022 © J.J.BosLast weekend, the Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT I) toured Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart, performing a triple bill they’d recently premiered at the Holland Dance Festival: “Toss of a Dice” by Jiři Kylián (2005); a new piece by Spain’s Marina Mascarell (“How to cope with a sunset when the horizon has been dismantled”); and “I love you, ghosts” – newly created by the company’s associate choreographer Marco Goecke.

The poem “Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard” (“A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance” penned by Stéphane Mallarmé in 1897) was the springboard for “Toss of a Dice”. (more…)

A Hushed-Up Scandal

“Mayerling”
Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera
Hungarian State Opera
Budapest, Hungary
March 19, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. Ensemble, “Mayerling” by K.MacMillan, Ballet of the Hungarian State Opera 2022 © P.Rákossy / Hungarian State OperaEighteen years after its Hungarian premiere, Kenneth MacMillan’s “Mayerling” returned to the stage of Budapest’s newly renovated State Opera this March. According to a local dance critic, audience members cried while watching the 2004 performance, as the tragic 1889 death of Crown Prince Rudolf (heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary) is a chapter of Hungarian history that stirs up many emotions. Though he led a life of debauchery and primarily performed insignificant tasks in his role, the liberal-leaning Crown Prince was popular among the people. They pinned great hope on him, (more…)

Brilliant!

“Anna Karenina”
The Australian Ballet
Arts Center Melbourne / State Theatre
Melbourne, Australia
March 08, 2022 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. R.Hendricks (Anna Karenina) and C.Linnane (Count Alexei Vronsky), “Anna Karenina” by Y.Possokhov, The Australian Ballet 2022 © J.BusbyWhile western cancel culture appears to be targeting all things Russian, the Australian Ballet points the way towards cooperation. This February, a ballet about an icon of Russian culture – Tolstoy’s epic novel “Anna Karenina” – premiered in Melbourne. Co-produced with the Joffrey Ballet and decorated with the 2021 Prix Benois for best choreography, it was a prime example of the uniting power of the arts. Its US-based choreographer Yuri Possokhov was born in Luhansk / Ukraine; the composer Ilya Demutsky, a frequent collaborator of Possokhov, is Russian. Valeriy Pecheykin, an Uzbeg working at Moscow’s Gogol Center, wrote the libretto. Set and costumes are by the British designer Tom Pye. Finn Ross, also a Brit, oversaw the video projections, and US-born David Finn created the lighting. (more…)

Impromptu

Einmalig”
(“Bliss” / “Falling Angels” / “Solo” / Excerpts from “Romeo and Juliet”, “Die Schöpfung”, and “Mayerling” )
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
March 04, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Bliss” by J.Inger, Stuttgart Ballet 2022 © Stuttgart BalletAlthough the Stuttgart Ballet’s new all-Johan Inger triple bill was thwarted by a number of COVID-19 infections in the company, artistic director Tamas Detrich did not give in. Rather than canceling the scheduled March 4th performance, he assembled a substitute program literally overnight. From the original schedule, only Inger’s “Bliss” (2016) remained (2002’s “Out of Breath” and the recently premiered “Aurora’s Nap” were eliminated). A courageous dive into the company’s vast repertoire – short pieces by Jiří Kylián and Hans van Manen, and three excerpts from evening-length pieces – filled out the bill. (more…)

Absurd

“Liebeslieder” (“Other Dances” / “Concerto” / “Liebeslieder Walzer”)
Vienna State Ballet
Vienna State Opera
Vienna, Austria
January 14, 2022 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. D.Dato, “Other Dances” by J.Robbins © The Robbins Right Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.Taylor2. H.-J.Kang, “Other Dances” by J.Robbins © The Robbins Right Trust, Vienna State Ballet 2022 © Vienna State Ballet / A.TaylorThe Vienna State Ballet’s new triple bill is an all-American one, combining works from staple choreographers (Robbins and Balanchine) with a short piece by Lucinda Childs, whose name is less familiar in Europe.

Robbins’s “Other Dances”, a pas de deux set to one waltz and four mazurkas by Chopin, was tailor-made for Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1976. In Vienna, Hyo-Jung Kang and Davide Dato brought folksy playfulness to their roles as the carefree, happy-go-lucky couple. Their encounter is as lighthearted and upbeat as the light blue backdrop and the sheer blue fabric of Kang’s dress suggest (costumes by Santo Loquasto). After swaggering about with macho energy in a solo, Dato attends to Kang’s every step with buttery care. (more…)

Now More Than Ever!

“The Nutcracker And The Mouse King”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
December 24, 2021 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Lord (Jansje), K.Hirst (Young Clara), F.Eimers (Louise), and L.Smith (Young Fritz), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenThe Dutch National Ballet’s “Nutcracker” series was abruptly brought to an end due to – what else – “COVID-19 related restrictions.” A lockdown was once again imposed on the entire country – this time until mid-January. Nevertheless, the company decided to dance their Christmas Eve performance, which they’d intended to livestream. As artistic director Ted Brandsen welcomed the online audience from the empty auditorium, it was clear that the situation was a difficult one – emotionally and beyond. (more…)

Concepts of Hell and Paradise

The Dante Project”
The Royal Ballet

Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
December 20, 2021 (online broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Watson (Dante), “The Dante Project” by W.McGregor, The Royal Ballet 2021 © A.Uspenski Over two years after the Royal Ballet danced the first act of Wayne McGregor’s “The Dante Project” at its premiere in Los Angeles, the piece was finally completed this season and presented in London at its full-evening length. The ballet is based on two works by Dante Alighieri: his epic “Divine Comedy” (1320) – whose three-part structure the ballet adopts – and “La Vita Nuova” (1294), an early work that deals with Dante’s lifelong platonic love for Beatrice di Folco Portinari. The score was commissioned by composer Thomas Adès, a longtime collaborator of McGregor’s.
How would Dante’s pilgrimage from hell to heaven be brought to the dance floor? What would color Edward Watson’s performance in the role of Dante after two years of waiting for this farewell performance? (more…)

Heart-Warming

“The Nutcracker and The Mouse King”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
December 18, 2021 (livestream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. F.Potvin (Young Clara) and J.Stout (Mouse King), “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by T.van Schayk and W.Eagling, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.Gerritsen As yet another round of COVID-19-related restrictions began to choke social life in the Netherlands, the Dutch National Ballet reacted swiftly by adding two livestreams of their Nutcracker production to their pre-Christmas schedule. I viewed the first one on December 18th; the second will take place on Christmas Eve at 2:00 PM. Both performances will subsequently be available as videos-on-demand until January 9th, 2022.

Every rendition of the Nutcracker has its own personal flair, and Amsterdam’s – co-choreographed by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling in 1996 – is decisively Dutch. (more…)

Buoys

“Giselle”
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
December 03, 2021 (online broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Ball (Count Albrecht) and Y.Naghdi (Giselle), “Giselle” by M.Petipa after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, additional choreography by P.Wright, The Royal Ballet 2018 © H.Maybanks Like many other countries, the politicians of my homeland (Germany) have resorted to totalitarianism in the name of coronavirus-control. The media have zealously supported this endeavor, fueling anxiety day in and day out, successfully brewing up a maelstrom of mass psychosis. It feels out of place to watch ballet – a worrying sign of how much life has changed. But for this very reason: watch! Whether it’s dance, opera, play, or concert, performances are like life preservers of normalcy in a deepening crisis. Take the Royal Ballet’s recent online stream of “Giselle”, for example. The production – available until January 2nd, 2022 – will reassure you that unwavering, solid ground still exists – in culture. (more…)