Tag Archive: Birgit Keil

Happy Eightieth!

“Egon Madsen 80”
Theaterhaus Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
September 28, 2022

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Madsen, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022 © J.BakEgon Madsen has been a foundational figure in Stuttgart’s ballet and theater world for close to his entire career. He gave his stage debut at the young age of ten in a children’s ballet in his home country of Denmark. Nine years later (in 1961) he joined the Stuttgart Ballet under the newly appointed John Cranko. Key roles in Cranko’s signature pieces were choreographed on Madsen during a period dubbed the “Stuttgart Ballet Miracle”. After Cranko’s death, Madsen stayed with the Stuttgart Ballet until 1981. In the years that followed, he helmed several companies (the Frankfurt Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, and the Ballet of the Teatro Communale/Florence) before becoming Marcia Haydée’s assistant director at Stuttgart and serving as ballet master in Stuttgart and Leipzig. In 1999 – at age fifty-seven – he returned to the stage with Nederlands Dans Theater’s NDT III. He also served as the troupe’s teacher and rehearsal director until it disbanded in 2006. One year later, Madsen returned to Stuttgart as a driving force behind Eric Gauthier’s newly established Gauthier Dance Company at the Theaterhaus. In addition to dancing in numerous Theaterhaus productions (most recently “Greyhounds” in 2015), Madsen also coached and trained the dancers. Since 2014, he has forayed into play-acting; his solo evening “King Lear”, choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti, can be seen at the Theaterhaus for a final time this November.

3. F.Vogel, T.Detrich, B.Keil, E.Madsen, M.Bigonzetti, I.Cavallari, and E.Gauthier, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022 © J.Bak2. F.Vogel, T.Detrich, B.Keil, E.Madsen, M.Bigonzetti, I.Cavallari, and E.Gauthier, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022 © J.BakMadsen’s eightieth birthday and seventieth stage anniversary was cause for a huge celebration – and the gala that the Stuttgart Theaterhaus organized was extensive indeed. It was presented by Eric Gauthier who – humorous as ever – ensured that the almost four-hour-long program (including a participatory performance with the audience) entertained throughout.

4. E.Madsen and ensemble, “Cantata” by M.Bigonzetti, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022 © J.BakMadsen’s love of wit and humor was clear from his wry comments on the collection of black-and-white photos showing his early professional steps. Also hilarious, though without intending to be, was the commentary in a compilation from a vintage film by SDR Abendschau recalling Madsen’s time under Cranko’s directorship. We learned that male dancers “woo and fight for love and then die,” and that the young Madsen preferred table football over more sophisticated pastimes. The company’s tours to New York (1969) and Moscow (1972) were mentioned as well. A second video dealt with Madsen’s work in the Theaterhaus.

Of Madsen’s many friends and companions, five – Birgit Keil, Mauro Bigonzetti, Ivan Cavallari, Tamas Detrich, and Friedemann Vogel – shared their memories in a series of talks. Keil emphasized Madsen’s authenticity, Cavallari his modesty, Bigonzetti his generosity and humanity. In reference to a performance of “Romeo and Juliet”, Detrich joked:No one could die like Egon.”

5. E.Madsen and participants of the gala, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022 © J.BakOf the many Cranko roles for which Madsen is known, we saw three performed by members of the Stuttgart Ballet. Adhonay Soares da Silva danced the Lenski solo from the second act of “Onegin”; Alessandro Giaquinto was the hapless Gremio, warbling a failed serenade to Bianca (Veronika Verterich) in “Taming of the Shrew”. Friedemann Vogel danced the lovey-dovey youth from “Brouillards” whose infatuation suffers an abrupt deflation.
Alice McArthur and Mitchell Millhollin, both students at the John Cranko School, gave a spotless rendition of Uwe Scholz’s “The Creation” – a nod to Madsen’s time in Leipzig. Arnau Redorta Ortiz and Maria Sayrach Baró, juniors at Gauthier Dance, contributed “Rassemblement”, an edgy pas de deux with a tragic ending by Nacho Duato. A highlight was Gauthier’s peppy “ABC” of dance, set into motion by the effervescent Shori Yamamoto.

I was most impressed by the two performances by Madsen himself: Hans van Manen’s “The Old Man and Me” (alongside Milena Twiehaus, a former student of Madsen’s wife Lucia Isenring) and “Cantata” – a wildly passionate group number by Bigonzetti performed to Southern Italian songs sung fervently and played live by the Gruppo Musicale Assurd, Enza Pagliara, and Enza Alessandra Prestia. There is no doubt that Madsen – lifted high above the group of dancers, a timbrel hanging gloriously above his head – can still dominate the stage.
6. E.Madsen and participants of the gala, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022 © J.Bak

Links: Website of the Theaterhaus Stuttgart
Eric Gauthier commenting on Egon Madsen’s birthday (audio)
SWR documentary on Egon Madsen (video)
Photos: 1. Egon Madsen, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022
2. Friedemann Vogel, Tamas Detrich, Birgit Keil, Egon Madsen, Mauro Bigonzetti, Ivan Cavallari, and Eric Gauthier, Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022
3. Friedemann Vogel, Tamas Detrich, Birgit Keil, Egon Madsen, Mauro Bigonzetti, Ivan Cavallari, and Eric Gauthier, Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022
4. Egon Madsen and ensemble, “Cantata” by Mauro Bigonzetti, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022
5. Egon Madsen and participants of the gala, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022
6. Egon Madsen and participants of the gala, “Egon Madsen 80”, Theaterhaus Stuttgart 2022
all photos © Jeanette Bak
Editing: Jake Stepansky

 

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…)

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 Colorless Mix

“Gala 2014”
Dance Foundation Birgit Keil
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
November 07, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. B.Andrade, Kt. F.Salamanka and ensemble, “Presente” by R.Oliveira, State Ballet Karlsruhe © J.Klenk 2014Birgit Keil, ex-prima ballerina of Stuttgart Ballet, regularly tours nearby Ludwigsburg to present her work to her former home audience. Since 1997 Keil is director and professor of Mannheim’s Academy of Dance, six years later she also took over the helm of the Baden State Ballet Karlsruhe.

The gala presented both troupes, the Karlsruhe company as well as talented dancers of the Academy. A huge part of the program was reserved for the usual array of guest artists. (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…)