Tag Archive: Erica Horwood

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. The set alone – the hall of Countess Sybille’s Provence castle, grandly modest and modestly grand – was thoroughly tasteful. It transformed later into the same castle’s cypresses-flanked yard (offering an eye-catching mountain panorama) for Act II, and the imposing hall of Grand Duke Sandor’s palace in Hungary in Act III. We find ourselves partly in 3. M.Makhateli (Raymonda), “Raymonda” by R.Beaujean after M.Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022 © M.Haegeman 2. S.Velichko (Jean de Brienne) and M.Makhateli (Raymonda), “Raymonda” by R.Beaujean after M.Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022 © M.Haegeman medieval times, partly swimming in a potpourri of (mostly) 19th century neo-classical styles. Set and costume designer Jérôme Kaplan luxuriated in choosing lavish robes for the aristocrats, casually elegant garb for the court household, Eastern Saracen-chic and a multitude of (mostly) Hungarian outfits for the folk dancers. The company was not stingy with its purchases of high quality fabrics and accessories – truly a feast for Kaplan!

Dutch National Ballet promised a new take on Petipa’s 1898 classic – the last major work of his career – and the associate artistic director Rachel Beaujean, who was in charge of the production, gave Lidiya Pashkova’s original libretto a sharp twist in abandoning some outdated clichés: Beaujean’s Raymonda doesn’t marry the honorable Jean de Brienne (a crusader turned prince), but instead marries Abd al-Rahman, the passionate and no-less-noble sheikh of Córdoba. This shatters the 4. M.Makhateli (Raymonda) and S.Velichko (Jean de Brienne), “Raymonda” by R.Beaujean after M.Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022 © M.Haegeman 5. S.Velichko (Jean de Brienne) and ensemble, “Raymonda” by R.Beaujean after M.Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022 © M.Haegeman stereotype of the righteous, white Westerner saving a virtuous girl from a wantonly cruel Easterner. Gone, too, is the notion that a woman must passively acquiesce to her fate. Raymonda no longer obediently follows the decision of others. Though at first hesitant to embrace Al-Rahman’s sensuality, she allows herself to feel her own feelings alongside him. She decides to whom her heart belongs. This renders obsolete the role of the White Lady – a protective guide invented by Pashkova who appears in Raymonda’s dream. Fearlessly, Amsterdam’s Raymonda steps between the two suitors as they fiercely cross their swords in battle for her hand, trying to calm their boiling fury. That the outraged de Brienne (our supposed “good guy”) has initiated the fight buries yet another cliché.

6. E.Wijnen (Bernard), R.Sakamoto (Henriette), M.Makhateli (Raymonda), Y.Zhang (Clémence), S.Yamada (Béranger), and ensemble, “Raymonda” by R.Beaujean after M.Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022 © M.Haegeman All this said, Beaujean has not only presented a radically unconventional version of “Raymonda”. In the eyes of the youngest generation, the gender relations depicted on Amsterdam’s stage are already out-of-date. Beaujean’s storyline does not offer representation of same-sex relationships or include self-lacerating weltschmerz, but – like the “good ol’ days” – celebrates the apotheosis of femininity. Materialism is of consequence here too. Why else would Raymonda react more effusively to Al-Rhaman’s egg-sized sapphire than to de Brienne’s (admittedly meager) scarf?

Altering the dramaturgy of the piece required re-shuffling of Glazunov’s music and Petipa’s choreography. Beaujean kept large parts of Petipa’s original material while adding supplementary and transitional sequences. She was assisted by Grigori Tchitcherine and Ted Brandsen, the latter 7. Y.G.Choi (Abd al-Rahman) and M.Makhateli (Raymonda), “Raymonda” by R.Beaujean after M.Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022 © M.Haegeman sending the warriors properly into battle and mounting the sabre dance. The result is a fine piece of crochet work spun from exquisite classical dance – a challenge for the company that they masterfully overcame.

I’ve seen Maia Makhateli dance for many years, and in my opinion she has reached her peak in the role of Raymonda. What purity, what refinement – bravo! Young Gyo Choi was an ideal Abd al-Rahman: resolute and dashing, wavering between fiery passion and affectionate devotion. In comparison, Jean de Brienne (Semyon Velichko) appeared a smart-but-simple 8. Y.G.Choi (Abd al-Rahman), “Raymonda” by R.Beaujean after M.Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022 © M.Haegeman aristocrat. He prioritized a tournament with his buddies (Martin ten Kortenaar and Daniel Robert Silva) over the birthday of his wife-to-be. Those priorities changed, however, the moment he realized that Raymonda had slipped away from him. Seething with anger, de Brienne drew his sword so forcefully that I feared for the head of Countess Sybille (Nadine Drouin).
Of Raymonda’s two friends, Henriette (Riho Sakamoto) seemed more considerate, romantic, and ladylike, while Clémence (Yuanyuan Zhang) reminded me of a swift and sparkling lark. Both danced excellently. The two troubadours who joined them were Edo Wijnen (as Bernard) and Sho Yamada (as Béranger). Salome Leverashvili and Maria Chugai led the corps in the dream sequence. At the wedding ceremony in the palace of Grand Duke Sandor (Jozef Varga), Erica Horwood and James Stout cut a mean rug in the mazurka. Floor Eimers seemed to have a whale of a time delivering a snappy, high spirited Pas Hongrois with Vito Mazzeo.
The Dutch National Orchestra played under the baton of Vello Pähn.
9. M.Makhateli (Raymonda), Y.G.Choi (Abd al-Rahman), and ensemble, “Raymonda” by R.Beaujean after M.Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022 © M.Haegeman

Links: Website of Dutch National Ballet
Trailer “Raymonda”
Getting ready for the premiere (video)
Perfecting the choreography (video)
Meet the principals (video)
Introducing Raymonda (video)
Photos: (The photos partly show a different cast from an earlier performance.)
1. Timothy van Poucke, Semyon Velichko (Jean de Brienne), Martin ten Kortenaar, and ensemble, Raymonda” by Rachel Beaujean after Marius Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022
2. Semyon Velichko (Jean de Brienne) and Maia Makhateli (Raymonda), Raymonda” by Rachel Beaujean after Marius Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022
3. Maia Makhateli (Raymonda), Raymonda” by Rachel Beaujean after Marius Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022
4. Maia Makhateli (Raymonda) and Semyon Velichko (Jean de Brienne), Raymonda” by Rachel Beaujean after Marius Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022
5. Semyon Velichko (Jean de Brienne) and ensemble, Raymonda” by Rachel Beaujean after Marius Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022
6. Edo Wijnen (Bernard), Riho Sakamoto (Henriette), Maia Makhateli (Raymonda), YuanYuan Zhang (Clémence), Sho Yamada (Béranger), and ensemble, “Raymonda” by Rachel Beaujean after Marius Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022
7. Young Gyu Choi (Abd al-Rahman) and Maia Makhateli (Raymonda), Raymonda” by Rachel Beaujean after Marius Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022
8. Young Gyu Choi (Abd al-Rahman), Raymonda” by Rachel Beaujean after Marius Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022
9. Maia Makhateli (Raymonda), Young Gyu Choi (Abd al-Rahman), and ensemble, Raymonda” by Rachel Beaujean after Marius Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2022
all photos © Marc Haegeman
Editing: Jake Stepansky

 

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…)

A Strong Comeback

“Beethoven” (“Prometheus” / “Grosse Fuge”)
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
June 08, 2021 (live broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Yamada, D.Silva, and ensemble, “Prometheus” by W.Kuindersma, E.Meisner, and R.Wörtmeyer, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenThe Dutch National Ballet’s celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday was, in fact, supposed to premiere a year ago. “We’re a little bit late,” admitted Ted Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet’s artistic director, for reasons dictated by COVID-19. The originally scheduled program would have included Toer van Schayk’s “7th Symphony”. The anniversary program that was ultimately shown on June 8th was an adaption of this program comprised of two pieces: “Prometheus” (a new creation by the choreographer-trio Wubkje Kuindersma, Ernst Meisner, and Remi Wörtmeyer) and Hans van Manen’s “Grosse Fuge”. The break was used for an excursion away from Beethoven to Milena Sidorova’s recently released dance film “Rose”. (more…)

The Art of Storytelling

“Don Quixote”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
February 13, 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2018 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Makhateli, D.Camargo and ensemble, “Don Quixote” by M.Petipa, A.Gorski and A.Ratmansky, Dutch National Ballet 2018 © M.HaegemanLast June, after the premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s “Shostakovich Trilogy” at Dutch National Ballet, principal dancer Jozef Varga told me how much he was looking forward to the revival of Ratmansky’s “Don Quixote”. Amsterdam’s company holds six pieces by Ratmansky in its repertoire and quite likely it will soon have more. The dancers love to work with him. Ratmansky’s “Don Quixote” premiered in 2010 and now, for the third revival, he came over from New York to direct the final rehearsals. Varga wasn’t on stage on opening night, but will dance in later performances. (more…)

The Prince Awakens His Beauty

“The Sleeping Beauty”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
December 17, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Makhateli and D.Camargo, “The Sleeping Beauty” by P.Wright after M.Petipa, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © A.KaftiraThis Christmas Season Dutch National Ballet revived Peter Wright’s version of Marius Petipa’s “The Sleeping Beauty”, presenting no less than seven different leading couples in seventeen performances. Actually, one should see each cast. Alas – I could only travel once to Amsterdam and saw the matinée on December 17th led by Maia Makhateli as Princess Aurora alongside Daniel Camargo’s Prince Florimund.

Many young children attended the performance, all of them in festive clothing, and it was a pleasure to watch them hop around and imitate the dance steps during the breaks. One little girl in a golden skirt even turned cartwheels in the foyer. (more…)

Well Done Dutch National Ballet!

“Made in Amsterdam 1”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
February 11, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.DePrince and J.Stout, “Homo Ludens” by J.Arqués, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.GerritsenLast weekend was a busy one for Dutch National Ballet. The company premiered two mixed bills of four pieces each, one on Saturday evening, the second in a matinee on Sunday. In addition it held a two-day conference titled “Positioning Ballet” to discuss central topics concerning the art form with international guests on the panels. Clearly a huge effort had gone into its organization. It totally paid off. The weekend was a success and the conference will hopefully lead to regular meetings in the future. (more…)

Coveted, Discredited and Executed: Mata Hari – a National Celebrity

“Mata Hari”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
February 13, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Tsygankova and ensemble, “Mata Hari” by T.Brandsen, Dutch National Ballet © M.HaegemanDutch National Ballet’s YouTube trailer for its new ballet “Mata Hari” reveals two pythons leisurely encircling a ballerina. No need to worry though, no reptiles appear on stage, and there is no snake dance either. Besides that wouldn’t have been appropriate anyway because Mata Hari, whose performances as bayadère during the Belle Époque in Paris made a great stir, was never a snake charmer but rather a charmer of men.

Ted Brandsen, artistic director of the Dutch company, has traced the life of the famous Dutchwoman in his recently premiered story ballet. Mata Hari was born in 1876 as Margaretha Geertruida Zelle. Her parents separated when she was fourteen. Her mother died one year later; her father married again, but Margaretha was brought up by relatives. (more…)

Emotions – that’s what it’s all about

“Lady of the Camellias”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
April 10, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Rademaker and I.de Jongh, “Lady of the Camellias” by J.Neumeier, Dutch National Ballet © A.Sterling 2015One feels immediately comfortable at the Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Amsterdam’s principal opera house. Its spacious foyers are flooded with light provided by large windows which allow a panoramic view over the Amstel River. Terraces on various levels are favorite meeting spots of the audience. The house radiates the city’s atmosphere: Amsterdamers are open-minded, easy-going and kind. Special excitement and anticipation was in the air on April 10 at the premiere of John Neumeier’s “Lady of the Camellias”.

After “Sylvia” in 2011, it is the second piece by Neumeier that the company’s director Ted Brandsen has added to the repertory. Ballets by Hans van Manen, established as the company’s associate and resident choreographer for more than five decades, by Krzysztof Pastor and by David Dawson are the backbone of the schedules. Rudi van Dantzig (1933 – 2012), for twenty years at the helm of Dutch National Ballet, also left his mark as a choreographer. (more…)