Tag Archive: Jiří Bubeníček

Galloping Fate

“Carmen”
Ballet of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma
Teatro dell’Opera di Roma

Rome, Italy
February 09, 2019

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Salvi and A.Ramasar, “Carmen” by J.Bubeníček, Ballet of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma 2019 © Y.Kageyama It is said that Czechs are good storytellers. Such generalizations are prone to rebuttal but that’s not the case for Jiří Bubeníček. He has delivered an array of fine pieces over the last years: “Faun”, “The Piano”, “Doctor Zhivago”, “Anita Berber – Goddess of the Night” – to name just a few. His new narrative ballet, “Carmen”, which premiered at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in early February, is convincing too. It’s intense, coherent, and fresh.

When we talk about “Carmen”, it’s easy to think immediately of Bizet’s opera, which failed at its premiere in 1875 and still won international acclaim after the composer’s premature death. Dance aficionados might also know Roland Petit’s 1949 ”Carmen”-ballet and Alberto Alonos’s 1967 “Carmen- Suite”, which both condense the source plot to around forty minutes. The pieces’ literature source – a novella penned in 1847 by Prosper Mérimée (1803 – 1870) is less popular. This is where Bubeníček dug deep. (more…)

Closing a Chapter

“Tribute to Otto and Jiří Bubeníček”
53. International Television Festival Golden Prague
Prague, Czech Republic
September 29, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. O. and J.Bubeníček, “Tribute to Otto and Jiří Bubeníček”, International Television Festival Golden Prague © Czech Television 2016September 28th marked the opening of the annual International Television Festival Golden Prague. The city truly lived up to the festival’s title. Warm autumn sun bathed the beautiful historic facades in golden light, inviting the crowds of tourists to stroll in T-shirts and summer dresses. The five-day television festival took place on the New Stage of the National Theatre, located just behind the old theater house.

Loved by their countrymen, Otto and Jiří Bubeníček have regularly appeared on Czech TV. A new, one-hour documentary, produced by Jaroslav Bouček and directed by Martin Kubala, provides insight into the twins’ artistic and private lives during the last two and a half years. (more…)

Riding the Wild Surf

“Anita Berber – Goddess of the Night”
Ballet of the Theater and Philharmonic Orchestra Thuringia
Theater Gera
Gera, Germany
June 17, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Kuzina and P.Jovicic, “Anita Berber – Goddess of the Night” by J.Bubeníček, Theater and Philharmonic Orchestra Thuringia © S.Ballone 2016Two months ago Jiří and Otto Bubeníček mounted the ballet “Doctor Zhivago” in Ljubljana. Last week the Czech Republic, their home country, honored them with the Gratias Agit for promoting the nation’s reputation abroad. Just this Friday the brothers gave their country a further reason for being proud of them: the premiere of “Anita Berber – Goddess of the Night” in Gera, Thuringia. This ballet traces the life and character of the scandalous German dancer, actress and self-promoter, a phenomenon of the “golden 1920s”. Choreography for the production is Jiří’s. Otto designed the set and costumes. Both brothers are responsible for the staging. This one acter, “Anita Berber”, again showed the Bubeniceks’ gift for storytelling. (more…)

A Prize Accomplishment

“Doctor Zhivago”
SNG Opera in Balet Ljubljana
Ljubljana, Slovenia
April 23, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.Pestotnik Stres, “Doctor Zhivago” by J.Bubeníček, SNG Opera in Balet Ljubljana © D.Štravs Tisu 2016A couple of months ago Jiří and Otto Bubeníček ended their active dancing careers with their home companies, Semperoper Ballet and Hamburg Ballet. Since then they have crisscrossed the globe creating ballet after ballet after ballet. In view of the sheer amount of their commissions, lingering doubts about quality seem likely. Moreover as their last creation, “Doctor Zhivago”, promised not to be a cakewalk. It is based on Boris Pasternak’s prizewinning novel of the same title, a rather weighty work dealing with an intricate story. David Lean’s 1965 film version is very popular. (more…)

On the Fast Lane

An interview with Jiří and Otto Bubeníček about their new ballet “Doctor Zhivago”
Ljubljana, Slovenia
March 29, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. T.Kmetec and P.Đorčevski, rehearsal of “Doctor Zhivago”, chor.: J.Bubeníček, SNG Opera in Balet Ljubljana © O.Bubeníček 2016Only a few months ago Jiří Bubeníček bid his farewell as principal of the Semperoper Ballet. Balancing his dancing career with the one of a choreographer has always kept him busy. But what he accomplished during the last five months is stupendous. He created pieces for the Ballet of the State Opera Hanover and for Tokyo City Ballet. One short ballet premiered at a gala of San Francisco Ballet. The dance interludes of Vienna’s New Year’s Concert 2016 were also by Bubeníček. Quite a lot for a single person. Enough work to be shouldered by two! While Jiří choreographs, his brother Otto is in charge of set designs, sometimes even of the costumes. He also assists with the dramaturgy. (more…)

True to Himself

True to Himself
Jiří Jelínek
Gelsenkirchen, Germany
November, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Jiří Jelinek © Stuttgart Ballet Jiří Jelínek’s dance career has been a journey. Born and trained in Prague he literally danced at the other end of the world, that is in Australia. Crisscrossing the world he gained invaluable experience with various companies and diverse repertories. Recently he danced with the Ballett im Revier in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. I took the rare opportunity to meet him the day after his last show in a café in Gelsenkirchen to talk about his career and his life.

Jelínek started to dance at the age of seven. A boy full of energy, he loved to move; he was very often outside, running around, playing and quarreling with his friends. The dance lessons in a children’s group was one hobby of several. “Then, when I was ten years old my mother urged me to audition for the Dance Conservatory in Prague. They took me and in the following four years I learned the basics.” (more…)

A Sweeping Goodbye

“Manon”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
November 11, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Hamilton and J.Bubeniček, “Manon” by Kenneth MacMillan, photo Ian WhalenOne could make things easier when it comes to the end of a dance career. A favorite piece which the audience likes should make for a decent leave-taking. Jiří Bubeníček is of another caliber. After nine years with Semperoper Ballet Dresden he tackled a debut for his farewell, Des Grieux in Kenneth MacMillan’s “Manon”. Moreover, he asked a ballerina, with whom he had never danced before, to be his Manon: Royal Ballet’s principal Melissa Hamilton, who will stay with the Semperoper company for the whole season.

“Go for it!” is one of Bubeníček’s principles. Exactly this is what he did. In fact, what the whole company did. Aaron S.Watkin, the company’s artistic director, aimed to use “Manon” to explore yet another style with his already versatile company. It was enthusiastically received. No wonder. All ingredients merged splendidly presenting “Manon” as a gripping narrative. (more…)

A Star Enters Another Orbit

Jiří Bubeníček
Dresden, Germany
October, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Jiri Bubenicek, photo: Costin RaduIn about one week Semperoper Ballet Dresden will lose one of its mainstays, a formative figure of the company, the idol of the Saxon audience, Principal Jiří Bubeníček, who will bid farewell to the Semperoper stage on November 11th as Des Grieux in Kenneth MacMillan’s “Manon”. In 2009, already a longtime internationally recognized choreographer, he mentioned in an interview on the occasion of a new creation for New York City Ballet that he would have to decide soon whether to focus on dancing or on choreographing. Since then he has managed the balancing act between giving top-notch performances and creating even more ballets.

Jiří’s twin brother Otto had already bid goodby to Hamburg Ballet’s stage at the end of last season. Both are a perfectly attuned team. Jiří choreographs, Otto is in charge of set and costumes; sometimes he also composes the music. Now, shortly after turning forty-one, the time has also come for Jiří to finally stop dancing full-time. His schedule book is packed with commissions for the next two years. So there won’t be time to put up his feet after the final bow. But that would not suit Bubeníček’s nature anyway. A man of action he loves to be busy. Running several projects at the same time isn’t unusual for him. (more…)

Promoting the Future of Dance in Armenia

Arsen Mehrabyan, “Forceful Feelings”
Stockholm, Sweden
September 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Arsen Mehrabyan, photo Carl Thorborg“Forceful Feelings” is a small ballet troupe created by five Armenian dancers, who, though dancing with various Western companies, are welded together by a determination to foster dance, especially ballet, in their home country. Touring internationally they are also introducing foreign audiences to Armenian culture. All five were born in the capital Yerevan, their families by chance being closely connected to each other; all studied at Yerevan’s National Ballet School where they were classmates, and all left Armenia to dance abroad.
Tigran Mikayelyan is principal dancer with the Bavarian State Ballet, Artur Babajanyan joined the Joffrey Ballet, Arman Grigoryan is solo dancer with the State Ballet Berlin, Vahe Martirosyan and Arsen Mehrabyan dance with the Royal Swedish Ballet, Martirosyan as first soloist, Mehrabyan as principal. Mehrabyan is the troupe’s artistic director and choreographer. I met him in Stockholm’s Royal Opera House in early September to talk about his career, professional dance in Armenia and the intentions of “Forceful Feelings”. (more…)

Anita Berber – Icon of Scandal

Lothar Fischer:
“Anita Berber; Ein getanztes Leben” (“Anita Berber; A Danced Life”)
208 pages, plenty of color and b/w illustrations
Hendrik Bäßler Verlag Berlin, December 2014
ISBN: 3930388855

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Book cover, “Anita Berber, Ein getanztes Leben” by L.Fischer, photo by courtesy of H.Bäßler Publishing House 2015Anita Berber needed scandal like her daily bread, commented young Klaus Mann, who was trying to become as famous a German author as his father Thomas. Mann met her in Berlin in 1924 when Berber, just 25 years old, already had become a legend. She was a stage and movie actress, a fashion and hat model, and a danseuse whose nude performances created furors. Mann continues: “Debauched middle-class girls copied Berber’s style, every prostitute aiming to be a cut above the others wanted to look like her. Post-war eroticism, cocaine, Salomé, ultimate perversity – such were the terms the mirage of her glory was made of. Besides, connoisseurs knew that she was an excellent dancer.”

In December last year the German art historian and author Lothar Fischer published a biography of Berber. “Anita Berber; Ein getanztes Leben” (“Anita Berber; A Danced Life”) is his third book about this arguably scandalous woman, the two former publications dating from 1996 and 2006 being out of print. (more…)

Bringing Sparkle Back to the Homeland

“Les Ballets Bubeníček” (“L’Heure Bleue”, “The Piano”)
Nové Divadlo/ J.K. Tyl-Theater
Pilsen, Czech Republic
July 18, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Morariu, S.Vinograd and J.Bubeníček, “L'Heure Bleue” by J.Bubeníček, Les Ballets Bubeníček 2015 © S.Ballone Pilsen, the Czech Republic’s fourth biggest town, is located in Bohemia between Prague and Germany’s Nuremberg. First and foremost it is known for its pils, a type of pale lager beer produced there since 1842. This year Pilsen is making headlines for another reason: in addition to Belgium’s Mons, it is one of Europe’s Cultural Capitals. More than six hundred cultural events, ranging from theater performances to concerts, art exhibitions and other events are offered. The project which started in January is more than a short-lived affair, promising instead to boost the town’s popularity and fuel local cultural life for a long time to come. (more…)

Much Ado About Nothing

“Impressing the Czar”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
May 25, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Impressing the Czar” by W.Forsythe: “Potemkin's Signature”, Semperoper Ballet Dresden © I.Whalen 2015William Forsythe’s “Impressing the Czar” is the Semperoper Ballet’s second premiere this season. It testifies to the company’s strong ties with the choreographer, reinforcing the relationship. After the closure of Forsythe’s own company, Ballet Frankfurt, in 2004, where “Impressing the Czar” had received its premiere in January 1988, only the Royal Ballet of Flanders and now the Semperoper Ballet are allowed to perform it. In the program notes Forsythe emphasized his intense, confidence-building collaboration with the Dresden company. At the moment it is the only one dancing his earlier works in a true and faithful manner.

Hence the prospects were bright that the evening would be exceptional and, as the title implies, really impressive. (more…)

A Team of Strong Individuals

Semperoper Ballet
Dresden, Germany
April/May 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Semperoper Dresden © M.Creutziger 2015In 2006 the winds of change were blowing through the Semperoper Ballet Dresden. After twelve years under Vladimir Derevianko’s directorship the Canadian Aaron S. Watkin took over the reigns. He thoroughly revitalized the company and adopted a new course for the repertory. The classics, already the company’s linchpin, were kept, but modern pieces were now strongly fostered. As a result, after almost a decade of constant work, the company receives much international attention. Ballets by William Forsythe, David Dawson, Stijn Celis and Aaron S. Watkin are its signature features. Recently I spoke with five leading dancers about their backgrounds and how they experienced the company’s development. (more…)

A Well Assembled Spectrum

“2. International Ballet Gala”
Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg
State Theater
Nuremberg, Germany
March 20, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Vallejo, “Canon in D Major” by J.Bubeníček, “2.International Ballet Gala”, Ballet of the State Theater Nuremberg © B.Stöß 2015Goyo Montero is in his seventh season as artistic director of the State Theater Nuremberg’s ballet. Since then the Spaniard has established the troupe’s reputation – nationally as well as internationally. Last weekend’s ballet gala – the second since Montero took over the reins – gave ample proof that dance prospers in Middle Franconia’s largest city.
Montero, son of a ballerina and a dancing and choreographing father, studied at the Royal Conservatory for Professional Dance in Madrid and the School of the National Ballet of Cuba. Amongst others he danced with the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Royal Ballet of Flanders. Solidly rooted in classical dance, Montero explores contemporary movement vocabulary in his choreography. This season his company, twenty-two dancers, many of them his compatriots, present works by Nacho Duato, Johan Inger, Ohad Naharin in addition to Montero’s own creations. In early July they will guest with “Cinderella” at the Chekhov International Theatre Festival in Moscow. Dance definitely has moved on from its former niche existence in Nuremberg!
This season’s gala wasn’t sparing with highlights: on the guest list were dancers from Stuttgart Ballet, Semperoper Ballet Dresden, English National Ballet, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo and Stanislavsky Ballet Moscow sharing the program with Nuremberg’s troupe. (more…)

Storytellers

“Drei Streifen:Tanz”, Choreographies by Benjamin Millepied, Demis Volpi and Jiří Bubeníček
Ballet Dortmund
Opernhaus Dortmund
Dortmund, Germany
March 07, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Mehrabyan and E.Nguyen, “The Piano” by J.Bubeníček, Ballet Dortmund © B.Stöß 2015“Drei Streifen: Tanz”, Ballet Dortmund’s new triple bill, allows insight into the work of three different choreographers. The pas de deux “Closer” offers a glance into Benjamin Millepied’s artistic work. Stuttgart Ballet’s resident choreographer Demis Volpi presents himself with three short duos. The evening’s second half was reserved for Jiří Bubeníček’s new creation “The Piano”.

“The Piano” is based on the movie of the same name by the New Zealand film director Jane Campion and has been awarded with – amongst others – the Golden Palm in Cannes in 1993 and an Oscar in 1994. Set in mid-19th century it is about a Scotswoman Ada McGrath, who, for whatever reason, has been mute since her sixth year of age. She expresses her inner life mainly through playing the piano. When Ada and her daughter Flora are forced into a marriage with the Britishman Alistair Stewart, a plantation owner living in New Zealand, the piano is the most important part of the luggage. The to-be-wed couple, however, has never met before. Alistair, at first disenchanted by his future wife’s appearance, doesn’t understand the piano’s importance. Seeming to be an unpractical object, it is left at the beach where Ada and Flora had come ashore.

(more…)