Tag Archive: Jozef Varga

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who was in charge of the production, gave Lidiya Pashkova’s original libretto a sharp twist in abandoning some outdated clichés: Beaujean’s Raymonda doesn’t marry the honorable Jean de Brienne (a crusader turned prince), but instead marries Abd al-Rahman, the passionate and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

 

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…)

Dancers’ Choice

Spring Special”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
April 05, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Tonoli, S.Yamada, J.Spunda, and S.Leverashvili (Peasants), “Giselle“ by M.Petipa after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, production and additional choreography by R.Beaujean and R.Bustamante, Dutch National Ballet 2021 © H.GerritsenFor most artists, the flow of opportunities for performance on home stages or abroad has either thinned to a trickle or dried up altogether since the onset of the pandemic. The Dutch National Ballet filled some of those gaps with a “Spring Special” -gala that featured a selection of ten short pieces in total – eight excerpts from the company’s existing repertory, one new acquisition, and one world premiere. Each dancer was able to choose which piece to perform in (with appropriate attention to pandemic-related restrictions of group size). All of the principals, several soloists, and one member of the corps de ballet participated. The gala was streamed live on April 5th. A second broadcast is scheduled for April 10, 2021 (more…)

Sweet Hope

“Cinderella”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
December 29, 2018

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Tsyganova, W.Tietze, S.Kaic, E.Merdjanova and A.Tsygankova, “Cinderella” by C.Wheeldon, Dutch National Ballet 2018 © M.HaegemanGripping storytelling is a gift – and Christopher Wheeldon has it. His “Cinderella”, revived by the Dutch National Ballet this Christmas season, warms the heart. It’s the right ballet at the right time. As I strolled through the foyer during the breaks, I saw the enthusiastic faces of the many children who attended the matinee with their parents, including a few youngsters imitating dance steps and one girl turning cartwheels – which are not in Wheeldon’s choreography – in the entrance hall. (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…)

Conversations with Marijn Rademaker and Jozef Varga

Dutch National Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
June, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Dutch National Opera & Ballet © L.KramerThe beautiful opera house and national ballet company are as welcoming and open as Amsterdam itself. During my last visit for the premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s “Shostakovich Trilogy” in mid-June, I took the opportunity to talk with two principal dancers, Marijn Rademaker and Jozef Varga, about their career and their plans for the future.

Rademaker, a Dutchman, returned home in 2015 after many years with Stuttgart Ballet. We met in a cafe opposite the opera house a few hours before the premiere. Rademaker’s answers are in italics. (more…)

Just Dance?

“Shostakovich Trilogy”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
June 17, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “Shostakovich Trilogy” by A.Ratmansky, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.Gerritsen“Ted, I don’t know what you’re doing with the company,” Alexei Ratmansky said after the premiere of his “Shostakovich Trilogy” at Dutch National Ballet, “but they get better and better.” He was right to praise the dancers. Their dedication and attention to detail – and this piece is replete with details – made the evening a thorough success.

“Shostakovich Trilogy” is the sixth piece by Ratmansky to enter the company’s repertoire and, next to “Don Quichotte”, is the second full-evening one. (more…)

Wheeldon, Ratmansky, Pastor and a New Dawson

“Made in Amsterdam 2”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
February 12, 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Yanowsky, R.Wörtmeyer and ensemble, “Concerto Concordia” by C.Wheeldon, Dutch National Ballet 2017 © H.GerritsenThe program “Made in Amsterdam 2” consisted of ballets by four established choreographers. It was the Dutch National Ballet’s second mixed bill of works specifically intended for this company. One piece – a solo by David Dawson – was brand new whereas the other three – Christopher Wheeldon’s “Concerto Concordia”, “Souvenir d’un lieu cher” by Alexei Ratmansky and “Moving Rooms” by Krzysztof Pastor – dated from between 2008 and 2015. (more…)

Van Dantzig, Van Schayk, Van Manen

“Dutch Masters”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
September 25, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Y.Gyo Choi and Q.Liu, “Episodes van Fragmenten” by T.van Schayk, Dutch National Ballet © H.Gerritsen 2016Dutch National Ballet’s latest mixed bill was all-Dutch. It assembled four pieces by three pivotal choreographers of the Netherlands: “Vier letzte Lieder” (“Four Last Songs”) by Rudi van Dantzig (1933 – 2012), the company’s artistic director for twenty years; “Adagio Hammerklavier” by Hans van Manen (born: 1932) ; plus “Episodes van Fragmenten” and “Requiem”, both by Toer van Schayk (born: 1936). This wasn’t lightweight entertainment but a program upon which to ponder. I attended the last performance, the Sunday, September 25th matinée. (more…)

A Bright Opening

“Gala”
Dutch National Ballet
Dutch National Opera & Ballet
Amsterdam, Netherlands
September 07, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Grand Défilé, Dutch National Ballet © M.Schnater 2016Amsterdam’s National Opera House always radiates a light and welcoming atmosphere. This was especially so at this season’s opening gala on September 7th, which saw large crowds, women in evening gowns, flocking into the buzzing foyer amid flurries of camera flashes around the red carpet.

From the start the Grand Défilé, which opened the gala, gained warm-hearted applause. The program of the following three-and-a-half hours had been kept as a surprise. It included three highlights. (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…)