Tag Archive: Laurence Smelser

Bleak Prospects for the Future

“Ground Breakers”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
December 15, 2013, 2pm

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2013 by Ilona Landgraf

1. P.von Sternenfels, H.MacIsaac, workwithinwork by William Forsythe, Stuttgart BalletStuttgart Ballet, seldom lacking self-assurance, titled its new ballet evening “Ground Breakers”. The German term “Fort//Schritt//Macher” better conveys this triple bill’s intention: Presented are works by three choreographers of different epochs, all driving forces behind European modern ballet’s progress, in short true trailblazers. And further all three – William Forsythe, Hans van Manen and Marco Goecke – are closely associated with the company or are even home-bred.

William Forsythe spread his choreographic wings in Stuttgart. There he made his debut at an evening of the Noverre Society, which promotes up-and-coming talent. Several pieces for Stuttgart Ballet followed and, after some years as freelance choreographer, Forsythe was appointed artistic director of Frankfurt Ballet in 1984. Striving after continual development, he modernized 20th century ballet by deconstructing all aspects of ballet, reassembling the fragments into abstract and speedy movements. Off-balances and overexpansions are his hallmarks. Forsythe also became more and more interested in other fields such as literature, philosophy, media and architecture, which he draws upon for inspiration. His approach is as cognitive as a researcher’s. Though Frankfurt Ballet was liquidated in 2004 for financial reasons, Forsythe continues his search for innovation with “The Forsythe Company”, founded in 2005, which resides in Dresden/Hellerau and in Frankfurt’s Bockenheimer Depot.


Rejoice, Exult?

“Christmas Oratorio I-VI”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Hamburg State Opera
Hamburg, Germany
December 09, 2013

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2013 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Lloyd Riggins, Christmas Oratorio by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet John Neumeier recently extended his contract as head of the Hamburg Ballet and general manager of the Hamburg State Opera until 2019. In his tenure’s final phase he has returned to Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” completing what he had begun in 2007 with the choreography of parts I-III. With the entire “Christmas Oratorio I-VI”, “Saint Matthew Passion” (1981) and “Magnificat” (1987) he has now come full circle: From the lost paradise to Maria as the chosen one, to Christ’s incarnation and finally his crucifixion. Other religiously inspired works were “Requiem” (1991) set to Mozart and “Messiah” to music by George Frideric Handel and Arvo Pärt. Though a practicing Christian and strongly influenced by his long friendship with Jesuit Father John J. Walsh, (who led the drama group at Milwaukee’s Marquette University, where Neumeier took up his studies as young man), Neumeier emphasizes that his choreographies are not religious undertakings. They’re neither substitute services nor an attempt to proselytize. This piece’s key topics are rather universal human values, basic emotional experiences and above all hope for salvation. (more…)

A Treasure Chest of Russian Stage Design.

“Masterpieces of Russian Stage Design 1880 – 1930” (Vol I)
“Encyclopedia of Russian Stage Design 1880 – 1930” (Vol II)
John E. Bowlt, Nina and Nikita D. Lobanov-Rostovsky and Olga Shaumyan:
Antique Collectors’ Club, 2012/2013

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2013 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Front cover, Léon Bakst, Costume Design for the Péri, La Péri, 1911When it comes to Russian stage design, naturally one person has his finger in the pie: Sergei Diaghilev, impresario of the Ballets Russes. Even years after his death in 1929 he made great projects happen, aiming to preserve and promote Russian design. London’s Diaghilev-exhibition in 1954 – how could it be different? – was the ignition spark for Nina and Nikita D. Lobanov-Rostovsky for what developed into an impressively vast collection of Russian stage design. Russian Nikita D. Lobanov-Rostovsky’s enthusiasm about Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes was so infectious that the cosmopolitan Nina, daughter of a French diplomat, not only became his fellow collector but also his wife.
UK’s Antique Collectors’ Club took on the task to publish two volumes about the collection. “Masterpieces of Russian Stage Design”, released in 2012, recently was complemented by a catalog raisonnè. (more…)

Murder as the Last Resort.

Ballet Zurich
Forum Ludwigsburg
Ludwigsburg, Germany
November 28, 2013

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2013 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Manuel Renard, Filipe Portugal, Christian Alex Assis, William Moore and Jan Casier, Woyzeck by C.Spuck, Ballet Zurich “Woyzeck” is Christian Spuck’s second work of choreography based on a piece by the German writer Georg Büchner. In 2008 Spuck already had staged the comedy “Leonce and Lena”, two years later the gloomy “Woyzeck” premiered in Oslo. Formerly resident choreographer of Stuttgart Ballet and since 2012 artistic director of Ballet Zurich, Spuck literally brought “Woyzeck” home. Büchner, who died well ahead his time in 1837 at the age of twenty-three due to a typhus infection, spent his last month in Zurich and moreover was buried there. Yet “Woyzeck”, the last piece of his small oeuvre, couldn’t be finished. The handwritten fragments later were assembled and underwent several edits. (more…)

About Desire

“The Little Mermaid”
Hamburg Ballet – John Neumeier
Festspielhaus Baden-Baden
Baden-Baden, Germany
November 15, 2013

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2013 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Silvia Azzoni and Sasha Riva, The Little Mermaid by J.Neumeier, Hamburg Ballet The story of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy-tale “The Little Mermaid” is quickly told: The little mermaid rescues a young prince from being drowned and falls in love with him. Driven by her strong desire for the prince and moreover longing for an immortal human soul she decides to leave the underwater world. Helped by the sea witch she becomes human, but on the condition that if she fails to win the prince’s love she has to die. Finding the prince, the mermaid suffers tremendously on shore, not only physically – every step feels like treading on knives’ edges – but even more emotionally, as she witnesses the developing affection between the prince and another woman – a human one. At the end, the mermaid’s love remains unrequited. She transcends to an entity of an upper sphere and is given a soul.

The Danish author actually wrote no fairy-tale for children in 1837, but instead a concealed depiction of his personal drama as homosexual. Like the mermaid losing the prince, Andersen’s love for his guardian’s handsome son Edvard Collin was unfulfilled. Collin married Henriette Thyberg which is exactly the scene John Neumeier’s “Little Mermaid” starts with. By remembering the wedding, his poet, unmistakably the figure of Andersen himself, slips into his own memories and fantasies. (more…)