Tag Archive: Maria Beck

What to Choose for a Party

“Ildikó Pongor 70 Ballet Gala”
Hungarian National Ballet
Hungarian State Opera
Budapest, Hungary
June 24, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf

1. I.Pongor, “Ildikó Pongor 70 Ballet Gala”, Hungarian National Ballet 2023 © A.Nagy / Hungarian State Opera One month after the Iván Nagy Ballet Gala, the Hungarian State Opera hosted another festive ballet evening – a birthday gala in honor of Ildikó Pongor, veteran artist of the company, who turned seventy earlier this June. Pongor spent almost her entire professional life at the Hungarian National Ballet, first as a dancer, then as artistic director, ballet master, and co-choreographer. She also worked internationally in Vienna and Stockholm, among others.
The brief compilation of archival videos and photos that opened the gala made it clear within seconds: Pongor has an effervescent energy whose positivity is infectious, even on celluloid. Regrettably, I don’t speak Hungarian and was unable to follow the round of talks. Her colleagues, Mária Aradi, Katalin Csarnóy, and Imre Dózsa, shared memories about Pongor’s career; the humor that sparkled in Pongor’s eyes while listening indicated that she was pleased. (more…)


“The Nutcracker”
Hungarian National Ballet / Hungarian National Ballet Institute
Hungarian State Opera
Budapest, Hungary
December 10, 2022 (matinee + evening performance)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2022 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, “The Nutcracker” by W.Eagling and T.Solymosi, Hungarian National Ballet & Hungarian National Ballet Institute 2022 © V.Berecz The Dutch National Ballet has in its repertoire a gorgeous “Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by Wayne Eagling (featuring no less beautiful designs by Toer van Schayk), which premiered in 1996. It seems that from that moment on, Eagling has been spellbound by the “Nutcracker”. The version he created in 2015 – tailored to the Hungarian National Ballet – is his fifth take on the fairy-tale. For Budapest’s “Nutcracker” he collaborated with the company’s artistic director, Tamás Solymosi. I saw a matinee and an evening performance.

From the moment I noticed the cupcakes and Gugelhupf on the Stahlbaum family’s Christmas buffet, I knew that Eagling and Solymosi’s production would be just so: a treat based on a traditional recipe but refined with local additions and updated techniques. The original recipe by Vasili Vainonen is from 1934 – and his “Nutcracker” premiered in Budapest in 1950 to great acclaim. (more…)


“La Esmeralda”
Ballet of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre
Moscow, Russia
March 07, 2019

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. O. Kardash, “La Esmeralda” by V. Burmeister, Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre 2019 © A. Klyushkina Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” – which features Notre-Dame’s deformed bellringer Quasimodo and the compassionate, kind Esmeralda – has long been popular material for stage and film adaptions. The first ballet adaption premiered in London in 1844, with choreography by Jules Perrot and music by Cesare Pugni. In 1950, Vasiliy Tikhomirov and Vladimir Burmeister produced a new libretto for their version with the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre. As in the novel, their production is set in the 15th century and has a frame narrative that explores Esmeralda’s childhood background. For this iteration of the tale, Tikhomirov and Burmeister brought back Esmeralda’s tragic death while eschewing several secondary characters. In addition, Pugni’s score was newly orchestrated and supplemented with music by Reinhold Glière and Sergei Vasilenko. The three-acter is still in the company’s repertory and – more than 500 years later it is (regrettably) still highly topical. “La Esmeralda” exposes the Catholic church’s sickening hypocrisy and rotten ethics, which have made and continue to make international headlines to this day.

At the heart of the story is Esmeralda, who was picked up and raised by the Romani after they (wrongly) deemed her mother Gudule to be dead. (more…)