Tag Archive: Paul Connelly

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…)

Stunning Emotions

“Tristan + Isolde”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
February 17, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. C.Richardson and F.Voranger, “Tristan + Isolde” by D.Dawson, Semperoper Ballet Dresden © I.Whalen 2015Reportedly a few of the audience had expected to see the opera, while others, having had a slightly closer look at Semperoper Dresden’s program, were anticipating hearing Richard Wagner’s famous music. Both parties must have been surprised. “Tristan + Isolde” is a ballet by David Dawson to new music by Szymon Brzóska.
Dawson wisely abstained from using Wagner’s well-known opera music. Instead Brzóska, a Pole, composed a tailor-made score for the Dresden company. Both had already collaborated on Dawson’s ballet “Overture” for Dutch National Ballet in 2013. Generally speaking, his music, Brzóska told in an interview, would range between contemporary avant garde and extended tonality that inclined towards minimalism. The new composition reminds one of film music. It’s emotional music, conveying love’s bliss but also dramatic, fragile and threatening moments. Though expressive, Dawson never left it to the music to bring forth the action but always backed it with choreographic substance. Paul Connelly and the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden highly focused playing captivated one from the first tone on. Laurels to them! (more…)

An Attempt to Live Up to an Epic Story

“Anna Karenina”
Ballet Zurich
Opernhaus Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland
November 29, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. V.Kapitonova and D.Vieira, “Anna Karenina” by C.Spuck, Ballet Zurich © M.Rittershaus 2014Adapting a complex novel of remarkable scale for a ballet is a courageous undertaking. Christian Spuck, Ballet Zurich’s artistic director, took up the challenge. “Anna Karenina”, his new work, premiered earlier this season. It is based on Leo Tolstoy’s eponymous novel, more than one-thousand pages of intricate family histories, written within 1873 – 1878. Spuck boiled them down into a two-hour ballet. How did he approach this task and with what success?

Next to the triangle between Anna Karenina (Viktorina Kapitonova), her husband Alexei Karenin (Filipe Portugal) and her lover Count Alexei Vronsky (Denis Vieira), Spuck also portrays the other protagonists’ love affairs as well as other lesser characters: Dolly’s and the unfaithful Stiva’s messed up marriage (Dolly: Galina Mihaylova, Stiva: Arman Grigoryan) as well as Kitty’s and Levin’s tentative approach to each other, their wedding and apparently happy rural life (Kitty: Katja Wünsche, Levin: Tars Vendebeek). Princess Betsy (Giulia Tonelli), a socialite with dubious morals, and her companion (Wei Chen) – a wimp whom she makes look like fool – are featured as is the rigid Countess Lidia Ivanovna (Eva Dewaele), Alexei Karenin’s later life partner. The settings include those of Moscow’s and St. Petersburg’s high society, the Karenin’s home, a farm harvest with hands at work (Levin’s environment), the famous horse race, Anna’s and Vronsky’s sojourn in Italy and, of course, some train journeys to get from A to B plus Anna’s last fatal encounter with a train. (more…)

In Honor of Richard Strauss

“Legends – Homage to Richard Strauss”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
July 11, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Fabien Voranger, Tanzsuite by A.Ratmansky, Semperoper BalletRichard Strauss (1864 – 1949), the German composer and conductor, would have celebrated his 150th birthday this year. He was closely connected to Dresden, where nine of his fifteen operas had their world premieres. Thus it isn’t surprising that the Semperoper Dresden is celebrating this jubilee extensively with an array of operas, concerts, song recitals and the ballet evening “Legends – Homage to Richard Strauss”. The ballet program, based on Strauss music, includes two world premieres. For the first time, Alexei Ratmansky has created new choreography in Germany – the ensemble piece “Tanzsuite”, first on the program. The other premiere, “The Legend of Joseph”, is by Stijn Celis, a choreographer already familiar with the Semperoper’s dancers.

Richard Strauss and Alexei Ratmansky seem to share a trait: both are passionate about the past, about evoking history and reconfiguring it as contemporary art. One of Strauss’ historical sources of inspiration was the French rococo period. Its lightness and esprit found expression in Strauss’ creation “Ballroom and Theater Dances in the Style of Louis XV”, better known as the “Tanzsuite”, which premiered 1923 in Vienna. Strauss’ composition drew on a selection of François Couperin’s ‘Pièces de Clavecin’, pieces for the piano from the years 1713 – 1730, which Strauss adapted, rearranged and scored for small orchestra. The style of 20th century’s late romantic music was subtly woven into the rococo miniatures, which evoked a French court of the 18th century. In charge of the choreography for Vienna was Heinrich Kröller (1880 – 1930), a German ballet master and choreographer who worked first for Munich’s ‘Royal Court and National Theater’ and later for the Vienna State Opera. Playing with court dances and including mythological figures, Kröller enchanted his Viennese post-court audience with royal grandeur. (more…)

Does a Big Name Deliver its Promise?

“Ratmansky/Welch”
State Ballet Berlin
Schiller Theater
Berlin, Germany
April 04, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, Clear by Stanton Welch, State Ballet BerlinAt the end of his era as head of State Ballet Berlin, Vladimir Malakhov mounted two German premieres: Stanton Welch’s “Clear” and Alexei Ratmansky’s “Namouna – a Grand Divertissement”. Both works showed the company to be in good shape and its atmosphere confident.

“Clear” was Welch’s reaction to the terror attack on the World Trade Center that took place September 11, 2001. It premiered with American Ballet Theatre the same year. However, a connection to 9/11 isn’t obvious at first glance. Seven men and one woman indulge themselves in energetic duos, trios and group numbers. Foremost, these dances radiate verve. They are lively, in accord with the music – Johann Sebastian Bach’s concertos (Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C-Minor and Concerto for Violin in G-Minor, excellently played by violinist Wolfram Brandl and oboist Fabian Schäfer).

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Sex and Crime – Stijn Celis’s Shakespeare Falls Short

“Romeo and Juliet”
Semperoper Ballet
Semperoper
Dresden, Germany
February 21, 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Julia Weiss, Jiri Bubenicek, Romeo and Juliet by S.Celis, Semperoper Ballet To ‘carry off the audience to emotionally deep experiences’ was Stijn Celis’s stated aim for his new “Romeo and Juliet” adaptation at Dresden’s Semperoper. His approach is totally modern, avoiding any reference to the Renaissance. The Belgian choreographer wanted his work to be ‘linked to reality’ and to abstain from ‘artificiality and deformation’. Did he accomplish these noble goals?

Concrete dominated the set, aptly so for a current approach. Gray walls served as a church interior or as facades of austere homes. Two large windows allowed either a view into what was going on in apartments or, when the windows were opened, served as balconies for the two lovers’ core encounter. The atmosphere was as gloomy as Jan Versweyveld’s decor.

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