Tag Archive: Richard Cragun

Stuttgart Ballet’s “Walking, Talking Historical Person”

“Reid Anderson – Having it”
240 pages, b/w illustrations
Henschel Publishing House, April 2017
ISBN 978-3894877903
April 2017

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2017 by Ilona Landgraf

1. “Reid Anderson – Having It”, book cover © Henschel Publishing HouseReid Anderson celebrated his 68 years anniversary on April 1st a few weeks ago. His birthday present was a book: Reid Anderson – Having It, From Dancer to Director, initiated and edited by Vivien Arnold, Stuttgart Ballet’s Director of Press, Dramaturgy and Communications. Its authors, Angela Reinhardt and Gary Smith, are both very familiar with Anderson’s career. Smith covered Anderson’s childhood and teenage years in Canada, his training at the Royal Ballet School in London and his time as director, first of the Ballet British Columbia, then of the National Ballet of Canada. Stuttgart-based Reinhardt contributed the Stuttgart chapters of Anderson’s life, one as a dancer of John Cranko’s company, and the second, ten years later, as director of the company, a post he still holds.

The book, available in German and English, was introduced to the public by Anderson and Tim Schleider, Head of the Culture Department of the Stuttgarter Zeitung and the Stuttgarter Nachrichten, in a matinée talk in Stuttgart’s opera house on April 1st. (more…)

Four Re-encounters

“ALL Cranko!” (“Concerto for Flute and Harp”, “Holberg Pas de Deux”, “Opus 1”, “Initials R.B.M.E.”)
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
May 07, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Ensemble, "Concerto for Flute and Harp" by J.Cranko, Stuttgart Ballet © Stuttgart Ballet 2015“ALL Cranko!”, Stuttgart Ballet’s new mixed bill, assembles four abstract ballets by John Cranko: the “Concerto for Flute and Harp”, premiered in 1966 and for more than a quarter of a century absent from stage, the “Holberg Pas de Deux” (1967), “Opus 1” (1965) and the repertory’s reliable asset “Initials R.B.M.E”, performed more than 230 times since its premiere in 1972.

Certainly many of the older Stuttgart balletomanes remember the original casts, the troupe’s signature dancers Marcia Haydée, Birgit Keil, Egon Madsen, Richard Cragun (1944 – 2012), later also Heinz Clauss (1935 – 2008). They are spoken of with great respect. Critical comparisons thus suggest itself. Would the ballets work with entirely new casts? (more…)

Old Friends

“Hommage à MacMillan”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
January 03, 2015

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2015 by Ilona Landgraf

1. S.J.Kang, “Requiem” by K.MacMillan, Stuttgart Ballet, © U.Beuttenmüller 2015Kenneth MacMillan (1929 -1992) would have celebrated his 85th birthday in December 2014. Stuttgart Ballet used this date as an opportunity to bring its close connection to the choreographer to mind. The double bill “Hommage à MacMillan” comprises “Song of the Earth” and “Requiem”, ballets with a special genesis and both created for the Stuttgart company. I saw the last performance of the first run. A second will take place in April.
In 1963 MacMillan had already created “Las Hermanas” for Stuttgart Ballet. Back then John Cranko had been at the helm of the company for two years. In 1965 the Royal Opera House refused to give MacMillan, who was its resident choreographer, permission to use Gustav Mahler’s “The Song of the Earth” for a new piece. Mahler’s music was considered untouchable, definitely not made for dancing. Besides no one had ever dared airing such an unreasonable idea. Fortunately times have changed. John Neumeier, for example, choreographed pieces to all of Mahler’s symphonies, except the 2nd and 8th symphony. Currently he is preparing a new work to “The Song of the Earth” for the Paris Opera Ballet. In any case MacMillan found the doors opened by Cranko in the mid 60s. Both had met as teenagers when studying at the Sadler’s Wells Ballet School and became friends. Cranko was the one who encouraged MacMillan to start choreographing because the Scot, who was two years younger, was heavily afflicted by stage fright when performing. (more…)

Fostering Ballet’s Future

Noverre Society Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Germany
December 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Logo of the Noverre Society Stuttgart © Noverre Society 2014The dance critic Horst Koegler once compared him with a F1 World Champion who – second to none – has held his title for more than half a century: Fritz Höver, founder and longstanding chairman of Stuttgart’s Noverre Society. How would the Stuttgart Ballet have developed without Höver? Back in the early 1960s no one knew John Cranko in Stuttgart, not even Stuttgart Opera’s general director Walter Erich Schäfer. It’s hard to believe these days but in the late 1950s Stuttgart’s audience had not yet acquired a taste for ballet. The genre’s main function, since 1957 in the hands of artistic director Nicholas Beriozoff, ex-dancer of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, still was to take part in opera productions. Beriozoff, paving the way for the company’s ascent, put considerable effort in promoting ballet. It was due to the relentless persuasive power of Höver, that the young Cranko was invited to Baden-Wuerttemberg’s capital. In 1960 Cranko staged his first work in Stuttgart, “The Prince of the Pagodas” which had premiered three years earlier atNich The Royal Ballet. One year later he took over the reigns of “The Stuttgart Ballet”. (more…)

Stuttgart Ballet’s Front Line Dancers

Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart, Germany
March 2014

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2014 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Alexander Jones and Alicia Amatriain, The Taming of the Shrew, Stuttgart Ballet, photo Stuttgart Ballet“Stuttgart Ballet” – the name conjures memories. The company became famous overnight in 1969 as ‘The Stuttgart Ballet Miracle’ following its visit to New York’s ‘Met’ (The Metropolitan Opera House). Luminous ballet stars like Marcia Haydée, Richard Cragun, Ray Barra, Egon Madsen, Vladimir Klos and Birgit Keil shaped the company. At the heart of things was John Cranko. The late director’s imprint remains present to this day on the walls of Stuttgart’s Opera House but above all on the minds and hearts of everyone. Since 1996, Reid Anderson has been at the helm of Germany’s flagship ballet troupe, which flourishes still today at the forefront of the dance world. Who are the dancers shaping Stuttgart Ballet now? Here are a few medallion portraits.

Alicia Amatriain, a Spaniard, currently is Stuttgart’s most versatile ballerina. In her prime technically, the thirty-three year old’s extensive repertory encompasses the most diverse of characters. The multifaceted Amatriain always immerses herself deeply in a role’s psychology, be it that of the hilarious Katharina (in Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew) or the innocent Desdemona (in John Neumeier’s Othello). Amatriain intensifies dramatic atmospheres and stirs spectators’ emotions. Not only classic characters but modern women belong to Amatriain’s territory. She has relished working on new creations with many a choreographer (Marco Goecke, Demis Volpi, Christian Spuck and Douglas Lee among them). (more…)

Bonbons from Stuttgart

The Taming of the Shrew”
Stuttgart Ballet
Stuttgart State Opera
Stuttgart, Germany
September 28, 2013

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2013 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Alicia Amatriain and Alexander Jones, The Taming of the Shrew by John Cranko, Stuttgart Ballet, photo Stuttgart BalletStuttgart Ballet opened its season with a revival of one of John Cranko’s classics:”The Taming of the Shrew”- a turbulent, crisp comic. Audiences find it irresistible, like a bonbonnière filled with colorfully wrapped sweets.

At its premiere in 1969 the success of “Shrew”was all the more momentous given that narrative ballets were not in vogue during the preceding decade and ballet comedies were unusual. Next to Cranko’s “Romeo and Juliet”, “Shrew” added considerably to what the New York Times’ Clive Barnes termed “The Stuttgart Ballet Miracle” following the company’s 1969 visit to the Metropolitan Opera House. The premiere’s cast list reads like the “who’s who?” of ballet: Marcia Haydée and Richard Cragun in leading roles, with John Neumeier, Egon Madsen and Heinz Clauss as Bianca’s (Susanne Hanke) three suitors, and in the corps de ballet: Jiří Kylián. Almost forty-five years later “Shrew” hasn’t gathered dust. On the contrary the Stuttgart audience thrilled to it and the atmosphere was splendid. (more…)