MacMillan - McGregor - Ashton (Vienna State Ballet, Première Oct. 31st, 2017)
MacMillan, McGregor and Ashton – an english programme, a programme dedicated to this world of its own… the British Ballet!
The evening started in a very interesting way. Manuel Legris and Drama adviser Oliver P. Graber gave sort of introductory information to the evening. I must only contradict some of the information that was given to the public.
First, the “choice” (in this year in which Rudolph Nureyev would have turned 80 years old) of a MacMillan piece because he had done a ballet (most specifically “Romeo and Juliet”) for Nureyev and Dame Fonteyn… this is not very accurate. This ballet was made for Christopher Gable and Lynn Seymour. Fonteyn and Nureyev took over the première for “marketing reasons” because they, of course, had a bigger box-office appeal. Mr. Gable never really recovered from this “blow” and left the Royal Ballet some time later to pursue a career as an actor.
Second, the reference to the age “difference” between Marguerite Gautier and Armand Duvall. There was no age difference at all between Marie Duplessis and Alexandre Dumas fils (the author of the book and of the play that inspired this ballet), that bore “by coincidence” the same initials as his main manly figure of the romance. Fonteyn was 19 years older than Nureyev, but also was Sarah Bernhard 70 when she played 17 year old Jean D'Arc.
So much for that.
I would call MacMillan’s “Concerto”, one of the (many) short ballets that he choreographed, more “neo-classical” than “contemporary”, as many tend to say. The scene opened with beautiful Nikisha Fogo and Deny Cherevychko onstage. From the first moment on, one becomes aware of the necessity of well-defined, clear lines that are most required for this work. Both dancers gave a beautiful, precise performance.
Elena Bottaro, Anita Manolova and Céline Janou Weder (on the first as well as on the second movement) in perfect unison and coordination (Note: delightful, very precise piqués en tounant).
The second movement was led by Roman Lazik and Nina Poláková. Mr. Lazik’s unique, exquisite use of his arms and Miss Poláková’s long, beauiful lines were, to my point of view, a unique combination and certainly one of the highlights of the second movement!
The third and last movement – a very difficult one, technically – was led by lovely Alice Firenze, at her very best. This extremely versatile dancer is exactly at ease on her toes as she is at more contemporary works (just thinking of her in “Sacre”). This is what is really required in an Opera house with such a repertoire, as Manuel Legris has built since 2010!
I always relate to “Concerto” as a “group work” because through the course of it the whole company gets mixed witch each other in an extremely dynamic way. The “illusion” of a group is cleverly created, getting stronger and stronger until the very end! Notable work by many of the dancers of the “Corps” as Alaia Rogers-Maman, Suzan Opperman (both with a delicacy and presence onstage that is touching), Dumitru Taran, Katharina Miffek, Marian Firnica, Scott McKenzie, Tristan Ridel, Alexandru Tcacenco (strong stage presence getting stronger everyday) and Géraud Wielick – as well as by many other members that I cannot mention by name – this company’s face has been changing so fast during the last seasons that all of a sudden I am confronted with many dancers whom I cannot yet call by name.
Last but not least. A special mention to the exquisite Schostakowitsch’s Piano Concert (a very daring choice of music for a ballet) beautifully interpreted (and I really mean “Interpretation” with a capital “I”) by Maestro Igor Zapravdin, that just last Sunday celebrated his 25th year on stage of the State Opera in a Gala produced by Kirill Kourlaev and Olga Esina.
Eden / Eden by Wayne McGregor, resident choreographer at the Royal Ballet (that just premièred his latest piece “Autobiography”) is a very interesting work. To be very honest, the use of Steve Reich’s Dolly, is not at all (phrasing it in a very British way) “my cup of tea” but this is my personal taste and should not influence this review or your decision to attend this performance at all. Also to be again very honest I had great difficulty in recognizing the dancers (but knowing what the ballet is all about, cloning, this is done on purpose, and very well by the way) until they took off their head dresses.
But that is not what I is most important about this work. Its language is extremely up to date, although choreographed already in 2005. Its vitality and dynamics and, most of all, its visceral quality are truly amazing. Powerfully amazing. But that is a McGregor's signature on his works.
To be quite frank... Natasha Mair and Zsolt Török “stole the show”!
Marguerite and Armand: What else could I say that has not been said and felt about this all-time favourite? Ever since I have first seen up to the last performance that I could witness in London (with Tamara Rojo & Sergei Polunin) 4 years ago with The Royal Ballet, it has remained one of my dearest “british” productions. Last night performance surely did not change my opinion: Liszt's music, Cecil Beaton's sets and costumes... Ashton's choreography. All of them in the right place at the right time to create such an unforgettable work of art, a jewel to British Ballet.
Liudmila Konovalova, with a new “transparency” and “maturity” further stretching her emotional gamut, Jakob Feyferlik growing up as an artist, so fast, just in front of our eyes... Both at their very best. Vladimir Shishov extremely sovereign in his command of the role of Monsieur Duvall Sr. - only a Danseur noble could play this Seigneur so beautifully. Alexis Forabosco – as always – in full command of his trade and stage persona.
My only small “note” goes to Grant Coyle's coaching: he should have been more firm and have insisted more on English Arabesques – the noble English Arabesques that are such a symbol of the elegance with which Ballet is represented in the UK. Miss Konovalova should bring her (russian) Arabesques a bit down to be truer to the style. There is still some work to be done. And I am talking about arms, just arms. Style, just style. British.
All in all, a wonderful evening, filled with emotion and elegance.
Once more using some British phrasing, I say to all Artists involved in this production: Thank you so much for your performances, Good-Night and God bless.
Ricardo Leitner / attitude-devant