Roméo et Juliette - Première Volksoper Vienna, Dec. 9th 2017
A world première is something to look forward to and in this particular case the excitement was great in a full sold-out Opera house. The, for Viennese audiences, unusual use of the Berlioz’ piece (instead of Prokofiev’s) is something that was quite “understandable” for me. Once, I think it was back in 1979, I had the privilege to watch Béjart’s “Roméo et Juliette” in a big stadium that sits 15.000 people in Rio de Janeiro in an arena-like performance. An experience I can never forget for the rest of my life. Of course it is also quite a challenge to “disconnect” oneself of certain memories and be able “not to compare”.
It is difficult to find a new way of telling stories – somehow yesterday I remembered Peter Bogdanovich’s statement in the late 70’s as he said “All good movies have already been made”. I am not as radical as this but I would dare to say that “the most interesting full-length ballets have already been made”. Also finding a new language to transport your own idea of telling a story is something that every choreographer is trying to do. Although there were many moments that left me with a certain dejá vú feeling, I must say that some solutions for duos and trios delighted me. Even so I have to say that, to my point of view, the group scenes were much better worked out. With one exception: the beautiful Father Lorenzo’s solo at the end of the show. But we’ll come to that later.
There is not much attention to the dramaturgy. Somehow at the end of the first act the story was condensed, in such a way, that the only possibility was to rely on one’s memory of Shakespeare. I had the feeling that all of a sudden Juliette was taking the portion that would put her to sleep in a death-like state without any kind of a reason.
The whole ensemble was very precise and good rehearsed. Special attention to the Queen Mab’s “doubles” (or the “Mablettes” as I, humorously, prefer to call them) danced by Tainá Ferreira Luiz, the lovely Susanne Kertész, Dominika Kovacs-Galavics and Mila Schmidt.
Although I think it very clever that Mr. Bombana included Queen Mab as a character in the story not letting her just be mentioned by Mercutio (a difficult thing in a ballet), I could not agree less with his “vision” and interpretation of her – Queen Mab is a fairy – more like “Midsummers Night Dream” Titania - a tiny little fairy that is often referred to as “a midwife that helps sleepers give birth to their dreams”! Something very beautiful and not scary at all as this devilish, diabolic, fiendish creature he turned her into – for your help let me insert here some (shortened) information that I have found in the internet. It is extremely important to understand the content… I quote:
“Queen Mab is a fairy referred to in William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, where "she is the fairies' midwife." Later, she appears in other poetry and literature, and in various guises in drama and cinema. In the play, her activity is described in a famous speech by Mercutio , in which she is described as a miniature creature who performs midnight pranks upon sleepers. Being driven by a team of atomies, she rides her chariot over their noses and "delivers the fancies of sleeping men." Additionally, while driving "O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream," she was known to change her mind and instead "plague" "ladies' lips" "with blisters" if she smelled "sweetmeats" or candied fruit eaten to sweeten their breath. She is also described as a midwife to help sleepers 'give birth' to their dreams“ (Wikipedia)
Rebecca Horner lived up to the choreographer’s expectations as the “devilish” Queen Mab and reminded me strongly of her characters in “Petrouschka” and “Blue Beard’s secret”. All extremely alike in interpretation (specially in the facial expression department). Being a strong dancer with a very strong personality, I do believe that what Miss Horner really needs is a stronger director – in the dramaturgy sense of thinking. It took a Vincente Minnelli to “free” Judy Garland of her own persona and mannerisms that kept coming through in every single performance in her MGM years. He was her Svengali. One should free oneself from certain mannerisms.
I still have to mention that Miss Horner’s physical preparation for the role is not to be forgotten – even though the choreography makes her sometimes look more like a kind of dangerous insect than a “creature of Evil” (or a Fairy, like Queen Mab should be) she has great stamina. To dance so long in a grand-plié attitude is not an easy thing to keep the movements flowing – and that she surely did.
Mercutio, Benvolio and Tybalt (specifically Alexander Kaden, Gleb Shilov and Martin Winter) were very good cast. Perhaps Mr. Kaden’s Mercutio could be a bit more cheeky, saucy and daring. Mr. Shilov’s Benvolio a piece character understanding – but that is something that I always expect from this intelligent dancer. Mr. Shilov and Mr. Winter are dancers you can always rely on for a good performance.
Maria Yakovleva and Masayu Kimoto gave true, honest and very correct interpretations of their roles. Even having to face the “condensed” form in which the roles were created (a form that left little possibility for the dancers to spread their gamut of emotion to more than A to B), they did a very good job.
Technically there are no threats in the choreography, not even point shoes for Juliette, but the whole dramaturgy left out of the play some beautiful “Shakesperean” key moments: the “virgin” 14 year-old Juliette, her change into a womanhood, the difference between young and daring Roméo in comparison to an older (and boring) Paris – which by the way does not exist in this production- were neither mentioned nor seen - so the audience had to do lots of "homework" of introspection.
The choir plays an incredible role in this production and its inclusion on such a small stage like at the Vosksoper (in comparison to Rio’s Maracanãzinho Stadium, in which the choir was NOT on stage) is simply beautiful. Special notice to the soloists Mr. Yasushi Hirano and Miss Annely Peebo’s!
At the very end of this short ballet evening there was a surprise for the audience, a sudden chanhe in the course of the happenings. Emotion was brought to the stage!
Juliette and Roméo were long dead while we could witness the beautiful Father Lorenzo’s recitation. The wonderful bass Yasushi Hirano gave life and motion to Mr. Roman Lazik’s heart-robbing performance. Just the use of his long, expressive arms is reason enough to visit this show over and over again.
Mr. Lazik is a dancer at that very rare point of one's career: he is young enough to portray (physically) anything he wants and he has reached a certain point of maturity (and insight to his roles) that reveals the character's soul to the public. This combination is what audiences need!
When I shortly met him at the after Première-Party I had to tell him: "May I ask Balázs Delbó to make a three hours video of your arms? I cannot stop admiring them!"
This very down-to-earth dancer laughed out loud! A low- profile person. I like people like that!
A show worth to be seen. Not just because of Berlioz' music.