Marie Antoinette - revisited - Jun 16th, 2016
Wiener Staatsballet (Volksoper): June 16th, 2016 - "Marie Antoinette" revisited
I think I had seen Patrick de Bana’s “Marie Antoinette” for the last time in 2012… or was it 2011?
By the time this work “re-opened” at the Volksoper, I was on my way to South-America. But things happen in a way because they should happen that way – I still believe that… If I had been able to watch previous performances I might have lost this one that meant a great deal to me. Especially because of its young cast.
Many weeks ago, on my way to the Opera, I met Manuel Legris, by chance as he was walking out of the underground. It was raining and he was kind enough to offer me a place under his umbrella. He told me that Mr. de Bana was strongly reworking the piece. What can be more fascinating than an artist that keeps his work in constant motion, changing it if he feels that things could be made another way, better, more effectively, more emotionally? That is exactly what dancing is all about – MOTION. Constant motion. Not “framed” pictures that will never be able to move or change… Well, for weeks I have been “haunted” with curiosity and did not know exactly what to expect. With Monsieur Legris’ words, still sounding in my ears, I walked into the Volksoper yesterday. So many changes... even point work! He really did not exaggerate and I could not have been more delighted.
The Corps-de-Ballet was wonderfully rehearsed – perhaps with the exception of the beginning of the second act – which is musically very tricky. Strong personalities like Alexandru Tcacenco, Zsolt Török, Elena Bottaro, Anita Manolova, Suzan Oppermann, Alaia Rogers and Géraud Wielick among others.
Most principals were brilliant in their own ways and qualities. That is sometimes a very underrated quality: the wisdom to give the right roles to the right performers.
Nikisha Fogo and Francesco Costa – respectively “The Shadows of Antoinette” and “The destiny” gave very strong performances of two extremely well-conceived characters. Perhaps choreographically seen, the strongest parts of the play. Miss Fogo, as I say, “always on fire” is one of our new, most promising talents in Vienna.
Nina Tonoli, as Madame Elizabeth, surprised me once more. Her anguish while imprisoned was extremely well played – with the difficult task of having to emit sounds of fright and desperation, losing her mind. This fact gave us a glimpse of Miss Tonoli’s acting abilities, which until now had remained – at least for me – quite unknown. Her beautiful technique and poise must not be mentioned.
Laura Nistor: after watching Miss Nistor in “Arepo”, last January, I thought “well, that is really another side of this gifted dancer”. Yesterday she surprised me once more (Sorry , if I am being repetitious with the use of the word “surprised” but that is exactly the way I feel. The way it was). Another side – an amalgam of her different gifts - emerged strongly with Mr. Bana’s “Maria Theresia”: a VERY strong character which Miss Nistor added to her versatility list. The use of her arms was amazing – she used this “language” as though she had grown-up as a contemporary dancer. And she did not. On top of it all: her poise… impressive, outstanding.
Jakob Feyferlik had the difficult task to play Louis XVI – a very difficult character to my way of thinking: a part that combines so many specific movement directions in such a complete intrinsic way. Not easy to portray. He gave us a marvelous portrait, with neither stereotypes nor clichés, using his outstanding technical qualities to his advantage and best effect. His costumes accentuated his physique – specially his long legs.
Natascha Mair: I remember really noticing Miss Mair for the first time as “Amor” in D.Q. and this was not many years ago. On the other hand it seems like “ages ago” due to her extreme growth as an artist during the past few years. Apart from her technical gifts and skills – I will not waste time about her pirouettes, extension, developées , point work, balance etc. – Miss Mair possesses acting talent which makes us feel and fight with her, right beside her. An impressive picture that was pasted in my mind yesterday: Antoinette’s despair, sitting in her cell while Madame Elizabeth “freaked out” (to put it mildly)- take a look at Nina Tonoli's picture above - Miss Mair is sitting in the background.
Her strength and frailty at the same time are a rare thing – her vulnerability and sadness towards the end of the piece, the way in which Antoinette “gives up” astonishing.
I consider Miss Mair a rising, bright new Star of the Opera. I am positive that we will hear very much from her in the future and that a brilliant career lays ahead of her.
One thing became quite clear to me – a sort of certainess about a very subjective feeling, sense of continuity: a new generation of dancers in the Staatsballet is not coming; it has arrived. IT IS THERE!
Patrick de Bana’s contribution to the dancing world is unique. His talent also singular. His jumps over emotional abysses are filled with an easiness, in such a way that makes us wonder how a choreographer has created such a deep and vast OWN language and dance vocabulary. His “Antoinette” possesses something very rare in the dance world. It does not “tell a story” in the common, old-fashioned, ordinary way. It gives us instead psychological glimpses and aspects of the characters – specially of Antoinette – just like Stephan Zweig’s “Marie Antoinette - Bildnis eines mittleren Charakters” , a book not famous for its precise historical research but simply amazing in its psychological insights and analysis of this historic person. There is no better way to understand and feel...
Having followed contemporary choreographers and their work during the last 40 years, I have seen many good works but also many repetitious, boring, dusty pieces along the way that just reminded me – badly - of other pieces. That is why I am so impressed by Mr. Bana’s contribution. His choreography is filled with a new richness that reminds us three basic things about dancing: emotion, motion and magic. It was a real privilege to watch this revised/reworked/reshaped version of “Antoinette” – and with such a wonderful young cast that it turned out to be difficult for me to imagine other dancers dancing these parts.
Not to forget: the wonderful and “sensual” costumes by Agnès Letestu, which could only have been conceived by a dancer, the scenery by Marcelo Pacheco & Alberto Esteban and the “plasticity” of the staging strongly emphasized by the brilliant lighting of James Angot. All part of this marvelous creative group!
All in all: my humble, special THANKS for such an evening filled with talent, creativity and JOY in dancing. The “things” that really matter and that make all the difference.
P.S. My special Thanks to Ashley Taylor for kindly letting me use his wonderful pictures.