The Nutcracker - revisited: Dec. 27th, 2018 (Vienna State Ballet)
On the contrary of others that keep posting material about ballet – sometimes even banalities – because they may be lonely during the Holidays Season (when nobody is really online), I prefer to make a sort of intellectual intermission during this time of the year. But I must break my rule (rules are made to be broken, especially mine, by me!) because of the marvellous „The Nutcracker“ last December 27th – which also brought a big surprise to the audience. You will find out more about that later!
Even though this ballet does not really belong to my favourites (I have, what you may call, a „Tchaikowsky problem“ but that is MY problem, not yours!), it is a pleasure to enjoy it during Christmas time (even though I sometimes wish to see once more Ashton's „Les Patineurs“ during the holidays). The atmosphere is right for it. It is, somehow, a Feast to the senses, to the children that still live inside of us... Yes.
This review is not a description of a ballet that you have probably seen many times. It is just a description of facts that happened on stage during this very particular evening.
The evening began with a definite assurance that „musicality was in the air“. During the overture, conducted in quite a vivacious tempo, Kevin Rhodes brought us immediately into the mood of the piece. Into it directly. This is something that only talent and gifts can make come true. Every time, when he is conducting, it is a joy to witness how brilliant Mr Rhodes is!
Before I come to describe the soloists' performances, here some comments about some dancers.
I am always extremely connected with the first scene, the Skaters, perhaps because it reminds me of Ashton's „Les Patineurs“, which I have mentioned before (perhaps this was indeed an inspiration for Nureyev?) but this time, even though experienced dancers like Marian Furnica, Scott McKenzie, Marat Davletshin, Géraud Wielick, Andrés Garcia Torres and some others were present, it was quite obvious that some new members of the cast have little experience on stage and gave (as confirmed in other parts of the ballet) quite a „stiff“ and inept display of something that is supposed to be gay and quite frolic making me think of the Northern Ballet dancers' stiffness. Experience...
As always a pleasure to witness such dancers that are such important components of the company as (for example) the „guests“. Dancers that the direction of the company can really rely on because of their professionality: Alexis Forabosco, András Lukács, Tristan Ridel, Flavia Soares, Alaia Rogers-Maman, Suzan Oppermann, James Stephens, Zsolt Török to mention just a few. Experience, yes…
Ioanna Avraam and Nina Tonoli gave an amazing, technically pinpointed performance as the two snow flakes. Precision at its best. It is a particular pleasure to see Miss Tonoli again on stage, in such grand form after a long halt because of an injury.
Apart from Eno Peçi's great, musical and masculine display of the „Arab Dance“, I must mention Zsófia Laczkó's beautiful, technically very sure and confident (beautiful Développés ) as well as Gabor Oberegger's sure interpretation. Yes, experience...
Emilia Baranowicz and Alexandru Tcacenco nearly store the show with their feisty interpretation of the „Russian Dance“.
Fiona McGee, Isabella Lucia Severi and Scott Mckenzie were at their very best during the „Pastorale“. Special note to Mr McKenzie's clean entrechats and extremely precise pas de chats.
The „Waltz“ is considered by many the „highlight“ of the show. I do not share this opinion but one has to mention that the well-rehearsed and precise Corps-de-Ballet carries this responsibility with great precision and poise. Yes, poise… and experience!
Robert Gabdullin started the evening very well as Drosselmeyer but seemed to be not really at ease during the first scenes as the prince, and this caused a kind of affected effect – especially because he was tending to lift his kin too much. He relaxed after a while and gave a very correct performance. Not being a dancer that has his reputation based on bravura, Mr Gabdullin's skills should be mentioned: Exciting batteries and a great partner that takes really good care of the Ballerina he is dancing with.
And, last but not least, Natascha Mair. I was looking forward to this performance because her interpretation of Clara intrigued me (If you can take a look at the Cambridge dictionary you will find the meaning of „intrigue“ described as: „to interest someone a lot, especially by being strange, unusual, or mysterious“ and that is exactly what I mean). Especially because she is the youngest one dancing Clara.
Hers is a translucent Clara who has the qualities that I have missed on stage since Gelsey Kirkland and Lesley Browne (Both danced the Baryshnikov version, which I rather prefer to Nureyev's one): sincerity, delicacy, suavity., transparency...
Very early during the performance, I got entranced by her technical display. Clara's part is one that requires to be extremely distinguished. Her precise directions in order to reach the effects that Nureyev thought of are marvellous, even if the choreography is sometimes very unrewarding in its concept (like most of Nureyev's choreographies are). Her clean passés (nobody cares about that but, oh, how I love this care for precision, even in the smallest of steps, while on stage), her arms, point work.
At the end of the evening, the audience and Miss Mair were surprised as Manuel Legris and Director Dominique Meyer came on stage to promote Miss Mair to principal status. Roaring applause as acclamation and a kind of approbation coming from the audience. It was a beautiful, emotional moment. One that was clear to see: the waves of love were not only coming from the audience and critics but also from her colleagues on stage!
A most deserved Promotion. Congratulations, Miss Mair and I must say that I was especially touched and very glad to have been able to be present at this big occasion. “attitude” congratulates wholeheartedly.
Next performances: January 2nd and January 4th.
And on January 7th, right here, an interview with Miss Mair that was made last September.