Wunderlich - Première, Opera Graz: March 1st, 2018
Somebody once wrote: „One of the most disappointing things is to try to write about Dance”. I could not agree more. When you try to describe Dance in written form it turns into literature – another kind of Art. Dance expresses itself by itself. No help from other Art form is required.
That is one reason why I constantly avoid reading programmes, especially the descriptive ones that include “What the choreographer is expressing” or, better said, “What he is trying to express”. There is no need for that. Let us do the thinking. Let the Dance start and let us make up our minds by ourselves…
Unfortunately the Opera Graz is no exception to this misconception. Its, sometimes, far too intellectual programme commentaries are beautifully written but quite different from the result of what we are witnessing on stage. This time I decided to read the programme on the next day, while I was travelling by train to Salzburg. And was I glad that I had not read it before. In my opinion there were interpretations exposed on the programme that were so extremely subjective that only the choreographer could see them.
This kind of exposée may be valid for some. They are “informative”, “interesting” and quite “imposing”. But they are, honestly, far too intellectual for me. Let Dance speak by itself.
It is always a pleasure to be able to witness another performance with the Ensemble of the “Oper Graz”, a very homogenous company – and I am not talking about experience, background, height or weight. I am talking about this immense feeling of "group work", of a “group” of young people that REALLY works together. A group that cares about its work. And this feeling that projects itself on the audience: Excitement and dedication to what they are doing. This is beautiful.
Let me start congratulating the “theme choice”: Fritz Wunderlich (Whose idea was this?) One Tenor that was blessed with such a “pin-pointed precision” and an own, very special form of musical phrasing – there is no other Fritz Wunderlich… Obviously the choreographers were given lots of freedom in preparing this evening: either using Fritz Wunderlich’s recordings to portray their own feelings (“Sabotage”) or using them to tell another story of one's own (“Path”) or even researching Wunderlich's life and creating a (fictional) biographical (based) story – that in fact is, in its intellectual “quoi” and essence, miles away of Fritz Wunderlich (Untitled – a step for a dancer… a breath for a tenor… ).
João Pedro de Paula’s second choreographic work “sabotage” is filled with an honesty that fills me with joy and amazement. Overwhelming. Surely this young man has still lots to learn in order to develop a more vast Dance vocabulary of his own. But he is in a good way. A very good one indeed. I missed somehow a bit of dynamic – especially in the passages from one piece to the other, but that is a very individual view of mine. His musical choices could not have been more fortunate, especially “Von der Jugend” (from “The Song of the Earth”), an extremely fragile and most sensible piece written by Mahler. Congratulations on that! A very “round” piece.
His four dancers mixed wonderfully together: charming Astrid Julen (nearly unrecognizable with her wig), Enrique Sáez Martínez with his clean, precise gestures and beautiful arms, lovely Bárbara Flora (that had the quite difficult task of dancing on point shoes in a floor that is absolutely not made for it - I wonder if point shoes are really needed for this piece!) and Daniel Myers – more about talented Mr. Myers later.
I just do not agree, as a member of the public, with Mr. de Paula’s words on the programme (that he is mostly interested about the “formation” of the work in the studio than on the results on stage). The result is what is going to be seen, judged, admired or criticized… Of course the creative process is extremely interesting but the result is what one should focus at…
The more experienced Jaione Zabala (she has presented her own choreographies in Nürnberg and Amsterdam), presented the most “danced” piece of the evening. Smooth and dynamic at the same time. A beautiful vocabulary, inventive, witty, intelligent... Her very special use of music culminated on a beautiful Pas de Deux for two male dancers to the extremely sensual “Lili Marleen” sung by Dietrich. Simon Van Heddegem and Daniel Myers “stole the show” with this rendition. Honest, musical, deeply felt. Mr. Myers and his beautiful versatility were on special display this evening. He was somehow strongly used by all three choreographers. I hope to hear more from this English young man (just 20 years old) in the future. A very promising personality.
Special note to the “duo” Enrique Sáez Martínez and lovely, expressive Clara Pascual Marti!
The last piece (“Untitled” by Helge Letonja) was, surprisingly, the disappointing piece of the evening. Too long and very “uneven”, it lacked an unbroken, continuous “story line”. Twice I thought that the piece had finished (!?!?) – but it started all over again from another completely different perspective as if the choreographer wanted to show all his skills in one piece. A little too much for me. I was quite taken aback as I had not awaited this from an experienced choreographer like Mr. Letonja. I was very eager to see his work for the first time. I guess I was not lucky enough this time to experience it in full inspiration. Not yet.
I have to add that I do not agree with his description of Wunderlich’s death (because of shoe laces) as a big mishap ( the word he used, “Malheur”, is even stronger in its meaning). Much on the contrary. It just proved how human he was – and that is in fact his “gimmick”: A voice, a talent “given by the Gods” to a very human, emotional soul… No, no Malheur at all…
Special praise to Miss Bárbara Flora – a central figure in “Untitled” and Mr. Chris Wang – definitely another central figure with an extremely powerful presence!
But all in all: a very interesting evening with a marvelous Ensemble that surely deserves a better stage, a dance stage with a wooden floor, then the one that the “Studiobühne” can offer. Just a thought.