Vienna State Opera: Nureyev Gala 2018 - A CELEBRATION !
I never write reviews about a Gala. I don’t think it would be fair. First it would have the effect of a contest (“Rankings” are made for sports, not for Artists!), second I wouldn’t consider it “de bon ton”. One simply does not do things like this. And this is a rule for me – one that I am not willing to break (normally my rules are made to be broken, but only by me!)
Here a short report to this magnificently conceptualized evening, something that only a genius, a “living dictionary” of Ballet like Manuel Legris would be able to construct:
Since June 2011 the “Nureyev Gala” has become a tradition to the European Ballet World, attracting people from all over the world. This year, everyone knew that something very special was going to happen: Rudolph Nureyev would have celebrated his 80th birthday this year… Yes, he was born on March 17th, 1938! And we all know of his importance not only to Manuel Legris’ career but also to the Ballet World.
First of all many thanks to all Soloists of the Vienna State Ballet – each one of them a brilliant Star/ Étoile, in their own right:
“Valse Fantasie” (with lovely Natascha Mair & Jakob Feyferlik and all those lovely girls having to do those "pas-de-chats". I have always considered pas-de-chats most unbecoming on stage!), “Opus 25” (Eno Peçi’s brilliant Choreography that is a Star in its own right, danced by the choreographer himself and Maria Yakovleva),
“Le Pavillon D’Armide” (with the energetic, expressive, magnetic Masayu Kimoto),
“Concerto" with Nina Poláková - displaying all her beautiful lines - and Roman Lazik, both perfect for these roles (Elena Botaro, Anita Manolova, Rikako Shibamoto, who was promoted to a half-soloist that same evening, Richard Szabó, Andrey Teterin and Dumitru Taran, who was, most deservingly, promoted to a Soloist during the première party),
“Satanella” (a “show-stopper”, the “stuff” that Galas are made of. A circus-like display of technique and energy with brilliant Kyioka Hashimoto and Mihail Sosnovschi),
“Giselle Rouge” ( with Ketevan Papava and Eno Peçi in roles that they made viscerally their own), “Raymonda” (with Maria Yakovleva, very well supported by Eszter Ledán – good to have her back on stage again – Elena Bottaro, strong Zsolt Török and Scott Mckenzie – who was also promoted to half-soloist), “Moments to Stravinsky” (with Ioanna Avraam, Alice Firenze, Sveva Gargiulo, Fiona McGee – another promotion to half soloist – Masayu Kimoto, James Stephens, Arne Vandervelde, Géraud Wielick and Richard Szábo – who was promoted to a soloist status after the show. Another dancer to be promoted to half-soloist: Madison Young. I must add that that I am extremely happy for the inclusion of this beautiful, timeless choreography by young and talented András Lukács in the show. One Ballet filled with sensibility that belongs to a Gala, even not being "circus-like" at all!
“Le Corsaire” (Liudmila Konovalova and Robert Gabdulin), “Peer Gynt” (Davide Dato’s “come back” after one whole year recovering from an injury that he suffered on stage during the last Nureyev Gala, exactly one year ago on June 29th, 2017)
and the final “Nureyev Celebration” featuring excerpts from “Raymonda” (Olga Esina, exhaling “Étoile-quality” and perfect “in style”) and “Swan Lake” (to which Liudmila Konovalova displayed once more her perfect Fouettés to the original music… The house came down but, strangely enough, an elderly Gentleman in a box started booing and left… Things that one will never understand!). In the "cast" of "Raymonda" Scott McKenzie that also got a well-deserved promotion to half-soloist. And to think that I, clairvoyantly, said to you, just some minutes before this announcement was made that I thought you'd be promoted! Bravo, Mr. McKenzie!
This year’s “guest list” was beautiful:
Fascinating Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin (Bolshoi) in “The taming of the Shrew” (a beautiful choreography by Jean-Christophe Maillot, which I did not know) filled the stage with emotion that was projected to the whole house. As I once wrote about them: purism. Dance for Dance. Simplicity on the highest level! And that is the most difficult of all tasks… to make it look easy. In the third part of the show they gave us the “Jewels pas de deux” (Mr. B.), which in its own right is a masterpiece, no question – when presented with the whole ballet. But its inclusion in this Gala was the only thing that “bothered” me a bit. Not really a piece for a Gala. The audience did not react.
Beautiful Royal Ballet’s Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov (“Marguerite and Armand”) also projected all their feelings and emotions up to the gallery. I had forgotten how these very specific Ashton’s arms and heads were intended to be. It was all there again for me to see, like in the Nureyev/Fonteyn book that contains only rehearsal pictures... What a book! Thank God for this marvelous coaching in the Royal Ballet! Style! A “bunch of come-backs”. A special moment: after Armand has thrown the money on her face, “paying” her for her “services”, he leaves and she nearly succumbs, with terrible pain, and her arms fall slowly down, in front of her. Once more I could read distinctively in the air – like I did with Fonteyn: “There is nothing left for me. I have lost everything I ever had”. Moving. Extremely touching. It is needless to say that some tears rolled down my face – and kept rolling until the end of the piece. What an experience!
Surprises always happen within the walls of an Opera House: who would have thought that Alexander Riabko and Ivan Urban (Hamburger Ballett) would nearly “steal the show” with their performance of “Opus 100 – for Maurice” (Neumeier’s 100th choreography that was dedicated to Maurice Béjart’s 70th birthday)? How exciting – especially for MY generation to listen to Simon & Garfunkel’s “evergreens” “Old Friends” and “Bridge over troubled water” (nicht "Dangling Conversation") in an evening filled with such classics… Great, expressive dancers!
Isabelle Guérin and Manuel Legris, brought Petit’s “Les Rendez-Vous” back to life again. Beautifully. He, a real “mec” and she very “Zizi-Jeanmaire-like” (I loved that! Once more “style & chic”. But you have to be French to be able to do – or understand - that!). A long ovation for Manuel Legris when the curtains went up. The audience was already emotional and delighted! Marvelous pas de deux with two dancers in perfect unison – a cooperation that is “going on” since “some” years! I was happy to be there and watch it!
Great Interpretations on the Grand Piano by Shino Takisawa (charming Marianela Nuñez embraced her warmly and kissed her on her cheek when she came on stage to bow) and Maestro Igor Zapravdin: Sensibility personified.
Kevin Rhodes, conducted with his usually intense “empathy” throughout this Gala that lasted more than 4 hours. Admirable. Brilliant. Concentration… pin-pointed to the last detail. A moment I shall never forget: when Opera’s director Dominique Meyer said on stage, during his long speech: “Kevin, you belong to us!”. Yes, he does!
After the performance Manuel Legris received from Director Dominique Meyer the “Honorary Membership” to the Vienna State Opera onstage. One of the few “memberships” that are related to ballet in all years since this house was grounded. Vienna is not a ballet city… After more than 4 hours ballet, the speech by Mr. Meyer was a bit too long – and one could see how the guests (!!!) and all other dancers were already impatient, uneasy and tired. And how the audience wanted to leave – many left in fact! But this is our “Austria”: very formal, old-fashioned and conservative. This is in the Austrian nature. Not to change. But one thing, said by Mr. Meyer is MORE than correct – Manuel Legris turned Vienna into a “Ballet City”! Yes. This evening was finished with a standing ovation.
I got a beautiful present from the press-department: a beautiful book called “Impressionen zur Nurejew Gala” that was also launched on June 29th. A beautiful volume with marvelous pictures by different photographers remembering the Galas from 2012 up to 2017. A must for every Balletomane!
One of the highlights of the year, definitely, and a beautiful way to finish the season! Merci, Monsieur Legris! So glad that we still have 2 complete Seasons with you!
I must add a special note: I dedicate this article to the magnificent Corps-de-Ballet (that is never mentioned anywhere) and to two brilliant dancers, whose career I have been following for many years - they are leaving the company, to search for new adventures: Franziska Wallner-Hollinek and Jaimy van Overeem. In the name of the public, "attitude" thanks you for so much joy, beauty, hard work and... marvelous dance that you have given us! All the best for your future!
And some Snap-shots during the Party: