MacMillan/McGregor/Ashton revisited: Vienna State Ballet, June 16th, 2019
One of the best cases of „putting it together“ in years…
I adore the combination of these three British Choreographies because each is a statement on its own with (obvious) strong characteristics of each Choreographer– and, on top of so much Artistry, they underline the versatility and the flexibility of the Company. Perhaps my favourite Evening with short Ballets since years – but if you follow my work, it will not be a surprise to you that I am a big fan of British Choreographers. Yes, for their, sometimes, very simple solutions to certain issues that, at the same time cause incredible effects – much on the contrary of Nureyev's work (and Choreographers which were influenced by him) that staged extremely complicated combinations of (sometimes very little) steps in too many groups – even for a stage like the Vienna State Opera's – and which are kind of „ungrateful“. They don't „sell the ballet“ and an average audience – not a connoisseur one like in London and Paris – simply does not understand what it should be all about. That is not the case with thee three gifted choreographers and their choreographies.
MacMillan's „Concerto“ opened with two marvellous dancers center Stage: Lovely Nikisha Fogo and audience's darling Davide Dato (with a new, much shorter hairdo that suits him very well and gives a new perspective to his neckline). Miss Fogo, feeling „home“ because of her Royal Ballet Upbringing and formation, quite at ease. Hers and Mr Dato's very quick chaines turns were filled with extreme precision were very impressive. On the other hand I was quite surprised by a Corps de Ballet dancer, who has enjoyed a similar formation as Miss Fogo's at the Royal. Not „MacMillan“ at all... especially what hands were concerned!
But some more coaching and work should be made: Developés, grand battements should be brought to the same level... I can imagine that it must be difficult to be just beside Miss Elena Bottaro and her incredible extensions but it is annoying for the audience to witness such unevenness, which shouldn’t happen.
Also, some musical work should be made for the three Gentlemen: Mr Dumitru Taran and Mr Géraud Wielick shared the same brilliant understanding of music. Mr Andrey Teterin was always slightly ahead of the beat – a tendency of his that I have observed for quite some time. A talented dancer with lots of potentials.
Olga Esina and Vladimir Shishov came on stage and caught immediately the whole attention of the big Opera House. This is something indescribable. How such experienced dancers and great Artists have the special power and gift to „filter the whole air“ and with emotion and greatness (not only technically but also in what interpretation is all about) capture the audience's concentration and attention to focus on them. This not to mention her majestic appearance and clear, clean lines but also his skills as a partner. This had not happened to me for a long time but all of a sudden I was not looking at the technical side of the Choreography at all... I was just involved in this incredible „story-telling“ (yes, even if this is a neo-classical, abstract ballet I do believe in stories... there is so much that is all about feelings and emotions... it's a story). And the same thing would happen againlater, during this special evening.
…and enchantingly charming Nina Tonoli doing the „solo“. Originally, back in 1966 at the Berlin Opera House, this was not a solo.- I know I have told this before but just to „refresh“ your memory: There is a different pair of soloists for each of the three movements (for the première the third movement had to be hastily rechoreographed for a solo woman, Silvia Kesselheim – her partner broke his foot days beforehand). In the background are three subsidiary couples and a corps of sixteen women and eight men. What else can you ask for when Miss Tonoli is on stage? Precision, Balance (inner balance as well, „Condition Sinequanon“ for every Artist), a beautiful presence, a gorgeous figure – such long legs, yes, like former soloist Gloria Maass’ - pinpointed technicality – and VERY British arms... due to her formation in London. I should bring special attention not only to her musicality but also to the very special way she holds her head...
Last but not least: Special mention to Mr Igor Zapravdin's beautiful interpretation of Schostakowitsch's Piano Concerto #2.
Just a little advise to two dancers of the Corps de Ballet this time: If you have to stop in a fifth position and stay at it for a while - and you did not quite „get it“ - don't try to correct it... It looks very, very awkward!
McGregor's „Eden/Eden“: this fantastic piece became much more visceral since I have seen the première. Surely not a „typical“ piece to amuse Viennese „traditional“ audiences, I consider it a work of Art.
It's lighting effects transform bodies into something very „plastical“ and them, suddenly also into a display of grotesque. Bizarre. I must confess that I find it quite difficult to recognize dancers in a sort of „Who's who way“ during the first part of it.
I must say that in “Eden/Eden” I do really break a rule of my own (But rules are made to be broken, at least mine, by me… ): I don’t care about “over doing it” (over extensions, exaggerations, extreme “circus-like” behaviour etc.). This kind of performance is completely OK here… I just won’t accept it in the “classics”!
But – even though recognizing each one of them later – I must say that every single one is an Étoile in his own right: Nikisha Fogo, Natascha Mair (visceral! A quality that so impressed another ballet critic from Canada who was sitting beside me!), Ketevan Papava (wonderful!), Madison Young, Andrés Garcia Torres (the best „promotion“ in years... his move from the Volksoper to the State Opera), incredibly talented Eno Peçi, Tristan Ridel (a handsome lad who developed himself into a very strong stage personality) , Dumitru Taran and Géraud Wielick (Both extremely talented, precise!)
To all of them: CHAPEAU!
Ashton's „Marguerite and Armand“. One of my favourite Ballets because of its combination of „Genius vs. Understatement“, sensibility and fragility (And musicality: Liszt played to perfection by Miss Shino Takizawa).
It is not an easy task to dance this piece in its precise style. Not if you did not have an English Formation in Ballet with the special „British ingredients“ like arabesques, hands and arms, épaulements (it is all so much about the upper body in England, isn't it? If it would have been otherwise, Dame Fonteyn would have never become a Star or had a career!).
I was not quite sure about what to expect of Robert Gabdullin as Armand – and I could not have been more delighted by his “reading” of Armand and his „understatement“ in the role – much on the contrary of Nureyev's „virile style“ - which was not Armand's way at all... Funny, I think Nureyev never fully understood the role. His „persona“ came through. Mr Gabdullin was the young, starry-eyed, sometimes innocent and stubborn Armand. I could not help thinking that Sir Frederick Ashton might have been pleased by his performance.
Vladimir Shishov as Armand's father. Light years away from his previous performance last evening in „Concerto“. Mature. Actor. An ocean of Feelings and Emotions. Overwhelming.
And Miss Nina Poláková… I normally do not say things like that but it was for me a real BIG HONOUR to be able to attend THIS very special performance. Not since years, had I felt so near again to Ashton's work in „ M. and A.“.
Just at the beginning of the piece, she took the whole Opera by storm as we could all witness her despair, fragility and vulnerability as Armand „rescues“ her from her Chaise-Longe. So aesthetically alluring. And she kept this (probably very tiring) „state of mind“ throughout the whole performance. Deep inside the role. And to be able to do that much reflection is recquired - and talent!
We cannot forget to mention her precise – ENGLISH – arms, which I had not seen before in “Marguerite”, here at the Vienna State Ballet.
Take a deep look at this Fonteyn's Picture with Armand's Father and you will understand what I am talking about. YES. That is it. Ashton: Precision, Style, Transparency, Understatement.
Ever since „M. and A.“ started yesterday I was so caught in my emotions that I forgot all about technique, just lied back on my chair and enjoyed this (sad) story being told to me... Something happened to me that had not happened in quite a while: I got so emotional that tears filled my eyes...
This can only happen when stage personalities can really be in control of their work (and emotions).
How beautiful to be able to enjoy Ashton again with his „all-time Understatement“ (instead of Bravura and Technicality) and Marguerite's strength and fragility at the same time, masterly played by Miss Poláková.
An evening to remember!