quinta-feira, 23 de março de 2017

Wiener Staatsballet: March 22nd, 2017. "Onegin" revisited.


For me Onegin is and always will be one the most sensitive works ever made for ballet. It may sound ridiculous – due to the fact that it is based on Pushkin’s lyrical work – but it is pure poetry... Poetry perfectly translated into ballet by John Cranko, for me until today one of the great genius of last century’s ballet – his work will live forever: I always begin, all over again, to admire immensely his “pas de deux solutions” and group scenes, as if I had never seen them before. And his personal way of building the characters into dance and into the story-telling… more to that a little bit later.

Maria Yakovleva/Roman Lazik: Copyright Wiener Staatsoper/ Ashley Taylor

I was very pleased with the Corps-de-Ballet. Last time I had seen this production I thought that a lot of the precision Cranko put in his work was missing and lots of work should be done: directions, heads and – mostly – arms… that single precision that this South-African brought to life... But yesterday’s performance showed that the company has been working very hard on “style & precision”. And that made me glad! Very glad indeed! So many new faces in the company, which I am not able to distinguish from each other or, better put it this way, faces to which I cannot yet add a name to. I have to write about the ones nobody ever writes about – I have space enough, here on this online platform – and I do not have to reduce my reviews to a few sentences...

Wonderful work by Elena Bottaro (always a joy to look at!), Suzan Opperman, Céline Janou Weder (both such “pros”) and Alaia Rogers (who gave us a beautiful and precise “mirror reflection” of Tatjana – showing through her face all the thoughts, doubts and feelings of the main character! No an easy task). But we all agree that we would love to have a mirror reflection just like Miss Roger's face!

The same applies to the boys – growing very strongly as a group, in complete “unison” with each other.
I have the feeling that between male dancers there are not so many “new faces” and I’d like to mention the names on which an audience can always “rely on” (and put “their feet up and relax because of the good work): Marat Davletshin, Marcin Demp, Alexis Forabosco (that will dance Gremin soon… I guess I’ll have to return to the Opera sooner than I thought!), Igor Milos, Tristan Ridel, James Stephens, Dumitru Taran, Zsolt Törok, Jaimy van Overeem and Géraud Wielick. Dancers you can really rely on. I do not remember – in all years I have been in Vienna, well... decades in fact, following Ballet here in Vienna – to have witnessed a moment in which the male dancers from the Corps-de-Ballet (many half soloists within the names I have mentioned) were so strong together. I like that! Awesome!

Nikisha Fogo, giving her début as Olga, gave a good performance – even though she must have been a bit nervous. But just as the curtain opened I felt that she “had the role” under control: in the scene in which she is doing some embroidery with her mother and foster mother, she was not doing affected movements as a dancer but really putting her strength in the fun of the movement without “pretending”. Sawing... She really was doing her embroidery. Her pas de deux with Lenski was the first “catchy” moment of the evening. Still, there is still some work to be done on this couple's "chemistry". But I am sure they will find it!

Nikisha Fogo/Davide Dato: copyright Wiener Staatsoper/Ashley Taylor.

Davide Dato who hasn’t stopped to delight his audiences – since 6 years (I just found a review that I wrote 5 years ago, in which I said “I am sure that we will be hearing from Mr. Dato very much in the future – I could not have been more right!) is at top form. But I always say this and he always gives performances that are “a notch above” the last one. Always “surpassing” the last performance. A gifted dancer and a very good actor. His Lenski is complete – down to the last details!

Davide Dato/Roman Lazik. Copyright: Wiener Staatsoper/Ashley Taylor.

For me the biggest “gift” of the evening was Alexandru (Sascha) Tcacenco as Gremin. I had never seen a Gremin that possessed such firmness and determination like this portrayal of the role. Dogmatic. Strong. After “decades” of watching Onegin I, at last, understood why Tatjana was so determined, in the last scene, in her way of sending Onegin away from her chambers. At last I understood the “bridge” that Cranko has thought of… the country girl that became the wife of an aristocrat learned also to “command” – because of his army-like behaviour… That is what I meant aat the beginning of this review. The line of story-telling and the way Cranko built his characters. But this was only possible because of Mr. Tcacenco’s performance. A dancer not only with a great stage presence but also with a great “insight” about the characters he’s playing, understanding them completely.


Alexandru Tcacenco/Maria Yakovleva: Copyright Wiener Staatsoper/Ashley Taylor

Maria Yakovleva and Roman Lazik were on their element.

Miss Yakovleva, looking beautifully frail, perhaps in the best role I have ever seen her in, gave us a sensitive portrayal of “haunted” Tatjana – down to the last details. Average audiences will not pay much attention to that – because THESE are no moments of “bravura” (and circus) onstage but, for example, her first “soliloquy” (bedroom scene) was a moment of pure art. The way she lies and moves in bed and then pretends to sleep while her foster mother enters the room, just to stand up a bit later to write on her desk… her thoughts and doubts and wishes symbolized by the mirror and the entrance of Onegin himself, in her dream. Miss Yakovleva delighted the audience – made us sometimes laugh, wonder and then cry… Her interpretation reminded me a lot of the character study that Marcia Haydée (the original Tatjana) did for her work. Insight. As a dancer and actress…
In fact, technique is not all, and those moments, in which the audience is simply “hypnotized” by such a touching performance are more worth than a trunk filled with diamonds and pearls - think about Cunegonde in "Candide".

Maria Yakovleva/Roman Lazik: Copyright Wiener Staatsoper/Ashley Taylor

Mr. Lazik – in the role of his life… that was my impression. And what else could I add to that? Not much. He knows all the dark sides of this character – but also, like he showed in the first act, his “dandy”, bored side. In a very well mastered interpretation, he turned Onegin, who in Russian literature would influence so many other Russian literary characters, into a real person. Flesh and blood. Onegin is a ballet that is not only perfect for him as a character but that also emphasizes his technique and his physique – long legs and very special arms.
A pure joy for Balletomanes – although sad, very sad: think about this quote that Pushkin wrote about Onegin's character: ““..depression still kept guard on him, and chased after him like a shadow - or like a faithful wife.” 

Onegin is a very “round” piece – a form I simply love – precise and compact. There are no “wasted moments”. Thank you, John Cranko!

segunda-feira, 13 de março de 2017

Bayerisches Staatsballet, March 10th, 2017: Spartacus

To be very honest I was sort of skeptical about visiting a performance of „Spartacus“(a ballet 100% associated with the Russian culture and a very peculiar feeling for aesthetics ) at the Bayerische Oper in Munich… but I could not have been more delighted after watching it!


I arrived a bit earlier than I wanted and had the time to visit the Opera.
Such a difference from Vienna: 95% Germans in comparison to the many tourists that visit the Opera in Vienna. I liked that!

I had a lovely seat on the 10th row and then remembered that there is no central aisle (I had not been there for a long time) – a fact of which I am not fond of… you see, I suffer a bit from claustrophobia and “to know” that I can get out from anywhere quite quickly is ALWAYS important for me.
The performance started.

With the exception of the “schmaltzy” pas de deux in the second act, which was used on Britain’s TV series “The Onedin line” in the 70’s and became a “no go” for me, I love Khachaturian’s music!

It was masterly conducted by Karen Durgaryan (like Khachaturian also an Armenian) and the first notes drove me back to Vienna 1982, the last time I had seen this work with Vasiliev and Bessmertnova, while I recalled that this was “just” 35 years ago.

Copyright: W.Hösl / Bayerisches Staatsballet

The girls in the corps-de-ballet impressed me in a certain way. Not very homogenous in looks, height and style but very strong technically – and with lots of stage presence.

Unfortunately I cannot say the same for the boys. Somehow I had the feeling that they were still in need of more rehearsal and more vitamin injections to play these roles more strongly: heads, arms, leg’s elevations and even musicality… all a bit uncoordinated, and definitely not exact.
But there is potential there, within this group of young men.
One dancer impressed me, a very gifted young Italian man called Stefano Maggiolo. I would like to see more of him on stage in the future.

Copyright: W.Hösl / Bayerisches Staatsballet

Vladimir Shklyavov was a great Spartacus. Of course one cannot make comparisons to “both” Vasilievs in this role – which requires unbelievable precision, stamina and, pardon me the expression, the strength of a horse. Mr. Shklyarov, a strong dancer, had the audience all the time “under control”. A very sensible dancer and an actor.

Copyright: W.Hösl / Bayerisches Staatsballet

His wife, Maria Shirinkina, played the role of Phrygia, a role that is, quite honestly, dramatically and choreographically much inferior to Aegina’s. But she was in control of it. Correct. I like when, nowadays, dancers do not use any kind of over extension as Miss Shirinkina, a dancer with a beautiful, clean technique, never does. Unfortunately the hairdo of Phrygia (and the other “slave” girls) is something that should have been changed since decades… I have been saying this for years!
It still reminds me of “Bond Street” in the "swinging sixties" – which may have been surely considered very “daring” in 1968's Russia and in Grigorovich’s choreopgraphy….

Copyright: Charles Tandy / Bayerisches Staatsballet

Erik Murzagaliev gave us a great, strong Crassus: a wonderful and very sensual dancer in full control of the role (and with a very clever hairdo that made me think of British actor Nicholas Clay in “The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian”) he played this half part of the couple that opposes Spartacus and Phrygia, with a certainness that is very rare on stage, especially on dancers that are so young. But I must say that his stamina left him a bit during the third act. I found out lately that Mr. Murzagaliev took the role of Crassus a while ago – his picture is not even printed in the program.
I think that Mr. Murzagaliev is a dancer from whom we might hear a lot of in the near future.

Copyright: Charles Tandy / Bayerisches Staatsballet

The Star of the night was Prisca Zeisel. And the audience also thought so (Well, Miss Shirinkina had the first bow, Miss Zeisel the second... that showed the audience how much more important her performance was...). She gave us a wonderful portrait of Aegina. All the very direct ways and reasons of this quite complicated (not only emotionally but also technically) character were given to us on a “silver plate”. Miss Zeisel and her eyes “that tell us much more than she wants to reveal” (like Bette Davis’) was turned into a mad courtesan, possessed by power, lust and the flesh. This is for me the most difficult role of the show – emotionally and technically…

I won't go into pirouettes, jumps, details... she has it all... just the tool for her arstistry...

Prisca Zeisel has turned into another “persona” on stage - and that is the important point about this very young lady– dominating it, in full command of a beautiful technique and chemistry, being in full charge of her role and controlling the audience.
Giving us just what she wanted to give us "right now", playing with artistry, nearly flirting with us.
Just that.
Just simple as that.
That "simple thing" that Jane Fonda once reffered to as "to make love to the audience".
But you have to be a talent to do “just that”!
Her eye contact with the public has much to do with it.
Enchanting.

By the way, Miss Zeisel was promoted to the rank of first soloists.
This is what I call a very well-deserved promotion!

Yes, I was very skeptical about this performance. But it was wonderful!
For me a production that is highly recommended!