sexta-feira, 30 de outubro de 2015

Vienna State Opera: Premiere "Thoss / Wheeldon / Robbins". October 29th, 2015

A „special“ première at the Opera… “special” due to the fact that “Blaubarts Geheimnis” (“Bluebeard’s Secret”) is already well-known to viennese audiences in its full-length version. But the combination of such different choreographers like Stephan Thoss, Christopher Wheeldon and Jerome Robbins seemed quite promising even though I was not quite sure of what to expect.
But from one thing I was sure; of the privilege to be able to witness again Alexander Ingram conducting!

Stephan Thoss’s “Blaubarts Geheimnis”: not being a favourite of mine, even if quite well rehearsed, I must admit that the shorter version was much pleasant to watch than the artificially constructed whole evening programme, as I have already mentioned last year.

Kirill Kourlaev/Alice Firenze (Copyright: Wiener Staatsoper/Michael Pöhn)

The plot line is opressive. Nearly depressing. A fact that is constantly helped by Philip Glass’s music. The constant sexuality is sometimes exaggerated, in an excessive repetitious way.

Kirill Kourlaev – a dancer that understands what dramaturgy is all about, possesses a very unique presence on stage. He dominates this difficult character in all its small details even if, in his own words, he is sometimes scared of it.

Kirill Kourlaev/Alice Firenze (Copyright: Wiener Staatsoper/Michael Pöhn)

Alice Firenze’s “Judith” is, for me, the narrator of this story. She reminds me of a curious “Alice” (in Wonderland) going through all the doors. Very attentive, learning, understanding - or not... Miss Firenze possesses a fine dramatic artistry that is strongly involved by the cellophane of theatricality. Controlled theatricality underlined by an endearing sincerity. Not to mentioned grace and technique.

Andrey Kaydanovskiy’s strong presence on stage at what he can do best, should be mentioned. I wonder how this dancer would grow as an artist in a more contemporary environment than the Vienna’s State Opera.

Rebecca Horner, a dancer with a strong tendency to one-dimensional characterizations, compensated this lack with aggressiveness while interpretating the character, just to overact it - too much. This posture intensifies the “cliché” of the “contemporary dancer” that many dancers of traditional Companies, when confronted (for various, different reasons) with a more modern repertoire tend to adhere. Her “Bluebeard’s mother” was too threatening, too much. This is a fact that reminded me strongly of two of the most horrendous literary characters ever written: “La Cousine Bette” (Balzac) and “Juliana” from “Cousin Basilio” (Eça de Queirós).
And that is definitely too much.
Even though I can understand that it is too difficult to follow into the more experienced footsteps of Rafaella Albuquerque Sant'Anna and Dagmar Kronberger in a role like this.

Flavia Soares (Copyright:Ashley Taylor)

Special “visions”: Ioanna Avraam (that performed in all three ballets of the evening), Gala Jovanovic, Eszter Ledán, Flavia Soraes (very strong and in full-command of the choreographer’s language), Céline Janou Weder, Kamil Pavelka, András Lukács and Jaimy van Overeem.

Christopher Wheeldon’s “Fool’s Paradise” – the surprise of the evening even if Joby Thalbot’s music tend to portray a very strong pathos. In quite an epic quality that could be misinterpreted (as americans would say) as “tacky”.

Ioanna Avraam/Eno Peci (Copyright: Wiener Staatsoper/Michael Pöhn)
Gala Jovanovic/Greig Matthews/Richard Szabo (Copyright: Wiener Staatsoper/Michael Pöhn

The choreography is so well idealized that it is nearly impossible to concentrate on single performances instead of on the group. Simply pure harmony. Even so I could glimpse at amazing performances: Davide Dato, stronger than ever, Ioanna Avraam in an exquisite display of emotions, charming countenace and lovely lines, Kiyoka Hashimoto, Eno Peçi, Greig Matthews. It should but be said that the boy’s costumes by Narciso Rodriguez, were not ideal in this particular case due to the fact that some of them should take more care of their waist line.

Olga Esina/Roman Lazik (Copyright: Wiener Staatsoper/Michael Pöhn)

Two interpretations should be highlighted: Olga Esina’s precise performance in full-command of her technique. Since quite a long time this strong dancer, that was once ironically called “The Grace Kelly of Dance” (because people thought that she was cold and aloof) has been gaining “a new aura”. She has been creating powerful characters. Her subtle interpretations are filled with such strong energy that she attracts the audience’s attention like a magnet. She is reaching that special moment for an artist – the one in which youth and maturity melt into each other. I am looking forward to all she’ll give to her following in the next years. Gala Jovanovic, was fabulous. I could only describe her in this piece, as beautiful. An exquisite bird of paradise-like quality – with beautiful arms - emerged from her and filled the Opera House.

(Copyright: Wiener Staatsoper/Michael Pöhn)

All in all, pure harmony in a very intelligent piece of work that should be noted for its subtle “re-use” of movements, passages. Touching. Emotional. In perfect balance. A very dangerous and difficult language technique that should be used like a medicine – just in the right dosage. It is either perfect, like in “Fool’s Paradise” or it is simply repetitious and boring, like in “Blaubart”.

Jerome Robbins’s “The four seasons”. I had not seen it since 1979 – and had so much hoped for other costumes than Santo Loquasto’s (which I intensely dislike). This pleasure was not to be granted to me…

(Copyright: Wiener Staatsoper/Michael Pöhn)

Robbin’s choreography is demanding. But definitely not one of his best.

Géraud Wielick, Ioanna Avraam, Dumitru Taran (Copyright: Ashley Taylor)

“Winter” was marvelously danced by Ioanna Avraam, Dumitru Taran and – for the first time (for me) in a soloist role, Géraud Wielick. All three of them excelled in the quickest part of of the show as if they had been dancing this all their lives.

“Spring”, the most boring piece of choreography from “Seasons”, danced by Mihail Sosnovschi and Maria Yakovleva. Mr. Sosnovschi, even if professional as always, danced through it this time quite emotionless, as if he was bored, forcing himself to smile broadly and artificially just to fade again into seriousness. Miss Yakovleva proved once more that she is a clever dancer. Perhaps too clever for my way of thinking and taste. Even though very technically limited, she can hide these flaws and give a good impression because of her looks, “mignon” physique and lively way. Viennese Audiences, still in need of learning much about Ballet, usually welcome her performances overseeing what should not be overseen. I wonder how audience reception would be, for example, in London, where there is real respect for technique (and deep knowledge about it).

Robert Gabdoulin/ Ketevan Papava (Copyright:Ashley Taylor)

“Sommer” danced by Ketevan Papava and Robert Gabdullin, both giving a very touchy, calm, romantic performance. Beautifully rehearsed, in perfect harmony with each other. Mr. Gabdullin sent me to exotic worlds. Miss Papava and her joyful, relaxed smile… Later she told me about the ways she visualized the role, how she motivated herself and thought of how to make something beautiful and interesting to the audience out of this “simple” piece. Emotional intelligence some would say. Yes, but I prefer to refer to it as “real talent and Artistry”. In a world in which the ballet technique changed so much, in which (nearly) every dancer has a great technique, lovely feet, great extensions, turns dozens of pirouettes and jumps higher and higher every day, this “Artistry” is what differentiates dancers from real artists. This “icing on the cake” makes all the difference.

Davide Dato (Copyright: Wiener Staatsoper/Michael Pöhn)

“Autumn”, the “grand Finale” for this Ballet that I consider more a kind of “Divertissement”. A piece of bravura and a perfect vehicle for such “virtuosi” as Liudmilla Konovalova, Denys Cherevychko and Davide Dato. All three brought down the House, had the biggest ovations of the evening and had numerous curtain calls. Mr. Dato was fascinating and humorous as the “faun” – jumping better than ever.

Denys Cherevychko/Liudmilla Konovalova (Copyright: Ashley Taylor)

Denys Cherevychko/Liudmilla Konovalova (Copyright: Wiener Staatsoper/Michael Pöhn)

Denys Cherevychko literally “stopped the show” with his “Tours à la seconde” but it must be said that he, in comparison to many brilliant “Virtuosi”, that shine on their own because of the total technical command they posess, is NOT an egoistical and egocentric dancer. He takes intense care of his partner. Miss Konovalova seemed to be having fun during her variations. Quick, fleet-footed, owner of an unshakable axis, she makes everything seem so simple.

Fact is: “The four seasons” is not a typical Robbin’s work for me. Perhaps, at the end of his career “new ideas” were not being born anymore… and he relied in an elder language than his own... It has that kind of “circus atmosphere” that is so much appreciated by audiences that do not understand much about Ballet and insist to applaud during Codas. Another thing that I intensely dislike.

Even so, the evening presented a nice combination of three very different pieces. Another good, interesting programme conception of Manuel Legris’ era. And we must thank him for that.

sexta-feira, 23 de outubro de 2015

Richard Avedon and his clothes Horses: Dovima

O nome “Clothes Horse” pode até soar descortês quando traduzido ao portugues (em alemão definitvamente seria) mas esta expressão descreve com precisão muitas mulheres do cinema (como Gloria Swanson, Eleanor Parker, Marsha Hunt, Joan Benett) que brilharam pelo bom-gosto e elegancia mas também estes fantásticos modelos que povoavam (coloco este verbo propositalmente no passado) as revistas de moda.

O trabalho fotográfico de Richard Avedon sempre me fascinou. Sua colaboração com alguns “Clothes Horses” ainda mais. Destes trabalhos conjuntos nasceram fotos inesquecíveis, reais trabalhos de Arte. Começo hoje uma curta série sobre Avedon e suas musas…

Quem pode esquecer-se da foto – que colocou o mundo da moda de cabeça para baixo – de uma elegante modelo cercada de elefantes? Todos sabem que este vestido negro de noite foi a primeira obra de Arte de um „novo“ designer da Maison Dior na época: Yves Saint-Laurent… Mas ninguém mais lembra-se do nome do modelo, que era um (grande) ideal feminino dos anos 50: Dovima! (Quem disse que foi Twiggy que lançou a “moda da magreza” estava enganado!)

Nascida Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba ela mesmo transformou seu nome neste ícone de criatividade (Dovima), unindo as tres primeiras sílabas de seus prenomes.
Dovima foi um dos modelos melhores pagos dos anos 50 e sua colaboração com Avedon inesquecível…

Alguns a reconhecerão por sua curta aparição em “Funny face” (Cinderella em Paris, 1957) com Audrey Hepburn e Fred Astaire no qual celebrou sua beleza angular e magra misturando-a ironicamente num cocktail de falta de inteligencia e interesses (memorável a cena em que num intervalo do shooting é surpreendida lendo as aventuras, em estórias em quadrinhos, de um ratinho super-herói no espaço!).

Com o dom de estar sempre “em balanço” ela conseguia dividir-se (como se seus membros nao fossem interligados por um torso) e articular-se numa forma dinamica e extremamente equilibrada. Numa simetria quase que estudada mas que suponho que era natural dela, nela!

Nas palavras do próprio Avedon: ''the most remarkable and unconventional beauty of her time, she was the last of the great elegant, aristocratic beauties'' morreu de cancer aos 73 anos na Florida. Tinha-se retirado da frente das cameras em 1962 já aos 35 anos (“antes que as cameras se tornem crueis”, disse) mas continuará sendo eternamente admirada na fotos de Avedon. O mito, criado por ela mesma, nao morrerá.

Ao contrário do personagem de Audrey em "Funny Face", jamais me cansarei de olhar para ela e analizar este "equilíbrio" de seus movimentos em suas fotos. Uma Obra de Arte (e de "chic"!).

segunda-feira, 19 de outubro de 2015

William Atherton: What'll I do?

Sempre amei esta versão de „What’ll I do?“ ( Irving Berlin, 1923) que abria os "créditos" de "The great Gatsby" (1974)
e que tão claramente nos conta do “e agora... o que fazer?” quando já não mais existem alternativas, opções…

Por acaso descubri hoje que ela é cantada por um dos meus atores prediletos do cinema dos anos 70: o talentosíssimo William Atherton…
Ao som de sua melodiosa voz ele nos introduz Robert Redford, Mia Farrow e Karen Black num filme que marcou muito uma certa época da minha juventude!

Agora eu pergunto: será que coincidencias realmente existem?

quinta-feira, 15 de outubro de 2015

The hot Sardines & (for me) Miss Liz, in fact Mizz Elizabeth

To be very honest... very "New Yorkish": my new Darlings!
So good to find something new to learn from, research... Thanks October 15th 2015 for this present on the radio!

Para ser bem honesto... Muito "Nova Yorkino": meus novos queridos!
Que bom encontrar algo novo para aprender, pesquisar... Obrigado dia 15 de outubro de 2015 por este presente no radio!

sexta-feira, 2 de outubro de 2015

Behind the Scenes: Albert Mirzoyan, Ballet Master of the Vienna State Opera - an Interview by Ricardo Leitner

Since a long time this "talk" with Albert Mirzoyan - Balletmaster of the Vienna State Opera since 2008 - was planned but due to various reasons it was postponed and postponed many times.
Now the precise right time for it has arrived...

Saturday, September 19th 2015. It is 10:15 am and I am late…

As I open the stage door at the Opera House Albert Mirzoyan is already there. He and his inimitable smile. Ever since we first met I wonder about that smile. It exposes and “denounces” so much more than a simple greeting: it cannot be helped. Albert is unable to withhold his awareness of everything that is going around him. In this particular case the small room in front of the porter’s box by the stage door, the door, the weather and I!
“Sorry, I am a bit late” – “No problem, Ricardo”, he kindly answered, looking into my eyes. I like people who do that.

Taking the elevator and talking trivialities, I once more witnessed Albert Mirzoyan’s total alertness and interest to everything around him. A fact that was going to be reconfirmed many times during the next 1 1/2 hours.

Albert left me in the studio for about 10 minutes. Many familiar faces. Many that came to greet me. Some that pretended that I was not there und even turned away – neither understanding WHY I was there nor WHAT I was supposed to be doing in this classroom.

I stood up and went to a known Ballerina to greet her, ask her how she was – just in order to get a cold shoulder and a “Well, thank you” back.
In a way, quite an understandable reaction for me – even if not very polite.
A Studio is, first of all, a very special, private place. A room to work. To work with your instrument.
A "visitor" can sometimes be seen as a sort of intruder - and unfortunately I had no time to "explain" that I was there to watch Mr. Mirzoyan’s class. Not the dancers doing their warm-up, bars and Allegros.
His class would help me understand more of his way of thinking. We planned it that way. And help it, it did. Marvelously.

Class began.

All of a sudden I was brought back to a world that I hadn’t seen, experienced, FELT for a long, long time.
The world in which musicality and inventiveness are melted together and brought to the daily (sometimes very boring) routine of a dancer's life. A beautiful, very inventive bar. No "square" combinations of tendus and frappés. But joyful combinations that lead the dancers to be constantly changing their axis of equilibrium and be in awe of every single movement. Surely the best way to prepare dancers for the "center exercises" that culminate, reach its highest point during the allegros and grand allegros - as Albert would later reconfirm to me (telling me also that he'd never give a class like this after a "Swan Lake" performance: "Because the corps-de-Ballet is just too tired the day after such a show!").

Picture Copyrights: Ashley Taylor

Manuel Legris, that was informed about my "visit" that day, came in shortly, greeted me kindly and asked Albert to join him in the rehearsal that was supposed to take place after class. Albert and I would not be able to have our Interview. Unfortunately I first thought. Now rethinking about it, I must say: Luckily.

You may ask why...

I will just reveal to you a single word and you will know what I mean: TIME!
Yes, time gave me the opportunity to "digest" what I had witnessed during class and gave me more clearness about that experience. A better understanding of this man's thoughts that are extremely respectful towards Ballet. Of this man that prepares continuously dancers and their instruments; teaching them the beautiful philosophy of loving, respecting their instrument - never injuring it. Yes, PHILOSOPHY.

I took the trouble to look up "philosophy's definition" in the dictionary and it could not be more "fitting" when thinking of Albert.
Philosophy: The study of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning.

Picture Copyrights: Ashley Taylor

One week later we met once again at the Canteen of the Opera for our long awaited interview.

Once more as punctual as an english clock (or like Dicken's "Mr. Pickwick") Albert was awaiting me at the stage door.
This was on September 25th at precisely 6:30 pm. We went to the Canteen and had our long awaited talk.

Quite impulsively I "opened" our official talk with quite an informal and spontaneous-like question (that had been in my mind for quite a long time): I thought of it every time I saw Albert, this perfect Gentleman, during the last years.
"Do you come from a Family of Artists?" He smiled openly and said frankly "Oh No... not at all".
I was quite surprised and taken aback, having nearly sworn that this would never be the answer, that his relation to dance would be one of generations...
"You see, in 1964 in Erevan, there was the school of ballet, with lovely space and many beautiful studios... but not really many students. Ballet war very respected in Armenia. But not so popular. I was chosen along with many other students to join it. It was a Vaganova-oriented schooling, but looking back I think of it more in the style of (that time's) Moscow"

"And how was this different experience for you? I mean Ballet chose you and not you it", I smiled. "During the first three years I had "a good time" and was not particularly concentrated on what I was doing. This all changed when I became 14"
"I joined the "Kirov" - nowadays Mariinsky - in "Leningrad" (St. Petersburg) in 1975. My home for the next 26 years" he added "There I became a dancer and found my partner not only onstage but also off-stage, my wife, Tamara Pavlova", he reminisced "Even though we had already met at the Vaganova School (Russian Ballet Academy) in 1973". Once more those eyes clearly revealed emotion and so many rich thoughts about life, love, love to the arts and experience.

Picture Copyrights: Ashley Taylor

"And how did you decide to become a Ballet Master? This is requires vocation... I'd say even more than that. It is a true "calling" I questioned, quite intrigued.
"Once more the ballet chose me - not I it" he laughed "You see, our Ballet Master at the Kirov, Tachir Baltacheyev, liked me, always took me to his side during rehearsals and shared bit by bit his profound knowledge with me. One day, after 1 or 1 1/2 years of assisting him, he called the theatre - I think it was a Don Q. rehearsal, if I'm not mistaken - and just said: "I'm not coming to rehearsal. You do it". Just like that. Can you imagine how I felt? - just stepping up in front of the whole Company and conduct a rehearsal at my young age? Well, I survived it and here I am now!"

"You work a lot in Korea, am I right?" "Yes, since about 20 years I am guest Ballet Master at the Universal Ballet Company" he added. "To work in Korea is fascinating. Ballet requires so much discipline, you know it, and they have lots of it. Nearly like an army", he laughs. "As a Balletmaster, a teacher, you are in a very fortunate position in Korea. You see, they not only respect and admire elder generations but they cherish their knowledge. In fact it is quite common in Korea to hear that - in this precise order - the resources of knowledge are first God, on the second place the Teacher and on third the Family."
"Quite different from our western "Civilization", don't you think?", I laughed. "You see, you can also have too much of a good thing. Ballet is hard work. If you are not prepared to live this,"pay the price" to this, sometimes very harsh, life, you must forget all about it... Unfortunately all this "political correctness" turns the ballet "upbringing" into a very difficult thing. Today, if you are a bit "harder" to any child, you can surely count on with complaints from parents about you. In Korea they let teachers be more demanding - and that IS part of the ballet life". This time I had to reminisce about my teacher, Tatiana Leskova, and how she seemed to enjoy (well, that was our impression) to reduce us to tears either before or during or after class... Yes, times have changed! (But she could could have surely used some bit of political correctness!)

Picture Copyrights: Ashley Taylor

"Albert, one question that is of uppermost importance for me: Gone are the days in which all dancers from a certain company had the same upbringing, the same school, the same "breeding"... Nowadays you have in the same class, on the same stage dancers from France, America, England, Italy, Russia and Japan (even from Austria!). All of them from different "schools"... the "fine, noble" english low arms, the high russian ones, beautiful french arabesques and even (for me unusual) italian attitudes... Isn't it terribly difficult to "mix all this together"?" "Yes Ricardo, it is. And I am glad that you have asked that! You see, it is already very difficult to put dancers in the right style, into the choreographer's style, even if they come from the same school. Adding crucial differences of style to this matter make things even mor difficult. Then it is hard work... " he stopped as if to think more intensely about this question.

"I remember watching once a beautiful pas de trois in "Manon" and being very pleased by their homogeneous dance, even if the boys were english, french and moldavian, I mean, what could be more different then that, if one thinks about style?" I said. "There are very intelligent dancers that can not only adapt themselves perfectly to different styles but also - and that is as important as style - to each other. Yes, if I am right about the dancers you are talking about, they are very different but the effect and, as you say, homogeneous performance was a very good one!"

"Talking about clean basic work: of course we know that many dancers "cheat" on stage ("remember Marcia Haydée?" I laugehd) but on class? The bodies are so different from the bodies from "our" times. They turn more pirouettes, jump higher, make quicker batteries, have more extension... even so I don't feel, see the same way to take a class earnestly, learn precisely... Did things (in the sense of the body) get easier and because of that they are not anymore a challenge?"
"I believe, as you said they turn more pirouettes, jump higher, have more extension, you name it... And that is everywhere in the world. So one cannot really differentiate "this from the other" dancer... There are but exceptions to this "rule". You see, Ricardo, life is faster, everything became quicker. Nowadays when dancers are neither on class nor on rehearsals nor onstage, they are on facebook, Internet, Twitter. There is no more "room" left for reading, just to give an example. What did we do when we arrived home as children? Perhaps a bit TV on the two or three available channels that we had... but we read, we had more interests, we discussed, analyzed, questioned, talked, articulated ourselves... Some time ago in Russia I was amazed about a dancer that simply did not know anything about the history period, in which the ballet she was dancing in, took place" he sighed "Not knowing about it she did not know about the politics of the time, fashion, customs, beauty ideals, anything... not to mention the motives of her character!"

Picture Copyrights: Ashley Taylor

"But you said that there are "exceptions"?" I remembered. "Yes, definitely. And these are the real Stars today. The ones that understand what they are doing, not only from the technical point of view but also from the emotional one - and that includes knowing about history, politics, other forms of art. This is only thing that "differ" than from other: knowldege and emotion."

"I always say to my dancers", he continued, "Read! Go to Concerts! Go to museums! Everything single perfect sculpture is in itself pure Dance!"

I would like to leave you here with this thought and just add that in other words we should never forget what my friend, Cristina Martinelli, a great brazilian Prima-Ballerina once said.
There is a certain cult of technique nowadays. Dancers seem to forget that technique is just a tool to achieve artistry - and not artistry itself.
They turn more pirouettes, jump higher, have more extension but that is not all. Technique is just a part of the many things that form a dancer.

Thank you Albert Mirzoyan for the privilege on interviewing you, a man that takes everything he does so seriously, and also for having been able to share a bit of your beautiful, profound world of Ballet AND YOUR VISIONS of it!

(And many thanks to Ashley Taylor not only for helping me with actual material but also for letting me use it!)