Presse Cinderella Ricardo Leitner
There again was that certain vibration in the air before an opening Night. The audience in a mixture of evening dresses, formal codes and typical Austrian costumes (I love that because this never happens in Vienna!) seemed quite excited with this Peter Breuer’s piece. But what else if not great expectations? Charles Perrault’s (fairy) tale, Prokofiev’s music (in fact of his most beloved compositions along with “Romeo and Juliet” and – in Russia – “Alexander Nevsky”), Bruno Schwengl’s sets and costumes, Leslie Suganandarajah’s conducting… and the „Star“ of the evening: the choreography itself.
The scene opened, clean, spacious, light and bright and at that precise moment – and from then on – the audience knew that they were going to witness something special in those next two and a half hours… and how fast time can run if you are enjoying yourself with such high caliber work: your full attention is “caught”, you are completely concentrated in what you are watching and you cannot change it. It is overwhelming and stronger than you are. These are very special moments if you are sitting in the audience in a night like this. And I love that.
I had always wondered how Prokofiev had managed to bring to post war Russia (The original Ballet opened in 1945) at the height of its communist convictions, a tale with a fairy, a prince and nobility. But thinking back at a class of History of Art that I visited during the 70’s, I remembered how a teacher had tried very cleverly to explain to us the (so-called) “roots” of the French Revolution and, of course, Cinderella’s story line was connected to it: the character Cinderella represents nothing less than the bourgeoisie oppressed within her 4 walls, inside her home by the Aristocracy and the Clergy (represented by the Stepmother and the Stepsisters), the Prince represents Bourgeoisie’s possibility to achieve and conquer power and the Fairy Godmother, oh, the Fairy and all the light that surrounds her: she is the spirit of the Illuminism itself – all these metaphors turn “Cinderella” into a very suitable tale for the French Revolution (Perrault died long before the Revolution!) and of course very suitably adaptable to the Communist way-of-thinking.
Mr. Breuer’s choreography is surprising. In fact it covers such a wide range of emotions, from sheer comical humor to our wish for justice for Cinderella’s “fate”. Also surprising because, all of a sudden, like a windmill it starts getting faster leading us to Bravura moments which require strong technique (A short example: in the first Act Marcia Jaqueline was doing lovely pirouettes en pointe and within an instant there she was doing them a la seconde – and beautifully maintaining her elevated leg in the same level without “drawing lines” in the air! Such technical “cleanness” is also, for me, a reason to rejoice!). The choreography has such vitality and dynamic that it kept amazing me. Visions… sometimes I wish I could get into people’s heads in order to see HOW they look at their own visions and how they turn them into reality later on. Such a fascinating process.
One special component of the story line is Cinderella’s previous story that is a sort of epilogue to the Ballet: her Mother’s Death, the way that her (future) Stepmother “conquers” her Father’s attention and the way poor Cinderella is turned into a Housemaid by her Stepsisters. Also the way she remembers the past… such a delicate moment. More about it later!
It must be said that the children did a wonderful job! Very good coaching!
Unfortunately the corps-de-Ballet needs more rehearsal. This was strongly visible during the Ball’s scene. Some couples did not make it with the music and were always too late to it. The result is that they were not unison.
Cristina Uta had the difficult task of playing the Stepmother – a role that requires „some Sex-appeal“ but also a sense of timing in comedy (like during the Ball while all are awaiting the Prince and she jumps on one of her daughter’s back to be able to “see”! A delicious moment).
Special attention to Naila Fiol and Lucas Leonardo as the Barkeepers during the Ball. Beautiful dancers with lots of stage presence.
Alexander Korobko and Pedro Pires “stole the show” as the two “Stepsisters”. I must confess that, having had no time to study the programme and not realizing immediately that the Sisters were being played by two men, I was quite taken aback with the “bigger” Sister’s looks and thought “OK, then they’ve got some elder member of the choir to play one of the “girls”!” But it did not take me long to begin to laugh with them. Yes, Mr. Breuer created such beautiful roles and they give the dancers in action a “play-ground to create and have fun!”. Both are hilarious! Special notice to Mr. Pires point-work!
Anna Yanchuk creates a Fairy-Godmother of extreme beauty and class. It is a pleasure to watch this dancer’s most delicate arms and ways around the stage. She never leaves her role – she is all time in it – and possesses such delicacy and tenderness in her movements and ways of treating Cinderella, her beloved goddaughter. Lovely, strong technique and exquisite lines!
Flavio Salamanka – a dancer I had never see before on stage – impressed me a lot with his interpretation of the Prince. A dancer with a very strong and clean technique (beautiful pirouettes, tours-en-l’air, very strong jumps, quickness etc.). But we “can see” that he is “only” using it as a tool to his artistry. His dancing goes far beyond being “just interested” in turning pirouettes (like I have experienced not long ago with a Cuban Dancer – but they are known for just being interest in turning and nothing else). This “Brazilian Prince” brought a quality called “acting and emotion” to his role – and the public loved and was in rapport with him – as the applause later confirmed it.
Márcia Jaqueline in her element in the title role of the evening. Thecnically on high form, Márcia Jaqueline has reached that certain point in the life of an artist that is incredibly important – and unique. That moment in which Youth is combined with a certain Maturity. Yes, that Maturity that brings “it” to the characters she is portraying – they are not just “shadows”, they are made of flesh and blood, they have a story behind them, they are structured, they never contradict themselves, because they exist as a whole. That is the joy or Artistry. To spend two and a half hours watching one single character and all the nuances and shades that are related to her. Beautiful.Her Cinderella was quiet, silent, profound, leading a strong „interior life“. How does one say? “Quiet waters run deep… “ (can we ever forget that beautiful and very touching scene in which she “remembers the past” and steps into it? Another one of Mr. Breuer’s clever, inspired „visions“)I have mentioned before the technical “easiness” (Pirouettes a la seconde) which Miss Marcia Jaqueline uses as a tool to create her part, without mentioning the discipline that, I know, Miss Jaqueline carries with her every single day of her life. This Artist will be Salzburg’s darling – in a very short time – and as curious as I am, I sort of eavesdropped conversations during intermission and after the show… Yes, many share my opinion.
Conclusion: a very beautiful production to the last details: a most enjoyable and highly recommendable evening!
PROF. PETER BREUER
DIRECTOR & CHOREOGRAPHER
The Ballet TSCHAIKOWSKY
Heir of a Great Tradition
Peter Breuer: Lone Survivor of the Fast-Disappearing Race of Ballet Story-Tellers
He belongs to the line descending from Noverre, Angiolini and Viganò, continued by Bournonville, Coralli/Perrot, Saint-Léon and Petipa, through Fokine, Massine and Ashton to Petit, Cranko and MacMillan as the great story-tellers of ballet-history.
A man for all seasons, he seems equally at home under the blazing sun of Othello’s Cyprus as Tchaikovsky’s snow-covered streets of St.Petersburg, in the spring-like climate of Norway’s Peer Gynt as in the decadent autumnal glow of the global Lulu.
He was the only German dancer who was present at the London gala on the occasion of Dame Beryl Grey’s appointment as President of the English National Ballet. It was an invitation which he received as former Principal Dancer of the then London Festival Ballet at the time of Beryl Grey’s artistic directorship. This places Breuer among the very few German dancers who have made it to the top, starting with Peter van Dyk as Étoile at the Paris Opéra and continuing with Heinz Bosl, Breuer’s contemporary (born 1946), and danced as partner of Margot Fonteyn. There has been no successor since. Today, Friedemann Vogel of Stuttgart is the most likely next candidate for an international career.
Breuer, a dyed-in-the wool Bavarian, who names Peter Roleff, Gustav Blank, Leonid Gonta and Victor Gsovsky among his most influential teachers – not forgetting his father, a pianist, as the most formative personality who nurtured his instinctive musicality from his earliest childhood years – started his career as a dancer in 1961 at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. It was also where he danced one of his last performances, which was in the role of Onegin with Natalia Makarova as Tatiana in 1988. He was considered one of the technically most brilliant, elegant and intrinsically musical principal dancers of the German scene appearing with the Deutsche Oper am Rhein (Düsseldorf-Duisburg) and the Deutsche Oper Berlin (West Berlin’s Municipal Opera House), plus numerous guest appearances in Germany and abroad being always in great demand by ballerinas all over the world.
On my last visit to Salzburg I was very impressed by Breuer’s production of Pink Floyd’s „The Wall“. As a rock score it has become an immensely popular ballet in Germany, choreographed by Mario Schröder, first in Würzburg and then revived for Kiel, Berlin and Essen. But Schröder’s version never matched Breuer’s theatrical force, let alone his musicality or the turbo speed generated by the Salzburg dancers. Wow! Since then, Breuer has choreographed full-length versions of „Carmen“ and „Othello“. His most recent production is „Tchaikovsky“, labelled „dance theatre in two parts“. Vienna started the new era under the directorship of Harangozó with the creation of „Tchaikovsky Impressions“ by the Stuttgart-based Ivan Cavallari. And the Berlin State Opera has announced the import of Eifman’s „Tchaikovsky“ from St. Petersburg next year.
Why this sudden Tsunami of Tchaikovsky ballets? I have no idea! Not having seen any of them, with the exception of Spoerli in Zürich, I am sceptical that any of these productions can hold a candle to Breuer’s Salzburg „Tchaikovsky“. I found it stunning – the most convincing and theatrically valid full-length ballet for many a season. Actually, I can compare it as a biographical ballet only with Neumeier’s „Nijinsky“ – and I find it even better, ie more densely constructed and even richer in its choreographic content. I even dare to maintain that in the whole history of ballet there has been no other work, at least no other one I know, so tightly packed with action and so clearly narrated than this. And it is performed throughout as if the dancers are being catapulted by the music chosen from Tchaikovsky’s oeuvre (plus some surprise excursions). It starts and ends with a boisterous Christopher Street Parade, with a Freddie Mercury rocking the crowds with his „I want to be free“. Between the scenes of a St. Petersburg court condemning Tchaikovsky to the act of suicide by drinking from a poisoned glass, the ballet proper unfolds in filmic flashbacks, showing scenes from his life.
It is astonishing how much Breuer has been able to conjure up in these scenes, always centering around the person of Tchaikovsky: his caring mother, the almost incestuous relationship with his brother Modest, his eternal yearning for the boy of his dreams, the pianist Rubinstein (condemning his second piano concerto), Madame von Meck, writing her famous letters (with quotations from them), the arrangement of his marriage with Antonia by her highly ambitious mother, the unhappy results with Antonia becoming an easy prey for the lechers of St. Petersburg and her final delivery into a lunatic asylum. Other events include a class at the Maryinsky Theatre, conducted by Petipa, a visit to a performance of Bizet’s „Carmen“, as well as excerpts from „Swan Lake“, „Sleeping Beauty“ and „The Nutcracker“ – with the dancers appearing as characters taken from some of his operatic works, such as Frau von Meck becoming Tatiana in the famous letter scene from „Eugen Onegin“, or the duel between the rivals Frau von Meck and Antonia taking place to the music of the Onegin-Lensky duet – and the constant interventions of a person called Fatum impersonating the roles of Rothbart, Don José, Carabosse and the Countess from „Pique Dame.
If this seems mind-boggling, Breuer manages to tell all these stories with great clarity (collaborating with Michael Alexander Sauter on the dramaturgy), profiling individual characters and linking them closely to the music from a vast choice of pieces of Tchaikovsky’s output plus the Habanera from „Carmen“ and even an excerpt from Rimsky-Korsakov’s „Schéhèrazade“ (for the scene of Antonia with her suitors). He has arranged the musical selections himself, seamlessly connected and unfailingly conjuring up the dramatic atmosphere.
The choreography, always extremely musical, is based upon the extended vocabulary of the classic tradition plus all the elements offered by contemporary sources, be they en caractère, modern, ballroom, folklore, South American and African traditions through to the Rock & Roll and disco gyrations in the nightclubs – not to forget the import of male swans à la Matthew Bourne. Breuer certainly knows the rich palette offered to contemporary choreographers moving between academic classicism and the free forms improvised on the dance floors and on the streets all over the globe. He is helped enormously by the spare but atmospheric sets and costumes designed by Dorin Gal.
Breuer’s great ability to create roles inspires his dancers to produce deeply-felt and moving characterisations. At the centre is the Tchaikovsky of the tall and accomplished Dorian Salkin, who looked the part acting his constant frustrations to perfection. The smaller, wonderfully alacritous and dashing Marian Meszaros, called simply Knabe (Boy), is the perfect subject for T’s longings and rather sexy at that. Fatum, a sort of Son of Hell interpreted by Alexander Pereda, is the incarnation of evil, always intervening at the most inappropriate moments. Alexander Korobko, elegant and more worldly than the distant T, makes Tchaikovsky’s brother Modest a winning figure, while Nadja Rethey-Prikkel is the caring warm-hearted Mother. As Nadeshda von Meck, the versatile Cristina Uta acts and dances the elegant and wealthy widow with a nobility all her own, as well as giving convincing performances in the very contrasting roles of Carmen, Odette, Tatiana and La Dame de Pique. Her rival is Anna Yanchuk as the lyrical Antonia, the pitiable spouse of T. and the victim of her over-ambitious Mother danced by the stern and rather tight-lipped Maria Gruber. They all contribute substantially to one of my, if not THE most thrilling theatrically alive performances of many months. I only wish the artistic directors of the companies of Vienna, Munich, Leipzig, Dresden, and even Stuttgart, had been present to witness a performance I am convinced their local audiences would adore.
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„ROMEO AND JULIET ” evacuated by Peter Breuer from Verona to Salzburg
„Romeo and Juliet“ Salzburg Ballet
Salzburg State Theatre Salzburg, Austria
February 17, 2011 by Horst Koegler
Dancewise, Salzburg is a difficult town. On the one hand, it belongs, with Bayreuth and Edinburgh, to the premier league of international
festivals, but this refers only to its opera and concert programmes, with ballet and dance functioning occasionally as an adjunct, so that – some eternity ago – the appearance of Béjart ́s then historical Ballet of the 20th century (with Boulez conducting Stravinsky ́s “Les Noces and “Sacre du printemps”) and Hamburg Ballet with Neumeier ́s “Matthew Passion”and the Mozart-“Requiem” are remembered as highlights.
And the annual festival lasts only for two months in the summer. That leaves ten months of the year, during which Salzburg – still a city of an eminent historical heritage and a capital of one of Austria ́s Federal States, lives a relatively quiet cultural and sedate life in the shadow of powerful Vienna, though it tries hard to occasionally guild its rather drab everday routine with special events imported from abroad.
It runs its local Municipal Theatre (Landestheater) on a ten months base, offering subsciption performances of opera, drama and operettas plus musicals, with some rare ballet evenings, as it has to entertain a small group of dancers to appear in the opera and operetta/musical productions. While in the past there has been little continuity in their offerings, due to the constant change of ballet-masters, this has somewhat improved over recent seasons, especially during the last two years, since the theatre is run by a younger Intendant (General Manager), who obviously belongs to the rare species of ballet fans.
Anyway Peter Breuer, now in his twentieth season as artistic director and chief- choreographer of the Salzburg Ballet, admits that working under the new man – who before coming to Salzburg had been director of Stuttgart ́s second drama ompany and has obviously been infected by that city ́s notorious ballet bug – has become considerably easier with his company of twelve dancers being strengthened to sixteen for the present season, while he hopes for another four for the new season.
Breuer is an experienced ballet man. Coming from Munich he had enjoyed an international career. He had been promoted early to principal dancer status with companies like the English National, La Scala di Milano and even ABT, before beoming a regular with German top- companies in Duesseldorf, Munich and Berlin. He is clearly a danse d ́école man, but wide open to contemporary influences, very theatrically minded, having been breast-fed with music instead of milk, and he is a brilliant craftsman, both as a classicist in the studio as well as a producer who knows how to stage a good show. He is a strong advocate of the ballet d ́action, many of his works being based on literary classics like Peer Gynt, Carmen, Lulu, Faust and Tchaikovsky, but who has also a clever hand in arranging pop-spectacles like his recent “Marilyn” or his forthcoming “Bach ́n ́Drums”.
He has now for the first time been allowed a whole Ballet Week, with works from the repertory playing to sold-out houses. I always
wondered why he, who belongs to the rare brand of choreographers who can tell a story and knows how to sustain the tension of a full-evening ballet, has been shunned by the Vienna State Opera, which is in desperate need of works to attract bigger audiences, but which has, since the times of Nureyev, staged only flops as far as dramatic pieces are concerned. But at that house they prefer to have bigger names, even if their creative output is of limited quality only.
Breuer has danced during his long and distinguished career in six productions of “Romeo and Juliet” – not only as the protagonist but also Mercutio, Benvolio and Tybalt – so he knows very well the gangs of Shakespeare and Prokofiev ́s Verona. And from this experience his production profits enormously. It develops an unstoppebal energetic, even avalanching drive, is in two parts and lasts, with one intermission 125 minutes. Unfortunately it is not accompanied by a live orchestra but has to rely on canned sound, but as it is based on a recording conducted by Valery Gergiev, it fills the rather small Salzburg house (707 seats) with blazing orchestral opulence.
Breuer and his close cooperator Andreas Geier have done some skilled dramaturgical surgery to adapt the story to their limited resources, but it has been so cleverly executed that time and again I discovered myself musing about from where the well-accustomed music in the original score had come from. It fitted the newly constructed action as if it had been composed for that very scene (Breuer is a genuinely musical man – his father was an experienced pianist – who derives from the Balanchine tradition).
His “Romeo and Juliet” opens with dancers strolling in for a class and rehearsel and Dorin Gal, Breuer ́s familiar collaborator as a designer, has set the stage like a studio with a barre and a lot of mirros which widen the room considerably.
The dancers do their private warming up, chatting with each other, stretching their limbs until the ballet-master appears and starts the class. Among the latecomers is Juliet with her mother – both women wear headscarfs and are obviously of Muslim origin as is the bulky young man, Juliet ́s brother Tybalt, who looks like a younger Humphrey Bogart and views the goings on between the dancers with despicable mistrust. Juliet joins her colleagues, but soon she loosens her hair and takes off her headscarf, very much to the anger of her brother, while her mother gets more and more excited about her daughter ́s progress during the exercises and Romeo, the star of the class, is smitten by her the moment he gets aware of her – while she soon abandons her geuine shyness and gets as fascinated by him as she falls prey to his charms.
From this moment on the world has changed for both of them and they seem to live in a different time and sphere of their own, hardly aware of the reactions of their colleagues. While the mother visibly blossoms watching her daughter ́s progress, noted also by the ballet- master who promotes her to ballerina status, Tybalt ́s features darken dangerously and he openly shows his hate and contempt of what he considers the moral depravity of the whole milieu.
During the rehearsel the scene opens up, some more people appear (Breuer mobilizes a contingent of extras but there is no hint that they are citizens and people of Verona at renaissance times, but just young folk of today who enjoy an outing from their normal business. For this Gal has built an anormous scaffold with two connected towers which are used for a lot of fun-making and acrobatics (it ́s the carnival and the ballroom scene rolled into one, suggesting a merry-making crowd – actually the place looks chaotic like Times Square at rush-hour). The action proceeds with turbo-speed, with lots of dances, individually and collectively. Breuer draws the roles of Rosalinde and the girl-friends of Juliet with characteristic strokes, so that one has the feeling, that every one of them has an individual backgrouod – a story of his or her own, with small jealousies, competitions and trials of strength, of amorous pursuits and teasing each other. But tension mounts and darkens whenever Tyalt appears.
The climax of the first act is a performance of the ballet the dancers had rehearsed before, in front of an audience, with Juliet and Romeo as
stars, which is brutally interrupted by Tybalt who tries to save Juliet from these uncouth surroundings, gets involved with Mercutio whom he kills from behind which infuriates Romeo who now attacks Tybalt and injures him deadly. There is a terrible brawl with a great lamento scene for Juliet ́s Mother, who mourns her dead son – but which staged by Breuer and acted by Cristina Laki surpasses anything I have seen before though I have witnessed dozens of Romeo-productions all over the world, including Ilyushenko at the Bolshoi, Fonteyn with the Royal Ballet or Haydée in Stuttgart – an actress suggesting a performance of Duse or Sarah Bernhard nobility.
The second act opens with Romeo in complete despair, who is comforted by Lorenzo (he is the ballet-master of the first act), envisioning again the death of Mercutio. Then Lorenzo proceeds to marry the two lovers, with the mother split between her loyalty to her daughter, while on the other side she intoduces her to four other young men (so that Juliet almostappears like the victim in”Sacre du printemps” – it’s like Count Paris split up among four, asplendid occasion to show off the virility of a quartet of boys from the Salzburg corps. But rather than continuing the direct story telling of the first act, the second act develops more in episodes exploring the emotions of the individuals, and to this belongs a short pas de deux between the mother and the ballet-master revealing her so far suppressed amorous longings (both the roles of the mother – who sees her youthful dreams fulfilled by the ballerina qualifications of her daughter – and of the ballet-master are thus considerably enriched, and Laki and Josef Vesely perform them with appropriate acting competence.
But it is the end, for which Breuer has saved a completely surprising solution for their infinitely caring and tender love pas de deux, Juliet and Romeo get stripped to the buff wearing nothing but a slip and a bra, he builds up an enormously passionate erotic encounter, which proceeds like a tornado as performed by Lilja Markina (she comes fom Moscow) and Daniel Asher Smith (he is Australian) releasing all their so far strongly kept back emotions so
that they perform like an elementary furor, for which the heavens open and the rain pours down (very Salzburg like), flooding the whole stage, amidst which the two lovers are grappling for each other, during which a steep wall over the whole breadth of the stage rises, with all the people trying in vain to climb, always slipping of and being hurrled back to the ground, while the two lovers separately manage to finally climb to the highest level, obviously cleaned now fom all their earthly burdens – like having received their final baptism– pushing themselves – Tosca-like – into the abyss behind, while m the heavens light up and the Michelangelo motive of the two hands with stretched fingertips reaching for each other (remember “Apollo”?) gets projected – a sort of different (very different) apotheosis of immortal love.
Photos: all copyright: Jürgen Frahm)
Daniel Asher Smith (Romeo) and Liliya Markina (Juliette) and the company.
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