2017 Junge Choreographen des Wiener Staatsballets

May 23rd, 2017 § 0

Often Choreo.lab is the ballet highlight of the season at Vienna State Opera. Choreo.lab was originally the brainchild of Vienna Ballet Club founder Ingeborg Tichy-Luger and Staatsoper director Renato Zanella whose first edition took place in 2003. I’ve been fortunate to see each Choreo.lab since 2004 (I believe it was the second one) with full photo essays for many of them. 2017 is another Choreo.lab year (it seems to take place every second year now instead of every year).

Since French étoile Manuel Legris took over the reins at Staatsoper, he’s insisted on rebranding Choreolab as the rather dull “Junge Choreographen des Wiener Staatsballets”. Vienna ballet lovers remain grateful for his enthusiastic support under its new moniker.

Ingeborg-Tichy-Luger-Choreolab-2017
Ingeborg Tichy-Luger founder of choreo.lab and Vienna Ballet Club

2017 Junge Choreographen des Wiener Staatsballets Continues »

Wiener Volksoper: Eifman’s Red Giselle a Triumph

May 6th, 2017 § 0

Giselle-Rouge-Red-Kommissar-with-Giselle-Vladimir-Shishova-Nina-Polakova
Giselle-Rouge-Red-Kommissar-with-Giselle-Vladimir-Shishova-Nina-Polakova

There are few companies in the world who can pull off the first scene of Red Giselle. Boris Eifman puts eight princes on stage in glittering classic princely raimant and eight princesses in exquisite white tutus.

It’s a hallucinigenic and disorienting spectacle to face that many principal dancers at the same time, each dancing his or her grand role. Staatsoper is a particularly beautiful ballet company with the men for the most part fine featured and long limbed. The Staatsoper corps-de-ballet women are slim, soft curved and graceful. Thanks to their pretty faces and fine dancing skills the illusion of eight princes and eight Giselles convinces.

Staatsoper is a better match than Eifman’s own company for Red Giselle as the Staatsoper dancers perform the classics every week and are prettier. Eifman’s own group are a bit shorter and more muscular – primarily modern dancers.

Red Giselle’s story follows a principal ballerina who abandons her choreographer director husband in the early years of the Russian Revolution for a fling with a Red Kommissar. Initially her plans were for a short affair but the black coated kommissar is not prepared to let her go.

Wiener Volksoper: Eifman's Red Giselle a Triumph Continues »

Review: Ballett-Hommage Forsythe | Horecna | Lander at Vienna Staatsoper

December 15th, 2013 § 0

The evening opens with Forsythe’s The Second Detail. When we see works like this, it’s clear Forsythe is such a great choreographer and his current strange experiments become even less comprehensible and more astonishing. But few people cared for Stravinski’s music in the 1920 so perhaps it’s we who just don’t understand.

Horecna Contra Clockwise Witness 1
Horecna Contra Clockwise Witness 1

The Second Detail opens up with a huge bright grey rehearsal space with just the words THE at the front. Thin white horizontal lines dividge the strange into precise grids. The dancers are in the same grey as the floor. I’m not quite sure why Apple is getting away with suing Samsung for packaging as Forsythe had the iPhone and MacBook Air boxing under control back in 1991 in Frankfurt. This is an early great work.

Vienna State Ballet company looks great dancing Forsythe these days. Under Legris, they’ve acquired both the élan necessary and the discipline necessary to put it all together. Strangely, the men have improved more than the women (who have been excellent as along as I’ve been in Vienna). Particularly notable is strongman Vladimir Shiskov but Mihail Sosnovichi also delivers an imposing performance while Eno Peci and Alexis Forbasco look good too. All of the men have developed powerful lower bodies and are a joy to watch.

Review: Ballett-Hommage Forsythe | Horecna | Lander at Vienna Staatsoper Continues »

Marchenwelt Ballett at Vienna’s Volksoper: A Fairy Tale Evening

October 19th, 2013 § 2

Volkoper plays an interesting role in the arts life of the Austrian capital. Viennese love both their operetta and their comic ballet and Volksoper must feed this sweet tooth.

Often the works are either historic pieces or imported. This year Volksoper ballet director Vesna Orlic and Staatsoper dancer and choreographer Andrey Kaydanovsky have collaborated on a new program called Marchenwelt or Fairy Tale World. The two parts are unified by dramatic Russian music, first Modest Mussorgski’s Pictures from an Exhibition and then Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scherezade.

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Boris Eder’s brilliant turn as the Genie stuck in a lantern in Orlic’s 1001 Nights

Kaydanovsky has contemporised The Ugly Duckling for his fairy tale. His version includes high fives, industrial agriculture and sport hunting with rifles. And why not? Fairy tales should be timeless.

Marchenwelt Ballett at Vienna's Volksoper: A Fairy Tale Evening Continues »

Staatsoper Nureyev Gala: Kourlaev and Tsymbal Shine in Mayerling

June 30th, 2013 § 0

Galas are often long affairs. And this one was no exception. Manuel Legris was fortunate to be mentored in his early dance career by Rudolf Nureyev during his reign at the Paris Opera. There is a Nureyev gala in Paris and now there is one in Vienna. I still question whether it makes sense to so honour someone who recklessly infected others with HIV but I do understand Legris’s attachment to the teacher who gave him so much.

The evening opened with a fine excerpt from La Sylphide with full decorations, with Maria Yakovleva in the eponymous title role and Masayu Kimoto as her partner. While La Sylphide is always easier to watch in its entirety both were very good and the corps-de-ballet looked good too. An auspicious start.

Staatsoper Nureyev Gala: Kourlaev and Tsymbal Shine in Mayerling Continues »

Volksoper Ballet: Carmina Burana – Afternoon of a Faun – Bolero

March 2nd, 2012 § 1

Afternoon of a Faun, Bolero and Carmina Burana are Volksopera’s dance corps chance to shine outside the shadow of the main ballet.

Afternoon with a Faun immediately brings memories of Nijinski, the famous photograph. It’s a dangerous standard to lance against. Choreographer Boris Nebyla has never lacked courage and plunges straight in. The stage is spare with just four white ceiling to floor breaking the all black stage, light slips through from behind. At the front of the stage, Mihail Sosnovschi poses front foot under him back leg extended. His powerful physique impresses right away. Sosnovschi strikes a series of poses to Debussy’s music, sometimes balletic, sometimes more from a bodybuilder’s show.

Faun2
Faun: Mihail Sosnovschi

At this point, one is optimistic about the duet to come. Lovely Brazilian Tainá Ferreira Luiz creeps across the back of the stage between the columns. Her hair is dyed a flaming red and she is clad in a flesh toned body suit.

The pair now pose together and interact in some sort of flirt. It’s all strangely sexless though. From here Afternoon of a Faun just meanders. There’s a hint of hope for some flames when Luiz with her legs extended backwards and on her stomach with Sosnovoschi above juts her hips into the floor three times, as if making love but it’s just a tiny spark in a very tasteful but too benign Afternoon of a Faun.

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Faun: Tainá Ferreira Luiz & Mihail Sosnovschi

Bolero is the creation of András Lukács, Hungarian wunderkind of the Harangozo’s regime. Lukács is almost all grown up now and toils no more for choreolab but for the main stage. No excuses now.

In tackling Bolero, once again the choreographer is taking the measure of a musical work greater in the imagination than anything he or she could create.

Volksoper Ballet: Carmina Burana - Afternoon of a Faun - Bolero Continues »

Choreolab 12 review: Junge Choreographen Des Wiener Staatsballetts

March 2nd, 2012 § 0

Between-Two-Worlds-Maxime-Quiroga-02a
Between-Two-Worlds-Maxime-Quiroga

So many people put so much into Choreo.lab to make it happen, to finance it, to create it. Vintner Hvram, every year brings up some of the finest cuvées from Burgenland. From the ambassador’s wives to the professors in the audience, Ingeborg Tichy Luger is a lady very precise in her gratitude. I thought all our grateful hands might fall off when we were done clapping for everyone present and everyone who contributed. Tip to the producer: group the people and fire through the names in a group and let us clap louder for four or five names together.

This year under Choreo.lab under the aegis of Staatsoper and ballet artistic director Manuel Legris was even more ambitious than usual with a full nine pieces in two acts, including two from Fabrizio Coppo.

Choreo.lab veteran Samuel Colombet opened the evening with a Balanchinesque bit of neoclassicism. The costumes were unusually good, splendidly draped white over four beautiful dancers Ionna Avraam, Iliana Chivarova, Erika Kovacova and Rui Tamai. In particular, Ms. Avraam was in spectacular form. One could also see why Manuel Legris promoted Erika Kovacova to the main stage from Volksopera. In line, she is like the top Paris Opera dancers. Her dancing is very smooth, but a certain absence of snap and a weak jump break the illusion you might be watching a younger Elisabeth Platel.

As accomplished and lovely as Columbet’s distaff contingent, his men were extraordinarily beautiful led by a dramatic Martin Winter. Young Felipe Vieira is like a confection, with almond roasted skin and cherub mouth. Gleb Sheilov did not stand out but supported his comrades well.

The difficulty with Columbet’s Oktett is in the end was the easiniess of some of the choices: a concerto from Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy is a certain crowd pleaser. The splendid lifts and accomplished steps and bare torsos of handsome men almost cannot fail to delight a ballet audience. In the end, after Oktett one has enormously enjoyed what one has seen but little remains.

Choreolab 12 review: Junge Choreographen Des Wiener Staatsballetts Continues »

La Sylphide, Vienna Staastoper 2011: Manuel Legris and Irina Tsymbal

October 26th, 2011 § 3

La Sylphide is one of the easiest ballets to perform and one of the most difficult ballets to get perfect. The dangers of La Sylphide are multiple:

  • the Scottish setting can seem very campy
  • adequate stagecraft to preserve a sense of wonder
  • the music can come across as thin and grating
  • sufficiently large, gifted and beautiful corps-de-ballet
  • the male audience can fail to fall in love with La Sylphide
  • the women in the public fail to identify with Effie
  • the women in the public can wonder what Effie sees in James

Manuel Legris has gotten it all right with Wiener Staatsoper ballet.

Irina Tsymbal as La Sylphide
Irina Tsymbal as La Sylphide
All photos courtesy & © Max Moser

The decors are very sober, even a little bit drab. You feel inside a Scottish manor somewhere in the Highlands. Yet all the space of the huge Vienna State Opera stage is all there for the variations. In the second act the woods were tremendous and airy.

The small touches of stagecraft were a delight. Sylphides flying across the stage at 15 metres above the stage, Sylphides perched in the branches of the trees, La Sylphide disappearing vertically up the chimney or disappearing instantly into the floor.

The Staatsoper orchestra was in fine form, particularly in the overture which was sufficiently lyrical and touching that one wishes a recording. Through the rest of the ballet the performance was usually very good but the limits of the score were sometimes felt and the music hinted of military marching band. Still I’m far from sure one can do better without reorchestration.

Staatsoper corps de ballet La Sylphide
Staatsoper corps de ballet La Sylphide

Manuel Legris has continued to work wonders with the splendid corps-de-ballet that his predessor Harangoza so paintakingly built. There are no less than 23 additional sylphides on stage in the second act. The whole corps-de-ballet looked great. There are small moments of synchronicity to perfect, but it is the premiere after all. There are few over-rehearsed ballet companies left in the world and Vienna Staatsopera ballet is not one of them.

Irina Tsymbal tears of La Sylphide
Irina Tsymbal tears of La Sylphide

Irina Tsymbal is a perfect Sylphide. Her pallid complexion and somewhat tragic demeanor finds its natural home. Tsymbal can portray imperious roles as well. She is a very versatile ballerina. But La Sylphide is the most natural fit of all for her.

After the performance, Manuel Legris elevated Irina Tsymbal to First Soloist. It is good to see Legris keep an open mind about dancers. Initially, he planned to release Tsymbal before his first season as what he saw in rehearsal hadn’t impressed him. Fortunately a good fairy told him that Tsymbal’s talents flame on stage and not at the bar. If Legris can remain open to talent like this, he has a long and bright career as a director ahead of him.

Effie is a more difficult role. Danced with sufficient flair, James enchantment with La Sylphide would make no sense. Nina Polakova is almost as lyric a ballerina as Irina Tsymbal, with less of Tysmbal’s undercurrents of dangerous passion. As Effie she very deliberately curbs her charms to become a real girl, in love with her man but more cheerful than deep, trusting than passionate.

Roman Lazik Irina Tsymbal La Sylphide
Roman Lazik Irina Tsymbal La Sylphide

As James, Roman Lazik is in his element. James is the ordinary guy caught in a remote fantasy. Lazik plays James as a good old boy more than a dreamer. Still, in the second act, he struggles as one feels the the emotion is not in his bones. While Lazik is a very handsome man and a very correct classical dancer and an attentive partner, he lacks a certain passion.

With a truly charismatic and masculine dancer in the role of James – Sergei Filin from the Bolshoi comes to mind – the men identify strongly with James and the women understand and feel both for Effie and La Sylphide. Lazik didn’t fail to move us, but didn’t move us as much as I’d like. This single weakness explains to me why the audience reception was enthusiastic and not ecstastic. I hope we will see Vladimir Shishov in the role of James.

Andrey Kaydanovskiy as Madge
Andrey Kaydanovskiy as Madge

We did see some great performances in secondary roles: Andrei Kaydonovsky was truly wicked as Madge. The pantomine was writ large but he pushed through it with sufficient abandon that we believed in her evil. His movement remained strong but feminine.

Kamil Pavelka was a resolute and sufficiently antagonistic Gurn. One felt his contempt for his friend who was half heartedly stealing the woman he loved. Pavelka is the kind of dancer who is perfect in the secondary role, although I’m not sure how well he’d carry a prince.

The Scottish kilt complemented Mihail Sosnovichi’s shape and gave him more traditional proportions, which along with a good leap and his usual energy helped both Sosnovichi and his partner Maria Alati to an invigorating pas de deux as the young newlyweds.

Mihail Sosnovichi Maria Alatii
Mihail Sosnovichi Maria Alatii
Solo Sylphides Alena Klochova Marie Claire d Lyse Andrea Nemethova
Solo Sylphides Alena Klochova Marie Claire d Lyse Andrea Nemethova

The solo Sylphides – Marie-Claire D’Lyse, Alena Klochova, Andrea Némethová – were very good but perhaps a little bit too heroic. Super Sylphides, I would call them. But why must Sylphides always be frail.

Manuel Legris brought in excellent pedagogues: himself and Elisabeth Platel. Gradually he is pulling Vienna up to the level of Opéra de Paris. The danger is too much success and perhaps Paris will be calling him back too soon for Vienna’s good.

On the whole La Sylphide earns a 9 out of 10. If I hadn’t seen Sergei Filin dance James, perhaps I’d give La Sylphide 2011 at Vienna Staatsoper a perfect 10.


Special thanks to Max Moser for his ever excellent dance and theater photos. You can book Max’s services at PhotobyMM.com. His full gallery of La Sylphide.