Columnists can go back to recommending books (above grade six level) for the president of the United States and hope that he could read them.
In what seems to be an endless tour at Wiener Staatsoper of masterworks from great choreographers of the 1970’s, the latest premiere brings us Die Fledermaus, a.k.a. La Chauve-souris from maestro Roland Petit.
Roland Petit brings his Chauvre Souris to Staatsoper:
85 years old and hard at work and happy
Early retirement is heavily overrated
La Chauve-souris is a particularly amusing example of how cultural cross-pollination can go full circle.
Mr. Petit’s inspiration for La Chauve-souris was an operetta by Johann Straus (Jr.), the famous waltz king. Die Fledermaus is part of Austrian folklore, televised every year at New Year’s on the national television station. Mr. Petit transposed Die Fledermaus’s scenes at the ball to Paris’s own Maxim’s. This production is the first visit of the ballet version of Die Fledermaus to Vienna.
At the heart, the story remains the same. A man with a beautiful wife has grown too accustomed to her, as men do, even bored. Johann’s wife Bella solicits her husband’s attention to no avail. He prefers even the newspaper to her company. In evening however Johann has other plans. He likes to slip out to Maxim’s to dance, flirt and even seduce.
While Johann is ignoring her, Bella – as attractive women, married or not, always do – has an admirer. In this case, the admirer is their children’s tutor Ulrich.
When Johann has disappeared to Maxim’s, Bella calls Ulrich to the house. Ulrich sees his chance and goes in for the kill, hoping to seduce Bella the same evening. But for the moment, Bella cannot bring herself to betray her husband. Ulrich has a backup plan – to disguise Bella and take her out to Maxim’s where she can see Johann’s womanizing for herself.
Ulrich’s hidden agenda is that when Bella has seen Johann’s infidelity, she will be easy prey for Ulrich himself.
The Vienna State Opera ballet has a new Artistic Director.
He is a familiar name to connaisseurs of European ballet, Manuel Legris. Manuel Legris has been one of the top men at the Paris Opéra since the 1980’s.
He has danced everything from all the classics, through George Balanchine, John Cranko (Onegin), Sir Kenneth MacMillan (Manon’s Story), Twyla Tharp, John Neumeier (La Dame aux Camélias), William Forsythe Juri Kylian (Il ne faut q’une porte), Trisha Brown (O zlozony / O composite: Legris came to Vienna’s ImPulsTanz with this), Angelin Preljocaj (Le Parc) even to Vienna Statsoper’s own Renato Zanella (Angel, Alles Waltz).
I cite all these choreographers names – most of them worked with Manuel Legris at the Paris Opéra – as this amazing cross-section of dance makers is exactly what Monsieur Legris brings to the Staatsoper: a first hand familiarity with the best choreographers of the last forty years.
As a classically trained dancer in a classical company, Monsieur Legris knows how to integrate contemporary choreography into the heart of a classical company. The Paris Opéra should be the model for all classical companies today: a vibrant classical repertoire combined with the very pinnacle of contemporary choreographry.
In good fiction, one is forced to examine others lives in close up. Seeing others’ lives should be enough to remind us how much remains to be done.