sábado, septiembre 19, 2009

Mixed bag of modern ballet, rococo opera and piano music

Modern ballet seems to have a dearth of first-rate choreographers the world over. True, we don´t get many visits from abroad nowadays, but it´s been ages since really inspired dance creators have been here: Pina Bausch, the first Béjart, Neumeier, Kylian in his first visit, Nikolais, the Pilobolus group, José Limón, the Martha Graham group. .

The Mozarteum has brought to us recently at the Coliseo the Ballet Biarritz directed by its choreographer Thierry Malandain. They premiered "Le Sang des Étoiles" ("The Blood of Stars"), a 70-minute piece in thirteen parts. It is a curious mixture of Greek myth and contemporary ecological concern. The music comes from two different fields: six songs by Gustav Mahler and seven light selections featuring Johann Strauss II (two polkas, "the" waltz – yes, "The Blue Danube"- and a march), Waldteufel (the "España" waltz) and Minkus (the famous ballet of "The Shadows" from "La Bayadère", currently being performed complete at the Teatro Argentino). It isn´t the first time that I find it irksome to use sung material of very definite connotations for completely irrelevant dancing, but Malandain really exaggerates; just one instance, the grotesque lack of rapport between the metaphysical content of "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" ("I am leaving this world") and what is narrated on stage. When the choreography is playful and has apposite music, the results are pleasant enough, though the dance steps have little personality; but when it tries to be profound it ends up being merely pretentious. It does have a tender episode when the dancers have bear suits and somehow mimic the Petipa corps de ballet in Minkus with gangling charm. And the thirteen very cosmopolitan dancers (few are Basque), following the globalization trend, are generally quite good and disciplined, though with very different physiques.

The Colón´s Center for Experimentation presented at the Teatro del Globo "La hija del enfermero" ("The male nurse´s daughter"), a choreographic tale by Carlos Trunsky using the extended score that John Cage called "Four Walls" as musical support. The key to this strange mixture is the phrase Trunsky puts as subtitle: "And if Nature were also an invention?" He imagines a homoerotic relationship between a male nurse and a dying man out of which comes the birth of the daughter. It is very much in line with current obsessions about sexual diversity but seen through a fantastic philter. The strong dichotomy between what one sees and one hears bothered me; indeed, Cage composed it for Merce Cunningham in 1944; it was played only once. The hand programme doesn´t specify the content of the Cunningham piece, but that choreographer (recently deceased) was extremely ascetic and believed in pure choreographic lines with no narrative sense; however, he was very young then and his ideas weren´t fully matured, so maybe some dramatic ideas were there. The music is strictly diatonic (only white keys), repetitive, with big silences and ostinatos. It isn´t my cup of tea, but I must admit that Cage almost never is. It was splendidly played by Haydée Schvartz.

Trunsky is discreet in his depiction of the couple´s love; his choreography sometimes is quite expressive, though there are plenty of typical contemporary trademarks. I especially liked the movements of the child (not a baby), with the right ludic, improvisatory and disjointed quality. And I found the scene of the patient´s death tasteful and moving. The dancers were excellent: Leandro Tolosa and María Kuhmichel. The patient was played by Gaby Ferro with adequate introspection, and in the only vocal interlude he sang accurately in an agreeable pop voice. With a spare but well considered stage design and functional costumes, Marta Albertinazzi did a professional job; so did Eli Sirlin in the lighting.

The Colón Institute of Art put on at the Golden Hall of the Casa de la Cultura a welcome rarity: "La schiava liberata" ("The liberated slave"), composed by Niccolò Jommelli in 1768 on an intricate libretto by Gaetano Martinelli. The composer was at the time very successful in a style midway between the Baroque and Early Classicism, and indeed he was a model for the teenager Mozart of "Mitridate Re di Ponto". This is the first time that one of his operas is premiered here, and I found it worthwhile. The semistaged performance used mostly makeup and costumes to suggest the eighteenth century traits; it was a nice production by Lizzie Waisse. The small instrumental group, which included two musicians from Boston, was stylishly conducted by Bruno D´Astoli. The whole thing showed the sure hand of Jeffrey Gall, visiting us for the fourth time as general coordinator, and of Igor Herzog in the musical coaching. Among the singers I especially liked Verónica Julio, Jaquelina Livieri and Sebastián Angulegui, but the others were in the picture: Andrea Maragno, Gabriela Ceaglio, Laura Domínguez, Emanuel Esteban (as the "gracioso") and Christian Casaccio (a bit strained).

Csarmen Piazzini gave a model recital for Festivales Musicales at the Auditorio de Belgrano, honoring both Haydn and Mendelssohn (respectively two hundred years of his death and his birth). Always a distinguished player, she is now an admirable exponent of both composers: an uncanny precision and a well-ordered mind that phrases unerringly with just the right turn of phrase. From Haydn, Sonatas Nº 40, 42 and 50; from Mendelssohn, seven of his "Songs without words" and those marvelous "Serious Variations".

For Buenos Aires Herald

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