lunes, octubre 29, 2012

From Neoclassic ballet to stark operatic drama

            Last year the Colón Ballet offered a Neoclassic trilogy. This season their Directress, Lidia Segni, is offering a second trilogy. With no foreign guests, it was a good demonstration of the current quality of the home dancers and fortunately the verdict is quite positive. I don´t agree with the repetition of the first piece, "Marguerite and Armand", the Frederick Ashton choreography telling the story of the Lady of the Camelias; for those who saw last year´s trilogy, it was a duplication. But it is a reasonable assumption in Neoclassic terms of the famous sad Romantic tale; originally created as a vehicle for Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, to make its full effect it needs stronger personalities than Natalia Pelayo and Juan Pablo Ledo (there was a double cast, I saw the performance on October 17), but they certainly danced very well. The plot is faithfully followed and the music is Liszt´s mighty Sonata in an arrangement by Dudley Simpson in which the orchestra merely supports the piano, always the protagonist. Martín Miranda gave some character to the Father, although he looked too young, whilst Sergio Hochbaum as the Duke, "protector" of Marguerite, had to bear a wig that made him too old to be believable. In the "social scenes" a covey of eight dancers were Marguerite´s admirers. The uncredited stage and costumes designs were tasteful, as was the lighting of Rubén Conde. Iván Rutkauskas played splendidly  and curiously, Carlos Bertazza, Assistant Conductor of the Phil, was at the helm of the Orquesta Estable.
            Frankly, I saw little Neoclassic in  the strangely called "Fug@ technica", a choreography by the young Belgian Éric Frédéric on minimalist music by Alexander Balanescu. I didn´t like the repetitive music, led by Balanescu himself on the upper stage, plus Freddy Varela Montero (violin),Stanimir Todorov (cello), Mario Fiocca (viola) and Daniel Bugallo (percussion). But the dancing moves of this local premiere were brilliant, very imaginative and dynamic, with mostly modern steps plus some token academic ones ironically mixed. I enjoyed myself with the energetic and perfectly controlled execution of the difficult, even acrobatic steps by the talented young dancers, featuring Carla Vincelli and Ledo plus several duos and solos by other artists.  Movements in and out of the stage were yuxtaposed with quicksilver lightness and rapidity. It was plain that there is strong renovation; in the listing of the members of the Colón Ballet there are no less than 23 reinforcements. I recently read in a report by the Auditors of the Colón that the law under which a dancer can retire after 20 years of service is in force; why, then, is the Ballet full of people that largely pass the 40-year mark? But to come back to this piece, it was a success. The utilitarian costumes by Vittoria Bergallo worked well in this context, as did Conde´s lighting. 
            The other premiere, "Before Nightfall", used the motoric, attractive music of Martinu´s Double Concerto for two string orchestras, piano and timpani, quite well played by the Estable under Bertazza. It is certainly one of the best ballets of the prolific Dutch choreographer Nils Christe, and this was pure Neoclassic at its best: three Pas de deux and a Pas de six of perfect harmony and correspondence with the music, with a purity of line almost Balanchinian. With a very suggestive blue stage design by Thomas Rupert amd lovely costumes of the same color by Annegien Sneep (who also put on the Christe choreography) and very adequate lighting by Conde, this was a quality presentation. And it was very beautifully danced by all concerned. 
            In total contrast, the revival of Gerardo Gandini´s chamber opera "La casa sin sosiego" was a starkly dramatic and necessary event. On a libretto by Griselda Gambaro that is both cogent, intense, intelligent and allusive, this metaphore about our "desaparecidos" was staged at the Centro Cultural Haroldo Conti, the most symbolic of all places, as it is the ex-ESMA. I had been present at its premiere twenty years ago at the Teatro General San Martín, and I was impressed then, but this performance now moved me deeply. The 70-minute, one-act opera mixes spoken and sung fragments, and as an example of Post-Modernism it combines the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice with the horror of that "casa sin sosiego" where Teresa was imprisoned and then "disappeared". Juan (a spoken role) wants to bring her back. 
            Gandini´s extremely subtle and beautiful music quotes the passage from Monteverdi´s Orfeo in which the Messaggiera tells Orpheus about Eurydice´s death and resignifies it in lovely madrigal-like groups. Teresa´s music is bare and tragic. Three Women, one of them doubling as Ruth, a tenor in a double role (Fool/Orpheus), and a baritone in three parts (Man, bartender, guard) complete the roster. Many of Gambaro´s phrases stay in the mind hours after attending the opera, reminders of repressive times (but I like my history complete and I don´t forget, as so many do, that terrorists are also part of what shouldn´t come back). Marvelously expressed by a strong cast led by Oriana Favaro, with Mauch a sensitive actor (Juan), Alejandro Spies a virulent Guard, Pablo Pollitzer a convincing Fool/Orpheus ; Cecilia Mazzufero and Nadia Szachniuk (sopranos) and Cecilia Arellano (mezzosoprano), plus the ten-member instrumental group Compañía Oblicua under Marcelo Delgado The staging by Pablo Maritano was strong and true. 
For Buenos Aires Herald

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