Artiklar från 2008 – till idag

Artiklar från 2008 – till idag

Yolanda Correa and Yoel Carreño in The Firebird by Liam Scarlett. Photo Erik Berg

Yolanda Correa and Yoel Carreño in The Firebird by Liam Scarlett. Photo Erik Berg

The Norwegian National Ballet: A visit to Fokine’s World

OSLO: In Fokine’s World is a highly ambitious programme, the first under new director Ingrid Lorentzen’s curation, and in it the Norwegian National Ballet celebrates the future while acknowledging the past.

The programme of five new choreographies is an opportunity to display the versatility of the company and offers a slew of performances to treasure.

Two major works sandwich a trio of very short works. Both Alan Lucien Øyen’s Petrushka and Liam Scarlett’s The Firebird used the Stravinsky scores – for Firebird the longer 1910 version – and both remained close in narrative and musical structure to the traditional ballets.

Øyen is scoring with his theatricality and Scarlett with his choreography. However each enriched the dance content making strong use of the exceptional dual technical base of the company who move from classical
to contemporary with ease.

Daniel Proietto as Petrushka. Photo Erik Berg

Daniel Proietto as Petrushka. Photo Erik Berg

Working with set designer, Åsmund Færavaag, Øyen has created a veritable maelstrom of life in the fairground with characters ranging from a bridal party to the funeral procession for a child and interspersed with lovers, policeman, drunken sailors and drag queens.

This huge slice of life highlights the many parts each of us play and is referenced in the clown-like make-up for the ensemble. The crowd milling between the tall, moveable plinths are in constant flux, the action peppered with bursts of technical brilliance and all expertly directed by Øyen.

The theme is expressed in the opening front-cloth scene as an actor voices Shakespeare’s words, ‘All the world’s a play’. In an intimate moment, the Charlatan, (a hugely impressive performance from Ole Willy Falkhaugen), applies red rouge to the white cheeks of a passive and willing Petrushka played by Daniel Proietto.

In the role Proietto uses his extraordinary fluid body as well as his interpretive skills to create a Petruska of true pathos. A sad loser, he is not without spunk but constantly wrong footed by fate. His limbs seem at times most truly like a puppet’s; hooked on at the joints as he crumbles to the floor in a heap. But as suddenly he flexes his muscles to execute a leap or pirouette.

This contrast is most vividly shown when dancing opposite the Moor, Osiel Gouneo, his rival in love. Cuban trained Gouneo has technical wizardry at his fingertips and is given every opportunity to exploit his bag of tricks while also drawing out the character’s arrogance and self obsession.

The ballet, Petrushka, in both Fokine’s original and Øyen’s new version, hinges on the ambiguity of the puppet/ human but I would have liked the dichotomy to have been more clearly directed. In a cleverly devised setting we see the Charlatan carry each ‘puppet’ onto the stage but as they move into action it is only Petrushka who maintains his dual identity. In choreography and in interpretation both Moor and Ballerina, a sweet and smiley Chihiro Nomura, seem totally human, albeit stereotyped.

The climax in Fokine’s version as the Charlatan tosses the ‘doll’ into the air only to be confronted by Petrushka’s soul was made less telling without a similar reference and Proietto’s final appearance at the high aperture, despite his artistry, was not able to convey the same poignancy.

Nevertheless there is much to enjoy in Øyen’s Petrushka – the vibrant theatricality and wealth of good dance from the company.

Yoel Carreño and Emma Lloyd in The Firebird, stage design Jon Bausor. Photo Erik Berg

Yoel Carreño and Emma Lloyd in The Firebird, stage design Jon Bausor. Photo Erik Berg

Liam Scarlett’s Firebird, his first ballet for the company, has his hallmarks of intense musicality and finely crafted choreography and Jon Bausor’s set is nothing short of magnificent. Centred on a huge silver tree embroidered with a tracery of filigree leaves, and roots that become an evil clawed hand as the drama unfolds, it operates on many levels and includes a high, cave like entrance for Firebird.

James Farncombe’s lighting filters through in Rembrandtesque rays igniting the brilliant red scales of Koschei cloak; so skilfully constructed that is seems to have a life of its own. Scarlett has lost nothing of the drama of this fabulous tale.

The Firebird, Yolanda Correa, imperious and beautiful, finds an alter ego in Koschei played by Aarne Kristian Ruutu, here dancing at his brilliant best. No longer an ancient evil creature, he is portrayed as young and powerful but on the losing side in the battle and doomed to defeat to complete the fable.

Camilla Spidsøe in Cygne by Daniel Proietto. Photo Erik Berg

Camilla Spidsøe in Cygne by Daniel Proietto. Photo Erik Berg

Using the longer score has given Scarlett the space to develop two long, and intensely beautiful duets. The first with Firebird and Koschei is full of contradictions. They spar but are drawn together by their desire; Firebird snuzzling her head tenderly on his shoulder before turning her back in a razor sharp arabesque. Scarlett has found a wealth of innovation in the pairing while retaining a spark of the original Fokine as Correa strikes a memorable Karsarvina pose.

The second duet for the lovers, Prince Ivan and the Princess, is more conventional in theme, it nonetheless also explores new choreographic territory. Emma Lloyd and Yoel Carreño as the royal pair fulfil all romantic expectations: she the beautiful blonde and he the noble warrior. Upgrading the footware from character pumps to pointe shoes gives the freedom to develop a full blown classical pas de deux which the two dancers exploit to the full.

In the battle for Koschei’s soul Scarlett maintains all the drama of the original in his choreography. The egg, a creation of Fabergé splendour, is captured by Firebird but it is the Princess who strikes the mortal blow smashing it to the ground to secure her freedom and win her Prince. In an extraordinarily touching final moment, Firebird, alone on the stage, draws Kostchei’s amazing red cloak over his dead body. This was true theatre magic.

Ole Willy Falkhaugen and Camilla Spidsøe in Scheherazade. Photo Erik Berg

Ole Willy Falkhaugen and Camilla Spidsøe in Scheherazade. Photo Erik Berg

Safely sandwiched between these two were the more radical experimental works. Daniel Proietto now wearing his choreographer’s hat went to the source for his twenty-first century Cygne. Flickering monochrome images à la Pavlova foregrounding the dancer who bourrees on a dimly lit stage wearing a reconstruction of the original feathery tutu.

Proietto, searching for the soul of the work. has created an intriguing and very moving solo for Camilla Spidsøe. The choreography hovers on the knife-edge between the exquisite and the grotesque, capturing both the diva and the death. In Spidsøe, Proietto has found a perfect interpreter, her face and body equally alive to the poetry.

Despite the many references to the original, Proietto has commissioned new music from Olga Wojciechowska and introduced a boy soprano, Andreas J. Augustinius, who sings the opening stanza of Tennyson’s eponymous poem. In gauche movements he expresses a child’s fascination and fear in the presence of death and adds further poignancy to this multi-layered and memorable work.

Grete Sofie Borud Nybakken and Kári Freyr Bjørnsson in Daphnis et Chloë. Photo Erik Berg

Grete Sofie Borud Nybakken and Kári Freyr Bjørnsson in Daphnis et Chloë. Photo Erik Berg

Camilla Spidsøe in partnership with a powerful Falkhaugen, gave a second thrilling performance in Ina Christel Johannessen’s Scheherazade.

Rejecting the lush orientalism of the original, while retaining sections of Rimsky-Korsakov’s sensual score, Johannessen explores a more contemporary relationship between the man and woman.

The duet was not without interest and the performances were intense but the focus was deflected in the complexity of the issues that were tackled in the so short a work. 

Shades of religious extremism, references to stoning and holy books unfortunately detracted from the emotional content.

Ingun Bjørnsgaard’s double duet, Daphnis and Chloe was more successful in portraying the lovers’ liaison. The central duet was truly ravishing with credit both to the choreographer and a riveting performance from Grete Sofie Borud Nybakken. A newcomer to the company, she has the charisma to make the simplest gesture speak and in the cut and thrust of Bjørnsgaard’s sensual choreography she, together with Kári F Bjørnsson, made a thrilling duo.

The second couple Lisa Nielsen and Marco Pagetti, more earthy and athletic, made a neat contrast.

It was a substantial programme not least for the musicians who had a marathon evening in the pit led by the indefatigable John Helmer Fiore. Evenings at the ballet don’t come much more exciting than this.

Maggie Foyer
7 Oct 2013

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