The flute was there but MAGIC gone
Posted 03 November 2003 - 07:58 AM
Last Saturday I was amongst those people considering themselves lucky to attend the all-Canadian premier of the BALLET Magic Flute performed by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. I thought I had all the reasons to anticipate a fascinating brilliant spectacle – as all the fliers had pictures of ballet characters dressed in the most unusual colorful costumes, the way it is supposed to be when one thinks of MAGIC FLUTE.
I was very lucky to have attended the OPERA Magic Flute, staged in Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia back in March 2001 by a brilliant young lady from Sweden (her Russian was just as brilliant, too, I’d like to add). The impression of that performance I attended almost three years ago is still fresh, fragrant and alive in my memory – costumes, decorations, divine Mozart’s music and divine voices, great acting and dedication of the singers. It was a true celebration of divinity of Mozart’s genius in his music and of all of the best in the human nature when it arises so high up it almost reaches divinity.
Could I be blamed for expecting too much when I was looking forward to yet another festive brilliant performance delivered this time by a Royal Winnipeg Ballet? The brief introductory speech delivered by the company artistic director has promised something very modern (such comments always make me wonder and wary – it sends a message that Mozart is not really “modern enough” and is better digested by “modern” people if spiced up with some bits of “contemporary culture”. Hmmm, in this case those poor souls better stick to coke and football on TV if Mozart’s operas are hard to swallow and digest for them. Mozart’s creations are perfect and fresh as they are and they WILL stay like that for ever and ever (AMEN!) – the way they were created back several centuries ago, that what distinguishes Mozart’s divine creations from so very popular and modern Ricky Martins and Christinas Aguilieras pop hits).
This long preambula is just to backup my story here: after first few minutes after the show began (excuse me but to call what was going on on the stage A BALLET would be a very strong exaggeration) – using Mozart’s Magic Flute as a soundtrack and sort of as a story behind the show, it was strikingly stripped of any kind of decorations, the costumes that the characters on stage wore – were anything but those presented on the fliers and the choreography itself was so startlingly non-existent – I could figure that pirouette attitude was the choreographer’s favorite move as it was repeated endlessly by virtually all characters on stage, and numerous other types of pirouettes were following one after another after another barely giving the performers a good chance to complete each move and pas neatly and clearly (which I have always believed was an important part of a real ballet). Male corps-de-ballet wore jeans and jackets – and one would be surprised: there wasn’t much they could do in terms of performing any pas involving above-the-average technique while doing any a-la-seconds or grand jete.
Nothing, virtually nothing in the characters’ costumes, choreography and the whole picture of the show was giving a slightest association with Mozart, Mozart’s music, Mozart’s era and idea of art in that period. That show was giving a very strong impression that the people who were behind it were decidedly ignorant (or maybe just illiterate) of all the treasures and delicacies which could be derived from that very bold idea of creating THE MAGIC FLUTE BALLET.
Just one “great” idea of endless rear-end slapping on-stage has made me feel disgusted and wanting to leave immediately as it resembled more to a cheap circus show than to a high art of ballet and opera (or am I missing out here on those very “modernizing” parts of the ballet which were supposed to “upgrade” the “outdated” Mozart’s art “up” to the heights of “modern ballet admirers”????). The only reason that stopped me from leaving after the few minutes when the show began was that there were people sitting on my way, so I decided to wait it out and leave during the intermission. What I eventually ended up doing was just to look away from the stage and enjoy the recorded opera that was played – not to spoil the divine harmony of music and truly divine sounds of opera singers.
So the bottom line here – it was a cheap trick to play: to strip one of the most complex, beautifully thought and decorated Mozart’s operas of virtually everything – its costumes, decorations, the characters on stage lacked any hints of characters and on the top of all those “surprises” – to boldly claim it to be a BALLET, whereas ballet as such was non-existent (unorganized sequences of poorly organized moves cannot be called a ballet – unless it is a so-called “modern” ballet (?).
My question here is why such treasure of truly divine height as Mozart’s Magic Flute was so openly and boldly stripped of all the “magic” and sold to us as a ballet when it fact, there was really neither “magic” nor “ballet”? (Which was only confirmed by other people leaving the performance whose little conversations I could overhear on my way to metro). Is there anything sacred left?
Posted 03 November 2003 - 08:37 AM
I am sorry that you didn't enjoy it but I'm guessing the choreographer would be happy that he was able to provoke reactions and discussion at both ends of the spectrum.
Did you leave at intermission?
Posted 03 November 2003 - 08:42 AM
Posted 03 November 2003 - 10:00 AM
I guess, I know who was that person posting from Almaty. I am pretty sure it is someone who's moved to Almaty and is now working at the Health Unit of the US Embassy - exactly where I used to work.
And YES, i did rush out as soon as the intermission began. I'd like to add that i am not a kind of a person who faints as she sees some "naughtyness", I am sure that Mozart himself would like that and found it amusing. However, endless emphasis on those tricks guided me to impression that what was going on on stage - rather belong to a circus show than to a ballet.
Another point i'd like to make - if you remove decorations, music and even costumes from such ballets like Swan Lake, La Serenade, Giselle - it will be clear to anyone at least remotely familiar with ballet what is exactly being present it - just by looking at the choreographical ornament (i'm not sure if such term exists in English). The opera in this given case was used merely as a "soundtrack" to a choreography which made me think of a comparison to a "constipated choreographical imagination" - AND I CAN'T TELL YOU HOW SORRY I WAS MYSELF IN THE FIRST PLACE HAVING ALL THAT DISCOVERED
Nonetheless - a little story for a finishing line (for tutu14) and i'll be done for now:
A famous Russian poet of the XIX century Alexander Pushkin (also referred often as a father of modern Russian language) - was a great admirer and frequent visitor of the ballet performances. One night a dancer XYZ that he wasn't really fascinated about was especially bad, so he gave her a few whistles (NB: In Russia, unlike in some other (mostly Western) countries, whistling is considered to be a sign of disapproval and dis-liking). Some bolding man turned to the brilliant poet and hissed at him something nasty for those whistles. Pushkin's reply was: I'd slap your head for that, but I don't want XYZ think that i'm applauding her"
It is great to be back!
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