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Natalia's Copenhagen Capers (Log, B'ville Fest)


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#1 Natalia

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Posted 03 June 2005 - 11:37 PM

Day 1 - Friday, June 3, 2005 (part one)

In Copenhagen, white puffs of smoke from the roof of the Royal Theater do not signal the election of a new pope. Instead: Habemus Balletam!

As I learned when reading Alexandra Tomalonis' invaluable biography of Henning Kronstam, white puffs of smoke are emitted from the rooftop's urns prior to gala performances, while red lanterns signal a sold-out house. We saw puffs AND red lights last night.

The 3rd Bournonville Ballet Festival opened last night in a truly gala manner, with Queen Margrethe II in the Royal Box and this jewel-box of an auditorium festooned in garlands of white roses. The audience stood up whenever she entered her box, which is located audience-left, above the orchestra. During bows, the dancers first acknowledged the Queen, then the audience.

This would be the first of nine days of celebrations, exhibitions, tours, performances and general merriment in honor of Denmark's great 19th-century ballet choreographer, August Bournonville. Happy 200th birthday, Bournonville!

On the bill last night were two recently-premiered stagings: 'La Ventana' (music by Lumbye & Holm) and 'Kermesses in Bruges' (music by Paulli).


La Ventana, ballet in 1 act, 2 scenes

2005 staging by Eva Kloborg and Frank Andersen
Costumes by Kristen Lund
Set by Jesper Kongshau

Senorita - Gitte Lindstrom
Senor - Jean-Lucien Massot
Pas de Trois - Caroline Cavallo, Gudrun Bojesen, Tim Matiakis
Senorita's 'Reflection' in Mirror Dance - Camilla Ruelykke
Corps of 8 couples


This delightful bon-bon of a ballet's story is of minimal importance -- girl hears boy serenading outside her mansion; boy throws rose through her window; girl return the rose, signaling that she will meet him in the plaza; pure-dance divertissement by boy, girl and their friends, in the Spanish classical manner.

We have been promised changes in the newer stagings of Bournonville ballets and this was no exception, as it is set in.....the Madrid of the 1800s, in the Prado Museum, no less! The ingenious, colorful set consists of a backdrop of a gigantic framed painting of dancers in a square, painted by Manuel Castellano. The ballet commences with this scene, the Senorita (heroine of our ballet) semmingly 'steps out' of the painting, via ingenious lighting. The entire canvas then rotates 180 degrees to reveal an entire wall of Prado treasures, with a big mirror located beneath Goya's 'Naked Maja' painting. The first scene of the ballet, including the famous 'Mirrir Dance' by the Senority & her reflection, happen here. For the second scene of the ballet, the canvas once again rotates 180 degrees to reveal the Castellano painting of dancers in the square.

The costume as beautiful and tradition, in silk and lace. The senorita wears a white dress with black lace accents. The Senor wears a purple matador-style outfit. The corps are attired in traditional Spanish costumes, with the Pas de Trois dancers in slightly more pastel versions of the same.

The dancing by all was MAGNIFICENT. Gitte Linstrom, a medium-height, pretty brunette displayed lovely Bournonville technique. Tall Jean-Lucien Massot, as the Senor, had Spanish vem & vigor, along with spiffy high entrechats, if a bit lacking in amplitude and flexibility.

The Pas de Trois is a joy of a set-piece. The revelation here was the spectacular technique of soloist Tim Matiakis. As the first female soloists with the quick cabrioles, Caroline Cavallo was neat and clean, while the second soloist, gorgeous blonde Gudrun Bojesen, displayed perfect balances in her many arabesque poses.

The taquette pointework by Gitte Lindstrom was the perfect icing on the cake, during a jolly jota of a coda. Ole!

I will write about 'Kermesse' in my next journal entry. Now...time to go to company class, at the Royal Theater. A busy day is ahead.

Natalia Nabatova
in
Copenhagen, Denmark

#2 Natalia

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Posted 04 June 2005 - 06:28 AM

Friday, June 3 (part two)

Kermesse in Bruges, ballet in four scenes (here performed without intermissions)

2005 staging by Lloyd Riggins
Sets & Costumes - Rikke Juellund

Those of us who are familiar with the last two or three productions of "Kermesse" by the Royal Danish Ballet were quite surprised to return from the post-Ventana intermission, to face a starkly plain, off-white front curtain in place of the Royal Theater's normal "fancy classical" curtain. What was this? Clearly, this would be a rethought staging.

Curtain up. Instead of the familiar, realistic set of a square in 17th-C Bruges, we see a sunkissed square with adobe whitewashed buildings, an arch, and the distant silhouette of a spire. The villagers are attired in tones of beige and drab olive. The only bright colours are the reds worn by the circus performers and Slovanka Dancers. All subsequent scenes are of a similarly stark, bright style. For example, the second scene -- the alchemist Mirewelt's study -- has a plain wall in the back; there is no big painting (all paintings went to La Ventana tonight!). Hence, the scene where the sisters Marchen and Johanna look through Mirewelt's 'telescope' to see visions of their far-off loved ones within the large framed painting on the wall, is reworked. Instead, Mirewelt gives the sisters a crystal ball and the brothers dance their little scenes on the stage.

The off-white front curtain opens in different manners for the various scenes, e.g., it swoops up from the base to form a canopy for Frau Von Everdingen's outdoor party (scene three).

The costumes of the soloists were similarly stark & plainish. The dresses of the young leading ladies are almost 21st-century linen street-dresses. They could be seen on the Stroget (the big pedestrian shopping street here) in today's Copenhagen. OK, I thought, so this is a modern staging....but....no, a few characters such as Frau Von Everdingen and the two pompous schemers, Von Joeck and Van der Steen, wear the starchy Baroque collars. Perhaps this is the designer's way of differentiating the pompous from the kind & honest characters?

Then there was Mirewelt, a tall & youngish bald-headed gentleman in a long fur-trimmed brocade cloak. No beard, no cap. Just Mogens Boesen playing Yul Brynner in 'The King and I.'

Thank goodness, the glorious miming and dancing are all there! Although this is a rather convoluted tale of three kind-hearted brothers receiving magical gifts from the alchemist Mirewelt, Bournonville's genious is to make every nuance of the story clear as a bell. This is drama, first and foremost, peppered with a few good dollops of classical dancing. One of the largest segments of pure dance occurs in the 3rd scene (Frau Von Everdingen's party). Tonight offered a 3rd version that I've seen (see other thread on this). This one is titled "Psyche" and is in the ananchreonic style, a boy-and-girl lead pair, surrounded by eight corps ladies, all garbed in gauzy white outfits. Is this by Bournonville? By Riggins? The literature made no mention of a choreographer beside Bournonville, for the entire ballet.

The dancers & mime artists? Mostly splendid! It's hard to pinpoint one or two stars, as this ballet is chock-full of meaty character roles. The men were perhaps a bit brighter than the ladies last night. Kristoffer Sakurai -- promoted to principal on stage, just after the bows -- danced Carelis with joy and gusto, just as such Bournonville roles are supposed to be danced. His Eleonora, Susanne Grinder, showed sharp technique, if not much musicality (dancing oblivious to the music...perhaps out of nervousness). On the other hand, Tina Hojlund was more than musical and a total hoot of a comedienne as one of the two goofy sisters, Marchen.

My personal top honors of the night go to Thomas Lund and Peter Bo Bendixen as the two brothers of Carelis, Geert and Adrian. Lund nearly had us rolling in the aisles with laughter, with his frolicking about as an Instant Lothario upon receiving the magical ring from Mirewelt which makes him the great conqueror of female hearts. I had a hard time trying to take my eyes off Lund, as a lot of the main stage action was taking place elsewhere.

Almost as funny was Bendixen as Adrián, the big strappingly-handsome brother who lacks courage. He gains that through the magic sword given to him by Mirewelt.

A small delightful cameo is that of a pompous queenly character in the party scene. Here it is danced by a buxomy tall redheaded woman (uncredited in the programme); in the past this was an Afro-Caribbean Queen character. I wonder if the character was now made 'white' so as to not offend the global audience? (Gee, I hope they don't do this to the negro servants in Far from Denmark, which we'll see in a few days.) Yet another delightful cameo is that of the little boy-servant who constantly carries this queenly woman's train. The little Royal Danish Ballet Academy lad who danced this role received huge applause for his rollickingly-funny characterization, running around to keep up with his queen!

Another detail of originality in this production: the lady who dances the servant of Mirewelt (unnamed in programme) is dressed in the costume of Vermeer's 'Young Girl with a Pearl Earring' but we don't realize this until the start of scene two, when we see her posing by the window, just like the girl in the painting.

Kudos, too, to tall blonde principal Andrew Bowman for his sky-high tours and jetes as the male soloist in the "Psyche" divertissement of scene three. He partnered Caroline Cavallo, one of the troupe's strongest technicians.

The greatest praise goes to the ensemble for bringing the joy & love of August Bournonville's creation to life!

Appreciative applause and foot spomping (rather than yelling 'bravo') seems to be the order of the day in Denmark. So, rather than yell 'bravo,' I stomp my feet in appreciation of this 'new look' Kermesse. Bournonville lives on!

Natalia Nabatova
in
Copenhagen, Denmark

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 04 June 2005 - 06:29 AM

Thank you, Natalia! That was lovely!! "La Ventana" is the ballet that's been out of repertory the longest -- not seen since the mid-1980s, so it's good to read that it still works. It is an oddity in the Bournonville repertory -- almost the most "modern" of his ballets, because it's nearly all dancing. I look forward to reading more from you :tiphat:

(We'll be carrying a Letter from Copenhagen at DanceView Times all week, by the Danish writer Eva Kistrup. I'm in the process of putting up the first installment now. It should be up by noon today (Saturday, June 4, 2005) The links will be posted on the Links forum and not here.

[edited to add -- sorry, I was posting that exactly as you were posting your other pieces; I'd only read the "La Ventana" one. They're all lovely :) I also posted a link on Links to this thread, so those who only check the site for Links will see this)

#4 Natalia

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Posted 04 June 2005 - 06:32 AM

I saw quite a few New Yorkers, Alexandra, but so far no others from the DC area. The full corps of British writers is here, from Clement Crisp on through.

#5 Natalia

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Posted 04 June 2005 - 06:57 AM

Day Two - Sat., June 4 (part one)

Presentation of 'Bournonville Schools' DVD and 'Bournonville and Tivoli Mime' demonstration in the original Royal Danish Court Theater, Charlottenburg Palace (now the Royal Theater Museum)

As part of the festival celebrations, the Royal Danish Theater has arranged a fascinating series of tours, exhibits and lectures on all-things-Bournonville.

Today we visited the Theater Museum for a presentation of the just-released 'Bournonville Schools' DVD and accompanying books on the music and steps. This is the result of a monumental effort by the head of the Royal Danish Ballet school, Anne Marie Vessel and many, many others. The Bournonville curriculum, as preserved after Bournonville's death by Hans Beck, has now been recorded and preserved for use by teachers around the world (and admiration by we, the ballet-lovers). As many of you know, the curriculum is comprised of a set of exercises (around 20 or so enchainements) for each day of the week, minus Sunday. Six of the most gifted, present stars of the RDB demonstrate the enchainements, which can be easily accessed through DVD menu, e.g., in a few seconds, we can search for 'Wednesday, number 20' and - voila! - there it is. The DVD also includes sections on special characterizations & nuances, such a placement of head and eyes, port de bras, etc. Too, there is an interesting Introduction in which many RDB stars and teachers talk about their personal experiences in dancing Bournonville.

The DVD was followed by a charming lecture-demo on mime within the ballets of Bournonville and in the pantomime comedies staged at the Tivoli Park's Pantomime Theater. This section was led by Dinna Bjorn and Claus Hjort, with various RDB and Tivoli artists demonstrating the excerpts. We were treated to bits of Conservatoire and La Sylphide, as well a segments of several Harlequine pantomimes from Tivoli. Especially intriguing was a no-longer-performed segment from Act I of La Sylphide. This follows the entrance of the Sylph through the window, surprising James. In the excised segment, the Sylph tells James how she used to follow him as he was growing up, whenever he went out hunting. It's a shame that modern stagers omit such charming sections, which lend a greater understanding to the overall story.

p.s. - TV ALERT! to all of our readers with access to the Danish Television system. June 11th's final gala, Bournonvilleana, will be televised. Set your VCRs.

- Natalia Nabatova

#6 Natalia

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Posted 04 June 2005 - 02:17 PM

Day 2, June 4 (part 2)

Napoli, ballet in three acts

Additional choreography by Hans Beck (soli in Act III Pas de Six) and Dinna Bjorn (all of Act II)

Staged by Dinna Bjorn & Frank Andersen with Anne Marie Vassel and Eva Klobborg, assisted by Christina Nilsson and Thomas Lund

Music by Gade, Helsted, Paulli and Lumbye

Traditional scenery & costumes


Tonight alone was worth our trip to Copenhagen! Between the festive Act III on the stage and the post-performance party in honor of Anne Marie Vessel's 40th anniversary of service to the Royal Danish Ballet, with Queen Margrethe II in attendance, this was an evening to remember!

Unlike yesterday's novel stagings of Ventana and Kermesse, tonight's traditional Napoli offered no real surprises. Such tradition was greeted by loud yells of support and even some "bravos," which were missing last night. So much for my theory that the Danes consider it impolite to cheer loudly; they put that supposition to rest.

Once again, the audience stood to greet Queen Margrethe II and her sister, Princess Benedikte, when they entered the Royal Box. Opposite them, one lone elegant lady occupied the Lady-in-Waiting Box. Beneath the LIW Box stands a white-marble bust of August Bournonville, a green laurel wreath atop 'his' head for the duration of the Festival!

Two sharp 'clangs' are sounded once the Royals occupy their places, signaling the start of each act. The only discordant note, so to speak, was the oddly neo-classical choreography of Act II by Dinna Bjorn. Pleasant but it's obviously not Bournonville. Why did they discard the Bournonville original three years ago?

Tonight we had top-of-the-line Bournonville dancers on stage. Teresina was Tina Hojlund, a delicate brunette dancer who breathes pure Bournonville elegance with every step she takes. Her Effie in Sylphide was one of the highlights of the RDB's Washington, DC, season last year. How nice - HOW NICE - that the RDB management saw fit to cast such a soft, 'old fashioned' dancer in such an important role during this festival!

Hojlund's Gennaro was Thomas Lund. What more can I say that hasn't been written about this master of the Bournonville style and fine actor? Lund's emotion and gusto during the Tarantella was palpable across the footlights. He appeared to be leading his colleagues -- and we, the audience -- to greater heights with every step.

Flemming Ryberg once again graced the stage with one of his signature roles, Peppo, the gossipy lemonade seller. Here's an artist who makes us all believe in immortality, as he hasn't changed one bit in his looks and characterization.

All of the Act III Pas de Six and Tarantella soloists were superb, with special mentions having to go to tall Andrew Bowman -- who received the first volley of 'bravos' of the night, following his solo -- and the gorgeous Gitte Lindstrom, in the next-to-last female solo with a brilliant display of ballon. Oh...and how can I forget the Cojocaru-style 'endless balances' of Tina Hojlund in her Act II solo?

I can now die and go to Ballet Heaven as a happy camper. I have witnessed Napoli in Bournonville's home theater.

Natalia Nabatova

p.s. Next report will be on Monday, as tomorrow is a day off. We Bournonvillean Balletomanes will enjoy a day in the Tivoli pleasure gardens. I hate to call it an 'amusement park,' as there is no Mickey Mouse in sight! Only Harlequin and Columbine.

#7 Natalia

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Posted 05 June 2005 - 09:52 PM

Day Three - Sunday, June 5

Today's entry is brief, as the theater was dark. However, that does not mean that there were no Bournonville-related activities transpiring about town. In fact, it was one of the most fulfilling days to date.

After a short walk from my hotel, past the colorful Nyhaven district, to the Amalienborg Palace, I toured a portion of this in-town residence of the Royal Family and viwed the Changing of the Guard -- known formally as the Royal Lifeguards, sporting the famous tall beaver hats. Later today, we would see these soldiers in miniature, in the form of the Tivoli Boy's Band.

In the early afternoon, I joined my fellow ballet friends on a fascinating tour of the exhibition of Bournonville ballet costumes at the National Museum. Titled 'Tulle and Tricot,' this is no mere exhibition but a romantic poem in honor of the Danish ballet, on a magnificent scale. A space the size of an airplane hangar has been tranformed into a magical fairyland, in which sylphs hover above us! Every costume appears to dance, hanging on half-mannequings from the ceiling.

Following the exhibit's viewing, we were treated to a fascinating 1979 film about the coaching of RDB dancers by noted instruktors in the true Bournonville style. Especially wonderful was an extended look at Hans Brenaa (then about 70 years old) teaching the Kermesse in Bruges pas de deux to Mette Ida-Kirk and Ib Andersen. My goodness! That's when we realize that today's talented young artists could benefit a lot from the coaching of a new Brenaa! There is simply NO comparison between the Kirk-Andersen Kermesse pdd and that on display at the Royal Theater two nights ago, I'm afraid to say.

On to Tivoli for the rest of the day and night! The highlight of our visit was, no doubt, visiting the gorgeous Peacock Theater near the park's entrance. This adorable little theater in Chinoiserie style boasts a one-of-a-kind arched curtain, in the form of a peacock's open tail-feathers, with the plaster body of the bird in the center. The bird's feathers fan open (from the center) and its body descends into the orchestra pit, to signal the start of 30-minute commedia dell'arte pantomimes starring Harlequin, Columbine, Pierrot and their cohorts. The Tivoli Orchestra always plays in the pit; never is there canned music!

Our group witnessed two such pantomime-ballets, Pierrot's Calamities and Harlequin Mechanical Statue. One can see how Bournonville's mime borrowed from these pantomimes, and vice versa. Between shows we were treated to a tour of this gem of a theater, which was built in 1876 -- just as the present Royal Theater in Kongens Nytorv. However, a pantomime theater & pantomime performances have existed in Tivoli for over 100 years prior to the building of the present theater.

Despite the chilly temperative, I stayed in this charming park through the evening, enjoyinh the rides and attractions, which culminated in a spectacular fireworks display around 11 pm.

On Monday: A tour of Bournonville's house in Fredensburg (about one hour's travel, north of Copenhagen), followed by La Sylphide and a repeat-performance of La Ventana.

Natalia Nabatova

#8 Natalia

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Posted 05 June 2005 - 10:04 PM

Thanks, Alexandra. You can't imagine how happy I am that you and others are enjoying all of our reports (not just mine). Many folks send their greetings. I'll PM you later. We miss you!!!

#9 Drew

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Posted 05 June 2005 - 10:49 PM

Very happy to read about Hojlund dancing Teresina in Natalia's (and Eva Klistrup's) writings about the festival. I only saw a bit of Hojlund when soloists from the RDB appeared in Atlanta, but my reaction to her in Bournonville was very similar to Natalia's--and I also enjoyed her dancing in a contemporary work. I would love to see her again in a big Bournonville role like Teresina!

#10 Ballet lovers

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Posted 06 June 2005 - 06:19 AM

Thank you so much Natalia for your reports! They are really very nice and interesting.
We like also very much Thomas Lund. He is a really great "master" of the Bournonville style!

#11 Natalia

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Posted 06 June 2005 - 11:29 PM

Day Four - Monday, June 6


La Ventana (see Day One for production credits)

and

La Sylphide

2003 production by Nikolaj Hubbe; instruktion by Annd Marie Vessel Schluter
Music by H.S. Lovenskjold
Sets & Costumes by Mikael Melbye

Following a VERY long day of touring -- a bus trip to the royal town of Fredensborg for a tour and lunch-reception at Villa Bournonville, then back to Copenhagen for a walking tour of the mammoth new Royal Opera House, then a special presentation of the 'Monday Class' of the Bournonville curriculum -- I was actually dragging myself out of my hotel room and into the theater at about 7:30 pm! (Some souls preceded the Fredensborg tour with a look at the Children's Ballet Class in the early-morning hours.)

There's nothing like the zest of La Ventana to energize me back to ballet-viewing shape! On this second viewing, my admiration for this short gem of a ballet grew even bigger. The casting was perhaps a bit less perfect than the original cast but still quite brilliant. Just-promoted soloist Izabela Sokolowska's trump card is her gorgeous round instep...the most beautiful feet at the RDB! Feet so soft and pliable, like cotton candy in her pointe shoes. Unfortunately, this made her a bit less effective in the final taquette dances (quick little pointework, as if stabbing the floor), which were better executed by Gitte Lindstrom last Friday.

Tonight's leading Senor, Mads Blangstrup, cut a fine figure, if lacking in Spanish fire. Another tall & blonde gent, Andrew Bowman, displayed multiple well-centered pirouettes in the Pas de Trois. One of his two ladies, Diana Cuni, gave the (to me) outstanding female performance of the whole evening in her solo of quick little cabrioles and entrechats.

Side note: After viewing all of the corps and soloist ladies in classes this past weekend, I've come to the conclusion that Cuni is one of the finest natural talents in the company, along with a young redhead named Julie Valentin -- who has yet to dance a solo role at this festival. Cuni and Valentin have that extra oomph, the added height and amplitude, as well as neatness in pointework, that really makes me sit up & take notice!

On to Sylphide.

Thomas Lund WAS James. That alone makes it a five-star performance!

But that was not all. We had the glorious, TRUE Bournonvillean ballerina of this troupe, Tina Hojlund, as Effie, James' unsuspecting fiancee. Then we had the glorious miming of Lis Jeppesen as a multi-faceted witch Madge (no mere old hag she!) and even the graceful cameo of Kirsten Simone as Anna, the innkeeper. Then we had a perfectly-executed Scottish Reel in Act I by the ensemble of adults and children, one of the great set-pieces of the Bournonville cannon.

Gudrun Bojesen was a soft and feminine Sylph, if not the airiest of jumpers, as were Rose Gad and Lis Jeppesen in their prime. I also would prefer to see a Sylph who is a bit smaller than her James but...we can't have every element perfect, can we?

Nikolai Hansen acted convincingly as Gurn, James' rival for the hand of Effie.

The final scene, when the Sylph becomes blind and slowly dies (after James unsuspectingly wraps the poisoned scarf around her), was truly touching. The corps de ballet of Sylphs were truly Sylphs, mourning their 'sister's' death, watching her slow ascent to the heavens. No company on earth does this scene as effectively as the Danes. Very few of us in the audience had dry eyes.

Natalia Nabatova

#12 Luxie

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Posted 07 June 2005 - 12:38 AM

I'm so enjoying your reports Natalia, thank you so much!

Luxie

#13 Alexandra

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Posted 07 June 2005 - 09:38 AM

Me too :) I always liked Diana Cuni. She was an aspirant when I was going to Copenhagen with some regularity and I liked her dancing and her piquancy. I'm glad she's doing well.

A small point -- the costumes don't let Anna stand out and she probably does look like an innkeeper, but she's James's mother and has probably arranged the wedding.

#14 Susanne

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Posted 07 June 2005 - 01:03 PM

Oh, I love your review of the Kermessen i Brügge! I completely agree with you! And about the read headed woman, I found out it was the 19-year old Maria Bernholdt, which was credited as "Contessa" in the programme.

#15 Natalia

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Posted 07 June 2005 - 11:39 PM

Thanks for your respective clarifications, Alexandra & Susanne. Alexandra, I thought that she was James' mother (she is) but I asked a Danish friend to traslate the wording in the programme next to Anna's name...and the description is merely 'Anna, an innkeeper'! I agree -- the tartan plaids for James' family are downright dark and blah, compared to those of Effie's and Gurn's families. Yet another reason why Effie should have gone with Gurn from the get-go!

Diana Cuni was one of the best 'things' in Abdallah, too, last night. (review-report forthcoming)

So that's the Contessa, Susanne! Well, Maria Bernholdt is definitely an eye catcher & a wonderful comedienne. I spotted her in the corps of Abdallah last night, too.


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