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Berlin, Dresden and Stuttgart Nutcrackers


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#1 mmded

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 08:48 AM

We saw this past December Nussknackers choreographed by John Neumeier performed by Dresden SemperOper Ballett, Patrice Bart performed by Staatsballett Berlin and Marco Goecke performed by Stuttgarter Ballett. I enjoyed all three for different reasons but I have to say for an overall Christmas experience for mass audiences you still would have a hard time bettering National Ballet of Canada's Nutcracker. Rather than attempting to talk intelligently about each one I guess what I took away from seeing the three of them is that I came away with was a strong opinion about what each company is in general. Perhaps it is not fair to do so but I come from a place where the regional ballet company makes no bones about the financial importance of the Nutcracker every year and it really shows in the safe but tired Nutcracker that includes a large contingent of local young dancers to fill lots of seats (my own included years ago).

Berlin was the most familiar in terms of traditional plot and characters, Dresden I enjoyed because of the ballet story line and Stuttgart was very non-traditional and I would probably have to see it several more times to really appreciate it all. Naively perhaps, I was hoping to see Polina Semionova or Vladimir Malakhov (I know he is injured) in Berlin but felt a little like it was a cast that was very heavily augmented by students perhaps from the affiliated school and I felt at times they detracted from the professionals. Dresden also did not have some of the names I am familiar with but both Drosselmier, Pavel Moskvito (Choyphee) and Gunther, Yevgeny Bondarenko (Halbsolist) were very impressive. As well Marie, Alexandra Lo Sardo (also Coryphee) was very convincing as a young girl who did not dance but wanted to emulate her older sister Louise who was a ballerina at the court theatre. She was excellent at slowly revealing her ballet skills throughout and is probably a dancer on the rise in the company. I think she actually stole the show from Louise who was a soloist with the company. Again not many principals to be seen. The company is quite varied in both body type and height which I am not so used to in North America but all technically solid.

I am not sure I can make any intelligent comments on the Stuttgart production - I have not seen anything like the choreography, I honestly don't know how the dancers make their bodies do some of the movements. At times it almost seemed they must have been dancing with strobe lighting but it was all them. The staging was very dark and stark, the costumes very modern and non traditional and the score was abbreviated and included excerpts of Silent Night by Mahalia Jackson. Thousands of nuts poured out of wardrobes that edged the stage, the Nussknacker wore pants entirely covered in walnuts that could shake, Klara wore jazz pants with a huge bustle. It was a small cast but included first soloists, soloists and the dancing was all high calibre. They were in a league of their own as far as the level of dancing. My impression is that if Stuttgart does something they do it 110% and make it their own. Their Nussknacker may not be for everyone but you have to appreciate the dancing. (To be fair I have to say I have now seen five Stuttgart performances and I am much more familiar with the company and its dancers than the other two companies so I am sure I have a bias.)

#2 Helene

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 11:07 AM

Many thanks for your review, mmded :dunno: It is great to hear about performances by companies that few Ballet Talkers get to see in person.

#3 bart

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 12:29 PM

Thank you, mmded. It sounds like the Germans follow the American tradition of allowing junior members of the company lots of dance opportunities during a Nutcracker run.

I've never heard of the character of Louise, Marie's older sister and a ballerina at the court theater. Is this a creation, I wonder, of Neumeier, or did he pick it up from someone else?

The Stuttgart production sounds fascinating. Your description of f the Nutcracker's walnuts and Marie's bustle-and-pants helps me visualize things quite nicely. Like you, I appreciate it when a company gives 110% during a performance. The ardor and conviction with which the dancers perform can excuse, for me, a multitude of aesthetic quibbles about what is actually being danced.

#4 papeetepatrick

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 02:21 PM

The staging was very dark and stark, the costumes very modern and non traditional and the score was abbreviated and included excerpts of Silent Night by Mahalia Jackson. Thousands of nuts poured out of wardrobes that edged the stage, the Nussknacker wore pants entirely covered in walnuts that could shake, Klara wore jazz pants with a huge bustle.


When this kind of thing can be afforded it, it probably lasts awhile, is a fashionable thing, but cannot usually resist very long certain traditional ideas people want to see again with the Nutcracker and the other most famous ballets. The only thing I have not liked by Duke Ellington, one of the greatest musicians, is his arrangement of 'the Nutcracker Suite', and I truly detest it. I wouldn't want to hear anyone sing 'Silent Night' in the middle of a Tchaikovsky score either. I don't usually think of myself as a traditionalist either, but if sometimes things sound gimmicky and contrived. The other two you describe I would much prefer, and I imagine there is something very special about seeing a good Nutcracker in a place like Dresden at Christmas.

#5 mmded

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 02:23 PM

John Neumeier's Nussknacker opens with a birthday party for twelve year old Marie (Clara to us). Her brother Fritz is a military cadet and her older sister Louise is a ballerina and Drosselmeier is the ballet master. Gunther (the prince is the lead cadet who gives Marie a nutcracker on behalf of the regiment and Drosselmeier gives her a pair of pointe shoes. She is fascinated with the shoes and the person who gave them to her but falls in love with Gunther. After the party she puts on the pointe shoes when she is alone, falls asleep and dreams of Gunthar and in her dreams dances with him en pointe and participates in a "magnificent rehearsal" (Scene Two). Scene Two actually opens with a line of dancers at the barre. Scene Three is the performance where Louise dances the grand pas de deux with Gunthar, Fritz also dances and all of the dancers that are common to the Nutcracker we are familiar with in North America. Drosselmeier has much more of a dancing role than I am accustomed to throughout and I really appreciated that. The cadets' choreogrpahy at the birthday party replaced any mouse- soldier dancing and I also think I prefer that as well. To me it makes more sense.
The one thing that ran through my mind a couple of times during the performance was just how many little girls would go home and think they could perhaps don pointe shoes and progress as rapidly as Marie (Ballet mom hat on).
Interesting to me was that Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company premiered the Neumeier Nutcracker in 1972 and performed it annually until they switched to a Canadian version that I have not seen.

The Berlin Nussknacker also has a strong military component to it. Marie is separated from the Grand Duchess's (her mother) family by revolutionaries and her favourite nutcracker who is dressed in her father's regimental colours (Prologue). Act One is Christmas at the Staulbaum's who have adopted Marie an is fourteen years later. In this Nussknacker she has a sister Luise and a brother Fritz but she does not feel part of the family. Drosselmeier is an astronomer who shows up at Christmas Eve. He was witness to Marie's abduction through a magical monacle. Drosselmeier presents her with her lost nutcracker which connects her to her old world although she does not remember it. She falls asleep to have nightmares about soldiers abducted her as a child fighting with her father's battalion. She throws her nutcracker at them and it becomes a prince. Drosselmeier, the Prince and Marie have a pas de tois after which Drosselmeier decides to take her back to the Grand Duchess in a balloon which involves a trip through the snow and the Snow Queen's territory. Act II Is the reunion of the Grand Duchess and her daughter Marie. She hosts a grand ball with ambassadors from different nations who, of course, do characteristic dances. The guest of honour is a member of Marie's father's regiment (the prince) who the Grand Duchess wants her newly found daughter to marry. Of course Marie is thrilled to oblige.

#6 its the mom

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 03:13 PM

mmded, just out of curiousity, did you get to see Iana Salenko or Marian Walter dance in the Berlin Nutcracker? I have seen them several times and she has always struck me as so beautiful and I think he is really starting to grow into a beautiful dancer.

#7 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 03:16 PM

John Neumeier's Nussknacker opens with a birthday party for twelve year old Marie (Clara to us). Her brother Fritz is a military cadet and her older sister Louise is a ballerina and Drosselmeier is the ballet master. Gunther (the prince is the lead cadet who gives Marie a nutcracker on behalf of the regiment and Drosselmeier gives her a pair of pointe shoes. She is fascinated with the shoes and the person who gave them to her but falls in love with Gunther. After the party she puts on the pointe shoes when she is alone, falls asleep and dreams of Gunthar and in her dreams dances with him en pointe and participates in a "magnificent rehearsal" (Scene Two). Scene Two actually opens with a line of dancers at the barre. Scene Three is the performance where Louise dances the grand pas de deux with Gunthar, Fritz also dances and all of the dancers that are common to the Nutcracker we are familiar with in North America. Drosselmeier has much more of a dancing role than I am accustomed to throughout and I really appreciated that. The cadets' choreogrpahy at the birthday party replaced any mouse- soldier dancing and I also think I prefer that as well. To me it makes more sense.
The one thing that ran through my mind a couple of times during the performance was just how many little girls would go home and think they could perhaps don pointe shoes and progress as rapidly as Marie (Ballet mom hat on).
Interesting to me was that Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company premiered the Neumeier Nutcracker in 1972 and performed it annually until they switched to a Canadian version that I have not seen.

The Berlin Nussknacker also has a strong military component to it. Marie is separated from the Grand Duchess's (her mother) family by revolutionaries and her favourite nutcracker who is dressed in her father's regimental colours (Prologue). Act One is Christmas at the Staulbaum's who have adopted Marie an is fourteen years later. In this Nussknacker she has a sister Luise and a brother Fritz but she does not feel part of the family. Drosselmeier is an astronomer who shows up at Christmas Eve. He was witness to Marie's abduction through a magical monacle. Drosselmeier presents her with her lost nutcracker which connects her to her old world although she does not remember it. She falls asleep to have nightmares about soldiers abducted her as a child fighting with her father's battalion. She throws her nutcracker at them and it becomes a prince. Drosselmeier, the Prince and Marie have a pas de tois after which Drosselmeier decides to take her back to the Grand Duchess in a balloon which involves a trip through the snow and the Snow Queen's territory. Act II Is the reunion of the Grand Duchess and her daughter Marie. She hosts a grand ball with ambassadors from different nations who, of course, do characteristic dances. The guest of honour is a member of Marie's father's regiment (the prince) who the Grand Duchess wants her newly found daughter to marry. Of course Marie is thrilled to oblige.

Wow...I was just thinking of Hoffmann, Ivanov and Petipa... :excl:

#8 mmded

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 07:28 PM

its the mom,
I checked through my program and did not find either dancer. The leads the evening we attended were Marie - Nadja Saidakova, Drosselmeier - Ibrahim Onal, and the prince was Ronald Savkovic. We did see Malakhov - he was sitting on the other side of a column next to us! :excl:

papeetepatrick,
Stuttgart as accurately as I can tally from the website is performing twenty eight different productions this year alone not including the big Cranko galas in honour of what would have been his 80th birthday. Classics being performed this year alone are Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, La Sylphide and Onegin (if you count that as a classic). Their Nussknacker is put on at the Kammertheatre, one of three venues the company uses. I am guessing the seating capacity is probably no more than two hundred as compared to the Opera House which seats 1200 and is almost always completely sold out. Their Nussknacker will not appeal to everyone but Germany is more open to cultural exploration from what I have seen during the three times I have visited. The response to Nussknacker was just as enthusiastic and the bows as many as after their more traditional offerings. Their Nussknacker runs at the same time as other productions and only involves a relatively small part of the company. I would say that I am a traditionalist when it comes to ballet but in both very modern productions I have seen in Stuttgart the classical training is never forgotten or compromised. I saw Limb's Theorem in Munich a couple of years ago and can not say the same about that experience.
The theatre in Dresden is beautiful and it is worth the price of a ticket just to see it - amazing really when you consider it has been completely rebuilt after the war. Actually there are so many beautifully restored buildings in Germany that you would never guess they are not original. Dresden's theatre ranks right up with Opera Garnier although they are not at all alike.

#9 papeetepatrick

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 07:55 PM

Their Nussknacker runs at the same time as other productions and only involves a relatively small part of the company.


I would like to see some American companies mixing their Nussnackers with other productions too.

I would say that I am a traditionalist when it comes to ballet but in both very modern productions I have seen in Stuttgart the classical training is never forgotten or compromised.


I wouldn't have thought that the classical discipline would be compromised (sometimes these experiments work, sometimes they don't), and I remember a summer in New York when Haydee and Cragun were dancing, and I saw the Stuttgart maybe 5 or 6 times back then. I saw Haydee do 'La Dame aux Camellias' several times, and remember that English Romeo, Barry Ingham, in their production. I think that they also did the 'Poem of Ecstasy' in the early 70s with Margot Fonteyn. The one with all the Klimt-derived sets. If so, that was the first time I saw the Stuttgart Ballet and that would have been about 8 years before Haydee/Cragun/Cranko, etc.

The theatre in Dresden is beautiful and it is worth the price of a ticket just to see it - amazing really when you consider it has been completely rebuilt after the war. Actually there are so many beautifully restored buildings in Germany that you would never guess they are not original. Dresden's theatre ranks right up with Opera Garnier although they are not at all alike.


These are wonderful reports, mmded; I didn't know anything about ballet in Dresden and Berlin. Thank you so much!

#10 mmded

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 09:17 PM

Not a recent performance per say but I saw Haydee a little over a year ago in Mauro Bigonzettis' I Fratelli and she is still a compelling, unforgettable figure and much revered and loved in Stuttgart.

#11 Legwarmer

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 03:27 AM

You found Nadja Saidakova not convincing and un-professional?

That surprises me a lot. Can you maybe explain?

#12 mmded

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 08:06 AM

I reread the entire thread and I did not see any mention of either convincing or unprofessional or indeed any comment on Nadja Saidakova. I am really puzzled! :clapping:

#13 Legwarmer

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 11:23 AM

Oh boy, I meant this one and...

Naively perhaps, I was hoping to see Polina Semionova or Vladimir Malakhov (I know he is injured) in Berlin but felt a little like it was a cast that was very heavily augmented by students perhaps from the affiliated school and I felt at times they detracted from the professionals.


... I only now understood that you were talking about the students and not about the actual professional performers. (: Sorry.

#14 diane

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Posted 16 January 2008 - 02:47 AM

mmded,

That was really interesting to read your thoughts on these quite different performances!
What luck that you were able to see them all. :lol:

I was especially interested in your thoughts regarding the Stuttgart production, as we saw this on TV several weeks ago, and were - sigh - quite disappointed.
Perhaps the piece really does not lend itself to film, or perhaps there were things cut out, or perhaps ... oh, well, we don't get to see much ballet here, so we are perhaps "starved"; but we did miss more _dancing_, as there seemed to be an inordinate amount of "shaking" going on, but not that much else.
Granted, when there was more dancing, one really could appreciate the dancers' skills. :)

Those trousers with the nuts were quite something, and I can imagine they need to be repaired often. :FIREdevil:

So, thanks again. :angel_not:

-d-

#15 mmded

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Posted 16 January 2008 - 08:01 AM

Actually I wished there was more "dancing" too. I found that the upper body movement was really interesting and unlike anything I have seen before live but I found myself wishing that the choreographer could have focused as much energy and thought to the lower body as he must have with the upper body and in particular the hands. I think the "shaking" is something the choreographer is known for. There are some beautiful feet and legs in the company that were hidden by the costumes (and lighting) and the dancers did not move as I have seen them in the main theatre. I would not want to see that type of choreography more than once a year in all honesty but their Nussknacker is a very small production in terms of venue, number of performances and number of dancers. I think between my husband and I we have seen at least ten different Nutcrackers and Stuttgart's Nutcracker won hands down as being the most unusual.

I am not sure how accurately ballet translates to film. I saw Joni's Mitchell's The Fiddle and Drum danced by Alberta Ballet and I was not blown away. I saw a recording of the same production a year later and I now would make a real effort to see it again to see if I would have a different reaction. Joni Mitchell's music for me meshed with the dancers more hauntingly when they were seen in extreme close up and from interesting camera angles. I think there was too much going on live with the slide show in the background. Perhaps Nussknacker is better seen in person - it certainly ended with many bows, flowers and long applause that is not common in North America. :dunno:

I actually loved the "nut pants" and thought they must be fun to dance in (I think!) :P I am not sure if the sound of them came across on television but it was almost eerie at times in the small theatre.


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