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Raymonda in Munich

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I saw the premiere of a new production of Raymonda in Munich on Saturday night. It was staged by Ray Barra, formely a dancer with the Stuttgart Ballet and the first Onegin in Cranko's ballet of that name. Lise-Maree Cullem danced the title role with Kirill Melnikov as Jean de Brienne and Amilcar Moret Gonzalez as Abderakhman.

I have to say I wasn't very impressed by the production - and if anyone is at all interested I'll post a longer piece and try to explain just why. The orchestra however was wonderful - it was such a pleasure to hear that lovely Glazunov score so beautifully and lovingly played. I'm also curious about Mr Gonzalez who seemed much of the time to be the only person alive on the stage. I wondered if Sonja knows anything about his background?

[ December 03, 2001: Message edited by: Alymer ]

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Hi Alymer,

thanks for bringing up this topic! I was hesitating to mention this production - although I think it is great to have it in the repertoire as another real classic, I feel it's difficult to match with really "big" companies' ones...

Personally, I felt quite unhappy about the casting. Kirill Melnikov is more a dramatic dancer than a prince, and though I really like Lisa-Maree Cullum (I found her dancing really beautiful, light as a feather and very musical) and Amilcar Moret Gonzales, I was missing any rapport between them.

Amilcar Moret Gonzales was born in Cuba and trained at their National Ballet School. He's been with the company for a while now and often cast in modern pieces - he is the central figure in Teshigawara's "Sacre du printemps", plus the male lead in van Manen's "Grosse Fuge", to name just two. In September, he gave his debut as Basil in Don Q. (which I missed, unfortunately!), so he seems to get access to some classics as well. He's married (as could be read in every Munich newspaper, well, almost every) to Munich principal Kusha Alexi from Switzerland who will dance Raymonda first time on 21 December. (He will then dance Abderakhman as well, so I am curious about the rapport then!)

I also like the music a lot, and I think it was worth to give this ballet a try. It will be interesting to see how future performances with different casts will look!

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Here's what's on Munich ballet website

"Born on 5 July 1977, danced with Jeune Ballet de France (well tracked down , Estelle, I did not know that!) and at Deutsche Oper Berlin, then he came to Bavarian State Ballet in 1997 as group dancer. With this company, he has danced Max in "Max und Moritz", cadett (sp?) in Neumeier's "Nutcracker", Gaston Rieux in "Lady of the Camellias", Puck in Neumeier's "Midsummernight's Dream", Benno in "Swan Lake" and as Man with the strong heart in "Emma B" [ballet by Jean Grand-Maitre, in one day, out the next...] More recently, he shone in Teshigawara's "Sacre du Printemps", "Quartett in G" by Patrick Teschner [one of the company's soloists], Bronze Idol in "La Bayadere" and in the audience favourite "Intuition Blast" [a funny pas de deux for two men to music of Swan Lake]. With the season 2000/2001 he has been promoted to soloist. In November 2000 he danced the male lead in "Petrouchka" [ch: Hosseinpur] and later that season Lescaut in "Manon".

Missing in this list is Mats Ek's "A sort of" where he also dances the male lead - and I am sure I have forgotten something... wink.gif

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Andrei, I have started a separate topic re. your question.

Back to Raymonda - Thursday night saw an entirely new cast, and I think it was a different ballet! Raymonda was Barbara Kohoutkova - not entirely as light as Lisa-Maree Cullum, but portraying a young woman who went through some really heartbreaking experience very credibly. Her Jean was Lukas Slavicky, also from Czech Republic - he's only about 21? 22?, and he looked also credible in this role - bit like a spoiled young man who focusses on his "career" and is going to marry for social reasons. Well, with these two dancers, Barra's "reconciliation pdd" made much more sense to me - there was a guy who felt sorry for how he behaved and promised to change his life.

Abderakhman was danced by Alen Bottaini - those who know me will know the tone of what will follow... wink.gif To cut it short: Amilcar Moret Gonzales was good, but Alen Bottaini knocked me off my shoes. This was not a handsome exotic guy, but this was Abderakhman who knows he gets what he wants. And he wanted Raymonda. Suddenly it made sense that the "Lady in White" came to give magical power to Jean - otherwise the poor boy would not have had a chance against Abderakhman... On 21 December, third cast will premiere, with Kusha Alexi as Raymonda.

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Sonja, I'm glad you enjoyed Raymonda more with a different cast. With the exception of Ganzales, I wasn't really impressed with the dancing on the first night. I was never a great fan of Melnikov, and I don't think time has changed my opinion. I thought Cullem danced nicely enough, but was pretty bland most of the time.

But on reflection, my real problem lies with the production. Those old ballets were conceived with a mix of classical variations and ensembles, character dances and mimed roles and with a structure that provided variety and contrast. In this production everyone dances all the time. At the end of the first act my husband remarked "what a lot of steps". And it was just that.

The White Lady, which has been a mimed role in all the productions I've seen, dances all the time,every step you can think of - everything but fouettes. She even has two gentlemen supporters in fluttering tunics who jump about a bit and carry her around the stage.

The Spanish dance has gone, the Saracen dance reworked and lots of pretty detail - such as Raymonda's first entrance - has been changed, at least from the versions I'm familiar with.

The general impression I came away with was that there were no contrasts and no climaxes. Even the Pas Classiqe Hongrois seemed to be goulash without any paprika. Cullem danced her variation well enough, but without any of the changes of mood that can be found in the chorography and which make it more than just a series of steps. But all those nice Hungarian details were missing. And I could have done without the cute kids who came in instead of the Mazurka.

How much of this bland, single note impression is due to the dancers I can only guess, but I would suspect that much of the blame can be laid on the production. The decor didn't help either. Somewhat abstract, very handsome,it was presumably meant to look medieval,but to me it seemed more Art Deco. And to have Raymonda appear in the dream sequence in a kneelength,medieval style costume, while the corps de ballet are all in tutus, looked really odd.

The one really touching moment I felt was the death of Abderakman where Cullum and Gonzales really made something of it. Otherwise, apart from the orchestral playing,I didn't find the production worked for mewhich is sad as it's a ballet I love.

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Francoise, I am glad you liked Maria and Alen when they danced in Paris! I really like both of them. Unfortunately, Maria Eichwald has been injured quite a lot - stress fractures, I guess, but in autumn she broke her foot in a slide in the coda of "In the night" - this was only discovered quite late as the foot was swollen badly, so not treated (I do not know enough about medicine to judge, but feel really sorry for her!) and has been totally off for more than two months now!

Yesterday I heard she has only recently started to take class again, so she probably won't be back on stage before February... (Such a shame - I was looking forward sooo much to her and Alen's "Taming of the Shrew"!)

Alymer, thanks for giving more details. You hit the point in saying all looked a bit the same - I did not know exactly what it was, but it could have been this... In a way I am glad the "White Lady" got to dance that much since I like Sherelle a lot (and she would never get to dance Raymonda), but for the production itself, I am not sure if this is good. (I have also met some people who got really tired of "all that dancing"...)

Well, I am glad we do have this ballet to give us a taste of it, though!

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