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It was undoubtedly a courageous choice, if not reckless, of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma to start the autumn season on a hot 13 September 2022 with a program of contemporary ballets 'created' by the French choreographer and film director of Albanian origin, Angelin Preljocaj. He has already staged performances at the Rome Opera House but is known mainly in the United States, France and Switzerland. In mid-September, in a hot summer like this of 2022, many high-income Romans - those who most attend first performances at Teatro dell'Opera - remain at the seaside or in the mountains.
In fact, since I am used to arriving at the theatre early, I was worried at the beginning of the evening because, twenty minutes before the curtain rose, the stalls were half empty and only a few boxes were occupied. In the five minutes before the performance began, the stalls were filled, and then the boxes. In mid-September, 8pm in Rome is 'rush hour', when traffic reaches its maximum: numerous box holders arrived late.
Let's go back to Preljocaj. He became known for his particular style: dance that involves the body and muscles eloquently and is an instrument of dialogue. For the return to Rome, he chose two ballets lasting a total of an hour and a half, without interval but with a break between the first and second parts. The first, which had already been seen in Rome in 2017, is spiritual. The second is an absolute premiere and is very carnal - almost lustful.
The first is entitled Annonciation and concerns the proclamation to the Virgin Mary. The backing track is recorded on tape. It is not the first time that a sacred subject has been the subject of a ballet; think of Nobilissima visione - an absolute masterpiece composed by Paul Hindemith for Les Ballets Russes and proposed by Riccardo Muti at the Ravenna Festival about ten years ago.
Annonciation is one of Preljocaj's shortest and best-known ballets. It has won numerous firsts since the late 1990s. The choreography, a play for two dancers, brings to the stage a key moment of our religion, namely the encounter between the Virgin Mary and the Archangel Gabriel. While iconography has repeatedly represented this subject, choreographic art has not. Angelin Preljocaj gives life to a choreographic weaving capable of representing the idea of a body in transformation. The meeting between the two dancers develops a dualism of quality that highlights the contrasting sensations: tension and strength on the one hand; softness and fragility on the other. This dualism is not only particularly evident in the choreography but is also underlined by Canadian composer Stéphane Roy's music, in perfect antithesis to Antonio Vivaldi's Magnificat. Interpreters of this cameo are Rebecca Bianchi (who had already represented it in 2017) and Annalisa Cianci.
Nuit romaine is of a very different nature. It was born from a film, also by Preljocaj, which, in turn, draws inspiration from Palazzo Farnese, the seat of the French Embassy in Italy. It expresses the joy, sensuality and carnality of a summer night in Rome - a night in which, around and next to the two protagonists (Eleonora Abbagnato and Friedemann Vogel), the étoiles, first dancers, soloists and the whole corps de ballet of the theater dance in a series of quick scenes.
The music is by Vivaldi, Handel, Bach, Rossini, Beethoven, Schubert, Wagner and Punk (in the order of presentation and always on a recorded basis). There were luxury costumes by Maria Grazia Chiuri and Christian Dior. Overall, it was a fascinating sight. There is only one drawback: the scenes are almost naked and only in two of them can you see Palazzo Farnese.
There was warm applause.
Copyright © 15 September 2022