keskiviikko, 27. lokakuu 2021

At long last, Spartacus

Not that I have been particularly waiting to see Spartacus, but it's been a year since I've been at Töölö Bay.

So, at long last, a week ago I saw the new choreography of Spartacus by Lucas Jervies to Aram Khachaturian's music. It had been a long day at work away from home, and I barely had time to grab some food and change clothes before leaving for the ballet. On one hand I would have been happy to stay home and rest, but on the other I was eager to go after the long break.

At first it seemed rather silly, and I couldn't help seeking historical inaccuracies (such as, how could a slave girl be called Flavia, and why do the men wear trousers). But really, a 20th century ballet is not a documentary of republican Rome and with an effort I turned my impertinent nitpicking off, and was finally able to enjoy the interpretation, which was actually quite nice, even if not really inspiring. At the end there was wild applause and shouting; hard to fathom why. Was there a claque??

When leaving I heard a voice at the exit say behind my back: "Two decent pas de deux make up for a lot". And "even Khachaturian makes mistakes". It really summarised my feelings perfectly.

torstai, 8. lokakuu 2020

Ballet in the Time of Corona, and Stuff

Time has passed, the season has changed, and the Opera House is working again, with precautions.

The first live performance for me this autumn was Le Corsaire, maybe just right for the times, an escape to an unreal and colourful Orient. I can't imagine a Finn producing anything so shamelessly glittering and exotic, but then the performance was rented from the English National Ballet.

The music by the various composers was lively and the dancing pleasant although as a whole predictable. The ballet was entertaining and better than I had expected, but I don't expect it will turn out to be an unforgettable experience.


Otherwise I've watched Covid fan tutte on line with music by Mozart and a topical plot with a diva (Karita Mattila) stuck in Helsinki and Wagner sopranos being forced to sing Mozart - Die Walküre was scheduled to start the season. In addition there were government infos that had become familiar to us in the spring, and a dancing virus giving red roses around, unsuccesfully, I'm happy to say. It was fun actually, and I was almost sorry I didn't attend it in person.

I've been working remotely since mid-March. Now in the autumn I have some tasks that require my presence in Helsinki, but otherwise I prefer staying in Lahti with a more pleasant environment.

As for the disease, I've been tested once with a negative result (a peculiar and unpleasant experience), but one keeps wondering at every sneeze and a slightly sore throat...

perjantai, 20. maaliskuu 2020

Opera in the Time of Corona

I had a ticket for the performance of Don Giovanni on the 19th, but it was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, as are all events. However, the recorded performance of March 10th is shown online for a time at Stage24, and I watched it at the same time as I would have been at the opera normally.

The Helsingin Sanomat review of the direction by Jussi Nikkilä was very bad, but I found it amusing and entertaining. Visually it is impressive, although as a whole the experience is thin compared to a live performance, but maybe I'll see it live in the future. The costumes are a strange hotchpotch of styles from renaissance to the late 20th century - probably saying something about the timelessness of the phenomenon. At the same time it is easy to see the story in the framework of late 18th century ideas. Leporello (Markus Suihkonen) was nice - I have quite a crush on him. Unfortunately the end was unconvincing - and I don't mean the original supernatural elements, but Nikkinen's more rational Orient Express solution. Also Tuomas Pursio's (Don Giovanni) acting in the latter half was amateurish.

As a whole it was a good experience, and now it feels almost as if I had been at the opera. Well, about 35%.

perjantai, 28. helmikuu 2020

A Carmen Ballet

It really has been a while since last I wrote. Yesterday I saw the ballet Carmen. The production is hired from the Norwegian National Ballet, and in the local newspaper the critic Jukka O. Miettinen asks why. Yesterday the answer was obvious: the house was full, the performance was good and entertaining, and the audience was enthusiastic.

The ballet is set in 1930's Spain before the civil war, but I don't find that it adds anything essential to the story. The choreographer Liam Scarlett wanted the audience to empathise with both Carmen (Rebecca King) and Don José (Jun Xia), which in my case failed. It contains all the familiar music of the Bizet opera plus some from L'Arlesienne reorganised in a way not possible in an opera.

As usual I attached my attention to inessentials: in the first act there is a strangely left-handed statue of a military person with his left hand raised and sword on the right side. It is somehow slightly off-balance, perhaps on purpose, but I kept wanting to fix it and had to tear my eyes away. Another memorable thing is in the second act Escamillo (Alfio Drago) doing his oily psychopat dance in black leather at the tavern, which is repeated in a more civilised fashion in the third act on the arena, which also got me wondering the islamic roots of Spanish culture.

At the end there were people whooping and clapping. I wonder if they were the Turku region waste disposal and Keep Archipelago Clean people I passed at the wine bar when entering? All in all a nice evening, but I missed the singing; dance always leaves me feeling slightly out of it.


I've been feeling a little out of sorts, but last December I saw the Pippi Longstocking ballet (chor. Pär Isberg, music by Stefan Nilsson and Greg Riedel): children loved it, I was slightly bored, although it did have its moments. This January I saw Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss, which was mercifully short, although it had its moments, too. Jorma Uotinen (retired ballet dancer) played the richest man in Vienna: I can't see that it being just him added anything, but these days he seems to be everywhere: in TV programmes, on stage, and now even advertised on trams as president Kekkonen.

perjantai, 11. lokakuu 2019

Light Entertainment

Again three short ballets, this time called Triple Bill (in Finnish puzzlingly Tripla as the new Mall of Tripla is soon to be opened in Pasila district), with ballets by Wayne McGregor, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.

McCregor's Infra to music by Max Richter was to my liking the most interesting, although not having read the introduction I apparently saw it in a wrong way: not as life under the surface of the city, but as the usual relationship mess on the surface of earth, and Julian Opie's walking figures of light more like transcendent reflections, thus more Supra than Infra.

Balanchine's Serenade to Tchaikovsky’s music I liked better than I had expected. I must have seen it before as it was last performed here in 2004, but I have no memory of it, which is not surprising as I see Balanchine as empty but pretty form.

Last but not least The Concert by Robbins to music by Frédéric Chopin. I don't think I have ever heard ballet audience laugh out loud, and it was indeed a funny parody of a concert in 1950s. The types of people depicted there are, however, extinct, and so there was a faint whiff of mists of time over it all, like classic slapstick comedy: one laughs but it doesn't really touch.

The house was almost full, which is not common with these triple bills at the National Ballet, and the audience was pleased with what they saw, to judge by the applause.


The prices at the restaurant have changed: a glass of red or white wine is now 11,50€, while sparkling wine is 8,50€ and champagne 12€ as before.