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A few solid misses, interspersed with plenty of indispensable beauty in week 3 of the Holland Festival #hf11

Photo: Mark Barton

The Dodo was busy, this third week of the Holland Festival. Thankfully, again with an exciting mix of beautiful, weird and extraordinary. As it should be, really. What makes the Holland Festival especially exciting is that extremes like that can sometimes take place within one programme, as with the Dutch National Ballet, or even within one performance, as with Toneelgroep Amsterdam's The Russians.

The programme around Robert Wyatt, seen on Tuesday at the Muziekgebouw aan het IJ, was special in many ways. The set-up, with the legendary Soft Machine singer's voice only on tape, and the accompaniment live by the highly professional musicians of the French Orchestre National de Jazz, was special. The music at times hallucinatory, but the whole thing a bit detached. We did find a nice story among the audience: a father see his son had named latterly after Robbert Wyatt. See from minute 3 in the video.

The meeting between modern dance topper Sacha Walz and modern music darling Wolfgang Rihm produced beautiful parts, but taken together there was no added value, we observed. So the performance mostly raised questions. And that, in turn, is actually beautiful. Sometimes.

Russians was not yet finished on Thursday, and that is not at all surprising. We know from Ivo van Hove, director of Toneelgoep Amsterdam and initiator of this mega-project, that his performances often only really take shape in the last days before the premiere. What we saw on Thursday was a rough diamond that still needed a lot of polishing. The performance that night also lasted well past noon. Friday, we learnt, the play in which Tom Lanoye merges Chekhov's Platonov and Ivanov was an hour shorter, and Saturday was another half-hour off. That only adds to the quality. An additional advantage is that the spectator from the province can still catch a train.

On Friday, our music staff members Lonneke Regter and Henri Drost experienced great things at the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ and the Concertgebouw, respectively. Regter saw a visual attractive spectacle with a few false notes of the Irrepressibles, Drost could lose himself in the work of Thomas Ades, which was familiar territory, but that was not to spoil the fun. On the contrary.

Less well had theatre critic Robbert van Heuven hit it off with The Select. Their stage performance of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises was too well behaved, according to Van Heuven, too American, and that contradicted the strength that previous literary performances by this striking company had exuded.

Nor were our dance critics Maarten Baanders and Fransien van der Putt happy about the National Ballet's double programme. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's choreography, which many had eagerly awaited, was too vacuous, according to our critics, as was david Dawson's hyperesthetic piece danced after the interval. So all in all at the Music Theatre not a pleasant evening.

Very nice it was on Sunday, though. Not only did Twitter reports reach us that things had turned out all right with Toneelgroep Amsterdam's The Russians, we ourselves were delighted with the Dutch premiere of Richard Ayres' opera Cricket Recovers, based on Toon Tellegen's work.

So we can once again look back on a Holland Festival week that went as it should: a few solid misses, interspersed with a lot of indispensable beauty.

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