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Igor Stravinsky

Julia Bullock sings Anne Truelove in #TheRakesProgress: 'Anne is a very mature woman'

At the first opportunity, he abandons her. He leads a debauched life, marries another and ends up in the madhouse. Yet Anne Truelove continues to love Tom Rakewell, the protagonist in The Rake's Progress. The National Opera will present its fourth production of Stravinsky's opera from 1 February, in collaboration with Aix-en-Provence. There, last July, the... 

Symphony of Psalms Igor Stravinsky: away with romantic sentiment

On Wednesday 24 January, the Nederlands Kamerkoor presents an adventurous concert at Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ to kick off a short tour. On the lecterns are rarely heard music by Lili Boulanger and Ton de Leeuw. The highlight is Igor Stravinsky's famous Psalm Symphony in a version for choir and piano four hands by Dmitri Shostakovich. Ralph van Raat and Bobby Mitchell sign... 

Rito de Primavera, José Vidal & Cía., Festival de Marseille. Photo: Fabian Cambero.

Rito de Primavera: spectacular, but also a mountain of kitsch, unworthy of the Holland Festival

Rito de Primavera, on show at the Holland Festival early this week, is a group choreography for fifty young dancers. Choreographer José Vidal has loosely based himself on Sacre du printemps, Stravinsky and Nijinsky's 1913 piece for the Ballet Russes. Fragments of Stravinsky's music have been turned into 4-quarter beetz by DJ Jim Hast, while Vidal has minimised the ritual aspect of the sacrifice, essential to the many versions made throughout the 20th century (besides Nijinsky's primal version, Massine, Béjart and Bausch, among others).

What remains is an overwhelming visual experience of a gigantic mass of dancers looming out of the darkness. The coordination of the group, at times dancing wildly through each other, at other times circling the stage in long parade, is impressive. It produces a fascinating, eye-opening aesthetic, but the group dance in no way challenges the audience. You could call it a pile of kitsch, or opium for the people. Either way, it is a form of spectacle that I consider unworthy of the Holland Festival.

School trip

The performance begins like a school trip. Near the box office, spectators are prepared in groups for what is to come. They are kindly requested to take off their shoes upon entering the theatre, and then to walk barefoot, hand in hand with fellow spectators, through the dark. Regularly, someone calls loudly for silence, as the performance has already started. There is also something uncomfortable about the nervous manner in which the audience, which is supposed to line up in rows after the instructions, is marched away to the performance space two buildings away.

The initiation of the visitors continues in the Purification Hall, when they pass through the pitch darkness hand in hand with the cool sand at their feet. It provides one of the few ambiguous moments during Rito de Primavera. Where is this going? What fairy tale are we being led into here? From which tourist boat have we fallen off, to now attend the rituals of which people again?

Naked!?

At first, the total experience that so many contemporary theme parks are looking for really takes shape. For half an hour, I stare at a stage in the dark. I see and feel a lot of people there, I think naked because sometimes there is a clever flash of soft light, but the dominant darkness prevents me from getting a grip on it. Ethereal singing composed by Andrés Abarzúa - a single chord sounds gurgling from many throats - accompanies the entrance of all the other spectators for half an hour.

The bleachers surround the playing surface. It is only the red and white bicycle lights of the guides of the many groups of spectators that give you some orientation in the space. It has something of Tintin in Takatukaland. An audience paying to be at a miraculous, never-before-seen, spring nymphing ritual.

Rito de Primavera, José Vidal & Cía. Photo: Fabian Cambero
Rito de Primavera, José Vidal & Cía. Photo: Fabian Cambero

Logic

The artificiality of the setting gives a certain tension. In the darkness, as a spectator, you can imagine all sorts of things about what is to come. But at some point, the bicycle lights go out, a sign that all spectators are seated, and the dancers all put on trousers. The light increases and the first beetz cum stravinsky supplants the singing. When, after the uncertain introitus, the actual spectacle begins, its logic becomes all too clear. A perfectly organised group choreography takes over.

In what follows, nothing is left to chance. And that is no luxury with so many dancers in semi-darkness, especially as half of them are also new to the work, because from the Modern Theatre Dance Department of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. The group makes pulsating movements, dialogues with a neighbour, runs in groups, starts singing again, postures and occasionally lifts a single person in the air.

Impact-aware

But just as the darkness gets used, so does the group. They are all very young people, fairly relaxed dancing together. The uninhibited attitude with which the complicated group choreographies are performed is touching. A naive kind of surrender or faith speaks from it.

But gradually the effects, of the group choreography, of the light that creates the photographic vistas, the repetitive singing and beetz get boring. The repetition of moves is effect-laden, rhetorical, self-affirming. Nowhere a moment of debacle, of faltering. No one who has a question, can't keep up, is wrong

Erik Voermans 'From Andriessen to Zappa': enthusiastic plea for elitist music

Erik Voermans (1958) is one of those people who writes down what you think yourself, but would never air publicly. The music editor of Het Parool likes to pose as your unsuspecting neighbour's boy, watching the music world with amazement. Take the phenomenon of opera: 'That's when someone with a knife in his taas walks around for half an hour singing that he's going to die.' If he... 

Spotlight on Chopping Board and Psalms Pump

Cimbalom and harmonium are not the first instruments you immediately think of when you think of classical music. Yet, the ever-adventurous Ludwig collective puts precisely these mavericks at the centre of two concerts, on Saturday 26 September at the AVROTROS Vrijdagconcert in Utrecht and on Sunday 27-9 at Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ in Amsterdam. In 1915, Igor Stravinsky and a friend visited a... 

Voice artist Cathy Berberian was NOT 'the wife of...'

American-Italian voice artist Cathy Berberian (1925-1983) has gone down in history as 'the wife of Luciano Berio', the Italian composer with whom she realised such high-profile pieces as Circles, Sequenza III, Recital I for Cathy and Thema, Omaggio a Joyce. Yet they were married for only 14 years, from 1950 to 1964. Moreover, it is widely known that she had a large compositional share 

Toonkunst Choir not afraid of Peasant Wedding Stravinsky

Toonkunstkoor Amsterdam has had a name to live up to since its establishment in 1829. In earlier times, it was invariably on hand when the Concertgebouw Orchestra and Willem Mengelberg performed large-scale choral works. Although the choir still consists of amateurs and its ties with the illustrious orchestra have weakened, it still puts (very) demanding pieces on its desks. For instance, the... 

Peter van Onna: 'Treaty of Utrecht is also topical now'

Three hundred years ago, the Treaty of Utrecht was signed, bringing an end to both the War of Spanish Succession, and the War of Queen Anne. Remarkably, this peace treaty was not negotiated on the battlefield, but at the negotiating table. It took a year and a half for the many parties to come to an agreement, and the treaty counts as the beginning of... 

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