Wiener Staatsoper opens its doors to modern dance with the spectacular double bill of ‘Live’ by Hans van Manen and ‘4’ by Martin Schläpfer. Two very different works of contemporary ballet united by the musical compositions of Franz Liszt and Gustav Mahler, two luminaries of the 19th century, form a powerful combination that transcends space and time. Thanks to the evocative melodies, the modern and inspired choreographies, and the talented dancers, the evening at the Vienna State Opera is full of promise and excitement.
For a long time ‘Live’ was the exclusive courtesy of the National Ballet Amsterdam. Hans van Manen created and choreographed the performance for this specific company back in 1979 and jealously kept it from any other dance troupe or director for decades. In it, a single ballerina romances a camera with her graceful moves. The image is projected on a big screen above the stage and pulls the audience into an intimate world of wonder, longing and raw emotion. The fiery piano music of Franz Liszt offers the perfect backdrop for van Manen’s expressive, visceral choreography and fixates the viewers’ attention commandingly. In the heart-warming finale, a male dancer joins the solo ballerina for a romantic pas de deux before she dashes away into the night, leaving audiences breathless.
Martin Schlämpfer’s ‘4’, based on the Fourth Symphony by Gustav Mahler, comes in stark contrast to the intimacy and chamber-like quality of ‘Live’. The Romantic Liszt makes room for the Modernist Mahler, and a different choreographic approach quickly takes over the stage. The rich soundscapes, the rapid dynamic changes, the effortless key changes that characterise the Fourth Symphony tell the story of the heavenly life, first in purely instrumental terms and finally through a beautiful soprano vocal line. Schlämpfer’s fascination with the complex and exciting music of Gustav Mahler goes back a long time, and ‘4’ is just one of many unique modern ballet moments born out of the special bond the two creative minds share across space and time.