Schubert’s Winterreise is the basis of Angelin Preljocaj’s new work commissioned by La Scala.
It continues the series of ballets at the theatre using chamber music and a smaller group of dancers than for standard repertory works, which haven’t been huge successes in the past – enough to say that no piece has returned after its initial outing. Heinz Spoerli’s Cello Suites presented in 2015 resulted in largely empty houses, and his Goldberg Variations earlier this year was similarly unpopular for tickets sales (though both were extremely well danced and successful artistically). One had a cello, the other a piano, and both came in at under an hour-and-a-half. Winterreise (piano, baritone, 1 hour and 20 minutes) won’t cost the €180 of a Nutcracker (currently on stage until January) but ‘just’ €152. All are pieces suited to smaller venues and at half that price. A stalls ticket to see Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake at Sadler’s Wells (running time 2 hours and 30 minutes) will cost you €80. Even so, La Scala’s press release insists that these chamber ballets are “fortunate and stimulating”.
La Scala has presented the Italian debuts of three of Preljocaj’s works — Annonciation, Le Parc and La stravaganza, though this is the first time that he has created a work for the company.
It is indeed very rare for me to make creations for a company other than Ballet Preljocaj. So far it has happened only with the Paris Opera Ballet and the New York City Ballet. The dancers at La Scala know my style as there are several of my works in the company repertoire, so when Director Frédéric Olivieri discussed the possibility of a new work I thought it was time to start a new adventure!
I think that projects using chamber music for their structure create a sort of intimacy among the various protagonists: musicians, dancers and audiences — a magic triangle that is created more than with a large orchestra. This is one of the reasons why I chose Winterreise: The 24 Schubert Lieder represent something intimate and delicate and one of my goals was to discover — together with the musicians, dancers and audiences — a complicity and a sharing of the intimate atmosphere of this journey… this Winter Journey. It resembles life. I imagine it as a winter garden, a place where winter is present but also the seeds of coming seasons, almost an experimental laboratory of life.
Bass baritone Thomas Tatzl will be accompanied by James Vaughan.
Winterreise runs from Thursday 24 January – Saturday 9 March 2019, Teatro alla Scala, Milan
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.