Duets and Solos is a Covid-safe dance gala idea devised by Italian producer Daniele Cipriani when the pandemic crippled the programming plans of the Italian open-air festivals. Social distancing for the audiences was feasible with the often vast open spaces used, and the Italian directive allowed for 1,000 people to be present for an outdoor gathering. What to put on the stage was the problem.
Choosing duets with couples who live in the same ‘bubble' was a possibility, meaning that masks and gloves could be done away with after leaving the wings. So in Nervi, and then Ravenna, there were duets with Silvia Azzoni and Alexander Ryabko from Hamburg Ballet, and Iana Salenko and Marian Walter from Berlin. The solos were provided by Hugo Marchand from the Paris Opéra Ballet, Matteo Miccini from Stuttgart, and the Spanish dancer Sergio Bernal. Socially distanced music was made trouble-free by having only a pianist and a cello playing some specially conceived arrangements as well as choosing pieces that used this combination of instruments.
A new edition of Duets and Solos arrives at the Luciano Pavarotti Municipal Theatre in Modena on 6 December at 8pm (CET) will be streamed free-of-charge on the theatre's YouTube channel.
As in July, the pianist Beatrice Rana and the cellist Mario Brunello will be on stage, joined this time by a second pianist, Massimo Spada. Brunello is one of the most sought-after artists of his generation, and the dazzling Beatrice Rana has already shaken the world of classical music. Among the music she will play will be Bach's Aria, the opening of the Goldberg Variations. Her recording of the variations in 2017 went to number one on the UK classical charts and won her Gramophone magazine's “Young Artist of the Year” award.
The all-male cast includes two on and off stage couples: Matteo Miccini (Stuttgart Ballet) and Marijn Rademaker (former principal with Stuttgart Ballet and Dutch National Ballet), and Sasha Riva and Simone Repele (both formerly with the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève). They will be joined by Sergio Bernal (formerly with the Ballet Nacional de España).
Fortunately, in the world of dance, there are many dancers who are couples, and among them also several principals dancers. It happens that the dancers who will dance in Modena are also choreographers and have created pieces on well-known music for piano and cello that will be interpreted by Brunello, Rana and Spada. A special programme, therefore, in which two sister arts, those of Euterpe and Terpsichore, are also combined: they weave together, each maintaining its own characteristic, but forming a single fabric.
Moments without dance are the Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata in G minor and Rodion Shchedrin's Quadrille for cello & piano. A curiosity is that Brunello will play Bach's Chaconne from Partita No 2, which was written for violin, on his ‘small cello', a rare historical instrument which is halfway between a viola and a cello. It has the same tuning scheme and agility as a violin but allows the notes to be played with a similar resonance to a cello.
Sergio Bernal will dance his calling-card piece, Ricardo Cué's The Swan, a male version of The Dying Swan, and Iberian passion from his homeland will arrive via a dance to the music of Gaspar Cassadó, himself a cellist. Matteo Miccini will perform Edward Clug's solo Ssss, set to a Chopin nocturne, and will also dance Folia de Caballeros with Bernal, where the two “Caballeros” dance at a distance without ever touching.
Sasha Riva and Simone Repele will perform two new creations: Novembre 29 to a Chopin nocturne, and Portrait di Lili to extracts from the Goldberg Variations. The second work is an anticipation of a longer ballet inspired by the biography of Danish painter Lili Elbe, one of the first transgender artists in history and a story immortalised in Tom Hopper's film The Danish Girl.
Matteo Miccini and Marijn Rademaker will dance What We've Been Telling You, which they also choreographed. It is set to Schubert's Fantasia in F minor and played by the third couple on stage in Modena, one formed by pianists Beatrice Rana and Massimo Spada.
The pandemic forced me to find new formulas, as all the shows I have devised in recent months can testify. Now, organising an event in streaming is the only possible way to give artists the chance to express their art and above all to allow people to drink from the source of this art and beauty.
The government, with its mandates, thinks about protecting health and compensating for economic damage, and these are sacrosanct necessities. But people are also suffering from anxiety, depression, even suicidal tendencies. So I believe that in addition to these measures, we must also strengthen the spirit with beauty. If the Titanic orchestra continued to play while the legendary transatlantic liner went down, it was because, at that moment, music was the only source from which to draw strength to face the tragedy. Fortunately, we are not in the middle of the ocean, but I would still say we are inspired by Pina Bausch who urged us to dance, dance, otherwise we are lost.
DUETS AND SOLOS
Mario Brunello (cello) – Beatrice Rana (piano)
with Massimo Spada (piano)
Sergio Bernal, Matteo Miccini, Marijn Rademaker, Simone Repele, Sasha Riva
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Andante from Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Minor Op. 19
Novembre 29 (new creation)
Choreography: Sasha Riva and Simone Repele
With Sasha Riva and Simone Repele
Music: Frédéric Chopin, Nocturne in C Minor KK IVb-8; Nocturne in C minor Op. 48 No. 1
Choreography: Edward Clug
With Matteo Miccini
Music: Frédéric Chopin, Nocturne Op. 9 No. 1 in B flat minor
Intermezzo and Danza Finale
Choreography: Sergio Bernal
With Sergio Bernal
Music: Gaspar Cassadó, Suite for Cello No. 3
Rodion Shchedrin: Quadrille for cello and piano
Folia de Caballeros
Choreography: Sergio Bernal and Joaquín De Luz
With Sergio Bernal and Matteo Miccini
Music: Variations on the theme La Follia (transcribed for piano and cello by Cesare Freddi and Laura Serra)
Portrait di Lili (new creation)
Choreography: Sasha Riva and Simone Repele
With Sasha Riva
Music: J S Bach's “Aria” from the Goldberg Variations
J S Bach: Chaconne for solo violin (played on a ‘small cello')
What we've been telling you
Choreography: Matteo Miccini and Marijn Rademaker
With Matteo Miccini and Marijn Rademaker
Music: Franz Schubert, Fantasia in F minor
Choreography: Ricardo Cué
With Sergio Bernal
Music: Camille Saint-Saëns “The Swan” from Le Carnaval des animaux
Le Grand Tango
Music: Astor Piazzola
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.