‘Shrew’ at its wildest and funniest

Art July 15, 2017 01:00

By Special to The Nation

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The Stuttgart Ballet’s version of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ has been wowing audiences since 1969



BANGKOK’S 19th International Festival of Dance and Music brings to Bangkok one of the world’s premier ballet companies – the Stuttgart Ballet – presenting its hallmark production “The Taming of the Shrew”.

Germany’s Stuttgart Ballet has been at the forefront of dance creation for decades. Distinguished by its pioneering work, the company will present John Cranko’s “Taming of the Shrew”, based on William Shakespeare’s famous comedy.

Scheduled for October 18 and 19, the whimsical and witty two-act masterpiece, set to a delightful score orchestrated by Kurt-Heinz Stolze (after Domenico Scarlatti), is a Cranko classic filled with spectacular dancing and hilarious action. The action moves along at a fast lick, doing absolute justice to the Shakespearean original.

Cranko’s choreography has the lovers Petruchio and Katherina in a constant battle of wits, with the dancing underlining the humour perfectly. 

The story in a nutshell has Petruchio determined to bend the feisty and tempestuous Katherina to his will, but Katherina will have none of it. Even as they duel, the couple gradually falls in love. 

The ballet, as critic Jim Pritchard of SeenAndHeard-International.com puts it, is “a masterclass in how a classic play can be transformed into an entertaining two-hour ballet that celebrates the ability of pure dance to tell a story with just music and movement”.

Lavish scenery and costumes, created by the famous Elisabeth Dalton, give the ballet its perfect setting in Padua, Italy. Made for the production’s world premiere in 1969, they became the highlights of Dalton’s career. Several companies that subsequently incorporated Cranko’s “Taming” into their repertoire also used her designs. 

The Stuttgart Ballet has a devoted following among aficionados. Tanz, Europe’s biggest and most respected ballet and dance magazine, has said the troupe “doesn’t follow trends – it sets them”. 

Ballet’s history in Stuttgart goes back to the 17th-century court of Wurttemberg, an acclaimed centre for dance in Europe from the 18th to the early 20th centuries. 

Post-World War II, the company rekindled public interest in classical dance. In 1957 Nicolas Beriozoff, a former dancer with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, was appointed to lead the ensemble. In 1961 Cranko was appointed director and choreographer, and with him a new era began. Until Cranko’s death in 1973, he authored the most successful chapter of Stuttgart’s ballet history. He brought in exceptional dancers like Marcia Haydee, who became his muse and prima ballerina. 

Cranko’s vision helped renew the genre of the full-length narrative ballet with three new works – “Romeo and Juliet” (1962), “Onegin” (1965 and again in 1967) and “The Taming of the Shrew” (1969). 

He also created one-act masterpieces – “Jeu de cartes, Opus 1” and “Initials RBME”. 

A triumphant New York presentation in 1969 had critics talking about the “The Stuttgart Ballet Miracle”. 

Cranko laid such deep and strong foundations that, even after his death, the “miracle” continued. 

His successor, George Tetley, opened the minds and bodies of the dancers to an entirely novel movement-language and conveyed to them a contemporary dance aesthetic. 

In 1976, prima ballerina and principal dancer Marcia Haydee took over the directorship, broadening the repertoire. 

Most importantly, she appointed William Forsythe – a dancer in the company – and subsequently Uwe Scholz as resident choreographers. 

After 20 years as director, Haydee handed over the baton to Reid Anderson, who prepared the company for the new millennium with a stylistically broad repertoire that attracts the best dance talent from around the world – with more than 25 nationalities currently represented. 

Highlighting this wealth of talent are the leads. Dancing Kathe-rina are Elisa Badenes (on October 18) and Alicia Amatriain (October 19), while Petruchio is essayed by Adhonay Soares da Silva the first night and Jason Reilly the second. 

Both Amatriain and Reilly have been recognised with the national title of “Kammertaenzerin”, the highest status a dancer can achieve in Germany. They bring more than just technical perfection to the stage as they deliver an emotional performance that is at the same time comical.

George Balanchine judged the ballet to be “just as amusing to see in dance form as it is in the spoken theatre”. And that is exactly what the Stuttgart Ballet delivers, seamlessly bringing together acting and dancing. The cheerful and boisterous music, the colourful costumes and charming set, the comedy and the flawless dancing make this the perfect ballet for the whole family.

Bangkok’s 19th International Festival of Dance & Music has the support of the Crown Property Bureau, Bangkok Bank, Bangkok Dusit Medical Services, BMW Thailand, B Grimm Group, Dusit Thani Bangkok, Indorama Ventures, Ministry of Culture, Nation Group, PTT, Singha Corp, Thai Airways International, Thai Union Group and the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Just a kiss, Kate!

See “The Taming of the Shrew” by the Stuttgart Ballet on October 18 and 19 at the Thailand Cultural Centre.

Seats are available at www.ThaiTicketMajor.com and (02) 262 3191. 

Find out more at www.BangkokFestivals.com