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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lot of Mind, but few Feet, 11 July 2012
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Mordrain (Milan, Italy) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Neumeier: Death In Venice (Tod In Venedig 2004) (Arthaus: 101622) [DVD] [2012] (DVD)
Here it is another ballet by Neumeier, choreographer that I truly estime for his "literary" approach, and who gave us great ballets, as the wonderful "Die Kameliendame".
This time the challenge is "Tod in Venedig" (Death in Venice) inspired to Thomas Mann's novel, whose plot has slightly been changed to fit Neumeier's inspiration.
Here we have von Aschenbach, a choreagrapher at the top of fame, arrived at a turning point of his life. He is composing a new ballet about Friederich the Great, on Bach's music, and it is a work truly representative of his life: rational, clear, apollonian, but also cold, as it is Aschenbach's life indeed.
But he starts to have dreams and encounters with sensuous and sensual men, that awaken his perceptions and the awareness of his life's deficiencies. He goes to Venice, where the encounter with Tadzio - a young, beautiful, innocent but sensual boy - is like a conflagration in Aschenbach's life. He now discovers how deeply rooted is his dionysiac part. The conflict between apollonian and dyonisiac - between his well-ruled life and the huge passion for the lovely boy - cannot be resolved and he surrenders to the Death, that now strikes Venice with a cholera epidemy.
The conflict is well showed using the juxtaposed music from Bach and Wagner, that symbolise very well the apollonian and dionysiac sides. Even the dance styles change deeply, following the music, and this is one of the better aspects of this ballet.
I have found the plot intellectually interesting and humanly moving, and I also think that it is almost the best part of this ballet. But, sadly, I think that this ballet lacks of dance. A quite severe opinion, and maybe not everybody would agree.
Most part of the time of the ballet (over 2h) is a pantomime: you see the dancers moving on the stage, drinking, playing, etc., but true dance is really too little and, when you can see legs, and arms, and bodies moving like I would expect in a ballet, the choreography is muddled, bodies stumble, there is not the harmony that I found in other Neumeier's ballets (e.g. Sylvia, Kameliendame, Schwanensee...). I haven't found any thrill in this ballet.
Two exemples:
1. A dream/nightmare of Aschenbach. Music: Bach, Toccata in D Minor, rearranged as rock/punk (not so bad as you could imagine, I quite enjoyed the music). We have the dancers in a rock-like choreography, but they look still and rigid as puppets. I think what is a real rocker, what would have done Mick Jagger or The Kiss and... well... I missed them! Here we have just shadows and no real envolvement.
2. The death of Aschenbach. Music: das Liebetod by Tristan und Isolde. It is one of purest, most sensual, desperate, intense, wonderful piece of music ever written. Absolutely perfect choice! But here, as choreography on this superb music, we have just a run on the stage of Aschenbach, led by Tadzio, a final hug and Aschenbach gliding in death. If I compare this to the end of McMillan's Romeo&Juliet, I feel quite disappointed...
I do not know if this emotional lack could be fault of the dancers: I do not believe. Lloyd Riggins (Aschenbach) is absolutely perfect, a wonderful actor: his face and body convey both the psychological development of Aschenbach, I hardly could imagine somebody better.
Tadzio - Edvin Revazov - is also perfect as actor: teasing, but innocent, beautiful, young and with a strong presence on stage.
(One more word on Azzoni: she leads a minor role, but as always I find her presence refreshing, lively and graceful.)
As good both of the leading dancers could have been, I would have liked better to see them dancing more, instead of acting.
So: why give I 4 star, if I missed so badly the dancing part? Well, because the performance is never boring, the plot is good, the dancers are really good actors, and my mind was always puzzled, to understand the meaning of what on stage. Even though it was not the ballet I expected, it has been something that I enjoyed, even though not as I enjoyed the previous ballet form Neumeier.
A few more notes:
Camera work: closed on faces, too close in my opinion, but it is an express desire by Neumeier.
Scenes and costumes: simple, but really effective
Bonus: an additional 1-h long movie about back-stage work and with an interview to Neumeier.
(sorry for my english, I am not English, thank you for your understanding...)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly moving, 27 July 2012
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This review is from: Neumeier: Death In Venice (Tod In Venedig 2004) (Arthaus: 101622) [DVD] [2012] (DVD)
Although some of the narrative sequences are a little turgid, this Wagnerian take on what we tend to consider a 'Mahler' subject works surprisingly well. Neumeier is at his best when composing passages in neo-classical style, and there are many of these for Tadzio and his chums, as well as for the dancers in a studio. Llyod Riggins (an older American dancer new to me) is effective as the central character (changed, here, to a choreographer rather than an author)and he achieves true pathos at the end when he imagines embracing the boy just before his demise. Tadzio is a big-boned, healthy-looking Adonis type whose personal radiance goes a long way to explaining why Aschenbach becomes obsessed. Neumeier's company looks good. I looked up some reviews of the production when it was new, and the critics were generally a bit dismissive of it. I must say, I liked lots of it.
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