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Die Glasmenagerie- The Glass Menagerie, Hamburg Ballett and Alina Cojocaru

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At 80, John Neumeier was able to produce another masterpiece: the free adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie”.


Returning to his American roots and to his personal story, he delivers an evocative ballet that reproduces with power and poetry the essence of the play. The are some additions, as the discovery and exploration of Tom’s homosexuality, but the characters reproduce and respect the originals, something that doesn’t always happen in Neumeier’s works…


Neumeier self designed set is beautiful and relatively minimal: fire-escapes dominate the sides and the back and the apartment of the Wingfields, where most of the scenes are set, is made of two walls with scarce very simple furniture.

Among the other sets are a cinema, Malvolio’s bar (where Tom “surrenders” to his homosexuality), Laura’s school, the shoemaker warehouse.

Neumeier uses, to a good effect, both as a movie screen and as a border, the screen that Williams used in the first representations of the play.

The music is by Charles Ives, Philip Glass, Ned Rorem and fragments of the music of Tennessee Williams's plays.


It’s an intimate work and the interactions and relationships among the main characters dominate the scene. The corps is used with effectiveness when needed, but the key to the success of this ballet is a strong cast of good/great actors: in such a delicate work there is no space for mannerism, affectation, overplay; it’s not about acting but living the characters with sincerity and spontaneity. For this play/ballet so important in his personal life, Neumeier chose a formidable first cast.


Alina Cojocaru IS Laura from the first moment to the last: she portrays the shy, sensitive and fragile girl with subtle details, expressive and suggestive glances, body, head and hands positions and movements. Her dancing is wonderful as always both as a limping Laura (wearing a heeled shoe over her right point shoe) and a dreaming Laura (dancing with two point shoes). Laura is dancing quite a lot and in a more dynamic and expansive way than in some recent works of Neumeier: maybe Cojocaru’s qualities inspired a dancing style that breaths more openly. She brought also something in Neumeier choreography: the gargouillade she performs in a lift was an idea of hers, accepted by Neumeier.


Laura is so alive, so credible, real that she gently brings the audience in her world, that magically becomes soon the “real” one: this ballet casts an atmospheric spell that lasts for days. It’s almost an oxymoron when describing such a delicate portray, to use the word “monumental”, but yes: Alina’s performances were “monumental”. I wonder if Cojocaru will be the first dancer to win the Benois de la Danse for three times: if it really is the ballet Oscar, this Laura definitely deserves it.


Patricia Friza is a formidable Amanda, credible and potent. Her acting is natural and“visceral”: I defined her an “Anna Magnani” of the ballet not remembering at first that the great Italian actress won her Academy Award for “The Rose Tattoo”, screenplay by…Tennesse Williams! It all adds up.

Her love and worry for her children are tangible, as it is her frustration. Her interaction with the other characters, mainly Laura (her artistical match with Cojocaru is amazing, and they are also physically credible as mother and daughter), is intense and spontaneous: the audience is looking at real people life. Superb performance! She was an almost last minute cast change for the principal dancer Anna Laudere, whose acting is usually more coldish (photos of this cast made also a very brief, surely not planned, appearance on Hamburg Ballet facebook page), and an extremely successful one.


Félix Paquet, from the National Ballet of Canada, is great addition to the company: good dancing and good acting. He plays the role of Tom II (there are three Toms, the third, a child is played in some shows by Andrej Urban, the son of the great dancers Anna Polikarpova and Ivan Urban: if he has half of the talent of both, he will have a splendid future) with intensity and honesty, going deeper and deeper in his character shows after show.


Christopher Evans is a great addition to the company too, not because he is new (he joined in 2012, from Hamburg ballet school), but because in the last year he matured a lot: his dancing was already good, but his acting and maybe also his commitment have grown to the point that the nickname that his evanescent stage presence gained to him, “The Invisible Man”, doesn’t suit him anymore. Maybe to work with a great dancer as Cojocaru challenged him more, leading him into a promising new artistic path. His portray of Jim is extremely effective, the carefree sunny boy is there (this character seems a little less complex than the original one, and also a little less gentle). As the others he became more detailed and fluid in his acting shows after shows.


I have never had the impression that Edwin Revazov is an interesting actor and an exciting dancer, nor a charismatic one: I am afraid his Tom I (the silent narrator) confirms those impressions. Tom I wonders around the stage, remembering and observing. The character is the more conventional for Neumeier’s works, with repetitive slow motion gestures and to often seen steps. Revazov moves around gently, as a part of the scenery: a bad actor can ruin a show, traying hard what he naturally doesn’t has, but Revazov has the intelligence and sensitivity to not push his acting out of his limits (and this is a sincere and grateful compliment). He has the same facial expression from the start to the end, doesn’t add that much to the show but doesn’t disturb; the curiosity is to see what a fantastic and charismatic actor and artist as the second cast Lloyd Riggins can do of this role.


Marc Jubete is the sensual and charismatic bar tender Malvolio, plays magic ticks and lets Tom’s homosexuality run free. An interesting addition even if the scene (that last 7 minutes) seems overlong, running on a much slower rhythm than the rest of the ballet.


Also the pdds between Laura and the unicorn seem overlong, in this case probably not because the rhythm but for the not particularly impressive performance of David Rodriguez, an attentive but unsensitive mere porteur for Cojocaru. Considering the amazing and extraordinary spiritual felling they have shown to each other in previous ballet, I’d love to see Jacopo Bellussi as Cojocaru’s unicon: it seems that they also had some rehearsal before Bellussi new stop for injury, so I can still hope to see this partnership in two roles that, in my opinion, are really made for these two artists together.


Even if I’d love to try some cast changes, as said before, the impression is that this is a durable masterpiece: it flows fluid, charming, warm and enveloping and deserves a DVD.


Some friends are travelling from London to Hamburg for January show and I would recommend who can to join them: it’s a great and enchanting theatre/ballet experience. (for those not familiar to the play, my advice is to read/see also on youtube- it in advance; it makes much easier to follow the story and catch the details; Hamburg Ballet poster also severa clips of this ballet on Facebook and youtube).

Edited by annamicro
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