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The second act is a rural scene, accompanied by waltz music (Waltz in F major Op 34). On an empty stage, the pigeon, now back to work, is wandering through the countryside, size-wise enhanced by way of a magnified shadow caused by cleverly positioned spotlight. As a Munich city pigeon used to people, it only jumps to the side when soloist Lacarra makes a grand jété (and the pigeon looks on coolly and seems to think: You will never manage to fly, my dear ...) Then it flies off to sit in the Royal box, perhaps to decide whether the dancers can 'amuse us'. Impressive is the director of the Munich ballet, Ivan Liska, dancing the part of Armand Duval's father. Liska was born in Prague where he studied at the Prague National Theatre and the Conservatory. Since 1998, he is ballet director in Munich, making his way there from Hamburg where he had previously danced. From 1977-1997 he was first soloist at the Hamburg Ballet John Neumeier and from that time also stems his long friendship and association with the famous American choreographer.

After the first break, people return to their seats and immediately all eyes are in the air: Will it be there? But the flying performer is gone and there are no more funny intermezzos, so the sad third act does not fail in its impact, especially when Marguerite dies to the Largo of Chopin's Sonata in B minor Op 58.

The bows afterwards are a bit stifled but applause is enormous. The audience appreciates the corps de ballet as much as they do the production itself.

'It breaks out from the confines of nineteenth century ballet by being constructed more as a film' says Neumeier. 'Chopin is a composer I love especially because in his music Chopin perceives time in the same way that I do.'

This explains why Neumeier did not choose the existing music from the Verdi opera, instead deciding on Chopin. His choreography of the Camellia Lady is now part of the standard program at the Hamburg ballet and is still sold out each time. It was a treat to have it presented to audiences in Munich as part of the summer music festival.

(Annotation for animal lovers: The stage director did not tell us anything about the fate of the pigeon. Rumour has it the bird was caught when it went to Sir Peter asking for its pay-cheque.)

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Copyright © 22 August 2004 Sissy von Kotzebue, Munich, Germany


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