Le Pavillon d’Armide / Le Sacre, Ballets by J. Neumeier

One legendary performer, Vaslav Nijinsky, provides the connection for an exciting double-bill at the Wiener Staatsoper from John Neumeier, director and chief choreographer of the Hamburg Ballet.

Nijinsky danced in the original version of Le Pavillon d’Armide, created by Michel Fokine and set to music by Nikolai Tcherepnin, in 1907 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. The work was the very first performed by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, again with Nijinsky as principal dancer, when it was revived for the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in 1909.

Neumeier’s version, which was premiered in Hamburg on 28 June 2009, one of a series of events to mark the Ballets Russes’ centenary, interweaves the libretto by Alexandre Benois with episodes from Nijinsky’s life when he was committed to the Bellevue Sanatorium in Switzerland; the interplay between fantasy and reality suggesting that Nijinsky was already dancing with the demons he had to fight in the story in his own life.

The second ballet, Le Sacre, is a reinterpretation of The Rite of Spring, which was composed by Igor Stravinsky and premiered by the Ballets Russes at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris in 1913. Perhaps the most singularly notorious work in the history of ballet, now Nijinsky was the choreographer, revolutionising the very notion of what ballet was, substituting sublime grace with frenzied pagan ritual.

Neumeier’s Le Sacre, created for the Frankfurt Ballet in 1972 and first performed by the company on 25 November that year, if anything adds to the intensity and intimacy of the original work; by replacing the dancers’ costumes with skin-coloured outfits, Neumeier creates a timeless tableau that brings to the fore the mental turmoil that plagues the young woman chosen by her kinsmen to dance herself to death.

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