Monday, October 31, 2011

2 Cervantino 2011 Blockbusters & A Pleasing Surprise

     "Human nature is both tragic and comic. For me the most fascinating thing to observe is how everything meets, how everything happens in the same space." 

     The words are the words of Lev Dodin, head of the Maly Drama Theatre in Moscow, who directed the performance of Uncle Vanya seen by Cervantino audiences. The thought, expressed several years ago in an interview, could just as well have come from his equally theatre-smitten countryman, Anton Chekhov. No wonder Dodin, who has directed plays by writers as diverse as Tennessee Williams and Karel Capek, is an ideal director for Chekhov's chiaroscuro ‘comedies” that mingle light and shadow, character and caricature, ideas and action, the timely and the universal, despair and laughter.

     In the Cervantino performances of Uncle Vanya (Tio Vanya), under Dodin's direction, everything under his control meshed--lighting, set, props, costumes, movement, voices, language, and ideas, with only one thunderclap coming in  off-cue.

     As usual, there were excellent supertitles, this time accompanying Russian actors and Russian rhythms of speech--Chekhov's work as he would have heard it. I had suffered through an ill-conceived version at an earlier Cervantino. Thank heavens, I had this chance to see it done right.

     Unfortunately, the night I went, the long play was competing with Carlos Nunez and the San Patricio Battalion, perhaps the reason for the small audience. Seems as if the Cervantino decision-makers could offer unsold theatre seats to students a few minutes before a theater performance. A full house would give visiting troupes a good feeling about performing in Mexico, give young people a break and develop audiences for the future.

     Peter Brook’s A Magic Flute, his variation on Mozart’s title of the beloved opera-with-speech played to an exhilarated audiences at the Juarez, where a young, able cast presented Brook’s stripped-down version.. Pianist/composer Franck Krawczyk worked with Brook to create the musical collage of Mozartian melodies and Marie-Helene Estienne collaborated on the libretto. Both were here, Krawczyk onstage at the piano, Estienne standing in for Brook, whose sciatica keeps him from traveling. “But he calls us every day,” she said emphatically at the press conference.

     Mozart loved The Flute, going to almost every performance. I can imagine him delighted by the poles moving farther and farther apart while the lovers finally merge in  a kiss.

     At Valenciana, The Oslo Camerata played an artfully arranged program ranging from baroque to Bjorklund, a contemporary Norwegian composer whose Concerto for Violin and Strings received resounding applause.