[Scene Magazine] Mozart in Choreographic Motion
SB SYMPHONY TEAMS UP WITH THE STATE STREET BALLET TO PRESENT A PREMIERE OF NEW CHOREOGRAPHY TO MOZART'S 'REQUIEM'
By Josef Woodard, News-Press Correspondent
As happened before, the Santa Barbara Symphony will be dancing its way into a new season this weekend in an all-Mozart program. Two years ago, the Symphony kicked off its new season wiht a version of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana," in one of its collaborations with State Street Ballet. In past seasons, the local art institutions have also met up on the terrain of Stravinsky's "Firebird" and Copland's "Appalachian Spring."
The organizations will meet up again at the Granada stage this weekend, but on a less-expected music-dance theme: a newly choreographed ballet by William Soleau, based on Mozart's "Requiem." Late period Amadeus is the musical meat of the program's matter. Along with the "Requiem," Mozart's celebrated final--and unfinished--work, the Symphony's music director Nir Kabaretti will also lead the orchestra in a performance of Mozart's majestic, final symphony, the No. 41 ("Jupiter").
Mr. Kabaretti commented that he recognized what many many preceive as an unconventionality of performing Mozart's sublime "Requiem" with dance attached, but that the practice has some precedent, both specifically with this work and in various cultural traditions. "There are different traditions that honor funerals with music and movements," he noted. "There are some African traditions, with dancing funerals. There are traditions where what we would think of as happy music, like Dixieland, is also the roots of that. I thought it would be niace to bring this valid, beautiful music into a dance."
Braving the musical mountain that is Mozart's "Requiem," with a ballet element attached to the familiar musical score, "is a very challenging thing," Mr. Kabaretti added, " especially for a choreographer, because we want to make sure it still respects the spirit of Mozart rather than turn it into a prima ballerina show.
I've done a lot of ballet in my life, in Italy, in France, in Germany, etc. One terrifying moment is when I sign a contract. I always ask who the choreographer is. I study what Prokofiev wanted, what Tchaikovsky wanted. I come to rehearsal room and see that it's danced at half speed, whihc is a killer for a conductor. You start something and all of a sudden you have to go into slow motion. Very often, with this kind of conversation, the choreographer says 'no, this is how it has to be.' Often, there is a tradition, and was done 200 years ago in Russia with a strong tradition, you cannot really change that.
But for this event, of this Mozart creation, we chose to work with a wonderful choreographer. Not only is he a great choreographer who knows exactly what is needed for the dance, but he is a very musical one, a quality that not all choreographers have."
Returning the compliment, Mr. Soleau asserted that "to work with Nir is obviously a pleasure for me. I've worked with a lot of conductors. The same thing is true for me: I worry when I meet a condutor, and worry about what they know about dance. He knows dance, he knows, he knows opera, he knows singing."
Mr. Soleau, whose impressive resume includes acclaimed work in New York City in the '80s, and a list of over 100 ballet choreography projects, was more than up for the "Requiem" task. In part, he was eager to approach the challenge of this Mozart masterpiece, which Mr. Soleau expalins is the most oft-choreographed peice by Mozart.
For this weekend's music-dance collaboration, the placement of artistic partiies takes on an annual context, with the orchestra and singers (including soloists and a chorus of 80 singers) places onstage alongsdie the dancers, rather than being sent down to the tradition situation of playing in the orchestra pit. Mr. Soleau noted that "what makes this special is that usually, you put the orchestra in the pit and the dances are up on the stage. This time, we said 'wouldn't it be wonderful if you could see all the performers at the same time?' That's something I've never seen ddone before with the Mozart Requiem."
In preparing to work on the project, Mr. Soleau recalled asking the conductor "which recordings I should listen to, to get the tempos and whatever. I put on the music, and it is so devotional and inspiring, and humanistic. You cannot help but feel uplifted when you hear what Mozart did. When he wrote this, he was getting very sick at the time, and he essentially started to believe he was writing his own requiem, for his own death. However this is also uplifting enlightenment and rebirth.
"That's when Nir and I decided we're going to create and add another element. So now you have the three art forms--the singing, the dancing and the music. Each one of them, on their own, can uplift and give you emotion, can make you feel human, just on their own. Just a violin playing or a soprano singing an aria or a dancing touching another dancer and you feel the emotion of the dancers onstage. Combining those all into one is what I'm really excited about."
On a more practical level, concerning the unusual style of staging, Mr. Soleau speculated on one of the challenges to be undertaken this weekend a the Granada, concerning sight lines for the centralizing maestro. "Think about it: if the orchestra is here and the dancers are here, the four soloists who are singing are with the dancers onstage. Nir's facing this way. Nir's going to have to do a lot of," he rapidly twists his head back and forth, and grinned. "I don't know how he's going to do it, but I know he will do it."
The upcoming 65th annual Symphony season continues in November with the orchestra's first artist-in-residence, guitarist Pablo Sainz Villegas, and in January includes a live orchestral performance of the score to the film "The Red Violin," to be screened at the Granada. For sheer grandeur, April brings Mahler's Symphony No. 6, in its first perfromance by this strong, sixtysomething orchestra.