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Ballet review: Phantom of the Opera

Vaculík makes the classic novel neoclassic balle


Posted: November 2, 2011

By Johana Mücková - For the Post | Comments (0) | Post comment

Ballet review: Phantom of the Opera

Courtesy Photo

Richard Hlinka and Zuzana Hvízdalová star as the phantom and his love interest.

The State Opera Ballet Company's daring idea to remake one of the key works of world romantic literature into a neoclassic ballet has proved excellent.

With the dance drama Phantom of the Opera, choreographer Libor Vaculík has managed to create an exciting and colorful performance filled with romance and tension. The revived October premiere confirmed Vaculík, an unrivaled, prolific and successful domestic author of original full-length ballets, is the uncrowned king of Czech dance theater. The Prague State Opera Ballet company, in the last few weeks of its independent existence (before it merges with the National Theater), has presented itself as a formidable ensemble.

Over the past two decades, Vaculík has made a powerful impression as the creator of numerous ballets, usually interpretations of well-known historic literary or film works. He's enriched the repertoire of, among others, the national theaters in Prague, Brno and Bratislava, the Josef Kajetán Tyl Theater in Plzeň and the Prague State Opera.

Vaculík's works are not typical ballets; instead, he adds elements of drama to his productions and creates an original form of modern dance theater. No wonder that in 2007, when invited by Prague State Opera ballet managers to devise an original ballet for the troupe, he decided on Gaston Leroux's famous novel.

Phantom of the Opera
When: Nov. 8 and Jan. 16 at 7
Where: State Opera
Tickets: 100-850 Kč, available at State Opera box office or through BohemiaTicket

The story of Phantom of the Opera brings the audience behind the scenes of the Paris Opera. As the author of the libretto, choreographer and director, Vaculík kept the baseline of the story in the original theater environment, while converting it to the world of ballet. The Phantom falls in love with a beautiful and successful soloist; she is not a singer as in the original plot, but a dancer.

During the preparations for the ballet Giselle, experienced prima ballerina Charlotte falls and gets hurt. Her only possible substitute is the young and talented dancer Christina, who accepts the offer. Christina's performance enchants the audience, including the Vicomte Raoul, who is captivated by her charm, but especially the Phantom, who is willing to do anything for the object of his affection. It is a performance full of unbridled passion, fierce jealousy and dramatic twists and turns then leads to an irreversible and conclusive finale.

The story itself is captivating, leaving ample space for the audience's imagination. Vaculík also manages to show quite accurately the world of ballet that is, compared with other theatrical genres, transient and reliant equally on youth, luck and talent. In Phantom of the Opera, he explores the wide range of human relations within the inexorability of dance.

The author of the original music is Czech composer Petr Malásek, a longtime collaborator of Vaculík's. The music for Phantom of the Opera is only one of many dance productions he has composed. Malásek's music, played live by the Prague State Opera Orchestra conducted by Pavel Šnajdr, flows nicely with the performance. Malásek's impressive melodies help to underline and highlight the key situations and scenes, without any attempt to draw too much attention to themselves.

Vaculík has done good work casting the character of the Phantom; danced by Prague State Opera Ballet soloist, Richard Hlinka, he is the motivating force of the storyline. With absolute confidence, Hlinka manages difficult dance parts, holding the complete attention of the audience. Hlinka's partner is another State Opera ballet soloist, Zuzana Hvízdalová, who is very good in the role of Christina. This young and tall dancer is very subtle, and even though her height on points exceeds her partner, they are a good match. Despite Hvízdalová's youth, she is not only technically precise but is a brilliant actress, too.

Phantom of the Opera is well-staged. Vaculík, who ranks among the country's most important and productive choreographers, has once again created an original piece that is much more a narrative dance drama than pure ballet. Targeting wide audiences, it is certainly attractive also for demanding nonballet viewers. It's a pity there will be only a few repeated performances. Such a production deserves more.


Johana Mücková can be reached at
features@praguepost.com

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