Märchenwelt at the Volksoper

Swans, crystals and genies take over the Volksoper in the new ballets Ugly Duckling and One Thousand and One Nights

Top Stories | Alec Kinnear | November 2013

The Volksoper started the dance season with two premieres on their evening of Märchenwelt or Fairy Tale World.

Staatsoper dancer and young choreographer Andrey Kaydanovsky opened the evening with an updated Ugly Duckling to an excellent performance of Ravel’s Pictures from an Exhibition.

In an evening of anthropmorphism, Patrick Hullman’s performance as a tyrannical turkey stood neck and beak above enrapturing us with menacing clucks and baleful stomping.

Like the music, ugly duckling Laszlo Benedek is never less than sympathetic.

Kaydanovsky’s Ugly Duckling is a troubling work about birthright: Once a swan, always a swan.

Never does Laszlo Benedek extend himself to succeed.

He just meanders through life until the 24/7 swan party people find him and elevate him to their level.

As usual in Vienna, it’s about who you are and who you know…

Volksoper ballet director Vesna Orlic’s One Thousand and One Nights is just the opposite. Her story is of true love and freedom won through constancy and struggle.

The show opens with the genie on stage speaking while a huge crystal swirls above the stage.

Balazs Delbo’s video effects throughout the production are impeccable and do a great deal to make Orlic’s One Thousand and One Nights epic.

We experienced live thunderstorms against minareted skylines, magic genies coming out of bottles, emotional flashbacks in triple-life-sized technicolor or dark prison bars slamming down.

Orlic and Delbo bring the vast horizons of films to the immediacy of theatre with the impact of orchestra (Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scherezade). The aesthetic of Orlic’s One Thousand and One Nights is like a live version of Victor Fleming’s classic Wizard of Oz film.

The dance opens in an Eastern court with the entire Volksoper corps-de-ballet paired off. Orlic very cleverly arranges the women (she danced in the Volskoper herself for seventeen years) with beautiful high lifts and graceful croisés to all look like Staatsoper soloists.

Ballet director Manuel Legris’ policy of giving flagging Staatsoer dancers a new chance on his second stage, the Volksoper, appears to be paying dividends.

It’s a very strong set of dancers on Währinger Straße, determined to prove themsleves.

The beloved of the story is a regal Rebecca Horner, in white raiment as the sultan’s daughter. She is flanked by handmaidens Ekaterina Fitzka and Una Zubovic.

Long legged Horner danced superbly in the title role, but the charismatic Zubovic’s lithesome movements and gorgeous midriff threatened to steal the show. Felipe Viera is a gorgeous Aladdin, both charming and valiant as the pauper who dared to love a princess.

Character actor Boris Eder does yeoman work as both genie and narrator, allowing Orlic to introduce the story to children. When Eder suddenly appears in the middle of the parterre seats in a gigantic gold teapot, the opening night beau monde almost fell out of their seats.

Reverberation voice effects when Eder disappears from the stage and returns to his lantern create the illusion that he is trapped in the silly little lantern that Aladdin now carries.

Samuel Colombert terrifies us as the evil vizier whose soldiers kidnap Aladdin’s love to join his harem of one hundred brides.

Colombert’s sinuous and cut body along with the makeup make him look like a young Genghis Khan. Colombert’s jealous and spoiled brides were the epitome of Western ideas about Oriental sensuality and luxury.

While the battle scenes nod to Grigorovich’s brilliant Spartacus, they should be redrawn from scratch. The second one in particular is long, drawn out, repetitive and a bit silly, a real letdown in an otherwise almost flawless production.

The ending comes straight from Firebird with the happy couple wandering out to Rimsky-Korsakov’s ringing chords (perfect performance by the orchestra this time) to the applause of the court with the blessing of the Sultan.

The genie offers last words of gratitude to Aladdin for his own hard won "happiness and at last freedom".

Orlic’s One Thousand and One Nights offers an inspiring vision: if you live true to your heart and strive for your dreams, you can make a better world.

Her glorious pastiche of film and ballet classics is not to be missed for either children or grown ups.


Märchenwelt Ballett

23&24 Nov.18:00, 29 Nov.&17 Dec. 18:30


9., Währinger Straße 78

(01) 513 1 513, 


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