In the World of Fokine, Operaen, Oslo – review

In a demonstration of notable creativity, Ingrid Lorentzen, Norwegian National Ballet’s new director, has scheduled five world premieres for her debut programme, all, neatly, re-imaginings of works by Mikhail Fokine, the Ballets Russes’ first and arguably greatest choreographer.

Briton Liam Scarlett gives The Firebird a Game of Thrones makeover, constructing a nightmarish fantasy with designer Jon Bausor. Scarlett, whose dramaturgy can be unfocused, is liberated by following Fokine’s, but here re-calibrates the evil Kostchei and the Firebird’s struggle into a nastier version of Oberon and Titania’s lovers’ tiff. In a striking gothic world of shattered mirrors and giant eggs, Scarlett displays fluent, characterful movement – including sly references to Fokine’s – and a penchant for overcomplicated partnering in duet, but the overall result is most satisfying. Yolanda Correa’s Firebird exults in her power while Joel Carreño impresses as a most princely Ivan.

Alan Lucien Øyen’s Petrushka also follows the original but is over-slavish. Once beyond an intriguing prologue to Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage” speech, it becomes a jazzed-up re-run of the original, not creative enough to stop one wishing that the expressive Daniel Proietto had taken on Fokine’s rather than Øyen’s eponymous puppet. Movement is generic neo-classical, frustratingly counter to Stravinsky’s folk melodies and jagged rhythms, and the central love triangle makes little impression when its characters are no longer puppets. Åsmund Færavaag’s five moveable towers are effective in changing scene and mood, but it is not enough to dispel memories of the past.

Proietto as choreographer brings nordic angst and a jagged quality to Cygne, the expressive Camilla Spidsøe kitted out as Pavlova’s swan. With Olga Wojciechowska’s moody new score and Yaniv Cohen’s grainy video designs, it is a modern view of a now hackneyed solo and totally successful. Ina Christel Johannessen’s Schéhérazade is dance as polemic, a distasteful duet of abuse, Spidsøe manhandled and mistreated while books rain down from the flies. It is allegedly a relocation of the 1001 Nights to today’s Middle East; I do not wish to see it again. Ingun Bjørnsgaard makes a quartet out of a section from Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, bringing a joyous, open quality to her eclectic modern movement vocabulary, the plainly-clad dancers reaching and lunging with abandon.

No praise too high for conductor John Helmer Fiore and the superlative house orchestra, who play these magical scores to symphony hall standard.

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