By Patricia Boccadoro
6 June 2002 - After
the success of the last two years' visits from the
Leipzig Ballet, the Théâtre
de Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines was completely sold out, with people
begging at the door for seats. Anticipation was at its height for the
French premiere of Uwe
Scholz' La Grande Messe, set to Mozart's unfinished
score and created for the company in 1998. Few, however, expected to
see a work of such extreme beauty coupled with undertones of great
brutality . Brilliantly conceived, it was an epic of spectacular
intensity which moved, but also upset and disturbed.
first half of the ballet , where Scholz choreographed directly from
Mozart's Mass in C Minor, to which he integrated some of the
composer's other works, including the Adagio and Fugue in C Minor,
the technical level of the company touched perfection. No pointe shoes
were to be seen as the women, in fluid long white gowns designed by
Scholz, mesmerised with their flowing arm movements. Soloists Roser
Munoz and Sibylle Naundorf were particularly poignant.
and harmonious, the men, in white trousers, partnered with grace and
strength, while the precise geometry of the group choreographies,
wonderfully fluent, was interspersed by lyrical solos and duos of
great classical purity. At one moment, Scholz was actually using his
dancers as musical instruments in an orchestra as they moved in
constantly shifting groups of four with a surge forward or a step for
every note. One after another, the dancers, each with clearly
differentiated arm movements, streamed uninterrupted across the stage
in two diagonals, made even more ethereal and spiritual by the
flickering almost heavenly lighting effects, before they dissolved
into the darkness.
Leipzig Ballet in Uwe Scholz' La Grande Messe
then the world exploded. Pandora's box sprang open and chaos and
madness were born. As mirrors and transparent plastic walls descended
on stage, Mozart's score gave place to the dissonant sounds of more
contemporary music : Thomas Jahn, Gyorgy Kurtag and Arvo Part,
interspersed with fragments of texts, and the harsh words of Paul
Celan, the German/Jewish poet. Jerky, spasmodic, more theatrical
gestures from black-clad figures replaced the classical and
neo-classical style as the universe was turned upside down. Humorous
pieces reflecting the banalities of life tried unsuccessfully to
reduce the tension, and more than one spectator sighed for that lost
white world of glorious music which returned only sporadically, but
which expressed those easy, comfortable emotions so much easier to
Arvo Part's Credo, a light- bulb swings down and across the
stage, bringing, one dares to believe, a glimmer of hope . Soloist
Roser Munoz subsequently confirmed that the solitary dancer, again in
black, who ran round and around the stage after it was Scholz himself.
The choreographer is no longer merely translating music into movement,
but going much further , expressing the suffering of mankind in its
quest for the meaning of existence.
reservations one might have about the work are rather pointless. Very
beautiful ballets to sacred music which gladden and assuage have been
made before, notably John Neumeier's Magnificat, but Scholz'
Grand Messe portrays man as a pawn in the hands of man, as
well as being an instrument of the divine. Black and white, light and
shade, optimism and pessimism, destruction and sublimation are in
constant opposition, for the ballet is a reflection of the
irreconcilable, a form of spiritual torture. It is not only a feast
for the eyes.
Ballet in Uwe Scholz' La Grande Messe
the final minutes of the ballet, as stagehands cleared the scene, the
members of the company, removing the last traces of make-up, returned
in their everyday clothes.
"Uwe wanted us to sit quietly
on stage , identify with the audience, and listen together to the
music", the dancers told me afterwards. "Even tonight, when
we were listening to a recording it was very moving for us, but in
Leipzig, we were surrounded by the famous
Orchestra and a full choir, with a soprano, tenor, and baritone
on stage, and it was a very emotional experience ." "I
remember him saying that he simply didn't want to choreograph anything
further. The music alone was enough.", Rosa Munoz recalled.
can think of no other classical choreographer today who possesses the
richness of vocabulary, the intense musicality, plus the limitless
imagination to create a work of such scope.
The ballet has
won two national prizes. The"Grand Prix de la Danse du Théâtre
de Bavière" in 1998, and the "Grand Prix de la Danse
d'Allemagne" in 1999. Sholz' ballets form part of the repertoire
of most of the important European companies with the exception of
Covent Garden and the Paris Opéra Ballet.
A Conversation With Uwe
- Bruckner: Uwe Scholtz and the Leipzig Ballet
Ballet Web Site
Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She contributes to The Guardian,
The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC
Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms. Boccadoro is the dance editor