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Don Juan and Mozart: the pleasure and pain of love

in Arts/Dance/O & P Highlights by

Love is the most amazing feeling on earth. In the early stages of passion, we feel a high that no other drug can touch. Just being with or thinking about that person can lead to euphoria. The loss of it can lead us down a deep dark hole that is sometimes difficult to climb out of.

Human behaviourists note that many people react to a break up by having a seemingly unlimited number of one night stands. Meaningless sex replaces the sense of value they once received from their partner. They need validation. For a while the ability to attract others physically fills that hole.

When Mozart was 22, he met and fell in love with an opera singer. 

He wrote to his father, but his father was not happy for him. He feared he was losing the close relationship they shared. He set about doing everything he could to break them up, including sending Mozart to Paris.

These actions had the opposite effect. Mozart severed ties with his father and took to partying and a rash of meaningless sexual encounters. He became a womaniser.

20 years ago, when French choreographer Thierry Malandain began his work on Mozart a deux, then called Bal Solitude, he was very depressed after a bad break up. Like many artists, he turned to his creativity to heal himself.

Originally the work was set to other music, but it feels as though it was created for Mozart. In his short life, Mozart put the joy and pain of love in his music. It transcends time and is capable of reaching modern audiences just as it did in his day.

Mozart a deux features six couples and shows the dynamics or stages of their relationships. Young and old, some are perfectly in tune, others are perfectly matched opposites. Others are mismatched and doomed from the beginning. The last leaves the man damaged beyond repair, the perfect segway into the second part of the performance, Don Juan.

Don Juan / Mozart à deux
Premiere 07.04.2017 // Fang-Yi Liu & Kiyonobu Negishi, photo Ida Zenna

Malandain’s choreography is elegant and clear.

Though the dancers are clothed, the men in breeches and the women in shifts, you can feel the intimacy that goes beyond the physical. The nude colour of the garments covers them while leaving them vulnerable and trusting. The dancers are perfect in their execution, both technically and emotionally; every movement in  perfect union, down to the last eyelash.

Don Juan ou Le Festin de Pierre (Don Juan, or the Stone Guest’s Banquet) is a ballet with a libretto by Ranieri de Calzabigi, music by Christoph Willibald von Gluck, and choreography by Gasparo Angiolini. The 1761 work was based on the play Dom Juan by Molière, which premiered in 1665.

Choreographer Angiolini believed that dance and music should be independent of each other. I find it appropriate that Malandain chose to use the choreography for Bal Solitude, changed the music to Mozart, and used the music of Gluck for his own choreography.

Don Juan / Mozart à deux
Premiere 07.04.2017 // Enea Bakiu, Robert Bruist, Oliver Preiß (Don Juan) & Fang-Yi Liu (Elvira), photo Ida Zenna

After the break, Don Juan begins. He is played by three dancers: Robert BruistEnea Bakiu and Oliver Preiß. The three explore different sides of the man. It is a very different choreography from the sensitivity of Mozart a deux. It is full of insatiable energy.

The transition between Mozart and Gluck feels seamless, though they are quite different.

The use of props and quick change of the costumes (each dancer has their own personal dresser in the wings) keeps the tension and excitement building. The equal use of men and women in feminine roles holds true to the sexually fluid nature of Libertinism and our modern world.

Don Juan / Mozart à deux
Premiere 07.04.2017 // Oliver Preiß (Don Juan) & Leipziger Ballett, photo Ida Zenna

A highlight for me was the battle between Oliver Preiß and Piran Scott, who plays the Commander. In my opinion, Oliver is the strongest technically in the company, while Piran has great command emotionally. Seeing these two at combat was perfection.

Another high point was watching Yan Leiva as Death. He is the ultimate seducer in white, red or black.

We are also very lucky to have pianist Alden Gatt playing. He usually rehearses the soloists from the opera, so it is a rare treat for the public to hear him play. This is his first season at the Opera and I hope to hear him more.

Thierry Malandain’s DON JUAN / MOZART À DEUX is well worth your time. You will come out feeling energised and maybe, like me, with a new love.


Thierry Malandain’s
DON JUAN / MOZART À DEUX
Leipzig Ballet at the Leipzig Oper

Performances:
Sun 9 Apr 6pm
Sat 22 Apr 7pm
Fri 12 May 7.30pm
Fri 9 June 7.30pm

Maeshelle West-Davies gleans her varied life experiences to expose a personal perspective through a multitude of mediums. Sound, video, photography, dance, performance and public art are the tools she uses to convey her message. Her work is a response not only to a physical journey, but an emotional one, as with all of us who walk along or beside our individual paths.

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