Stranger than a ride to heaven John Neumeier recreated  his „Peer Gynt“ in Hamburg – and made a fantastic, beautiful, very modern adventure riding out of it

Carsten Jung is wonderful "Peer Gynt".

Alina Cojocaru as Solveig with Carsten Jung as „Peer Gynt“ in John Neumeier’s youngest work with the Hamburg Ballet. Photo: Holger Badekow

She’s funny. This Solveig is a woman that first can’t wait to get her luck in her hands – and then she waits a whole life to see the man she loves again. Alina Cojocaru dances this role at first with sublime wildness and then with beautiful patience . John Neumeier who recreated his masterpiece „Peer Gynt“ (after the theatre piece of Henrik Ibsen) found a new body language for his beloved Alina, and just like in „Liliom“ that he created in 2011 with Alina Cojocaru she again inspired him a lot. The Hamburg Ballet with Carsten Jung in the title role must forget that there is a first version of the ballet from 1989, and so must the audience.

When Jung comes on the stage, everything seems to be clear. Peer is a curious and egocentric person, a hero through and through. He can’t do anything about it.

Carsten Jung is wonderful "Peer Gynt".

Carsten Jung after the premiere of „Peer Gynt“: it is an enormous role. Photo: Gisela Sonnenburg

His birth is a tremendous scene in the beginning, without any music: In the spotlight, Aase (wonderfully stylish and also very nordic: Anna Laudere) bears slowly her naked son Peer. But Carsten Jung who is dancing Peer Gynt isn’t the only excellent dancer. Peer has a personality with many different aspects. And his so called „Aspects“ are born with him. The brillant Aleix Martínez (Unschuld), the powerful Alexandre Riabko (Vision), the dynamic Karen Azatyan (Aggression) and the lyrical Marc Jubete (Zweifel), all great soloists, creep out of Aases red white dress.

Anna Laudere stands and moves with a lot of concentration and magical gestures in her arms – like the icon of female and earth energy. One can think of Gret Palucca and also of Mats Ek, but at first this is a typical Neumeier scenery.

This Peer is someone who lives from pretending to be the winner in every case, and of course indeed he is always the loser. As a child he is happy and inexhaustible when playing. But then, as a young man, he captures a girl he doesn’t love at her wedding with another man. With only two rough kicks, Peer makes his victim to be his lover. He then lifts her up and down in a spectacular way, but without any tenderness. Helpless, she reacts – beautiful Carolina Agüero dances this figure with great awareness and ambiguity. On the one hand she wants action, on the other hand she suffers. And from then on her path is determined by men – and not the other way around.

Later, she appears in a green evening dress with glitter in her hair. Jürgen Rose – who created the tasteful costumes and the abstract stage design – presents her like a queen of elegance!

But Peer’s life’s journey continues. Carsten Jung’s Peer has an amazing rise and fall, and sometimes he has to comment this with grimaces.

After a short and loud career as a show dancer he beomes a movie star! But he doesn’t come to terms with these feelings of success. And he suddenly finds himself in the asylum. His aspect „Vision“ suffers with him – and helps him to move on.

Carsten Jung is wonderful "Peer Gynt".

John Neumeier’s „Peer Gynt“ in Hamburg: Alexandre Riabko („Vision“) and Carsten Jung (Peer Gynt as „Spartacus“) find themselves in the asylum. Photo: Holger Badekow

In the show part, that seems to caricature a half gay Broadway show with a hint of Fred Astaire, John Neumeier refers to ballet and film history. Like in a parody, Peer then appears as „Spartacus“, it’s a kind of hommage to  the famous Bolshoi ballet.

Hollywood once made a blockbuster movie out of this theme. But before that, Juri Grigorovich created his most important ballet: „Spartacus“ with the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

The story of a slave rebel stands in Neumeiers „Peer Gynt“ for making a show out of history. That’s why we see the cameraman with huge colour filters on the ballet stage in Hamburg: No showdown without artificial light.

The music supports this dramatical outcome. And the musicians (conductor: Markus Lehtinen) are at their best when they make a whole universe out of the difficult harmonies and disharmonies written by Alfred Schnittke (1934 – 1998). This Jewish composer working in the tradition of Arnold Schönberg came from Moscow to live his last years in Hamburg. John Neumeier used his music before, for example in „Endstation Sehnsucht“ („A Streetcar named Desire“) that is to be seen next season again at Stuttgarter Ballett.

„Peer Gynt“ was especially composed for Mister Neumeier, and it is a sign that Neumeier had the wish to use this music a second time. In 1984 Schnittke and Neumeier started talking about „Peer Gynt“. The premiere was planed for 1987. But in 1985 Schnittke had a stroke and could not work for several months. Nevertheless in 1989 the piece could be staged.

That’s why Neumeier had to wait with his „Peer Gynt“ for years. He had so many thoughts and ideas about it! And the longer he had to wait to do it, the more ideas came out of the source.

Carsten Jung is wonderful "Peer Gynt".

Ivan Liska came from Munich to see the premiere of the new „Peer Gynt“ in Hamburg. Photo: Gisela Sonnenburg

It is indeed an exception that a choreographer restarts a complete evening piece. The first „Peer Gynt“ was made with and for Ivan Liška (who is now ballet director in Munich). His Peer was very expressive, strong and showed his power. In contrast, Carsten Jung’s Peer is a softer, unstable man who often doesn’t know what to do.

Both are interesting, and of course it would be lovely to see a film with the first „Peer Gynt“ to compare and see the development of the figure.

The whole work documentation of the choreography in Benesh notation „Peer Gynt“ from 1989 still exists, but two suitcases with the new one were stolen – out of  the car of Neumeier’s assistant Sonja Tinnes. So today there are only videos to reconstruct every single step.

All in all, the end of this ballet is amazing and most important. Peer Gynt and Solveig find each other in a very slow and very modern Pas de deux. It is a heartful scene of intimacy and meditation. It shows the beauty and the possibilities of being old! And: It is not clear if or when Peer and Solveig die. Because this is stranger than a simple ride to heaven!

Carsten Jung is wonderful "Peer Gynt".

The end is a very beautiful, very modern Pas de deux: Carsten Jung and Alina Cojocaru in „Peer Gynt“. Photo: Holger Badekow

Neumeier finds a tricky way to give a solution: The couple dances in slow motion and it seems timeless. They dance their love like in a dream or parallel universe. Peer and Solveig slide into another state of mind. This might be eternity.
Gisela Sonnenburg

Next date: 30th of june in Hamburg State Opera – and of course next season!

Eine Besprechung auf deutsch wird folgen!  – Und zwar hier:



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