Posted by: viewfromtheriva | July 15, 2009

Carmina Burana kicks off 56th Split Summer Festival

The Split Summer Festival is one of the oldest in Croatia and one of the most eagerly anticipated because it’s more than just a music festival like Dubrovnik’s, it’s drama, dance, ballet, opera and more.  Most of the venues are within Diocletian’s Palace itself.  The Palace basement is where a lot of drama takes place, the Peristil is often used for recitals and then the various squares around the Palace as well as the Mestrovic Kastelet, the scultpor’s summer home on the sea, near Marjan.

This year, the 56th, kicked off with Carl Orff’s majestic Carmina Burana. With a rich orchestral score and fabulous solo and choir parts, the Festival took a big risk in having celebrated choregrapher Youri Vamos turn it into a ballet as well.  As the opening night of the Festival, it was a bold choice and Republican Square was packed.

Vamos and the Split Ballet Company teamed up earlier this year with a stunning Romeo and Juliet that left me and Natasha speechless.  And having lived in Russia for almost a decade with lots of Bolshoi and other incredible performances under my belt, seeing these dancers do such incredible work was a revelation.

The prima ballerina, Monica Dinoni, a tiny wisp, and the principal male dancers–Artjom Zusov, Adjar Valejev, Filip Veverka, Remus Dimache and his brother Romulus were all in typical great form.  But Vamos’ creativity was a bit lost in all the grand music.  Instead of the fluid, dynamic movement and exciting pas de deux of his Romeo and Juliet, the stage was full of dancers trying hard to make their arms and legs into weird shapes.  It reminded me of Kabuki theatre.  But it was forced and uneven and lacked clarity.  It was if Vamos was trying to get nuance out of every Orff note and it just didn’t work.  But the final third of the program was redemptive.  Instead of the forced hand and leg gesticulations, the grace and cleverness was back and it was a joy to watch.  The thrilling ending where male and female dancers ran with abandon from the wings and threw themselves into each others arms was gorgeous.

Also gorgeous was the incredible solo singing of the soprano Ivana Kladarin and Sveto Kumnenovic, the tenor and Joachim Seipp, a masterful baritone.  Kudos too to the children’s chorus and the rest of the choir.

Dramatically lit with reds and blues, the evening under the stars for the opening of Split’s 56th annual summer festival was perfect…but if Vamos wants to make Carmina Burana a ballet event for other company’s he needs to re-think the first two thirds.

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The performance started at 9, which gave people time to find their seats while the light was still ok

The performance started at 9, which gave people time to find their seats while the light was still ok

The company takes its bows

The company takes its bows


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