Sasha Waltz’s sleek staging of Berlioz’s “symphonie dramatique” Roméo et Juliette at the Deutsche Oper Berlin opens a heady opera season in the German capital, with only four performances between Friday, 2 September and Tuesday 6 September. Waltz has a strong claim to being Germany’s most influential living choreographer and her 2007 production, seen previously in Paris and Madrid is one of three productions that will be staged in the 2016-17 season (the other two, Sacre and Tannhäuser will show down the road at the Staatsoper im Schiller Theater).
Here’s what I wrote in Opera News in 2015:
The sold-out premiere was uncommonly glamorous and enthusiastically applauded by an audience undoubtedly familiar with Waltz and her large body of work. Yet the production itself, staged on Berlin’s largest and most ballet-appropriate stage, was a mixed bag.
Waltz is often seen as a successor to Pina Bausch, the great German choreographer who died in 2009. Beyond the aesthetic and stylistic similarities to Bausch’s work, Waltz is a great proponent of Tanztheater, a collaborative and often-interdisciplinary approach to dance that is a genre-bending refreshing of Gesamtkunstwerk ideas. Waltz’s sensibilities are also best suited to smaller formats; her freshest ideas about movement demand intimacy. As such, her finest qualities seemed lost in the vast expanse of the Deutsche Oper, Germany’s second-largest opera house. The massive stage, empty for much of the evening, save for a white platform that opened mid-way through the performance, did her excellent troupe few favors. The Sasha Waltz imprimatur came across mostly in the stark, monochromatic costumes and a few breathlessly energetic moments (Roméo’s desperate attempts to run up a white wall streaked with ink after learning of Juliette’s death; an impassioned and virtuosic solo by Frère Laurent’s dancer-double during the final scene), rather than the sensitive and often understated movements and gestures that were often lost in the 2,000-seat-house. And while she kept her own dancers busy for much of the evening with impressive feats of endurance and coordination (although these rarely added much by way of illustration or commentary) she had few good ideas for the large chorus or solo singers. Disappointingly, the pas de deux for the famous scène d’amour was plodding and staid.
Despite my mixed feelings about the production, the wonderful DOB singers Thomas Blondelle and Ronnita Miller should not disappoint, nor should the excellent house orchestra, here led by Stéphane Denève in his company début.