casts in Napoli
The Royal Danish Ballet
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Wednesday & Thursday, January 14 & 15, 2004
by George Jackson
copyright © 2004 by George Jackson
a tall order to conjure Naples, its down-to-earth salt-of-the-sea populace
with temperaments as suddenly volcanic as Mt. Vesuvius and then as calm
and clear as a cloudless Italian sky. But not just showing what's special
about that city and citizenry, but letting the audience discover bonds
these people have in common with the rest of humanity is the challange
Royal Danish stagers and performers face every time the curtain goes up
on August Bournonville's Napoli, a ballet in three very different
Making these things happen is surprisingly independent of how well any
given role is filled or how correctly any one solo is danced. Overall,
Act 1 was best Thursday night, compared to Wednesday and the first night
(Tuesday). Juices flowed from this act's street life start through the
scattering of the crowd by a storm, to people being drawn as if by a magnate
to the evidence of a disaster. Act 3 was best Wednesday, with the celebration—the
Pas de Six, the Tarantella and the final Ballabile—danced as if
the cast was really having fun. Attained was the purpose of the festivities—achieving
satisfaction. Act 2 remained a problem, as ever.
Individual performances do, of course, matter. Fleming Ryberg, formerly
an elegant first dancer, is now a mime of star caliber. As the lemonade
vendor Peppo on Wednesday, he was sour with bite. Peppo would like to
see the hero, Gennaro, accused of being in league with the devil, and
Ryberg handles the role by suggesting that the devil really resides within
Peppo. It is hard to tear one's eyes away from such a consummate performer
in order to follow the hero and heroine.
Jean-Lucien Massot, as Gennaro on Wednesday, was an engaging hero. He's
part charmer, part young male animal. He has the well shaped (though hairy)
legs needed to go with the lightly-striped short shorts of the traditional
Neapolitan fisherman's costume. As a dancer, Massot jumps big and turns
multiply but without the ease and upper body elegance for Bournonvillean
harmony. Thomas Lund, on Thursday, was a Gennaro of a different order.
This hero has bravado but also doubts, he is a thinking fisherman who
tries to understand himself, fate and God. Lund nearly turns Gennaro into
a noble role, but allows some sod and brine to cling to it. As a dancer,
he has a utilitarian body at this stage of his career, yet a technique
so vital that it reshapes and refines him anatomically as he moves. Clarity
and dynamic control show, but not at the expense of spontaneity.
Teresina isn't so spunky heroine that she lacks tenderness. Wednesday,
Caroline Cavallo looked like a dancer acting the character. Thursday,
Tina Højlund's Teresina was the character first, then the dancer.
As a dancer, Højlund's ability to pause suddenly and hold finely
honed figures is noteworthy. Neither performer suggested that Teresina
learned a lesson from her experience in the Blue Grotto and as a result
grew as a person.
Among this ballet's many characters, Fra Ambrosio, is as essential as
cement. Without his authority and dedication, plot and motivations fall
apart. Tommy Frishøi functioned ably in this role both nights,
being convincing in an economical way. As Veronica, the ballet's mother
and future mother-in-law figure, Kirsten Simone supplied apt detail on
Wednesday. Thursday, Lis Jeppesen gave Veronica some very individual and
youthful traits, decorously so. The Street Singer, Pascarillo, was also
youthful in Thomas Flindt Jeppesen's rendering on Thursday. Flindt Jeppesen
hasn't the full mastery of Ryberg in the part, but he's on his way. Among
the dancers, I was fascinated by two very different body types, streamlined
Silja Schandorff and more rotund Femke Molbach Slot. To convey resonance
and harmony, Schandorff (in Act 3's fourth female solo—the girl
with blue as her signal color), did not fight or hide her height and length
of limb. She used them not directionally, as vectors, but deliciously
as volume to mold and cushion movement. Slot, as the redhaired of the
three Ladies on Wednesday and Thursday, naturally has the gentle lift,
generous width and resilience that goes so well with Bournonville technique.
She reminds me of Ruth Andersen, a Royal Danish dancer in the 1950s, who
bounded forward as if about to embrace of the world. (Tuesday, Slot had
danced the blue girl full out, but she performed this part injured on
The Royal Danish Ballet was recognizably itself during this Washington
visit. It needs strengthening to tackle the Bournonville Festival planned
for summer of 2005, but hopefully it will not be the anonymous strength
of "international" companies one can find examples of everywhere.
The eight personable children who danced downstage in these performances
of Napoli are a hopeful omen.
by Martin Mydtskov Rønne:
Caroline Cavallo as Teresina and Jean Luc Massot as Gennaro, with Tommy
Frishøi as Peppo, in Act I of Napoli.
Second: Tina Højlund (Teresina) and Peter Bo Bendixen (Golfo)
in Act II.
Volume 2, Number 3
January 19, 2004
Jean Battey Lewis
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Alexandra Tomalonis (Editor)
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