Zurich Opera House, Switzerland
November 11, 2007–June 14, 2008
Reviewed by Horst Koegler
By adding some pieces to the suites Edvard Grieg originally wrote as accompaniment for performances of Henrik Ibsen’s verse drama Peer Gynt plus two big orchestral pieces by Brett Dean and Mark-Anthony Turnage, Heinz Spoerli has blown up Grieg’s most popular composition to dramatic symphony size, to be performed by orchestra, chorus, soloists, and dancers, resulting in a two-act ballet score of 135 minutes performance time scoring a spectacular success.
Conducted by the young Norwegian Eivind Gullberg Jensen, choreographed by Heinz Spoerli, and designed by Florian Etti the new Peer Gynt materialized as a full-blown theatrical event of breathtaking power and beauty, showcasing the Zurich Ballet as a vigorous company of electrifying dynamism and propulsive energy.
And so we were traveling with the legendary hero in his unquenchable quest to discover his true identity around half of the world. We followed him from the Norwegian wedding, which he disrupts when he elopes with the bride, to the mountain slope, ruled by the King of Trolls and his fantastic entourage. In the deserts of Morocco he gets rich and is seduced by the voluptuous Anitra, to land in an Egyptian asylum where he gets crowned as an Emperor. Then he embarks on his journey home when he gets shipwrecked, faces death but gets saved and returns to his home where Solveig as his true love has waited all those years for him, and where he finds his final rest.
This gives Spoerli the chance to demonstrate the enormous stylistic scope of his vocabulary—whether fantasy folkloristic, grotesque, modern, dramatic, surrealist, or dreamlike phantasmagoric—in roles, tailormade for the individual gifts of his dancers, with Semyon Chudin from Nowosibirsk as the good-for-nothing charmer and braggart, Yen Han as the infinitely caring Solveig, Karin Pellmont as his down to earth mother Ase, Arman Grigoryan as the bizarre King of Trolls, and all the other splendid dancers of this 56 member company from 26 nations. In addition he has an actor, Sebastian Hülk as Peer´s alter ago, reciting from Ibsen’s texts, and thus lending the work an extra spiritual dimension. All in all it’s a fabulous theatrical experience, unanimously cheered by the audience and critics alike.