Carmina Burana: Daliesque Orgy

Volksoper ballet director Vesná Orlic has given Vienna a performance the city will talk about for years to come

This pioneering performance has put Vienna back on the ballet map and displays fantastic Volksoper dancers

The curtain opens to a full choir of 70 filling the entire backstage singing at full voice. Front stage stood a two-metre figure in a long dress with a 40cm bee’s bun hairdo, Fortuna herself (Florian Hurler).

The enormous Hurler throws his hands up in the air summoning the gods, while around his feet half-dressed figures as if from Grigorovich’s Spartacus roll and thrust their legs in the air.

As the choir belted out Valkyrie levels of sound, Hurler strutted and posed as if descended from the heavens. The closest pop culture equivalent is the aria from The Fifth Element. The pace did not let up from there. We moved from choral scenes to arias and back again.

We were treated to one Daliesque tableau after another. At one point a four-metre cross is carried on stage by ten tall-collared monks. They sing as a choir around a dinner table on which there is a huge silver roast cover. They slash knives and forks together. The lead priest pulls the silver cover off the food to reveal the fat head of another opera singer, who sings decapitated from the middle of the table, before the monks cut his head to pieces and eat him alive.

Immediately afterwards ten black-haired prostitutes run in in garters to fornicate with the monks, who turn out to be wearing cancan dresses under the habits. Observant Catholics in the audience faint about here. Orlic says her intention is “not to attack Catholic hypocrisy but unmask the hypocrisy of all organised religion.”

Afternoon of a Faun: Tainá Ferreira Luiz & Mihail Sosnovschi | Photo:Wiener Staatsballett/E. Bolius

Soon a naked bride shows up, as a man dressed in only a black tutu brilliantly danced the black swan part from Swan Lake (Samuel Columbet). The stage turns to reveal an audience of 20 men on benches who have arrived for the black swan’s live sex show with the lady in red, danced by a very slinky Gala Jovanovic.

There’s smoke, there’s fog.

If all this sounds incredible, it was. You’d have to watch Orlic’s Carmina Burana half a dozen times to unravel all the symbolism. An old man and a woman, admirably portrayed by Gabriele Haslinger and Percy Kofranek, leave to death as a young couple who took their place in this world.

It has been many years since I’ve seen such an ambitious production in Vienna, let alone at the Volksoper. The closest equivalent was Jan Fabre’s Je Suis Sang on tour at Tanzquartier in 2003. Also, Beate Ritter’s voice is heavenly.

Impulstanz intendant Karl Regensberger summarised the tragic grandeur: “a spectacle on a scale to greet the departure of Greece from the Eurozone.”

The warm-up programme for Carmina Burana includes a curious Afternoon of a Faun from choreographer and former Staatsoper soloist Boris Nebyla and a powerful minimalist version of Bolero from current Staatsoper dancer András Lukács, Hungarian Wunderkind of the Harangozo’s regime.

 

Carmina Burana plays 17, 23, & 27 April, 3 May at 19:00

Vienna’s Volksoper

9., Währinger Straße 78

(01) 514 44 33 18

www.volksoper.at

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