The story of fateful love of the beautiful courtesan Marguerite and her sweetheart Armand, as we know it from the autobiographical prose The Lady of the Camellias by Alexander Dumas Jr., need not be largely introduced. One of the most famous novels of the 19th century has already been subject to a number of remakes, and now the National Theatre Brno ballet ensemble also came up with a new modern concept of this story of pain, passion and self-sacrifice.
Croatian dancer and choreographer Valentina Turcu, who has already created over 130 different productions, has taken up the choreography, direction and on top of that, the dramaturgy. This triple theatrical creator decided to set the story of The Lady of the Camellias to the present day. For example, mobile phones or a digital camera also appear on the stage, which may be harder to digest for a more conservative viewer. The set design for this production was created by Marko Japelj and his work gave a very interesting impression. A large space on the stage was occupied by a glazed structure that gave the feeling of a separate room, however, as it turned out later, it was mobile, and so its role kept changing throughout the evening. The Parisian ambiance of a somewhat decadent high society has been implemented to the present day also thanks to a poker table and glamorous lighting. Costume designer Alan Hranitelj used a lot of dark colours, leather, fur and lace in his modern costumes.
The choreographic vocabulary of Valentina Turcu, in many ways really imaginative, beautifully illustrated the music of Franz Schubert in the arrangement of Andrei Pushkarev. Especially duets proved to be Turcu's strength. The movement flowed beautifully in them, each step naturally passed into the next, even in moments of great glam, certainly difficult for the dancers.
Chorus parts looked slightly worse, when at certain times there seemed to be too many things to perceive on the stage at the same time. This can sometimes work, creating an interesting and rich impression, but in this case it seemed somewhat discordant. The audience could easily miss some short but essential points of the storyline. Overall, the evening consisted of better as well as less successful moments. The worst was certainly the moment when Armand's father (Karel Littera) entered the stage, accompanied by bodyguards dressed in leather jackets with dark glasses and hats, who did not even look funny, let alone dramatic. This whole episode evoked a rather embarrassing impression. On the other hand, the protagonist Klaudia Radačovská as Marguerite performed wonderfully on stage. During the whole performance she had perfect dance technique and managed very demanding dance features without hesitation. She also acted with a completely natural and believable impression of a woman who was capable of such great love that she even brought the greatest sacrifice to it. Arthur Abram, a technically very advanced dancer, seemed as though the role of Armand had been tailored to him personally. Also worth mentioning are Martin Svobodník as Duke, Peter Lerant as Gaston or Taela Williams in the role of Prudence.
In one of the pre-première interviews, Valentina Turcu noted that the viewer would feel like in a movie while watching her production. This feeling is evoked especially at the point where Armand is sitting on the ground, completely submerged in his own world holding a mobile phone in his hands, while Nanine (Jana Přibylová) breaks this bubble of the hero's suffering with a contrast to normal reality in which she performs her absolutely routine activity. At that moment, she is sweeping the floor at the back of the stage, which is a paraphrase of a typical bar scene from a number of movies.
Valentina Turcu's performance offers some very powerful and emotional moments and is definitely worth seeing. It is a pity that at certain moments the performance seems to stagnate and does not gradate step by step with the story.
Characters and cast:
Marguerite Gautier: Klaudia Radačovská
Armand Duval: Arthur Abram
Duke: Martin Svobodník
Nanine: Jana Přibylová
Monsieur Duval: Karel Littera
Prudence: Taela Williams
Gaston: Peter Lerant
Doctor N: Ilya Mironov
Olympia: Helena Enguídanos
Croupier: Thoris Magongwa
La Belle: Emilia Vuorio
choreography: Valentina Turcu
director: Valentina Turcu
dramaturgy: Valentina Turcu
music: Franz Schubert, Andrei Pushkarev
conductor: Robert Kružík
set design: Marko Japelj
costume design: Alan Hranitelj
lighting design: Alexander Čavlek
assistant choreographer: Anton Bogov, Markéta Pimek Habalová, Gustavo Beserra Quintans
video screening: Martin Svobodník