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June, 2005 - Nr. 6


The Editor
The Youth Forum
Rachel Seilern
Zurich Connection
From the Locker Room
Vienna Connection
EU! Meet the Europeans
Berlin-Vergewaltigte Stadt
An Italian Straw Hat
KW & Beyond
A Memorable Gala
Concordia opens Patio
Kumar liest Kumar
Festival of Chefs
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Healthy Heart
Rallies for Human Rights
Top Honors for Niebelungen
TSO & Soulful Strains
TSO & Impressionist Music
TSO & Star Wars
Canadian Opera Company
National Ballet of Canada
Academy of the Arts
15th Wine Auction
Eurovision Song Contest
The "Grandpa Gang"
Gärten für Deutschsprachige
Invitation to Dancers
Parenthood on a Low
New Arena Dazzles
Celebrations in Praise
Rare Books Returned
Common German Words
Potsdam Pool Designed
Water Got Cleaner
100 Millionth Volkswagen

An Italian Straw Hat

  by Amanda Tower

Artistic Director James Kudelka and the National Ballet of Canada premiered a new full length ballet, An Italian Straw Hat, on Sunday, May 1, 2005, at the Hummingbird Centre for the performing Arts. Based on a nineteenth century French farce of the same name by Eugene Labiche and Marc Michel, An Italian Straw Hat ran May 1, 11-15. The ballet, with its large cast of outrageous characters and its breathtakingly flamboyant sets and costumes, tells the tale of a wedding ill-fated by the loss of an Italian straw hat.

While many of his ballets are filled with humour, An Italian Straw Hat is Kudelka’s first foray into full-scale comedy. Kudelka has been quoted as saying: "Farce is a physical form. It shares with dance the need for timing and speed." True to his words, Kudelka’s ballet moves at a breathtaking pace, and the timing is impeccable.

The bulk of all kudos go to Tony award winning designer Santo Loquasto, a frequent Kudelka collaborator. His sets and costumes dazzle the eye and set one’s mind spinning. His recreation of Belle Epoque Paris is executed in black and white, but there is nothing dull or monochromatic about the result. Loquasto uses different patterns (florals, plaids, checks, stripes) and volumes of material to create costumes that truly take one’s breath away. Almost every character sports a hat, the variety and elaborateness of which are magnificent. His sets are both functional and showy, as the medium of farce demands. From his stunning Eiffel Tower to the hot air balloon Ferdinand and Helene drift away on at the end of the ballet, Loquasto creates a vision of nineteenth century Paris not to be missed.

American composer Michael Torke’s music for An Italian Straw Hat was upbeat and inspired. The score has been recorded by the National Ballet Orchestra and was released on CD by the Allegro Corporation.

There are three sets of main characters in An Italian Straw Hat. Ferdinand is getting ready to marry Helene, daughter of overpossessive Nonancourt. On the day of his wedding, Ferdinand stops to give his horse a rest, and that noble beast sets the plot in action by eating a rare and expensive Italian straw hat. The hat belongs to Anaïs, the wife of the outrageously jealous Beaujolais. Anaïs is having an affair with Emil the Officer. Fearing for the loss of Anaïs’ honour, Anaïs and Emil demand that Ferdinand replace the hat, vowing to prevent his marriage to Helene until he does so. Throughout the action, Felix, Ferdinand’s servant and Virginia, Anaïs’ maid, attempt to keep their master and mistress out of trouble. These two enjoy an open and very physical love for each other, and spend the ballet indulging in hilarious antics inspired by carnal love.

The role of Ferdinand was well represented by Nehemiah Kish, while Heather Ogden absolutely blossomed as the fair Helene. Sonia Rodriguez and Patrick Lavoie gave technically well-executed, if not quite inspired, performances as the adulterous Anaïs and Emil. Stacey Shiori Minagawa and Richard Landry, in their roles as the lusty servants Virginia and Felix, had the audience rolling in the aisles. Xiao Nan Yu was hilarious as the mincing milliner Clara. The company as a whole rose to the farcical occasion by delivering a performance which married speed and timing with gorgeous set design and wonderful costuming. Well worth seeing, An Italian Straw Hat is destined to enter into the canon as one of Kudelka’s truly inspired ballets.


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