Estonian National Ballet at the Tallinn Opera House
June 2, 2018
Choreographer, Gianluca Schiavoni, wrote Medea for Toomas Edur’s Estonian National Ballet in 2014 and this season sees a revival. Schiavoni’s Medea is fashioned along feminist lines: the tragedy of a woman, “first victim of a male-dominated world that has always used love to achieve its purpose.” While this seems a relevant modern reading it strangely diminished her status to that of a sex siren rather than one of those fierce mythical goddesses, like Diane, who wreak terrible revenge on any man who crosses them. However, revenge there is and this is depicted in full graphic horror in the final scene.
Schiavoni’s Italian design team have created a mythical world hovering between ancient Greece and futurism with a touch of Gothic in the smoky eyes. Alena Shkatula as Medea, long and lithe, never looks less than magnificent whether sporting a couture version of the legendary golden fleece or simply a figure hugging unitard, little more than a decorated skin.
The ballet is neatly divided into two halves with the second a good deal stronger. The legendary tales of derring-do and Jason’s fabled exploits aided by Medea’s witchcraft barely get a mention in the long and rather directionless battles between Argonauts and Amazons with a measure of reconciliations coming in the pas de deux. Fortunately, after interval the quality levels surge and characters start to emerge.
Glauce is shamelessly trafficked between her father Creon and prospective suitor, Jason who is still married to Medea. The trio is skilfully choreographed, the iniquity of the situation evident in the manner she is passed between the men. Eve Andre-Tuga brings depth and meaning to the role, a tragic figure who will later die horribly at the hand of Medea. Andrea Fabbri as Jason is a less than admirable hero, but it is a fine dance role that he exploits to the full, notably in his long duet with Medea where the athletic style of the choreography suits the two so well.
The chorus of Hostile Souls and Black Spirits who goad Medea in her murderous plans are designed with intriguing menace: weird shapes and bald heads accentuating their evil purpose. The murder of the children is sensitively staged while still keeping the impact, leaving Medea achieving a hollow victory as she smears Jason’s face with blood to mingle with his tears. The set, by Maria Rossi Franchi and Andrea Tocchio is suitably minimal, mostly drop-down screens in strong colours, and effective throughout while Simona Morresi’s costumes flatter the dancers’ lines and ooze Italian chic. The ballet has a lot in its favour visually while offering some good roles even though it is slow in finding its feet.