Koegler, Horst, Dance Magazine
At seventy-one, Hans Werner Henze is the elder statesman of German composers. Long interested in ballet, he wrote Ondine in 1958 for Frederick Ashton and Orpheus in 1979 for William Forsythe.
As Henze approached his seventieth birthday, the Schwetzingen Festival, near Heidelberg, commissioned three ballet scores from him. Delayed for a year, they premiered under the collective title Tanzstunden ("Dance Lessons") on May 25 in performances by the German State Opera Ballet. Sebastian Weigle conducted the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra.
The new scores -- Le Disperazioni del Signor Pulcinella, Le Fils de l'Air, and Labyrinth -- emerged as very much a mixed bag, with one common denominator: all are based on material dating back several decades.
Le Disperazioni del Signor Pulcinella ("Signor Pulcinella in Despair") derives from music Henze composed originally for a Moliere play, which had already been recycled once for an earlier ballet. Revised again, with some Neapolitan songs interpolated, the new work was choreographed by Dieter Heitkamp, a contemporary dancemaker from Berlin. A terribly dated cartoon, it looks like a grandson of Stravinsky's Pulcinella transferred to the Naples of the 1960s. Betrayed by his wife, who prefers an Elvis Presley -- style playboy, Pulcinella suffers all sorts of trials and humiliations. He's still the eternal loser and odd man out. In the title role, Amaury Lebrun seemed modeled after Jean-Louis Barrault's portrayal of Baptiste in the famous film Children of Paradise.
The middle piece of the triptych was no better. Le Fils de l'air ou l'Enfant Change en Jeune Homme ("The Son of the Air, or, the Child who Becomes a Young Man"), is based on a libretto by Cocteau first used by Maurice Bejart. …