Men and Women by Antoine Jully, chief choreographer of the Oldenburg ballet, on Allan Pettersson’s Symphony n°6 expresses a wide range of emotions between the genders. Jully’s reflection of the composer’s expressive world is impressive.
On the very surface, there does not seem to be much subtlety in Allan Pettersson or his music. Despite the music’s highly expressive and emotional landscape and the composer’s own colorful statements about himself and his world, for some listeners (myself included) Pettersson’s instrumental music conjures up images of an abstract internal world, full of struggle, extreme strain, and ultimately consolation. Nevertheless, others have expressed Pettersson’s music through physical mediums; the Swedish choreographer Birgit Cullberg set three Pettersson works to ballet. This evening’s performance featured the choreographer Antoine Jully’s ballet Men and Women, set to Pettersson’s massive Symphony No. 6.
The subject matter of Men and Women is self-explanatory, and the interactions between the male and female dancers colorfully expressed a wide range of emotions between the genders. Even more impressive was Jully’s reflection of Pettersson’s expressive world through these interactions; the sense of yearning and pain (both physical and spiritual) was refracted through unnatural and disturbing contortions. Like the first half of the symphony, conflict and belligerence were nearly always present on stage. What was surprising was how Jully briefly inserted both playfulness and devilishness, attributes that are arguably completely absent from Pettersson’s symphonic music.
In the second half of the symphony, largely dominated by Pettersson’s song Han ska släcka min lykta (He can put out my little light), the stage action become calmer and more intimate. The choreography and light direction were at their most moving and effective before the work’s final lyrical « oasis, » when the music strained to climb out of the darkness.
Anyone familiar with Pettersson’s orchestral music is well aware of the extreme physical and technical demands the composer places on musicians. While the core essence of this work was clearly evident, the Oldenburgisches Staatsorchester occasionally struggled with this very difficult music.
Credit photo: © Stephan Walzl