Hamburg Ballett Director John Neumeier has always been deeply moved by the powerful, majestic and striking music of Ludwig van Beethoven and for many years has thought about creating a full length ballet on the music of this iconic artist. With the 2020 Beethoven Jubilee celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of the German composer in the offing, Director Neumeier realized that our upcoming season provided the perfect opportunity for him to bring his personal vision of Beethoven's works to artistic fruition. We are eagerly anticipating Neumeier's new ode to Beethoven with the debut of his ballet, “Beethoven Project”.
This season, John Neumeier's first full-length ballet with music by Ludwig van Beethoven celebrates its premiere on the stage of the Hamburg State Opera. When approaching the universe of Beethoven's music, John Neumeier was especially inspired by the composer's piano oeuvre. Back in April, when the School of the Hamburg Ballet celebrated its 40th anniversary, John Neumeier created “Beethoven Dances” – his first choreography with music by Beethoven.
Mainly based on the “Eroica Variations” and Symphony No. 3, John Neumeier describes his idea of the Beethoven Project as follows: “Originally a working title, ‘Beethoven Project' became the suitable expression of my choreographic approach to the composer. There is no clearly relatable story. Rather than a clear plot, the ballet combines fragments of music as well as suggestions of emotional situations from Beethoven's biography. ‘Beethoven Project' is a form of symphonic ballet shaped by the inspiration of Beethoven's music and my subjective choreographic response.”
The Beethoven Project is not one of Neumeier's narrative works. It's abstract dancing to Beethoven music with some allusions to facts about his life. The music is divided into 3 parts, and the music in each part contains a theme you will probably recognize:
Part 1—Piano and Chamber Music Fragments
Part 2 —Portions of the Creatures of Prometheus Ballet
Part 3—Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica” or “Heroic”)
The music in Parts 2 and 3 is played substantially in full.
This is a serious production, maybe too much so for newbie ballet fans. For seasoned dance warriors, the question is whether Neumeier and his troop have the horsepower to pull this off completely. The show premiered in Hamburg in 2018; the recording was made on the road (always high-risk) in Baden-Baden.
Music: Ludwig van Beethoven
Choreography, Lighting Concept and Costumes: John Neumeier
Set: Heinrich Tröger
Chamber music and recorded music
Hamburg Ballet, Hamburg, June 24, 2018