Spotlight: Marc Goldberg breaks new ballet ground with 'Mozart and Salieri'

February 4, 2018

In 2015, Marc Goldberg impressed as the choreographer behind the dance-adaption of Noël Coward’s play, The Vortex. Now, in 2018, he is excited to share his latest vision, Mozart and Salieriwith audiences at the Artscape Theatre from 7 to 17 February 2018. Goldberg reveals more about his adaptation of Alexander Pushkin’s 1832 published story about two rival maestros in this Spotlight interview.


After the success of the acclaimed The Vortex, Goldberg “wanted to continue in the theme of adapting plays to ballet”, while incorporating the fact that he also enjoys “tech, contemporary art, film, and design”. His vision for Mozart and Salieri “just authentically developed from there”.


As a ballet, Mozart and Salieri promises a theatrical experience that combines a classic story with 21st century design, including cinematic elements with 3D mapping and animated projections. This approach aligns with Goldberg’s choreography style: contemporary, while still showing great deference for classical traditions. His passion for ballet as an art is the perfect balance between future development and its evolution to date. “I’m enjoying playing with the nuances and gestures involved in modern choreographic vocabulary, to add layers, and definition to character developments and the narrative itself.”

The way Goldberg explains ballet to be a culmination of all that it has been, as well as all that it can still be, clearly disproves the perception that ballet as a form of theatre has not kept up with the times. “The training, approach, and technical prowess have evolved massively in ballet”, says Goldberg. “Dancers today are doing things on stage that a previous generation could never have even conceived.” Contemplating this misconception that ballet productions are dated, he adds, “I think what is perhaps more accurate in terms of being unchanging, is the themes and narratives presented”. It is then not surprising that Goldberg focusses on the relevance of the narrative, “even within a classic story or text”, when telling a story through dance.


“When adapting a written work to dance, I have immense freedom and keep the audience in mind. Creating new audiences is important to me, and to do that, I think that my work must be able to communicate in ways that theatre going or non-theatre going people will feel engaged. It’s a challenge that I welcome.” 


Mozart and Salieri is then the perfect playing ground for Goldberg, as it presents him with the challenge to turn a poetic drama into an exciting new ballet that still respects the original text.


“The nuances, themes and especially subplots [of the story as penned by Pushkin] are perfect for ballet. Dance is the best genre, in my opinion, to communicate things that words may not come so easily for. It is a more intense version of some themes because one really needs to get to the crux of the emotion or event to present clear signposts to a viewing patron. Contemporary choreographic vocabulary also adds a layer to telling a play without words. For example, the exuberance, humour, and genius of MOZART has vast quirky, musical, and stylised movements to display the who/what/why’s of his journey. The [incorporated] projections also present an added layer of storytelling. I don’t think anyone will struggle to follow the characters journeys.”

Within this adaptation, Goldberg is then highlighting three themes: “The rivalry and betrayal between the two men. The love story between MOZART and CONSTANZE, his wife. And the slightly more abstract, creative process of MOZART who created such a prolific body of work by 35.”


As the rivalry between Mozart and Salieri is both a theme and the title to this ballet, what about this dynamic duo today still captures the imagination, years after the details of their lives have been consigned to the vaults of history?


“It shines a light on how quickly admiration and respect can take a dark turn when individuals don’t feel recognised, accepted or equal. I feel that audiences will enjoy the scale the relationship moves in: from playful schoolyard jest to murder! It’s fun to watch that kind of shifting dynamic. The themes of love, envy, fame, genius etc. are always relevant, it seems to me, and the stylisation of the production alone make it very relevant today.”  


To further accentuate these themes through dance, Goldberg is collaborating with one of his best friends, the “truly creative” Pieter Steyn, to produce a product where animation, projection and ballet complement each other. “Years ago, we discussed and researched the possibility of a more cinematic approach to the design and he insisted on wanting to be a part of this. His contribution has been invaluable.” The result is a ballet that is “sexy and can create a seriously good experience”.


Goldberg believes there is “too much recycling of old sets and costumes in ballet in Cape Town … that isn’t my vibe at all!” For that reason, he sees it as a priority “to provide audiences with a production value that I feel they deserve”.

Goldberg’s excitement to present Mozart and Salieri to the theatre lovers of Cape Town is undeniable: “It’s breaking new ground. No one has presented these kind of visuals in ballet – especially not in S.A. It’s three years in the making, so I’m excited to get it out there. To have it come to fruition is a blessing.” 


Book your tickets through Computicket to see the Cape Town City Ballet presented, Mozart and Salieri, at the Artscape Theatre before its run ends on 17 February 2018. Martin Milner, Daniel Szybkowski and a surprise guest artist from Europe dance the role of MOZART . Laura Bosenberg, Mariette Opperman and Kirstel Jensen alternate as CONSTANZE, and Daniel Szybkowski, Anthony Maloney and Marc Goldberg himself take on the complexities of ANTONIO SALIERI.


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