On 20 November, Friday, Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre is welcoming its newest production – premiere of E. Balsys’ ballet “Eglė the Queen of Grass Snakes“, produced by British choreographer George Williamson. Previous versions of this legendary Lithuanian work were presented in 1960, 1975 and 1995.
The creation of the present production was initiated by the artistic director of LNOBT’s ballet company K. Pastor – he was inspired by the fact that “Eglė the Queen of Grass Snakes” used to be very popular in Lithuania, and that the archaic storyline of a fairy tale is close to every Lithuanian’s soul.
“This year we celebrate the 90th anniversary of Lithuanian ballet – it is a great chance to welcome the new version of this Lithuanian masterpiece. I invited George Williamson to work on this because I know he is a really talented choreographer. Currently the creative partner of the English National Opera, he also worked with me in Warsaw. I thought it would be very useful to have an artist from outside, offering his unique perception of this typical Lithuanian story. Moreover, G. Williamson doesn’t just put the dance steps together – he knows how to tell a story.”
Born in Worcestershire, UK, George Williamson trained at Elmhurst School for dance and the English National Ballet School. Upon graduation in 2010 he joined Polish National Ballet. Whilst at English National Ballet School G. Williamson won the Choreographic Competition for three consecutive years. “Firebird” was his first commission for English National Ballet receiving its world premiere at the London Coliseum in 2012. G. Williamson was appointed Associate Artist of English National Ballet by Tamara Rojo in 2012.
G. Williamson’s main task while working on the production was to tell the mythical story of Eglė in a way that would be very understandable to everyone: “The final scene, when Eglė turns herself and her children into trees, served as the biggest inspiration behind all of the work that was done.” According to the choreographer, it was extremely important to closely follow Eglė’s transformation from a naïve girl that we see in the beginning to a strong woman in the finale, who is capable of making very difficult decisions. “I wish this ballet to be available to everyone – not just adults, who would maybe prefer a more abstract scenic language, but also to children and teens.”
Kristina Gudžiūnaitė, one of the performers of the principal role of Eglė, revealed that the choreographic language of this version is close to neoclassicism. She also emphasized the importance of her character’s “psychological background” and its progression, which she develops not only by herself, but also through partnership with Genadij Žukovskij who performs Žilvinas. “We’ve performed as a principal couple in several productions before this one, and thus we have a strong connection on stage – it helps a lot and each time it feels like we’re helping each other to grow”.
Music director and conductor of “Eglė the Queen of Grass Snakes” David Geringas revealed that it was his long-time dream to conduct this score by E. Balsys. “I even used to dream the love leitmotif at night. I fell in love with the music of this ballet, and this feeling is now becoming even stronger, especially when I see Kistina performing on the stage,” – gallantly joked the maestro.
The Lithuanian cellist and conductor David Geringas belongs to the musical elite of today. An unusually broad repertoire from the early Baroque to the contemporary is testament to the flexibility and curiosity of the artist. His intellectual rigor, his stylistic versatility, his melodic feeling, and the sensuousness of his tone have brought him praise the world over. The Rostropovich pupil and gold-medal winner of the 1970 Tchaikovsky Competition can now look back on a career that has spanned decades.
Maestro assured that he fully accepted the interpretation presented by a young choreographer and admitted it might be unexpected to some viewers. “I don’t think it’s necessary to show just what is expected to be seen. True art is always something that no one is hoping for – the expected is always boring. And if the final result manages to shake up one’s soul – it is a good sign”.
Premieres of “Eglė the Queen of Grass Snakes” at the LNOBT – on 20, 21 November and 4 December 2015.