Jazz, dynamics and almost acrobatics in the ballet "The Great Gatsby"
Photo: Трупата на Софийската опера и балет репетира усилено за предстоящата премиера на “Великият Гетсби”. СНИМКА: РУМЯНА ТОНЕВА
29 Mar 2024Newspaper “24 Chasa”

Jazz, dynamics and almost acrobatics in the ballet "The Great Gatsby"

Leo Mujić's new play premieres on 12 April

After the huge success of the ballet "Anna Karenina" last season, the notorious Croatian choreographer and director Leo Mujić is back in Sofia and rehearsing hard with the Sofia Opera and Ballet company his new show "The Great Gatsby".

Francis Scott Fitzgerald's novel of the same name comes to life on stage thanks to music by various composers, but American: Gershwin, Bernstein, Barber, Goodman, Miller, Chadwick and Philip Glass. The premiere is on 12 April.

Selections include excerpts from "Rhapsody in Blue", "An American in Paris", Bernstein's opera "Candide", and Glenn Miller's famous "In the Mood" and Benny Goodman's "Sing Sing Sing". The music is on record.

"This is a special era for America. While Europe is between two world wars, the USA is prospering, or rather the Mafia is prospering and its tentacles are reaching the governmental levels. This was the time of the drought and when black music first penetrated the mainstream. All of this inspires me because I love difference. I even think that ballet companies shouldn't just be international, they should be downright intercontinental. Cultural exchange is very important, I have always been a foreigner anyway in the theatres I have worked with," Leo Mujić, who as a ballet dancer and later as a choreographer has worked in Berlin, Zurich, Amsterdam, Paris, the USA, Japan, Italy and almost all the opera and ballet theatres of the former Yugoslavia, told "24 Chasa".

His ballet "The Great Gatsby" was first staged in Ljubljana in 2019, but the Sofia production does not exactly copy that of the Slovenian National Theatre, as the choreographer always adapts his works to the respective company.

"In any case, there are even more difficult movements here than in "Anna Karenina", after all this is America, there is a lot of dynamism, almost acrobatic movements, there is jazz," says the choreographer.

In the beginning, he conceived the whole spectacle as a three-hour performance, but decided to cut it down to two hours himself, not counting the intermission, since the action in Fitzgerald's novel also moves quickly and is concentrated in 3-4 days.

Mujić has also done a lot of plotless ballets, but claims that abstract works are too easy for him to do: 'You take beautiful music, you hire 6 beautiful people, you do beautiful movements – I like it, but it's too easy. Story ballets are much harder to do, but the audience definitely wants them," he admits.

In Ljubljana, even though the spectacle was made on the eve of the pandemic, "The Great Gatsby" was a huge success and the theatre has recently bought the copyright from Leo Mujić for another 8 years.

Leo Mujić's latest work is "Hamlet", set to music by Tchaikovsky and Saint-Saëns, staged at the Zagreb Opera and Ballet, which is also to be staged in Helsinki.

"The Great Gatsby" involves virtually the entire ballet company. Nick Caraway will be performed by Simeon Atanasov and Rafael Ramos, the roles of Jay Gatsby, Tom Buchanan and George Wilson will alternate between Frederico Pinto, Nikola Hadjitanev, Tsetso Ivanov and Emil Yordanov. The female roles in the spectacle are also important and will be performed by Marta Petkova, Boryana Petrova, Katerina Petrova, Polina Ivanova, Venera Hristova-Asparuhova, Pamela Pandova and others.