Carmina Burana © William Da Lima - Dmitry Skortsov

New choreographic version of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”

The Odessa National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet performs a new choreographic version of Carl Orff’s creation produced by Gerard Mosterd. The final show enlivens the new Luxor Theatre in Rotterdam. ALESSANDRO BIZZOTTO reports.


It was 1935 when German composer Carl Orff first encountered the collection of medieval Latin and German lyrics known as Carmina Burana and started thinking about using some texts to create a work for orchestra and chorus. Completed the following year, Orff’s Carmina Burana premiered in Frankfurt in June 1937, becoming a must-hear creation getting through the decades with growing success. Three years ago, choreographer and stage director Gerard Mosterd created for the Odessa National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet a new choreographic version set to Orff’s musical version of those songs written by scholars and clerical students in the 13th century in a mix of Latin, German and medieval French.

The show was brought by the Odessa National Academic Theatre itself on tour in the Netherlands in April 2023, with a final performance at the new Luxor Theatre in Rotterdam, one of the biggest national theatres for opera, dance, musical and concerts overlooking the Nieuwe Maas. The cantata is performed by soprano Alina Tkachuk, tenor Oleksandr Prokopovych and baritone Bohdan Panchenko with the National Opera of Ukraine Choir. The voices vibrate in the frame of the Luxor under the baton of conductor Igor Chernetski.

Photos: © William Da Lima – Dmitry Skortsov

© William Da Lima – Dmitry Skortsov

A one-act show running just over an hour which these days becomes also a cry against the invasion of Ukraine. Orff’s music invites the audience to participate in the enjoyment of rhythmically captivating tunes, intensely hued sounds and vigorous singing. Mosterd’s creation goes along with the music with just ten dancers on stage surrounded by the choir against backgrounds of projections (made by Rotterdam based multidisciplinary creator Sibe Kokke) screening flowers and leaves, natural elements fastly blossoming and growing at odds with the brutality shown on stage when a woman wearing modern clothes harasses, beats and humiliates a man who doesn’t have the strength, or the intention, to react, in a sort of reversed situation.

Dressed in minimal, flesh-coloured clothing, the other eight dancers paired in four couples combine fast and slow moments in the opening, well-known O Fortuna.
Some of the atmospheres are oneiric, such as the one in which a ballerina slowly interacts with a singing soloist, while behind them the screen shows what seems snow melting among flower buds.

Classical postures, running, unexpected movements interlace while the choir sings in the semi-darkness. The dancers twirl, move their arms like birds, bends while the music proceeds relentlessly. The black-dressed woman does not stop to treat her partner poorly as the scenes take turns and the rhythm of the creation seems to increase. Women dominates in the In trutina mentis dubia aria, from Part Three of Carmina Burana, animated by the soprano and two female dancers while the choir stays seated. But more muscular interactions are back in the final O Fortuna: a sense of unfolding and wrapping, high leaps and forceful limbs.

Rotterdam’s audience seems to enjoy the performance, whose highlight is probably the execution of the National anthem of Ukraine at the end of the bows, while some performers hold three Ukrainian flags and one more is being projected on the screen behind. Ukrainian people in the house sing, everyone stands up and applaud. A tremendous cheer explodes when the writing “Stop the invasion of Ukraine” appears.

When I reach the stage after the performance, excitement is in the air. A sense of pride and accomplishment. People who are introduced to me smile and greet more than cordially. Hugs and group photos follow one another: Ukrainian arts need and want to stay alive.