The life of famed actor, Charlie Chaplin, has provided fodder for many artistic interpretations during the 20th and 21st centuries. From biographical films to stage musicals, Chaplin, and his cinematic alter ego, "The Tramp," have allowed audiences to understand the life and personality of a complicated genius. Choreographer Mario Schröder, head of ballet for the Leipziger Ballett, inaugurated his tenure with this dance company by creating "Chaplin," a ballet depicting the actor from his poor beginnings in England watching his mother struggle to become a noted performer, through his own acting and directing career, to the genesis of his most famous character, and eventually to his European exile caused by the misunderstanding of his political views.
In addition to using several of Chaplin’s own compositions to accompany the ballet (including the classic, "Smile" and a musical suite from his film, "Modern Times"), Schröder has culled selections from contemporary composers such as John Adams ("The Chairman Dances," "Lollapalooza"), Colin Matthews ("Fourth Sonata"), Hans Werner Henze (the second movement from his "Symphony #2"), and Alfred Schnittke ("Concerto Grosso, No. 1") to help tell Chaplin’s story. Works by Barber, Brahms, Wagner and Britten are also included in the soundtrack for this wonderfully envisioned work.
Schröder presents Chaplin in two guises simultaneously: the man (danced magnificently by Tyler Galster) and the Tramp (Amelia Waller), effectively showing the actor’s external self in constant conflict with his most famous character and his own internal views. The three women most associated with Chaplin each has dances with him, but are always accompanied by the Tramp in a balletic ménage a trois. After making his two most famous "talkies," "Modern Times, " and "The Great Dictator," Chaplin was blacklisted in the United States, spending the remainder of his days in Europe, and this is vividly displayed within the piece both through dance, and the minimalistic set created by Paul Zoller.
The dancers are first-rate (especially Galster and Waller), and Schröder’s choreography is primarily modern, with Matthias Foremny keeping a consistent accompaniment conducting the Gewandhausorchester with the live score. An engaging project about an amazing talent, preserved on disc for all generations to enjoy.
Mario Schröder / Matthias Foremny / Leipziger Ballett