The Slovenia Times

Edward Clug and Maribor Ballet make world their stage

Faust, a ballet by Edvard Clug. Photo: Tiberiu Marta, courtesy of SNG Maribor

The SNG Maribor Ballet ensemble has made a major mark internationally over the past three decades, owing in great part to its artistic director, Romanian-born choreographer Edward Clug. Apart from his ensemble, Clug has been creating productions for the world's leading ballet companies.

The Slovenian National Theatre (SNG) Maribor is the country's largest public cultural institution, combining Drama, Opera and Ballet under one roof.

It established a permanent ballet ensemble after the Second World War, and the first full-length ballet, Coppelia premiered on its stage in February 1951.

In the following years, ballet artist Iko Otrin would shift focus from classical to contemporary ballet and Edi Dežman, in collaboration with Marin Turcu and Maja Srbljenović Turcu, expanded the ensemble with dancers from Romania.

Waclaw Orlikowsky, the Swiss choreographer of Ukrainian origin, and the Russian-born dancer Anton Bogov added to the ensemble's international character in the 1980s and 1990s.

Pandur introduces Clug

During that time late Slovenian director Tomaž Pandur (1963-2016) was making a big splash with his extravagant theatre productions at the Maribor Drama theatre, which would set him on a path of international fame.

He included ballet dancers in his productions, among them Edward Clug, who arrived in Slovenia in 1991, having just completed his ballet studies in Romania. He began to participate in Pandur's innovative theatre shows first as a dancer, then as a choreographer.

In 1998, he choreographed his first independent ballet project Tango in collaboration with his co-dancer Valentina Turcu. Five years later, he was appointed artistic director of the Maribor Ballet, taking it to a new level of contemporary artistic expression.

Radio & Juliet first major hit

His 2005 production Radio & Juliet, set to the music of Radiohead, became a worldwide hit, bringing both Clug and the Maribor Ballet international acclaim.

Touring almost every continent, including venues such as the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, Radio & Juliet became the Slovenian production with the largest number of guest appearances abroad.

His unique interpretation of Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps in 2012 and his first full-length narrative ballet Peer Gynt in 2015 set new milestones both for Clug and the Maribor Ballet.

In the meantime, Clug began to collaborate with other ballet companies, including the Stuttgart and Zurich ballet ensembles and the Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT2 and NDT1), creating a number of successful productions.

He was also invited to join the famous Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, where his Master and Margarita made a major hit after opening in December 2021.

Incredible journey of Peer Gynt

He has staged Peer Gynt for the Vienna State Ballet, among others, and will put it on at the Scala in Milan next year.

"Peer Gynt continues its truly unique journey. Next year it will celebrate ten years and this makes for a great anniversary present. Before that, the ballet will also be staged at the Hannover State Opera House and the Grand Theatre in Warsaw," Clug has told the Slovenian Press Agency.

Peer Gynt by Edward Clug. Photo: Courtesy of SNG Maribor

His latest premiere abroad was Stabat Mater & Les Noces at the Tiroler Landestheater in Innsbruck in March and in May his version of the ballet Coppelia will open at the Greek National Opera in Athens.

"I have invited Slovenian designer Nika Zupanc to work on this project, so it is a genuinely Slovenian show that offers a beautiful take on this oldest classical ballet in a different, more contemporary interpretation with a very interesting aesthetic," says Clug.

"It first opened last year in Basel, and immediately afterwards, to my great delight, response came from Athens, where the work will be performed at the fascinating Stavros Niarchos cultural centre."

His ballet A Midsummer Night's Dream will premiere at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in February 2025. "It's a great honour to work with this ensemble because the trend at the moment is that everyone wants to work in Berlin. This will be their biggest project of the new season and the expectations are high," Clug says.

Work in Maribor not over yet

Several theatre companies, including those in Vienna, Hamburg, Dresden and Hannover, have been inviting him to take over as the head of their ballet ensemble, but so far they have not been able to convince him.

"I haven't finished my work in Maribor yet. I still have a lot of work to do," the star choreographer says.

He is involved in legislative amendments to improve the status of ballet artists in Slovenia. "Only once the foundations for further development are laid, not just artistic but also systemic, will I be free."

However, he is primarily interested in artistic work and in Maribor he has enough freedom in this respect. "My greatest wish is not to be a director in a major theatre, but to be able to take as much space as possible for myself and for my creations. So first and foremost I remain a choreographer, for Maribor or for the world."

His most recent choreography for the Maribor Ballet was Faust, a co-production between SNG Maribor, Cankarjev Dom and Opernhaus Zürich, which has been filling venues at home and abroad.

His ballet The Water Man, based on a ballad by Slovenia's greatest poet France Prešeren, was performed on Lake Bled to usher in Slovenia's presidency of the EU in July 2021.

Edward Clug's Water Man premieres on Lake Bled at the outset of Slovenia's presidency of the Council of the EU. Photo: Nik Jevšnik/STA

Valentina Turcu Maribor Ballet's other claim to fame

Valentina Turcu has also contributed to the fame of the Maribor Ballet. In 2007, she choreographed her debut ballet La Callas for the Maribor Opera and Ballet, and later Carmen and Bolero for the Croatian National Theatre (HNK) Split.

Her major success came in 2013 with her original choreography of the dramatic ballet Romeo and Juliet to the music of Sergei Prokofiev, which she created for the Maribor Ballet. She went on to put it on at the National Opera in Riga, the Metz Metropole Theatre in France and the Romanian National Opera in Cluj.

Romeo and Juliet by Valentina Turcu. Photo: Courtesy of SNG Maribor

She has also worked with other theatre companies. Her recent hits in the dramatic ballet genre include Death in Venice and Madame Bovary (co-production of HNK Zagreb and SNG Maribor) and The Lady of the Camellias, which premiered in March 2020 at the Janáček Theatre in Brno. Her Hamlet for the Bejart Ballet ensemble is due to open in Lausanne in June this year.


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