Wednesday, Oct 12, 2011:Interview with The Phantom

Richard Hlínka rehearses his role as the PhantomInterview with the Phantom … and Christina, Too

Be careful.

Halloween is coming, and already there’s a Phantom lurking under the floor and around the corner.

But don’t worry. This Phantom is at the opera – the State Opera Ballet, to be precise. It’s actually Richard Hlínka dancing the title role in the premiere of Phantom of the Opera tomorrow night (Thurs, Oct 13; repeat performance Oct 27).

He teams with Zuzana Hvízdalová in the story of a disfigured lover haunting the catacombs of the Paris Opera and … well, stalking … and eventually capturing his great love, Christina.

The two romantic leads met Opus Osm for an exclusive interview in the State Opera conductor’s room, tucked away in a labyrinth of hallways neatly packed with stacks of candlesticks, plaster clouds, a giant styrofoam crown, and rolled canvas backdrops secured to the walls, ready for the next performance.

Mrs Hvízdalová and Mr Hlínka have been rehearsing all day, every day, for the past four weeks. The pair is perfectly suited for the intensely romantic roles because, as Mr Hlínka says, “Zuzana’s opinions [about dance] are very similar to mine, so it’s easy to cooperate.”

And opinions here are important, she explains, because the choreography by Czech master Libor Vaculík gives the dancers “a lot of freedom compared to traditional classical ballet.”

Richard Hlínka (left) describes dancing a lead role with a mask covering his face, as Zuzana Hvízdalová, in the role of Christina, listens

Mr Hlínka has a particular challenge as the Phantom because he must dance with half his face covered by a mask. “What normally is emphasized now has to be really exaggerated,” he says. His Christina adds, “Certainly, there’s more acting in this Phantom than in classical ballet, but it’s not more dramatic, it’s more a kind of opening the emotions.”

Technically, the mask presents an additional challenge when Mr Hlínka must pirouette, the classic almost-frantic spinning in one place. The secret to keeping your balance is to focus on a tiny spot on the wall (or elsewhere) every time you come around, but having half your face covered can make that difficult.

“But it’s only for a little second,” he says, brushing off the potential difficulty.

If you’re a little frightened of ballet, don’t let this Phantom scare you away from coming to a performance. You may find comfort in the fact that Mrs Hvízdalová (who has danced such classical roles as Giselle) enjoys jazz dance in her off-time, whereas Mr Hlínka (Hilarion in Giselle) says his favorites are breakdance and hip-hop. “There are even a few ‘moves’ in this Phantom of the Opera,” he reveals.

“This Phantom is ideal for people who don’t like to come to the ballet,” Mrs Hvízdalová says. “It could make them fall in love with it.”

And there’s nothing scary about that. – oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Illustration photo, top, and bottom photo, Miroslav Setnička

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