Author: Lucien Walery
Both English National Ballet and the New Zealand National Ballet have created works to commemorate the First World War (see Kia Ora! The Royal New Zealand Ballet in Leeds 5 Nov and Lest We Forget 25 Nov 2015), The Netherlands was neutral during the First World War but it lost at least one of its citizens to that conflict. Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, better known as Mata Hari, was executed by a French firing squad at Vincennes on 15 Oct 1917 after being convicted of espionage in a travesty of a trial in which her counsel was prevented from cross-examining the prosecution witnesses. On 6 Feb 2016 the Dutch National Ballet will present Ted Brandsen's ballet Mata Hari on her life story.
The company's press manager, Richard Heideman, has described Mata Hari as "one of the most iconic women in Dutch history". His press release continues:
"Mata Hari was born to a well-to-do Frisian family in 1876 as Margaretha Zelle. Following an unhappy marriage, Zelle went to seek adventure in Paris. As the exotic, mysterious Mata Hari, she became one of the most famous dancers of her day. She travelled throughout Europe and had highly placed lovers everywhere, which made her an ideal spy during World War I. She was accused – rightly or wrongly – of being a double agent, and she died in front of a French firing squad in 1917.Brandsen's ballet focuses on Mata Hari's ability to keep ‘reinventing’ herself:
Mata Hari was a passionate woman, for whom real life was too restrictive, which is why she was continually creating new images of herself and new guises.
The mysteries that surround her person and her dramatic, controversial death have made Mata Hari a welcome subject for the film industry. Famous actresses like Greta Garbo, Zsa Zsa Gábor, Marlène Dietrich, Jeanne Moreau, Sylvia Kristel and Maruschka Detmers have all played Mata Hari. There have also been stage versions, a television series and a Broadway musical about Mata Hari. She has been immortalised by painters like Isaac Israëls (1916) and John Singer Sargent (1906). And a great many books have been written about her life, ranging from serious biographies to Tomas Ross’ thriller The Tears of Mata Hari."
“She underwent many metamorphoses, like a Lady Gaga or Madonna of a hundred years ago”.He is particularly moved by her survival instinct and her will to make something of her life no matter what.
Tarik O’Regan has been commissioned to compose the score, The sets will be by Clement & Sanôu, and the costumes by Francois-Noël Cherpin. If I can get to Amsterdam in February I will review the show.