The great Heinz Spoerli followed up an eminently successful ballet career with many legendary years as a choreographer—or, as he describes himself, a “dance maker,” whose formal and stylistic range is truly remarkable. Near the end of his decades-long tenure as artistic director of the Ballett Zürich in 2012, he produced the gloriously graceful Magnificat: If Today Were Tomorrow, and Yesterday Today, a rare ballet set to Bach that feels at once contemporary and timeless.
The eponymous Magnificat, one of Bach’s greatest vocal masterpieces, comprises a major part of this strikingly unique work, which also features pieces for solo violin and flute, cantatas, and the third Brandenburg Concerto. Wide-open sets with cleverly changing set pieces, refined color palettes, sensuous lighting, and—of course—the sublime Ballett Zürich give form and fluidity to Spoerli’s vision of the profundity of faith and the pain of ostracism. “Heinz Spoerli is a magician,” wrote Andrea Kachelrieß in the Stuttgarter Nachrichten, “who uses sleight of hand to make us forget theoretical tedium. And so we experience 70 astonishing minutes in which dance and music fuse to a degree which is to be found only in Zürich…”