Tag Archives: Royal Ballet

After the next best thing / Apollo + 24 Preludes + Aeternum / Royal Opera House – 7 March 2013

11 Mar

RB Mixed BillReading the reviews I was expecting a mixed blessing of an evening and I have to say the combination of classic early Balanchine a new Ratmansky and a new Wheeldon was surprising.

This revival of Apollo was not as impressive as the one by the English National Ballet a couple of years ago. This early gem needs an assurance of line and angularity that this time was missing. Federico Bonelli is an old hand in this work and surely brought personality to the role but he was lost in a tentative ensemble that lacked that unmistakable spark of magic and sense of otherness.

The first Royal Ballet collaboration between the much loved Alexei Ratmansky was an equally problematic piece. Using a rather naff orchestration of Chopin’s 24 preludes for piano by Jean Francaix was a very odd choice. George Balanchine collaborated with Igor Stravinsky in 1928 for a decidedly neoclassical take on Modernism and yet a star choreographer of our day depends on third rate, largely bland, material to build upon. The fact that the surprising turns and twists of the 40 minute ballet are anything but boring is down to his skill.

The piece seems like a conscious introduction and acknowledgement of the history of the company, in one direction he looks back at Frederic Ashton’s A month in the Country with it’s slightly bucolic touches and softness of line for the female soloists and a much more angular writing for the men, a reflection on MacMillan perhaps? The very distinct style for each gender created a dynamic and he built upon it characters for each dancer. Alina Cojocaru took the more demonstrative, happier incidents, playing to her bright stage persona. Zenaida Yanowsky was the woman hurt by men and expressing grief in the only way she can, with large open gestures and her conspicuous stage presence. Rupert Pennefather was the stand out from the boys with a very edgy and stylish performance of Ratmansky’s ambivalent tension between the athletic plasticity and the angularity of the male body. When Yanowsky and long term dancing partner Pennefather came together it was the point when the choreography exploded, showing its true potential.

Ratmansky’s  main differentiating factor was the whimsy and the characterful language, combining intense body contact with very light footwork. I would not put down this new work as a future classic but as a decisive attempt by Kevin O’Hare, the new Director of Ballet, to stamp a new personality after taking over from Monica Mason. This was surely driven by the history of the Royal Ballet and I am excited to see what he can offer in a longer form and with much better music.

Christopher Wheeldon’s Aeternum, built upon Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem was a well staged crowd pleaser, brimming with energy but again his idiom depending on the contrast of a group and a soloist is getting a bit predictable. A beautiful set, largely looking like a driftwood version of the controversial Maggi Hambling shell sculpture in Aldeburgh, was ornamenting the lack of content. Surely Britten’s (surprisingly danceable) score should have encouraged a clear narrative, but it did not come through. The dynamic between a tremendously vibrant Marianela Nuñez was no substitute for true storytelling. At least the return of Federico Bonelli for an intimate pas des deux in the finale, was a welcome idea. The overall language seemed a contemporary take on Balanchine’s idiom but for my taste and despite all the vibrancy of the dancing the result was a weak idea given a very conventional shape, lacking much innovation or point of difference. Hooking on to the Britten centenary to built a new one act work maybe was the hindrance that did not arouse creativity? I am sure a lot of people enjoyed the spectacle but what was he trying to bring out of Britten’s monumental score is the question that remained unanswered. At least the beautiful, robust playing by the orchestra was a balm to our ears, with some exquisite cello passages.

The main joy of the evening was seeing long term favourites like Yanowski, Lamb and Cojocaru lit up the stage in their usual way.

The curtain calls

RB Mixed Bill list

Final Royal Ballet curtain call for Tamara Rojo – 21 February 2013

22 Feb
Tamara Rojo with Carlos Acosta and Sergei Polunin

After a moving Marguerite and Armand we were treated to prolonged diva worship of la Rojo. The performance itself was such an evocation of the original to make it truly unforgettable. Tamara and Sergei channelled Margot and Rudolf to an intoxicating degree.

Abysmal 1960s vision of opera makes the Olympics Closing Ceremony

13 Aug

I am not delusional to expect unadulterated opera or classical music in a mass entertainment event like the Closing Ceremony, but seeing an artist of the stature of Susan Bullock as a ridiculous be-feathered “Brunhilda” next to Eric Idle was edging on the insulting. It was near an admission that opera is this desperately irrelevant, form of music that is only good for visual jokes that involve shields and a plumed helmet. Many of Bullock’s colleagues on Twitter thought it was “cool” and “fun” but what image of the opera world did this appearance dissipate?
Being able to laugh with the art form and all its impressively out of date attributes is a healthy reaction to a fast, digital world that doesn’t feel it has enough attention span to sit through a whole Ring.
But when that one appearance in a three hour ceremony is the only presence of opera as a genre it becomes more problematic. Bullock was embodying the popular cliché of the trident armed high singing soprano additionally surrounded by roller skating nuns and traditional Indian dancers.

The whole ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ segment can be discarded as a bit of throwaway comedy that Britain is so great at producing but it should also be seen as a projection of the lack of self-assurance in the part of the opera world to allow its very credibility to be trashed in front of a billion TV viewers. It made for depressing viewing and made me seriously uncomfortable that this was seen as entertainment in 2012. A missed opportunity to show any other genre except for pop/rock that is disproportionately monopolising those type of events.

The 1992 Olympics managed to have Montserrat Caballé sing the barnstorming Barcelona with Freddie Mercury which presented an operatic voice as an awesome instrument, measuring against a great rock vocalist. It may have been light on concept but it surely was presenting a more cultured face for Spain than the cheap joke route Britain took last night. Unlike with Caballé’s performance I can’t imagine anyone this morning looking up what opera is on Google.
The other two chances for less mainstream culture to feature prominently were also missed, the LSO were not even credited in the broadcast, while the Royal Ballet danced as a circus troupe with a long retired head that was there on the back of some reality TV few years back (sorry Darcey, a decade ago you were great).

It could have been uplifting and inspirational but I am afraid I was left disappointed that some of my favourite art forms ended up a cheap backdrop to a painfully nasal Liam Gallagher and his multi-millionaire friends. Ironically enough Norman Lebrecht was much more interested in the leggy string quartet…I rest my case 😉

Here’s the link to the tracklist of the Closing Ceremony

Sylvie, that goddess

21 Jun

Sometimes superlatives prop up in so many contexts where they do not truly belong. But one artist that has thrilled and touched me like no other is Sylvie Guillem. When people talk about unimaginable magic they are not being stupidly twee, she has always found a way to give me goosebumps on stage whether she was dancing A Month in the Country, Manon or Eonnagata. An artist of such quality and consummate intelligence is very rare.  Of course there are a lot of amazing dancers out there but Guillem has a beguiling quality that I find particularly enchanting. In essence this is my blogged love letter to one of the most singular personalities of the world of ballet and dance. 

I will never forget seeing her perform from Forsythe’s In the Middle Somewhat Elevated at the Nureyev gala in Covent Garden, her pas des deux with Laurent Hilaire. It was beyond definitions of greatness, a suitable tribute to her mentor and the breathtaking central axis of the evening. From that night on I was in love.

Her upcoming world premieres at Sadler’s Wells which I have anticipated for the last six months will be an early highlight of my July. The stakes are high and she’s collaborating with Mats Ek and William Forsythe, great things are to be expected. I’ll surely write a breathless blog about the experience…while I’ll be booking for the encore performances in September!

For any newbies to Sylvie have a look at the following:

Interview to Judith Mackrell on the occasion of the Nureyev gala at the Royal Opera House in 2003. Which was my initiation to her art.

Interview to Another Magazine on the occasion of 6000 miles away at Sadler’s Wells

The quirky website of the said goddess of dance

Royal Ballet / 4 April 2006

13 Apr
Went to another performance of the RB on the 4th and it was a rather patchy affair.
The new commission was a rather pointless affair, it’s title ‘Castle Nowhere’ encapsulated my feeling pretty much! Despite the wonderful set and costumes the choreography felt laboured and repetitive.
At least the finale of the evening (Kenneth MacMillan’s Requiem, based on Faure’s music) was glorious!
The stark sets by Yolanda Sonnabend allowed the dancers to create the appropriate mood and showcase the extraordinary choreography by MacMillan. Once more the company reminded us all what a great asset its heritage and the British Ballet tradition are. The lightness of touch and precision has rightly become the hallmark of the Royal Ballet.
Worth going just for the extraordinarily uplifting end to the night

Manon / 13 November 2005

13 Nov
Tonight we went to see Manon with Sylvie Guillem.
It was fantastic seeing her re-interpreting the classic MacMillan ballet in her own unique style.
There are no words to describe how exciting it was…
the fact that she got the most loud and long standing ovation that I have ever witnessed…describes the atmosphere in the auditorium.
Surely it was history in the making. A great ballerina re-creating a signature piece. It’s even more moving casting my mind back to the problems she had with MacMillan and how she overcame them by making the choreography her own.
A great night. one to remember for a very long time.

A night at the ROH / La Sylphide

10 Oct
Last Thursday went to see the Royal Ballet and once more I was amazed by the delicacy and feeling of the performance.
Was lucky enough to be there for the premiere of La Sylphide…Alina Cojocaru and Ivan Putrov made an incredible couple! It’s amazing that this important work of Romantic dance has never before been performed at Covent Garden! Let’s hope it will remain in repertoire.
Can’t wait for next month’s Manon!!!!
%d bloggers like this: