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Royal Ballet 2013-2014 season

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I saw the premiere of Wheeldon's The Winter's Tale Thursday night. So much to discuss - I hope others see it. For now, just some highlights.

This is an extremely ambitious production. The sets include all sorts of high-tech projections, silk drops and lighting effects to create a sense of boats at sea in a few places. I noticed a lighting tech and panel on the balcony-right level that wasn't there for Sleeping Beauty. I was reminded of the high-tech lighting and simulations used at the opening ceremony for the Sochi Olympics, although I don't know if that was the same technology used in the Opera House.

The physical scenery is strangely simple, almost minimalist. Some very tall pillars, several classical statues on large bases, some flights of stairs, and ramps onto boats, e.g., were moved into different locations for different scenes to accomplish set changes. In several scenes, a large square painting would be lowered to center back - a very abstract way of adding a set, but the actual paintings reminded me of Thomas Kinkaide. Throughout, they seemed to want to avoid anything traditional or standard in the way of set design.

I'm not familiar with the play, but the synopsis in the print cast list was sufficient to grasp the complicated story. For such an ambitious undertaking, a big question for me (after absorbing the physical details of the production) is whether I'd want to see it again for the choreography and performance. For this one, I'd say, yes. There are several extraordinary PdD for different couples in several acts worth seeing again -- original, complex, and interesting, apparently challenging to the dancers. I also loved the festival dances for the ensemble in Act II.

The commissioned score by Joby Talbot was fine -- contemporary but not post-modern, it sometimes felt like a movie score, but it was appropriate for the movement.

I only get to see this one more time, Saturday night, with the same cast. Now that I know what to expect, it's easier to grasp the structure and better understand some repetitive movement details. E.g., why do the lead women keep bending their feet at the ankles? It seems gimmicky in isolation, but perhaps that's some kind of theme or linkage between the mother and daughter. I don't know, but want to watch for that.

It's now pretty clear why the open rehearsal for Thursday afternoon was cancelled. It's not just the very complicated sets and effects. That rehearsal was for the second cast, which was originally to perform Saturday night but has now been postponed to next week. No hint in the announcement as to why -- injury? struggles mastering the work? I have no idea.

The audience was very enthusiastic and Wheeldon seemed to be on Cloud Nine during the bows. I have not yet seen any published reviews, but ROH invited comments on Twitter and they are (predictably) enthusiastic.

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I saw the premiere of Wheeldon's The Winter's Tale Thursday night. So much to discuss - I hope others see it. For now, just some highlights.

This is an extremely ambitious production. The sets include all sorts of high-tech projections, silk drops and lighting effects to create a sense of boats at sea in a few places. I noticed a lighting tech and panel on the balcony-right level that wasn't there for Sleeping Beauty. I was reminded of the high-tech lighting and simulations used at the opening ceremony for the Sochi Olympics, although I don't know if that was the same technology used in the Opera House.

The physical scenery is strangely simple, almost minimalist. Some very tall pillars, several classical statues on large bases, some flights of stairs, and ramps onto boats, e.g., were moved into different locations for different scenes to accomplish set changes. In several scenes, a large square painting would be lowered to center back - a very abstract way of adding a set, but the actual paintings reminded me of Thomas Kinkaide. Throughout, they seemed to want to avoid anything traditional or standard in the way of set design.

You lucky duck -- I'm feeling sad that the cinema broadcast in North America is cancelled.

Your description of the physical set reminds me of Ernest Pignon-Ernest's set for Mailliot's Romeo et Juliette -- several white panels that often serve as projection screens, miscellaneous pillars and ramps that do multiple duty depending on the scene involved. (I can't say that I'm thrilled about the Kinkaide option, but tastes vary.)

Any kind of Shakespeare staging, whether it's dance or theater, needs to find a way to deal with the multiple locations that the text presents. At Pacific Northwest Ballet we've had two productions of the work, one with sets by Ming Cho Lee that have great detail but are remarkably non-specific in terms of location (it's a bedchamber, it's a market square, it's a tomb ...) and then the Pignon-Ernest, which is practically blank in terms of decoration, but equally versatile.

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I wish the RB were bringing Winter's Tale to the US next year instead of the over-performed Don Q.

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I just got a "Google Alert" that Macaulay's review has been posted:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/12/arts/dance/a-new-winters-tale-for-royal-ballet.html?hpw&rref=arts

This is not the right place to discuss published criticism, but let me note that the Bohemian scene he discusses first is Act II. Seems we both like that one best. It certainly has the most interesting dancing, both for the large ensemble and the lead couple.

I wonder if the cinema broadcast was cancelled because the lighting and special effects are so complex that they might not translate to a cinema screen. And that might also make it very difficult to tour. I believe this is a co-production with National Ballet of Canada, so eventually it will be seen in North America.

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I wonder if the cinema broadcast was cancelled because the lighting and special effects are so complex that they might not translate to a cinema screen. And that might also make it very difficult to tour. I believe this is a co-production with National Ballet of Canada, so eventually it will be seen in North America.

The ballet is still being broadcast live, it's only the North American screenings that are being delayed, postponed or whatever the deal is. But I think you're right about the National Ballet's performing rights. It, and not the Royal Ballet, brought Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to the Kennedy Center. The Canadian premiere of The Winter's Tale will take place in November 2015, and if that ballet gets any North American tours, I imagine that the National Ballet of Canada will be doing them.

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Yes, NBOC has N American rights to Winter's Tale, as it has for Alice so any N American touring of it will be done by NBOC.

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But the Royal broadcast their production of Alice here this year, and is doing it again next year. I have a feeling that rights for co-productions are negotiated individually, and are very complicated.

Re: the difficulty of touring a complex set -- when PNB took their production of the Maillot R&J to City Center last year, it was an incredible task to get all that stuff there, to load it in to a theater it wasn't built for and make it all work. And that was just for one theater -- taking something like that on a multiple theater tour would be even harder.

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I doubt that the Royal Ballet would sign away broadcast rights. As you say, the Canadian screening of Alice took place on March 28, 2013, the same day it was filmed in London.

Unless I'm mistaken, the National Ballet of Canada was the first ballet company to go live-to-cinema, as opposed to prerecorded-to-cinema, when it screened its Nutcracker on December 22, 2007. But apparently the enterprise turned out to be too costly, and after another Nutcracker the following year, the company did not re-appear at the multiplex. Since the NBoC is unlikely to present its own film of Winter's Tale, and since any Canadian tour of the ballet would be unlikely to reach places like Thunder Bay, Grande Prairie or Kamloops, it would seem entirely unreasonable to deny the Royal Ballet access to Canadian--or U.S.--movie screens. Besides, I'm going to hold the Canadian distributor to its word when it says that it "expect that this title will return next season."

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I'm glad to hear that the Canadian distributor is still optimistic about Winter's Tale coming at some point -- I was less than excited about the works included in the 14-15 listings for the Royal Ballet cinema series.

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. . . In the final performance April 9, Yuhui Choe was quite special. She has an elegant, silken movement quality that is never rushed, never seems like she's just anxious to get something over with. I've been struggling with metaphors to describe it -- pulled taffy, perhaps? Everything is drawn out, appreciated to the fullest. The partnering was fine this time and she was more gracious to Golding during the bows -- giving him a flower, e.g., which she skipped Saturday night. . . .

Royal Ballet just posted a YouTube of rehearsals for Sleeping Beauty, with Yuhui Choi, coached by Anthony Dowell. I did enjoy her performances with Matthew Golding:

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