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RB's The Dream / Song of the Earth 31/5


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#1 sylvia

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Posted 01 June 2001 - 01:08 PM

I think popping into Convent Garden yesterday will go on 2 lists: Best things I have ever done on impulse, and The most beautiful things I have ever seen. My only regret is that it marked the end of the RB season. If otherwise, I'd be traipsing down to London every other night just to watch it again!

It was my first "Dream", and I was absolutely captivated! I literally had chills down my spine when the singing started, which I hadn't expected at all. (I rushed out and bought the cd after.) Alina Cojocaru at nineteen charms and sparkles, a feisty Titania, and a truely lyrical dancer. She had some great chemistry with her Oberon, Essakow a soloist who did a lovely job. The two of them are so tiny, they did remind me a little of children, playful and squabbling. I loved the tug of war over the changeling boy..."he's mine!" "No, no, he's mine!". RB did an exceptional job with the comedic touches. It was like physical comedy, but unbelievably balletic at the same time... Lysander's mock anguish when Hermia tells him to find another tree to sleep next to...Oberon giving Puck the boot when he messes up with the herbs...the look on the fairies' faces when they see the object of Titania's affection is...an ass.

Luke Heydon was brilliant as Bottom the ass and I marvelled at his galloping on point. First time for me, I kept staring at his feet - is he? he can't be...he is on pointe! It also amazed me how expressive he was from behind his clunky mask. I swear, you could see the light go on in his eyes at the moment he realises he has Titania at his beckoning.

And it was lovely how the forest didn't feel static, but looked like it was fresh and alive. The fairies darted on and off between trees on a ramp above the stage, peeking down at the shenanigans that were going on the forest floor.

The final pas-de-deux between Titania and Oberon was dreamy. There were so many beautiful moments, I could go on and on and I can't think of a more perfect ballet than this one.

I went into Song of the Earth with less than low expectations given some of the reviews I'd read but I was pleasantly surprised. I didn't find the singing a turn off as some did. It was so beautiful that if anything, I think it added to the performance. For me, it would have been more of a distraction if it was sung in English as some people I chatted to there suggested.

At first I thought the audience was less than enthusiastic, given the muted applause between some of the dances. In the last and admittedly very long song, this woman next to me kept shifting and looking around, probably wondering why it wasn't over yet. Though some people made a quick exit, the applause afterwards was raptuous. Jonathan Cope stood out among all the others. I have to admit, when he came on stage I couldn't keep my eyes off him, neglecting everyone else. Why isn't there more information available? Why is it he is virtually known outside the ballet world? He's in his late 30s, but still in brilliant condition, very expressive and with soaring jumps, though at at one point, he managed to trip over another dancer. There's a lift where Cope was balancing Tamara Rojo on the back of his head and neck that got my heart that got my heart thumping! I was terrified the weight would break his neck! And at another point Cope lifted Johan Persson (the Messenger), another wonderful principal, as easily as can be, as he would a girl. Mara Galeazzi was another stand out for me, but it in part due to the quality of choreography. Likewise with Tamara Rojo, I wasn't impressed, but probably because I didn't especially like the dance either.

I have mixed feelings about this one. The dancing was sort of wierd and wonderful to watch. Lots of flexed feet and the dancers getting into some very odd positions. The themes were of life, death and renewal but I couldn't make heads or tails of what was going on, why one dancer was reaching out to another, why Rojo was in anguish. It was inspired by some chinese poems and the song translation was provided, but I'd read before that it wasn't a literal translation so I skipped it not wanting to confuse myself. It's not something I'd run out and see again, and then only if Cope was cast again. But it was definitely worth watching at least once. Sorry I can't explain it much better. There are far superior reviews of the ballets on the ballet.co message board.

Hope that was ok. It's my first review here, and only my 2nd ever for ballet. :)

[ 06-01-2001: Message edited by: sylvia ]

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 01 June 2001 - 01:21 PM

Thank you for this, Sylvia. I think Ashton's "The Dream" is one of the great ballets of the century, so I'm always happen to find others who like it :) This sounds like an interesting double bill. I also admired "Song of the Earth" (that, and the "Requiem" that he did for Stuttgart are the only two of his ballets I've ever loved).

I have a "Song of the Earth" story that might be of interest. In 1976, the Royal did "Song" on a double bill with "Shades." One evening, Nureyev did both Solor and the Messenger of Death (with Monica Mason and Donald MacLeary). Nureyev was coming back from an injury and was not good in "Shades" and people were fussing during intermission. He looked tired and heavy. Then the curtain went up on "Song" and there he was, ten years younger and ten pounds slimmer (the black tights, of course), and the performance was simply phenomenal. The point of this story is that at the end, there was an audience reaction the like of which I've never seen, not in D.C., nor anywhere else. In D.C., the audience stampedes for the exits because it's so hard to get out of the garage, and because Washington is an early-to-bed town. That night, there was a great deal of applause and many bravos, of course, as there always were for Nureyev performances, BUT huge chunks of the orchestra audience stayed for a few minutes afterwards, really stunned, as if they hadn't believed what they'd just seen. They were talking about the ballet -- really, the ballet. Nureyev, yes, and how different he seemed, and was it really the same man, but also asking each other what they thought it meant, trying out theories, pointing out that this movement seemed Chinese, or someone who knew German giving the gist of one of the poems. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my ballet-going life. (The next night Dowell did the Messenger and was just as marvelous.)

#3 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 01 June 2001 - 01:26 PM

one of my cherished memories is of seeing joffrey ballet perform 'the dream' with rebecca wright and burton taylor, on a tour some time, i suppose, in the 1970s. what a cast!

#4 sylvia

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Posted 01 June 2001 - 02:59 PM

The programme said that Nuryev did a few performances of Midsummer eventually. Sure would have liked to seen those!

#5 Giannina

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Posted 02 June 2001 - 10:04 AM

For once I don't have to say "green green green"; I'm going to see "The Dream" in Aug. Twice! In London!! I'm so happy to read these reviews as it gives me insight. My sincere thanks. I'm also going to see "Monotones II". Finally!

Picture me a happy woman...
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#6 felursus

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Posted 03 June 2001 - 11:50 AM

Sylvia, I'm glad you enjoyed "The Dream" so much. It always was one of my favourite Ashton ballets. Since you commented on the atmosphere, did you notice how the moon moves as the night progresses? I always thought is so brilliant of the lighting designer to think of that. There are so many little touches that make this ballet simply perfect - IMHO.

I'm sorry you didn't care all that much for 'Song'. It's another ballet I adore. It was originally choreographed for the Stuttgart Ballet by Cranko. I think he had originally wanted to do it for the RB, but it was turned down at that time. It has been many years since I saw the ballet, and I would dearly like to be in London to see it now. I have no way of knowing how well it is being performed these days. I know that whenever I saw it I left feeling totally emotionally drained - as though sitting in the audience I had performed some great task. I'm not sure whether it's the ballet or the music that does it (I know most of the German text, so I guess that helps) or the ballet, because for me now the two are irrevocably intertwined.

#7 sylvia

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Posted 03 June 2001 - 12:50 PM

Felursus, I missed the moon, but I'll be sure to look out for it next time! I had a hard time keeping my eyes of the dancers, I missed a lot of then little details that I usually try to memorise.

I'm going for the mixed bill in August as well Giannina - more than once if I can afford it. I'm looking forward to Sarah Wildor's interpretation and I'd love to see Cojocaru again, and not just in this. She has her debut in SB Awakening pdd as well.

It's not that I didn't care for Song of the Earth - in fact I quite enjoyed some parts of it. To quote one of the reviewers on ballet.co, some of the images will be with me for a long long time. And I do understand what you mean about the ballet being being emotionally draining. I just found some parts a little confusing. I don't always enjoy performances on first viewing, but learn to appreciate them the more I watch. I don't think I yet have the maturity to understand the meanings and imagery that are intertwined in ballet. But I guess some of that will come in time.

Just wanted to clear that up. The remark I made about only watching it with Cope now makes me wince. I shouldn't have been so hasty in saying that I wouldn't see Song of the Earth again...the more I think about it (and believe me I have :) ), the better it looks in retrospect!

#8 Ann

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Posted 03 June 2001 - 05:34 PM

Felursus: I am confused by your remark that Song of the Earth 'was originally choreographed for the Stuttgart Ballet by Cranko'. Surely the work is entirely a Kenneth MacMillan creation? :confused: http://

#9 Alexandra

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Posted 03 June 2001 - 05:42 PM

Ann, I'd suspect that was a typo (or "thinko"; I make them all the time :) )

You're right. It was MacMillan, for Stuttgart. As felursus posted, he had intended it for Covent Garden. As I remember it, the board wouldn't let him do it because they felt the music was unsuitable for dancing -- an interesting point to remember. Meddling boards aren't a 21st century phenomenon.

#10 Sonora

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Posted 04 June 2001 - 02:34 PM

Thanks for the wonderful Nureyev story. He had what seem to me an unquenchable will and spirit.


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