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Ashton Fan

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  1. Until now MacMillan has generally been the preserve of the RB and to a lesser extent the BRB as far as UK companies are concerned. As the Royal Opera House Board refused to agree to MacMillan making a ballet using a major orchestral score he was forced to create The Song of the Earth in Stuttgart. Although the work was almost immediately staged by the RB and acknowledged as a masterpiece he encountered problems from the same source when he wanted to create a ballet to Faure's Requiem, this time because of the work's supposed religious content. As a result the works were created in Stuttgart and are part of that company's historical repertory as is My Brother My Sisters. Song is occasionally revived by them. As far as the likelihood of seeing Requiem is concerned it is not usually out of the RB's repertory for any length of time so I expect to see it back in the not too distant future. As far as seeing MacMillan's ballets in the UK today is concerned Lady M decides which companies should be permitted to dance her late husband's work. Perhaps she has not deemed other British companies worthy or perhaps they just have not approached her about staging some of the works which don't need a cast of thousands. The first and most obvious thing is that you need to know of a work's existence if you are going to think about staging it and then you have to decide whether the work is viable today.The longer a ballet is out of the repertory the more likely it is that people will assume that there must be something wrong with it or a company somewhere in the would be dancing it . When the neglected ballet is by an eminent choreographer who has an active advocate the stronger the assumption will be that there is good reason for the work's neglect and that it must be deeply flawed. Unfortunately as Mashinka has said Lady M promotes MacMillan's turkeys aka his "challenging" works and fails to revive works which would enhance his reputation and might even appeal to the directors of other companies who might contemplate reviving them. It seems to me that Lady M has done her late husband few favours by promoting his "challenging" works like Judas Tree and Different Drummer and neglecting his more accessible, more audience friendly, classically based works such as Solitaire; Soiree Musicales created for the School , but surely capable of being a fine ending to a triple bill; the quirky Danses Concertantes; Triad; Verdi Variations which eventually became part of Quartet, or Concerto which looks so innocuously simple and yet exposes every technical flaw in its cast and the large scale Four Seasons which was hailed as a company show case at the time of its premiere but has not been seen for the best part of forty years.I suspect that one of the reasons for the neglect of Seasons is the demands it makes on a company as it calls for ten principal dancers to do it justice. By the time of its second production the company was in decline which no one involved with the company seemed able to arrest and reverse. It is only recently that the company has had the strength and depth to contemplate reviving it but it does not look likely that this will happen.It must have been notated and members of the original cast are still around and compos mentis but if they leave it any longer it will, I assume be deemed incapable of revival. What these ballets have in common is that they reveal MacMillan to have been a a fine classical choreographer which does not exactly fit the image of the man which Lady M seeks to promote. If a wide range of MacMillan's works are to be seen they need to be performed and it seems to me that this MacMillanfest is something of a missed opportunity.Lady M has got other companies involved which means that people in the rest of the country may get the chance to see some MacMillan in live performance, but apart from Baiser de la Fee and Sea of Troubles, both of which I am pleased to see, there is nothing which has been out of the repertory for any length of time. Perhaps this event will encourage one or two companies to ask about some of the missing MacMillan repertory and think about staging it but I have no great hopes that this will happen. While there are some works like Playground, My Brother My Sisters, Valley of Shadows and Rituals which have been undisturbed for some time and should never be revived there are at least two others which should be consigned to oblivion, Different Drummer, which shows what ballet can't do and Judas Tree which shows what ballet should not do and is, as Mashinka says, "an awful thing". If reviving Winter Dreams is the price we have to pay for their perpetual retirement from the repertory, I for one would be prepared to pay it. There are several works which I think deserve to be revived such as Solitaire, Triad, Quartet, Verdi Variations as a gala piece, Soiree Musicales, and The Four Seasons and some which need to be reassessed such as Danses Concertantes; Symphony and Fin du Jour, which defeated the company when it was last revived. Perhaps some of MacMillan's neglected classically based works will not prove to be neglected masterpieces but we should at least have the opportunity to see them while their revival is still a practical option. I am sure that I am not the only one who thinks what we are permitted to see of MacMillan's output is too skewed towards Lady M's assessment of her late husband's place in the development of British ballet. The problem is that by concentrating on a limited range of works and emphasising the way in which he differed from Ashton in taste and output and portraying him as an unappreciated genius not only is our understanding of his work distorted but Lady M is failing to explore and exploit the full range of his legacy. It seems to me that by ignoring MacMillan's work as a classical choreographer she is doing the ballet audience and her late husband a great disservice.
  2. I am not sure whether I would describe the bulk of the works to be performed during the MacMillan fest as rarities, although Sea of Troubles certainly is one.It was made for a small company that was run by a dancer called Susan Crow who danced with SWRB/BRB before branching out on her own. I wonder what Baiser will look like after all these years? Unfortunately I don't recall much about it except being slightly disappointed by it when the RB danced it years ago. It would be nice to think that it turns to be a piece of real interest, if not a masterpiece, but as someone pointed out to me a significant number of the twentieth century's major choreographers have had a go at making a ballet using Stravinsky's score beginning with Nijinska and including Ashton and Balanchine, none of which have survived in the repertory, it suggests that there is a problem with the score. The most interesting thing about this celebration is that companies other than the RB are involved in it with ENB dancing Song of the Earth, Northern Ballet dancing Gloria, BRB dancing Concerto and Elite Syncopations being danced with dancers drawn from the RB and from the other companies involved in the celebration.Looking at ticket sales for the main stage MacMillan mixed bills it would appear that the only programme which is nearly sold out is the one which does not include Judas Tree. This suggests that the ballet going public is not as sure about the artistic status of Judas Tree as Lady M and that it was somewhat unwise to include the work in two of the mixed bills which are being performed. I wonder whether it will be necessary to reduce ticket prices for those two programmes to shift the tickets? So far the ballet company seems to be doing somewhat better than the opera company as far as ticket sales for the Autumn booking period are concerned. It would seem that ticket sales for La Boheme have been incredibly slow as advertisements for performances have already begun to appear on Tube stations. While I might anticipate that it would be necessary to advertise a revival of a very old production or a production which was badly received by the critics and not much liked by the public when it was new, it is really incredible to see advertisements for a new production of such a popular opera. The general opera going public is not normally that fastidious about new productions when the opera is a staple of the repertory composed by Puccini.
  3. From what little I have read about the way things are done in Putin's Russia the possibility of being arrested and charged with embezzlement is a fate which many run, including those who receive state funding for the arts. It is of course serious for the individual concerned. The prospect of being imprisoned in Russia is not something which anyone would want to face. However such allegations seem to have become a commonplace way of removing those who are rivals and those who are perceived as causing the regime difficulties and as such, are not that different from the allegations of high treason which were so favoured by Henry VIII as a means of dealing with his problem courtiers and those who stood in his way. There is a possibility that these current allegations have as little real legal substance as the allegations and trial procedures of the Henrican regime. What is happening in Russia could be characterized as a " civilized" form of purge . It has a veneer of respectability as the process appears to be concerned with ensuring that state funds are not misused and it is "civilised" because the defendant does not end up being shot. As I don't believe that Russia has any schemes comparable to the White Sea Canal project, the chances are that a prisoner will eventually emerge from the prison system although few will be as well treated as the man who arranged for acid to be thrown at the Bolshoi's former AD.
  4. Altongrimes I hope that the following may be of assistance to you in your quest to discover the contribution which Italy has made to the development of ballet. I am not aware of a book in English about the history of Italian ballet, ballet in Italy or the contribution which Italians have made to the development of ballet as an art form. I think that there are a number of reasons for that. The first is that, unlike France, where you can produce a fairly persuasive book on the development of ballet in France by concentrating on dance activity in Paris that is not possible for Italy. Before the Risorgimento and Unification the peninsula was a patchwork of states each of which had its own theatrical traditions, its own cultural preferences and is own rules on censorship. The major centres of ballet at La Scala,Milan, and the Teatro San Carlo, Naples, did not share the same tastes so you have to write about both and explain changing tastes in both centres. Then there is the fact that Italian ballet activity was not confined to the peninsula. There were Italian ballet dancers working across Europe and at one point in the eighteenth century there were Italian ballet masters working in Copenhagen and St.Petersburg. Writing about the major Italian dancers who appeared as guest artists in Russia is much easier and more likely to attract funding than writing about the efforts of Italian ballet masters in Italy and Europe. Now the two countries which played the greatest part in the development of classical ballet in the nineteenth century and thus of ballet as we tend to think of it today it today were France and Russia both of which were, and remain, very centralised states. Although by the time we get to the nineteenth century the Paris Opera was being run on a commercial basis while the Russian state was supporting the activities of the Imperial Theatres and companies the two states were similar in that there were identifiable centres of ballet training in Paris and St Petersburg respectively which were recognised as centres of excellence and whose artists influenced what went on elsewhere in their respective countries. That does not seem to have happened in Italy, even after unification, it remained and remains a country of distinct regions with their own regional dialects,culture, history and tastes, and their own theatrical culture and tastes. Perhaps the real problem is that we don't know enough about balletic activity in nineteenth century Italy. If ballet was only ever able to play second fiddle to opera, by providing diverting dances during the course of an opera performance, which is the impression we tend to have of ballet on the peninsula how do we explain how Luigi Manzotti came to create Excelsior or its international success? What we can say is that the development of Blassis' system of technical training combined with later advances in shoe construction which occurred in Milan enabled dancers trained in Northern Italy to achieve a technical level that seemed beyond the capabilities of their Russian contemporaries. During the 1880's and 1890's the Imperial Theatres imported a series of Italian trained dancers as guest artists who arguably changed the course of dance history in Russia and the rest of Europe. Brianz and Legnani are the most famous of them but there were others such as Antoinetta Dell'Era who today is all but forgotten, although I suspect that there may be considerably more of her technical skills recorded in the Stepanov notation of Sleeping Beauty than is generally acknowledged today. The first of the late nineteenth century Italian guest ballerinas was Virginia Zucchi who probably had a greater influence on the long term development of ballet in Russia than either Legnani or Brianzi because she persuaded a generation of young ballet goers that the art form was capable of doing far more than merely entertaining. Her dramatic range as a dance actress convinced those who saw her that "a dancer as an artist could be the equal of a Bernhardt or a Duse". She was as successful in portraying Fenella in La Muette de Portici which had been one of Elssler's great roles, as she was in playing Lise in La Fille Mal Gardee which Petipa revived for her. Alexandre Benois described her performances as revelatory. Among the ballet goers who saw her were the men who were some who went on to collaborate with Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes. As far as ballet in Italy in the twentieth and twenty first century is concerned it continues to produce very fine dancers although the resident ballet company at La Scala is in a losing battle with the opera company as far as stage time for performances is concerned. |I leave it to you to read about court masques in the renaissance courts of Italy especially Mantua and how they fed into court entertainments elsewhere in Europe . Here are a couple of suggestions for further reading;- 1) The Divine Virginia : A Biography of Virginia Zucchi by Ivor Guest. Unless you are an Italian speaker you will need an Italian dictionary for the following book. 2) Storia della danza italiano dalla origini ai giorni nostri edited by J. Sasportes pub 2011 Once you have identified a few people whose activities in dance interest you whether as dancers or ballet masters then you could try the on-line Dizionario Biografico. Again an Italian dictionary will be required.
  5. The London audience for the Mariinsky and the Bolshoi is far more mixed than the Covent Garden audience which usually attends ballet performances there. It is composed of Russians living locally, foreign visitors; people who only attend ballet performances when the Russians are in town and a small sprinkling of "regulars" whose interest in the artistic health of one of the world's great ballet company's outweighs other factors such as ticket prices,audience behaviour and K.Sergeyev's textual choices. As Mashinka says the prices charged for performances by visiting Russian companies appearing in Bow Street deter a lot of the local ballet going audience. In addition to the deterrent effect of the pricing I know a lot of "regulars" who won't go near a Russian Swan Lake because of a combination of the "amateur audience" and the text danced. As far as the text is concerned lots of regulars don't much admire performances which seem to be more like evocations of Swan Lake than the ballet which Petipa and Ivanov created. However wonderfully stylistically cohesive, and beautifully refined the Mariinsky corps de ballet is there are quite a lot of Covent Garden "regulars" who don't find that its performance or that of the dancers cast as the Swan Queen and her prince compensate adequately for the presence of the intrusive jester and the all dancing Rothbart; the loss of key mime passages which prevents anything approaching effective story telling or the substitution of a happy ending for the original tragic ending and apotheosis. I think that a few more "regulars" will be found to have braved the ticket prices and audience behaviour to see La Bayadere. Ticket sales have been far slower than usual. Swan Lake sold out but there were still tickets available until a few weeks ago.La Bayadere has only recently sold out. I think that there were actually special offers for Don Q. Although there are only two performances Anna Karenina took ages to sell out and both performances of the "Contrasts" mixed bill which includes Paquita are each said to have over a hundred tickets available for both performances.I hope that the poor sales don't put further visits in jeopardy.
  6. Natalia, The following post is one which I hope will answer your questions. I did see the Symphonic Dances mixed bill and I started a separate thread about it which has the unoriginal title "Symphonic Dances Mixed Bill 2016-17 season".. I also saw the mixed bill which included the new Crystal Pite,called "Flight Patterns" which you asked about.It also included Dawson's "The Human Seasons" and Wheldon's "After the Rain". As far as this mixed bill is concerned it proved to be surprisingly controversial not because of the new work but the Dawson piece which was first seen at Covent Garden in 2013 when,while it was not universally liked, and was criticised by some of the professional critics for the way in which the women who danced it were handled it passed without too much adverse comment.David Dason has been pursuing a successful career as a choreographer in Germany. "The Human Seasons " is not the only ballet of his to be seen in London as ENB have staged "A Million Kisses to my Skin" and his "Faun" was shown as part of a recent Diaghilev inspired programme. Perhaps I am missing something but I have not found any of them to be the sort of ballet that I would travel any great distance to see. The Human Seasons is one of those almost interchangeable abstract works which you feel you have seen somewhere before almost as soon as the curtains open and the dancers begin to move.It is the sort of ballet which seems to have been created and staged, to fill a gap in a mixed programme rather than because the choreographer has had an original idea.There is a certain amount of running around for no obvious reason; the relationship between the music and the dancer's movements is not always clear;the costume design and lighting has the effect of making the dancers disappear into the background and it is never entirely clear whether this is a deliberate effect or not and it contains a certain amount of choreography in which the women in the cast seem to be treated as objects rather than people. The casts seen in this revival were all new to the work. For some reason the professional critics seem to have taken more notice of it this time than they did when it was new or perhaps less of their criticism was edited.At this revival there were complaints about its lack of choreographic content and the way in which it seemed to involve a great deal of physical manipulation of the women including the men dragging them across the floor and swinging them around face down near the floor. I found it a rather tedious piece which did not do anything to hold my interest. I never found out how it was connected with the Keats poem which was reproduced in the programme. After the less than enthusiastic reviews from the professional critics everything got very heated. The stager took to twitter and suggested that the dancers involved had not been fully committed to performing the ballet. The choreographer announced on twitter " I have decided not to show my work any longer, in London, if I can help it." which he subsequently withdrew replacing it with a more emollient message about the pleasure he derived from working with the company. Presumably he thought about the damage he might be doing to himself if he ruled out possible future links with the company. At least one person who appears to have no known connections with ballet in the UK weighed in and wrote a scathing attack on the Royal Ballet comparing it unfavorably with the Royal Ballet of Flanders, accusing it of failing as a classical company and being out of touch with the latest choreographic developments. As far as I could see the dancers had done all that was humanly possible with the choreography, but the ballet failed to engage me intellectually or move me emotionally. . It seems to me that Wheeldon's "After the Rain" has been seen a bit too often for its own good. At this revival the first section did little for me it was well danced by the casts I saw which included Calvert in the first cast and Heap in the second cast.I think that for many in the audience it was the second part which had most impact. In the first cast this section was danced by Nunez and Soares in the second cast it was Yanowsky and Clarke who danced it.Nunez and Soares danced the choreography very beautifully but while we were given a series of beautiful images and poses it was all a bit too slick and devoid of any real feeling. The Yanowsky, Clarke pairing was totally different and entirely involving. I don't think that this was just because we knew that we would not see these two dancers together on many more evenings. It was because of their artistry. Watching them dance together it is difficult to believe that Clarke is a relatively inexperienced junior dance. They danced exactly the same choreography as Soares and Nunez but somehow it seemed to have far greater emotional depths to it rather than simply being a carefully contrived, well constructed piece of choreography or a slick production number it seemed to have many layers of meaning to it. . Then we had the final piece the first work which Cristal Pite has created for the company. Perhaps I should say that hers is not the first "refugee themed" ballet which has been staged in London during the last couple of seasons. Hofesch Schechter created a dull worthy piece called "Untouchable" in which a large group of dancers are moved across the stage in one direction and just when you think it is all over they move back to where they began from and then they are moved back across the stage again for the last time. It is very exciting as the dancers shout something inaudible which I was assured was about Nigel Farage a local politician.This masterpiece which some of my friends have taken to calling "Unwatchable" and others "Unspeakable" is due to be revived next season. Akram Khan has given London his modern reworking of"Giselle" in which the heroine is a migrant seamstress. Many claim to have been immensely moved by it but its emotional impact escapes me entirely. Wayne McGregor has given us his entirely forgettable Multiverse . It begins with a pas de deux in which McRae and Kay rush jump and turn at great speed until the point of exhaustion.This second section includes a set ion which fragments of the Raft of the Medusa are projected and the corps de ballet seems to be in danger of being crushed. I have told you this so you will appreciate that the ballet audience which saw Flight Patterns has seen more than its fair share of refugee themed dance works.in the same way that since 2014 the opera audience has been plagued by First World War themed productions. Pite's Flight Patterns was totally different from the earlier refugee themed dance works which we have already seen.It was entirely effective as a piece of dance theatre . The designs and the lighting were excellent and when sections of the stage were left in darkness you were not left thinking that it was either incompetence on the lighting designer's part or an attempt on the company's to cut its electricity bill.Kristen McNally led the cast and while there were other dancers who were given tiny sections when they stepped out of the corps only McNally and Sambe had choreography and movement which could be described as solos.It centres on the communal experience of being displaced and homeless. The dancers are a group who for the audience are virtually indistinguishable as they shuffle slowly across the stage, first in one direction, then in another in what seems to be an endless numberless line of refugees. McNally breaks out of the crowd she appears distraught and seems to be holding a child in her arms which turns out to be a coat. the other dancers fill her arms with their coats. Eventually a gap appears at the back of the stage it seems to be snowing there. The dancers slowly all pas through the gap leaving Sambe and McNally behind, Sambe moves and seems to hesitate about whether he should leave her.He begins to move away from her.It does not sound like much but it is a very compelling dance work. Pite and her designers seem to understand how to create compelling images which will resonate with an audience a gift which few others engaged in making dance works seem to share.. And now for something completely different.I don't think that I need to say anything more about Mayerling except that the finest performances which I saw during this run were given by Bonelli and Morera. While companies rarely remain in a stable state for any length of time when a dancer like Yanowsky announces her retirement it brings home how short a dancer's career is and raises the question of how long it will be before Morera announces her departure. Neither dancer is the standard ballerina type and yet it is difficult to imagine what the company would have been like without them.
  7. The casting I expect to see this evening is the one which danced on Friday evening they are as follows :- The Dream Titania Akane Takada replacing Lamb who is injured. She made her debut in the role on 2nd June. . Oberon Steven McRae Puck Valentino Zucchetti Bottom Benet Gartside Helena Itziar Mendizabal Demetrius Thomas Mock Hermia Claire Calvert Lysander Matthew Ball Peaseblossom Gemma Pitchley-Gale Cobweb Emma Maguire Moth Elizabeth Harrod Mutardseed Romany Pajdak Symphonic Variations Marianela Nunez Vadim Muntagirov Yuhui Choe James Hay Yasmine Naghdi Tristan Dyer Marguerite and Armand Marguerite Zenaida Yanowsky Armand Roberto Bolle His Father Christopher Saunders A Duke Gary Avis Admirers of Marguerite Matthew Ball, Reece Clarke, David Donnelly, Nicol Edmonds, Kevin Emerton, Thomas Mock, Fernando Montano, Erico Montes I would not usually bother with the list of admirers as they merely decorate the stage but I think that the list is of interest in much the same way that the cast for the pas de six in the streamed performance of Giselle was of interest in that it represented a snapshot in time of dancers some of whom have advanced to the top of the company and others who may well do so. In this list the dancers to look out for are Ball who actually dances a few steps in this work and Reece Clarke who is the tallest of the group and who is dancing the male lead in the second cast of Symphonic with Cuthbertson. There are quite a few people who have expressed regret that Clarke is not dancing Armand in place of Bolle but presumably that would have caused all sorts of problems as far as ensuring that Symphonic did not become a training opportunity in the way it did when it was last revived. The general feeling is that Naghdi, Ball and Clarke will all move up a rank when the promotions are announced at the end of the season.
  8. I assume that this mixed bill was intended to show the range of work and styles which ballet is capable of encompassing, The inclusion of Wheeldon's Strapless revealed what it can't do and certainly showed the difficulties which choreographers face when they choose a story which is unsuitable for ballet or one for which the choreography's vocabulary and style is unsuited. The programme opened with Forsythe's "Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude" which the company danced for a couple of seasons at the turn of the century but then disappeared from its repertory. It was danced with extraordinary speed and energy by the first cast of Nunez, Muntagirov, Takada, Stix-Brunell and McRae but even here Muntagirov managed to display the effortless elegance and beauty of movement for which he is admired by the London audience.The first cast was exhilarating the second cast, Mendizabal, Sambe, Hayward Stix-Brunell and Hay, was a bit more relaxed about the whole thing and brought out the wit in the choreography which was not really obvious in the more driven burn the stage account given by the first cast. Mendizabal is never going to be Nunez but she gave a fine account of the choreography. Sambe gave a bouncy account of the lead male role while Hay gave an ultra elegant and effortless account of the choreography which McRae had danced. Hayward and Stix-Brunell who had the benefit of working together from the beginning of the rehearsal process rather than being a last minute pairing due to injury danced as if they were a single performer.Both casts were well worth seeing. Tarantella, new to the company, followed before the interval. Here we were given three casts and the order in which they danced had more to so with what else they were dancing and learning than the quality of their performances. The first cast of Sambe, a ball of energy, and Hayward full of effortless technical skill, character, charm and wit brought the house down on the first night.The second cast was a bit of a disappointment largely because Hinkis held back preferring to give a safety first account of her choreography rather than a the sort of performance it demands.Perhaps Hinkis' overly careful approach to the piece had a dampening effect on Campbell and his account of the choreography.He danced as if he wanted everyone to forget that physically he is too stocky to be danseur material and the result was that while it was accurate it was anaemic,dull and characterless. How much his performance was influenced by his partner's rather subdued overcareful account of her role and how much it reflected a desire on his part to distance himself from the character nature of the role is difficult to say. The third cast of Naghdi and Zucchetti was the most intriguing as Naghdi has said of herself that she is by nature an allegro dancer. This cast sailed through the choreography with consummate ease their account was witty, fun and more musically astute than the first cast had been, Sambe is not as musically perceptive as Hayward is. The third cast had wonderful stage presence and made the whole thing look like a tongue in cheek homage to Bournonville and not simply a piece created on dancers with abundant stage presence,personality and technical skill.. Unfortunately Tarantella sent the audience out on a high and raised expectations which Strapless was never going to be able to fulfill. The audience left the auditorium feeling that all is well with the company and its repertory only to return to it to watch a ballet which should have been given a decent burial after its initial run. In fact there are some who would argue that it really should not have got as far as the main stage in 2016 when it was premiered. It appears to be a co-production with the Bolshoi and was clearly intended as a vehicle for Osipova. I can't imagine what possessed Wheeldon to think that the story of the creation of Sargent's portrait of Madame X and the scandal it caused would be a suitable subject for a ballet. Perhaps it was the exhibition of Sargent portraits at the National Portrait Gallery or the book about the portrait's creation but a choreographer of Wheeldon's experience should have been able to see that it presented insurmountable problems for anyone who wanted to turn it into a ballet. How do you create a ballet about an enthusiastic social climber who wants her portrait painted by an eminent portraitist and who suffers social ostracism because in its original form the portrait suggested that she was a woman of loose morals ? It is not just a case of the past being a foreign country where things are done differently somehow the choreographer has to make the audience interested in that foreign country and his social climbing "heroine" and her fate at the hands of a society which required everyone to maintain a veneer of respectability by conducting affairs discretely. How do you persuade an audience to be interested and involved in such a story? The ballet was strongly cast throughout but neither the cast led by Osipova nor that led by Cuthbertson managed to breathe life into this balletic corpse although they did everything that was humanly possible to do so. I saw both casts and to my mind Cuthbertson managed to make a bit more of it than Osipova had done. Even in its shortened form the ballet felt far longer than the forty minutes which the cast sheet suggested it would take to perform. By the time we got to the cafe scene which is full of local Parisian colour with its dancing waiters and its demure can can dancers my mind had begun to wander. I began to wonder what de Valois' Bar aux Folies Bergere had been like and I came to the conclusion on the basis of what I had read about it that I would far rather be watching "Bar" than the ballet which I was watching. At later performances I stayed outside and talked to people who were doing the same thing. The final piece on the bill was Liam Scarlett's new ballet Symphonic Dances made for a leading female dancer and a mixed cops de ballet.I think that some people, not knowing the music, may have expected a gentle valedictory piece because it was created on Yanowsky who is about to retire from the company. It's not what we got. What we got was a substantial slice of interesting choreography which made no technical concessions to anyone appearing in it. Not only did it underline the important part that both Yanowsky and Morera play in the artistic life of the company it shone a spotlight on the dance talent in the junior ranks. I managed to get a ticket for the Insight evening held the day after the ballet's premiere at which Scarlett was interviewed by Mason. He did not throw any light on the ballet itself but he did explain the prominence he had given to the men in the corps. He said that he had wanted to give the male members of the corps some challenging choreography because of the great technical strength of the company's current male dancers. The ballet is opened by the leading female dancer, Yanowsky on the opening night, Morera a few nights later, who then leaves the stage. Later she returns and one of the men dances with her. Yanowsky danced with James Hay while Morera danced with Giacomo Roverro, one of the company's apprentices. The man's dance is one that suggests that the lead woman is an object of adoration , with Hay and Yanowsky, the height difference almost suggests a mother and child relationship. With the Morera, Roverro pairing the height difference is lacking and so a mother and child relationship did not immediately spring to mind. The result is that the choreography looks markedly different with the two casts but it does not reduce its effectiveness. The middle section brings the male corps to the fore they dance together for some time before the female lead joins them. She dances with the corps as part of it and at some points they lift and present her to the audience. In the third section she dances with one of the men in a conventional pas de deux. Yanowsky's partner was Reece Clarke while Morera was partnered by Matthew Ball.I don't think that the final pas de deux was intended to say something about the place of the female dancer. I think that everyone in the audience would have felt cheated if they had not had the opportunity to see Yanowsky dance with Clarke for the last time or to see Ball dance with Morera as both men are such promising dancers. At the very end of the ballet the lead woman flings herself to the floor and the screen which has been part of the decor descends and obliterates the audiences final view of her. Is the ballet about anything? Scarlett said that the ballet meant whatever we chose to see in it. It is true that there are a few minor sections where Scarlett's imagination seems to flag but those sections seemed to be less obvious as the run progressed, presumably the result of the dancers settling into their choreography. The casting of the ballet meant that both lead dancers had their own male corps dancing with her The female corps were not cast in the same way, some of the female dancers appeared in both casts.The response to this ballet suggests that it will be revived.It will be interesting to see it with new casts. Only time will tell whether it lasts for a few seasons or whether it has real staying power. According to Scarlett his mother's response to his new work was that it was "one of his better efforts". Juxtaposing these two works in a single mixed bill made me wonder about what we can look forward to in the future from Wheeldon who is in his mid forties and Scarlett who has been making ballets for twenty years but is still only thirty or thirty one. It brought home to me that while Wheeldon has made a couple of full length works for the Royal Ballet which have been successful his dance vocabulary appears limited and he is not that able to create characters who describe their unique qualities and express their emotions through a subtle combination of natural body movement and dance in the way that Ashton, Tudor, Cranko, MacMillan and even de Valois could. It is as if he is blind to the possibilities which expressionist dance presents. His creation of Leontes seems so dependent on Ed Watson that I doubt that he would have thought of Leontes' movements and body language without him. I find that these "Watsonisms" are even more effective on other dancers than they are on Watson himself. Scarlett seems to have access to a wider dance vocabulary than Wheeldon and whatever you think of Frankenstein his pas de deux seem to arise more naturally from the narrative than Wheeldon's do. Wheeldon's pas de deux occur because there should be one at this point in the ballet not because they are required by the action or the character's emotional state at that point in the narrative. While they may be interesting from a purely technical point of view they seem devoid of any emotion, be it burning passion or good old fashioned lust. This apparent inability to express a range of emotional states through dance does not matter in the reconciliation pas de deux in Winter's Tale where a certain reticence and reserve may be appropriate at that point in the narrative nor in Alice which is more entertainment than ballet but it is a weakness in other works. I can't help wondering what the future holds for these two choreographers and for the audiences at the Royal Opera House. I have a feeling that people are beginning to think that Scarlett might just be the next really interesting choreographer rather than simply a useful company choreographer. The interview he gave was extremely interesting.. He appears to be very conscious of the company's creative and choreographic heritage without being overwhelmed by it or feeling that everything has to be overturned. When he was asked about the new Swan Lake he said that he was conscious of the responsibility involved in staging it and that he was still doing his research and reading. There is a rumour which may be totally unfounded that there may be more Ashton choreography in it than just the Neapolitan Dance.
  9. As was said in the section about streamed performances Jewels may not be the greatest of Balanchine's works but it is a piece which enables a company to display the range of talent within its ranks and I would add that even if it is Balanchine not on absolutely top form it is considerably better then most other choreographers manage at their best. As I have already said the Royal Ballet used to dance Balanchine with a distinct foreign accent,they no longer do so, but they are no longer a company which can be guaranteed to dance Ashton as stylishly as they once did. It may not be clear from what I have told you about the Royal Ballet this season but the company is going through a period of transition which is more obvious than that occasioned by the departure of Rojo, Cojocaru, Galeazzi and Benjamin.Then it was clear who the dancers leading the company would be as they were, for the main part, already in post as principal dancers. At this point it feels that a generational change is taking place as all the remaining experienced female principals are in their thirties Cuthbertson the youngest is about thirty two and Morera the oldest is in her very late thirties while the two recent appointees are in their twenties and it is likely that any dancers newly appointed to the rank of principal will be no older than their mid twenties. With Yanowsky's imminent retirement, Soares, who has never been that stylish, obviously struggling in exposed roles and questions about how long Watson will continue dancing some people are beginning to treat casting announcements like auguries indicating who the likely candidates for promotion and principal status are as they not only tell us who we are going too see in performance but indicate who among the junior ranks have caught the eye of management and stagers. With the late Gailene Stock at the school and the company's repertory given considerable coherence by Mason some of which has survived O'Hare's somewhat uncritical pursuit of new repertory we seem to be entering one of the Royal Ballet's better periods. We had a good mixture of experience and promising talent on show during the performances of Jewels with the company fielding three casts for Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds with only two dancers in the main roles appearing in more than one cast. In both cases the doubling up probably reflects management's need to give a dancer like Hristov some leading roles and to feed McRae's ambitions rather than a lack of talent or the youth and comparative inexperience of much of the of the company. Everywhere you look there is real talent and potential. It seems unfair to describe the casts as first, second and third cast as it suggests that there were marked qualitative differences between the performance of each when in fact it was one of those occasions on which the placing of a particular cast in sequence had little or nothing to do with the dancers' abilities or the quality of their performances. If anyone who saw all three casts had a favourite their selection was almost certainly based on the fact that one of the casts included dancers in whom they are particularly interested rather than any great difference between their performances. The casts were as follows;- 1) Emeralds with Nagdhi Ball,Mendizabal and Edmonds with Acri,Gasparini and Hinkis in the pas de trois;Rubies with Heap, Takada and Campbell; Diamonds with Cuthbertson and Muntagirov. 2) Emeralds with Stix-Brunell, Hristov,Morera and Hirano with Hay, Maguire and Crawford in the pas de trois; Rubies with Hamilton, Lamb and MCrae; Diamonds with Nunez and Soares which was the streamed cast. 3) Emeralds with Choe,Hristov, Hayward and Zuchetti with Richardson,O'Sullivan and Stock in the pas de trois;Rubies with Storm-Jensen, Magri and Sambe; Diamonds with Ccuthbertsom and Muntagirov. Salenko and McRae. also danced Diamonds during the run. All the casts in Emeralds brought something special to their performances and each managed to capture the elusive mood of the piece as well as to make it their own. It is a ballet which with the wrong cast I have found you watch out of a sense of duty and ask yourself whether in reality it is one of those pieces which died with the departure of the original cast as it can seem so dull. In these performances it became a fascinating work to be watched with real pleasure because of the theatrical life which the casts breathed into it. Much as I admired the cast of Emeralds which was streamed because it included Morera, Stix-Brunell and Hay who is one of the most interesting and elegant of the company's make dancers I found the cast which included Naghdi and Ball was the most interesting as it showed so much promise. Naghdi has shown extraordinary assurance and maturity in every performance she has given this season and these performances were no exception.This run gave Matthew Ball the opportunity to reveal his increasing elegance as a dancer and partner while Mendizabal gave one of her best performances so far with the company. Gasparini and Stock seemed completely at home in the pas de trois while Acri who was slightly less assured improved markedly during the run. The cast which included Choe and Hayward was also well worth seeing as its pas de trois was danced by Richardson who shows great promise and O'Sullivan who has made her mark in each classically based role in which she has appeared this season. At the first performance of the run Rubies was danced by Heap,Takada and Campbell. They were all good Heap brings real vigour and dynamism to the her role while Takada surprised me by the stylish individuality and character which she brought to her performance. Hamilton's performance in the evening suggested that she was treating the role as the Balanchine equivalent of Ashton's "Popular Song" which should be performed as if those involved in it are terminally bored by their routine and each other and are merely going through the motions of giving a performance The evening cast was the one who were seen in the cinema and while Hamilton seemed very assured in her performance, presumably the result of the time she has spent in Dresden, she seemed rather under-powered when compared with Yanowsky who used to dance the role, and Heap and Storm-Jensen who danced it during this revival.The youngest cast of Storm-Jensen, Sambe and Magri certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves at the performances they gave and they were the cast who consistently brought out the choreography's close relationship to show numbers. Depending on the performance you attended Diamonds was danced by Cuthbertson and Muntagirov, alternating with Nunez and Soares during the early part of the run and in the latter part of it by Salenco and McRae. Cuthbertson does not have the crystalline quality which Nunez brings to the Farrell role. Her approach is softer and slightly more lyrical she had the best of the three partners on offer in the supremely elegant Muntagirov who makes every gesture however simple look as if it his natural expression rather than something he has worked on in the rehearsal room. At the moment if you get Nunez in a ballet which is concerned with technical display then the chances are you will be stuck with Soares as her partner. I can understand why Nunez favours him as a partner as he is thoroughly dependable but I can only say that if you thought the performance which you saw him give in the cinema was laboured it was much better than any of those he gave earlier on in the run. Then he hardly seemed to be in control of what he was required to dance.. When he was promoted to principal dancer he said that he had been told that he had to polish up his technique but I don't think that he ever really did so. It seems to me that for some years he has been delivering edited highlights of roles like Lescaut and to some extent Rudolf while making up for his technical deficiencies by emoting. I think that he is about thirty six but his dancing is nowhere near as good as Bonelli's who is a few years older than him. The final cast of Diamonds was led by Salenko and McRae whose account of the choreography was very clean and accurate but for me lacked the effortless elegance which Muntagirov brings to his dancing and partnering. Somehow I can never stop being aware of the effort which McRae puts into his performances particularly the effort involved in transforming himself and his body from that of a demi- character dancer into a danseur. His dancing and his partnering are admirable but they are not effortlessly elegant in the way that Muntagirov's and Hay's are. Salenko clearly had good training but, and perhaps this is because she is a guest, she never seems to display much individuality in her performances which tend to be accurate but not compelling.With the number of smaller dancers in the company's ranks her regular presence as a guest becomes increasingly inexplicable.
  10. Helene, It is very interesting to read your views on the streamed performance. I should certainly like to read more of your thoughts on the quality of the performances which were on show. At one time the Royal Ballet used to dance Balanchine with a strong local accent. It does not do so to the same extent now but then it does not dance its Ashton repertory as idiomatically as it once did. I think that generally this run of Jewels has proved to be the most successful that the company has mounted and in large part that is because it now has the dancers to do Emeralds justice.All the ballets were multi cast and it was able to muster three casts for Emeralds each of whom caught the elusive quality of the ballet. I am not sure that we would all have agreed that the cast for Rubies which appeared in the streamed performance was the best of the run but then I think that when it comes to streamed performances management feels that it is under an obligation to show the company's senior and best known dancers as for many people living outside London this is the only opportunity that the audience has of seeing dancers of whom they have heard.Lamb can be a very cold remote dancer and she did not really thaw out with McRae. I think that a lot of people were disappointed that Osipova was not paired with McRae for this revival.Although it may not have been quite what Mr B. intended, what they did with the Rubies pas de deux when they appeared in it had to be seen to be believed.
  11. The following may be of interest to those who are unable to access the Royal Ballet's streamed performances but would like to see something of the company's work.Giselle danced by Nunez and Muntagirov, streamed in 2016, was issued on DVD in March 2017. In response to enquiries made by company fans it has been announced that the following steamed performances will be issued on DVD as follows;- 1) Anastasia with Osipova in September 2017 2) Sleeping Beauty with Nunez and Muntagirov in April 2018 3) Nutcracker with Cuthbertson, Bonelli, Hayward and Campbell at Christmas 2018
  12. I don't believe that the ROH accepts returns by phone. The website says that original tickets have to be returned before they will be put up for resale. There was a time when the opera house did not insist on having the original ticket handed back to the box office and the result was that there were occasions on which there was more than one person claiming the right to occupy a seat each of whom was in possession of a ticket for the seat in question because not only had the original purchaser asked the box office to resell the ticket but they had also sold the ticket on to some innocent purchaser. I think that the current system was devised to prevent this.and to avoid the embarrassment involved in holding an inquest into who is in possession of the valid ticket and thus entitled to be present at the performance.
  13. The 10th June is an evening when Osipova is due to dance in Marguerite and Armand. Polunin has " decided to withdraw" from the performances he was due to dance so there is a reasonable chance that some tickets will be returned for resale. The news that Polunin has withdrawn is very recent so you are unlikely to see a great deal of activity on the website for a few days at least as you have to return the actual tickets to the box office. Of course the possibility is that the casting for Marguerite and Armand was not what persuaded patrons to buy tickets. My advice is just keep watching the website and bear in mind all three casts announced for the Dream are well worth seeing.Although it has also been announced that Lamb has withdrawn from Mayerling on the 11 th May due to injury. There is a possibility that the casting for the Dream could turn out to be a game of musical chairs...
  14. While it will be interesting to see who management chooses to replace Polunin Marguerite and Amand is only of real interest in those performances which, for London audiences, mark Yanowsky's retirement as a member of the company. The choreographic substance of this mixed programme lies in the first two ballets on the bill, The Dream and Symphonic Variations. Marguerite and Armand is merely a vehicle. although it is currently said to be the most frequently performed of Ashton's ballets. The management has a number of options as far as casting a replacement Armand is concerned. They could ask if the Mariinsky could possibly spare Xander Parrish but if they were being really brave they would take a chance on someone young and exciting from within the ranks of the company such as Matthew Ball who has come on in leaps and bounds during this season. Clarke is unlikely as he is already cast in the Some's role in Symphonic Variations. Both Clarke and Ball are cast with more senior dancers next season. Clarke is to dance Aminta to Cuthbertson's Sylvia and is due to partner her SPF in Nutcracker while Ball is due to partner Choe at he beginning of the run of Nutcracker and Naghdi towards the end of the run. In addition there is considerable speculation about whether either Naghdi or Hayward will be making their debuts in Giselle in the new year. I will finish by writing briefly about the run of Sleeping Beauties which ended in mid March with a performance by the husband and wife team of Bonelli and Kobayashi. Bonelli's prince was, as usual, wonderfully elegant and Kobayashi's account of Aurora has visibly matured and improved. As I had expected it provided an opportunity to see a few more debuts including, the somewhat unlikely casting in the act 3 pas de trois Florestan and his Sisters of Reece Clarke who is 6 ft 3 ins as Florestan. It is one of those apparently innocuously simple pieces of Ashton choreography which undo those who do not have a secure technique. It is generally something of a challenge for tall dancers but while it is generally better suited to dancers who are more compact it is a role in which many dancers struggle. As originally cast he was to dance with two tall dancers but due to illness or injury he ended up with a tall sister in Stix-Brunell and shorter one in O'Sullivan.It could have been less than special but it turned out to be very good and rather stylish.
  15. It would seem that Hamilton is now back with the RB as her contract with Dresden was short term rather than permanent.It will be interesting to see what Hamilton is given to dance in the first part of the season as the ballet repertory for first booking period consists of Alice,Sylvia,Nutcracker, a mixed bill including a new piece by Twyla Tharp and a sort of national MacMillanfest involving other companies as well as the RB performing a range of his choreography. We should know in a few weeks what the casting looks like. I think that she is likely to be cast in the tall girl role in Elite Syncopations, given something in the mixed bill, possibly the Queen of Hearts and one of the goddesses who appear in the last act of Sylvia. Hamilton is a fascinating dancer in the right role but in the past there have been occasions when the fact that she was a latecomer to classical ballet training has been all too obvious.In a role like the Queen of the Dryads her performance would be a mixture of movements of creamy beauty and control and within a few bars of music she would be struggling for technical mastery of the trickier elements of the choreography. As she appears to be a woman of steely determination I imagine that she will have used her time in Dresden to work on developing her technique and stagecraft but unless her technique has improved a great deal I don't think that she will be cast as Sylvia. . I know that RB performances can hardly be described as accessible in North America but if any of you do get an opportunity to see the RB performance of Jewels it will be interesting to hear what you think of it. While the cast involved in the streamed performance were the first cast to dance it during the course of the run the quality of the later casts was so high that it seems unfair to describe them as second and third casts with all that seems to imply about the quality of their performances. Tierney Heap appeared in the same role as Hamilton in the second cast and to my mind she brought considerably more to it.
  16. As someone pointed out to me during the lengthy run of Sleeping Beauty the company has been short of two male Principal dancers during the entire season and yet I don't think that anyone has really noticed their absence as far as the quality of the company's performances is concerned. What the audience probably has noticed is that a number of obviously talented young men have been given their first opportunities to dance the princely roles in Nutcracker and Beauty.and some have had the opportunity to dance in Jewels as well. It will be interesting to discover whether these opportunities were part of a development plan for them or whether their appearances in these roles was simply a pragmatic response to the absence of the more senior dancers. Perhaps we shall find out when the casting for the first booking period is announced. While I don't like making predictions I would not be at all surprised to find Hayward cast in the performance of Alice which is due to be streamed next season. She made a very successful debut in the role when it was last programmed and both Cuthbertson and Lamb have already been seen in streamed performances. Perhaps Bracewell will be given a shot at dancing Jack and the Sugar Plum Fairy's cavalier. I think that we will almost certainly have debuts in Sylvia.There are not that many performances of the ballet but if management means to keep the ballet as part of the company's living repertory then we should see one, if not two, debuts in the title role during this run.It might also decide to try out Ball and Clarke as Aminta. Given the way in which O'Sullivan danced in Sleeping Beauty as Fairy of the Songbirds and Golden Vine, Florine and one of Florestan's Sisters I shall be surprised if she is not given a debut as Sugar Plum Fairy over Christmas. In 2018 we have revivals of Giselle and Manon, with any luck that will mean debuts by both Hayward and Naghdi in Giselle and Naghdi making her debut in Manon. I can't help wondering whether Watson will dance Manon with Hayward as he did when she made her debut All in all the season is bound to become really interesting once the casting is announced. As far as the new Swan Lake is concerned it is announced as having choreography by Petipa and Ashton. What that means is anyone's guess merely the Neapolitan dance or some more substantial bits of his choreography ? We have a long time to wait for the answer. I just hope that if it is bad news we don't have to endure it for too long. A production using the choreographic text from the Dowell production with Bintley's pedestrian waltz replaced by one of Ashton's versions and the restoration of the Peasant girl's pas set by De Valois would be more than acceptable but an occasional outing for Ashton's last act would be better. If it ends up with even more Ashton in it then I think that the London audience will probably see it as a tribute from one great choreographer to the man who he said gave him "private lessons" whenever he watched the Fairy Varitions
  17. I think that John Lanchbury did an excellent job for MacMillan in finding music that would work in the context of the ballet which the choreographer was creating. MacMillan sent a copy of Gillian Freeman's treatment of the narrative and his timings to Lanchbury in Australia so that he knew the action that the music was required to accompany and its duration. In return Lanchbury selected and supplied not only the music requested but additional music for each section, should it be needed, and suggestions for cuts should they be required. It can't be easy to find enough pre-existing music by an individual composer. even one as prolific as Liszt which can be stitched together in such a way that it furnishes a suitable score for a full length ballet like Mayerling. The score does its job and I don't think that it is reasonable to expect much more of it. You will be surprised by how much of the score sticks after you have seen the ballet a couple of times.While I understand what you say about the score I think that its"film music" quality is connected to Liszt's popularity with audiences and his influence on composers which continued well into the twentieth century. I think that a lot of composers who turned their hand to composing film music were influenced by him or at least recognized that the mass audience found music written in his style both accessible and attractive. You really should try to watch the South Bank Show documentary about the making of Mayerling. If you do you will find from extracts of performances by the original cast that Wall danced the role with great clarity and finesse. I have no doubt that Polunin was splendid as Rudolph because of the clarity of his dancing combined with his skills as an actor. If you watch the documentary you will see that Wall acts every scene as much as he dances them but that his acting is essential to his performance rather than being used to cover technical inadequacies Rudolph is a dancing role and not really one that is best suited to a dancer whose technique has begun to fray at the edges and is forced to fall back on his partnering skills and resort to emoting to carry the day. Soares gets away with it but seeing the role " danced" is a totally different experience The review of Polunin's performance singles out Rudolph's first solo for special comment. It is as dependent on silky smooth transitions and weight adjustment as is De Grieux's first solo in Manon. I can't help thinking that Rudolph's initial solo must have been made on Dowell as MacMillan originally intended to make the ballet on him and worked on the ballet with Dowell for a couple of weeks before he withdrew and was replaced by Wall. Like everything else created on Dowell lesser mortals have to find their way to do justice to choreography made to display his unique qualities, even when it is only a small section of a much longer ballet. You said that you gave up watching Alice part way through which is a pity because the most entertaining sections are in the second half.I don't think that Alice is a great work. It is more of an entertainment than a ballet but the staging and special effects are impressive and the way in which the Cheshire cat is staged is both inventive and amusing and really captures the spirit of the text. The best bits of the ballet/ entertainment are in the second part so perhaps you should give it another try. My problem with the work is that Wheeldon is not a good enough butcher and the result is that he found himself staging elements of the story which do not work in balletic terms.Some of the choreography seems to be there in order to give individual dancers something to do rather than to reveal more about their character or to move the narrative on. The White Rabbit's solo is a case in point, it seems to be there because Wheeldon has suddenly remembered that he has got Ed Watson in the cast and that he needs to give him some choreography to dance. Again the pas de deux at the end of the ballet seems to come out of nowhere.There appears to be no narrative reason for it except that we are now at the end of the ballet and the audience expects to see a pas de deux to round off the performance. Perhaps with more performances, which we will get next season, one of the younger dancers will transform the work completely and the final pas de deux will suddenly seem to be there for a narrative reason rather than to act as a full stop.It could happen.It has taken other narrative works several seasons to really run in and for roles to be developed to their full potential. Having moaned about the weaknesses of Wheeldon's Alice there are bits that work really well in theatrical terms. It is as if towards the end of the work he was suddenly inspired or perhaps the truth is that when we get to the sequence for the corps as playing cards and the scenes which involve the Queen of Hearts, the reluctant hedgehogs and the send up of the Rose Adagio we have arrived at the incidents which he actually wanted to stage. I went to the performance of Alice at which Francesca Hayward made her debut in the title role and because I left it rather late to buy a ticket I found myself sitting among a group of Russian ballet goers from St Petersburg who sat stony faced through the first part of the ballet but came back for the second half which they found very funny, including the send up of the Rose Adagio. The problem for me is that unlike a ballet by Ashton or MacMillan the choreography does not feel as if it is the only way in which the story could be told.The movement and its relationship to the music does not feel inevitable. But Alice was Wheeldon's first narrative work and I have to say that Hayward managed to make the the ballet work far more effectively than other dancers have managed to do so far. Perhaps the answer is that a new dance work which brings families to the theatre is a good thing in itself as it may lead to an interest in the art form. But somehow I can't help thinking that children deserve to see really good choreography when they see their first ballet and that rather than a work which only works intermittently, regular revivals of Coppelia, Ashton's Cinderella and Fille with performances scheduled during school holidays and at weekends would be a much better way of developing the next generation of ballet goers.
  18. Mnacenani I think that all the titles which you cite as having universal appeal and thus ideal for staging as ballets are concerned with thwarted love a theme which MacMillan wanted to move away from as he felt it was far too conventional and limited the development of the art form. In a television documentary which can still be found on the internet MacMillan talks about the creation of Mayerling and his wish to abandon the subject matter and conventions of the traditional ballet with a ballerina at its centre and a narrative of thwarted love. It would appear that he was influenced in his approach to ballet making by the French ballets he saw in the immediate post war period. Although he does not name him I suspect that MacMillan is referring to the influence on his narrative ballets of Roland Petit. Thus while his contemporaries writing for the British theatre in the 1950's and 1960's were engaged in abandoning the conventions of the "well made play" as unsuited to the material which they wanted to present on stage MacMillan was on a similar quest for ballet, looking for greater realism, a wider range of narrative and pushing at the boundaries of the art form. Whether or not you think that abandoning the conventions of the "well made ballet" based on nineteenth century models in a search for greater psychological realism paid off and was successful depends very much on your response to MacMillan's three major full length narrative works. As our response to the works of individual choreographers is the product of our experience of watching ballet and dance works and our expectations are formed by that experience our response to individual ballets will vary and not everyone will find that Macmillan's choreography with its mixture of classroom steps and expressionist movement is to their taste. But whatever your response to them, it is clear that dancers want to perform the meaty roles in Manon and Mayerling and the paying public enjoys them sufficiently to buy tickets to see performances of them. It seems to me that the fact that these ballets are revived on a triennial basis is testimony to their continuing popularity with audiences and dancers alike and that perhaps MacMillan got something right when he made them.. As far as Mayerling is concerned there is no fixed rule about how the role of Rudolph has to be interpreted. The three dancers who appeared as Rudolph in the first season gave very different but very persuasive accounts of the role .As I recall it David Wall, the role's creator, played Rudolph in a way which made the audience feel some sympathy for the character and his sufferings while Jefferies played him far less sympathetically. From his first appearance on stage Jefferies' Rudolph was already in deep trouble emotionally and clearly "mad bad and dangerous to know". MacMillan's full length ballets leave room for the individual dancer's interpretation of a role. Romeo and Juliet probably provides the widest range of options in performance as it works equally well as pure dance,Sibley and Dowell's approach or as dance drama, the approach of Seymour on whom Juliet was created, and the approach favoured by most dancers today. And yes the choreography for the corps in Romeo and Juliet is dull, repetitive and rather boring. As this is a common feature in all of MacMillan's full length narrative ballets it suggests to me that he was not that interested in the "spear carriers" and did not expect the audience to be that interested in them or their choreography either. Perhaps both Grigorovitch and MacMillan share at least one thing in common as choreographers creating dance dramas the shared belief that divertisements are out of place in such ballets and that if the main characters are to carry the story they need to be in the foreground with the "supers" kept in the background and never given anything to dance that might distract from the main characters and the dramatic action of the ballet. So far the current revival has given the audience four varied interpretations of the role. On Friday Watson gave the audience a distraught unbalanced and potentially very dangerous Rudolph who is already clearly disintegrating physically and emotionally as the ballet opens with a fine supporting cast.Since the ballet was originally prepared with great care and considerable thought was given to which characters were essential to the narrative in what was the equivalent of a film scenario treatment by Gillian Freeman I think that we need to accept that there are no superfluous characters in it. Thus each of the women with whom we see him interact and dance tell us more about him. It is the nature of their interaction with him that counts rather than their names. I will simply say that all the women who appeared in the Watson cast were excellent. Yanowsky was a wonderfully glacial Empress;Hayward a terrified Stephanie; Lamb a slippery, manipulative Larisch; Nunez made Caspar an essential character; and Osipova was outstandingly good as Vetsera. Campbell restored the role of Bratfisch to the status of an essential character while Avis was a compelling Bay Middleton and the Hungarian Officers forever lurking in the curtains during scene changes included a number of dancers who look set for bigger, better things in the near future. Saturday afternoon gave the audience Bonelli's Rudolph who is almost too well balanced to make the action of the entire ballet seem possible or credible when the ballet opens. The opening of course gives Bonelli's Rudolph further to fall. We saw his disintegration begin in the final scene of the first act.His scenes with Morera were compelling and the action of the final scenes of the ballet make it clear that the suicide pact is a total folie a deux. When I watched Soares account of the first solo I wondered yet again how he can still be a principal dancer as his dancing seems so ragged and under powered. But when he began the first pas de deux he made it all look so easy and as the ballet progressed the dancers playing the women in his life seem to have more time and more space in which to perform their roles and the freedom of performance which only comes with a truly great partner and the effect is so compelling and Soares' acting is so good that I forgot what an ordeal the initial solo had been. By then it had become an essential part of his Rudolph.His Vetsera Cuthbertson is excellent in what was a long promised debut in the role. Bank Holiday Monday and I was back in the theatre to see McRae as Rudolph with Lamb as his Vetsera a cast which I had doubts about when I booked as McRae can find it difficult to submerge himself in the character he is playing and stop being "Steven McRae the great technician".In the end I bought a ticket because the early May Bank Holiday afternoon is usually cold and damp rather than with a great sense of enthusiasm for the prospective performance. A friend who had attended the open rehearsal and is far from being a McRae fan told me how impressed she had been by his performance of Rudolph which she described as "one of the best danced accounts of the role she had seen in years." All I can say is that she was not exaggerating. McRae danced the choreography with such clarity and precision that he restored subtle details which other Rudolph's have seemingly ignored or glossed over for years. While I think that McRae's decision to play the tavern scene as if he was tipsy was a mistake the rest of his performance was outstanding and thrilling as a first attempt. Lamb can be very variable in performance and whether she is stunning or merely technically sound depends very much on who is partnering her.On Friday night she had been an excellent, slippery, manipulative Larisch to Watson's Rudolph what was her Vetsera going to be like?. Some of Lamb's best performances to date have been with Pennefather who helped reveal all sorts of detail in her performances in roles as varied as the Sylph and Manon. It would seem that dancing with McRae has the same effect on her.Her Vetsera has clearly been well schooled by Larisch, she knows what will intrigue and excite Rudolph and during the initial section of their first pas de deux she seems to be gauging the effect that she is having on him.All in all a performance which I am glad that I attended. You almost seem to be suggesting that the company should be programming works which are part of Osipova's standard repertory and yet would not that defeat the object of the exercise as far as she is concerned and disrupt the development of the younger members of the company of which she is now a member? When it was announced that Osipova was joining the Royal Ballet I think that we were given the impression that she wished to have an opportunity to spread her wings and dance roles that she might not be given at the Bolshoi where, as I understand it, the rules of emploi are still applied quite rigorously. Surely suggesting that she should be dancing roles like Kitri for example puts her back in the emploi straight jacket from which she was trying to escape? I think that we have to assume that Osipova is appearing in works she wishes to dance in rather than being forced to do so.Far from being a mistake to cast her in the role of Vetsera it would appear that even the exceptionally hard to please critic Clement Crisp was impressed by her performance as he has gone so far as to describe her as the best in the role since Seymour herself and you cannot hope for higher praise than being compared favourably with one of the greatest dance actresses of the last century. I have to say that I have not been that impressed by some of the more recent creations Osipova has danced in particularly those which have been part of the independent programmes in which she has appeared. As far as the Royal's repertory is concerned I do not think it likely that she is being cast in modern creations in order to sell tickets. I think it far more likely that she dancing in works in which she wishes to appear and that she wants to have works made on her as well as appearing in the company's wide ranging standard repertory. Mnacenani I should be interested to know which pieces you would describe as "silly contemporary works" to see whether they are similar to mine. I will start with Wheeldon's "Strapless" which Kevin O'Hare has said needs some tweaking where I should have thought that radical surgery was required with no guarantee of success. If it had not been announced as a co-production with the Bolshoi the kindest thing would have been to put it out of its misery. . I do not know whether you have had a look at the schedule for the 2017-18 season but Giselle and Manon are being revived in 2018 and we are to have a new production of Swan Lake at the end of the season.
  19. Constructing an effective mixed bill is an art in itself. It is not simply a question of selecting the right dance works for an evening as even the sequence in which they are performed can have a significant impact on the audience's response to the programme as a whole. Comments on French ballet websites about programming at Covent Garden suggest that French audiences find mixed programmes containing contrasting elements something of an anglo saxon eccentricity and much prefer, or are used to seeing, programmes with a significant unifying element to them. A programme of dance works set to Chopin's music by a number of different choreographers would not be the subject of comment about the lack of variety whereas a programme of contrasting works by a single choreographer would almost certainly be criticised for its lack of a unifying element. Perhaps the problem in this case was opening with the Cunningham.
  20. Mashinka. You may know considerably more about inadequate performances of Oberon than I do. I prefer to avoid them if at all possible. I know that I spent a great deal of Dowell's directorship being delighted at the prospect of performances of Ashton mixed bills, being appalled by the proposed casts and saving money by staying away from them. The result seemed to be that the Ashton mixed bills with half decent casts at Covent Garden ended up being gatherings of ballet goers who knew and cared what Ashton's ballets should look like in performance which people who I knew from my earliest ballet going years seemed to crawl out of the woodwork to attend .I also went to see a lot of performances by SWRB/BRB which under Sir Peter Wright seemed far more able to conjure up interesting mixed bills with much better casts than the company resident at Covent Garden seemed able to manage although it was generally understood that the resident company had first choice of the school's graduates .Wright seemed to have a much better understanding of how to develop dancers through his choice of repertory and a much better grasp of the ballets which his dancers and his audience needed to experience in performance. Perhaps the fact that Wright came to be involved in classical ballet in his late teens via Kurt Joos gave him a greater appreciation of the special qualities of classical dance and choreography created using the idiom than someone who is introduced to ballet as a young child and grows up in a world where it is a given.I should like to think that Kevin O'Hare had learned some of Sir Peter's system for developing dancers from his time working for him. The ballets in this year's repertory with Fille, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Jewels occupying a significant part of the season suggested that he had. However next year's rep suggests that his commitment to giving the youngest dancers in his company the development opportunities that they need may not be that strong. I know that next season is being treated as a significant MacMillan anniversary season but I am not sure that is necessarily that beneficial for maintaining technical standards throughout the company.The early performances of the new Swan Lake will reveal what damage, if any, the MacMillanfest has inflicted on technical standards as his full length ballets tend to treat the corps as background stage dressing, albeit each with his or her backstory, rather than giving them really challenging choreography to dance.
  21. I have just come back from Zurich where I saw two performances of this production. I do not intend to give a detailed account of the production as Amy did a sterling job when she described what she saw in Milan nor do I intend to give a blow by blow account of the choreography. It was all so familiar and yet so different. At regular intervals I saw elements not only of the Dowell production but of the productions which preceded it but those familiar sections were performed with a different emphasis and accent as everything was performed in period appropriate style. This had the effect of making the performance of the choreography emphasize dance as a flow of movement rather than movement from pose to pose.As legs are kept low and are often curved and limbs are not stretched to the nth degree the dancing looks softer in performance than we have become used to in this ballet. One of the first things that struck me about the performances which I saw was that in this version Odette does not engage in Swan impersonations and the music is not distorted in order to accommodate the dancers and their desire to exhibit their muscular control and their technique. This meant that for the first time in years I saw an account of the first lakeside scene in which Odette and the corps de ballet actually seemed to be appearing in the same ballet as far as tempi were concerned rather than at the brisk tempo indicated by the composer when the corps were dancing and at a "as slow as you can you go" sort of speed during the pas de deux or pas de trois as it is here.While the floor plan for act 1 scene 2 is pretty much the same as it is in the Dowell production it looks and feels very different in performance simply because of the speed at which it is danced..It is lighter, faster and far less like the monumental classical ballet which modern productions tend to make it and it contains no overhead Bolshoi style lifts. In the second act the pas d'action is just that, it tells the story through dance and mime and it does not degenerate into competitive dancing towards the end of the pas. Siegfried's choreography can be seen as an expression of his pleasure at having found the girl of his dreams rather than an expression of his bravura technique. Odile's choreography is used for narrative and expressive effect. It is not simply an opportunity for the dancer to display her bravura technique to the audience, it is the means by which she first distracts Siegfried when Odette appears at the window and then entrances and beguiles him. I think that Ratmansky is right where his staging gives Siegfried the possibility of catching a glimpse of Odette at the window as it explains Odile's subsequent actions, touching his forehead and thrusting herself between him and the apparition at the window. At the end of the pas when Siegfried swears eternal love for Odile both Rothbart and Odile laugh at him before they rush off, the laughter is in the score. The act ends with Siegfried collapsing distraught at his mother's feet which does not look at all heroic .It is easy to see why in later post revolutionary productions the prince rushes off into the night when he discovers that he has betrayed Odette. It makes him look more like a man of action and less like a wimp. The last act begins with four swans entering and then looking out onto the night waiting for Odette's return and they are followed by another four swans who do the self same thing but facing in the opposite direction. Odette arrives and tells them what has happened and that Siegfried has abandoned his love for her.The rest of the act is very similar to the Dowell production. I have seen seen the Mariinsky reconstruction of Sleeping Beauty which restored the original sumptuous designs but performed the original choreographic text using modern "improved" technique and the Bolshoi reconstructed Corsaire "seen through twenty first century eyes" in live performance. I have seen the Ratmansky reconstructions of Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake in live performance and the Munich Paquita in a streamed one. All three of these were performed in period appropriate style and at tempi which the choreographer and his composers might have recognised. While it might be nice to stage reconstructions of nineteenth century ballets with expensive designs I don't honestly think that the success of a reconstruction is dependent on expensive costumes and designs. What really matters in the initial stage is the choreographic text and how it is performed. Ballets are expensive to stage and at a time when the majority of ballet goers, dancers,coaches and artistic directors have yet to be convinced of the relevance and value of reconstructing the great ballets of the past it seems to me that the bulk of the effort has to go into reconstructing choreographic texts and recruiting dancers who can perform these works in period appropriate style with the same sort of facility we expect of those dancers performing in current performance style. It seems to me that there is little point in staging a reconstruction of any nineteenth century ballet if the stager is not going to insist on period appropriate performance style and observing the tempi set by the composer. that way there is a possibility that the audience will experience something approaching the choreographer's musicality. Seeing the Mariinsky's Sleeping Beauty was fascinating as far as the designs were concerned but what we were saw in performance bore little resemblance to what was staged in 1895 as it was being performed in the most modern style rather than in a style and at a speed which might have allowed the audience to experience Petipa's musicality.I have to say that what I have seen so far makes me eager to see more reconstructed Petipa and then there is the Justament archive.There is always a possibility that some of the great French ballets of the nineteenth century could be revived,
  22. The RB only reveals the barest details of casting.It has finally announced the missing details of the Ashton mixed bill which will round off the ballet season.In the Dream Sambe will dance Oberon to Hayward's Titania and Campbell will dance Oberon to Morera's Titania. In addition Polunin will be dancing Armand to Osipova's Marguerite. The ROH has only seen fit to announce the fact that Polunin is to appear in Marguerite and Armand.Personally I think that the details about who is to dance Oberon will be of far greater interest to the regular ballet goer than the fact that Polunin will be appearing in Marguerite and Armand. In fact the casting for Oberon will probably come as a great relief to many as there were fears that we might have to endure Matthew Golding lumbering round the stage in order to see Hayward dance Titania.
  23. Unfortunately as 2017 marks the twenty fifth anniversary of MacMillan's death it was inevitable that we were going to have rather a lot of his ballets programmed during the entire year. I am just grateful that we have had so few of his "challenging" works scheduled for performance and that Lady M. has not managed to persuade the management to disinter Isadora. As far as the Ashton repertory is concerned I am not sure that It has been specifically singled out for neglect as we have not seen much of the Diaghilev repertory either since Mr. O'Hare became AD. It would seem that he is more concerned with commissioning new works for the company, most of which have turned out to be second rate, than performing and maintaining the company's repertory of twentieth century masterworks, or acquiring as regular repertory pieces any of the major works created elsewhere in the last fifty years. Strangely in all this MacMillan's three successful full length ballets have not suffered neglect. The company has proved itself capable of programming revivals of them with such regularity that there seems to be a timetable for their revival which raises the question of why something similar can not be done for the company's founder choreographer? It must be difficult for any AD running a company with a significant repertory of masterpieces to get the balance right between encouraging the creation of new works and maintaining the historical repertory I can't help thinking that an AD who wanted to achieve a balance between new works, the nineteenth century classics and twentieth century masterpieces would find a way of doing so. What makes the whole thing so frustrating is that Mason pulled so many ballets back from oblivion and now O'Hare is letting them drift back into the shadows.I have heard one or two people suggest that this is because the current AD is more concerned about his legacy than he is about his duty to make the historic repertory available to the current audience but then perhaps the problem is that while the new works don't look too bad if they are seen in isolation when they are seen in close proximity to major works they tend to look weak if not inept.I hate to think what the 2020 season will look like if Kevin only programmes new productions and works created during his directorship. A season which includes Acosta's Don Q possibly his Carmen;Scarlett's new Swan Lake,Frankenstein, Sweet Violets and The Age of Anxiety; Wheeldon's Winter's Tale, Strapless, In the Golden Hour and After the Rain;McGregor's Woolf Works, Limen, Infra and Live Fire Exercise; Dawson's Human Seasons and Schechter's Untouchable does not seem that attractive to me and could prove to be a very cheap season. It seems to me that the real problem as far as the Ashton repertory at Covent Garden is concerned is that his works suffer from not having the active advocate that MacMillan has in Lady M..I am pleased to see that Sylvia is being revived but I can only guess at why Marguerite and Armand is back again so soon.It suggests either that someone significant is retiring and wants to dance it or that someone has agreed to dance in that ballet as a guest artist.From something that Francesca Hayward said in interview last night it would seem that the ballet has now become a work that dancers want to appear in as she said that she hoped that she would have the opportunity to dance it when she is older.We shall discover the reason for its inclusion in the 2017-18 season when the casting is announced, at the moment it just seems part of a very odd mixed bill. It is good that Giselle is being revived as it should mean that some of the dancers who should have been given the opportunity of working with Peter Wright when it was last revived may now have the chance of doing so but in many ways I wish that his production were less of an edited highlights account of the ballet.I find the Skeaping production which the ENB dance is far more satisfying.As far as the new Swan lake is concerned from the notes in the handbook for the 2017-18 season it seems that some of Ashton's choreography will be seen in Scarlett's new Swan Lake I assume that this means that at the very least we shall see Ashton's Neapolitan Dance but I hope that we get his Waltz , his dance of the prospective brides and his Pas de Quatre as well. Having just seen the Ratmansky reconstruction of Swan Lake in Zurich which was delightful because its period appropriate performance style gives the audience has an opportunity to experience something approaching what Petipa and Ivanov intended their audience to see I think that a company like the RB should really have at least two productions of the ballet in its repertory. One a scrupulous reconstruction danced in period appropriate performance style and a second more modern version with whatever choreographic interpolations the company has acquired over the years.In the RB's case their second version would be a version of the ballet as danced in the 1970's probably the one danced during Morrice's directorship which included Ashton's Act I waltz which requires twelve good classical dancers,in Act III his dance of the prospective brides, his Pas de Quatre, Spanish Dance and Neapolitan Dance and Maria Fay's Czardas, and his Act IV. As in earlier years the new season will, no doubt, look considerably more interesting when the casting is announced and even if the new Swan Lake proves to be less than choreographically ideal there will be debuts and the debuts of dancers like Hayward, Naghdi, Stix- Brunell, and possibly Heap as Odette/Odile and Ball,Clarke and Hay as the Prince will persuade me to buy tickets. As Scarlett has ,so far, chosen good designers for his ballets there is every hope that the new Swan Lake will not be the bling laden design disaster that Dowell's production proved to be.
  24. I can only begin to guess at the problems that Mr Webb will face in trying to restore Les Apparitions to the stage. According to the Royal Opera House Performance Database it disappeared from the SW / RB repertory in 1953 although an excerpt from it was danced at the Ashton Gala in 1970. It was last performed in London during Schaufuss' directorship of English National Ballet when it was revived by Ashton assisted by Jean Bedells. The revival was not a success. Critics old enough to be familiar with the work wondered whether its lack of effectiveness was attributable to the ballet's theme, style, or contemporary tastes,or whether it was the costumes that were at fault. It was suggested by some that perhaps the Beaton designs were too old fashioned for modern tastes or that the use of cheap materials in recreating the costumes had helped to undermine the work's effectiveness. In 1994 Katherine Sorley-Walker writing about the generally poor quality of the Royal Ballet's Ashton revivals, insensitive casting and coaching, also mentioned ENB's revival of Les Apparitions, She said that the work belonged to a time when the concept of ballet was totally different and that the quality of its performance in revival had completely distorted the ballet. If I recall correctly,Kavanagh's biography of Ashton says that Ashton and Jean Bedell's who assisted him in the task of restoring Les Apparitions to the stage both tried to distance themselves from the project by having their names removed from the details of the staging made available to the public. She suggests that the problem was that the dancer who was cast in the Fonteyn role of the Woman In the Ballgown, was resistant to Ashton's direction and coaching which of course means that anyone saw those performances did not really see Ashton's Les Apparitions at all. This was not a problem confined to Ashton's Les Apparitions it was probably true of many of the performances of Ashton's Romeo and Juliet which was revived for ENB in 1985,if Katherine S. Healy's account of her involvement with the ballet both as the first cast Juliet coached by Ashton himself and later involved with coaching other later casts is to be believed. She describes a second less detailed account of the choreography and Ashton's characterisation developing influenced by the dancers' experience of performing Nureyev's version of the ballet.Perhaps Markarova's account of the Fonteyn role in Les Apparitions was similarly affected by her attachment to the Vaganova system. I think that if anyone can get Les Apparitions onto the stage in a form that Ashton would recognise as his work it is the Webbs as they have a real affection for the choreographer and his style. Anothe early Ashton ballet that I believe that Webb has expressed an interest in reviving is Foyer de Danse of which I have only ever seen tantalising film clips. I can't help wondering whether the Royal's AD will express any interest if either of them is staged successfully. Unfortunately I don't foresee any great interest as I often feel that the RB management's attitude towards the founder choreographer is somewhat ambivalent and that many revivals are staged out of a sense of duty rather than any enthusiasm for the works themselves and that indifference to the quality of the works as experienced by the audience goes a long way to explain the truly eccentric casting to which most of them have been subjected over the last thirty years. After all if a sufficiently bad job is done in casting them in a short time London audiences may come to believe that what they are seeing at Covent Garden is the best that can be done with Ashton's ballets and interest in them may wane.
  25. Osipova made her Covent Garden debut as Aurora a week ago with Hirano as her self effacing prince. I think that it is safe to say that her account of the role divides opinion. Clement Crisp likened her Aurora to the sun, but to others her Aurora is more like a force of nature. Whether you find her Aurora, too big,too bold,and ebullient, rather than vivacious may well depend on whether or not you like a star turn because there is no doubt that for many in the audience she is a star and thus above all criticism. In act one she is more Princess Kitri than Princess Aurora in large part because she fails to disguise her strength and her stamina and appears overly concerned with displaying her technique and the height of her jumps.The difficulty with this approach is that if you over emphasise technical display in act one then you have nowhere to go when you get to act three. Her Vision scene was quieter and restrained. When I saw her I found that her act three lacked nuance, variety and grandeur. By emphasising her technical skills throughout act one she had robbed herself of the possibility of making her act three a statement of Aurora's newfound authority. The problem is that Osipova, like McRae, is really a demi-character technician and unlike some demi-character dancers, neither of them seem to have the ability to escape their natural emploi, disguise their natural affinities and transform themselves into the type of dancers they dearly wish to be. Yesterday saw Salenko and McRae as Aurora and her Prince. I had not intended to see this cast but as a friend had a spare ticket I went out of curiosity. I had not seen Salenko in a classical role and it is some years since I have seen McRae in this ballet.The tempo adopted by the conductor did not help but the whole performance felt leaden.The Vision Scene was one of the dullest that I have seen in a long while. In Act three McRae provided the audience with technical fireworks which seemed more than a little misplaced and totally out of character for a prince in a late nineteenth century ballet for whom effortless elegance is generally considered to be the norm. Throughout the ballet Salenko reproduced Aurora's choreography accurately and, efficiently but it was a dull account of the role. At the same performance Mendizabal made,what I believe, was her debut as the Lilac Fairy. She struggled with the choreography but the conductor took the solo painfully slowly. David Donnelly made his debut in the Florestan pas de trois.On the basis of what he did with the first section of Florestan's choreography he is not ready for it yet.But its choreography has defeated more experienced dancers.. It is one of those Ashton roles which look so simple in a good performance but are in reality a technical minefield and if management does not give youngsters a chance how will they learn? A few days earlier we had what,on paper, looked like equally unlikely casting. Matthew Ball, not the first name that would have sprung to my mind when casting the Bluebird made his debut in the role.He was pretty good. Mendizabal as Princess Florine was efficient. I have tickets for one more cast more for the prince, Bonelli, than his Aurora. I wonder whether there will be any further significant debuts? On Friday normal musical service was resumed when, once again, we had a Russian specialist ballet conductor in the pit. He made the music very four square and rhythmically regular,; in the Prologue he ironed out the contrasts in rhythm and speed between one variation and the next and transformed a score which had been fascinating in its variety under Mr Kessell's baton into one which sounded and felt more like the product of a professional ballet composer it was so regular and dansant. Over the years there has been some discussion among older "regular" ballet goers about the reason for the Fairy Variations being so dull. These "regulars" have come up with various explanations the most popular of which is that the company no longer casts Principal dancers in these variations on a regular basis,closely followed by concerns about the quality of the coaching available.While I don't doubt that casting and coaching have played a part in the less than satisfactory performances of the Prologue Fairies over the years, on the basis of what I have experienced over the last few days it is clear that the choice of conductor plays an even more significant part in the quality of the performance which the audience experiences in the theatre than most people, including the company's management, realise. It will be interesting to see whether any further action is taken on the musical front as far as the Tchaikovsky ballets are concerned.
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