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Tristan and Isolde

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I was volunteering at the NBoC open house 2 weeks ago and got to see a few of the costumes for Tristan and Isolde. The dresses for the maidens are so simple and gorgeous. The overlay for the child's costume (shown on the site) is made of silk, very sheer and delicate. That dragon is huge! It looks like it will be a very interesting work, and everyone in the company seems pretty excited about it.

The only Alleyne ballet that I have seen is Septet, which premiered in the All Stravinsky program a few years ago and has been performed again since then. The first time I saw it, I thought the choreography was fluid and coherent, but I found it a bit repetitive. The second time, I liked it more. Septet was a plotless ballet though. It seems his last ballet "Faerie Queen", also a story ballet, was a (relative) success.

As for the dancers, I read in Flare that Chan Hon Goh will be dancing Isolde. Rex Harrington will also dance a leading role, but I'm not sure if it's Tristan. That's about all I know right now.

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Hard to tell from costume and decor sketches how a ballet will go over. I'd cast Harrington, if the choice were mine, as King Mark, as he has to be just as good a catch as Tristan and the audience has to understand and sympathize with his rage at being two-timed. The days when you could present Mark as a feeble old wreck are long gone - in those productions, no wonder she went for Tristan.

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My daughter and I saw the matinee today. Briefly, the dancing was excellent and the costumes were lovely.

I think perhaps it might be a good idea to look at the music...an original piece for this production. Needed some variety .....was very slow, throughout the entire ballet. This may have limited the choreography, which we found nice but simple. This may in fact have been the intent... Lifts, for example, were pretty straightforword, and the same pattern was repeated many times. Kudelka's lifts can be extremely intricate, not to mention dangerous at times...I guess I never realized how much we have grown to appreciate him as a choreographer!

I'll consult with dd and have more later.

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For once I have to say that I agree totally with Paula Citron's review in the Globe and Mail (except I didn't see all casts; only one). She also had comments about the music, but was far more articulate than I could be!!

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I was there on opening night for the gala, but as a volunteer, so I was only able to watch a bit on a TV screen. I saw the part with the dragon puppet (with the children from NBS), and it looked good. I'll be seeing it next wednesday, and going to Jewels this friday.

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Penelope Reed Doob (Chair and Professor of Dance at York University) was kind enough to illustrate precisely what was ailing John Alleyne’s version of Tristan and Isolde inside the National Ballet of Canada’s ballet program: “Alleyne is quite unusual among ballet choreographers in that he tends to create movement in the studio independently of the score, indeed even before that section of the score may be written. Instead, he choreographs to counts, the tempo set by an electronic metronome.” Of course, this was not intended to be a criticism. Professor Doob obligingly puckered up most profusely inside Performance magazine for her employers: The National Ballet of Canada.

Professor Doob puckered up so much, she reminded me a little of Iraqi Minister of Misinformation, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf. Whiles others were semi-absorbed in the ballet, I giggled away to myself as Greta Hodgkinson and Christopher Body attempted the impossible: Dance the music of Michael Bushnell and Owen Underhill to life. The whole pointe of ballet is to dance music to life. For that to happen, the steps must go in concert with the music. Not that I didn’t enjoy the music. It was quite beautiful. Much of the choreography was likewise beautiful. Too bad the duo came together like peanut butter spread over cauliflower.

The same could be said for Hodgkinson and Body. Either they had a spat before the Sunday matinee I attended or they were too busy trying to recall the steps to bother with any acting. Quite a shame, considering the beautiful bodies involved, that they couldn’t whip up any passion for the dinosaurs in attendance who were no doubt lured by the NBoC’s playful tagline: Come to the Ballet!

Don’t come to Tristan and Isolde until the National reworks the music and choreography. As Mom2 said, the music was far too uniform and to fully tell the story, Alleyne will have to add another 15 minutes of choreography. The program felt a little too short at 2 hours minus a 20-minute intermission. The 2nd act looked like it was thrown together overnight. If Rex Harrington is to play the Uncle to Tristan again, he should consider adding some white streaks to his black locks to age him a little. Getting more of the company involved in the ballet would also be a good idea.

The only part of this ballet that doesn’t require revamping is the set and costume design by Kim Nielson along with the lighting by Gerald King. They transported me to a faraway world of mystery and passion. That alone should make it worth the trouble to fix this out of step Tristan and Isolde.

At a top price of $114 per ticket, the National possessed a lot of nerve to present this production. I wouldn’t have been this critical had the NBoC not blowed their own horn so much. There was nothing to blow over. As evidenced by the unusually critical reviews by veteran critics Michael Crabb, Paula Citron and William Littler, the NBoC had it coming. The unfavorable reviews were richly deserved. This duet of Tristan and Isolde is strictly PG.

Performance of Dancers: 13/20. Choreography: 9/20. Costumes, Sets, and Lighting: 18/20. Ballet Magic: 7/20. Music: 5/10. Story: 4/10. Rating: 56/100.

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I agree with much of what you've said, and as always you articulate things so much better than I!

I do find myself wondering about the lighting, however. I agree that it certainly set the mood of the piece...problem was I could hardly see the dancers faces in some scenes (and I have good seats too; not in the nosebleed section). Perhaps I look too hard for some things...


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:mad: Thank you for the kind remarks about my prose. I didn’t notice the lighting preventing me from seeing the dancers faces. I was sitting in the double letter section so my view was fine. I just wish there was more worth viewing. I’m sure I’ll enjoy Jewels much more. I took the day off work to see this afternoon’s performance.
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