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Royal Ballet - Memories triple bill


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Finally! I've been enjoying the long run of Onegins but it's gratifying to have something new for a change.

Beyond Bach

Beyond Bach is too beautiful to describe. A cathedral-like setting with a huge window looking out into a surreal bright blue sky that fades and becomes bright again. The dancers periodically appear from all over the stage, through doorways, behind columns, and the prettiest picture of all, down a spiral staircase so that the first one sees of the girls are their bare backs. I love one of the quotes given by Stephen Baynes in the programme

“When the curtain raises it should be like opening the door to a place which has remained untouched for centuries.”

First cast were wonderful all round. Marianela Nunez has come a long way since I first saw her as a snippy Swanhilda. She's obviously grown since adding Kitri and Olga to her repertoire and in this role she displayed a gentleness that I’ve never seen before in her. Is it the first time Nunez has been the lead in first cast because it’s something she fully deserves. Darcey looked completely at home, a picture of serenity, and both dancers were beautifully partnered by Cope and Urlezaga.

There is no discernible plot – the ballet is choreographed to the composition of the music. It’s detailed with quiet entrances, beautiful lifts and dancers effortlessly changing from one partner to another - all very pleasing to the eye. Air on a G string was my highlight and was enchanting to listen to and watch. The choreography is seemingly very spare, like the costumes. One quibble I have is the lack of uniformity in the corps, which destroyed the mood for me in some places.

The Leaves are Fading

Set to pieces by Dvorak, is centred on 4 pas de deux and is about ‘changing love’. I thought it was superb throughout, the standout unsurprisingly being Alina Cojocaru. She attacked her solo with verve and was so fast, but at the same time so expressive and supple and absolutely breathtaking. Her entire body seamlessly made one beautiful shape into another. Her arms were making tiny subtle motions right to the very last lift. She was partnered so well by Kobborg in the second pas de deux but Alina pretty much obliterated any dancer on stage beside her.

Also very impressive were Leanne Benjamin and Nathan Coppen in the first pdd, Tamara Rojo and Martin Harvey I liked especially in the third, and Mara Galeazzi and Johan Persson in the fourth.

Marguerite and Armand

I have to confess that until today I had seen nothing of Marguerite and Armand – not Fonteyn and Nureyev (live nor on video) and I’m probably the only person here who didn’t see it’s last run in the Ashton mixed bill. The compressed, fast-paced format I found a little unsettling. I wasn’t very moved by the ballet apart from the crescendos in the Liszt music, and there were long stretches of choreography that I didn’t find at all compelling. Still Sylvie Guillem was lovely and looked so young from my seat. Her broken walk on pointe is an image that I won’t easily forget. I thought Le Riche’s dancing was tremendous and through him I could easily imagine Nureyev in the role. Looking forward to seeing Cope and Murru in this as well. And a final note, the programme interestingly states that Ashton hadn’t meant it for just Fonteyn and Nureyev – that Lynn Seymour and Christopher Gable were understudies.

As a triple bill I’m not sure it works too well. Beyond Bach and Leaves are stand out ballets on their own but I think it’s a mistake to put them back to back. They're too similar in mood, both very languid and dreamy. And though I appreciate the ‘remembrance of things past’ thread and the exceptional music that runs through them, I wouldn’t have minded something more contrasting like The Dream/Song of the Earth mixed bill we saw last year.

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I saw the same cast last night - it was lovely.

Beyond Bach was mesmerising, I thought I could have watched it all evening, I didn't want it to end. The dancers drifted on and off stage in small groups, and the effect was just like a spell had been cast - I can't remember any of the steps or anything which was particularly pretty, but as a whole it was extremely compelling. I think it would have been nice to watch it performed by a company where I don't recognise the dancers - I found it almost distracting to spot my favourites. Darcey Bussell and Marianela Nunez look good together and I hope they are cast together more.

The Leaves are Fading was wonderful too, and Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg stole the show (for me!) with their first pas de deux. They look so easy and natural together - they just put out a hand and the other is there to take it without even looking. I can't imagine anyone else doing that pdd, they seem to have made it completely theirs. It's magical watching a partnership which is so convincing, and they both have a look in their eyes showing they are completely connected. It was romantic!

Marguerite and Armand was okay... but then I don't care for Sylvie Guillem at all so I'm not the best judge of it! She leaves me cold. But I have never heard the House so wild and appreciative at the end, so there must be something about her! Rest assured Jonathan Cope was his magnificent self, and showed off his beautiful line to perfection.

I was pleased to see so many male dancers from lower down the ranks. It seems in our crisis of male principals and first soloists, the corps are getting good roles, which is fantastic! smile.gif

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Given it's lukewarm reviews, I'm really glad you enjoyed the triple bill Lolly. I saw the 2nd cast last week. I thought Tamara Rojo and Inaki Urlezaga were nice in Leaves but seemed a little slow in comparison to Alina and Johan. The latter were so fast but didn't seem at all rushed and were so graceful at the same time.

And I agree Jonathan Cope was so wonderful and passionate in M&A and I loved Sylvie in it too. I thought two had marvellous chemistry. Took me 3 tries to finally enjoy this ballet!

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I forgot to say that I'd like to see it again - it's definitely worth a second look. I was in the lower slips, far round enough to miss hardly anything, but I'm sure it's worth seeing from the other side of the House anyway! It's a shame Sylvie seems to have the monopoly on M&A as I would much rather see someone else in it. I wonder why there is no alternative cast? frown.gif

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