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Royal Ballet 2019/20 Season

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Posted (edited)

They have just FORMALLY ANNOUNCED the ROH 2019/20 season with this link:  https://www.roh.org.uk/news/royal-opera-house-2019-20-season-announced

 

Meanwhile ... published earlier:- 

 

If you flip through the calendar you will find the make-up of both the Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera seasons:

https://www.roh.org.uk/events/calendar/2019/09

Full lengths are:  Manon, Sleeping Beauty, Coppélia, Onegin, Swan Lake (count them 25!!!) and McGregor's The Dante Project one part of which premieres this summer in LA. 

NO BALANCHINE - and only a Monotones segment and Enigma Variations from Ashton.  A far cry from Sarasota in that regard.  

May be easier to scroll down on this link and you will find all of the new opera/ballet productions for 2019/20:
http://www.roh.org.uk/productions?_ga=2.139804410.835951387.1553237162-1432497339.1553237162

 

Edited by meunier fan

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Superb program for classical ballet.

And I love the change from Nutcracker to Coppelia for Christmas.

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, Xiaoyi said:

Superb program for classical ballet.

And I love the change from Nutcracker to Coppelia for Christmas.

I agree about Coppelia, but when it comes to keeping classicism alive and showing what it can do I think it is disappointing the Royal is not dancing more Ashton. And when they dance so little, then what they DO dance is all the harder to get right and then audiences are all the likelier to lose interest. Enigma Variations is one of Ashton’s greatest ballets but it will not be easy to bring out its greatness or keep it from looking like a twee period piece.

After decades of shaking my head, I no longer begrudge the Royal or its audiences their loyalty to Macmillan’s most popular ballets or the popularity of Cranko’s Onegin—I have mellowed on these subjects. But both of them in one season and so little Ashton? I can’t understand it and my head still shakes. (Much as Coppelia is a great work, the company might, say, have done Ashton’s Cinderella for the holiday season without losing their other choices. Or cut a handful of Swan Lakes and added a mixed bill of Ashton or at least including Ashton.) Box office matters, but the Royal Ballet is too important a home for Ashton not to make that repertory a priority. Or, rather, I still keep the faith that it should be such a home.

Edited by Drew

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The Dante Project must be what we are seeing one-half of this July in Los Angeles as a co-production with L.A. Philharmonic. 

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WOW! I am really shocked and dismayed by the number of Ashton. only 2, or 45 minutes in total, and only one on the main stage.  Sarasota performs more Ashton in one day.

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Posted (edited)

It appears there is additional programming at the Linbury for a program of "heritage" works by Ashton, De Valois, and Macmillan during one week in May. This does not really address my concerns, but is better than nothing. At least, better than nothing, as long as it doesn't mean the company thinks Ashton is ultimately for a tiny number of dance history buffs.

Edited by Drew

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4 hours ago, Drew said:

I agree about Coppelia, but when it comes to keeping classicism alive and showing what it can do I think it is disappointing the Royal is not dancing more Ashton. And when they dance so little, then what they DO dance is all the harder to get right and then audiences are all the likelier to lose interest.

After decades of shaking my head, I no longer begrudge the Royal or its audiences their loyalty to Macmillan’s most popular ballets or the popularity of Cranko’s Onegin—I have mellowed on these subjects.

You have captured my thoughts exactly regarding the paucity of Ashton at the Royal Ballet in 2019-20. (The absence of Balanchine doesn't bother me in the slightest as Balanchine has never been central to the Royal's identity.)

As for the Royal having become a fortress for Kenneth MacMillan-style expressionism, that's nothing new. Arlene Croce wrote this in 1981 (!):

"The directors of the seventies -- first Kenneth MacMillan and now Norman Morrice, with MacMillan as principal choreographer - have turned English ballet away from its native classicism and toward the turgid expressionism in force on the European continent from Stuttgart to Amsterdam, from Paris to Hamburg. In her forward to a commemorative volume, The Royal Ballet: The First Fifty Years, by Alexander Bland (Doubleday), [Ninette] De Valois writes of the need for periodic change, and recommends that change be carried out "with a detachment producing a calm contemplation of any temporary moments of stagnation." Is this her attitude as she sits nightly in her box watching the institution she created drift into the Stuttgart whirlpool?"

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I'm one of the folk that see the company through their cinema programming.  I'm certainly grateful for the opportunity, but am baffled at some of the choices -- we just saw the new Swan Lake last year, and we're seeing it again next year?

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I have to concur with the others here regarding Ashton,  for me he is the basis of the Royal Ballet style and his continued neglect is a matter a concern to many.  It was thought that we might actually see more Ashton in the 2019/1020 season as a belated tribute to Fonteyn whose centenary came so close to being overlooked, but clearly that is not the case.  I therefore hope that Birthday Offering and Homage to the Queen are included in the upcoming Fonteyn Gala, though I fear that won't be the case. 

Enigma Variations is a jewel, but over the years it has been diminished by indifferent performances.  Ashton was born in the Edwardian period (as were my own parents) and understood the manners and mores of that time, I fear today's interpreters will have little feeling for a bygone age completely outside their sphere of experience.  When it was first performed it was conducted by Sir Adrian Boult no less, a conductor who actually knew Edward Elgar and those early performance with Boult were among the most musically memorable ballet performances I've ever seen.  Currently the conducting standards at the RB aren't that great, I fear those that know Enigma from the concert hall are in for a disappointment.

The inclusion of Manon for the second season in a row, is extraordinary and baffling, and don't forget that ENB also danced Manon earlier this year with, dare I saw it, some rather more memorable performances than the RB gave.  ROH seems to want to do it to death.  Of the ballets I welcome back to the rep, Ratmansky's 24 Preludes, referred to now simply as Preludes, makes a welcome return and although it may be inflammatory to say it I would happily lose MacMillan's Concerto for Ratmansky's version of the same score.  As for Balanchine, he may not be "central to the Royal Ballet's identity", but he is very popular with London audiences and I was rather hoping to see Theme and variations again.  Ah well, at least I'm getting to see Raymonda Act III once more, so perhaps I shouldn't grumble too much.

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Mr. Kevin O'Hare's interview:

https://www.thestage.co.uk/features/interviews/2019/royal-ballet-director-kevin-ohare-we-have-a-breadth-of-new-talent-i-cant-help-but-be-a-proud-parent/

Mr. O'Hare says: "Fostering fresh and diverse talent...People like Francesca [Hayward] and Yasmine [Naghdi] came out of the company and are now principals. You can’t help but be a proud parent.”

I assume the reason why we'll get to see Manon and Swan Lake again during the 2019/20 Season is that his two youngest principals will now each star in Manon as well as in Swan Lake.

 

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Katia Kapustin said:

Mr. Kevin O'Hare's interview:

https://www.thestage.co.uk/features/interviews/2019/royal-ballet-director-kevin-ohare-we-have-a-breadth-of-new-talent-i-cant-help-but-be-a-proud-parent/

Mr. O'Hare says: "Fostering fresh and diverse talent...People like Francesca [Hayward] and Yasmine [Naghdi] came out of the company and are now principals. You can’t help but be a proud parent.”

I assume the reason why we'll get to see Manon and Swan Lake again during the 2019/20 Season is that his two youngest principals will now each star in Manon as well as in Swan Lake.

 

I probably won’t see the Royal in London next year but I wouldn’t have minded seeing those terrific younger ballerinas in Ondine (for example) or Daphnis and Chloe. And there are any number of different ways the season could have been tweaked to fit in more Ashton in any case—not too much would have to have been changed. 

If one judges the Ashton repertory essential to classical ballet in general and the Royal Ballet in particular—as I do—then it is baffling for it not to be one of the company’s  priorities or to imagine that prioritizing it cannot be in the service of developing the company’s  wonderful new ballerinas. I admire and value the Royal Ballet and there is much next season I would love to see and hope at least to read about (including your posts!) but it is still dismaying to me that Ashton seems almost at times to be regarded as dispensable by the company whose greatness he helped to fashion.

Edited by Drew

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53 minutes ago, Drew said:

I probably won’t see the Royal in London next year but I wouldn’t have minded seeing those terrific younger ballerinas in Ondine (for example) or Daphnis and Chloe. And there are any number of different ways the season could have been tweaked to fit in more Ashton in any case—not too much would have to have been changed. 

If one judges the Ashton repertory essential to classical ballet in general and the Royal Ballet in particular—as I do—then it is baffling for it not to be one of the company’s  priorities or to imagine that prioritizing it cannot be in the service of developing the company’s  wonderful new ballerinas. I admire and value the Royal Ballet and there is much next season I would love to see and hope at least to read about (including your posts!) but it is still dismaying to me that Ashton seems almost at times to be regarded as dispensable by the company whose greatness he helped to fashion.

I have the same frustration with Royal Danish Ballet. I have waited years for them to do another Bournonville festival - a great excuse for visiting Copenhagen! It's almost as if they are avoiding their priceless heritage!

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Similarly, ABT is ignoring its Tudor heritage. I last saw Gala Performance in Sarasota, Florida, in 2015. It was wonderful!

The Joffrey is similarly ignoring its heritage ballets - the Joffreys and Arpinos. I last saw a Joffrey heritage ballet in Oklahoma City, of all places, a month ago -- a fantastic Pas des Deesses. So sad that none of this is seen in the larger ballet cities of the USA.

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Posted (edited)

I must admit I think Ashton is on a level with Bournonville for the 19th century and Balanchine for the 20th. I would like to see ABT (and other companies) dance more Tudor--though I don't think they can found their repertory on it--and sympathize with Joffrey fans that would like to see the Joffrey give more respect to its history too--but the situation of Ashton at the Royal seems to me still more scandalous.  Ashton is a choreographer of international stature and one of the great classicists of the 20th century. It's not only heritage or company styles at issue (not that those are minor matters) -- it is, so to speak, the art form itself that is losing out when he is pushed aside. I don't want to exaggerate. This newly announced season seems to me unusually bad for the Royal when it comes to Ashton and other seasons have been and doubtless will be better, even occasionally much better, but the larger context is still that season after season major Ashton works are allowed to languish while others are revived so rarely that the dancers are less likely to master them. ( @Ashton Fan  has written about the latter problem a lot.) I know what some of the difficulties are--and there are probably others I don't know--but when something is considered essential, I can't help but feel that a great company finds a way to make it happen. Perhaps next year will be some compensation with major revivals etc. and the Royal will be able to sneer at dissatisfied fans like me that we should give it a rest...I hope so.  

Edited by Drew

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Hmm I have this exhaustive book on Ashton ballets called "Frederick Ashton" and it's shocking the number of ballets he choreographed that were abandoned in his own lifetime. Or as Margot Fonteyn is quoted tactfully in the book as saying "the ballets wouldn't keep." I don't know why exactly this is but seems as if Ashton ballets are very fragile. There are a few staples but so many abandoned ballets. Perhaps it was his fraught personal relationship with Royal Ballet director Ninette di Valois, who never wanted her company to be closely associated with any one choreographer? 

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2 hours ago, canbelto said:

Perhaps it was his fraught personal relationship with Royal Ballet director Ninette di Valois, who never wanted her company to be closely associated with any one choreographer? 

That is a possibility, ironic that the ballets of De Valois herself are proving most fragile of all.  Personally I would give a lot to see Job again.

According to Jann Parry in her biography of Kenneth MacMillan, Ashton was already considered 'old hat' by the 50's and 60's.  It seems he was eclipsed by MacMillan's expressionism at a time when angry young men and kitchen sinks were all the rage.  MacMillan is now God at the RB, they even revived his excruciatingly bad Isadora.  New work is seldom up to scratch and classics by choreographers other than Ashton, e.g. Fokine, Nijinska don't get a look in either.  Kevin O'Hare is working wonders with bringing on the company's young dancers but the repertoire is consistently below par.

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Posted (edited)

I had not thought about De Valois's role in this.  That's an interesting suggestion by @canbelto. I had rather seen Macmillan as marking the decisive shift (probably in part from having distant memories of the Croce article already cited above by @miliosr ) and, just as I was typing this post, it was commented on above by @Mashinka  .

It is true that some of Ashton's still revivable ballets are fragile, but one suspects that more of them would keep if they got more careful and more steady tending.  And a number do hold up through extremely varied casting--and probably inadequate Ashton 'style'-- even if those who saw their original casts remember those casts vividly and know what may be missing.  Overall, Ashton's seems to me a considerably larger oeuvre of substantial and re-vivable ballets than, say, Tudor's (and much better ballets than any of Cranko's known to me).

Edited by Drew
Cut because I was repeating myself or getting lost in commenting on particular ballets..

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6 hours ago, canbelto said:

seems as if Ashton ballets are very fragile.

Is it a matter of fragility or one of will? I pose the question because the Sarasota Ballet has built a unique reputation as a bastion of "Ashtonism" in -- of all places -- southern Florida.

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I very much dislike long distance air travel but feel a visit to Sarasota is something I ought to do.

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2 hours ago, Mashinka said:

I very much dislike long distance air travel but feel a visit to Sarasota is something I ought to do.

You should, if you could. The March/April 2020 time period would allow you to see revivals of both Romeo & Juliet (last seen in Denmark in the late 90s?) and Dante Sonata (in BRB's rep a few years ago?). The weather is usually heavenly during that period. It was so in early March this year, during the revival of Apparitions. Packed, appreciative audiences at all performances, not only at the gala opening nights.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Roberta said:

You should, if you could. The March/April 2020 time period would allow you to see revivals of both Romeo & Juliet (last seen in Denmark in the late 90s?) and Dante Sonata (in BRB's rep a few years ago?). The weather is usually heavenly during that period. It was so in early March this year, during the revival of Apparitions. Packed, appreciative audiences at all performances, not only at the gala opening nights.

I have been contemplating Sarasota as well.

The Ashton Romeo and Juliet was danced in London in 2011 in a special production mounted for Osipova and.Vasiliev by Peter Schaufuss. I don’t know if there are any other stagings this century....but it remains quite rare. 

Edited by Drew

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17 minutes ago, Drew said:

 

The Ashton Romeo and Juliet was danced in London in 2011 in a special production mounted for Osipova and.Vasiliev by Peter Schaufuss.

It was awful, truly awful

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23 minutes ago, Jane Simpson said:

It was awful, truly awful

I have never seen the ballet. Do you think the problem was the production or that the ballet itself is not (or no longer) workable? 

(I take it for granted that the ballet world has room for one more Romeo and Juliet even if it hardly seems urgent.)

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Posted (edited)

Peter Schaufuss was head of the RDB back when they performed a version that I saw. Around 1995/96? I remember that Juliet was danced by a novice who left or retired soon after that. However, the Romeo (Kobborg) was fantastic.  I feel that the '95 staging lost many of the Ashtonian nuances. I was not so impressed, overall, with the exception of Kobborg and some of the senior character principals (nurse, Lord and Lady C).  Many people swear that the original 1950s production for RDB was lovely and with more energy.

I believe that Ashton bequeathed the ballet to Schaufuss. I'm hoping that the Sarasota staging will be done by one of the Ashton Trust's main notators, Grant Coyle, who staged Apparitions this year nd has staged a number of other works.

Edited by Roberta
adding Grant Coyle's name

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20 minutes ago, Drew said:

I have never seen the ballet. Do you think the problem was the production or that the ballet itself is not (or no longer) workable?  

 

It was the production, entirely - Schaufuss had made a cut-down version to tour in small theatres round the country and he brought it to the Coliseum, one of London's largest theatres -  I think he had about 12 dancers in all so he'd cut the mandolin dance completely and some nights he didn't have anyone to play the nurse's page and so on.... I though it was a travesty of a lovely ballet.  The good bits were that it showed Alban Lendorf (as Mercutio) in London for the first time and Osipova's Juliet came good in the second half and was really touching. But there must be hundreds of people who saw it and think that's what Ashton's like.

I should think it might look really good on the Sarasota company - though I do wish they could use Prokofiev's lighter version of the score - the one Mark Morris used: it would suit this version very well, I think.

It does need looking after, though - when Schaufuss acquired it for English National Ballet in the 1980s the first cast, coached by Ashton himself, was lovely but later casts quickly lost much of the detail and at a revival a few years later I actually left after the first act as I couldn't bear to watch what they had let it  become.

 

 

 

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