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Don Q


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During the summer run of Don Quixote at Covent Garden all three ballerinas scheduled to dance Kitri had to be replaced, though only Cojacaru was still being announced at the very beginning of the week -- which is, naturally, when I bought my tickets. Fans in the theater told me she had been injured the week before,and that did rather irritate me. The soloist (L.Morera) who replaced her put in a good, at times technically accomplished, effort -- but looked decidedly stiff and rather charmless throughout. (Others on this board, though, enjoyed her performance much more than I.) She and her partner, Ivan Petroff also left out some of the trickier lifts etc. That was probably just as well, but Don Quixote is not Swan Lake -- tricks are part its substance.

The other cast I saw, Nunez (replacing Rojo) and Acosta, also simplified a little, and Nunez looked unseasoned; still, she was so luscious, so distinctive, and so very charming, that I was mostly just delighted with the performance.

It seems astonishing bad luck to have all three ballerinas out at the same time -- and I don't think one should ever underate the role of luck in a ballet company's life. But someone did comment on another Royal ballet 'thread' that Stretton's casting policies seemed to be overworkig some dancers, possibly aggravating the problems with injuries. Obviously I can't really form an opinion on whether or not he has a deliberate policy of last minute changes etc., but certainly, the summer was not a happy time for the company casting-wise...

Generally, I thought that at these two end-of-the season performances the Royal Ballet looked (on the whole) more like ABT than the Royal Ballet I 'remember' from decades ago, except in the mime where they still seem wonderfully adept. But the company didn't seem to have particularly fallen off from, say, the two summer performances I saw four years ago (also in London, at the Colliseum) -- except that at those performances the scheduled ballerinas (Bussell and Guillem) danced as announced.

Of the soloists and demi-soloists I saw this time, the only one who seemed to have the fleet, clean footwork and delicately poised upper body that answers to my old image of the Royal's 'secondary' dancers was Jenny Tatersall (as Amor) and someone posted on another thread that she is leaving the company. Oh well. (Morera danced Amor at the other performance, and I thought she was plain miscast.)

I also gather Stretton is planning a 'traditional' Sleeping Beauty. That should definitely be a casting challenge.

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Thank you for that, Drew. It's so good to read you again. I'm glad you got to London; I sympathize with your casting disappointments. I think the move towards ABT is part of the internationalization. It's ironic, because in the '70s and '80s, the Royal was THE Western classical company, and ABT was much stronger in its traditional or contemporary repertory. To me, ABT has stayed on the same level. I think that's what many of the long-time British Royal followers are seeing, too -- from a different perspective -- when they look at the company.

Since Makarova is staging the "Sleeping Beauty" and she is reportedly very good as a coach, I await that production with interest. But it won't be in the same "line" as the Ashton-DeValois, even MacMillan, stagings.

I was heartened to read, though, that you found the Royal still strong in mime!

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I suppose I should have posted on these performances when there was a thread/discussion -- and others definitely had more positive reactions to the Morera/Putrov cast. (I mistakenly wrote Petroff above -- Ivan Putrov, Putrov, Putrov.)

Some readers of this thread may have seen the article Alexandra posted reporting that dancers are upset with Stretton because of last-minute casting changes (changes in his control, not due to injury). Putrov, too, was making a last-minute appearance in a big role -- though, here, casting was presumably being juggled due to injuries and not (or not merely) directorial whim.

Though Putrov has a nice classical line and bearing, he looked very unseasoned. He's a slender, even slight dancer in any case. In the pas de deux, with the exception of one wonderful jump -- the first of the series where Basilio does a tour and lands with his working leg shooting out into arabesque -- every landing was subtly finessed in some way. That is, land-slide, land-shift weight...rather than a clear, crisp, or deep landing. Almost all male dancers do this to some extent (Bruhn was a notable exception), but it added to the general feeling one had of watching a 'lightweight'performance despite the elegance of line. I actually sort of liked him anyway -- with his Renaissance choirboy haircut, he looked about 15. And, as earlier reported by another poster, Putrov's deadpan fake suicide was hilarious -- the first time I have ever laughed out loud during this ballet.

A word more about the mime -- not only did the company still seem wonderfully adept, but the Gamache at both performances was terrific, something that could not be said of many of the classical soloists. I actually looked forward to his appearances onstage (another first for me with this ballet). It's a good sign, too, that Luke Heydon who performed the role at both performances is, I think, one of the company's younger dancers.

I didn't realize Makarova was doing the Sleeping Beauty. It may be that the Ashton/De Valois line is irrecoverable -- I enjoyed Nunez and Acosta, and with proper 'development' Nunez seems to me as if she could be a really major ballerina, but she is not exactly the 'old' Royal Ballet.

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Drew, I was glad to hear that you got to London for Don Q-did you get to see anything else, Coppelia? I have to confess I saw most of the Don Q casts, and think that Marianela Nunez was probably my favourite-she and Carlos Acosta have such a rappour. I love Carlos' extra flourishes which really puts his stamp on his dancing.

But Ivan Putrov is another favourite of mine, and his fake death was very good (though I have seen Johan Kobborg do an equally funny one, but Ivan's Basilio was especially concerned with his cape!) Thankfully, both Nunez and Putrov were made Principles at the end of the season so we will get to see them in a lot more!

I hope you get to visit London again for the new season, which should be exciting to watch! Anoushka xx

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I wish I had been able to see more than Don Quixote. Work took me to the north of England, and I only had a little time in London at the beginning and end of my trip. I don't get to the UK very often, and this was actually my first time in the Covent Garden Opera House. I took the back stage tour which is interesting but without much old-style theater magic...The costume department looks like a corporate office, though tutus from the Dowell Sleeping Beauty were lying on one of the desks. (Apparently, they are being partly recycled for the new production -- at least, that's what the tour guide gave us to understand.) The guide's script also had a slightly corporate tinge and seemed heavily influenced by the need to justify all the money spent on the theater's renovation -- also emphasizing how it didn't come direct from taxpayers but the lottery and private funds! So, a sense of the polemics around the theater's renovation seems still very 'alive' in the way they present themselves.

I was especially delighted to hear of Nunez' promotion. She definitely seems at the stage where she should be starting to dance the big ballerina roles. (I actually thought of Raymonda while watching her...but perhaps that's whimsical.)

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Drew, I think 'unseasoned' is just the right word for Putrov - undoubtedly talented, but so far nowhere near convincing me that he's ready to be a principal.

A few other things: Darcey Bussell was taken out of Don Q not because she was injured but because there was no time for her to prepare properly for the role - no comment necessary, I think.

I agree about Tattersall as Amor - Cojocaru was also very good, in the earlier series of performances. One problem is that the costume only suits the very smallest dancers, like these two.

Luke Heydon actually left the company at Christmas and is well into a career in horticulture. Let's hope he can continue to find time off to make guest appearances.

Like you I was impressed by Nunez - I thought she was the most satisfactory of the Kitris I saw. I can see her becoming a ballerina of a distinctively individual type - she's much more convincing in adagio than some of the RB's other leading dancers, for instance - if she's not pushed to do too much too soon. It's easy to forget how young she is - younger than Cojocaru though she looks far more mature.

In general by the end of last season I felt I'd seen more than enough of Don Q, Onegin, etc etc etc, and the thought of next season, when half the performances are given over to the 3 Tchaikowsky classics, fills me with gloom.

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Drew, your report really cheered me up this morning! It was nice to read another opinion of RB, I am missing them a lot, it is still ages till the season opens! It's cool you got to take a tour too - it is a nice House isn't it? (Albeit bright clean and hi-tech in some areas!) The guides don't always have accurate information - I walked past one tour once and overheard the guide putting the wrong names to the dancers who were rehearsing...:)

I am glad you liked Marianela, she is my favourite. She was a wonderful Kitri. I'm surprised you thought Ivan didn't land his jumps well though - I think he has beautifully clean jumps! I was delighted with their promotions and can't wait to see what they do this season - especially Marianela's Aurora and Ivan's Siegfried (if I ever think up a good excuse to get the afternoon off to go and see it!!)

Alexandra, William Tuckett was promoted to Principal Character Artist, he is very good (fabulously expressive eyes!) so don't worry about the character side of things just yet.:)

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