Ashton mixed bill
Royal Opera House
Friday, 2nd June 2017
The Dream, Symphonic Variations, Marguerite and Armand 1 – 06/02/2017
Titania: Akane Takada
Oberon: Steven McRae
Puck: Valentino Zucchetti
Cobweb: Emma Maguire
Peaseblossom: Gemma Pitchley Gale
Mustardseed: Romany Pajdak
Moth: Elizabeth Harrod
Bottom: Bennet Gartside
Hermia: Claire Calvert
Lysander: Matthew Ball
Helena: Itziar Mendizabal
Demetrius: Tomas Mock
SYMPHONIC VARIATIONS: Marianela Nunez, Yuhui Choe, Yasmine Naghdi, Vadim Muntagirov, James Hay, Tristan Dyer
MARGUERITE AND ARMAND:
Marguerite: Zenaida Yanowsky
Armand: Roberto Bolle
His father: Christopher Saunders
New month, new program: after Symphonic Mixed closing night on May 31st, it’s time to head to Ashtonland! And who doesn’t love Ashton?
For the last production of the season (sob) Royal brought together three works by its founder choreographer, the brilliant Frederick Ashton. The three ballets were a perfect representation of his wide genius, with the romantic and atmospherical The Dream (after Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream), the elegant perfection of Symphonic Variations and the tragic Marguerite and Armand (after Dumas’s The Lady of Camellias). I’ve always loved the first two, but the third one never got my heart, I’ve never felt it really close, even if I really liked some years’ ago performance by Tamara Rojo and Sergei Polunin (yeah, could someone please give him a clap across his fool face?!).
Akane Takada once again replaced Sarah Lamb as Titania after her last minute debut in Mayerling due to her injury. Opposite the ever amazing Steven McRae, she made a pretty debut as the queen of fairies. She’s technically brilliant, and I liked her performance even though I would have loved to see her a little more… engaged in the role. Indeed, the real star of the one-act ballet was Steven: he did splendid as Oberon, as the great dancer and dramatic interpreter he is. His turns were so so so on point and his regality was perfect for the role.
The Dream is one of the most enchanting and dazzlingly delightful short ballets ever, and the whole atmosphere was stunning: the corps, the costumes, the score, the choir! What a great combination of Royal and the London Oratory Junior Choir, pulling out all the sparkle in such a faery and charming piece.
I particularly loved the four leading fairies: it was so good to see Elizabeth Harrod back on stage just six months after giving birth – she really is a force of nature! And what a hell of a performance by Valentino Zucchetti as Puck! His jumps were a literal dream! Pretty good Claire Calvert and Matthew Ball as the two lovers as well: she was a lovely Hermia and he was impeccable as always (Ball is, in my opinion, one of the most promising young dancers among Royal ranks).
Symphonic Variation, then, is just an evergreen neoclassical artwork: light and marvelous, and beautifully danced by six titans. Marianela and Vadim (with his hilarious sunburnt, let’s say it, stressed by the white costume) led the team in a combination of the hardest steps ever, that seemed however so serene and fluent. Marianela in particular turned heads with her outstanding elegance: how is it even possible that she glows everything she does, really?!
And finally, the last ballet of the program, starring Zenaida Yanowsky and Roberto Bolle in the melodramatic title roles.
I am not a fan of Bolle: I think he likes himself too much, and that’s all I get when I see him dancing, he’s too fond of himself (yeah, I’m probably the only italian thinking that). And all his enchanting smiles… I mean, man, the woman you love is dying in your arms!
However, he normally shows off really good technique, but not tonight: he was unstable during pirouettes and stiff overall, even though he partnered Zenaida really good.
Indeed, she mastered the role with such painful passion: the public was heartbroken as she died slowly, recalling her great love for the young Armand. No doubt Zenaida will be greatly missed as she leaves Royal Ballet.
At the end of the show, I felt like I’ve been into an Ashton Paradise and (sadly) back, as when at the stage door, Italy seemed to be migrating there for Bolle (I still have to forgive him for signing my programme with a blue marker anyway).