Royal Opera House
Tuesday, 5th December 2017
Nutcracker – 12/5/2017
Clara: Francesca Hayward
Hans-Peter: Alexander Campbell
Sugar Plum Fairy: Sarah Lamb
Prince: Steven McRae
Herr Drosselmeyer: Gary Avis
Rose Fairy: Yasmine Naghdi
Hooray! Finally opening night! I was so longing for Nutcracker to come back to stage bringing Christmas magic in all it’s sparkling delight kicking off Christmas in style!
Last year the festive run opened on November 23rd, this year Sylvia did, and even though Ashton is always an absolute pleasure to be watched (in particular Nela’s one, hands up for the queen!), I couldn’t have waited any longer!
Last day of university for this Winter Term (last class of the year and just four of us attended due to assignments’ deadlines, seriously what’s wrong with schedules people?), lunch at 26 Grains and dreamy Young Friends Backstage Tour (always great to enter the theater through the Stage Door), before the big cinema relay.
If we talk of Nutcrackers in general, I am not a huge fan of theirs, but Royal’s… I’m madly in love with Sir Peter’s! He’s such a genius and tell me how is it possible that his Nutcracker seems even more wonderfully magic year by year? His version is of the classic is THE Nutcracker: it sparkles of major narrative power, unlike the tedious Bolshoi’s one – and God, please Russians, that red-suited soldier is terrible to the eyes! Not to mention the pointless Clara’s (Marie) sudden transformation into a non-defined princess.
In most Nutcrackers, Clara and Hans-Peter barely move a step in act 2, but Sir Peter does not set them as passive spectators of the divertissement: they dance alongside characters, taking part in the involving narrative path of the story.
Royal’s is not limited to a young girl excited with Christmas dreaming an unbelievable adventure: it’s a joyful gathering, an utterly enchanting brio, a globetrotting rendering and magical atmospheres. Every second from it is pure gold, perfectly melted with Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score. The night-before-Christmas excitement was real, and charming, enchanting vibes ringed from every character whilst the House was full as the long-awaited holiday classic made his glorious return streamed live all over the world. The cast showed Frankie Hayward and Alexander Campbell (the Nutcracker couple) as Clara and Hans-Peter and Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae as Sugar Plum and Prince (another partnership dreams are made of).
Frankie is a true gem: her technique is unbelievable and her acting is amazing – she’s a totally believable Clara, and along with Alexander Campbell they make a brilliant pair: there really is a chemical bond between the two, as between Sarah and Steven as well. Their long established dancing partnership is legendary at the ROH, and it was good to see them back together on stage for Twyla Tharp’s Farewell last month.
As last year, Frankie’s Clara was effervescent and and fresh, and Alexander’s was unbelievably light in his jumps – and his act 2 explanation of what happened during the battle?! Can we talk about how amazingly did he act?! He was so convincing and I’m sure the whole audience in cinemas all over the globe smiled as he raised his forefinger to describe how Clara defeated the Mouse King by kicking him with her pointe shoe.
On Monday I was at the general rehearsal, which featured Isabella Gasparini and James Hay (replacing Ben Ella due to injury): I found the pair Gasparini-Hay a bit disappointing, even though technically good, but their pas de deux lacked of charisma. Akane and Rio danced as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince, but I did not felt so much, not to mention Melissa Hamilton’s Rose Fairy: I mean, ok it’s rehearsal, but there’s public, you cannot be a goofball and dance so listless – she didn’t even try to jump in her solos!
Anyway, thankfully the first cast starred Yasmine as the Rose Fairy, a role that she totally owns, and she magnificently led her flowers through a splendid waltz and twirling into her escorts’ (Matthew Ball, William Bracewell, Nicol Edmonds, James Hay) harms. She was a delight to watch in her quick and light routine, and surely a blessing after Hamilton’s poor performance.
Speaking of Mr Christmas himself, Gary was a marvelous Drosselmeyer! He drove the entire ballet dipping the stage in glitter, sporting his cape and wig like a boss with his superb interpretation of the role.
I need a cape and a bag of glitter to be sprinkled around on negative people saying it’s too early for Christmas joy, like my dad, he’s such a Grinch. I’m in Heathrow right now, but I swear that, once at home tomorrow morning, I’ll throw glitter all over places to get my family into the festive mood (I am in the festive mood since Halfmas in June… officially, but actually even since earlier times, like Boxing Day last year).
By the way, as the lead couple in the Kingdom of Sweets, Steven and Sarah were majestic in their palace’s sugar garden covered in glittery magic, and their grand pas de deux was sensationally mesmerising! Swiftly slip at the end of her variation aside (perhaps she still have to recover completely from her long injury – and that pas de deux is a killer one), Sarah was the epitome of sugary sweetness, and Steven gave the whole world an early Christmas treat with his effortless phenomenal performance as the Prince – his solo was pure magic, he was so majestic!
Great soloists as well: in the first act the dolls (Kevin Emerton as Harlequin, Elizabeth Harrod as Columbine, Paul Kay as the soldier and Meaghan Grace Hinkis as the vivandière) were really good, especially Elizabeth and Meaghan, which performances were lovely.
The Arabian dance was enchanting: Hamilton was great there, I have to say that, and perfectly partnered by Reece Clarke.
Good Chinese dance, with Leo Dixon and Calvin Richardson in the roles (how I wish we could see Marcelino dancing it, he was spectacular last year, such a shame he suffered a stress fracture), and darling Mirlitons as well – by Elizabeth, Meaghan, Mayara Magri and Romany Pajdak.
In the Waltz of the Flowers, led by Yasmine, the lead flowers shone bright, danced by Claire Calvert (replacing Tierney Heap), Fumi Kaneko, Itziar Mendizabal and Beatriz Stix-Brunell (whom always seems to sparkle whatever she does).
Last but absolutely not the least, the corps, which was amazing throughout and without which there can be no ballet: all the scenes were great, but the Snowflakes’ one was so astonishing as every year! After a delightful pas de deux, here comes the magic itself: gloriously super in its dazzling snowfall which surely raised the ‘dreaming of a white Christmas’ feeling all over the world. Magical as ever, the corps sparkled in closing the first act, in all the tiaras and tulle heaven.
So this is probably my most-seen production at the ROH, but it won’t ever lose its thrilling “feels like the first time” charm: sparkles always abound sending me directly to my own cloud of joy: the power of glitter newer disappoints!
Stage Door chronicles: so lovely to see everyone and to be able to give the latest early Christmas presents to Gary, Steven and Elizabeth, another signed programme is joining the collection!
And now, how can I resist till January 10th (Nutcracker closing night) without Royal Ballet?! Someone give me a Nutcracker dvd now, many thanks. In the meantime, I’ll watch DonQ – also please Kevin, bring back DonQ. I’m a slave to DonQ dvd and I’d die to see Nela’s Kitri live (only saw act 3 pas de deux, variations and coda when she performed with Carlos at his Farewell at the Royal Albert Hall in late 2016).