Bernstein Centenary
Friends of Covent Garden general rehearsal
Royal Opera House
Wednesday, 14th March 2018


Bernstein Centenary: Yugen – The Age of Anxiety – Corybantic Games – 03/14/2018

Corybantic Games’ ladies in Erdem
YUGEN (by Wayne McGregor): William Bracewell, Federico Bonelli, Harry Churches, Melissa Hamilton, Francesca Hayward, Chisato Katsura, Paul Kay, Sarah Lamb, Calvin Richardson, Joseph Sissens, Akane Takada
THE AGE OF ANXIETY (by Liam Scarlett):
Rosetta: Sarah Lamb
Emble: Alexander Campbell
Quant: Bennet Gartside
Malin: Tristan Dyer
Bartender: Kevin Emerton
Soldier: David Yudes
Girlfriend: Leticia Stock
CORYBANTIC GAMES (by Christopher Wheeldon): Matthew Ball, William Bracewell, Lauren Cuthbertson, Tierney Heap, Ryoichi Hirano, Mayara Magri, Yasmine Naghdi, Marcelino Sambé, Beatriz Stix-Brunell
Camille Bracher, Harry Churches, Leticia Dias, Leo Dixon, David Donnelly, Téo Dubreuil, Kevin Emerton, Isabella Gasparini, Hannah Grennell, Isabel Lubach, Charlotte Tonkinson, David Yudes



I’ve always liked Leonard Bernstein’s scores: they have a special flair to be danced and choreographed, and I was eagerly waiting for this all-Bernstein programme celebrating the composer, featuring two world premieres by Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon and the first revival of Liam Scarlett’s 2014 Age of Anxiety.
Mixed programmes normally feature too much contemporary to my poor loving-classical-till-the-last-beat heart, and as I obviously couldn’t accept missing a programme (I was coming back home in Italy for Spring Break and it would have opened and closed during the holidays) I went to the general rehearsal (I’ll never stop saying how much I love being a Young Friend of Covent Garden) on Wednesday morning (and I’ll never stop saying how much I love starting the day at the ROH neither).


Wayne McGregor’s Yugen

The shows starts with Wayne’s new creation Yugen on Bernstein’s 1965 Chichester Psalms – the psalms were actually sung by a choir and displayed on a screen above the stage.
Ok, I set McGregor as my contemporary limit of tolerance. I mean, I love Wayne’s pieces (Chroma is an absolute masterpiece, and Woolf Work is one of the greatest ballets ever), but I have a forbearance line in my head (Hofesh Schechter and Crystal Pite are over it, by the way) and he is that line. Oh, and out of context: Fantastic Beasts, The Crimes of Grindelwald features Wayne choreographies! I jumped for joy when I read that! I am so eagerly waiting for November when it’ll hit cinemas worldwide!
Moving on, Yugen is all really Wayne since the very first glimpse. Choreography, stage design, costumes, he’s even ‘Wayneised’ Berstein’s score!

Frankie Hayward and Paul Kay in Yugen

Loving Chroma, quite a few elements in the new ballet called it to my mind, especially in the beginning, with contrasts in lightning and dancers.
On the other hand the design recalled Woolf Work’s first act I now, I then, with the boxes through which the dancers step and went on to the stage.
Wayne’s routines are involving and intriguing with their shifts and figures: Sarah Lamb and Federico Bonelli were great as the principal couple, and Frankie Hayward and Akane Takada stood out alongside Calvin Richardson and William Bracewell. Joseph Sissens and Chisato Katsura gave strong performances as well, proving once more the bright future of the Royal.


Alexander Campbell, Sarah Lamb, Tristan Dyer and Bennet Gartside in Liam Scarlett’s The Age of Anxiety

Liam Scarlett’s Age of Anxiety takes a bit of getting into, and I have to say it: I’m not a fan of it, specially without Steven dancing as Elmo. Alex is a favourite of mines: he was amazing and light on his feet, but Steven created this role, which actually calls for Steven out loud, and he’s not Steven.
There was an excellent characterisation by the whole cast: beside Alex Sarah was stunning – I actually think Rosetta suits her way more than Morera’s (as it was when it first premiered). Good performances by Bennet Gartside and Tristan Dyer as well, but the best thing was Robert Clark’s solo piano. Leticia Stock was spot on as the soldier’s girlfriend, even though just for a small piece.
The one-act drama featuring a (a bit implausible maybe) quartet of dancers starts in s bar in post-war America and moves on to Rosetta’s fancy apartment. Overall, good dancing and great setting, but it doesn’t shine at all – it did not convince me in 2014 and it did not convince me now in 2018.


Beatriz Stix-Brunell in Corybantic Games

Wheeldon’s new creation Corybantic Games, set to Bernstein’s Serenade, closed the show, and oh Chris!! I was absolutely blown away!
I’m not a great fan of abstract, I’m mostly for narrative, but despite being so contemporary, there’s a line of it even so, as the cast was on top form shining bright in magnificent duets and stunning ensembles.

Matthew Ball in Corybantic Games

Marcelino Sambé and Mayara Magri were on fire with their virtuous pas de deux – and by the way, their liftings were wondrous! And that final lift when exiting their first sequence… Marci really flew Mayara off stage! Matthew Ball was astonishing, Beatriz and Yasmine were two goddesses floating around, and Lauren was absolutely stunning (legs for days is still an understatement). I have to admit that I am not Tierney Heap’s greatest fan, but she was great in the final movement of the ballet, leading the dancers with impeccable technique. Among the corps, Leticia Dias stood out with her lines and perfect balances.

The involving choreography was amazing, amusing and highly engaging, but I have to say I expected more from the costumes, as the Erdem for the Royal Ballet collaboration was so widely advertised (and I adore Erdem). The dancers wore 1950s corsets and undergarments adorned with black ribbons on their shoulders, in a sort of a-gender, oyster-coloured ensemble. The result was striking, but mainly due to the combination with Peter Mumford’s lighting and Jean-Marc Puissant’s set.

Beatriz and Yasmine being stunning

The funny, final curtain call was more relaxed than the one during actual shows, with first Beatriz going toward the public and then gigglingly going back to her place and eventually Lauren going out of the stage in mid dark.
I am glad I got the chance to see this programme, and I’m looking forward to see it live in cinemas on the 27th, but I can’t wait for more classical production, such as Manon opening in April. Oh, and by the way, I just bought a ticket for Nela’s Giselle in Naples at the end of March – I couldn’t cope with the idea of not seeing her Giselle once more so… I know I’ll go there thinking ‘what the hell, this is not even Peter Wright’, but I’m longing to seeing it.



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