Royal Opera House
Wednesday, 30th May 2018
Spring Gala – 05/30/2018
VOICES OF SPRING (Frederick Ashton): Yuhui Choe – Alexander Campbell
DANCE OF THE BLESSED SPIRITS (Frederick Ashton): Vadim Muntagirov
THE NUTCRACKER (Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui): Natalia Osipova – Jason Kittelberger
WINTER DREAMS (Kenneth MacMillan): Marianela Nunez – Thiago Soares
SYMPHONY IN C (George Balanchine): Fumi Kaneko – Federico Bonelli, Sarah Lamb – Nehemiah Kish, Yuhui Choe – Alexander Campbell, Yasmine Naghdi – James Hay
LE GRAND PAS DE DEUX (Christian Spuck): Elisa Badenes – Alexander Jones
LIMEN (Wayne McGregor): Sarah Lamb – Ryoichi Hirano
THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER (Alastair Marriott): Francesca Hayward – Matthew Ball
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (Christopher Wheeldon): Leanne Cope – Robert Fairchild
Spring Gala time!
Great to celebrate the incredibly wonderful institution that is the Royal Opera House with a shimmering programme featuring opera and ballet, devised by Director of the Royal Opera Oliver Mears and obviously the one and only Kevin O’Hare.
It’s been special to attend such a unique event at the ROH, and even though I am not very keen on opera, I enjoyed the performances by internationally renowned soloists with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, conducted by Antonio Pappano. Much more my kind of thing, the Royal Ballet shone bright in the amazingly commissioned programme featuring its defining choreographers – Ashton, MacMillan, McGregor, Wheeldon and many others.
After the wonderful Ouverture from Verdi’s La Forza del destino the night could not start with anything but Frederick Ashton’s Voices of Spring by Yuhui and Alex. They were absolutely delightful and they lived up Johann Strauss II’s score, from pouring flower petals in the opening image (perfect to get into full Spring Gala mood) to their lovely waltz routines through low lifts and twirls – still a supporter of the YuhuiForPrincipal campaign though.
Ashton again with 1978 Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orpheus and Eurydice: Dance in the Elysian Fields.
Vadim (who must be exhausted after all those performances in and around Europe) excellently danced in the rarely performed piece as the true Ashton-titan he is.
The score was impressive as well, with C.W. Gluck’s flute solo, and the simple yet effective design of the stairs/podium and Vadream’s costume conveyed the idea of him being at one with the gods.
As an addition to the programme, the ROH website promised a “unique take” on the Nutcracker by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, performed by Natasha and guest artist Jason Kittelberger, but I did not like it at all (even though they both were technically amazing in the revised version of Clara-Nutcracker pas de deux).
I mean, I don’t even like any Nutcracker but Sir Peter Wright’s and now they give me a contemporary one?! And by Natasha?! Yes, she’s absolutely great and she’s actually one of my all time favourite dancers, but she’s so not suitable for Nutcracker. No wonder why she’s never casted for Peter Wright’s revivals: would you imagine her as the Sugar Plum Fairy? God, she would make such a stormy, possessed one – children would go home scared!
What I was really waiting for? Nela and Thiago’s Winter Dreams of course!
They tore me to pieces many times throughout the ‘Farewell’ pas de deux by MacMillan: as the wondrous dancers and actors they are, they made me feel all the feels in their lyrical duo, full of emotions and drama (true to MacMillan style).
The chemistry between them is still palpable, and obviously Nela can only produce artworks every time she hits the stage – yesterday night was no exception, and you could actually experience her pain as Thiago left in the end.
Nela, Thiago, MacMillan and Tchaikovsky: it had to be a winning performance, and the solo piano by Robert Clark was great, as well as Nela’s incredible costume with its swirly gorgeous gown.
And then, the icing on the cake: tutus and tiaras in MrB’s Symphony in C for a spectacular part 1 finale led by Sarah, Yasmine, Yuhui and Fumi alongside Nehemiah Kish, James Hay, Alex and Federico and the company on their most glamorous form.
It’s so good to have finally some Balanchine back in rep, and I can’t wait to see this masterpiece again on stage next Season during the Infra mixed programme next November.
Melting his Russian classical ballet heritage and his very own style, Balanchine’s result was a shining fusion of neo-classical ballet in three movements, each one introducing different solo couples and corp de ballet.
The energetic and virtuous allegro and its intricate, brilliant footwork by the leading couples and by the whole corps were absolutely wonderful, and it’s been impressive to see all the 52 dancers on the open stage, moving with such synchrony and grace. The monochromatic costumes (white for the girls, black for the guys) were just perfect and the whole cast was amazing. In particular, Yasmine dazzled alongside a perfect James, Yuhui and Alex were gorgeous, Sarah was flawless, and Federico is Federico – he’s just a ballet god and that’s it. I did not enjoy Kish’s performances very much though.
Part 2 started with Christian Spuck’s Le Grand Pas de Deux, which Lauren was actually set to dance alongside guest Alexander Jones from Zurich Ballet (as they hilariously did at Prix de Lausanne 2017) – unfortunately, she’s still injured and was replaced by Stuttgart Ballet’s Elisa Badenes in Spuck’s parody of the ballet genre. I really hope she’s gonna dance her next Swan Lakes.
The two Royal Ballet School graduates brought on stage a pas de deux like no other featuring caricatures of Swan Lake, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty and many other ballet pillars, and the comedic piece (at its first performances on the ROH stage) was so hilarious that the audience could barely stop laughing.
Limen final pas de deux was performed by Sarah and Rio: the routine is veeeery Wayne with all that bending, twisting and athletic lifts.
With this duo Wayne perfectly expressed the idea of liminality and the boundaries between light and dark, presence and absence, life and death by (as per usual) pushing contemporary ballet to its limits – Sarah’s incredible lines and Rio’s stately perfection made definitely winning choice.
Afte the preview of Alastair Marriott’s new ballet The Unknown Soldier we got during the gala, I now can’t wait to see it performed next Season (in the Autumn mixed bill alongside Infra and Symphony in C).
On Oscar winning composer Dario Marinelli’s music, Marriott created a commemoration for the centenary of the ending of World War 1 drawing inspiration by the people who survived the Great War and by their intimate memories of their fallen loved ones.
The pas de deux (which will be set in a pre-war music hall for the world premiere) was movingly performed by Frankie and Matthew (I am such a fan of both of them) as Florence Billington and the Unknown Soldier. As they happily fall in love but he’s soon going off to the war, the bitter-sweet mood was in every step of theirs, and the tender routine was technically great. Here as well, MatthewForPrincipal campaign.
Loved the costume designs by Jonathan Howells too: Matthew’s uniform and Frankie’s lovely violet dress were quite good, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them with sets and everything next Season.
Former RB First Artist Leanne Cope and former New York City Ballet principal (and Tony award nominee) Robbie Fairchild performed an excerpt from An American in Paris – actually act 2 pas de deux from the show. I first had the pleasure to see them performing at the Dominion Theatre a year ago in April 2017, and I loved it as much as I did the first time. Wheeldon’s genius created such a brilliant, lighthearted and fresh choreography, beautifully performed by glowing Cope and dashing Fairchild. All those award are definitely no surprise!
They danced so well on George Gershwin’s blues-infused music as Lise and Jerry – a young dancer and a former soldier – and this romantic duo was definitely a triumph to end Royal Ballet’s programme for the night.
And what a starry night! Watching those ridiculous amounts of talent gracing such a majestic stage was just indescribably wonderful – that line-up of principals for the final bows!! Nela, Natasha, Sarah, Thiago, Vadim, Rio and all the others… what an incredible company the Royal Ballet is. Missing Lauren though – hope she’ll recover soon.
And hands up and hooray for Vadim and Nela! I don’t know how they could even walk after that array of shows – DonQ act 3 pas de deux for Serata Nureyev at La Scala last Friday and Saturday, Les Etoiles Gala in Luxembourg on Sunday (performing Black Swan pas de deux, plus Julio Lopez’ duo for Nela and Alejandro Parente), Milan again on Tuesday and then straight back to the Royal Opera House for their performances for the Spring Gala!