ROHNutcracker 2

The Nutcracker
Royal Opera House
Wednesday, 10th January 2018

 

Nutcracker – 01/10/2018

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Meaghan Grace Hinkis as Clara
Clara: Meaghan Grace Hinkis
Hans-Peter: Alexander Campbell
Sugar Plum Fairy: Melissa Hamilton
Prince: Ryoichi Hirano
Herr Drosselmeyer: Alastair Marriott
Rose Fairy: Laura McCulloch

 

Well, I hope your Christmas break was good and filled with joy, and I wish you all a very Happy New Year! Mine was pretty jam packed with 25 days of Nutcracker’s madness, festive decor at home, holiday cards’ writing and crazy last minute gift shopping.
Being home was good, but I was so tempted to jump on a British Airways flight and run to the Royal Opera House for a much needed Nutcracker treat – my Royal blues were so harsh I even decorated my family’s Christmas Eve’s cake taking inspiration from Sugar Plum Fairy’s tutu (I’ll attach a pic of it below).
So, five weeks later, many missed Nutcracker and the heart-aching fact of not being there when the Duchess of Cambridge attended (I’ll never forgive myself for this, but at least I bought the cape she wore on the occasion, and I love it so much), I’ve been back at the ROH for Nutcracker closing night (sigh). Seriously, somebody give me a Nutcracker dvd now – I need more Christmas in my veins.

 

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A pic from when the Duchess attended ROHNutcracker shortly before Christmas wearing her Zara cape (so glad I at least put my hand on it!)

Keeping Christmas vibes in high spirits – even though the start of a new university term is seriously trying to kill the festive cheer, along with the awareness of how hard will be going back to the barre after the holidays – the curtains opened on the joyous Christmas party at the Stahlbaums. Theirs is the celebration you want to attend, and bring to the stage such a nostalgia of Christmas shenanigans and magic with those magnificent Victorian setting full of amazing details: Sir Peter Wright’s enchanting work is always the best idea to forget stress and duties after the hard ‘back to college’ dark time of the year.
Seriously, he’s so great! Staging Nutcracker at 91 must take huge efforts, and his Giselle will open later next week, he really is a force of nature.

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Meaghan Grace Hinkis as Clara in act 2

I had never seen Meaghan Grace Hinkis as Clara before, and I was looking forward to her performance alongside Alexander Campbell (replacing Benjamin Ella).
I really enjoyed her Clara, she was fresh and impressively precise in her technique, and Alexander was great as per usual.
Melissa Hamilton is not the most perfect of Sugar Plums, way to poised and with an eternal non smiley face. I’ve seen many Sugar Plum Fairies so far, and not surprisingly my favourites are Marianela and Lauren, which I cannot avoid comparisons with: their dancing were so crystalline, Marianela’s aliveness was nothing but magical, and Lauren’s lyrical musicality was just lovely, whilst Melissa seemed a bit lost in the grandeur of the role.

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Melissa Hamilton as the Sugar Plum Fairy

Rio, replacing Valery Hristov, showed impeccably mannered partnering to Hamilton, but I felt no chemistry between them, and Laura McCulloch’s Rose Fairy was disappointingly lacking of elegance and technically poor.
I loved Olivia Cowley’s exotic Arabian, she was majestic and impeccable, whilst Leo Dixon performed amazingly in the Chinese dance. Great Trepak as well, even though the wardrobe malfunction with the belt, and I thoroughly liked the Mirlitons, danced by Anna Rose O’Sullivan (which also performed an impeccable Vivandiere in act 1), Camille Bracher, Chisato Katsura and Leticia Dias.I loved Olivia Cowley’s exotic Arabian, she was majestic and impeccable, whilst Leo Dixon performed amazingly in the Chinese dance – great Trepak as well, even though the wardrobe malfunction with the belt. I thoroughly liked the Mirlitons, danced by Anna Rose O’Sullivan (which also performed an impeccable Vivandiere in act 1), Camille Bracher, Chisato Katsura and Leticia Dias, and remarkable David Donnelly as one of the flower escort cavaliers in act 2.

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Sugar Plum Fairy inspired cake

On Instagram many were asking about my stories after the much talked Bolle’s program on Italy’s main national tv channel on New Year’s Day (called “Roberto Bolle – Danza con me”): well, I’m not saying the dancing in general was bad (even though I did not enjoy it, apart for Polina Semionova’s pieces), but I am so deeply saddened for the concept of it. How could one be so narcissistic to be personally conducting a whole 3hours program all about the celebration of his person? How could one say he’s the only Italian dancer on earth? Doesn’t he think that, by doing so, he’s denigrating all the other talents around the world? Yes, the fact that he’s taking dance and ballet and making them accessible to everyone is remarkable, but the problem is that the whole country believes all that bullshit said on tv – you know, when brainwashing is included in the tv fees…
When did ballet turn into commercial? That was self-propaganda, not art!

By the way, I can’t wait for next Christmas already, I hope Kevin will bring back this classic once again as it is THE festive must: its story’s sugar-coated plot involves such fairytale features and it’s all about traditions, establishing itself as Nutcracker’s best production so far.
See you later next week with Giselle opening night!

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Programme signed by Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Alexander Campbell and Melissa Hamilton
Annunci

ROHNutcracker 1

The Nutcracker
Royal Opera House
Tuesday, 5th December 2017

Nutcracker – 12/5/2017  

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Steven and Sarah in the Sugar Garden of the Palace
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.

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Flying in the magical act 1 pas de deux

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).

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Frankie as Clara

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!

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Yasmine dazzling as the Rose Fairy

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.

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Mr Christmas painting the town glitter

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).

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Sarah Lamb, a Sugar Plum delight

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!

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Steven as the Prince

 

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.

 

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Clara, Hans-Peter and the snowflakes

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).

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Starry night with programme signed by Frankie Hayward, Alexander Campbell, Sarah Lamb, Steven McRae, Gary Avis and Yasmine Naghdi

 

ROHSylvia 4

Sylvia
Royal Opera House
Saturday, 2nd December 2017

 

Sylvia – 12/2/2017

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Act 3 finale
Sylvia: Lauren Cuthbertson
Aminta: Reece Clarke
Orion: Nehemiah Kish
Eros: Valentino Zucchetti
Diana: Helen Crawford

So, last ROHSylvia bound! I love matinees, I couldn’t even explain why, I just adore them, and I always 100% enjoy Sylvia: although the plot is 100% silly, the loved-up choreography, arcadian setting and sparkling costumes are 100% ace.
My last days in London for 2017 had to be filled with ballet (and just like a child on Christmas morning I cannot wait for Nutcracker!), and my 3 days full immersion of Sylvia ended today with Lauren’s turn to embody this fierce heroine.
First of all, her lines are wonderfully amazing. Every time I saw her dancing I keep asking myself if she’s really human!
I was eagerly waiting to see her and Reece Clarke, as theirs is partnership which seems to be growing at every show. Lauren herself is really into Ashton style, gorgeously lyrical and absolutely lovely in her flawlessness, and Reece is always great, he has a bright future in front of himself.
Another bravo to the huntresses, that unsurprisingly amazed me from the very first second (maybe not when they triumphantly carry the carcass of a slain deer, poor thing) – this is a ballet in which the women get to call all the shots, very rare in classical ballet world. Lauren showed complicity with her attendants, and the audience got a delightful glimpse of camaraderie (which was absent with Osipova on stage) – these moments have been amazing both in Lauren’s and Marianela’s casts, even though the only difference was the main ballerina: the huntresses’ cast saw only small changes of one or two attendants, but the feeling conveyed with Lauren and Nela was incredibly powerful compared to Osipova’s run.

Reece’s opening solo was astonishing and perfectly performed, he was a convincing shepherd, and he showed off a fantastic elevation and turns, and his act 3 solo was a delight of magnificent jumps. I can’t wait to see more of his roles in the upcoming season.

Then, even though Lauren seemed maybe too sweet and lyrical for act 1, she was absolutely stunning in act 3, which perhaps suited her way better, as it is more delicate and gorgeous than the previous two. In act 1 she was perfect, absolutely perfect, but poised compared to Marianela’s triumphant interpretation. Even so, she was amazing – her act 3 variation and jumps were fantastically on point, and her pirouettes a real treat! Again, her gorgeous lines astonished the whole audience and she shone so brightly!

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Act 1: Sylvia shots Aminta and mocks the statue of Eros, god of love.

Orion was danced by Nehemiah Kish, but I have to say I did not feel him so convincing
Act 1: Sylvia shots Aminta and mocks the statue of Eros, god of love. (Thiago was a much much better villain).
The pastoral scenes were adorable and purely Ashtonian, and I enjoyed the nymphs and fauns in act 1 – even in group roles, Anna Rose O’Sullivan always stands out with her glittering charisma and flawless technique. Great to see a change in act 2’s cast with Camille Bracher and Gemma Pitchley Gale.
In act 3 Meaghan Grace Hinkis was lovely as one of the goats, as well as Mayara Magri as Persephone, and I loved Terpsichore’s attendants – they were a delight, in particular Anna Rose and Elizabeth Harrod.
Diana, then, has quite a small part, but I love the scene from her own past (when she fell in love with Endymion) appearing in the clouds when Eros intercedes for the two lovers – Eros was, again, an amazing Valentino, who never disappoints with his flying jumps.

So, reached the end of my Sylvia runs, I know that Delibes’ score will not abandon my mind so easily (I’m in love with that glorious ouverture, it’ll be difficult to hear Nutcracker on Monday).
The music is one of the main appeals of this ballet, for it is so richly fragrant, colourful and full of gorgeous brio – a delight to the ears, and so perfectly melted with Ashton’s choreography.
Stage Door chronicles: the lovely little girl bouncing with enthusiasm in her tulle skirt waiting for autographs made my day! Her eyes were sparkling with excitement, and I believe when she saw Lauren she nearly died for happiness. She was adorable, asking all the dancers ‘are you a dancer?’ and trying to chase ballerinas going out the Stage Door.

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Programme signed by: Lauren Cuthbertson, Reece Clarke and Valentino Zucchetti

ROHSylvia 3

Sylvia
Royal Opera House
Friday, 1st December 2017

 

Sylvia – 12/1/2017

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Fierce.
Sylvia: Marianela Nunez
Aminta: Vadim Muntagirov
Orion: Thiago Soares
Eros: Valentino Zucchetti
Diana: Itziar Mendizabal

Well, I couldn’t cope with the idea of no Marianela ’til January, so, last week after the opening night I took advantage of ROH Friday Rush to get a last minute ticket for another Sylvia by the queen. I know, I know, that makes four Sylvias in a row… wait, does the general rehearsal count as one as well? Ok, five. Five in ten days… not bad, not bad at all – well, bad for my father’s bank account obviously, but I have to deal with killer deadlines for university, I need my daily dose of Royal alongside intravenous injections of Marianela magic (I really have to wait till January now: my heart is breaking already).

So, even though the 1st of December calls for Nutcracker out loud (25 days of Nutcracker hit my main account in all its glittery sugar for the advent’s start) that’s to Sylvia again, so
charming with its sugary silly glory. Even having seen it barely 24hrs before, this production is always all thing gorgeous, a tale of pure entertainment and delicate scenes, and made even better by the queen of queens herself.
Marianela’s really the most versatile ballerina ever, I’ll never get tired of saying that, and London obviously loves her. If I had a penny for every time I got emotional over her amazingness I probably would be richer than JK Rowling and HM the Queen put together. Oh, look, I even succeeded in citing three queens in the same quote!

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Vadim flying in act 3

Vadim was amazing as per usual, both in interpretation and technique, and I particularly enjoyed his act 3 variation, during which he seemed to be flying around the stage like it was the easiest thing ever.
Thiago then, is always a great villain, and I liked how he portrayed Orion in act 2. He’s such a brilliant partner, I’d really love to see him dancing more with Marianela again.
It was really good to see Leticia Dias as one of Sylvia’s attendants in the final act, she’s definitely one to watch among the youngest artists of the company.

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Thiago as Orion in act 1

Again, my favourite scene from the ballet was amazing (I’m thinking about making a canvas painting of that part of the ballet, I’ll keep you informed): I adore the huntresses’ entrance and their whole routine, and I have to say, after seeing Osipova on Thursday, I had a totally different feeling: Osipova was obviously great, technically speaking, as was Marianela, but with the former I couldn’t see that sort of companionship among the huntresses and Sylvia, whilst with Marianela on stage, even her fellow attendants conveyed the public a sense of ‘sisters in arms’, you know.

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The Huntresses’ entrance

Marianela herself was astonishing: I’ll miss seeing her dancing in this role, I really wish ROH could realise more filming and dvds rather than just the ones of the cinema relays. Still have to understand why there was no cinema relay of Sylvia by the way – maybe it’s because they opened it so late (last year Nutcracker opened on November 23rd, and this year Sylvia premiered on the same day).
I’m always so amazed by her incredible interpretations: she was such a powerful huntress in act 1 whilst dancing around with her companions sporting her helmet and brandishing bow and arrows, and a smart and brilliant damsel in distress when kidnapped by Orion in act 2. In act 3 she swaps her helmet and weapons for a tiara and a sparkling tutu, but she’s still a proud nymph, not a passive princess at all. Sylvia, indeed, covers such a variety of moods and characters, and a remarkable technical range as well: Marianela pulled out her best balances in the first act dancing fiercely and charming the audience with her natural charisma, while in act 3 her pizzicato was so freaking amazing! Her footwork was so dazzlingly bright and needlepointed!

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Marianela’s act 3 variation

I’m writing this review after getting out from ROH after seeing Lauren (I’ll talk about her Sylvia in my next article), and I have to say that among the three (Nunez, Osipova, Cuthbertson) Marianela was my favourite (yeah, unsurprisingly I know): her Ashton style is a gift from heaven, and even though Lauren is a great Ashtonian-ballerina as well (Osipova definitely isn’t, too Bolshoi style), Marianela was the one more ‘in the role’. She wasn’t too sweet (as Lauren, who was perhaps too lovely), nor too powerful (I mean, even Orion had some problems in kidnapping Osipova’s kick-assed Sylvia). And she wasn’t even too ‘amazonian’ as Darcey.
In short, SHE RULED. She sparkled, from her fierce entrance to the gorgeous closing pas de deux alongside Vadim.
So, as per usual after a Marianela show, ROH was on fire and absolutely delighted by her masterclass of technique and musicality. How can she be so talented, please?!
And here come the Stage Door chronicles, once again: forgot what I said some months ago about being just a few of enthusiasts waiting there, the Stage Door is getting crowded. Really really crowded, and considering that it’s freezing outside, that’s not so nice when the glass doors continues to open and close. Anyway, it’s a ‘de rigueur’ bound, and it was lovely to chat with Marianela, she’s so sweet and always so kind. I’ll definitely miss her dancing – how can I wait till Giselle?!

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Programme signed by Vadim and the greatest among greats, aka Marianela, aka the queen

ROHSylvia 2

Sylvia
Royal Opera House
Thursday, 30th November 2017

 

Sylvia – 11/30/2017

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Natalia Osipova and Federico Bonelli as Sylvia and Aminta in act 3
Sylvia: Natalia Osipova
Aminta: Federico Bonelli
Orion: Ryoichi Hirano
Eros: Benjamin Ella
Diana: Claire Calvert

A week haul is even too long to me, in particular because of Prince Harry’s engagement to Meghan Markle. I mean, even without considering that I’m still trying to recover at the idea Prince Harry is not marrying me, Kate waited almost ten years to get a ring (and what a ring, I’ll love it forever – and Meghan’s is pretty awesome too) and she gets one in less than two years? I definitely need baby Cambridge number three to come soon, really really soon, to cheer me up. Or better, I need Kate to give birth to baby Cambridge number three on Meghan’s wedding day, that would be hilarious!
And yeah, I’ll obviously be gathering in Windsor next May, but I promise I will not feel even one ounce of happiness I felt for William and Kate (I was over elated, I have to say it), and I’m not doing RepliMeghans: Kate rules and slays, always and forever, and at least Kensington Palace treated us with the sweetest anecdote about Prince George sending his dad to hand over a letter for Father Christmas – because apparently William has a direct line to Santa, you know, the perks of being a royal.

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Natalia Osipova rehearsing Sylvia (love her ripped tutu btw)

By the way, for I need frequent ROH doses, this last week of Winter term it’s pretty well jam packed with Sylvia yesterday, today (last minute ticket to see Marianela guys!), tomorrow (matinée bound for Lauren), Nutcracker general rehearsals on Monday and opening night on Tuesday.
I know, I know: when my parents enrolled me to ballet classes ages ago, they had no idea of what they was getting into (and what they was actually getting their wallet into). But I mean, I’m a ballet nerd, it could have been much much worse for them, isn’t it? I’m ROH drugged, a bless for (almost) any parent!

I don’t know exactly why but I’d never thought about Osipova as a match for Sylvia: no clues, but I maybe am used seeing her in really different roles. I’m happy to say, I really enjoyed her performance: here in London she’s not the most loved dancer, but she’s definitely one of mines.
After seeing Marianela twice I had the highest standards ever (and yeah, it’s not a Marianela review but I obviously have to spend some works on the queen she is, cannot wait to see her dancing again tonight), but Osipova gave a fantastic Sylvia, even though it felt like totally another character than Marianela’s. That was much more a “let’s tear down the barricade” kind of Sylvia, and Osipova was all like “Let the 76th Hunger Games begin – I’ll kill the other 23 tributes in the next hour or so”.
Her technique cannot absolutely be criticised, she’s one of the greatest of all times, but she has no middle ground between being cold or possessed: she was maybe a bit too much into the character I think. Quite stormy throughout the whole ballet.
Overall, Sylvia is a quite silly ballet, but it is also all thing sublime! Let’s talk about those amazing sets and scenery – hands up for those who set it up, for real- and the costumes are dazzling as well (I love the huntresses’ ones and Sylvia’s former one).
My favourite scene had to be the attendants’ one: another great portray of girl fierceness! It’s quite remarkable how Ashton was capable of incredible misogyny – as in The Dream, I mean guys, Oberon decides to make his wife falling in love with a donkey and then he also gets a pass by saying it was not his fault, think about it – alongside portraying a story of major women power like in Sylvia. Yeah, ok, Orion actually kidnaps her, but she escapes all by herself using her wit, she does not need a cavalier in a sparkling armor to save her. Yes, hands up for Sylvia please.
So, it is a ballet of no particular substance, but it is so fabulous on the tongue!
And well… such a blessing after those MacMillan runs I still have to recover from. Here there’s no need to worry or to go home darkened by haunting scenes. It’s pure candy floss, all time long!

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Natalia Osipova and Federico Bonelli rehearsing Sylvia and Aminta

In the first act after a slightly stiff entrance sequence, Federico pulled through amazingly,
Natalia Osipova and Federico Bonelli rehearsing Sylvia and Aminta even though I like him more in more princely roles than in the peasantly ones. Indeed, the third act suited him way way better and I loved his variation: he was great, and his jumps were impeccable.
Amazing Rio as Orion as well as he partnered an even more stormy Osipova in act 2, and hands up for Benjamin Ella: he managed the “keep an eye on the staircases, they like to change” moment (made in Percy Weasley) quite well as Eros!
In the third act, Anna Rose O’Sullivan was lovely as one of the goats, and I really enjoyed Elizabeth McRae as Persephone – I wish we could see more of her. In this act as well I liked Sylvia attendants, in particular Yuhui Choe, who was flawless in the role.
Then, I didn’t think the pizzicato could be so… possessed (?), but yeah: Osipova. She amazingly pulled out wondrous footwork and great technique, but God…
I loved the pas de deux, not considering the unsuccessful entrance lift at the beginning of the coda, as it was just another evidence of Federico’s greatness.
In conclusion, that was a completely different yet amazing Sylvia, and I got out of ROH with my signed programme after freezing cold at the Stage Door – and by the way, I am probably the only person in the whole town not having seen the snow yesterday morning. Hoping tonight the weather will be less inclement (because I just know we’ll all have to wait hours for Vadim and Marianela), I’ll now stop procrastinating on reviews to finish my essays and research journals ahead of deadlines next week (I wanna die). Cannot wait for Marianela’s run tonight!!

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Programme signed by Natalia Osipova and Federico Bonelli

ROHSylvia 1

Sylvia
Royal Opera House
Thursday, 23rd November 2017

Sylvia – 11/23/2017

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A Marianela delight ASHTONishing us all
Sylvia: Marianela Nunez
Aminta: Vadim Muntagirov
Orion: Thiago Soares
Eros: Valentino Zucchetti
Diana: Itziar Mendizabal

 

She shines, she rocks, she slays – she’s Marianela, and she’s back at the Royal Opera House!
I saw the general rehearsal on Tuesday as well, but this was her official first show on ROH stage this season (kinda crazy how we survived without her?!), and I adored it.
I thoroughly enjoyed the rehearsals, during which she slightly fell in act II… and God, she fell so well I was not sure that it wasn’t done on purpose!! She managed it so well, as the true showstopper she is (I actually waited till yesterday to be sure it really happened).
And after a tough week of assessments and mad essays prep (I’m planning to put a Legilimens tag in my citations – I’m running out of references like ‘trust me, I once saw this in Voldemort’s thoughts’), the opening night came in all its delight.

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What a stunning showstopper goddess

Pastoral beauty at its best – with a lovely ouverture and score that are gonna play again and again in my mind for the next days – the ballet featured a fantastic cast, with Marianela as the badass nymph of course, an amazing Vadim as Aminta and a great Thiago as Orion (the evil roles are his best ones, for real), alongside a glorious Royal out in full force dancing with bleeding heart.
Ashton’s faery scenes are lovely as in The Dream, and Vadim gave a fantastic entrance in act I, demonstrating the audience why he’s actually jokingly called ‘Vadream’ among the company’s ranks: his technique is wondrous, and his jumps made me asking myself if he was actually supposed to be a shepherd or a demi-god – he flew so well, he flew so high! Really, the distance between himself and the ground was unbelievable.
And there came the nymphs! Sylvia’s entourage was fierce and pulled out major girl power, as they – Yuhui Choes, Claire Calvert, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Mayara Magri, Tierney Heap, Hannah Grennell, Helen Crawford and Natalie Harrison – were all such proud huntresses shining with power and led by the one and only surely-not-human hunt queen Marianela.
She was clearly having such fun calling the shots with her bow and arrows, so fierce in her helmet, and let’s talk about her insane balances please! The world may crumble, but she would still be there, standing in arabesque with a smile on her face.
She was such a joy to watch I had tears in my eyes admiring her steely spinning and her bold, ferocious charisma.
Dancing in the moonlight alongside her fellow companions as they celebrate the success of their hunt, she then blames Eros, the god of Love (a good Valentino Zucchetti), who then pierces her to the heart making her falling in love with Aminta, whose body (shot by Sylvia) is found by a group of peasants and eventually brought back to life by a strange cloaked figure (Eros again). Guys, we really have to say it: Ashton truly had a thing with magic flowers, didn’t he?

In the meantime, Orion, the evil hunter inflamed by Sylvia, captures her and carries her off to his island cave. But finally, here’s a ballet featuring a brilliant badass heroine who does not need a rescue by a man! Pretending to seduce Orion by getting him drunk (and getting rid of his concubines and slaves in the same way), she showed us the captivating, bewitching side of her character with such amazing technique!
Thiago, then, is always a remarkable partner – his confident, safe pas de deux skills would be a blessing for every ballerina, and it was great to see how much he was into his character.
At the end of act II, Sylvia succeeds in escaping all by herself – girls run the world, you know.
Once eloped, helped by Eros (a bit unstable as he goes down the moving stairs, poor Valentino!) she heads to Diana’s temple, where Aminta is waiting for her.

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Marianela – a tale of insane balances

The final act, set on the sea coast near the temple of Diana, features a festival in honor of the god Bacchus. Here Gina Storm-Jensen (Ceres), Nicol Edmonds (Jason), Mayara Magri (Persephone), William Bracewell (Pluto), Fumi Kaneko (Terpsichore) and Benjamin Ella (Apollo), along with Elizabeth Harrod and James Hay (as the Goats), gave fine interpretations of their roles surrounded by muses, attendants and trumpeters.
Sylvia arrives escorted by Eros and her attendants on a boat and she reunites with Aminta.
Vadim and Marianela’s pas de deux is dazzlingly delightful, so precisely articulate, so brilliant, and Marianela’s pizzicato variation… her épaulement, her footwork! My eyes are heart-shaped still!

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Vadim and Marianela as Aminta and Sylvia in act III

Here comes Orion again: Sylvia takes refuge in Diana’s temple, where Orion tries to break in, but the goddess herself appears and kills him. That’s right people, after The Judas Tree and The Wind, Diana comes along and kills the almost-rapist. It was about time!
Itziar Mendizabal was imperious in the role, as she directs her hanger at the lovers (as Sylvia, as one of her nymphs, has promised to renounce love). Eros, impeccably danced by Valentino, eventually saves the day by reminding her that she herself was once inflamed with a simple shepherd, Endymion, so that she relents and give the lovers her blessing.
When at the stage door (where we loyal attendants were informed that dancers were having an opening night party), the fellow ones who came seeking for signatures were all in delight, amazed by Marianela and Vadim’s amazing artistry.
What else can I say? Yeah, I missed the Gatwick Express to get to the airport for waiting so long for Marianela, but she’s such an endless inspiration I would wait hours and hours for a single autograph, which I always cherish, not to mention her signed pointe shoes, a holy relic for real.
Oh, and I realised my next Marianela show would be Giselle’s opening night. In January. No way I can cope with this terrible situation right?

 

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Programme signed by the one and only Marianela, an endless source of inspiration and the loveliest human being

 

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Farewell mixed triple bill
Royal Opera House
Friday, 17th November 2017

The Illustrated ‘Farewell’ – The Wind – Untouchable – 11/17/2017  

 

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Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae in Twyla Tharp’s The Illustrated ‘Farewell’
THE ILLUSTRATED FAREWELL:
Sarah Lamb, Steven McRae
Mayara Magri, Joseph Sissens
Yasmine Naghdi, Mariko Sasaki, David Donnelly, Matthew Ball, Calvin Richardson
THE WIND:
Letty Mason: Francesca Hayward
The Wind: Edward Watson
Lige Hightower: Tomas Mock
Writ Roddy: Matthew Ball
UNTOUCHABLE: The Company

It’s been too long – two weeks at home gave me such Royal blues, and I was so happy to be back at ROH (with a £6 ticket for an amazing spot in the lower amphitheatre). I was longing to see this much anticipated triple bill’s closing night, including new work by Twyla Tharp (The Illustrated ‘Farewell’, with Steven McRae and Sarah Lamb as principals) and Arthur Pita (The Wind, featuring the second cast with Francesca Hayward), along with Hofesh Schechter’s Untouchable.

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Steven and Sarah killing Farewell

Tharp’s piece was a true representation of her utter genius: I was beyond in love with every step, costume, tune – and it was so good to see Sarah back on stage after her injury! Alongside Steven they are such an astounding pair: in every pas de deux of theirs, I can see a strong chemical bond, and I loved to witness this one.

Expanding her 1973 classic As Time Goes By into The Illustrated ‘Farewell’, Tharp has been able to melt the movements of of Haydn’s Farewell symphony to her choreography, giving the audience a jubilant time as Steven and Sarah showed off their charismatic and virtuoso skills in deeply enjoyable combinations. The choreography is smart and brilliant on Haydn’s score, and features a number of remarkable lift, poses, jumps, turns and passing high-fives with only Steven and Sarah could have performed so outstandingly.

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Joseph Sissens and Anna Rose O’Sullivan in The Illustrated ‘Farewell’

The second part of the ballet is opened by Mayara Magri, dancing a solo on a silent stage and proving to be one of the shining stars of future Royal. Her movements are almost liquid and captivating, and the following ensemble is nothing but amazing as well: Yasmine Naghdi and Mariko Sasaki (debuting replacing Tierney Heap last minute) join her partnered by David Donnelly, Matthew Ball and Calvin Richardson in complex yet exquisite sequences. Joseph Sissens, along with Anna Rose O’Sullivan, set himself as a shining star as well, and when he’s left on stage, Steven and Sarah appear dancing through an illuminated platform on the back of the stage: I deeply loved this part, as it’s been amazing to see these dances combined – this piece was such a delight to watch!

 

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Cowboy scene

Arthur Pita’s The Wind is based on Dorothy Scarborough’s 1925 novel, and is a tour de force of striking images: the stage setting itself is amazing, with the three wind machines, ragged plastic flutters, barbed wire and the railway. The costumes are amazing as well, in their triumph of bonnets, hats and garments (and I reckon it must have been difficult to dance beside the wind machines providing air on stage).
The story shows Letty Mason, a young woman arriving in rural Texas, where she weds brusque Lige Hightower and is then brutally raped by predator Writ Roddy, whom she then kills. In the meantime, audience is constantly seeing the supernatural power of the prairie wind.

 

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The amazing setting for The Wind

Frankie Hayward gave an amazing performance as Letty, especially in the final solo – I would have loved to see the first cast with Thiago Soares and Natalia Osipova as well. And what fantastic Edward Watson!!

I have to say, after the Judas Tree I feel like I can face everything, but I’m much more for happy-endings and happily ever afters (thankfully Nutcracker season is upon us). I was quite surprised to see lots of people leaving the Opera House after The Wind as well: I’m not a fan of Hofesh’s, but it is a good piece anyway.

His 2015 Untouchable is a bit too long, but it was good to see his usage of a young cast. I felt it maybe too similar to Crystal Pite’s Flight Patterns’ style.

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The company in Hofesh Schechter’s Untouchable

 

Overall, this was one of the most exciting triple bills I’ve seen on ROH stage, as it featured such different ballets, but I cannot wait to see Sylvia (general rehearsals and opening night next week plus two more on the following one) and Nutcracker (rehearsals and opening night as well, streamed live in cinemas on December 5th).

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Programme signed by: Arthur Pita, Kristen McNally, James Hay and Benjamin Ella

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Kenneth MacMillan – A National Celebration
Royal Opera House
Friday, 27th October 2017

 

Gloria – The Judas Tree – Elite Syncopations – 10/27/2017

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Yasmine Naghdi and Ryoichi Hirano in Elite Syncopations
GLORIA: Northern Ballet
THE JUDAS TREE: Royal Ballet
ELITE SYNCOPATIONS: Royal Ballet

 

My last MacMillan bound before flying back to Italy for some (not so well deserved) holidays (after just a month of college, I know, but I cannot wait any longer) saw the Northern Ballet and the Royal Ballet joining forces honoring the choreographer’s legacy in Gloria (performed entirely by NB), the Judas Tree (again by Royal’s Lauren Cuthbertson, Thiago Soares and Edward Watson) and Elite Syncopations (with Yasmine Naghdi and Ryoichi Hirano in the leading roles, along with dancers from BRB, Northern Ballet and Scottish Ballet).
My day off started with a good ballet class at the Pineapples Studios, the coolest lunch at 26Grains in a sunny Neal’s Yard (go try them out if you haven’t already, because they have the most amazing treats ever in their menu and their location is pretty awesome as well), I stopped at ROH ticket office to book a performance of Giselle for next March (cannot wait to see Natalia Osipova and David Hallberg dancing together) and eventually I discovered that finally Dr Nathan Riggs was cut off from Grey’s Anatomy (thank you Shonda Rhimes, thank you so very much!). No seriously, now give me back Derek Shepherd.
Anyway, ROH was the perfect way to end the day with the latest mixed program – I’m almost crying thinking I won’t be back there till mid November.

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Javier Torres, Antoinette Brooks-Daw and Riku Ito in Gloria.

MacMillan’s Gloria (1980, on Gloria in G major by Francis Poulenc) started with a haunting, continuous lament recalling the generation lost in World War I and futility of war. Inspired by Brittain’s Testament of Youth, it evokes wartime experiences and griefs, themes still strong nowadays and stressed by Andy Klunder’s no-man’s-land set. The whole choreography itself shows the anguish and violence of conflict (the dancers are actually face-covered in grief and a lot of the figures depict bomb blasts and tortures), but shows some lighter moments as well (see the pas de quatre, much less heavy than the rest of the ballet).
Northern Ballet’s performance of it was terrific, especially Riku Ito, excellently committed in the role, and the pas de trois and pas de quatre were really good.

Moving to an even more appalling and shattering work, my second time watching the Judas Tree this week got me shaken as the first one: Lauren was amazing as per usual, providing powerful climax and huge tensions along with Thiago, just so great in the role of the Foreman, and Ed, wondrous as the Friend. Good performance by Reece Clarke as well, but this MacMillan’s work is definitely not in my chords (please Kevin, bring back Romeo and Juliet).

 

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Edward Watson in the Judas Tree

Described by MacMillan himself as ‘Something short and light and funny’, witty Elite Syncopations saw a dozen dancers through 12 jazzy rags and an onstage band, truly the perfect way to wrap the show after two of his darkest works – it was good to lift the spirits to end the evening, as on Tuesday, on the contrary, I felt a bit too shattered after psychological sump of the Judas Tree-Song of the Earth combo, both very dark and gripping. It must have been though for the male corps as well to shift from the Judas Tree to Elite in barely 30 minutes.
The public was amazed by a sparkling and high-spirited Yasmine, taking the stage dulling out her natural sparkle and sassy sophistication in such a show-stopping performance! She really dazzled, possibly even more than during last week’s debut, and it was quite clear she was having fun on stage as well (one of the main thing I noticed during these MacMillan’s bills is that guest companies’ artists were not completely at ease on ROH magnificent stage, perhaps intimidated by all the grandeur and glory this Opera House shines of, and by the size of the stage).

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Yasmine Naghdi in Elite Syncopations

 

I know I am supposed to write about the show, but then at the stage door I nearly died: Dame Maggie Smith (yeah, THAT Maggie Smith herself) came out along with Edward Watson and smiled at us poor peasants while he was signing our programmes. I mean… Maggie Smith! I was in awe, as every Potterhead would have been! By the way, I’m glad we’re just a bunch of people waiting at the stage door this year: we used to be a proper crowd in the past, and sometimes the staff asked us to wait outside (not so good in winter nights you know). This gives us balletomanes the possibility to chat way longer, between us and with dancers as well (they’re all so lovely). Just hoping next time it will be the same!

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Programme signed by: Lauren Cuthbertson, Edward Watson, Yasmine Naghdi, Ryoichi Hirano, Laura Morera and Yuhui Choe

 

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Kenneth MacMillan – A National Celebration
Royal Opera House
Tuesday, 24th October 2017

The Judas Tree – Song of the Earth – 10/24/2017 

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Lauren Cuthbertson, Edward Watson and Thiago Soares in the Judas Tree
THE JUDAS TREE: Royal Ballet
SONG OF THE EARTH: English National Ballet

And after a dreamy cinema relay, the House is brought from Wheeldon’s Wonderland into MacMillan’s darkest production for the second programme of Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration. The Royal Ballet and English National Ballet jointed forces bringing two of the choreographer’s most complex works – Royals took on the Judas Tree, whilst ENB dancers performed in Song of the Earth.

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Edward Watson as the Friend
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Thiago Soares as the Foreman

I had never seen the Judas Tree before, and I was left shaken by this deeply troubling piece: MacMillan’s latest and most controversial ballet on guilt and betrayal in a compromised time saw the most powerful performances ever by Lauren (God, barely 24 hours later dancing Alice, is she really human?), Thiago Soares, Edward Watson and Reece Clarke, showing off their undisputed artistry through appalling violence on a building site in London’s East End.

Even MacMillan, talking about his final work, admitted the final result to be ‘frightening’, and Jock McFayden’s 1990s Canary Wharf building site’s stage set is sinister as well as Brian Elias’ score (1992). The themes of sexual violence, collective guilt, violence of the mob and rule of fear are strongly emphasized throughout the gripping choreography, starting with workmen carrying Lauren covered with a white sheet. She was amazingly partnered by a possessive and violent Foreman (Thiago, the “Judas” figure) and a much gentler Friend (Ed, seen as a sort of “Jesus”) in such a febrile atmosphere, and they really gave us a superb yet emotionally eviscerating performance: Lauren amazed the public in this hell of a role with her dramatic interpretation and with Thiago, Edward and Reece perfectly portrayed MacMillan’s psychological drama as well as humanity’s darkest side.

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Lauren and Ed as the Woman and the Friend

 

The second work, Song of the Earth (1965), is set in six movements on Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, and MacMillan himself summarized his ballet of love, loss and renewal saying: ’A man and a woman; death takes the man; they both return to her and at the end of the ballet, we find that in death there is the promise of renewal.’

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Jeffrey Cirio in Song of the Earth

It was superbly performed by English National Ballet, with earthbound, non-classical movements stressing beauty and power in sculptural poses and melancholic combinations.

Erina Takahashi danced beautifully, and Isaac Hernandez was impressing with his powerful moves as well as Jeffrey Cirio. Great Senri Kou, Aitor Arrieta and Tiffany Hedman as supporting dancers too.

It was amazing to see these two works (MacMillan’s final one opposite to one of his earliest ones), created almost 30 years apart and performed together in a combination of ambition and complexity – this celebration is really showing off his wide range of choreographic skills.

Now waiting for the last bill of Friday!

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Programme signed by Lauren Cuthbertson

 

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Royal Opera House
Monday, 23rd October 2017

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – 10/23/2017 

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Down the rabbit hole we go!
Alice: Lauren Cuthbertson
Jack / Knave of Hearts: Federico Bonelli
White Rabbit: James Hay
Mad Hatter: Steven McRae
Mother / Queen of Hearts: Laura Morera
Father / King of Hearts: Christopher Saunders
Alice’s sisters: Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Meaghan Grace Hinkis
Caterpillar: Fernando Montano
The Duchess: Gary Avis

 

First of all, Italy, I hope you were watching, ‘cause that was Federico being amazing, completely erasing Bolle from your narrow minded brains.

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Federico Bonelli as Jack

It’s beyond sad most italians don’t know who their brightest talents are: I mean guys, stop citing Carla Fracci, she’s about 80 or more and yeah, perhaps she was good for her times, but come on! Look at Valentino Zucchetti, Alessandra Ferri, Mara Galeazzi and Federico Bonelli: just because they don’t make sold out shows about “xxx and Friends” (any resemblance to persons here present is entirely accidental) it doesn’t mean it’s ok to get blank looks every time I say their names! After all, that’s exactly the mirror of our society: who’s only promoting himself gets fame, whilst who’s focusing on real art is under-appreciated and completely forgotten.

But coming to this amazing round of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, this trip down the rabbit hole streamed live all over the world felt even more magical than the previous ones: the excitement of a cinema relay is real, and it’s so amazing that performances like this one are made so accessible by streaming it to cinemas! It’s been so whimsical and wondrous I’m actually feeling sorry for those who did not get to see it.

I even made a cinema cameo (with my mum and friends in Italy we were all like “go to your right, stand still, pic please!”).

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Wonderland looking wonderfully real

I love seeing productions more than once: in this way you really have the chance to get everything from the ballet, starting with the choreography itself and going on with the smallest details of costumes, interactions between the corps, score’s scales and other features (such as the funny nod to Apollo’s pas de quatre in the Mad Hatter scene).

The whole show was amazing, from Lauren’s sassy tantrums (seriously those were life!), to Steven’s merry unbirthday vibes and the whole cast performing at its best: Royal was out in full force and I guess Kevin must have been bursting with pride seeing the company shining so brightly.

Admit it, didn’t you uncontrollably smile when the flower petals started dropping from the ceiling? Those costumes swooned as per usual, and all I was thinking after the Caterpillar piece, was that all I need for Christmas is sparkly pointe shoes, but then no, that’s not true, I want tons tons and tons of things for Christmas.

 

Can we take a moment for Steven and his tea party? It’s been nothing but tremendous, and a proper joy to watch! Yeah, I’ll never stop being amazed by Steven, he’s some sort of dancing god among humans to give us all masterclass of whatever he’s doing, being it tap or ballet.

And Lauren! Aww, she’s such an ethereal being, dancing so fluidly and elegantly in her created role!

Talking about Federico, he’s been able to give Jack’s role a further layer the character doesn’t actually have -it’s about time he gets his super deserved standing ovation all over the globe!
Special mention to James Hay’s White Rabbit as well: he was so in the character, providing such a stunning acting!

 

That cast! That choreography! Those costumes! That score!! It was all kinds of fabulous, showing the world a Royal gem by an utterly incredible company with an astounding night of wonderful wonderlands through ethereal elegance and acting. Definitely a 100% worth going to see (such a shame they are closing the production later this week). Through Wheeldon’s Alice, Lewis Carroll lives on: that’s without doubt a captivating translation of his novel, perfectly recalling Wonderland’s whimsical vibes with melodies, sets and such magically imaginative combinations.

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Programme signed by: Lauren Cuthbertson, Federico Bonelli, Steven McRae and Gary Avis