Kenneth MacMillan – A National Celebration
Royal Opera House
Friday, 27th October 2017
Gloria – The Judas Tree – Elite Syncopations – 10/27/2017
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.
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).
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).
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!