ROHObsidianTriple 1

Obsidian triple bill
Royal Opera House
Wednesday, 18th April 2018

 

Obsidian Tear – Marguerite and Armand – Elite Syncopations – 04/18/2018

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Italian power out in full force as Alessandra and Federico took the stage as Marguerite and Armand
OBSIDIAN TEAR: Benjamin Ella, Joseph Sissens, Reece Clarke, David Donnelly, Nicol Edmonds, Kevin Emerton, James Hay, Fernando Montano, Marcelino Sambé
MARGUERITE AND ARMAND:
Marguerite: Alessandra Ferri
Armand: Federico Bonelli
His father: Christopher Saunders
ELITE SYNCOPATIONS:
Bethena (Concert Waltz): Sarah Lamb, Ryoichi Hirano
Cascades: Yuhui Choe, Tierney Heap, Itziar Mendizabal
Hot House Rag: William Bracewell, Tristan Dyer, James Hay, David Yudes
Calliope Rag: Itziar Mendizabal
Golden Hours: Yuhui Choe, Tristan Dyer
Hot House Rag: William Bracewell, Tristan Dyer, James Hay, David Yudes
Stoptime Rag: Sarah Lamb
Alaskan Rag: Tierney Heap, David Yudes
Friday Night: James Hay
Sunflower Slow Drag, Elite Syncopations, Ragtime Nightingale, Cataract Rag: the Company

 

 

How wonderful to finally have some warm weather over London! Yesterday has been such a fantastic sunny day and today temperatures are even going higher – isn’t it quite unbelievable if you think that the city was covered in deep deep deep deep snow just a month ago?
Well, after spending the day off checking on Kensington Palace’s Twitter hoping that the Duchess gives birth soon and a stroll through sun kissed Notting Hill, I headed to Covent Garden for the triple bill in high spirit despite barely surviving rush hour in the tube – there was no District and Circle line due to an earlier signal failure at Edgware Road, and Central line at 6.30 pm is pure hell.
It still feels unreal to enter the ROH in daylight, finally spring has really sprung in London Town. But also, can we please talk about how it’s unacceptable that Covent’s M&S has been closed down?! How am I supposed to survive now?
I am not the ultimate fan of mixed reps, but this Seasons’ last one promised to be a good one, featuring works by three Royal Ballet’s Resident Choreographers: Wayne McGregor’s Obsidian Tear, Sir Frederick Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand, and Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Elite Syncopations. Three ballets showing off the Company’s rich repertory and glory, as the dancers slayed throughout the whole programme pulling all the stops in such diverse and demanding choreographies. Yet, even though it was clear that the three works were programmed together as Royal Ballet’s defining choreographers’ pieces, I still was a bit unsure about the final contrast. I totally understand and love MacMillan and Ashton, but I feel like it’s a bit tricky and pretentious to set McGregor at their same stage. We had three really great pieces happening on stage, but albeit their being by a Royal resident choreographer, I did not see a connection between them… or better, the only common point among the three was not having something in common with the others.

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Joseph Sissens in the lead role in Wayne’s Obsidian Tear

First Royal Ballet revival for Wayne’s 2016 Obsidian Tear which opened the programme – the all male ballet set on music by Esa-Pekka Salonen was widely acclaimed at his premiere two years ago. The all male ballet featured nine dancers making a very strong cast, with Joseph Sissens debuting brightly and fluidly in the lead role – he’s just in his second year with the Company, but he has a bright future in front of him.
The rest of the cast – Ben Ella, Reece Clarke, David Donnelly, Nicol Edmonds, Kevin Emerton, James Hay, Fernando Montano, Marcelino Sambé – danced fabulously, with Reece and Marci standing out. Good to see such a perfect David Donnelly as well.
But, although sharply danced, I felt Obsidian Tear as a bit flat: yes, it contains amazing archaic and tribal features, but I did not see a real focus. The routines were beautifully melted with music, but the whole thing resulted ambiguous and pretentious. All those snips and even the costumes were a distraction, as all the nine dancers were dressed in different frocks – which I personally didn’t like as I could not see a reason in them. The stage setting too (open stage, with a red-orange fluorescent line in front) was very McGregor.
I felt this ballet as a bit awkward among two narrative pieces by Ashton and MacMillan, as it’s so abstract. Nevertheless it also has a glimpse of narration as the audience can clearly get the group accepting Ben and sacrificing Joseph.

 

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Federico and Alessandra in a tender moment from the country scene

Marguerite and Armand is probably my least favourite among Ashton pieces, but it has a great emotional depth, and Italian superstars Alessandra Ferri and Federico Bonelli were simply amazing in the title roles.
I had already saw them in the same roles last June in the all-Ashton programme, and yes, Ashton may have created this passionate short ballet for the unique partnership of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev in 1963, but Alessandra and Federico were wonderful and there was such a chemistry between them and they worked wonders alongside each other! They portrayed so much drama on Liszt’s tempestuous and romantic Piano Sonata, as Marguerite laid on her deathbed recalling her romance with younger Armand in a series of flashbacks.
By watching them, it’s one of the few times I feel proud to be Italian (and it does not happen so often): they are such tremendous artists (any reference to other facts or persons is purely coincidental, if you want to believe that) and their amazing technique is strongly paired with so much emotion. Every Alessandra’s cough was painful, every Federico’s look had a feeling, and every meeting between them was a work of art and so full of meanings.
I’ve always thought that Alessandra could express a lifetime of emotion by simply moving, and yesterday night her fragility and grace really went straight to the audience’s souls. Her being mature was an added value, as she portrayed Marguerite amazingly. And Federico… he’s just marvelous, so dashing and perfect in all of his routines, probably in one of his best nights so far. There’s been a demonstration that there’s no age barrier (at least there’s not if at 55 you’re as exquisite as Ferri) and of lyricism (Federico was touching in the Ashtonian routines).
I’m glad I was able to see them again, but I’m really looking forward to seeing Lauren and obviously Marianela as Marguerite. 
Shoutout to Marguerite’s dresses as well, in particular the black one: the gown created amazing eye-catching views as Federico made Alessandra twirling in the air.

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Sparkling Sarah as Bethena

MacMillan’s ever uplifting Elite Syncopations closed the programme – even though its duty was much easier this time, I still cannot forget last Autumn’s MacMillan Celebration programme when Elite had the hard aim of cheering up the spirits after a dark Gloria and a gripping Judas Tree. I’m seriously still upset about it.
Thankfully, Elite shows no sign of dark drama or psychological acuteness of other MacMillan’s works (just to clarify: my favourite ballets are MacMillan’s but I’m more for Mayerling and Romeo and Juliet than for more appalling and shattering ones like the Judas’ Tree): Elite’s witty and cheerful in its setting of ragtime music and colourful outfits. 
Gracefully leading Royal on Scott Joplin’s witty score, played by on stage musicians, Sarah was on top form in the leading role, but my heart still recalls Yasmine’s stellar performances in October.

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Just look at Rio’s smirk!

I loved the small touches Rio added to his role: strong with his solid, stately technique, he was a playful partner to Sarah as they dazzled on stage with their luscious dancing.
Yuhui, Tierney and Itziar were great in The Cascades, but in the following Calliope Rag Itziar could have put more character to her role. On the contrary, Yuhui was absolutely delightful in the Golden Hours. Tierney showed off amazing turnout and musicality in her debut in the Alaskan Rag, and with David Yudes they were hilarious in their duo.

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More dazzling Sarah to brighten up your day

Mention to William Bracewell, who was so impressive as one of the four boys in Hot-House Rag alongside Tristan Dyer, David Yudes and James Hay – who was actually a bit in advance on music in the final piece, but did amazing in his Friday Night.
The ensembles – Sunflower Slow Drag, Elite Syncopations, Ragtime Nightingale, Cataract Rag – danced by the Company, were amazing as usual.

 

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Programme signed by a super kind Federico, lovely to see him at the stage door
Annunci

ROHManon 1

Manon
Royal Opera House
Monday, 16th April 2018

 

Manon – 04/16/2018

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Nela being a star during rehearsals
Manon: Marianela Nunez
Des Grieux: Roberto Bolle
Lescaut: Marcelino Sambé
Lescaut’s Mistress: Beatriz Stix-Brunell
Monsieur G.M.: Christopher Saunders
Gaoler: Gary Avis

 

BACK!!! My starved soul has had its fill once again – a month haul is too cruel to be handled: I wanted to buy a ticket to come back during the break just to see one or two shows. Thank God, there’s been the Bernstein Centenary cinema relay, but that wasn’t enough four my ravenous heart longing for a glimpse of Royal Ballet.
My eyes started glistening as soon as I entered the House, and all the excitement was kept high by Marianela’s name beside ‘Manon’. How thrilling! Far less electrifying was the Bolle factor, as he performed as De Grieux in MacMillan’s work of art.
MacMillan was harshly criticised for many reasons when this ballet premiered, including the fact that Des Grieux’s entrance did not make the audience clapping. Well, I am grateful fort that. Bolle surely doesn’t need further ego boosts.

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The bedroom pas de deux, here with Federico in 2014

He’s a good and thoughtful partner, but his fault is that he’s definitely unable to act. Even during Manon and Des Grieux’s most passional pas de deux he was an icy blast. His face was like a billboard saying ‘look at me, I’m an handsome prince’ – I mean, wake up Roberto: nobody likes a show off! And in the end, when once deported to New Orleans Manon dies from exhaustion in Des Grieux’s arms, his ‘acting’ seemed like a hardly credible and forced pantomime.
He did good in slow routines, strong with the assuredness of a role he’s been dancing for years: he had an excellent turnout in them, but when it came to faster ones en dedans stroke.
And in the bedroom pas de deux… I don’t want to sound politically incorrect but I saw two loved up girls – Marianela because she had to be like that and acted amazing, and Bolle… well, he might have left his manhood at home (I liked this pas de deux way more in 2014 with Nela and Federico).
So, emotionally speaking I did not like him but obviously, Nela alone can always provide all the emotions, leading the audience trough an emotional rollercoaster full of powerful drama and tragedy.

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Rehearsal picture of Manon and Des Grieux’ first meeting in act 1

She was incredible, she was stunning, she was PERFECTION. She showed off such unbelievable artistry, acting her heart out by portraying a captivating, at time capricious Manon (hilarious jump into the bed at the end of the bedroom scene by the way), making her struggle to escape poverty so clear with her narrative, dramatic dance (the girl wants the diamonds). The whole ROH was besotted as she involved us all into her plight through worlds of lavish splendour and miserable hardship.
Nela’s definitely the most versatile ballerina ever: it’s so astonishing how she can always ‘map’ a character, adding such details in her interpretation and channeling charisma like there’s no tomorrow. In the brothel scene for example, when Manon is torn and she’s struggling to choose whether to leave Monsieur G.M. for Des Grieux or not: one could clearly see her changing her mind gradually, going at the back of the stage, touching the jewels wondering what she could stole.
L’histoire de Manon draws one of the most unfortunate heroines ever, and Nela was glorious, hitting every mark with her steely technique and her picture perfect allure. She gave such a superlative Manon and stunningly led the company through MacMillan’s tricky turns and routines. Her rock stoned technique dazzled throughout the three act, with her never ending arabesques in the bedroom pas de deux (to die for, I swear), and her brothel solo… that was art. Pure art. As Manon dances, the rest of the cast stands still, but she did not freeze just them: the whole audience was astonished by her twirling around in her black dress and lavish jewels. She shone as much as the dozens of carats she was wearing.

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Slaying in act 2

Marcelino did amazing as Manon’s brother Lescaut, who offers her to the highest bidder when she meets Des Grieux and falls in love and encourages him to cheat at cards in an attempt to win Monsieur G.M.’s fortune. He always performs great, and his drunken solo was the best thing ever and perfectly credible.
And he has such a good chemistry with Beatriz, this run portraying his mistress. I just love how she sparkles bright everything she does with such a compelling stage presence – she can be a shepherdess, a princess, a Wilis, a peasant, a jewel, and she’s always beyond marvelous. Yesterday she was wonderful as per usual, and her arms in her brothel solo were seemed like water. Such a treat!
I really hope a promotion is in store for next season, it would be awesome to see her in more important roles.
Not sure about that – I may have seen an earring flying at her entrance, but she managed it well by the way.

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Gary Avis as the Gaoler in New Orleans

In his tricorne hat Monsieur G.M. – Christopher Saunders – was reptilian and terrifyingly violent as he offers offers Manon a life of luxury as his mistress she can’t resist (love or carats, you know), and Gary Avis was incredible as the Gaoler of the penal colony. It’s unbelievable how he can be THE Mr Christmas in Nutcracker – I really cannot see anyone else performing Drosselmeyer – throwing joy and glitter, and such a great villain too. What an excellent actor he is!

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Gary and Nela in act 3

The third act is a masterpiece as well, set in New Orleans’ port where the Gaoler awaits the arrival of the convicts from France. Manon, arrested and deported as a prostitute is followed there by Des Grieux, who’s pretending to be her husband and in an array of events kills the Gaoler. There the lightnings change and there’s much less brown and gold, which characterised Paris’ settings. The last scene is truly amazing, with the shades of Manon’s past ambitions of wealth occurring behind the final pas de deux, following which she dies from exhaustion. There Nela was just heartbreaking: I should stop being surprised by her ever brighter talent, I know, she just keeps getting better show after show.

It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable and moving evening thanks to a stellar cast (plus Bolle), and Nela didn’t let a dry eye in the House (but that’s a must for her, I could cry even watching her Sleeping Beauty).
Manon is not my favourite ballet among MacMillan’s – I’m dying for Romeo & Juliet and Mayerling to come back in rep next season – but it’s truly remarkable how his production always provide vivid scenes, ensembles and portraits of complex pictures. Here the faults of society are so well represented, and there’s so much going on in every stage of the ballet (in particular in the hôtel particulier scene, which is actually an high class brothel).
Nasty Mayara and Fumi as the courtesans were awesome, and Leticia Dias stood out among the harlots – every portrayal of social scenes is great and distinct from one another, showing such different societies between Paris’ splendor and the scums of New Orleans. Plus, Massenet’s score is amazing.
In honour of MacMillan’s death’s 25th anniversary this season we’ve experienced so many of ‘his’ women: victims of rape, prostitution and murder – one only need to think of the Judas Tree or the Invitation (but I’m so very looking forward to the comeback of my dear of Romeo and Juliet).
And his male lead roles are to pull off for real – for instance, Mayerling is one of the Everests of male ballet. Bolle’s not MacMillan at all, and he’s not able to pull through his whirlwinds and emotive pitches.

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Pre-performance talk at the Clore Studio Upstairs

Lovely to have unique insight into Manon before the performance thanks to the ROH Student Scheme (generously made possible by The Bunting Family and Sir Simon Robey). At the Clore Studio Kenneth MacMillan’s biographer Jann Parry introduced MacMillan’s wife Deborah MacMillan. They discussed Manon’s reception and critics, and it was interesting to hear from them, in particular from Deborah, custodian of the ballets of her late husband.
I’m really glad the ROH offers us such amazing chances to enrich ourselves and our knowledge.

Stage door chronicles: thankfully, they let two of us wait inside (maybe they recognised some familiar faces among the balletomanes) while the others were freezing in the night. Unfortunately an egomaniac ruined my programme (again, but not as much as last year).

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Programme signed by: Marianela Nunez, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Marcelino Sambé, Gary Avis and Roberto Bolle (central, huge and in bold, a bit of a show off, isn’t it?)

Great to see the Company taking class on stage this morning: it was just so inspiring to see so much talent at the same time in the temple to art that is the ROH! So great to have the chance to see the morning class on the main stage (hope I didn’t miss much at college but it was well worth it). Nela joined too and she was amazing, and Bea dazzled as well. I might have even cried when they put on Les Mis’ Do You Hear The People Sing? for tendus at the barre.

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On stage morning class – so inspiring!

Teatro San Carlo Giselle

Giselle
Teatro San Carlo
Sunday, 25th March 2018

 

Giselle – 03/25/2018

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Teatro San Carlo’s opera house
Giselle: Marianela Nunez
Albrecht: Vladislav Lantratov
Myrtha: Luisa Ieluzzi
Hilarion: Ertu Gjoni

 

It’s been a really ‘Giselled’ Winter Season back in London as it opened on January 19th and run until March 9th. After so many Royal Giselles, at the time I booked my ticket for Naples’ San Carlo a voice came up to my mind… did I even know how was a non-Sir Peter Wright’s Giselle? Well, the answer was no: I had obviously seen something years and years ago, before going to the bright side of the Royal Opera House. I actually saw Mary Skeaping’s Giselle by the ENB at the London Coliseum, but I don’t remember it very well (to be honest, I did enjoy act 2 but I can barely remember the first one).
I have to say it: I would have never decided to go if it wasn’t for Marianela dancing in the title role. Having missed her last performance at the end of February, I wanted to see her as Giselle one last time, and what better time than during Spring Break in Italy (even though going back to London would have been easier than reaching Naples from Venice).
Even before entering San Carlo I knew I would have questioned everything, from costumes to stage design to choreography. I mean, was there even a pas de six in the actual version? Sir Peter’s is the loveliest thing ever, but I had the fair feeling there would have been a lot of differences. So, with the continuous “Royal would have done it this way” stuck in my mind, I failed my goodwills as soon as I saw the opera house: the venue is amazing, but I spend my evenings inside that jewel box of a theatre that is the Royal Opera House, I couldn’t help but say ‘yeah, that was cute’.

* Me: I’m not a ballet snob (I’m just a purist)
Curtains up – peasants enter the stage
Also me: why the hell are peasants on stage now?! Where is Albrecht?! *
* Me: costumes are not that bad – but perhaps too school-showcase like
New peasants got on stage – one is wearing bright orange, another one is in fuchsia and the third one in a sort of ‘Xenophilius Lovegood yellow’ (yeah that is actually a real colour, just read Harry Potter an the Deathly Hallows)
Also me: kill me now. *

Hilarion (Ertu Gjoni) and Wilfred – Albrecht’s squire (at least that’s his name in Peter Wright’s production) – put together had less stage presence than the wooden bench, and Bertha was not credible at all, with no interpretation and her ankle-length dress showing white character shoes. In addition to this, she didn’t do a great job in untying Marianela’s hair in the mad scene.
In the first act the corp de ballet wasn’t bad, but they lacked enormously on the emotional point of view.
The act was all weirdly structured: Giselle doesn’t dance for the bunch of aristocrats arrived to the village (I spent most of the act asking myself where was her variation), and unfortunately non-Peter Wright Giselles don’t have a pas de six, but a peasant pas de deux: the bright pink peasant was paired with a Don Quixote-like cavalier for the duet: she had a poor technique, and during her variation (entirely made of bourrées, and not Lauren Cuthbertson’s heavenly made ones) she was quite stiff. He was much much better, and had a good elevation as well.

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Marianela outshining everything and everyone like a queen (here alongside Lantratov)

Vladislav Lantratov was a great Albrecht: he’s technically outstanding, even though I had the feeling he lacked on the emotional side. But I believe that’s how Bolshoi trains its dancers: they’re wondrous with their speedy routines but always give quite icy interpretations. I love that Royal, on the other side, train their dancers to give all they can give on both the technical and emotive level: their performances are felt, and the audience can feel it.
He did amazing in act 2, but he’s a bit of a show off, that’s what I actually felt: with no humility at all his performance came along with arrogance, such difference from Marianela’s self effacing Giselle.

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Act 2: Nela and Lantratov

And here’s to Queen Nela: she always masters such oneness! I’m happy to have been able to witness her lovely Giselle once more. I’ll definitely miss seeing her in this role.
Her act 1 was the most delightful thing ever, ended with a powerful mad scene that only her could so grippingly embrace. Her face, her eyes, her hands… all was so vibrant and real, making it incredibly heartbreaking. In the second act she seemed to bend time: she danced with all her incontestable greatness, giving such a pure Giselle throughout the whole ballet. I’ll really miss seeing her in this role.

I did not like the corps in act 2. At all. I mean, first of all Wilis have to be 24, not eighteen. Secondly, they should be ethereal, but commanding, and those were really poised and smiley – they are supposed to be ghosts of girl who died before their wedding day, forcing all men that come across their path to dance themselves to death, and they were like ‘oh Albrecht, so good to see you there.’ Third… those costumes! Those were clearly La Sylphide’s ones! Too much tulle, no veils covering their faces and those flower crowns on their heads?! Oh, and no wings too. They also were too scholastic and a bit shaky, I have to say that.

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Wannabe-Wilis Sylphides

Costumes in general actually got me a bit baffled: in act 1 Albrecht wore a white ensemble with a brown gilet (not a prince nor a peasant) and in act 2 he was full of glitter… not so mainly after all. The best ones were Marianela’s (Royal’s), much more appropriated, exquisite in act 1 for a young peasant girl, and ethereal in act 2 for a ghostly maid. But with Lantratov’s coming from Bolshoi, Nela’s from London and the others picked up from God knows which productions, the ensemble was a bit implausible.
Going on to Myrtha, Luisa Ieluzzi was not impressive nor dominant at all: she wasn’t compelling in her role nor decisive, and she did not lead the Wilis through the act.
Act 1’s designs wasn’t too bad, but act 2’s had nothing of the stunning Macfarlane’s one: it’s dark and twisty, but not ethereal nor picturesque. And then, ok, Giselle is buried in the forest, outside hallowed ground as she takes her own life, but this doesn’t mean that Wilis have parties front by the cemetery gates… aren’t they supposed to inhabit the forest? It seemed like a sorority party outside outside the graveyard to welcome Giselle into the Wilis’ ranks…

At the super crowded stage door Nela was lovely as per usual, and by the way, ROH announcement for the 2018-19 season absolutely made my day last Tuesday: I can’t even believe so many of my favourite ballets are back in repertoire! I’m so very looking forward to seeing MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet and Mayerling (that’s the Kenneth I love), Don Quixote (yeah!) and La Bayadere (I can’t wait to see Nela as Gamzatti). I’m happy we’ll have Nutcracker back again for Christmas (I know many are tired of it but it’s such a wonderful tradition) and Liam’s Frankenstein (I only saw the cinema relay in 2016). I’m not very fond of the Two Pigeons, but I saw it in 2015 with Lauren and Vadim and it was nice. I hope Iana Salenko will be back in London to dance alongside Steven, she’s been really missed this year and I’d love to see her in DonQ or as Juliet (I’m madly in love with the Steven-Iana partnership, they’re wondrous together). It promises to be such a good season, I can’t wait to see what Kevin has in store for us!

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Programme obviously signed by Nela (you know, for the collection)

ROHBernstein

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

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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).

 

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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!

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

ROHTale 4

The Winter’s Tale
Royal Opera House
Tuesday, 13th March 2018

 

The Winter’s Tale – 03/13/2018

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Nela and Thiago’s final duet
Leontes: Thiago Soares
Hermione: Marianela Nunez
Perdita: Beatriz Stix-Brunell
Florizel: Vadim Muntagirov
Paulina: Itziar Mendizabal
Polixenes: William Bracewell
Father Shepherd: Thomas Whitehead
Brother Clown: Luca Acri
Young Shepherdess: Mayara Magri

 

Last day of Spring Term and last Winter’s Tale duties before the break!
Talents abounded yesterday in the House as Marianela and Thiago took the stage as Hermione and Leontes alongside Beatriz and Vadim as Perdita and Florizel in a stunning performance.
The array of emotions of gripping act 1, delightful act 2 and tender act 3 was as always a winning whirlwind of feelings, and Royal are regular titans in terms emotional involvement.
If this combo of acting and superb technique doesn’t prove that this company is the best on this world, then nothing else will.
Wheeldon is a genius, no one can dispute that! I mean, how outstanding it is that the was able to convey so clearly such an intrigued and complex story of jealousy, tragic events and reconciliations, spanning so many different times and places? The choreography, the score, the visual effects, the settings, the costumes, all is so perfectly combined in order to provide the audience, as the story unfolded, with bunch of empathies which is a tough act to follow.

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Breaking hearts in the trial solo

And obviously, Marianela is just the icing on the cake: just when you think that she can’t be more incredible, she goes and dances Hermione like her life depends on it. I cried, I cried really hard.
She was a vision as the Queen of Sicilia (and of turnouts), and her trial solo was something indescribably profound and simply wonderful.
Her dancing was absorbing and incredibly involving as she poignantly portrayed Hermione’s struggles during the trial in front of Leontes: her face when she touched her neck symbolising the emerald, her belly for her lost baby daughter, and her arm to say that she’s got royal blood running through her veins… she showed off such a clear narrative, following which she ‘dies’ breaking Leontes’ (and the public’s) heart.
But if her trial solo is something indescribably beautiful, the scene in her household (before Leontes has her arrested and she has the baby) is a masterpiece of hers: I’m sure the whole ROH was feeling all the feels as she tried in vain to reason with her husband. There Nela poignantly portrayed Hermione’s dignity in face of despair in such an emotional journey, in particular when she sees Mamillius looking at them and signals Paulina to take him away.

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Cryed is an understatement.

Such dramatic pitches of her are a gift from heaven, I’ve never seen anyone able to convey so much emotion. She really has a flair for dramatic roles, and her Hermione an absolute gem – she deserves a MBE for that, at least!

 

Her strength, grace, humility and charisma, these are just some of the things which make Nela such an idol in every way, and I always love how one can so clearly see her connection with whoever else is on stage. Even without mentioning her technical virtuosity and versatility, she’s amazing whatever she dances – she takes a role and makes it hers, adapting it to her wondrously refined technique by bringing a different character into every role that she performs.

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King Thiago

 

King Thiago was amazing portraying the insane jealousy and torments of Leontes with his powerful acting skills.
He gave a standout performance as act 1’s main figure, sinisterly personifying Leontes’ illusions, suppositions and possessiveness. His struggles were visible in his paranoid routines and the rage on his face was simply true, especially when he sees the baby princess for the first time.
As for the last three times, Mamillius’ death was gruesome and heartbreaking, as was Hermione’s, and Thiago’s breakdown at his son and wife distressed deaths was great – indeed, as tragedy stroke, the audience held their breath whilst Leontes finally understood his mistakes.
He really has outdone himself, he’s so humble and when you see him dancing it’s a real treat.

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Itziar Mendizabal as Paulina

William Bracewell’s chimerical dances as King Polixenes were great: he was noble in his dramatic role and authority with his fine technique. The pas de six of the Sicilian maids was brilliant as well, and Itziar Mendizabal was a strong, convincing Paulina as the head of Hermione’s household.

As from icy and dark Sicilia we moved to Bohemia’s colourful shores, shifting to sunny scenes and ecstatic routines for springtime celebrations beneath the giant tree adorned with amulets.
The exuberant dances by the shepherds are crowned by whirling duos by Luca Acri and Mayara Magri as Brother Clown and the Young Shepherdess: they got along pretty good alongside each other, and in particular, she dazzled whenever she appeared.
Among the corps, Anna Rose O’Sullivan stood out holding attention alongside David Yudes with their brio, while the folkloric dances went on and the shepherds had a jolly good time.

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Beatriz beaming as Perdita

But the true jewel of the act is Beatriz’s radiant Perdita: practically perfect in every way, glowing and shining bright as the Sicilian princess adopted and raised by the shepherds, she was a literal ray of sunshine and a high point of the show.
Her lyrical pas de deux alongside Vadim were lovely, and she was just flawless as a gleaming young girl fallen in love with her prince – Wheeldon’s lustrous routines fits her amazing.
Vadim soared across the stage like the true prince he is, proving once more his fast and aerial technique. His virtuoso numbers were wondrous, and beside Beatriz they danced sumptuously in their shining duos. They were a pleasure to watch, and I actually liked them better than the Vadim-Sarah combo in the first cast, where he replaced injured Steven McRae (can’t wait to see Steven back on stage by the way).

Back in Sicilia after a sea journey running from Polixenes and his steward (achieved with ingenious stage devices), act 3 spins tales of reconciliation and healing.
Conflicts are put aside – as you know, Perdita has royal blood – Leontes and Polixenes are reunited and eventually, they all celebrate Perdita and Florizel’s lavish wedding.
The climax of the act comes with the revelation of Hermione’s being still alive (as she’s been kept hidden aided by Paulina for the last sixteen years) and her touching, heartrending pas de deux with a shocked Leontes (Nela was stunning even disguised as a statue, just so you know).

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Marianela and Beatriz as Hermione and Perdita

The everlasting chemistry between Marianela and Thiago burns in their moving routine, during which her lines seemed to be never ending (those arabesques were eternal!).
Their final duet was emotionally devastating, with Leontes so broken that he couldn’t do the ‘wedding motif’ with his hands, and Hermione supporting him in dancing through it.
Nela and Thiago are the best stage partnership ever, and their mesmerising connection and tender appeasement were just magical, crowning the happy ending as Perdita is reunited with them beneath Mamillius’ statue.

I’m quite heartbroken thinking that this has been my last Winter’s Tale: this marvelous ballet is such a glossy spectacle but with a great humane side. And obviously, the Royals are great in portraying such a tremendous story.
Heading to see the Bernstein Centenary general rehearsal right now before saying bye to London for a month!

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Programme signed by: Marianela Nunez, Thiago Soares, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Vadim Muntagirov and Itziar Mendizabal

ROHGiselle 4

Giselle
Royal Opera House
Thursday, 1st March 2018

 

Giselle – 03/01/2018

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David and Natalia during act 1
Giselle: Natalia Osipova
Albrecht: David Hallberg (act 1) – Matthew Ball (act 2)
Myrtha: Claire Calvert
Hilarion: Tomas Mock
pd6: Yuhui Choe, James Hay, Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Calvin Richardson, Elizabeth Harrod, Joseph Sissens
Moyna: Elizabeth Harrod
Zulme: Beatriz Stix-Brunell

 

What a crazy night!
With Storm Emma is still threatening the city (at least uni is closed due to the snow daze) getting to the ROH was a nightmare (thank you tfl for being always so disappointing), but I was eagerly waiting for my last Giselle of the season starring Natalia Osipova and David Hallberg, at his Royal Ballet debut.

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David as Albrecht in act 1

I mean, Hallberg and Osipova: saying ‘the perfect dancing partnership’ is still an understatement! I’ve never seen someone working so well alongside each other: Natalia is always on fire and quite stormy on stage, but Hallberg calmed her down as no one else ever did before.
The magic they produced together in the first act was something amazing, they had a really special connection in duos, and they looked perfect: he was so princely elegant and she was evidently thrilled, but with the interval lasting almost 45 minutes (even spotted Marianela in the orchestra stalls) it was clear something was going on behind the closed curtains. Indeed, Kevin headed to the stage announcing that Hallberg had suffered an injure at the beginning of act 1 – he pulled through but he was unable to dance in the second act.
I actually didn’t see it coming as Albrecht has no such big dancing parts in the first part of the ballet, perhaps it’s been the same foot injury that kept him off stage for a long time and forced him to surgeries to fix his torn ligament.

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They were a dream alongside each other

But the show must go on: saving the day, Matthew Ball (what a hero) came back to the theatre and stepped in as Albrecht, and even though I had waited to see Hallberg for so long and I was desperate about it, Matthew was superb.
His solo was fantastic – his light and fast technique is something sublime – and there’s a good chemistry between him and Natalia (and they had never even danced Giselle together before)! His acting skills, already proved several times in other ballets, just got better and better while his Albrecht flew through act 2 looking more and more desperate as Myrtha commanded him to dance to death.
I’m glad I’ve had the chance to see him in this role, as I was not in London when he debuted alongside Yasmine (whom I really wanted to see as well).

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Last minute stage call for Matthew, who rushed back to the ROH to step in as Albrecht in act 2

Coming to Giselle, Natalia’s felt absolutely a different one from all the other I had seen before (actually, the whole first act felt different – I wasn’t even sure it was Peter Wright’s at some moments).
Maybe that was because the cast seemed to be detached from her, or maybe because of the small changes in the choreography – as during the mad scene when she should have stepped over the sword but she kind of went side stage.
Even her hair do was different: while the others danced with an half up-do from the beginning of the performance, she started with a low bun (probably due to her shorter hair).
Her first act solo was great, but I loved her second act’s ethereal performance better: she was dramatic, dark and twisty, and her unstoppable energy was great in the petit allegro.
Undoubtably it was a different way of dancing Giselle, but it was electrifying as well.

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Natalia and Matthew at the end of act 2

Act 1’s pas de six was a lovely delight as per usual with Yuhui Choe and James Hay leading the way. Splendid performances by Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Elizabeth Harrod, Calvin Richardson and Joseph Sissens as well: their solos, duos and ensembles were technically wondrous and they all flew high to the audience’s joy.

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Ethereal corps in act 2

In ghostly act 2 Claire was a great Queen of the Wilis, albeit a slightly stiff start she danced amazing, and Elizabeth and Beatriz did good as Moyna and Zulme. Actually, Elizabeth fell during her solo, but that may have pushed her to do even better, because her standings after it were flawless. Then, Beatriz was astonishing – commanding and shining at the same time, she was wonderful in her variation and throughout the whole act.

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Hero of the night!

At the stage door everyone was very sad for David’s injury – I really hope he has a swift and speedy recovery, if not for his next Albrecht on March 9th, at least for his debut as Des Grieux in MacMillan’s Manon in April (alongside Natalia as well).
Huge credit to Matthew for being such a champion in this brilliant last minute performance and for his wonderful partnering skills.

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Programme signed by: Natalia Osipova, Matthew Ball and Claire Calvert

 

ROHTale 3

The Winter’s Tale
Royal Opera House
Wednesday, 28th February 2018

 

The Winter’s Tale – 02/28/2018

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Oh the weather outside is frightful, but #rohtale is so delightful!
Leontes: Ryoichi Hirano
Hermione: Lauren Cuthbertson
Perdita: Sarah Lamb
Florizel: Vadim Muntagirov
Paulina: Laura Morera
Polixenes: Matthew Ball
Father Shepherd: Gary Avis
Brother Clown: Marcelino Sambé
Young Shepherdess: Beatriz Stix-Brunell

 

Even though London’s snowy mood calls for Nutcracker (and all things Christmas) a Winter’s Tale bound feels quite appropriate as well for this wintry evening.
I had my very own winter’s tale to get to Covent Garden braving the Beast from the East, but this ravishing successful ballet is worth every frozen finger!
Cinema relays call for me to force fam and friends back at home to head to the cinema whilst I’m at the ROH – I even made a cinema cameo while my tweet was being displayed on screen.
As per usual, Royal did not disappoint in Wheeldon’s remarkable piece of work. They were all enthusiast in bringing on stage such winning and effervescent drama, and it was a great way to keep warm after such a snow daze in London.

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Cried my eyes out during Lauren’s trial solo

So with the weather in character for the occasion dark act 1 opened to snowy Sicilia and I’m sure the whole world has been bewitched by Lauren’s ethereal Hermione. Her performance was just poignant, and she was the truest incarnation of emotion and grace in her created role, shining bright evoking raw emotions all round.
I mean, have you seen those bourrées? She was magnificent!

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Lauren and Rio as Queen Hermione and King Leontes in act 1

Rio’s mad scenes were maybe better than opening night’s, but I still found his Leontes way too forced in terms of interpretation. Nevertheless, his dancing was perfect, and so were his duos alongside Lauren, in particular act 3’s one.
Laura Morera’s expressive musicality and dramatic bite, paired with her fury at Leontes were a real treat – great little Mamillius by Junior Associate Sasha Dobrynin-Lait as well, and what a stunning performance by Matthew Ball! His authority and acting alongside his impeccable technique were glorious!
The first act ended with not a dry eye within the Auditorium, and I realised I forgot to breathe for a bit.

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Laura Morera as Paulina with Rio as Leontes

Act 2’s sunny Bohemia (probably moving there for true) featured the most beautiful piece of stage design ever seen and a true feast for the senses with the shepherd dances beneath that marvelous tree.
The full-throttle dancing, the colours, the lovely settings were a delight for the eye, and the whole company showed off such light footedness technique in their happy and sparkling routines.

 

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Sarah and Vadim as Perdita and Florizel in act 2

Sarah and Vadim were wondrous alongside each other, and warmed up us all with their love-fueled duos. With their speed and lightness in movement, her Perdita was pure joy and his Florizel was great.
Show-stealing Marcelino was on fire as Brother Clown, flying high with comic brio beside Beatriz’s shining Young Shepherdess. She really was amazing, dazzling every step more with her infectious smile, and Gary Avis was a key element for the act, standing out with his superb performance as Father Shepherd.

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Sarah dazzling as Perdita

And how come that Polixenes did not see Hermione’s huuuuge emerald at Perdita’s neck?! By the way, Paulina’s does, and act 3 is the latest proof that a a jewel (plus royal title) can fix everything – she’s a princess guys, no more complaints!
After the exquisite wedding dances, the profoundly moving final pas de deux is a sensitive, dramatic work of art – and Lauren’s stately arabesques?! She was so so so flawless!!

Well, this spectacular ballet by Wheeldon worth every step of the journey through the Beast from the East, and it’s so brilliant that so many people around the world had the chance to see it live in cinemas. It’s really wonderful how Wheeldon managed to turn Shakespeare’s difficult plot into such a complete piece of work narrated by the enchanting choreography, Joby Talbot’s magnificent score (the music still stuck in my head) and Bob Crowley’s amazing designs. All the elements perfectly worked together conjuring up a magical tale, crowned by brooding heartwarming performances by the whole company (I even waited at the Stage Door despite the cold – I got home literally frozen).

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My mum spotted one of my drawings in Lauren’s changing room while at the cinema. How lovely!
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Programme signed by Lauren Cuthbertson, Sarah Lamb, Laura Morera, Gary Avis and Vadim Muntagirov

ROHTale 2

The Winter’s Tale
Royal Opera House
Thursday, 15th February 2018

The Winter’s Tale – 02/15/2018  

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Nela and Thiago as Hermione and Leontes in act 3 / pictures by Rachel Hollings
Leontes: Thiago Soares
Hermione: Marianela Nunez
Perdita: Beatriz Stix-Brunell
Florizel: Vadim Muntagirov
Paulina: Itziar Mendizabal
Polixenes: William Bracewell
Father Shepherd: Thomas Whitehead
Brother Clown: Luca Acri
Young Shepherdess: Mayara Magri

I could barely contain my excitement for yesterday night, and I started smiling as soon as I entered the Amphitheatre (shout out to the super kind couple that offered me a seat upgrade by the way), and it’s been a completely different yet the greatest Winter’s Tale!

If you’re about to attend one of the upcoming shows and you’re seeing Marianela and Thiago’s Hermione and Leontes I strongly suggest waterproof mascara, if you don’t wanna get out of the House with panda eyes as I did.

 

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Hermione and Leontes in act 1 / pictures by Rachel Hollings

It’s been an array of goosebumps, act after act, a rollercoaster of standout performances all round from a deluxe cast, but especially from Thiago and Nela, pulling out all the steps in such detailed story of pain, horror and reconciliation.

Indeed, they gave a fabulous dramatic depth to their characters and led the company through wonderful emotional arcs with tragic realness.

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Thiago on top form as Leontes in act 1

I didn’t think it could have been possible to like someone better than Edward Watson as Leontes, but that is a part heavenly crafted for Thiago – he’s is such an incredible actor!

When Hermione lays his hand on her baby bump, his face changes completely – and that hand actually seemed alive, depicting his jealousy and leading him throughout his psychological torments and painful struggles.

I love how Wheeldon uses hands in Winter’s Tale, from Leontes’, to Hermione’s theme and Paulina’s as well: they say it all and are a backbone pathway of such an intricate narrative choreography.

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William Bracewell as Polixenes and Marianela as Hermione in act 1

Kevin’s choice of casting such young dancers as Polixenes is interesting, as in the original cast Bonelli created the role, but William Bracewell did amazing, and the connection between him and Thiago in all their duos was brilliant, as well as with Nela.

And here we are to yet another heartbreaking performance by the queen herself!

Well she surely does know how to make a whole Opera House cry! Her trial solo was something else, and she knocked it out of the part as the most sublime Hermione ever.

Yes, Lauren was flawless in her created role on Tuesday night, but Marianela’s distress was so real.

Her dancing was incredibly powerful and emotionally striking: her sensitive Hermione is an ode to talent, culminating in her desperation at her son Mamillius’s death – she evoked all the pure pain of the moment, and the true physical and psychological ache depicted on her face was something poignant.

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Queen.

We are so blessed that she calls the ROH home, I’ve never seen such firecracker technique paired with such wondrous acting in anyone else. She’s an absolute goddess! And can I mention those fouettés?! Her talent is a literal gift from some higher entity there to us poor mortals down there and is second to none – oh, an just lo let you know, she has an amazing turnout even coming down the stairs (as if you needed another reason for her to be your idol).

 

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Itziar Mendizabal as Paulina alongside grieving Thiago as Leontes in act 1

Itziar Mendizabal as Paulina showed off a great depth of character, portraying a woman that   is in some way subtle but there, and she even got to beat Leontes/Thiago.

Regal Reece Clarke as Antigonous – even saw the bear killing him (I did not see it on Tuesday’s opening night as I was in the Stalls Circle, even though in a quite central spot).

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A night in Bohemia

 

After act1’s devastating power, there thankfully is the colourful Bohemian trip to look forward to.

Act 2 itself is enough to blow minds away, but Vadim and Beatriz were wonderful as Florizel and Perdita – they really have a great chemistry alongside each other and their partnership is a winning one.

He was outstanding as always, but I can’t help but think that this role suits Steven better as Vadim is really controlled in his acting there.

Beside him, Beatriz was just wonderful: she gave such a fresh, open-hearted Perdita, and she shone bright in her starring role. It was delightful to see how she dashed neatly in her dazzling steps beneath the tree of vivid Bohemia.

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Beatriz and Vadim as Perdita and Florizel beneath the Bohemian Tree

This act’s choreography and routines are so involving and irresistible that it could be a ballet on its own, capped off by another impressive performance by an excellent, fast footed Mayara Magri (she deserves important roles, I’m really looking forward to see more of her in the future) as the Young Shepherdess. Good to see Luca Acri back on stage as well as Brother Clown (he has a good connection with Mayara), but Thomas Whitehead as Father Shepherd was not as convincing as Gary Avis in the same role.

 

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Nela and Thiago breaking hearts in act 3

The final act saw the most moving of pas de deux from Nela and Thiago. Highly compelling in his vibes of reconciliation and healing, it is a jewel in Royal’s crown.

Alongside each other they are always a thrill, and they were on top form to close down such a stunning sho with their duo: her delicate Hermione radiated talent, and his remorseful Leontes (acting peaks for both of them) was the perfect portrayal of the grief-stricken king.

But the one thing that actually broke the audience’s hearts is Thiago’s face when he turned towards the public after touching Mamillius’ statue – it was really clear how he was suffering, as if he had hoped he would have been alive too as Hermione.

This ballet is such a gem by Christopher Wheeldon: with its inventive choreography, the lightning an music to create different space/time dimensions, it sets Wheeldon almost at the same level as the greatest Shakespeare’s choreographers such as MacMillan and Ashton.

Great orchestra as well under Tom Seligman replacing Alondra De La Parra as well.

So if you don’t have plans for February 28th, go to your nearest cinema and see the live cinema relay for a stunning evening of ballet – and if you do have plans, well, you better cancel them because it is well-worth catching and not to be missed.

And here’s to the cool Stage Door bound (it’s always great to catch up with everyone after a show) – we were just a bunch of fellow balletomanes waiting for Nela, and we even got the privilege of taking the same tube.

 

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Programme signed by Thiago and Marianela

 

ROHTale 1

The Winter’s Tale
Royal Opera House
Tuesday, 13th February 2018

The Winter’s Tale – 02/13/2018  

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Ryoichi Hirano and Lauren Cuthbertson as Leontes and Hermione in act 3

 

Leontes: Ryoichi Hirano
Hermione: Lauren Cuthbertson
Perdita: Sarah Lamb
Florizel: Vadim Muntagirov
Paulina: Laura Morera
Polixenes: Matthew Ball
Father Shepherd: Gary Avis
Brother Clown: Marcelino Sambé
Young Shepherdess: Beatriz Stix-Brunell

And after having been a slave to the dvd for four years, I’ve finally seen The Winter’s Tale!

If I’m being honest, I actually booked my ticket for yesterday night (and for the 28th’s cinema relay) to see Edward Watson along with Lauren Cuthbertson and Steven McRae along with Sarah Lamb, and I was a bit disappointed in the cast changes last week, but it’s been yet another magnificent and moving show by the Royal Ballet.

As usual, Christopher Wheeldon has proved to be a genius: The Winter’s Tale is very Alice-like for mesmerising designs and score, so theatrical and whimsical, but at the same time it conveys a completely different emotional experience. Mixing tragedy, drama, pastoral and romantic scenes, by following Shakespeare’s plot in a play with time and space, it is an absolute triumph.

Wheeldon abounds with clever fine points using colours to stress the bonds and stories behind his characters (like green and red nuances for the two kings, purple costumes for Hermione and Perdita, and the green lighting to convey Leontes’ jealousy)and adding striking particulars (the teddy bear dying Mamillius is holding tight) – the sets are all amazing, but the winner is that huge and fabulous green tree on the hillside in Bohemia, and the thrilling peasant scene happening behind there is glorious and beautifully coloured.

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Someone should have told Shakespeare that there’s no snow in Sicily by the way

 

In the Prologue Leontes, King of Sicilia, and Polixenes, King of Bohemia, are reunited after having been separated as children – the pas de quatre they dance alongside Hermione, Queen of Sicilia, and baby Mamillius (Leontes and Hermione’s son) provides a lucid storytelling narrating their reunion and friendship, Leontes and Hermione’s love and her pregnancy.

Matthew Ball acted as a great Polixenes, showing off both technique and play flairs, but Rio’s performance as Leontes was not as good as Ed’s. He was fine, but I couldn’t feel the emotional distress Ed conveyed even on dvd: I reckon stepping into his shoes in a role which he created has to be a great challenge, and he handled the show with dignity, albeit with a too grotesque interpretation when he was mad with jealousy – it surely was striking but I couldn’t understand whether it was too forced or not.

In spite of this, I thought the contrast between his character and Lauren’s stunningly touching Hermione was amazingly dramatic whilst Leontes becomes convinced that his wife has been unfaithful and is carrying Polixenes’ child, publicly accuses her of adultery and treason and has her arrested.

Indeed, she was absolutely divine in her created role, so graceful in the heartbreaking trial solo, when after giving birth to a daughter in prison, she pleads her innocence. There in the claustrophobic atmosphere of the gloomy court of Sicilia, Lauren gave such a psychological and emotional performance, conveying all the distress after her baby is rejected by Leontes, who orders it to be abandoned in a remote place.

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Lauren as Hermione in the trial scene

The moment when a distraught Mamillius falls seriously ill and dies was very poignant, with Rio holding the child, the teddy bear lying on stage, and Hermione’s heartbroken death – these events make Leontes realise the consequences of his mistake.

Then, Zenaida’s farewell led Laura Morera to dance as Paulina: the role itself suits her, but this is certainly not the case of her costumes, so long and so unflattering on her short figure.

 

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Sarah and Vadim as Perdita and Florizel in act 2

The second act takes place sixteen years later on the shores of Bohemia, after a shepherd and his son Clown had discovered the baby girl Perdita (and the treasure left with her) at the end of the first one.

Gary Avis was an energetic and involving Father Shepherd and it’s been amazing to see Marcelino Sambé back on stage after a six months absence, on fire as Brother Clown.

Act 2 was such a joy, with all those shepherds’ dances for the springtime festival, led by Marcelino and a delightful Beatriz Stix-Brunell as the Young Shepherdess (can’t wait to see her as Perdita tomorrow night).

The act’s setting was stunning with the wishing tree decorated with ribbons and jewels beneath which a smiling Sarah Lamb dances as a dashingly great Perdita with her love, Prince Florizel (the son of Polixenes, whom the other villagers know only as a shepherd boy).

Vadim was impeccable as Florizel with his usual amazing technique, but I felt like he was too elegant for such a role.

The array of lovely events was engaging and uplifting, culminating in Perdita’s coronation as May Queen, Father Shepherd presenting her with the emerald necklace (the one he found with her sixteen years before, belonged to Hermione) and Florizel and Perdita’s engagement – in revealing himself as an enraged King Polixenes, previously disguised to spy on his son, Matthew Ball showed remarkable a acting, furious with Florizel for his engagement to a shepherdess and condemning Perdita and her family to death, forcing them to flee by boat to Sicilia.

 

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Rio and Lauren as Leontes and Hermione in their closing pas de deux

Act 3 brings us back to the pillars and marble statues of Sicilia’s palace, where Leontes is still grieving on a clifftop.

There, Perdita and Florizel beg to Leontes to allow their union and he agrees to help the young couple. After a Polixenes’ violent arrival, Perdita’s emerald necklace is revealed and Paulina recognises her as the long lost Princess of Sicilia. This (obviously, she’s a princess, no reason for his son not to marry her) changes Polixenes’ mind, the two kings are reunited in friendship and celebrate the wedding of Florizel and Perdita. Following the wedding, Paulina shows remorseful Leontes a new statue of Hermione, which comes to life as she’d saved her and kept hidden her for sixteen years.

Despite Rio’s rough edges in act 1, act 3 pas de deux was wonderfully moving with the tenderness of Rio and Lauren’s closing scene, when she embraces Leontes and the family is reunited.

So, that’s quite a bunch of events, but Wheeldon’s powerful storytelling draws a wonderfully clear timeline, and even though there were significant missing roles from the original cast, it’s been an excellent performance.

Great and energetic conductress debut by Alondra de la Parra as well, leading an amazing orchestra.

It’s been a magical night and I got out of the ROH feeling like I could watch it forever… tomorrow’s Marianela and Thiago bound plus this same cast on February 28th is surely a good starting point!

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Programme signed by: Lauren Cuthbertson, Sarah Lamb, Laura Morera, Vadim Muntagirov and Gary Avis

 

ROHGiselle 3

Giselle
Royal Opera House
Thursday, 1st February 2018

 

Giselle – 02/01/2018

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Flower shower!
Giselle: Marianela Nunez
Albrecht: Vadim Muntagirov
Myrtha: Tierney Heap
Hilarion: Bennet Gartside
pd6: Yasmine Naghdi, Matthew Ball, Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Calvin Richardson, Elizabeth Harrod, Joseph Sissens
Moyna: Anna Rose O’Sullivan
Zulme: Beatriz Stix-Brunell

 

It was all about Marianela yesterday night as she graced the ROH stage celebrating her amazing 20 years with the Royal Ballet in a night of pure artistry and great emotions.
I feel so blessed to be able to see her dancing so often – it’s wonderful to witness her brilliant career, and I feel beyond happy to have been there to celebrate her two decades milestone.
Her dancing never ceases to astonish me, so so moving in everything she does – and this Giselle was no exception: the House was vibrant and thrilled by the importance of the evening, and erupted in ovation when Marianela entered the stage bringing it to life.

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Emotional curtain call

As always, everyone dancing was so involved with her, as if she brought something more, something vital, in addition to her role. I reckon the joy of dancing alongside her is not comparable with anything else, and one can clearly see how the company is loyal to her.
She sparkled throughout the first act, killing interpretations and solos with her usual grace and infectious smile, involving everyone around.
Her acting, her technique, her musicality – it was all so emotional as she mastered the role of the lovestruck young peasant in the first act, deceived by Prince Albrecht. Her dancing never fails to thrill, indeed, it sparkled joy and happiness throughout the whole act – a delight to watch and to follow through the narrative path of the ballet. It’s really a kind of magic, as she’s always able to convey such emotional pitches to her characters, in particular to Giselle: her acting was so vivid and radiant, so purely innocent and full of love, making it all deeply touching when discovering Albrecht’s duplicity. In the mad scene Marianela made the heartbreak so real pulling out her best acting breaking the audience’s hearts as she stabbed herself to death after losing her reason in an absolute peak of drama.

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Shining in the solo

By her side, Vadim was a great Albrecht, princely disguising himself pretending to be a peasant: he truly has the finest technique and it was good to see him back on the House’s stage in such great form!

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Marianela and Vadim as Giselle and Albrecht in act 1

 

The pas de six – brought on stage by Yasmine Naghdi, Matthew Ball, Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Calvin Richardson, Elizabeth Harrod, Joseph Sissens – was awesome, and Yasmine dazzled bright in her gracious solo in a delight of flawless phrasing and loveliness all round.
As per usual, the corps were at their best shining bright in amazing ensembles and pitch perfect village scenes, with great performances and interpretations – such as Bennet Gartside’s jealously realistic Hilarion, Olivia Cowley’s snobby disgusted Bathilde and Elizabeth McGorian’s heart-achingly desperate Berthe.

 

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Royal Ballet girls as the Wilis in act 2

And the second act was even greater! Appearing in the haunted atmosphere, the vengeful Wilis were, as per usual, nothing but astonishing. Dancing as one, they backboned the act with compelling elegance and artistry, led by a fierce Tierney Heap as Myrtha. Indeed, she was excellent in her authority and imperious role.
Alongside her, Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Beatriz Stix-Brunell were great as Moyna and Zulme.

Coming back to the stage as a ghost, Marianela is not the joyous village girl anymore, dramatically turning her dancing in a powerful, melancholic and heartbreaking rollercoaster of emotions.
Even without talking about her sublime technique (that adagio was one of the best thing ever seen), her performance was something incredible – she outstandingly mastered the whole act, poignantly conveying the grieving ghost, whose love had transcended death. I’ll never forget the trapped and dramatic expression of her face whilst holding a perfect developpé, stopping time for a bunch of seconds – her transparency is one of the thing I love best about her dancing.

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As Giselle in act 2

 

Vadim’s solo was terrific, and so were his outstanding entrechats, as he danced through the night, as Myrtha commanded. His gradual lost of energy was credible, and Marianela’s efforts to support him were touching. Eventually, once in daylight, her disappearance and Vadim’s heartbroken desperation were simply real.


Ok, it is a truth universally acknowledged that I can’t go through a Marianela show without bursting into tears, but this one… it’s been one of the best performance ever seen, and such an important night to be remembered!
I cried a lot, she’s just Giselle: this role, parted between joyful and doomed, is the best embodiment of Marianela incontestable greatness – no other ballerina could have conveyed better the pure essence of this character, and what an abundance of emotions at the much-deserved flower shower at the curtain call!
She was clearly overjoyed, and Kevin’s speech was touching, as he told us all of her wonderfully brilliant artistry, inspiring the world and enlightening the House since 1998. The company were there for her, and it’s been nice to see all the lovely messages they posted their heartfelt greetings on social medias.
I’m so very looking forward to seeing what this milestone year has in store for Marianela: from her Hermione in Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale (in two weeks time) and Manon in April to her debut as Marguerite and Odette/Odile in Liam Scarlett’s new Swan Lake.
It’s been a very special evening all round (even though I think Marianela deserves such a flower shower at every performance) and I am so happy to have been there celebrating, we’re so lucky to have her here at the ROH!

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Amazing is an understatement

 

And an enormous thank you to the star herself – thank you Marianela for everything, you’re such an amazing artist and human being. I have to say, I was nearly dying when I saw your lovely BBC interview!

 

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“Thank you” is not enough!