Firebird/ In the Night/ Raymonda Act III, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, December 2012

What a terrific triple bill this is, and on the evening of 29 December it was beautifully danced.

Among cast changes in Raymonda, Zenaida Yanowsky and Ryoichi Hirano replaced Nuñez and Pennefather in the main roles, and Ricardo Cervera replaced Whitehead in the Hungarian dance. Cervera showed a fine cutting edge and dramatic sense, and his partnership with Kristin McNally worked like a charm, the two of them looking like dolls together in perfect time to the music. The dancers in the female variations, the same as before, were even better if that is possible. Hikaru Kobayashi showed beautiful control and musicality, Yuhui Choe’s arabesques en pointe with a bending of the leg were extraordinary, Itziar Mendizabal was lovely in the slow variation, and Helen Crawford’s jumps in the fourth variation were a thrill to watch.

Raymonda Act III, all images ROH/ Tristram Kenton

Raymonda Act III, all images ROH/ Tristram Kenton

As a ballet Raymonda has a rather silly story, but the Act III wedding of its eponymous heroine with Jean de Brienne, recently returned from the crusades, is a feast of dancing, and Yanowsky and Hirano were outstanding in these roles. I can’t resist a quick mention of Fumi Kaneko, Emma Maguire and Yasmine Nagdhi who were brilliantly on the music in the pas-de-trois. Raymonda Act III makes a glorious finale, and as the curtain opened Barry Kay’s ravishing set once again elicited spontaneous applause.

Galeazzi and Watson as Firebird and Prince

Galeazzi and Watson as Firebird and Prince

Firebird, so often the finale itself, is the starter here, with Mara Galeazzi showing beautiful arm movements as the Firebird. Edward Watson gave a well-nuanced performance as Ivan Tsarevich, Alastair Marriott was suitably dramatic as the wicked Kostcheï, and Christina Arestis was a gorgeous princess. The story is the reverse of Swan Lake, the prince abandoning his passion for an exotic female to accept a royal and more appropriate partner, but Stravinsky’s music is, or should be, hugely dramatic, though Barry Wordsworth’s conducting with its elegantly rounded corners lacked energy and bite.

No problem on that score with the second item, In the Night, where Robert Clark gave an excellent performance of Chopin’s nocturnes to accompany some glorious choreography by Jerome Robbins.

In the Night, Campbell and Maguire

In the Night, Campbell and Maguire

Against a starlit background, Alexander Campbell and Emma Maguire made a wonderful first couple, he so full of energy, she showing a gentle gracefulness. And in the third variation, Carlos Acosta and Roberta Marquez made a dramatic entrance on their shaft of light, moving apart and together with great passion. It was a super partnership, but in the second movement Zenaida Yanowsky and Nehemiah Kish did not manage the same success as a week ago. She seemed far less comfortable than with Hirano in Raymonda, and a couple of the lifts went slightly awry. In the Night ends with a delightful waltz, and interactions between the six dancers — it is a superb vehicle for the individual brilliance that this Company has in spades, and they should dance it more often.

In the Night, Yanowsky and Kish

In the Night, Yanowsky and Kish

Unfortunately all three later performances are sold out, but click here for details and possible returns.

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