Ashton Mixed Bill, with Yanowsky and Bonelli, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, February 2013

This review is for the cast on the second night, and what a treat it was again to have Emmanuel Plasson as maestro for this delightful mixed bill of short Aston pieces. As a serious conductor who is happy to perform ballet music he showed a sure touch with orchestra, instrumental soloists and dancers.

La Valse, ROH image/ Johan Persson

La Valse, ROH image/ Johan Persson

Musically, Plasson is ideal for a French work such as Ravel’s La Valse, and under his direction the dancers produced elegant flowing movements to Ashton’s choreography. Plenty of attack from the men, and Tara-Brigitte Bhavnani and Valeri Hristov made a superb central couple.

In the ‘Meditation’ from Thaïs Sarah Lamb, beautifully partnered by Rupert Pennefather, showed exquisite arm, head and body movements. The lifts were serenely executed, and their poetry in motion was an example of how glorious this pas-de-deux can be. Then from the sublimeness of Massenet’s music, lovingly played on the violin by Vasko Vassilev, to the bounce of Johann Strauss’s Voices of Spring. This came through with wit and joy from Yuhui Choe and Alexander Campbell, who were both, if possible, even better than the previous night.

Hirano, Arestis, Kish in Monotones II, ROH image/ Tristram Kenton

Hirano, Arestis, Kish in Monotones II, ROH image/ Tristram Kenton

After the interval, Satie’s Gnossiennes and Gymnopédies, which Ashton used for Monotones I and II, came over beautifully under Plasson’s direction, and Christina Arestis, Ryoichi Hirano and Nehemiah Kish were in excellent harmony in the heavenly Part II.

Yanowsky and Bonelli, ROH image/ Tristram Kenton

Yanowsky and Bonelli, ROH image/ Tristram Kenton

Then to Marguerite and Armand where it was the turn of Zenaida Yanowsky and Federico Bonelli to perform the five tableaux from La Dame aux Camélias. There are those who say that since Ashton wrote this specifically for Fonteyn and Nureyev, no one else should perform it, but Yanowsky gave a very moving portrayal of the beautiful, consumptive Marguerite. Gliding with perfect grace, yet distracted by her fatal disease, she brought out the soul of this misunderstood young woman, with Bonelli showing the joy, tension and aggression that finally turns to quiet despair as she dies. Again an excellent portrayal of the father by Christopher Saunders, and very sensitive piano playing by Robert Clark.

These Ashton pieces form an unmissable evening — call for returns on the day of the performances, which continue with various casts until February 23 — for details click here.

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