Archive for the ‘Ballet’ Category

Ecstasy and Death, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, April 2013

19 April, 2013

This intriguing triple bill is the first programme artistic director Tamara Rojo has put together for the Company, and she even dances in it herself.

Rojo and le Riche, all images ENB/ David Jensen

Rojo and le Riche, all images ENB/ David Jensen

The second item Le Jeune Homme et la Mort is worth the whole programme, and on the first night Rojo was the coolly callous young woman, with Nicolas le Riche, star of the Paris Opéra Ballet, as the young painter driven to madness by her strangely cold attraction. Roland Petit’s gloriously expressive choreography shows him to be in a state of nervous tension and exhaustion, and le Riche gave a riveting portrayal of his emotional despair. Two other performers will dance the role in the present run of performances, guest artist Ivan Putrov and Company member Fabian Reimair. As the girl, Tamara Rojo in her yellow dress, and later the mask of death, showed superb manipulation and indifference.

This extraordinary 1946 work, to a libretto by Jean Cocteau, formed an electrifyingly creative collaboration in post-Liberation Paris. For the music, he and Petit finally settled on Bach’s Passacaglia in C minor — at the dress rehearsal! The Bach was very strongly played under principal conductor Gavin Sutherland who gave fine musical direction to the evening, with Chris Swithinbank at the piano in Mozart’s Concertos K488 and K467 for the first item Petite Mort.

Petite Mort

Petite Mort

The French term la petite mort is an idiomatic euphemism for sexual orgasm, and the rapiers in Jiří Kylián’s choreography suggest a dichotomy between assertiveness and oblivion for the six couples. The men performed superbly with their rapiers, setting them in motion on the stage as if moving in unison of their own accord. Excellent rehearsal preparation must have led to this precision, and the unusual and very physical choreography was crisply and energetically performed by the twelve dancers.

Etudes

Etudes

The Company is at the top of its game, and the final Etudes was beautifully danced. Choreography is by Harald Lander, director of the Royal Danish Ballet, who created this work in 1948 to orchestral music by Knudåge Riisager, based on Czerny’s renowned piano exercises. It reveals a ballet class with a difference, as it starts with twelve girls in black tutus at the barre forming four sets of three, then three sets of four, each set in unison but different from the others. It then slowly opens out to other dancers, ending with nearly forty on stage. As the leading girl, Erina Takahashi showed lovely gentle movements, and her partners James Forbat, Esteban Berlanga and Vadim Muntagirov danced with fine precision. Muntagirov in particular showed a relaxed nobility of posture and line that was very attractive.

This  triple bill shows the Company to perfection, and performances continue until April 21 — for details click here.

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Laurencia, with Osipova and Vasiliev, Mikhailovsky Ballet, London Coliseum, April 2013

3 April, 2013

Soviet Realism meets Don Quixote, with the good Don replaced by an evil Commander whom the peasants destroy. He abducts the beautiful Laurencia, imprisoning her lover Frondoso, and there is a nasty sexual assault by two soldiers on a peasant named Jacinta. The women are both badly used and emerge with dirty torn skirts, but there is plenty of wonderfully happy dancing by the peasants, choreographed by famous Georgian dancer and choreographer Vakhtang Chabukiani.

Frondoso and Laurencia, all images ©MikhailovskyTheatre

Frondoso and Laurencia, all images ©MikhailovskyTheatre

As a powerful presence on stage himself, he wrote steps for a strong male dancer in the leading role of Frondoso, and Ivan Vasiliev made the most of it. With his extraordinary ability to perform multiple pirouettes that slow down and come to a perfect stop, his brilliant leaps en tournant, and his fine stage presence, Vasiliev was well matched by the technical brilliance and musicality of Natalia Osipova. Did I see a quadruple fouetté en tournant? Certainly there were some triples, but it is her dramatic commitment and attention to detail that make her so exciting to watch. The two of them together are a marvel.

2.Laurencia. Natalia Osipova and Ivan VasilievYet the whole company gave this huge sparkle, and Sabina Yapparova as Pasquala was a delight. It was she and Osipova who cleverly scuttled away from the soldiers in Act I, and her classical dancing in Act II, when the village celebrates the union of Laurencia and Frondoso, was outstanding. At the other end of the pleasantry spectrum, Mikhail Venshchikov portrayed the Commander as a thoroughly nasty piece of work, and he stayed in character for the curtain calls to receive the welcoming boos.

If you want to see an old Soviet ballet, this one from 1939 is well worth the ticket, and if you want to see some spectacular male dancing this is a must-see, with Vasiliev and Osipova giving a second performance on April 3. Set and costume designs by Vadim Ryndin are lovely, and Valery Ovsyanikov in the orchestra pit gave a strong impetus to Alexander Krein’s music. This composer seems to have adapted rather well to the Soviet system, and his music serves its purpose, but the reason to go to this, and it’s an excellent reason, is to see Chabukiani’s choreography performed with enormous panache.

Following a second performance of Laurencia with Osipova and Vasiliev on April 3, the Mikhailovsky Ballet will perform other productions until April 7 — for details click here.

Don Quixote, with Osipova and Vasiliev, Mikhailovsky Ballet, London Coliseum, March 2013

1 April, 2013

For classical ballet in glorious costumes with plenty of bouncy music it is hard to equal Don Quixote, and the Mikhailovsky Ballet did us proud with the feast they served up at the London Coliseum. The feel-good music by Minkus, plus some additions by Drigo, is a favourite of pianists in ballet class, and Lanchbery used parts of it in Tales of Beatrix Potter.

Osipova and Vasiliev, all images © Mikhailovsky Theatre

Osipova and Vasiliev, all images © Mikhailovsky Theatre

This dance-pantomime is not a recent favourite of British companies, though Carlos Acosta is staging a new version for the Royal Ballet in October 2013. That aside we have tended to rely on the Russians to bring it over, and they never fail to please. Originally created by Minkus and Petipa for Moscow in 1869, they expanded it for St. Petersburg two years later, and in 1900 and 1902 Alexander Gorsky restaged it in both cities. What we see here is due to Petipa and Gorsky.

2.Don Quixote. Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev2_The whole company gave a vivid portrayal of the choreography, led by the peerless Natalia Osipova as Kitri, who doesn’t merely use the music as background but feels it in all the small movements of her body. Ivan Vasiliev as her lover Basilio showed sensational leaps en tournant, hugely dramatic if sometimes untidy and his smaller jumps sometimes lacked classical poise. His strong partnering allowed him to perform an arabesque while holding her up with one hand, the orchestra falling silent for effect, and when they enter the tavern and he catches her as she flies horizontally through the air, he almost allows her head to sweep the floor. Wonderful fun.

Excellent solos from other dancers such as Nikolay Korypayev as the toreador, and Veronica Ignatyeva as Cupid in the dream scene. This white section, where Quixote dreams of his beloved Dulcinea in her enchanted garden of dryads, was beautifully performed and Natalia Osipova as Dulcinea was a delight.

Her exemplary dancing and musicality raised this joyous 2012 production to a seriously high level, and the Company responded in superb style. The glorious set and costume designs by Vyacheslav Okunev even had a horse and pony for the entrance of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in Act I. No expense spared, and the Mikhailovsky orchestra conducted by music director Pavel Bubelnikov played with great panache.

This London visit of the Mikhailovsky Ballet is a treat, and I look forward to their production of Laurencia on April 2. A Soviet era ballet, first danced by the Kirov in 1939, this is a village love story with a peasant rebellion against the wicked Commander who abducts the girl and imprisons her lover.

Performances of Laurencia take place on April 2 and 3, followed by other productions until April 7 — for details click here.

Giselle, with Osipova and Vasiliev, Mikhailovsky Ballet, London Coliseum, March 2013

27 March, 2013

What a pleasure this was. I’ve not seen the Mikhailovsky Giselle before, but it’s a fine production created in 2007 by Nikita Dolgushin, with excellent designs by Vyacheslav Okunev well lit by Mikhail Mekler. And the orchestra under Valery Ovsyanikov played with huge spirit, giving a performance far better than some of his work with the Royal Ballet. The dancing on the first night was led by Osipova and Vasiliev, who were both lured away from the Bolshoi in December 2011.

© Mikhailovsky Theatre

© Mikhailovsky Theatre

Natalia Osipova as Giselle was extraordinary. Her control, her wonderful jumps with gentle unhurried beats, and above all her musicality. Every tiny movement of her body showed how she felt the music. Of course, this is how it should be, but it so rarely is and even with some of the most brilliant dancers the music may be nothing but background. Here it is the essence. Yet it should not be supposed that Ms. Osipova is merely a very musical dancer with perfect technique — she is an actress, and her death in Act I following her shock that her lover is the Count, already betrothed to another, was heartbreaking.

As the Count himself, Ivan Vasiliev also showed fine dramatic talent, so sure of himself at first, yet horribly uncertain when the Gamekeeper, who adores Giselle, summons the hunting party to unmask him. In his powerful Act II solo, as fine fortissimos from the Russian orchestral brass demanded he dance to death, he showed himself to be almost exhausted before dawn rose at stage rear and the wilis power faded. The two of them together showed her to be a mere wisp, floating in the air as he moved on the ground, and her ability to float already showed itself with her solo dancing in Act I.

The other dancers gave fine support to these two principals, with good ensemble work from the corps in Act II, and full engagement by all dancers with the action in Act I. Ekaterina Borchenko as Queen of the Wilis in Act II performed fine jetés, and her borrées as she glided around the stage were a delight. Vladimir Tsal as the Gamekeeper was wonderful in his mime and his forceful interaction with the Count, and Anna Novosyolova as a rather young looking mother of Giselle showed grief at the end of Act I reminiscent of a Lady Capulet. And in the Act I peasant pas-de-deux, Sabina Yapparova showed glorious control and her musical dancing was a delight.

Altogether a terrific performance, and though you may not get the same two principals, this is a lovely production. Beautiful costumes, and the sets give a feeling of a world beyond, with a winding road to the castle in Act I, and a moonlit stream in Act II. The performance itself shows attention to detail that seems to have been lacking in some London shows by big Russian ballet companies in recent years. A great success for the Mikhailovsky ballet.

Performances of Giselle continue until March 29, followed by Don Quixote and other productions until April 7 — for details click here.

Aladdin, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BRB, London Coliseum, March 2013

22 March, 2013

While Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland plays at Covent Garden, the Birmingham Royal Ballet brings David Bintley’s new Aladdin to the London Coliseum. The former is sold out, and the latter deserves to be too, because both are equally great fun though entirely different.

Djinn and Magician, all images ©BRB/ Bill Cooper

Djinn and Magician, all images ©BRB/ Bill Cooper

Aladdin is a ripping yarn based on those Tales of the Arabian Nights, and its luminous story-telling, with a big pas-de-deux for Aladdin and the Princess in each of the three acts, allows more space for classical dancing than Alice. It all starts in the market place, reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, and the multiple dances of Act I recalled the second act of Nutcracker. Aladdin’s dispatch of the magician in Act III reminded me of the Tsarevich and Kashchei in Firebird, and these allusions point to the fact that this array of classical dancing is a feast for the eyes.

A Chinese dragon

A Chinese dragon

Excellent sets by Dick Bird, and the costumes by Sue Blane are lovely — Persian and Ottoman concepts with a splash of Far Eastern magic, perhaps suiting the fact that this ballet was first produced in Japan. With that audience in mind, Bintley relied more on his choreography than on big acting performances, and the whole thing is a wonderfully exuberant show of dance. Mark Jonathan’s lighting helps draw out the magic, and the costume and make-up for the magician made him look like an ancient Sumerian god, which if intentional is a very clever touch.

3.Aladdin - Tzu-Chao Chou as the Djinn - Bill CooperThe whole company danced with great élan, and Jamie Bond and Jenna Roberts made a delightful couple as Aladdin and the Princess, dancing a thrillingly joyful pas-de-deux in Act II. Tzu-Chao Chou was a remarkably airborne Djinn of the Lamp, and his Act II leap above the heads of four men who then hold him up high in a sitting position was a wonder to be seen. Iain Mackay as the magician showed marvellous stage presence with his gliding movements, and Marion Tait as Aladdin’s mother was as ever a musical delight.

The music itself by Carl Davis creates a magical atmosphere already in the overture, and this is a case where choreography and music were created to complement one another. There is not a dull moment, and the orchestra played beautifully under the baton of Philip Davis.

With four more performances in London, two of them matinees, this is a must-see. Do not be put off by associating this to a well known pantomime of the same name. Yes, there is a magic carpet and they float back home after escaping from the magician’s lair, but this is classical ballet with a swing in its step. Performances at the London Coliseum continue until March 24 — for details click here.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with Sarah Lamb, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, March 2013

20 March, 2013

This cleverly whimsical ballet, reflecting the essence of Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece, provides stage magic for the whole family. You don’t need any experience of ballet to appreciate the various vignettes, including the Adagio for the Queen of Hearts and four playing cards in Act III, a wicked take on the Rose Adagio from Sleeping Beauty. Itziar Mendizabal as the Queen played it to perfection, inspiring the audience to their biggest applause of the evening.

Dancers appear in the audience, all images ©ROH/ Johan Persson

Dancers appear in the audience, all images ©ROH/ Johan Persson

Yet the main applause must go to the pure refinement of Sarah Lamb’s Alice, who takes all the strange happenings with perfect equanimity. It all starts with a garden party, and when Lewis Carroll takes a flash photograph of her, the lighting changes dramatically, throwing the guests into an otherworldly aura, while Ricardo Cervera as Carroll opens a hole in the ground, and assuming the persona of the White Rabbit takes Alice into Wonderland. The other characters from the garden party reappear in various roles, with Federico Bonelli as Alice’s beloved Jack turning into the Knave of Hearts.

Alice and Jack

Alice and Jack

Act I is full of clever stage effects and video projections, and when Alice sticks her head through the little door to peep into the world beyond, colourful dancers suddenly appear in the audience. Act II contains one magical incident after another including the Cheshire Cat that decomposes and eventually reconstitutes itself as a single large face, the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, the mushroom with a Caterpillar that later scurries off stage on multiple feet en pointe, and much more. Alexander Campbell, Thomas Whitehead and James Wilkie were superb as the Hatter, March Hare and Dormouse, and Gary Avis and Kristen McNally were terrific as the Duchess and the Cook in Act I, reappearing in an aggressive pas-de-deux in Act III.

Sarah Lamb was lovely in her final pas-de-deux with Bonelli in Act III, and the Company performed with precision and vivacity. Yes, it’s all nonsense, very different from the ethereal magic of Sleeping Beauty, but Christopher Wheeldon and his designer Bob Crowley have recognised the very different magic of Lewis Carroll, and created something fun for dancers and audience alike. Joby Talbot’s music, orchestrated jointly with Christopher Austin, is full of the atmosphere of a warm summer’s day at the right moments, as well as the staccato confusion of the characters in Alice’s dream, and this co-production with the National Ballet of Canada was very well conducted by David Briskin from that company.

Performances with various casts continue until April 13, with two Saturday matinees. All are sold out, but there is a live cinema screening on March 28 — for details click here.

Royal Ballet Triple: Apollo/ 24 Preludes/ Aeternum, Covent Garden, February 2013

23 February, 2013

Two completely new ballets, plus one staple from the Balanchine repertoire, made a very well judged triple bill. Alexei Ratmansky’s dances to Chopin’s 24 Preludes were sandwiched between the ethereal Apollo, and Christopher Wheeldon’s powerful new creation to Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem. More on that later, but first to Apollo.

Nuñez and Acosta in Apollo, all images ROH/ Johan Persson

Nuñez and Acosta in Apollo, all images ROH/ Johan Persson

Patricia Neary’s staging goes back to Balanchine’s original including the prologue, and Carlos Acosta was an Apollonian character of huge power. The three muses performed with great precision, Marianela Nuñez making a wonderful Terpsichore with her lyre. Calliope with her scroll of paper was portrayed by Olivia Cowley, and Polyhymnia in a mask, holding a finger to her mouth to represent silent mime, was a very musically expressive Itziar Mendizabal.

Sarah Lamb in 24 Preludes

Sarah Lamb in 24 Preludes

Following the serenity of Apollo, Ratmansky’s 24 Preludes made a complete contrast with its effervescent choreography. Chopin’s Preludes are composed in all 24 different keys (12 major alternating with 12 minor) and in these 24 pieces there were solos, duets, trios, and more, ending with all eight dancers in D minor. Lovely costume designs by Colleen Atwood: girls in flowing dresses, two silvery-blue, two purple, and the four boys in silvery tops and black tights. Neil Austin’s lighting design for the backdrop involved subtle changes throughout, and Chopin’s music sounded intriguingly contrarian in a version orchestrated by French composer Jean Françaix. A superb performance by eight of the Company’s star performers.

Kish and Nuñez/ Aeternum

Kish and Nuñez/ Aeternum

Finally came Wheeldon’s Aeternum to music that represents the peak of Britten’s early orchestral writing. It was originally commissioned by the Japanese government for the 2,600th anniversary of Emperor Jimmu in 1940, and although they initially accepted Britten’s idea it was later rejected as completely unsuitable. The three movements are: Lacrymosa (a slow marching lament), Dies irae (a sort of dance of death) and Requiem aeternam (the final resolution), and as an expression of pacifism it was a reaction against dark political developments abroad in the world.

Bonelli and Nuñez/ Aeternum

Bonelli and Nuñez/ Aeternum

Wheeldon’s powerful choreography was complemented by a hugely impressive three-dimensional backdrop by Jean-Marc Puissant, cleverly lit by Adam Silverman. At the start of Part I and end of Part II a body lies on the stage, but in Part III all is clear with the backdrop lifted, and just before the final curtain two silhouettes walk away from the audience. In the meantime Marianela Nuñez and Nehemiah Kish were wonderful together in Part I, James Hay performed a fine solo in Part II, and Nuñez and Bonelli were beautifully expressive in their Part III pas-de-deux.

This intriguing ballet demands a second view, but all performances are sold out. Here is one of the perils of success. The Royal Ballet has shown itself to be so good at putting on mixed bills, yet there are only five performances. Preparing new works like these is such a huge job, and although standard three-act ballets sell more performances and at higher prices, there really should be more chance for audiences to see this wonderful new material.

Performances continue until March 14 — for details click here.

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

14 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.

Ashton Mixed Bill, with Rojo and Polunin, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, February 2013

13 February, 2013

This was Tamara Rojo’s evening, ending with a lovely bouquet of flowers for her — making up for their lack of such tributes in her last days with the Company, after accepting the artistic directorship of the ENB. In Ashton’s take on The Lady of the Camellias, she was a captivating Marguerite, glamorous and consumptive, showing fine textures of emotion. So lovely in her red dress in the second tableau, so apparently serene yet emotional in the third with Armand’s father, her broken bourrées heart wrenching in the fourth, and in the last tableau her demise left me spellbound.

Rojo and Polunin, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

Rojo and Polunin, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

Her partner, Sergei Polunin also left the Company last season, but in a far more abrupt way, and it was good to see this extraordinarily talented dancer back again. Their pas-de-deux were flawlessly executed and full of the tension that Ashton brought to his choreography for this ballet. Polunin himself showed a deft and light touch as he entered in the first tableau. Secure in his dancing and dramatic in his portrayal he only perhaps lacked command at the odd point when he was no longer with her. But this was a beautifully sensitive performance, and Christopher Saunders gave a fine portrayal of the father.

Watson, Nuñez, Bonelli in Monotones II

Watson, Nuñez, Bonelli in Monotones II

It ended a thrilling evening of ballet preceded by Monotones I and II between the intervals. Superbly danced, and Marianela Nuñez, Federico Bonelli and Edward Watson formed a heavenly triple in Monotones II. Nuñez in particular brought an ethereal quality to her performance, with extraordinarily graceful arm movements as she developed them from one position to another. When geometry in motion has such quality it leaves the mere human realm, which of course is exactly what Ashton intended.

Campbell and Choe in Voices of Spring

Campbell and Choe in Voices of Spring

Before the first interval was a short triple bill starting with Ravel’s eerie La Valse, which the Company danced beautifully, and ending with Johan Strauss’s enduringly happy Voices of Spring, gloriously performed by Yuhui Choe and Alexander Campbell. As they danced I couldn’t help but think of the dreadful stuff one sees in the New Year’s Day concert from Vienna, but there is of course no comparison. This is Ashton, and the brief middle item in the first part, his ‘Meditation’ from Thaïs, was magical, drawing a calmly riveting performance by Leanne Benjamin and Valeri Hristov. She floated in the air and his body movements exhibited huge strength and security.

Benjamin and Hristov in 'Meditations'

Benjamin and Hristov in ‘Meditations’

Musically too this was a treat. Vasko Vassilev played a wonderful violin for the Meditation, and Robert Clark a fine piano in the Liszt. But the main plaudits must go to Emmanuel Plasson for some of the best conducting I have heard for the Royal Ballet in recent years. His French background is perfect for the Ravel, and the Satie in Monotones, and to my taste he fully brought out the tension and lyricism in the Liszt for Marguerite and Armand.

This is a sell-out, and as some seats can be bought for £6, better value cannot be had in London. Performances with various casts continue until February 23 — for details click here.

Onegin, with Reilly and Cojocaru, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, January 2013

24 January, 2013

This performance on January 23 showed an interesting difference of interpretation from the previous evening with a cast led by Bonelli and Morera. In her Act III pas-de-deux with Prince Gremin, Alina Cojocaru expressed a wistful sadness as she floated almost semi-consciously across the stage, quite different from Laura Morera’s joyful serenity in the same duet. Had she seen Onegin from the corner of her eye? These are two interpretations of the same role, both entirely valid.

Reilly and Cojocaru, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

Reilly and Cojocaru, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

Cojocaru was originally to have been dancing with Johan Kobborg, but due to injury, Jason Reilly from the Stuttgart Ballet took the role of Onegin. This is the company that originally facilitated John Cranko’s work in 1969, providing him with an excellent score by Kurt-Heinz Stolze, that uses music by Tchaikovsky, avoiding anything from his opera on the same story. Reilly showed a reserved aloofness and elegant stage-presence fitting the role like a glove. The way he smiled in Act I when he glanced at the book Tatiana was reading, and the way he placed his hand on her shoulder after tearing up her letter, displayed an effortless superiority that he only loses in Act III on encountering a more mature Tatiana with her husband.

Reilly as Onegin, Act II

Reilly as Onegin, Act II

In the meantime Cojocaru was walking on air in her first Act I pas-de-deux with him, and her duet with the imaginary Onegin in the letter scene was magical. So different from their final pas-de-deux in Act III when she showed herself to be in emotional agony, almost unable to tell him to leave her. Reilly himself was a terrific partner, so real in his emotional self-control.

Steven McRae as Lensky

Steven McRae as Lensky

By comparison of course, Lensky loses it, and Steven McRae expressed his angry determination to perfection. Before this his superb dancing thoroughly enlivened Act I, and the joyfulness of his dancing with the Olga of Akane Takada was palpable. There was an airy quality to their pas-de-deux, with her seeming as light as a feather, and his final landing as he drops to the stage at the end was done with consummate ease. In Act II Takada did a wonderful job of showing what a very silly girl Olga is, which in Pushkin’s original is the reason Onegin flirts with her, to show Lensky he is in love with an airhead. Takada, McRae and Cojocaru were excellent in their brief pas-de-trois before the duel, and McRae’s final solo was fabulous.

Bennet Gartside was a solid Prince Gremin, but one can see why Tatiana might feel a wistfulness that a more excitingly emotional life has passed her by, as Cojocaru expressed in Act III. She is exceptional in this role so see her if you can.

Once again Dominic Grier in the orchestra pit produced orchestral playing of very fine quality, and the charm and emotional grip of the score came over beautifully.

Performances with various casts continue until February 8 — for details click here.