Posts Tagged ‘Dick Bird’

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.

The Pearl Fishers, English National Opera, ENO at the London Coliseum, June 2010

6 June, 2010

This is Bizet’s first staged work, written when he was 24, and performed here in a very attractive production by Penny Woolcock. More on the production later, but first a few words about Bizet. After a three year stint in Rome, he returned to Paris to be handed an opera libretto written by two old hands who, when they heard his score, regretted not having given him one of their better efforts. The libretto is indeed a bit weak, though some of the music is glorious and the tenor/baritone duet in Act I is justifiably famous. But that’s not the only fine piece of music in this opera, and the tenor/soprano duet in Act II was engagingly sung by Alfie Boe as the pearl diver Nadir, and Hanan Alattar as the priestess Leïla.

Entrance of the priestess in Act I

Before the start of this June 4th performance we were told Ms. Alattar was suffering from a sore throat, but after a weak start she gained depth during the evening. Then, after Act I, it was announced that Alfie Boe had caught the sore throat, and after showing a heroic timbre to his voice in the first Act it looked as if we would be deprived of his talents. But he continued to perform strongly. Quinn Kelsey sang the role of Zurga the village headman, pacing himself for the bigger moments, and Freddie Tong was the high priest, but needed more vocal depth and stage presence.

In later years, Bizet judged this opera rather severely and it wasn’t revived after its first performances in 1863, until being restaged in Milan in 1886, more than ten years after his death. Unfortunately the original orchestral score was lost, and this performance was based on a recent reconstruction due to Brad Cohen, well conducted by Rory Macdonald with magnificent singing from the chorus. The Royal Opera will give a concert performance in October, conducted by Antonio Pappano, with Gerald Finley as Zurga, but don’t miss this ENO production for its visual impact.

Nadir swimming to meet Leïla

Penny Woolcock’s fine production, with sets and costumes by Dick Bird and Kevin Pollard, gave a beautiful context for the story. As soon as the first bars of the prelude come from the orchestra we are treated to pearl divers sweeping down to the seabed through clear blue waters, and then as Act I opens we see ramshackle dwellings for the local people, built on a hill overlooking the bay. At nightfall small lights come on and it’s magical. There are other enchanting moments such the duet between Nadir and Zurga when two local men hang out a tatty cloth behind which the visage of the goddess seems to emerge. Water is ever present, and the harbour waters are portrayed by a rolling silk on which a small skiff dips to and fro. In Act II when Nadir swims to the sacred enclosure to meet Leïla we see a projection of his amazing underwater swim, well worthy of a pearl diver. The beauty of the blue waters contrasts wonderfully with the poverty of the material world, giving just the right context for the people’s superstitious religious faith to hold sway.

This excellent production continues until July 8 — for more details click here.