Posts Tagged ‘Federico Bonelli’

Royal Ballet Triple: Polyphonia/ Sweet Violets/ Carbon Life, Covent Garden, April 2012

6 April, 2012

This was an entirely twenty-first century triple bill.

Polyphonia, all images by Bill Cooper

The first work, Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia, set to ten piano pieces by Ligeti, was first shown in New York at the start of the century, January 2001. The large Covent Garden stage gave space to the spare minimalism of Wheeldon’s choreography, with darkness sometimes surrounding a spot for the dancers. It has the sense of a sequence of études created for four couples, and along with the pas-de-deux work there is a section for three female dancers and another for two males in contest with one another. The silences between the ten sections and the purity of the piano sound give it a contemplative feel, and it was beautifully danced. It was only spoilt by some handkerchief-less members of the audience who couldn’t control their tousserie.

Leanne Cope and Thiago Soares

Sweet Violets is such a pretty title, quite in contrast to the content of this brilliant new work by Liam Scarlett. It starts with an incident on September 11th, 1907 when a part-time prostitute named Emily Dimmock was murdered in her own home. Her partner returned the next day to find her throat slit from ear to ear. Nothing had been taken, the motive was a mystery, and this infamous Camden Town Murder was never solved. What inspired Scarlett was a series of paintings and drawings by Walter Sickert, who specialised in portraying the deep, dark underworld of London. His role was performed with admirable understatement by Johan Kobborg, whose friend was the murderer in this take on the story. Sickert’s friend, very well portrayed by Thiago Soares, obviously has two sides to his nature, and the fight with the prostitute was wonderfully realistic as he grappled with Leanne Cope, superb as the unfortunate Emily Dimmock. But that is only the start. This is a full-length story in one act, intense, brutal, and with ramifications at the highest level.

Kobborg as Sickert and McRae as Jack

The story has been set in the late 1880s when Queen Victoria’s grandson Eddy was still alive, and Lord Salisbury was prime minister. Both or them appear here, portrayed by Federico Bonelli and Christopher Saunders, to say nothing of Jack the Ripper, played as a very sinister character by Steven McRae. Laura Morera, Alina Cojocaru and Tamara Rojo danced beautifully, the first two as historical characters, and Rojo as an alluring artist’s model. This was a fabulous performance by an all-power cast, and a senior member of the Company told me the other cast is equally terrific.

Rachmaninov’s music for piano, violin and cello was beautifully played, and John Macfarlane’s designs, with David Finn’s lighting, gave a sombre, threatening atmosphere to the whole business. The clever use at one point of a stage and audience within the stage allows us to see the backs of the performers, making it feel as if we are looking in at things we should not really see. I shall go again, and again. Scarlett’s inspired new work is worth the whole triple bill.

Carbon Life

The third item, Carbon Life was a new creation by Wayne McGregor. Like his other work it involved unusual lighting design, this time by Lucy Carter, and I loved the clever way in which the dancers at the start appeared to glow in the dark. The whole thing was in several parts, with rock music and rap performed by musicians behind the dancers. Costumes ranged from simple swimming trunks to elaborate black outfits having pointed hoods, with cross-dressing allowed. The overall impression was of a very high quality music and dance video. Fun, balletic, and full of frivolity.

Performances of this triple bill continue until April 23 — for details click here.

Romeo and Juliet, with Cuthbertson and Bonelli, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, March 2012

23 March, 2012

This was the evening of a live cinema relay, though I was seated in the Royal Opera House itself.

Kenneth MacMillan’s version of Romeo and Juliet with its wonderful choreography is what the Royal Ballet performs, and this jewel has been taken up by some other ballet companies such as American Ballet Theatre. There is no comparison with the Mariinsky’s old Soviet version, and I prefer it to the one by Nureyev for the English National Ballet. The designs by Nicholas Giorgiadis evoke just the right atmosphere, and the whole thing is perennially fresh.

Cuthbertson and Bonelli, image by Bill Cooper

In this performance, Lauren Cuthbertson danced a beautiful Juliet, interacting superbly with the Romeo of Federico Bonelli. Their chemistry was excellent and their pas-de-deux work glorious. Of course the eponymous characters are vital, but this was a brilliant team effort. Romeo’s friends Mercutio and Benvolio were exceptionally well portrayed by Alexander Campbell and Dawid Trzensimiech, Campbell performing some superb coupé jetés. The three friends were all very much in tune with one another, and the three harlots were excellent, red-headed Itziar Mendizabal in particular.

On the Capulet side, Bennett Gartside made a very effective Tybalt, never quite losing it, but determined and furious until it’s his turn to die. In the second sword fight, with Romeo after he has killed Mercutio, he cleverly showed himself to be exhausted, and at this point it’s all over for him. Christina Arestis then portrayed a desperately emotive Lady Capulet, and Act II ends. In Act III, Cristopher Saunders came through as a brutally determined Capulet, and Valeri Hristov made a suitably wimpish Paris, rather too eager to win his Juliet.

Scene in the square, image by Johan Persson

In smaller roles, Kristen McNally made a charmingly fussy nurse, interacting very well with the three young men when she delivers Juliet’s letter, and after the big fight between Montagues and Capulets, Gary Avis showed fine stage presence as the Prince of Verona, condemning both sides and ordering them to keep the peace.

Prokofiev’s wonderful music drives everything, and the orchestra warmed up after a very shaky start under the baton of Barry Wordsworth. By the end of Act I they were playing much better, producing some real musical tension to impel the drama forward from scene to scene until finally Paris, Romeo and Juliet all lie dead in the tomb.

Performances at the Royal Opera House with various casts continue until March 31 — for details click here.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, March 2012

18 March, 2012

In the world of dreams real people can take on strange identities, and so it is here. It all starts at tea in a large garden, where Alice’s mother ejects her daughter’s beloved Jack, the gardener’s son.

Alice, all images Johan Persson

To distract the disappointed Alice, Lewis Carroll conjures up a large hole in the ground and disappears down it, growing a bunny tail and long ears. He has become the white rabbit, encouraging Alice to follow him down the hole. We see a video projection as she floats down, landing up in front of an array of doors. Shrinking and growing she tries to squeeze through a small door, and suddenly the auditorium fills with colourful performers, bright confetti raining down on them from the dome above. The effects are wonderful, and while Lewis Carroll has become the white rabbit, Alice’s father and mother turn into the King and Queen of Hearts, with Jack as the Knave, accused of stealing the tarts, and appearing in court. But was it Jack, or was it the vicar, who becomes the March Hare? Other people from the garden party appear too: the magician who arrives to entertain them becomes the Mad Hatter, and the Rajah who arrives with his retinue becomes the Caterpillar.

In an entirely different development, this revival has converted the two acts of the world premiere a year ago — see my review at the time — into three acts, a welcome change.

Steven McRae as the Mad Hatter

On opening night this time around, Lauren Cuthbertson repeated her wonderful performance of Alice, and Federico Bonelli did well in the role of Jack, taking over from Sergei Polunin who has vanished from the scene. Once again Edward Watson was very fine as Lewis Carroll and the White Rabbit, and Eric Underwood was a super Caterpiller. Laura Morera was a strong Queen of Hearts, but Philip Mosley lacked stage presence as the Duchess, particularly compared to Simon Russell Beale last year. As for the Mad Hatter, Steven McRae was superb again, his tap dancing utterly brilliant.

Joby Talbot’s music, conducted again by Barry Wordsworth, provides just the right atmosphere, giving a hot summery feel to the garden party in Act I, and I like the allusions to the Rose Adagio in Sleeping Beauty, and the clock scene in Cinderella. Bob Crowley’s designs are glorious, beautifully lit by Natasha Katz, and the scenario by Nicholas Wright brings Lewis Carroll’s story very cleverly to the ballet stage. The dream becomes real, but in the end Alice falls back into the real world, returning to the garden party with Jack, and the dream seems to have done the trick.

Performances continue until April 16 — for details click here.

Review of Sleeping Beauty, with Rojo and Bonelli, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, October 2011

1 November, 2011

Colourful new costumes with Oliver Messel’s original designs updated by Peter Farmer, fine ensemble dancing and some excellent solos, what more could one want? Well … coordinating the conducting better with the dancing would help.

Tamara Rojo in Act II, all photos Bill Cooper

During the first interval, a lady from the audience told me she thought only one of the fairy variations in the Prologue was well danced, and that was Emma Maguire in the fifth variation (Fairy of the Golden Vine). Certainly she showed enormous poise and control, as she did in the pas-de-trois from Act III, along with fine performances by Hikaru Kobayashi and Kenta Kura. But what went wrong with the other variations in the Prologue? The audience was lukewarm about the first four (Yuhui Choe, Helen Crawford, Hikaru Kobayashi, Samantha Raine), but I’m inclined to blame the conducting, which I found sluggish. After Itziar Mendizabal followed with the Lilac Fairy’s variation, the young men dance, but the music was terribly plodding, which makes it hard for the dancers. Good performances on stage however, as the king throws the invitation list to the floor, realising his master of ceremonies has omitted Carabosse, and then on she came with her ghastly attendants. Genesia Rosato was a fine Carabosse, but as her coach exited something crashed. A bit of extra excitement was welcome and the audience around me were amused.

Back for Act I with the delightful Tamara Rojo as Princess Aurora, and Gary Avis showing fine stage presence as the English prince. Pity about the ragged brass at the start of Act I, and pity about the Christopher Wheeldon’s new choreography for the Garland Dance, which is supposed to be a waltz. Problems with the brass reappeared in Act II, but Boris Gruzin’s conducting warmed up later in that Act, and the journey to the sleeping realm came over effectively.

Rojo and Bonelli in Act III

Act III contained some very fine dancing: the pas-de-trois of Florestan and his Sisters by Kobayashi, Kura and Maguire, as I mentioned earlier, and Yuhui Choe was a brilliant Princess Florine with her partner Alexander Campbell as the Bluebird. They danced beautifully together, and Red Riding Hood and the Wolf were wittily portrayed by Leanne Cope and Johannes Stepanek, with the little trees that now come on stage adding a nice touch. As the principal characters, Tamara Rojo and Federico Bonelli formed a fine partnership and came over as real fairy tale characters, he the perfect dark haired prince and she showing the reserve befitting a princess who is manipulated by forces outside her immediate control.

This revamped production with its new costumes is certainly worth seeing, though I hope the Company can make more rehearsal time available for putting the orchestra together with the dancers.

Performances with various casts continue until December 21 — for details click here.

Ballo della Regina/ Live Fire Exercise/ DGV:Danse à Grande Vitesse, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, May 2011

14 May, 2011

This triple bill made for a rather fragmented evening, because the first two pieces took only 36 minutes between them, while the two intervals lasted half an hour each.

DGV, Royal Ballet photo by Johan Persson

But it was all worth it because the final item, Christopher Wheeldon’s Danse à Grande Vitesse, was wonderfully invigorating and performed with great energy. A clear stage seems to roll up at the rear into twisted metal sheets, though these are not quite what they seem when light later bleeds through. Wonderful designs by Jean-Marc Puissant, and beautifully lit by Jennifer Tipton, with subtle changes of hue. The lighting yields a very clear view of the principal dancers on the front stage while giving a more subdued feel to those who appear behind, and this is all part of the choreographic effect. The dancing was marvellous, the four principal couples being Zenaida Yanowsky with Eric Underwood, Leanne Benjamin with Steven McRae, Melissa Hamilton with Gary Avis, and Sarah Lamb with Federico Bonelli. All eight danced superbly, as did the dancers in the corps, and I thought Hamilton and Avis particularly stood out, though that was partly the choreography. The music by Michael Nyman was conducted with energetic precision by Daniel Capps, who did a very fine job of uniting music and dance.

Capps also conducted the first item, Ballo Della Regina (The Queen’s Ball) giving it a suitably regal tone while maintaining just the right rhythm for dance. It’s a Balanchine work set to music that was cut from Verdi’s opera Don Carlo, and involves a sequence of variations, first with twelve girls in blue, then two principals in white, joined by four soloists in violet. The principals, Marianela Nuñez and Sergei Polunin, danced exquisitely, well supported by Yuhui Choe, Emma-Jane Maguire, Samantha Raine, and Akane Takada as the soloists, and the other twelve girls from the corps. Watching this was a real pleasure, and I look forward to the Company doing it again.

Federico Bonelli in Live Fire Exercise, photo by Bill Cooper

After this short ballet was over we had to wait nearly twice as long again for the second item, Wayne McGregor’s new work Live Fire Exercise. This looked rather intriguing at first, with small trucks and other heavy vehicles moving noiselessly in a window at the back of the stage. Then six silhouettes walk on and there is a silent explosion creating a plume of fire. The images by John Gerrard are wonderful and it was only after the fireball that I realised they were projected onto a screen in 3-D. The surroundings on the screen slowly rotate and the images move forward, becoming larger. It was fascinating, but seriously distracted from the dance going on at the same time. This distraction is a feature of some of McGregor’s other ballets, such as Infra and Limen, and I wonder why he does it. Perhaps he feels the choreography is not sufficiently interesting to fill out twenty minutes, but the images were, and I liked the plume of fire turning to smoke as night falls, and it all seemed to become more focused as the light showed up the dancers. Eventually dawn arrives, the vehicles leave, the silhouettes reappear and suddenly scatter. The music is the Corelli Fantasia by Michael Tippett, conducted by Barry Wordsworth. It’s lovely music, with a strong pastoral feel towards the end, though the whole thing never really came alive despite the terrific dancing.

The high standard of dancing in this triple bill is a great credit to the Company, and I admire the fact that they put on a new ballet and two others that are not standard repertory, but the intervals were enervating, and the hour and twenty minutes between the end of the first work and the start of the last — three quarters of it interval — would have been a good time for dinner.

Performances continue until May 25 — for more details click here.

Onegin, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, October 2010

8 October, 2010

This was a second view of John Cranko’s wonderful ballet during the present run, this time with an entirely different cast of principals: Federico Bonelli and Laura Morera as Onegin and Tatiana, Sergei Polunin and Melissa Hamilton as Lensky and Olga, and Gary Avis as Prince Gremin. For my previous review of the first night cast of Kobborg/ Cojacaru/ McRae/ Takada/ Gartside click here. Both casts were terrific — each in its own way unbeatable — but I’ll avoid comparisons and simply report on the present one.

At the beginning of Act I, Melissa Hamilton as Olga moved with wonderful grace, and she and Polunin seemed made for one another. Their joyful dancing together made Onegin’s attempt to break them apart all the more poignant, and Bonelli’s superb aloofness and disdain in the role of Onegin showed there was no question of his flirting with Olga just to teach Lensky how shallow she is. No, this was a devilish trick by a bored young man. His tearing up of Tatiana’s letter was a masterpiece of cool rudeness, and his pirouettes before the duel showed furious emotion.

Laura Morera as Tatiana showed great emotional sincerity, and her beautiful movements in the dream pas-de-deux of Act I made an enchanting impression, sadly spoiled by one audience member whose repeated emotional outbursts had nothing to do with the dancing. Fortunately there was nothing to spoil her final pas-de-deux with Onegin before she throws him out of her dressing room. Add to that a wonderful pas-de-deux at the ball with Gary Avis, and you have a remarkable performance of Tatiana’s role. Avis showed superb stage presence, as ever, and made an unbeatable Prince Gremin. His charming re-introduction of Onegin and Tatiana in Act III, before he sweeps her out of the room, was a masterpiece of skilful timing and savoir faire. The whole performance was excellent, but the main accolades must go to Bonelli and Morera who played their roles with consummate technique and musicality.

The music by Kurt-Heinz Stolze, based on Tchaikovsky, was well played by the orchestra under the baton of Barry Wordsworth, and five further performances are scheduled for October 9, 12, 13, 20, 25.

Tribute to Diaghilev, Royal Opera House, June 2009

8 June, 2009

Diaghilev-tribute[1]

This was a delightful mixture of divertissements, very ably conducted by Valery Ovsianikov with the orchestra of the English National Ballet. The most striking items were Igor Zelensky and Ulyana Lopatkina dancing a pas-de-deux from Scheherazade, Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares dancing the black swan pas-de-deux from Swan Lake, Zelensky as Apollo, and Ulyana Lopatkina as The Dying Swan. Here is the list of what was done — in my view they should have cut Daphnis and Chloë, and Tamar, both performed to recorded music and to choreography unconnected with Diaghilev.

Scheherazade by Igor Zelensky and Ulyana Lopatkina of the Kirov, choreography by Fokine, décor and costumes by Leon Bakst. Simply superb.

Daphnis and Chloë by Natsha Oughtred and Federico Bonelli of the Royal Ballet, choreography by Ashton, décor and costumes by John Craxton. Nicely done.

Petrushka by Dmitri Gruzdyev of the English National Ballet, choreography by Fokine, décor and costumes by Alexandre Benois. Disappointing—unmusical and lacking pathos.

La Chatte by Alexandra Ansanelli of the Royal Ballet, choreography by Ashton in homage to Fanny Elssler, décor and costumes by William Chappell. Very nicely done.

Giselle pas-de-deux from Act II by Mathilde Froustey and Mathias Heymann of the Paris Opera Ballet, choreography by Fokine, décor and costumes by Benois. Well done.

Tamar by Irma Nioradze and Ilya Kuznetsov of the Kirov, choreography by Smoriginas, décor and costumes by Bakst. They should either have done the original Fokine choreography or omitted this, particularly since it was to recorded music.

Le Spectre de la Rose by Yevgenia Obraztsova of the Kirov and Dmitri Gudanov of the Bolshoi, choreography by Fokine, décor and costumes by Bakst. Beautifully performed.

Apollo by Maria Kowroski of the NYCity Ballet and Igor Zelensky of the Kirov, choreography by Balanchine, décor and costumes by Andre Bauchant. Nicely done.

Les Sylphides by Tamara Rojo and David Makhateli, choreography by Fokine, décor and costumes by Benois. Well performed.

Le Tricorne by Dmitri Gudanov of the Bolshoi, choreography by Massine, décor and costumes by Picasso. Strongly performed.

The Firebird by Irma Nioradze and Ilya Kuznetsov of the Kirov, choreography by Fokine, décor and costumes by Gontcharova. Well performed.

Les Biches by Mara Galeazzi and Bennet Gartside of the Royal Ballet, choreography by Nijinska. Well done.

Swan Lake pas-de-deux from Act III by Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares of the Royal Ballet, choreography by Petipa. A superb performance, particularly from Nuñez.

Le Carnaval by Yevgenia Obraztsova and Andrei Batalov of the Kirov, choreography by Fokine. Very nicely done.

The Dying Swan by Ulyana Lopatkina, choreography by Fokine. Beautifully performed.