Posts Tagged ‘Laura Morera’

Royal Ballet Triple: Chroma, Tryst, Symphony in C, Covent Garden, May 2010

22 May, 2010

This triple bill was beautifully danced, and the first and last items are very strong ballets. What a shame there were so many empty seats, but those who are eligible should be aware of the student standby tickets, where excellent seats on the main floor could have been purchased for £10.

Chroma, photo by Johan Persson

Chroma is a modern dance work choreographed by Wayne McGregor for four women and six men. It’s strikingly asexual, in the sense that boys and girls frequently make the same movements and are clothed in identical grey costumes. The opening was very well danced by Mara Galeazzi and Edward Watson, I loved the pas-de-deux performed by Steven McRae and Yuhui Choe, and there are plenty more such male-female duos, but male-male ones too. For example in one scene there are five seemingly identical couples on stage, but only four female dancers. There is also a pas-de-trois for three boys, and later three simultaneous male-female-male pas-de-trois. The ballet lasts just under 25 minutes, and the leaps, twists and multiple partnering works well. The music was composed partly by Joby Talbot, partly by Jack White III, all arranged by Joby Talbot and orchestrated by Christopher Austin. The six male dancers were: Ricardo Cervera, Steven McRae, Ludovic Ondiviela, Eric Underwood, Jonathan Watkins and Edward Watson, with the four females being: Yuhui Choe, Mara Galeazzi, Sarah Lamb and Laura Morera. The dancing was first rate, and Daniel Capps conducted the music with lyrical energy. My only question is why it’s called Chroma, meaning ‘colour’ in ancient Greek, but as the lady next to me said, ‘achroma’ would be more suitable in view of the grey costumes and white background. I’m told the background gives a different effect from the main floor, but from the Amphi it’s just flat and white.

Melissa Hamilton and Eric Underwood in Tryst, photo by Bill Cooper

The title of the next work, Tryst, is easy to explain. The choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon was driving across Scotland while the radio played a composition of that name by James MacMillan. It’s rhythmic intensity, coupled with a lovely adagio passage, struck him as being well-suited to ballet, so in April and May 2002 he created this work. The designs by Jean-Marc Puissant are beautifully asymmetric with splashes of colour, and the lighting by Natasha Katz shows interesting variations. I very much liked the central slow section, which started with Melissa Hamilton dancing a solo on stage while a silhouetted male figure walked slowly across the front. As the light changed it turned out to be Eric Underwood, and they danced a lovely pas-de-deux. The ballet is a mixture of classical and modern dance, so its second place on the programme is entirely appropriate, but it seemed a slight let-down after Chroma. The music, conducted by the composer, I found interestingly atonal. Apparently it began life as a folk melody for a poem of four verses called The Tryst by Scottish poet William Soutar.

Symphony in C with Pennefather and Nuñez, photo by Bill Cooper

Finally Symphony in C was a delight, as usual. George Balanchine created it in 1947 for the Paris Opera Ballet, to Bizet’s music of the same name, and recreated it in New York the following year. The original had different colours for the four movements, but in the recreated version the girls are all in white tutus with the men in black. This is a magnificent ballet requiring eight principals, sixteen soloists and a substantial corps de ballet, so it can show off a classical company to great advantage, and the dancing here was superb. The four principal couples, one for each movement were: Sarah Lamb with Steven McRae, Marianela Nuñez with Rupert Pennefather, Yuhui Choe with Sergei Polunin, and Laura Morera with Edward Watson. It seems almost invidious to single out anyone, but Sergei Polunin’s leaps were extraordinarily strong and graceful, and Edward Watson danced with terrific attack. This is a beautifully constructed ballet by Mr. B, and after we have seen all four sets of dancers, they return one after another, and then combine in a finale. Bizet’s music was well conducted by Dominic Grier.

My final remark is that putting on this triple bill is quite a feat. Three different conductors, dozens of dancers, many with difficult roles — the Royal Ballet surpasses itself, and the auditorium should really be full to bursting.

Royal Ballet Triple: Electric Counterpoint, Asphodel Meadows, Carmen, Covent Garden, May 2010

5 May, 2010

Pennefather and Nuñez in Scarlett's fine new ballet Asphodel Meadows, photo by Johan Persson

Asphodel Meadows is a very interesting new ballet by Liam Scarlett, to Poulenc’s Concerto in D minor for two pianos and orchestra. There were fourteen dancers plus three principal couples, one for each movement of the concerto. The first was beautifully danced by Marianela Nuñez and Rupert Pennefather with lovely elegant movements, the second more spicily by Tamara Rojo and Bennet Gartside, and the third fluidly and fast by Laura Morera and Ricardo Cervera. Costumes were leotards for the boys and simple skirts and tops for the girls, bluish/beige for the fourteen dancers, with dark brown, charcoal, and crimson, in that order, for the principals in the three movements. I thought the designs by John Macfarlane were excellent, as was the lighting by Jennifer Tipton. It all lasted a little under 25 minutes and was a delight to watch. The title is interesting. Asphodel is a type of lily, and the name is from ancient Greek. Meadows of asphodel appear in Homer’s Odyssey (Book XI, line 539), where Odysseus travels to Hades and encounters the shades of dead heroes.

Sarah Lamb and Edward Watson in Electric Counterpoint, photo by Dee Conway

This new ballet was sandwiched between works that were performed within the last two years. The programme started with Christopher Wheeldon’s Electric Counterpoint, to music by Bach and Steve Reich, played by Robert Clark on the piano and James Woodrow on the solo guitar. It appealed to me much more than when I saw it in early 2008, though the cast was almost identical, with Edward Watson, Sarah Lamb, Leanne Benjamin and Eric Underwood — last time, Benjamin’s role was performed by Zenaida Yanowsky. In the first part each dancer appears alone, starting with Sarah Lamb. There is a wall facing the audience on which is projected another version of Sarah Lamb, dancing as if she were a mirror image. Gradually, however, the dancer and her image go disconcertingly out of phase with one another, but later there is little connection between dancer and image. During this first section, along with the piano music by Bach, there is a recorded voice-over by the dancer who is performing, giving personal details of their life and motivation. In the second part the wall facing the audience vanishes and there is another wall at an oblique angle, with four doors through which the dancers appear. The electronic music is accompanied by guitar, and there is pas-de-deux work as well as solo dancing. It lasts thirty minutes, which I found well spent, and I liked the designs by Jean-Marc Puissant and the lighting by Natasha Chivers.

After seeing this, followed by Asphodel Meadows, the evening didn’t need spoiling with Mat Eks’ dreadful Carmen, and I’m delighted they put it as the third item on the bill, so I could happily leave.

MacMillan Triple: Concerto, The Judas Tree, Elite Syncopations, a second view, Royal Ballet, March 2010

31 March, 2010

These three Kenneth MacMillan ballets represent strikingly different aspects of his choreography. As a starter we had the classical lines of Concerto, to Shostakovich’s second piano concerto; then the dramatic intensity of The Judas Tree, to specially commissioned music by Brian Elias; and finally the riotous fun of Elite Syncopations, to a jazz band playing rag-time music, mainly by Scott Joplin. This was my second visit, in order to see the alternative cast, so I’ll comment mainly on the dancers, other details being given on my previous posting.

Marianela Nuñez in Elite Syncopations, photo by Johan Persson

Elite Syncopations was just as good as last time, and Marianela Nuñez was outstanding in the second female solo, so musical, and with enormous precision and attack. Her partner in the waltz was Thiago Soares, showing excellent stage presence and looking entirely fresh despite starring in the previous ballet! Laura Morera danced the first female solo, having already performed well with Nathalie Harrison and Yuhui Choe in Scott Joplin’s Cascades. Choe was utterly charming in this, and in her later partnership with Liam Scarlett. Ludovic Ondiviela danced well in the final male solo, but the biggest applause was for Nathalie Harrison and Michael Stojko as the tall lady and short man in the Alaskan Rag. Their comic timing was excellent, and he with his glasses and bearing reminding me of that great comedian, Eric Morcambe, albeit in a shorter version.

Sarah Lamb & Ryoichi Hirano in Concerto, photo by Johan Persson

The hyper-colourful costumes for the performers and the jazz band in this ballet are delightfully absurd, and it made a fine end to an evening that started with MacMillan’s 1966 ballet Concerto, where Laura Morera and Brian Maloney did a fine job as the principal couple in the first movement, and Sarah Lamb with Ryoichi Hirano did a lovely pas-de-deux in the slow second movement. All four were joined by Laura McCulloch for the last movement, and the whole company danced with precision and excellent spacing on stage.

This 25 minute ballet makes a fine start to the evening, which then plunges into the intense darkness of The Judas Tree, where Thiago Soares gave a menacing portrayal of the Foreman (the Judas character). He was ably supported by Sergei Polunin as the Simon Peter character who stands by as Johannes Stepanek (the Jesus character) is murdered after being kissed on the cheek by the Foreman. Mara Galeazzi was the girl (the Magdalen character) who is gang raped by the workmen, and then killed by the Foreman after she accuses him of being responsible. It’s a horribly dark story, but the dramatically physical choreography keeps the momentum going at full tilt, and is a fine example of how well MacMillan could use the abstract choreography of dance to give a representation of sex and violence. Despite the subtext from an apocryphal gospel, the whole ballet can simply be viewed as a nasty story on a building site on the Isle of Dogs, with the main tower of Canary Wharf looming up in the background.

As part of a triple bill, The Judas Tree goes in the middle, and although some commentators have criticised the choice of Elite Syncopations to follow it, I find the playful absurdity a welcome relief. For me this triple bill is well judged, and whichever cast one gets, it’s an evening of ballet well worth seeing.

Triple Bill: As One, Rushes, Infra, Royal Ballet, February 2010

20 February, 2010

Acosta and Morera in Rushes, Royal Ballet photo; Bill Cooper

All three of these ballets are concerned with interactions between people, and the first one, a new work by Jonathan Watkins, was an optimistic vision of individuals living in a harmony with one another — to be as it were As One. At the start one dancer appears in an opening that expands to reveal a whole apartment building. In the foreground a few people dance outside it, and we are then transported into one apartment where a house party is going on. This then changes to a different apartment where Laura Morera and Edward Watson desultorily watch television, yet their sluggishness suddenly releases a burst of energy, and they dance with great spirit. Between the start of the ballet and the ensemble at the end there are five scenes, and the energy of the performers is palpable. Kristen McNally danced a wonderful solo, as did Steven McRae, who performed against a background of flashing names and numbers that looked to me like a huge train timetable, and this helped create a sense of activity in day-to-day life. McRae and McNally also danced together, and were superb. I liked the set designs by Simon Daw, the simple costumes by Vicki Mortimer, and I thought the lighting by Neil Austin was excellent. The music, by a young composer named Graham Fitkin, seemed to lack a sense of precision and attack, but this may have been due more to Barry Wordsworth’s conducting rather than the composer himself. The choreography called for the dancers to perform in very close proximity to one another, not always doing the same things, which must have been quite challenging. There was some raggedness in the ensemble pieces, but it was a new ballet and this was the first night. It will settle down, and is well worth seeing again.

The second item, Rushes — Fragments of a Lost Story, by Kim Brandstrup is a beautiful description of a relationship between a man and two women.  Carlos Acosta was the man, with Laura Morera as the sexy woman in the red dress, and Alina Cojocaru more demure in the grey dress. These were the same dancers I saw last time at the premiere, and once again they were wonderful, and entirely convincing in their roles. The story is uplifting in the sense that although the man is drawn to the woman in red, who attracts and avoids him, he eventually notices the woman in grey, who has been watching from the sidelines, and finds love with her. I was delighted to see this Brandstrup work again, and find Richard Hudson’s designs very clever in conveying the fragmentary nature of the story. A bead curtain splits the stage into a front and back half, and the dark lighting by Jean Kalman gives a sense of mystery and uncertainty, sometimes shining through the beads, sometimes deflected by them. Part of the inspiration for this work was the Soviet era in Russia, which was littered with fragments: unrealised projects, the banned, the censored, along with secret notebooks and sketches. In this context the music by Prokofiev, originally written as a film score for The Queen of Spades, fits perfectly. Prokofiev wrote it at the same time as he was working on Romeo and Juliet, and one hears a similar pattern to the music. For this ballet Michael Berkeley has done us a great service by arranging and elaborating Prokofiev’s music, and it sounded wonderful, being well performed under the direction of Daniel Capps.

The final item of the evening was a revival of Wayne McGregor’s ballet Infra, which I saw in its previous run. On this second occasion I was sitting higher up in the house and I realised that the higher you sit the more the floor of the stage appears to take up the space within the proscenium arch. The best place to sit might be with the spotlights in the roof, where the animated figures moving across a horizontal strip on the backdrop would be invisible. They are intrusive and detract attention from the choreography, though perhaps that’s the idea, because Max Richter’s music is strangely dull and the choreography is more athletic than interesting. The highlight was the excellent pas-de-deux between Eric Underwood and Melissa Hamilton, and though there was certainly applause at the end there were also a number of empty seats for this third item.

Sleeping Beauty, Royal Ballet, January 2010

19 January, 2010

Marianela Nuñez as Aurora, Royal Ballet photo by Bill Cooper

With the old Oliver Messel designs, this production by Monica Mason and Christopher Newton is simply wonderful, and with a superb cast on this first night of the present short run, we were all set for a terrific evening. In fact the dancing was excellent, so why was it that the applause during the performance was lukewarm? The answer, I’m afraid was the ragged conducting and occasional poor tempi from Valeriy Ovsyanikov. What is his excuse? That he had insufficient time for rehearsals? Maybe, but he conducted the same ballet in October and November, and his failure to start the music up in Act III immediately Aurora and her prince appear on stage just gave a sense of negligence. A one or two second gap may not seem important, but it ruins the impact. This was near the end, of course, but the problems showed themselves already in the Prologue with very slow tempi ruining the first and third fairy variations, and then the Lilac Fairy’s solo too. This music needs to sound exciting, but it failed, and the woodwind was occasionally out of phase with the brass. A world-class company like the Royal Ballet deserves better. Having got that off my chest, let us turn to the dancers.

The fairy variations in the Prologue were very well danced by Yuhui Choe, Hikaru Kobayashi, Helen Crawford, Iohna Loots and Emma Maguire, in that order. All were the same as I saw in October, except for Emma Maguire replacing Laura Morera, who in this performance danced the Bluebird pas-de-deux with Steven McRae. Both of them were excellent, and the Act III variations — Florestan and his sisters — were brilliantly performed by Sergei Polunin, Akane Takada and Yuhui Choe. Laura McCulloch did well as the Lilac Fairy, Elizabeth McGorian was beautifully dramatic as the wicked fairy, Carabosse, and I thought Gary Avis was excellent in the small part of the French prince in Act I, where too often, Princess Aurora has a weak partner for her first small pas-de-deux. She was gloriously danced by Marianela Nuñez, with Thiago Soares as a fine Prince Florimund.

Such a shame that the superb dancing could not be matched by some really good conducting, but like last October’s performance, which was also conducted by Ovsyanikov, there was not a single cheer except during the bows at the end, and for Nuñez after her Rose Adagio. This is not how it should be, and the Royal Ballet needs to use better conductors. Boriz Gruzin did an excellent job with Romeo and Juliet last week, so it can be done, but not apparently by Ovsyanikov. And he had the sauce to take a solo bow after the entire orchestra pit was empty!

Les Patineurs and Tales of Beatrix Potter, Royal Ballet, December 2009

15 December, 2009

These two delightful ballets by Frederick Ashton are a joy to watch. He was a choreographer with a sense of humour, and his inventiveness is well revealed in both works. This is a revival of the double bill from last year, and performed by very similar casts.

Les Patineurs is to music by Meyerbeer, arranged by Constant Lambert, and Ashton’s choreography gives a wonderful impression of ice-skating. Steven McRae danced the boy in blue, giving him a very boyish feel, and the elegant couple in white was stylishly portrayed by Rupert Pennefather with Sarah Lamb. The soloists in dark blue dresses were Yuhui Choe and Laura Morera, making a fine pas-de-trois with McRae, and Yuhui Choe was spectacular on her own. McRae’s fouttés were wonderfully done, and Paul Murphy in the orchestra pit kept the music going at a good smooth pace.

In Tales of Beatrix Potter, with its uplifting music by John Lanchbery, we had a range of excellent dancers, their faces of course invisible behind the masks. Jonathan Howells was a charming Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, the same as last year, and Gary Avis was once again an excellent Fox, this time with Samantha Raine as Jemima Puddle Duck. Bennet Gartside and Laura Morera again danced beautifully as the loving couple Pigling Bland and Pig-Wig. Johannes Stepanek was Peter Rabbit, and Ricardo Cervera repeated his role of Johnny Town-Mouse, but this time with Bethany Keating as Mrs. Tittle-Mouse — both were suitably stylish. The naughty mice, Hunca Munca and Tom Thumb were amusingly performed by Iohna Loots, who did the same role last year, and Ludovic Ondiviela. The male solos for Jeremy Fisher and Squirrel Nutkin were danced by Kenta Kura and Paul Kay. It’s impossible to compete with McRae’s provocative Nutkin from last year, and I’m afraid I thought Kenta Kura was off the music as Jeremy Fisher, but the little mice, danced by junior associates of the Royal Ballet School, were utterly superb. This is presumably their star role for the year, and no matter whether or not they go on to join the company they can all be immensely proud of their performances. What a joy it was to watch them!

Nothing can compare to John Lanchbery conducting his own music to this ballet, but Paul Murphy did well, and the designs by Christine Edzard and masks by Rostislav Doboujinsky continue to charm.

Mayerling, Royal Ballet, 29th October 2009

30 October, 2009

Tamara Rojo as Mary Vetsera, Royal Ballet photo by Bill Cooper

This was the October 29th performance with Carlos Acosta as Crown Prince Rudolf. A brief discussion of the story appears in my review of an earlier performance with Johan Kobborg as Rudolf. Certainly Kobborg was very good, but Acosta was arguably better, portraying Rudolf’s angst with emotional restraint and superb physicality. Tamara Rojo as his mistress Mary Vetsera was prettily seductive, and their pas-de-deux at the end of Act II writhed with passionate intensity. Rudolf’s wife was very well danced by Iohna Loots, and Countess Marie Larisch was well performed by Mara Galeazzi. Last time, Laura Morera took that role, but on this occasion she was Mitzi Caspar, the courtesan, and danced beautifully. This ballet has a large cast of soloists, and I won’t list them all, but I did particularly like Ricardo Cervera as Bratfisch.

Liszt’s music, arranged and orchestrated by John Lanchbery, came over very well under the baton of Martin Yates. The designs by Nicholas Georgiadis are still fresh and entirely in keeping with the story, and the whole cast worked well together in reviving this Kenneth MacMillan ballet. As the programme noted, it was on this same day 17 years ago that he died back-stage at the Royal Opera House — his creative talent is sadly missed.

Sleeping Beauty, Royal Ballet, October 2009

24 October, 2009

Marianela Nuñez as the Lilac Fairy, Royal Ballet photo by Johan Persson

This was the first night of the present run, and featured some excellent dancing, but the evening never really took off. That may partly have been the conducting of Valeriy Ovsyanikov, who manipulated the tempos to suit the dancers, but sometimes went too far in slowing the music down, particularly for one of Aurora’s solos in Act III, which was completely spoiled. The cast was led by Ivan Putrov and Sarah Lamb as Florimund and Aurora, with Marianela Nuñez as the Lilac Fairy. Nuñez danced beautifully, Putrov was an elegant and worthy prince, but I was disappointed with Lamb, who seemed to be going through the steps in an anorexic haze.

Carabosse was well portrayed by Genesia Rosato, who seemed to take a malicious delight in the role, and the fairy variations in the Prologue were very well performed by Yuhui Choe, Hikaru Kobayashi, Helen Crawford, Iohna Loots and Laura Morera, in that order. I thought Hikaru Kobayashi was particularly good in the second variation representing Vitality — the original virtues of these five fairies are Purity, Vitality, Generosity, Eloquence and Passion. The Prologue was a great success, but I felt the performance tailed off a little afterwards, perhaps because of a lack of vitality, generosity, eloquence and passion on the part of Sarah Lamb. Purity she had, but it wasn’t enough. In Act III, Laura Morera and Steven McRae were superb as Princess Florine and the Bluebird, his solo steps being beautifully executed. There is no gold variation in this production, but the silver, sapphire and diamond variations, for Florestan and his sisters, were danced by Sergei Polunin, Helen Crawford, and Samantha Raine, who was very good indeed. Polunin, I thought was brilliant, and his jetés were an exercise in perfection.

This lovely production by Monica Mason and Christopher Newton, using the old Oliver Messel designs with additions by Peter Farmer, is one of the company’s gems, but although beautifully danced, this first evening lacked energy and spontaneity. Some ushers threw flowers from the Amphi and Balcony at the end, although they seemed to dump them down rather quickly, perhaps because the applause was on the weak side and there hadn’t been a single cheer throughout the performance.

Mayerling, Royal Ballet, October 2009

10 October, 2009

Leanne Benjamin as Mary Vetsera, Royal Ballet photo by Bill Cooper

This was the second night of the present run, with Johan Kobborg in the main role as the 30-year-old Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary. His death, with that of his mistress, the seventeen-year-old Mary Vetsera, in January 1889 inspired Kenneth MacMillan to create this ballet in 1978. The state authorities in 1889 attributed the two deaths to a suicide pact in which Rudolf killed her and then himself, but this was almost certainly a cover-up. When the Viennese Medical Institute examined Mary Vestera’s remains in the 1990s they concluded she had suffered severe blows to the head and there was no bullet hole. Rudolf had been shot, but not by his own gun. Although I’m not a conspiracy theorist, the events at Rudolf’s hunting lodge at Mayerling were certainly different from the official version, but there is no need to spoil a good story and MacMillan’s ballet is a darkly dramatic piece.

Kobborg portrayed the prince with care and restraint, allowing the choreography to show his libertine and allegedly sinister side. With Leanne Benjamin as Mary Vetsera we had a superb pair of dancers, and their pas-de-deux at the end of Act II flowed with freedom and spontaneity. Rudolf’s ex-mistress, Countess Larisch was beautifully danced by Laura Morera, showing great stage presence. Emma Maguire as Rudolf’s wife Stephanie did a fine job, and Helen Crawford as Mitzi Caspar, a courtesan and regular mistress to Rudolf, danced with panache. These are just a few of the dancers in a huge cast that worked very well together.

The music is by Liszt, arranged by John Lanchbery, and was conducted here by Barry Wordsworth. The present run continues until November 10th, and I shall report again after seeing a further performance.

Jewels, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, June 2009

9 June, 2009

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This 1967 Balanchine ballet is in three parts: Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds. Mr. B originally hoped that the jewellers Van Cleef and Arpels might bankroll the ballet, and although that never happened, they did sponsor this Royal Ballet production two years ago. The staging is simple yet effective and in each part the costumes, reflecting emeralds, rubies, and diamonds, are delightful.

Emeralds is to Fauré’s incidental music for Pelléas et Mélisande. In this strange tale by Maeterlinck, Mélisande is found by a stream in a forest, like a naiad, and the green of emeralds recalls both the forest and the watery world from whence she comes. The leading couple were Tamara Rojo and Valeri Hristov, with Leanne Benjamin and Bennet Gartside as the second couple, and Deirdre Chapman, Laura Morera and Steven McRae in the pas-de-trois. They all danced extremely well, particularly Tamara Rojo, Leanne Benjamin and Steven McRae, as did the supporting artists, and this was a wonderful start to the evening.

Rubies is to Stravinsky’s Capriccio for piano and orchestra. The racy choreography involves a pas-de-deux for a central couple, in this case Alexandra Ansanelli and Carlos Acosta, who were full of vivacity, looking as if they were really enjoying themselves. They are complemented by another woman, in this case Laura McCulloch, who plays a temptress role, and she and the lead couple take it in turns to accompany the supporting dancers. Again the ensemble work was excellent.

Diamonds is to music from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony 3, which was his last composition before starting work on Swan Lake, and the ballerina is like a diamond in glacial splendour, a precursor to the cold beauty of Odette in Swan Lake. The principal couple, Alina Cojocaru and Rupert Pennefather were brilliant. He danced like a god, with great precision and a lovely line, and she was simply delightful. They were attended by: Yuhui Choe, Hikaru Kobayashi, Helen Crawford and Emma Maguire, as the four soloists, whose dancing was a delight to watch, as they inter-weaved with one another on stage. Again the ensemble work of the other dancers was superb, and this was altogether a terrific evening with a wonderful cast. Valeriy Ovsyanikov conducted with great brio and precision.