Posts Tagged ‘Mark Jonathan’

Sleeping Beauty, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BRB, London Coliseum, April 2010

21 April, 2010

Sleeping Beauty is a glorious union of music and dance with Tchaikovski’s score matched by Petipa’s choreography, and Peter Wright’s production for the Birmingham Royal Ballet does it full justice. The designs by Philip Prowse are excellent — the gold of the sets, and the black in some of the male costumes give a rich feel without the overwhelming pastel shades found in some other productions. The Prologue comes off very well, with the Lilac Fairy’s variation being taken by the sixth of six fairies, named here as Beauty, Honour, Modesty, Song, Temperament, and Joy. Their short tutus are all of similar colours, while the Lilac Fairy herself, gracefully portrayed by Andrea Tredinnick, is in a long tutu befitting a more calming and nurturing role. All the soloists did well, and Marion Tait as Carabosse was superbly musical as usual. Worth noting also that David Morse as Catalabutte, the master of ceremonies, showed fine stage presence and suitable angst, mortified by his omission of Carabosse from the guest list to the Christening.

Marion Tait as Carabosse, photo Bill Cooper

This production has some wonderful moments, and I particularly liked the way Carabosse reappears in Act I as a shrouded old woman, apparently willing to be arrested after giving Aurora the spindle, yet suddenly throwing off her disguise and creating havoc. Her disappearance in mid-air is very effective thanks to excellent lighting by Mark Jonathan. In fact the lighting was part of the glory of this production, giving a contrast between good and evil, particularly when both are on stage at the same time in the form of the Lilac Fairy and Carabosse. Also in Act I there was some slightly unfriendly competition between two of the four princes, played by Tyrone Singleton and Robert Parker, and it’s little vignettes like this that help to make the production come alive.

Nao Sakuma as Aurora, photo Bill Cooper

Nao Sakuma danced well as Aurora, and was very hansomely partnered in the later acts by Iain Mackay. He did a fine job as her prince, stepping in for Chi Cao, who was unable to get back into the country due to the recent absence of air flights. It was the first time they had danced these roles together, and they did it perfectly. This is a company that obviously works well together, producing excellent soloists and a fine corps de ballet. In Act III, Mathias Dingman and Alexander Campbell were brilliantly matched in the pas-de-quatre, as were Carol-Anne Millar and Angela Paul, who showed magnificent sparkle. Joseph Caley and Momoko Hirata were excellent in the Bluebird pas-de-deux, and I loved Sonia Aguilar as the White Cat — she was utterly charming.

If you want to see Sleeping Beauty, this production is terrific, and musically it was better than the recent run by the Royal Ballet. Paul Murphy conducted and drew exciting sounds from the orchestra, making the journey to the enchanted wood in Act II sound . . . well, enchanting. The choreography too, at that point, is delightful, and now includes the Awakening pas-de-deux.

Performances continue until Saturday, 24th April.

Cinderella, Royal Ballet, 17 April 2010

18 April, 2010

Frederick Ashton’s choreography gives full power to the fairy tale aspect of the story, and when Cinderella enters the ball in Act II she comes down the stairs en pointe. This gives an ethereal quality to her transfer from the world of enchantment to the human world where her frightful stepsisters cavort around in their garish costumes, hoping to attract a prince whose taste is far above theirs. In this performance, Yuhui Choe danced Cinderella with exceptional charm and refinement. Her elegant footwork and sympathetic body language marks her out as an exceptional future performer of this role.

If this ballet is mainly about Cinderella herself — and it is — there is still plenty of dancing to watch.

Jonathan Howells and Alastair Marriott as the step-sisters, photo Bill Cooper

Alastair Marriott and Jonathan Howells played the obnoxious step-sisters with great wit — Howells as the taller sister was a hoot, but never over the top. Sergei Polunin was a handsome prince and danced extremely well in this difficult role — he’s only 20 but is already a fast rising star in the Company, well worth watching in any role they give him. Francesca Filpi was a lovely fairy godmother, and Fernando Montaño was suitably acrobatic as the Jester, though I prefer a stronger stage presence. As the fairies we had Elizabeth Harrod as Spring, Hikaru Kobayashi as Summer, Samantha Raine as Autumn, and Claire Calvert as Winter. All danced well but Ms Kobayashi was exceptional as Summer — dreamy and languidly warm.

This production by Wendy Ellis Somes has been criticised for the costumes and even the sets, but I think most of this criticism is unwarranted, and there are some nice touches such as the coach appearing fully on-stage as Ashton originally wished, but couldn’t manage with the smaller space available at the time. The lighting by Mark Jonathan is excellent, and I liked the rotating speckled effect that covers the whole auditorium during the overture. It helps to engage the audience in the forthcoming stage magic. I only wish the transformation from old crone to fairy godmother in Act I were done on-stage, as was once the case. Instead the shadow of the old crone reappears outside the house, and then the fairy godmother enters through the door.

Act III, photo by Bill Cooper

Production and dancing aside this ballet would be nothing without the music, and as soon as the first bars emerged from the orchestra I was entranced. Pavel Sorokin produced excellent lyricism and tension from Prokofiev’s score, and it was an enormous relief to have a good conductor in the pit. Unfortunately he dropped the tempo at some points, particularly with the stepsisters and their father at the beginning of Act I, which forced their movements to be far too sluggish. But Sorokin is evidently a capable conductor, which makes a pleasant change. The Royal Ballet has tolerated some lacklustre conducting recently, particularly in full-length ballets such as Sleeping Beauty, so let us hope this is a permanent change for the better. The company’s dancing is superb, and deserves equally fine musical support.