Posts Tagged ‘Nehemiah Kish’

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.

Onegin, with Bonelli and Morera, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, January 2013

23 January, 2013

After John Cranko worked on the choreography for Tchaikovsky’s opera he wanted to turn the story into a ballet, which he later did in Stuttgart. Apparently he intended to use music from the opera, but the Stuttgart Ballet commissioned a score by Kurt-Heinz Stolze, using alternative music by Tchaikovsky. The resulting creation is rather different from the opera, which Covent Garden will perform in a couple of weeks’ time.

Morera and Bonelli/ Bill Cooper

Morera and Bonelli in Act I

Onegin here is a less nuanced character than the one based more firmly on Pushkin’s original in the opera. Here in the ballet he tears up Tatiana’s letter in Act II when she refuses to take it back, and his flirtation with Olga is cruel rather than showing her fiancé and his friend Lensky what a silly vacuous girl she is. But the choreography is glorious and the poetic justice of Tatiana tearing up Onegin’s letter at the end of Act III is very effective.

Within this context, Federico Bonelli gave a fine portrayal of Onegin, showing coolness rather than anger as he rips up the letter, and avoiding an excess of nastiness as he dances with Olga at the Act II party. The main character in the ballet however is Tatiana, and Laura Morera showed a lovely dreaminess in Act I particularly in her pas-de-deux with the imaginary Onegin who appears through the mirror, followed by emotional wildness in Act II after Onegin dances with Olga, and serenity in Act III as her pas-de-deux with her husband Prince Gremin flowed with life and joy. Gary Avis as Gremin was superb, his fine stage presence at the party turning to a beautiful expression of love for Tatiana in their duet together, and perplexed concern with what bothers her later in her boudoir. Bonelli, who has shown admirable angst at Gremin’s party when he realises who Gremin’s wife really is, then comes in to face Morera, and their pas-de-deux was quite rightly the high point of the evening. Finally she rejects him with a fine mixture of assertiveness and regret.

Morera and Bonelli in Act III, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

Morera and Bonelli in Act III, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

Avis, Morera, and Bonelli brought the performance to a glorious conclusion in Act III, while Yuhui Choe as Olga was sheer delight, and after an uncertain start in Act I, Nehemiah Kish as Lensky came into his own in Act II showing excellent anger and forcefulness in challenging Onegin to a duel.

Lovely work from the whole company, and Dominic Grier in the orchestra pit gave an excellent account of the score. The designs by Jürgen Rose, based on the Stuttgart Ballet originals from 1969 are wonderful, and I shall report again tomorrow after seeing a different cast this evening.

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

Firebird/ In the Night/ Raymonda Act III, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, December 2012

30 December, 2012

What a terrific triple bill this is, and on the evening of 29 December it was beautifully danced.

Among cast changes in Raymonda, Zenaida Yanowsky and Ryoichi Hirano replaced Nuñez and Pennefather in the main roles, and Ricardo Cervera replaced Whitehead in the Hungarian dance. Cervera showed a fine cutting edge and dramatic sense, and his partnership with Kristin McNally worked like a charm, the two of them looking like dolls together in perfect time to the music. The dancers in the female variations, the same as before, were even better if that is possible. Hikaru Kobayashi showed beautiful control and musicality, Yuhui Choe’s arabesques en pointe with a bending of the leg were extraordinary, Itziar Mendizabal was lovely in the slow variation, and Helen Crawford’s jumps in the fourth variation were a thrill to watch.

Raymonda Act III, all images ROH/ Tristram Kenton

Raymonda Act III, all images ROH/ Tristram Kenton

As a ballet Raymonda has a rather silly story, but the Act III wedding of its eponymous heroine with Jean de Brienne, recently returned from the crusades, is a feast of dancing, and Yanowsky and Hirano were outstanding in these roles. I can’t resist a quick mention of Fumi Kaneko, Emma Maguire and Yasmine Nagdhi who were brilliantly on the music in the pas-de-trois. Raymonda Act III makes a glorious finale, and as the curtain opened Barry Kay’s ravishing set once again elicited spontaneous applause.

Galeazzi and Watson as Firebird and Prince

Galeazzi and Watson as Firebird and Prince

Firebird, so often the finale itself, is the starter here, with Mara Galeazzi showing beautiful arm movements as the Firebird. Edward Watson gave a well-nuanced performance as Ivan Tsarevich, Alastair Marriott was suitably dramatic as the wicked Kostcheï, and Christina Arestis was a gorgeous princess. The story is the reverse of Swan Lake, the prince abandoning his passion for an exotic female to accept a royal and more appropriate partner, but Stravinsky’s music is, or should be, hugely dramatic, though Barry Wordsworth’s conducting with its elegantly rounded corners lacked energy and bite.

No problem on that score with the second item, In the Night, where Robert Clark gave an excellent performance of Chopin’s nocturnes to accompany some glorious choreography by Jerome Robbins.

In the Night, Campbell and Maguire

In the Night, Campbell and Maguire

Against a starlit background, Alexander Campbell and Emma Maguire made a wonderful first couple, he so full of energy, she showing a gentle gracefulness. And in the third variation, Carlos Acosta and Roberta Marquez made a dramatic entrance on their shaft of light, moving apart and together with great passion. It was a super partnership, but in the second movement Zenaida Yanowsky and Nehemiah Kish did not manage the same success as a week ago. She seemed far less comfortable than with Hirano in Raymonda, and a couple of the lifts went slightly awry. In the Night ends with a delightful waltz, and interactions between the six dancers — it is a superb vehicle for the individual brilliance that this Company has in spades, and they should dance it more often.

In the Night, Yanowsky and Kish

In the Night, Yanowsky and Kish

Unfortunately all three later performances are sold out, but click here for details and possible returns.

Royal Ballet Triple: Firebird, In The Night, Raymonda Act III, Covent Garden, December 2012

22 December, 2012

A triple bill ending with the third act of Raymonda is a fine complement to Nutcracker for the Christmas/ New Year period.

Raymonda Act III, all images ROH/ Tristram Kenton

Raymonda Act III, all images ROH/ Tristram Kenton

Raymonda has a wonderful finale with stunning costumes, and the sets drew audience applause when the curtain opened. With fifteen soloists including the principals, Zenaida Yanowsky and Nehemiah Kish on this occasion, it is jam-packed full of dancing. Among others, Hikaru Kobayashi and Yuhui Choe were excellent in their solos, Alexander Campbell was strikingly precise with his tours-en-l’air in the pas-de-quatre, and Ms Yanowsky, well partnered by Kish, showed star appeal. Glazunov’s music was well conducted by Barry Wordsworth, far better than Stravinsky’s Firebird, which opened the show.

Firebird

Firebird

Firebird is always worth seeing, and the corps de ballet danced beautifully both in this and Raymonda. The Firebird herself was danced with conviction by Itziar Mendizabal, weakening as the prince holds her wings and fulfilling her promise to help him after her release. Gary Avis gave a fine portrayal of Kostcheï the deathless, whom the prince vanquishes with her help by breaking the egg that contains his heart. The prince is triumphant, but Bennet Gartside didn’t show it. He represented Fokine’s choreography with great care, but lacked stage presence, assertiveness and outward tension. This was not helped by Barry Wordsworth’s conducting, which removes the tension and rounds the corners of Stravinsky’s score, hollowing out the soul of the music.

3.Federico Bonelli and Sarah Lamb in In the Night. Photo Tristram Kenton, courtesy ROH

In the Night, Bonelli and Lamb

No such problems with the delightful middle ballet In the Night by Jerome Robbins to music by Chopin, beautifully played by Robert Clark. The choreography is for three couples, starting in this performance with Sarah Lamb and Federico Bonelli floating dreamily together on stage and showing a lovely line. The purity of the music and dancing was a relief after the drama of Firebird, but drama made its way into this 1970 Robbins ballet as Yanowsky and Kish came on for the second pas-de-deux, generating tension and showing a sure-footed ability in executing the upside-down lift. Finally it was Johan Kobborg and Alina Cojocaru who sparkled in the third pas-de-deux, passionately athletic and full of energy. Wonderful fun.

The Company should do Jerome Robbins more often. While they have staged Firebird over 200 times, and the third act of Raymonda nearly 100, this was only their twentieth performance of In the Night.

Performances continue until January 11 — for details click here.

The Prince of the Pagodas, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, June 2012

3 June, 2012

King Lear meets Sleeping Beauty in this mid-1950s fairy tale creation by John Cranko, to music commissioned from Benjamin Britten. After the Cranko ballet fell out of the repertoire, Kenneth MacMillan made his own version in 1989. This revival now contains some cuts to the music that he originally intended, but was not permitted to make.

The central character is Princess Rose, who leaves her father’s court, his crown having been taken by her elder half-sister, Princess Épine. She travels to the Other World, conquers her fears and returns to re-enliven the king, put Épine to flight, and become betrothed once more to her prince.

Marianela Nuñez and Nehemiah Kish, all images Johan Persson

Marianela Nuñez was a serenely beautiful Princess Rose, who danced divinely, and Tamara Rojo was enormously powerful as the scheming Princess Épine. Nehemiah Kish as the prince made a fine partner for Nuñez, and gave a strong performance as the salamander whose form he takes, testing Rose’s ability to show compassion and move beyond mere platonic love.

Nuñez and Kish in Act II

The four kings from Acts I and III, who appear in nightmarish form in Act II, were superbly danced by Bennet Gartside (north), Valeri Hristov (east), Steven McRae (west) and Ricardo Cervera (south), and despite the disguising make-up, McRae’s wonderful dancing gave him away, and his camp portrayal was glorious. The big male solo role of the Fool, who guides Princess Rose, was brilliantly performed by Alexander Campbell, and the whole company danced beautifully. Alastair Marriott was excellent as the old king who, like Lear, is apportioning his kingdom to his daughters. His body language reminded me of the Red King in Checkmate, and his recovery when Rose reappears was superbly performed.

The fine designs by Nicholas Georgiardis are well lit by John B. Read, and we have Monica Mason to thank for a well-judged revival of this MacMillan ballet. The large orchestra under the baton of Barry Wordsworth was once again in top form after the recent Salome, and considering the huge amount of work and careful attention to detail by the team responsible for this production it is astonishing the Royal Opera House made such a mess of the flowers at the end. Nuñez received three lovely bouquets, while Rojo merely got a small bunch wrapped in paper. Embarrassing for the Company, and something of an insult to a superb dancer who is leaving soon to become artistic director of the English National Ballet. She will be sorely missed and the audience roared their approval at her solo curtain calls.

Performances continue until June 29 — for details click here.

Ballo della Regina, with Nuñez and Kish/ La Sylphide, with Cojocaru and McRae, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, May 2012

22 May, 2012

Ballo Della Regina (The Queen’s Ball) is a short Balanchine work set to music that was cut from Verdi’s opera Don Carlo.

The corps in Ballo, all Ballo images Bill Cooper

This ballet involves a sequence of variations, first with twelve girls in blue, joined by two principals in white. After a pas-de-deux for the principals, four soloists in violet come on one at a time, and more variations follow. It demands huge precision, and the principal roles, Marianela Nuñez was beautifully partnered by Nehemiah Kish. The soloists, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Yuhui Choe, Emma Maguire and Samantha Raine also danced exquisitely, as did the twelve girls from the corps. Daniel Capps conducted with a suitably regal tone while maintaining a fine rhythm for dance, and this was a delight to watch.

Nuñez and Kish in Ballo

La Sylphide is quite different, a narrative ballet in two acts by Danish choreographer August Bournonville, and this excellent staging is by the Royal Ballet’s Danish principal Johan Kobborg, who has added some choreography of his own. The fine set designs by Sören Frandsen are beautifully lit by Mark Jonathan, and I love the costumes by Henrik Bloch. In the principal role of James, Steven McRae danced the difficult choreography sublimely. He is about to be married to Effie, beautifully portrayed by Emma Maguire whose fine deportment and épaulement created a glorious stage presence. So confident at first, until upset by James’s mysterious lack of desire after his encounter with the sylph who woke him from sleep.

Cojocaru in Act I, all Sylphide images Johan Persson

Alina Cojocaru was a lovely sylph, always apart and never actually dancing with James. This is a story about a young man’s self-destruction, aided by the appearance of the sorceress Madge whom he suddenly notices sitting by the fire in a place where the sylph had been. Who is Madge? Possibly a fallen sylph, jealous of the one who seems able to win James, and Kristen McNally was superb in this role, reading palms and defiantly predicting that Effie would not marry James but the farmer Gurn, who adores her. Her mime sequences were clearly and beautifully done, and Valentino Zucchetti danced Gurn with huge presence and power, performing effortless leaps in the air.

Cojocaru in Act II

This Bournonville ballet in its recent staging by Johan Kobborg was once a new departure for the Royal Ballet, and dancing this style along with the many other styles they perform is a remarkable feat. The music by Løvenskiold, composed when he was just twenty-one, was brilliantly conducted by Daniel Capps who gave it all the necessary momentum to sustain the narrative. A wonderful evening, but such a pity to see empty seats in the Amphi.

Performances continue until June 15 — for details click here.

Sleeping Beauty with Cuthbertson and Polunin, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, December 2011

16 December, 2011

All images by Johan Persson

This performance, broadcast by live cinema relay, had a super cast along with plenty of musical excitement from the conductor and the orchestra, right from the very beginning of the Prologue. As we start, at the christening of the baby princess, those wonderful fairy variations were danced by Yuhui Choe, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Fumi Kaneko, Iohna Loots, and Emma Maguire. Yuhui Choe in particular was wonderfully soft and musical in the first variation, and Emma Maguire was superbly musical in the fifth (pointy) variation. Claire Calvert was the Lilac fairy, and Kristen McNally a defiantly dramatic Carabosse. She was super.

Cuthbertson as Aurora in Act III

In Act I Lauren Cuthberston was delightful as the young Princess Aurora, and Nehemiah Kish showed strong stage presence as the English Prince who plays the main supporting role among the four suitors. The Rose Adagio that she performs with them came over entirely naturally, and Cuthbertson danced beautifully in her solo just before Carabosse enters to give her a spindle and ruin the party. Lovely acting from Cuthberston as she collapses and the English Prince catches her.

Polunin as the prince in Act II

 

In Act II, Sergei Polunin as the Prince demonstrated real excitement at the moment the Lilac fairy showed him the vision of Aurora, and the musical accompaniment for the journey to the sleeping forest came through with great charm. When the prince awakened the sleeping princess the music rang forth with huge power — congratulations to Boris Gruzin in the orchestra pit. Then as we swept forward into Act III, with barely a break for the curtain to close, the wedding party moved into full swing with Florestan and his sisters dancing to Tchaikovsky’s gold, silver, sapphire and diamond variations. Emma Maguire and Melissa Hamilton danced peerlessly in this pas-de-trois, supported by Dawid Trzensimiech who seemed to be on a different beat to the ladies, though his technique was excellent. As Princess Florine and the Bluebird, Yuhui Choe and Alexander Campbell were wonderful, their partnering outstanding, and their solos superb, but where was the applause? The audience was remarkably subdued throughout the evening, though they finally woke up for the grand pas-de-deux with Polunin and Cuthbertson, who were excellent.

Comparing this performance with the one I saw on October 31, the music was better this time by orders of magnitude. Since it was the same conductor, Boris Gruzin, the only explanation can be rehearsals. This is the big problem with the ballet at Covent Garden — rehearsal time. But what a pleasure to be at such a fine performance, and those costumes, recently updated and recreated are glorious.

This is a Sleeping Beauty to be proud of, and performances in the present run continue until December 21 — for details click here.

Royal Ballet Triple: Asphodel Meadows, Enigma Variations, Gloria, Covent Garden, November 2011

20 November, 2011

The first and last items on this excellent programme are to music by Poulenc, and both these two ballets — though not the music — deal with death. In an announcement at the start of the evening, a request was made for no applause during Gloria. As a result the audience seemed hesitant about applauding the first item, Asphodel Meadows, though several people applauded, more than once, during the third item, Gloria, before being shushed by others. How much better if the Royal Opera House had saved the announcement until just before Gloria!

Laura Morera and Ricardo Cervera, photo Johan Persson

The revival of Liam Scarlett’s Asphodel Meadows, which had its premiere in May 2010, is most welcome. The music is Poulenc’s Concerto in D minor for two pianos and orchestra, danced by an ensemble of fourteen plus three principal couples, one for each movement of the concerto. The first pair of principals, Rupert Pennefather and Marianela Nunez in brown, showed immense emotion in their movements, and their pas-de-deux in the slow middle section of the first movement was beautifully done. Tamara Rojo and Bennett Gartside in charcoal danced the Larghetto, and Laura Morera and Ricardo Cervera in burgundy the Allegro of the third movement. Flawless dancing of great musicality, and Tamara Rojo in particular was striking in her superb control. The ensemble work was excellent, and this was a perfect start to an evening ending with the bleak World War I retrospective of Gloria, as the meadows of asphodel appear in Homer’s Odyssey (Book XI, line 539), where Odysseus travels to Hades and encounters the shades of dead heroes.

Carlos Acosta in Gloria, Dee Conway

Poulenc’s Gloria in G, in praise of God, was used by Kenneth MacMillan for this elegy to those whose lives were lost or blighted by the Great War. Andy Klunder’s fine designs show the men with helmets, though their uniforms and flesh have been torn off, and the metal-frame ruin over a trench is a stark reminder of a wasteland of death where ghostly men and women emerge from the horizon. Sarah Lamb was beautifully moving as the woman in mourning, well partnered by Thiago Soares, and Laura Morera was the fearless girl, tossed about by Valeri Hristov, Kenta Kura and Johannes Stepanek. The ballet is based on Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth, and the female soloists both reflect aspects of her personality. She lost her lover and her brother during the war, and Carlos Acosta was superb in his solo role, showing a fierce intensity in his portrayal. His solos were gripping, and as the sole figure on stage at the end he pauses, and suddenly drops out of sight behind the abyss.

Enigma Variations, photo Dee Conway

Sandwiched between these two memorials to the victims of war, performed less than two weeks after Armistice Day, was Ashton’s brilliant ballet to Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Christopher Saunders portrayed Elgar himself, with Christina Arestis as his wife. Her fluidity of body language was pure Ashton, and a joy to watch. Nehemiah Kish and Lara Turk were well cast as the contemplative scholar subduing his emotions, and the young romantic girl with whom he’s in love, and this genteel pas-de-deux is followed by a complete contrast with Edward Watson giving a remarkable performance of the difficult and demanding Troyte variation. One contrast follows another, and Bennet Gartside was a finely understated Jaeger in the Nimrod variation, followed by Roberta Marquez as Dorabella. Her body and arm movements were beautiful in this fiendishly difficult solo, though some musicality was lacking, and José Martín was enormous fun in the bulldog solo. In the end it was Christopher Saunders and Christina Arestis who framed this ballet so beautifully, and the evening was well conducted by Barry Wordsworth.

This is a triple bill not to miss. Performances continue until November 30 — for details click here.

Jewels, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, September 2011

23 September, 2011

On the back of the cast list is an advertisement for jewellers Van Cleef and Arpels whom Balanchine once hoped would bankroll his production. They didn’t …  yet all was well, and this ballet first came to stage in 1967 as a full scale work in three acts: Emeralds to Fauré’s incidental music for Pelleas and Melisande; Rubies to Stravinsky’s Capriccio for piano and orchestra; and Diamonds to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 3.

Leanne Benjamin in Emeralds, all images Johan Persson

The green of Emeralds represents Melisande whom Pelleas discovers by a stream in a forest, the colour representing both foliage and the underwater world of a naiad. Tamara Rojo danced with great fluidity, partnered by Ryoichi Hirano; and Leanne Benjamin was wonderfully musical both in her solo and her pas-de-deux with Nehemiah Kish, who showed a particularly elegant line. Samantha Raine, Deirdre Chapman and Alexander Campbell danced delightfully in the pas-de-trois, and the ending with the three men was performed with perfect timing and symmetry.

Rubies

The red of Rubies represents a racier, sexy milieu, and although Valeriy Ovsyanikov’s conducting and Robert Clark’s piano lacked a cutting edge, Steven McRae and Sarah Lamb made up for it with the sharpness of their dancing, and Zenaida Yanowsky shone with joy as the seductive other woman. McRae was extraordinary in his solos, and his dazzling chaînés turns elicited spontaneous applause.

Cojocaru and Pennefather in Diamonds

Tchaikovsky’s music for Diamonds is from his last composition before starting work on Swan Lake, and the ballerina in her white tutu has an ethereal splendour rather like the swan queen. This third part of the evening started beautifully with Yuhui Choe and Hikaru Kobayashi sparkling as they danced in and out of twelve members of the ensemble, and Alina Cojocaru and Rupert Pennefather were perfect as the main couple, though I found the conducting sluggish for their big pas-de-deux. The four female solists (Choe, Kobayashi, Crawford and Mendizabal) interwove beautifully between one another, the four men (Kura, Hristov, Stepanek and Whitehead) danced superbly in phase, and I thought Thomas Whitehead in particular showed a wonderfully strong line.

Excellent ensemble dancing for all three parts, and only the conducting left something to be desired. How odd that the conductor sees fit to take a solo bow — opera conductors wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing.

All in all a wonderful evening’s dancing to Balanchine’s choreography, aided by delightful sets and costumes, and the House was deservedly full.

Performances continue until October 5 — for details click here.