Posts Tagged ‘Tchaikovsky’

Nutcracker, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, December 2011

12 December, 2011

The original story by E.T.A. Hoffmann  interweaves the real and magical worlds, with Drosselmeyer’s toy Nutcracker based on his own nephew. Wayne Eagling’s production, based on a joint idea with Toer van Schayk, combines the two worlds in various clever ways and the nephew, who appears in the party scene of Act I, later interchanges with the Nutcracker several times.

Photos by Annabel Moeller

At the end of Act I, Clara, Drosselmeyer and the Nutcracker escape in a balloon, with the Mouse King clinging on below and quietly disengaging himself at the start of the second Act. Later he and the Nutcracker fight again, and this time it’s the Nutcracker who delivers the fatal thrust of his sword. Clara’s brother Freddie reappears in Act II as a prisoner in the Arabian dance, and she and Drosselmeyer come on to help him escape. Then right at the very end of the ballet when the guests leave the house, the balloon reappears just for a moment, hovering in the background.

Despite these clever inventions this is a traditional production and it works very well indeed. I loved the choreography for Clara and the Nutcracker in the late Act I snow scene, and the main ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ pas-de-deux was beautifully danced by Crystal Costa as Clara, and Jonah Acosta as the Nephew, both making their debuts in these roles. She was beautifully musical, showing superb control in her solos, and he danced strongly, exhibiting fine coupé jetés around the stage.

The Spanish dance was performed with great musicality and fluidity by Anjuli Hudson, Laurretta Summerscales and Anton Lukovkin, the Arabian dance was well performed by James Streeter and ladies, along with Barry Drummond looking suitably naïve as the prisoner, and the other character dances all went well. Eagling has changed the choreography for the Mirlitons, eliminating the three boys who chase the butterfly, but keeping the butterfly, delightfully danced by Adela Ramírez, along with Drosselmeyer. One critic wondered why there were two names in the programme for Mirlitons, but of course the other is Drosselmeyer, danced here by Daniel Jones, making his debut in the role. The lead flowers were Chantel Roulston and Jenna Lee, partnered by Fabian Reimair and by Junor Souza, who also performed very well as the Mouse King, with James Forbat as a fine Nutcracker.

The whole performance came over with a sense of magic, and David Richardson’s lighting gives a sudden mysteriously warm glow after the main Act II pas-de-deux, just before everyone comes on for the final waltz. Peter Farmer’s sets work beautifully, and the conducting by Gavin Sutherland was excellent. The London Coliseum is a great auditorium for dance, so if you want a Nutcracker with fine choreography, dancing and musical excitement, do not hesitate.

Performances at the London Coliseum continue until December 30 — for details click here.

Queen of Spades, Opera North, Barbican, November 2011

23 November, 2011

Three, Seven, Ace — that’s the secret the old Countess tells Herman in her brief return from beyond the grave. She did it beautifully, Josephine Barstow singing this role in an utterly compelling way. A perfect Countess, well backed up by Jonathan Summers as Tomsky, who gave a gripping Act I account of the Countess’s young life in Paris, and William Dazeley as a noble Prince Yeletsky.

The Card Game in Act III, all images Bill Cooper

The staging by Neil Bartlett was simple but effective, and I liked the small lights around the edge of the stage, giving a nice late eighteenth century touch. This is after all set in the reign of Catherine the Great, who attends the ball in Act II appearing on the audience side of the auditorium, if the performers on stage were to be believed. And indeed they were entirely believable, except for the main pair, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts as Herman, and Orla Boylan as Lisa. Both had their good moments, their vocal performances were uneven, and their stage presentations left much to be desired. He looked like the Act III version of Baron Ochs from Rosenkavalier with his wig missing, and evinced little of the desperately obsessive passion that Tchaikovsky invested in this role. Her matronly appearance carried no conviction as the sheltered girl who falls for this nutcase and gives up her fiancé, Prince Yeletsky. Admittedly Tchaikovsky’s opera, with its libretto by his brother Modest, along with Pyotr Ilyich’s own emendations, is a far cry from Pushkin’s original novella, and the roles of Herman and Lisa are difficult ones to inhabit, but these were not convincing portrayals.

The Countess at the ball

The orchestra gave a good rendering of the score under the direction of Richard Farnes, not helped by the very dry acoustic of the Barbican Theatre. Better is the Barbican Concert Hall, and far better would have been Sadler’s Wells. This is not a good venue for opera, as it gives little feeling of ensemble to the orchestra. Moreover the orchestra pit was too small, so the trombones and trumpets were on stage right, with percussion and harp on stage left, and though the players did well to handle the situation, it is not ideal. I imagine this came over much better in Leeds.

Lisa and Herman at the ball

One small point about the production is that the card game of faro in Act III seemed too abstract, with no money on the table. Herman thinks he has drawn the player’s card, an ace, while the dealer’s card is a queen. In fact he holds the queen of spades — the killer that destroys him, just as his obsession led directly to the death of the Countess, and indirectly to the death of Lisa. Tchaikovsky found himself very much in sympathy with Herman’s obsessions in this opera and wrote the music in little more than six weeks. If you haven’t seen it before, performances continue until November 24 — for details click here.

Eugene Onegin, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, November 2011

13 November, 2011

This new production by Deborah Warner, a joint venture with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, goes for big spaces. In Act I a huge barn, in Act II a big hall for the party and broad winter scene for the duel, and in Act III vast pillars reaching upwards for the ballroom, and later outside the mansion for Tatyana’s final rejection of Onegin.

Carefree days: Tatyana and Olga, all images Neil Libbert

These spaces were filled with some excellent singing. Toby Spence as Lensky was so good, both vocally and in his stage presence, that he seemed to be the main character during the first two acts. Then in Act III, Brindley Sherratt sang an outstanding Prince Gremin — it doesn’t get any better than this. Adrian Thompson was a fine Monsieur Triquet, Claudia Huckle a delightful Olga, and Amanda Echalaz as Tatyana came good in the final scene after an uneven performance during the first two acts. As Onegin himself, Norwegian baritone Audun Iversen sang with feeling, but his stage presence was disappointing. Presumably the director wanted to portray him in a kindly light when he rejects Tatyana’s letter, but without the haughtiness early on it’s difficult to appreciate his comeuppance in Act III, and with his lack of insouciance at the party scene when he whisks Olga round the dance floor, it’s hard to appreciate why Lensky would lose his rag.

Lensky confronts Onegin

The party scene was delightful, with kids and kitchen staff joining in the fun — this is after all in the countryside — and the ball scene in Act III was stunning. Kim Brandstrup’s choreography, led by professional dancers, added a great sense of style to the occasion, and the lighting by Jean Kalman showed principal figures clearly at the front of the stage, while those towards the rear appeared as if in a slight mist — very clever.

Lensky and his second await Onegin

I liked the front-drops during the orchestral preludes, and found Tom Pye’s sets very effective. The barn in Act I served as the place where Tatyana wrote her letter, starting at a table but moving to the floor. Yet it was odd that she scribbled almost nothing — it’s an impulsive letter, but long, so this rendered the scene less effective.

Conducting by Edward Gardner brought to life what is Tchaikovsky’s most gripping opera, and the chorus were superb.

Tatyana, Gremin and Onegin

Altogether this is a wonderful new production by the ENO, and the visual effects were so good that the audience spontaneously applauded the ball scene as the curtain opened for Act III.

Performances continue until December 3 — 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.

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.

Swan Lake, in concert, Prom 42, Royal Albert Hall, August 2011

16 August, 2011

With Valery Gergiev conducting, this was a sell-out. I remember his magnificent Sleeping Beauty at the Proms three years ago, and was looking forward immensely to Swan Lake, but in the end I was disappointed.

It was a promising idea. The orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre have been in London to play for the Mariinsky Ballet at the Royal Opera House, so why not get a Proms concert out of them, with Gergiev, the music director of the Mariinsky, conducting. And yes, there were good moments. A powerful start to the prologue, continuing into Act I, and a lovely harp solo in Act II, joined by a solo violin that reappeared later in Act III and was superbly played by the leader of the orchestra. The basses rocked to the beat at slower moments during the cygnets dance in Act II, swaying the stems of their instruments from side to side — they were obviously having fun — and the percussionist with the castanets in Act III was right on the beat. It must be super for these soloists to play in the great open space of the Albert Hall, rather than hidden away in the orchestra pit, and they rose to the occasion. As for the full orchestra, Act III started with a woompf, and Act IV began with symphonic passion, lovely strings and woodwind. Gergiev has a dramatic technique for starts and conclusions, but the brass hit plenty of wrong notes in the middle, and overall this failed to ignite.

The Mariinsky orchestra played four Bayaderes on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and this concert was on Monday. Gergiev had little time to get them in shape. It was only one week ago that they performed Swan Lake at Covent Garden, and although this may well have been a cut above, it wasn’t a patch on Gergiev’s Sleeping Beauty with the London Symphony Orchestra in 2008. Please can we have Gergiev and the LSO next year? A theatre orchestra cannot rise above their usual level without adequate rehearsal time, and we should not expect it.

Swan Lake, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, March 2011

23 March, 2011

With the recent success of the movie Black Swan, Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake is filling auditoriums, so tickets are getting scarce. In London at the moment both the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet have productions on stage, so there’s a choice. If you want to hear Tchaikovsky, then I’d go to the London Coliseum where Gavin Sutherland’s conducting drives the music forward in a dramatic way, and if you like designs and choreography, then I’d also go to the Coliseum to see the ENB’s production. Its choreography by Derek Deane, based on Ivanov and Petipa, works very well, as do the wonderful designs by Peter Farmer, most beautifully lit by Howard Harrison.

It’s remarkable how the sets and lighting create the sense of a mysterious outer world beyond the peasant domain in Act I, and the courtly world of Act III. In Acts II and IV we are of course in that outer world, lit by a full moon, and this production even gives us a glimpse of it during the overture by showing the evil Von Rothbart capturing a princess and turning her into a swan trapped by his spell.

all photos by Daria Klimentova

As for the dancing and movement on stage, the peasant pas-de-douze in Act I was charmingly performed, creating a sense of space and movement, and the pas-de-quatre, with Begoña Cao, James Forbat, Laurretta Summerscales and Max Westwell was terrific. The conducting gave a tremendous sense of rhythm and forward movement when Jane Haworth entered as Prince Siegfried’s mother, elegant and with a hugely engaging stage presence. The music fits Derek Deane’s choreography perfectly, and the lighting is magical for Arionel Vargas’s solo ‘soliloquy’ as the Prince, with a spot on him as the rest of the stage shades into irreality.

The four cygnets

In Act II, Fabian Reimair’s Von Rothbart moved dramatically, with great presence, and Elena Glurdjidze was a marvellous Swan Queen. Her pas-de-deux with Arionel Vargas, just before the cygnets enter, was beautifully done and she ended it with a palpable sense of regret that she is still trapped by Von Rothbart. His dramatic reappearance in Act III with his two scabrous, bald-headed followers, provided a much needed antidote to the tension between the Prince and his mother, which was very well portrayed.

Elena Glurdjidze as the black swan

When Elena Glurdjidze reappears as the black swan, Von Rothbart exudes elegance and seriousness, before taking a more active — perhaps too active — part in the amorous attraction of the prince towards his scheming daughter. The pas-de-deux between Prince and Black Swan had tremendous rhythmic energy, brilliantly supported by the orchestra under Gavin Sutherland. There was only a slight disconnect between dancer and conductor here, but the forceful playing of the orchestra is the way it should be done, and in Act IV as the Prince enters, the drums beat for all they are worth.

This was a hugely enjoyable performance, and finding tickets is well worth whatever effort it takes. Performances at the Coliseum continue only until March 26 — for more details click here.

Swan Lake, with Rojo and Acosta, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, March 2011

19 March, 2011

Tamara Rojo is the quintessential Odette/Odile, showing a wonderful purity of movement as Odette, the Swan Queen in Acts II and IV, and a sinister, calculating quality as Odile, the daughter of the evil Von Rothbart in Act III. She dons the magical aura that allows her to take on the form of Odette, causing the prince to lose his heart to her, and then suddenly laughs in his face as soon as they have plighted their troth together. As he sees a vision of the real Odette in a mirror at the rear of the stage, her nasty laugh has a wonderfully sinister quality.

Acosta and Rojo in Act IV, photo by Johan Persson

Carlos Acosta as the prince was wonderful. He showed suitable ennui in Act I, and again in Act III with the six princesses, yet a readiness to hunt at night under a full moon in Act II. His anguish was palpable in Act IV, as he searches for his swan queen, and his emotion and his dive into the lake after her at the end was very well represented. And with Tamara Rojo his deft partnering allowed her to shine, which she most certainly did, holding an arabesque en pointe in Act III without the slightest fear on either part that she might not hold the balance.

The corps de ballet, photo by Dee Conway

I’ve commented earlier this month on the production, so I’ll leave that aside, except to say that I loved the set and the lighting in Act II. As to performance, the corps danced beautifully in the big ensemble pieces, and the pas-de-trois in Act I was very well performed by Akane Takada, Deirdre Chapman and Valentino Zucchetti. He was particularly good in his jumps and the conductor, Boris Gruzin took the music at just the right pace for his solos. What a shame he couldn’t do the same for the girls. The first two female solos in the pas-de-trois were markedly too slow, as was Rojo’s big Act II solo in Act II. These are ballerinas, not men, and they need the music at a pace that allows them to shine.

The character dances in Act III were all beautifully performed, and Yuhui Choe and Liam Scarlett were a delight in the Neapolitan dance. It was a treat to have Gary Avis as Von Rothbart, both in the white acts and particularly in Act III where he exuded a charmingly dark menace, well-supported by his dwarves. The interaction with his sinister daughter Odile showed skilful sorcery, and this was altogether a Swan Lake to treasure.

Before the performance started, Monica Mason, the Company’s artistic director, came on stage. It’s always an ominous moment when one wonders whether such an appearance is to announce injuries and replacements, but this was simply to tell us that the Royal Ballet had made their first visit to Japan in 1975, and they were dedicating this performance to the victims of the appalling recent earthquake in Japan. In fact they are putting on a special performance this Sunday, March 20 at 4 p.m. in the Linbury Theatre — details below.

As for the present run of Swan Lake, performances continue until April 8 — for more details, click here.

Concert performance in aid of the Japan Tsunami Appeal, with former Principal Guest Artist of The Royal Ballet Miyako Yoshida and friends, including: Yuhui Choe, Valeri Hristov, Hikaru Kobayashi, Ryoichi Hirano, Kenta Kura*, Akane Takada*, and students from the Royal Academy of Music (*tbc).

Tickets: 20 pounds. Running time: about one hour.

HOW TO BOOK: Advance tickets available from the Royal Opera House Box Office in person and by telephone until 4pm tomorrow (Saturday 19 March). Day tickets available at the door (cash only, donations welcomed!). Box Office telephone number: 020 7304 4000

Swan Lake, with Nuñez and Soares, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, March 2011

11 March, 2011

Swan Lake shows Tchaikovsky at his very best, and although this is a perennial favourite, I find the production slightly unsatisfactory. More on that later, but the dancing was wonderful. Marianela Nuñez was lovely as the white swan, and seductively assured as the black swan in Act III. Thiago Soares was excellent as Prince Siegfried, showing suitable aloofness from Elizabeth McGorian as his mother, and fine technique in both his solos and in his pas-de-deux work with Nunez.

Marianela Nuñez as Odette

Most of the solo roles were also brilliantly performed. Akane Takada, Hikaru Kobayashi and Ludovic Ondiviela danced with great verve in the pas-de-trois of Act I — both girls danced beautifully, and Ondiviela was outstanding — and Iohna Loots, Emma Maguire, Romany Pajdak and Sabina Westcombe as the cygnets in Act II were right on the music and wonderfully in sync with one another. Emma Maguire and James Hay were terrific in the Neapolitan Dance of Act III, and all the character dances were extremely well performed. The only solo role I found disappointing was Christopher Saunders as Von Rothbart. He failed to exhibit a spirit of evil possessiveness in the white acts, and lacked the necessary menace in Act III, seeming more like an avuncular figure — albeit with a spooky hairstyle — taking his niece to a party.

The corps de ballet was superb, but the music was not quite as exciting as it ought to be. The first few bars were dull and it never really came alive. Boris Gruzin does a reliable job with the orchestra, but he took the solos for Nuñez rather too slowly, and some of the music for the corps sounded a bit rumpty-tum. Certainly there were stronger moments too, but on balance there was a lack of tension.

Nuñez and Soares in Act III

As for the production itself, improvements could very easily be made by getting rid of the supers in Act III. Their movements are entirely at odds with those for the rest of the company, and when the man in pink holds his white-gloved palms out, as if he might start directing traffic, he looks like something from another planet. They are at best an irrelevance, and I find them an annoying distraction. In Act III I’d be relieved to see some of the side sets eliminated because they take away from the space for dancing, and in Act IV I’d be glad to see some of Ashton’s choreography put back in again.

But, as I say, the dancing was superb, and the auditorium was full to the gills — performances of this run continue until April 8 — for more details click here, and for my review of another performance, with Rojo and Acosta, click here.

Nutcracker, English National Ballet, ENB at the London Coliseum, December 2010

11 December, 2010

Nutcracker is based on a story by E. T. A. Hoffmann that beautifully interweaves the real world with the magical world, all under the enchanting influence of Clara’s godfather Drosselmeyer. On the other hand Tchaikovsky’s ballet creates a greater distinction between the two worlds, and linking them more intimately is a potential challenge for any production. This one by Wayne Eagling involves some interesting ideas. For example, the mouse king is not killed in Act I but lives on into Act II, clinging to the carriage of a balloon that takes Clara and the Nutcracker away from the snow scene at the end of the first Act. He’s then killed during the second Act in a small theatre on stage, which serves as a background for the character dances.

In the Hoffmann original the Nutcracker is a magical version of Drosselmeyer’s nephew, a feature represented in Eagling’s production by having the two characters interchange on stage several times. For instance during a pas-de-trois for Nutcracker, Drosselmeyer and Clara, the Nutcracker transforms into the nephew and dances with her alone. And rather than having Clara as an onlooker during the festivities of Act II, she is a participant, coming on during the Arabian dance to release a prisoner from bondage, and later dancing with her prince as if she were the sugar plum fairy. The Spanish, Chinese, and Russian dances, along with the dance of the flowers, are of the usual type, but the dance of the mirlitons becomes a pas-de-quatre for three boys and a girl who represents a butterfly that eventually falls prey to Drosselmeyer’s net. These aspects of the production help to link the real and the magical, but I missed any representation of the Mother Ginger episode whose music I love. I also missed the final bars at the end, which were cut to leave everything quietly as it was in the prologue, with the exterior of the parents’ house on stage, and Clara and her brother creeping out for some fresh air.

The prologue — during the orchestral overture — started very well with ice skaters in front of the parents’ house, but Act I didn’t really gel on the first night. Things warmed up in Act II and the pas-de-deux between Daria Klimentova as Clara, and Vadim Muntagirov as her prince, was terrific. His lines were beautifully clean and their dancing had real élan. There were also some wonderful performances in the character dances particularly Shiori Kase in the Chinese dance, and the leading flowers Begoña Cao and Sarah McIlroy with their partners Daniel Kraus and James Forbat danced beautifully.

The designs by Peter Farmer gave a sense of solidity to the real world, and a lightness of touch to the magical. The Christmas tree grew while the mice were dancing and then transformed itself into a snow-covered tree for the rest of Act I. This is a Nutcracker interweaving the real and the magical, though the first night may not have shown it to best advantage, and the orchestral playing under the baton of Gavin Sutherland seemed a little uneven. It will surely settle down later, and performances continue until December 30 — for more details click here.