This was another delightful Fille, courtesy of principals Natalia Osipova and Steven McRae. Naturally the setting – a pure ray of sunshine fit to warm the heart – contributed, and so did strong corps work too.
For some reason, this Fille didn’t go as well for me as my first of this run two days earlier. This might have been a function of my seat (upper slips), which lost some of the stage and robbed jumps and lifts of their amplitude and effect, or it could have been partly due to the people a few seats over to my right, who spent the whole time talking.
What a disappointment. Especially after last week’s memorable and thought-provoking “Gebirge”. Where that piece was bleak, moving, involving, a howl of human emptiness, Ahnen was nothing compelling and nothing powerful. Ill-knit and aimless, it was perhaps the biggest waste of three hours I have ever spent watching anything. Halfway through act II I could barely bring myself to take any more notes, and at the end, to collate them.)
Indulge me (as Tanztheater Wuppertal asked for last night) as I compile A List of Things That Happen in Ahnen:
Chic, cool, sometimes clinical in staging, Maillot’s “Romeo and Juliette” is a whirling
spectacle of frentic dance, but one which didn’t fully move me. (Such is the bulk of
action written for her that it really should be called just “Juliette”.) Perhaps this was down to the minimalist set (Ernest Pignon-Ernest, and what a cool name) which removes all references to any medieval Verona, opting instead for a white palate, with a thing that looks like a slide bisecting the backwall, and two moveable panels. Credits are projected onto one panel at the start, which felt a bit strange. A touch of class came from the costumes (lamé, metallics, women in dresses slashed to the thigh) courtesy of Jérôme Kaplan.
This was as close to perfect a playing of this most delightful of ballets as I could have wished for. In fact, it was perhaps one of the happiest and most fulfilling times I have had at the Royal Opera House, for ballet, or for opera.
Things That Happen in Bausch’s “Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört”
- A woman buries a chair in soil
- A man dressed as a lifeguard blows up multiple balloons until they burst. He later makes a sandwich out of his own arm complete with garnish.
- A woman polishes shoes as a crowd race around her
- A seated woman screams for about two minutes, as a man runs and leaps over her a lot
- Twenty-four fir trees are hauled onstage, then off again
- A live brass band plays an early 20th Century German tune whilst a woman slaps and hits herself forcefully.
- A man plays “Cry Me a River” for a few bars, then stops, each time removing an article of clothing.
- A woman is swathed in bandages until she can only waddle, like a mummy, then chases people.
- A man stalks the stage with a rubber band around his nose.
- A guy plays percussion on the buttocks of his fellow cast-members.
Swan Lake, this ain’t.
Here’s a brief reflection on the Royal Ballet’s Swans and other denizens of Swan Lake I have seen this season live.
The Operatunist’s Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake 2015 awards 😀
- Best Odette overall: Salenko/Nunez tie (Salenko for dance, Nunez for acting)
- Best Odile: Osipova
- Best all rounder: Nunez
- Best Act II pdd: Obraztsova
- Best acted Odette: Nunez, no contest.
- Best acted Siegfried: Golding from far away. Less so in cinema.
- Best Siegfried: all have good traits. I will go with Golding.
- Best Pas De Trois guy: James Hay
- Best PDT girls: Yuhui Choe and Francesca Hayward
- Best Neapolitan boy: James Hay
- Best Neapolitan girl: Yasmine Naghdi
- Best von Rothbart: (c’mon…no contest) GARY AVIS!
- Best couple I saw: Salenko and McRae
- Ideal couple: Golding and Obraztsova
- Honourable mentions: Melissa Hamilton as one of Two Swans.
- Best conductor: Boris Gruzin ^___^
- Most disappointing: Osipova’s Odette.
- Most impressive: Osipova’s Odile 😀
- Golding’s Waltz moment, and his leap to the death
- Salenko’s beating wings from deep cambré
- Nunez’s re-enchantment and her ‘wait, boy.’ finger in the mime
- James Hay’s gorgeous tours
- Melissa Hamilton and sisters rising on pointe to circle Odette
- Talented baby swans!
- Osipova’s crazy fouetté combo
- Takada’s échappés
- Obraztsova’s lyricism and time stopping lifts
- McRae’s billion mile an hour turns in Act III
- The jocular cook
- Girls on pointe on stools
- The beautiful Act II curtain
- The very lovely (at times rickety) swansleigh to heaven
- Vadim Muntagirov
- the Rothbart imps (one being swatted with a fan)
- Marriott’s Rothbart’s ‘WOOO!’ face at the Queen
- Hearing Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous music so much.
I hope the Dowell production informs any new production. Rumour has it that Liam Scarlett may be attached to the project. Although Act I is very fussy, and very orange and Act III is too dark for some, literally – it is I gather textually pure. For this reason I am glad to have seen it.
Let’s keep the Ashton Neapolitan and the baby swans. Doing away with the Rothbart costume would be ideal – as would a wholesale tidying up of costumes in the non white acts. (Too much distraction!) I wouldn’t mine tulle or tutu for the swans. Let’s not get too neoclassical for the choreography. The Dowell text is largely fine, as is the musical editing. Ok, so the tutor could probably get kicked but no Jester, and no fishdives either! Set it back in fairytale-land. And, keep the sad ending!
(Hope you’re reading, Liam. I’ll be glad to help out. :P)
This was certainly a unique experience. It was, for example, the first time I have ever needed 3D glasses for an opera. If the work didn’t quite succeed in firing up the imagination as much as I had hoped, it certainly explored possibilities of the mix between drama, choreography, opera and the electronic arts. Opera certainly should try new things, and as an opera that definitely does try these things (and some opera-goers patience, it seemed) this production is to be commended.
This was a “Lake” I was looking forward to seeing, not least for the prodigious (ever growing) talents of Vadim Muntagirov, but also for the fact that it would be my last viewing of the Royal Ballet’s venerable production.
‘Wow!’ said the lady next to me as Mathias Heymann‘s Siegfried soared through the air in his Act III solo, ‘wow!’ too from me, at some of his feats, and ‘wow!’ at the start and end coup de theatre of (spoiler alert?) Odette and Rothbart’s tattered ghosts (?) flying up to oblivion. And yet on leaving the theatre I didn’t feel wowed overall, instead a little underwhelmed. Why?