The main event here for me was to see Vadim Muntagirov. The role he was performing is light on content, being truly a supporting role – that of partnering Marianela Núñez gallantly. The demands of the performance, the classical stylings and steps are firmly within his comfort zone, and allowed him to display his considerable skill to good effect.
Quite who suggested the subject matter of Virginia Woolf for a new ballet, and quite why they did so, is anyone’s guess*. Still good art can come from unlikely places, or can be sourced from curious themes, and McGregor’s art suceeds: this Woolf works. It sketches powerful moments – indeed in some places, it achieves a rare beauty all of its own. Parts I and III of this triptych are by far the strongest. Part II feels like the campest thing ever committed to stage. (More on that later.)
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.
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.
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 again a white swan which in some ways failed to take full, tragic flight. Natalia Osipova’s Odette did not fully convince me that she was in distress of despair at finding herself imprisoned, doomed by curse. Instead, there was as with last time, some kind of detachment in the performance. This was dancing (not acting, mind) which lost the emotional thread, even though the performer herself may have been lost (or rather, fully invested) in the role.
This was an evening which rewarded not for the reason I had hoped but instead by virtue of surprise.
First, hopes: Natalia Osipova seems to be ballerina of the moment: talked about, surrounded by weight of expectation, making good on the claims that she is emerging as a dancer of the highest order.
Tonight she wasn’t for me, quite of that highest order. In terms of acting, seen through binoculars, her expressive face embodied all of Odette’s necessary emotional repertoire and yet without binoculars, this didn’t quite seem to carry to the Amphitheatre, where I was sitting. (more…)
This was my first visit to see Dowell’s Swan Lake, and I was not wholly impressed by the spectacle, nor by some of the choreographic choices, but the dancing was wonderful.
For the designs: I was struck by the curious idea of setting the piece in Tchaikovsky’s sort of time period (the 1880s, I am hesitantly guessing at) as for me, part of the ballet’s appeal is precisely because it is a fairy story, quite usually set in (loosely) medieval of at least fairytale storybook times. That’s not to say that fairy tales can’t happen in a modern era, see for example, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life etc., but only to suggest that certain things within that setting might not sit happily with the text of the piece. For example, if the gates of Siegfried’s palace had truly been guarded by blokes with crossbows, one imagines Revolution would have been tried long before 1905 or 1918. To have them with guns would also feel menacingly modern and anachronistic, an admission of brutality and an aesthetic of “police state” almost. To have them with crossbows removes the terror, but nullifies the believability of the setting. A small thing, really, but indicative of what to my mind, is a problem with the production overall.