Tag Archives: Palace Opera and Ballet

Palace Opera and Ballet La Scala Ballet in Sleeping Beauty

PALACE OPERA AND BALLET
LA SCALA BALLET SLEEPING BEAUTY
OCTOBER 2019

The La Scala Ballet has revived Nureyev’s version of THE SLEEPING BEAUTY , created in 1966 and last seen twelve years ago.
While the dancing was superb, and it is a lavish , extremely opulent production , this reviewer was rather disappointed. It is absolutely crammed full with excessive numbers of dancers at times and the gilded ornate set design is at times way overdone , heavily Baroque . The sumptuous costumes also by Franca Squarciapino ) are at times perhaps a trifle over fussy at times , but in some ways you can see how it is a tribute to Nureyev’s Russian back ground and the traditions of the Marinksy .Aurora’s shell like cradle in the prologue is transformed into her bed in act2 where she sleeps for a century.
Under the energetic and enthusiastic baton of Felix Korobov the Orchestra was in rich, lush form .

Nureyev remained true to the ‘traditional ‘ Petipa choreography but , Rudi being Rudi , also adding some very demanding extra segments for Desire.For the huge corps de ballet scenes ( the ‘garland waltz ‘ etc ) there are crisp , precise many layers of criss- crossing , entwining patterns of choreography.

The fairies -with their cavaliers , and numerous attendants – were very good but not really that especially remarkable. The ‘canary fairy’ in yellow hovered beautifully and ‘finger fairy’ who twinkled enchantingly were perhaps the most noticeable.

Polina Semionova as Aurora was ravishing .Her opening solos etc in Act 1 were radiant and the Rose Adagio was excellently done with rock solid balances . And she glows in Act 3. (Speaking of the Rose Adagio it is sad that Carabosse malevolently kills all four princes.)

Our Prince Desire, Timofej Andrijashenko was jaw dropping .Tall , blonde and handsome he was magnificent , niftily dealing with all the demanding double tours , jetes etc with great panache , and a gallant partner.
Both had a glorious clean ‘ line’ .The Grand pas de deux at the end with the fish dives etc was regal and polished yet also very tender and joyous.

Carabosse the evil fairy was spitefully , malevolently played by Beatrice Carbone , sinister in black.No Her first angry entrance wasn”t really scary .( No dramatic appearance with a flash crash and puff of smoke or anything. and her attendant creatures however were not really menacing.( No dramatic appearance with a flash crash and puff of smoke or anything.)

What is also interesting is that the Lilac Fairy (Emanuela Montanari ) wears a long frock rather than atutu .While she radiates warmth and charm , it does feel rather odd.The confrontation between the two powerful fairies is rather limp , and Carabosse sort of collapses and dies ( ?) but not really dramatically.

With regards to the third act (aka ‘ Aurora’s Wedding’ ) with the fairytale characters … the BlueBird pas de deux was wonderfully danced .The cats however reminded me more of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer from the musical Cats.Interestingly there were no ‘Three Ivans’ or Red Riding Hood and the Wolf as there often are.

Riccardo Massimi as fussy, nitpciking court chamberlain Catalabutte , in red was terrific .

A sumptuous overly rich and crowded production fabulously danced.

The La Scala Ballet in Sleeping Beauty screens at selected cinemas as part of the Palace Opera and Ballet Season 25-30 October 2019
https://palaceoperaandballet.com.au/production/the-sleeping-beauty
Running time : roughly 2hours 45 minutes no interval

PARIS OPERA BALLET : SWAN LAKE

Swan Lake is one of the most loved and iconic ballets .As part of the Palace Opera and Ballet season, this is a very strong revival of the 1984 version by Rudolf Nureyev .

Nureyev uses as a basis the ‘traditional ‘ Petipa/Ivanov choreography ( especially for the ‘White’ Acts 2 and 4) to a degree, but with a twist and extra flourishes and additions of choreography . It is spectacularly staged with dark russet colours and gold for the court scenes of Acts 1 and 3. The ‘lake ‘ is simply staged with a low ramp of steps and a very atmospheric use of projections. Costumes (Ezio Frigerio who also designed the sets) are lavish, opulent and exquisitely detailed.

This version is quite dark and can be read as Freudian, especially in the relationships between Siegfried, his Mother and the tutor Wolfgang/Von Rothbart . Everything apparently is in Siegfried’s mind ( the ballet opens with him asleep in a chair – is everything a dream ?) .In Act 1 in particular Nureyev has added a lots of extra fiddly, fancy, almost Ashton like footwork for the dancers . Throughout the work there is more emphasis on the male dancing with the male roles expanded (especially for Siegfried and Von Rothbart, but also in Act1 for example with the huge corps de ballet of male dancers having their set piece ensemble with the polonaise). The mime for Odette telling Siegfried of her story and warning him of the spell is retained from a previous Royal Ballet version.

The national dances in Act 3 are performed almost right at the start of the Act – in this version they are welcome expected guests and not Von Rothbart’s uninvited ‘creatures’.

The six princesses Siegfried is required to choose from are (as is common in quite a few versions) in very similar dresses in shades of dusty pink and carry rather distracting gold fans shaped like mirrors.

The ‘Black Swan’ pas de deux in Act 3 here is far more a pas de trois for Siegfried, Odile and Von Rothbart with Von Rothbart manipulating – one could say perhaps say hypnotising – Siegfried and almost blatantly controlling him.

Rather than the ‘traditional’ ending, here it is far darker, with Siegfried collapsing (dying?), Odette transforming into a swan and being trapped in the spell forever and Von Rothbart, having transformed back into his bat/birdlike form, triumphant.

Only major companies like the Paris Opera can field such a HUGE cast – over 30 swans! and a corresponding number of male corps de ballet. Sometimes – eg for the large court ensembles in Act 1 and the swans – emphasis is made of the lines and criss-crossing blocks of patterns of the choreography (sometimes shot from a high aerial view so we can see them). The swans in the white acts breathe and pulsate as one.

As Odette/Odile Léonore Baulac was excellent displaying superb dancing. As Odette the Swan Queen she is all delicate birdlike and fluttery at first, regal yet softly lyrical and protective of her entourage, most unwilling to trust Siegfried at the start but comes to place her whole world in his trust. As Odile in Act 3 she is smiling, seductive and charming, sparkling and spinning, at times crisply mocking Odette.

As Siegfried handsome Germain Louvet was terrific, in fine form. Siegfried is presented as young , impetuous and romantic.  Technically his dancing is glorious -marvellous epaulement and flowing princely ‘lines’. He is shattered when he realises he has unwittingly betrayed Odette. Their partnership as Odette and Siegfried was delightful .

Francois Alu as Wolfgang the tutor/Von Rothbart gives a great performance. As Wolfgang he is slimily charming. What is interesting is that in Act 3 as von Rothbart he does not wear a mask or anything so that his alter ego is concealed (yet he wears a cap in Act 4 when far more bat/birdlike ).As Von Rothbart (in black , sometimes with , sometimes without , a large black fluttering trailing billowing cape) he is sinister, smiling and manipulative .In Act 3 Nureyev has added a flashy dashing showy solo for him .

Musically the Orchestre de l’Opera national de Paris under the baton of maestro Valery Ovsyanikov was glorious, giving a magnificent reading of the lush, dramatic and romantic Tchaikovsky score.

The ballet was captured live from the Opéra Bastille, Paris, 21 Feb 2019. A very  exciting, thought provoking version wonderfully danced.

Running time 3 hours including one interval .

The Paris Opera Ballet in Nureyev’s Swan Lake screened at selected cinemas between the 12th to the 17th April 2019.

https://palaceoperaandballet.com.au/production/swan-lake

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PARIS OPERA BALLET : A TRIBUTE TO JEROME ROBBINS

American master choreographer Jerome Robbins considered the Paris Opera Ballet as his second home after the New York City Ballet.

This production in his honour, to mark the centenary of his birth, brings together four works displaying his incredible range and versatility. All pieces are accompanied live by the splendid orchestra of the Paris Opera, meticulously and enthusiastically conducted by Valery Ovsyanikov.

Fancy Free opens the program .It inspired the musical On The Town. Nowadays it could possibly be regarded as quite dated and sexist, but the choreography is terrific.

The simple plot revolves around three boisterous sailors on 24-hour leave in New York City during the Second World War. They get drunk and try to chat up women. The French dancers , who are also splendid actors ,have a wonderful time with the jazz like moves and showy choreography which in some ways is reminiscent of Broadway /Hollywood musicals of the era. Those familiar with Robbin’s work will note the athletic and travelling steps already visible in this rather early work which is trademark ‘Robbins‘ , hinting at works such as West Side Story. Continue reading PARIS OPERA BALLET : A TRIBUTE TO JEROME ROBBINS

THE ROYAL BALLET IN BALANCHINE’S ‘JEWELS’

 

We were privileged to see absolutely dazzling dancing in this revival of Balanchine’s Jewels by the Royal Ballet.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Balanchine’s work and a decade since it became part of the Royal Ballet’s repertoire.

The three works, all without a clear narrative structure, are a homage by Balanchine to French Romanticism (Emeralds) America and Broadway (Rubies) and the Imperial Russian ballet of Petipa ( Diamonds). The works feature scores by three composers – Faure , Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky.

Continue reading THE ROYAL BALLET IN BALANCHINE’S ‘JEWELS’

The Paris Opera Ballet in Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

f we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended, That you have but slumber’d here. While these visions did appearA Midsummer Night’s Dream, Scene 7

Stunningly danced the latest screening of the Palace Opera and Ballet season is the Paris Opera Ballet’s presentation of Balanchine’s A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT DREAM in two acts and six scenes .It is the first time the Paris Opera Ballet has performed this particular Balanchine work , one of Balanchine’s few narrative ballets .

Created in 1961 it features the marvellous music by Mendelssohn and uses a luscious reworking of the original Karinska costumes by fashion icon Christian Lacroix. Continue reading The Paris Opera Ballet in Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

PARIS OPERA BALLET MAGNIFICENT REVIVAL OF NUREYEV’S ‘SWAN LAKE’

If you want to see pure, dazzling, practically perfect classical ballet technique danced superbly then this screening is for you.

The Paris Opera Ballet’s revival of  Nureyev’s SWAN LAKE is superb. The production choreographed by Nureyev was first presented at the Paris Opera Ballet in 1984 and previously last seen in 2011.  This screening was of the performance that took place at the Opera Bastille in Paris on the 8th December 2016.

Nureyev’s rather Freudian version is presented as if it is the main characters Siegfried’s dying dream,  controlled by Wolfgang, his tutor, who in Siegfried’s mind becomes the mysterious, malevolent Rothbart. The orchestra, under maestro Vello Pahn, plays superbly .

For the scenes in the palace there are clean , elegant lines of doorways and for the lakeside ‘white’ scenes there is  a rather Turner like ominous landscape. Continue reading PARIS OPERA BALLET MAGNIFICENT REVIVAL OF NUREYEV’S ‘SWAN LAKE’

THE ROYAL BALLET PRESENTS ANASTASIA @ THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE, LONDON

anastasia-3-1

A must see for balletomanes, this is completely Natalia Ospiova’s show as Anastasia and she is more than sensational.

The Royal Ballet has just completed the live performances of this production which took place at between the 26th October and the 12th November. We are privileged to see this amazing production via the filming of the performance which took place on the 2nd November which is being presented as part of the current Palace Opera and Ballet season.

The ballet’s subject is the mysterious woman, known as Anna Anderson, who was incarcerated in a mental hospital in Berlin from 1920 and claimed to be Anastasia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, who somehow escaped from the cellar where the imperial family had been murdered by the Bolsheviks. Choreographer Kenneth MacMillan explores the whole notion – Was she or wasn’t she?!   Continue reading THE ROYAL BALLET PRESENTS ANASTASIA @ THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE, LONDON

The Royal Ballet’s Alice In Wonderland

alice1

Instead of a traditional Nutcracker this year we are treated to a revival by the Royal Ballet of Christopher Wheeldon’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND first seen in 2011. Whilst perhaps a trifle overlong and unwieldy, this work is visually stunning with some fabulous theatrical effects, dazzling dancing,  and magnificent choreography.

There are perhaps hints and allusions to the Nutcracker in certain parts of Wheeldon’s choreography. Joby Talbot’s glittering,wonderful score is full of glissando mood swings and snazzy character expression.

 The ballet begins by introducing all the cast at a garden party where Alice’s mother sacks the under-gardener, Jack (Federico Bonnelli) for stealing a jam tart. This is a cause for tears and tantrums from young Alice (Sarah Lamb) who was rather hoping to see him later for a tryst. Very handsome Bonnelli dances wonderfully as the Knave of Hearts/Jack . Alice’s home is also visited by the ‘real’ Carroll (that is, Charles Dodgson) and by characters who will later reappear in Wonderland.The work feels, at times,  a bit dominated by set and visual design values. Continue reading The Royal Ballet’s Alice In Wonderland

THE WINTER’S TALE

(c)JohanPersson/www.perssonphotography.com

Three years in the making, this new, specially commissioned work by Christopher Wheeldon is a major landmark production. It is only the second new full length narrative ballet commissioned by the Royal Ballet in the past twenty years. Technically it dazzles and at times it is emotionally shattering.

One of Shakespeare’s difficult ‘problem plays’ with a very complicated plot, it has never been adapted for the ballet stage before. Wheeldon returns to the Royal Ballet’s history of full length narrative works , following in the footsteps of Macmillan and Ashton for example , in this splendid work ( not forgetting his own ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. )There are six main roles and lots for the corps de ballet ensemble to do – especially in Act2 in Bohemia as bucolic shepherd/esses in an enchanting pastoral setting.

Continue reading THE WINTER’S TALE

SLEEPING BEAUTY

The Royal Ballet's 2006 revival of THE SLEEPING BEAUTY
The Royal Ballet’s 2006 revival of THE SLEEPING BEAUTY

In this huge production by the Royal Ballet the dancing is superb, especially by the two leads. It has an extremely ‘traditional’ feel about it and is a 2006 attempt to reconstruct the famous 1946 Oliver Messell production that reopened the Royal Opera House after World War 11, starring Fonteyn and Helpmann.

This current production was always all about remembering the company’s immensely rich heritage. Monica Mason, then artistic director, set out to restore most aspects of the now legendary 1946-67 production by Ninette de Valois (director), Oliver Messel (designer), Ashton (coach and supplementary choreographer) and Fonteyn (prima ballerina).

Continue reading SLEEPING BEAUTY

LES VEPRES SICILIENNES

The grandeur of Verdi's great Opera
The grandeur of Verdi’s great Opera

Death or liberty!

As big as ‘Ben Hur’ or ‘Les Miserables’ , huge , sprawling ,long and epic, volcanically powerful, dramatic and passionate this is a magnificent version of this rarely seen Verdi opera , part of the Royal Opera House’s celebrations of the Verdi bicentenary and the first time the Royal Opera House has staged it .It  was the first of the two operas that Verdi was to write, with a French text, for the Paris Opéra. Composed between ‘La Traviata’ and the first version of ‘Simon Boccanegra’ it was first performed in 1855, and therefore was  after his earlier successes with “Rigoletto”, “La Traviata” and “Il Trovatore” ,and yet it points the way to later major works such as “Aida”, “Otello” and “Falstaff”. It demands a huge corps de ballet and two choruses on top of the usual soloists and a big pit orchestra – a marvellous example of the French ‘Grand opera ‘style indeed.

The orchestra is superb and the singing ravishing . Director Stefan Herheim has updated the action from the French occupation of Sicily in the 13th century, and a Sicilian revolt that massacred 3,000 French in 1282, to an opera house in 19th-century Paris.The prologue back- story is condensed into the overture and we see  de Montfort terrorise and rape one of the dancers . The introduction of setting of an opera house within an opera house allowed Herheim and the Royal Opera’s music director Antonio Pappano to cram the largest possible chorus on to the Covent Garden stage. One chorus, at main stage level, portrays the Sicilian peasants,in folk costume , while another chorus of French soldiers in wonderful uniforms and socialites in glorious posh evening gowns occupy the loge and balconies of the stage-set opera house.Fürhofer’s sets provide spectacular reflecting cross-sections of auditorium and stage, with intriguing use of mirrors and reflection their geometry ( an opera within an opera) always changing .

The story of the uprising of the Sicilians against their French oppressors is therefore developed to become something more complex and more intricately layered, both a study of the tension between the people and the military and an exploration of how artists are exploited by the society that creates them. André De Jong’s choreography blends easily with it , the dancers seeming to come from the Degas period at times ( very Giselle /La Sylphide of the romantic era ) but there are also dark hints of the evil underside of the occupation etc with the use of dancers in black tutus –  a dark ‘Swan Lake’ . The choreography is a great mix of contemporary and the style of the period. Visually there are many arresting images with hints of EA Poe’s ‘The Red Death’ with the use of masks and emphasis on skulls etc and also possibly Beardsley? And the lighting by Andres Poll is starkly dramatic at times with a Caravaggio like effect.

Another major theme of the opera is father/son relationships. The duet in Act3 between our tenor hero Henri,( deftly, excellently sung by Volle) who thinks himself to be a Sicilian of low birth but fiery, patriotic and full of anti-French fervour, and the man that a letter from his dead mother testifies is in fact his missing father – none other than Guy de Montfort, the villain of the piece , the hated commander of the French occupying forces stops the show . This gives the emotional impact that makes Verdi operas so human, especially as sung here by Hymel and Michael Volle as the French occupation chief who insists the young rebel now call him “father” in order to save the woman he loves. Volle’s brooding ‘Mon Fil ’ is superb , at times wistful and delicate , joyous and hopeful , at other times cold and proudly demanding – a highlight of the evening . Hymel , torn yet defiant as Henri is also magnificent .

Helene was terrifically sung by Helene LIanna Haroutounuian.Her black mourning dress in Act1 is superb but what a grisly, bizarre entrance with the head of her murdered brother! Her opening aria (Viens à nous, Dieu tutélaire / “Pray, O mighty God, calm with thy smile both sky and sea”), was splendid and ends with a rallying-cry (Courage!…du courage!) to the Sicilians to rebel against the occupiers .She was also inspirational in Les Jeunes Amies” (The Young Friends), which is the most famous tune from the work and here part of the joyous wedding celebrations .The duet between Helene and Henri revealing their love in Act 4 when facing death is also another highlight.

Erwin Schrott, as the rebel leader and passionate patriot Jean Procida, here shown as a limping ballet master , was magnificent .For starters his  Et toi, Palerme / “O thou Palermo, adored land …”. in Act1 is breathtaking and stops the show.  Bravo!

A long but thrilling and chilling night at the Royal Opera House. This was filmed at the Royal Opera House London November 4 2013.Running time four and a half hours (approx) including two intervals

Verdi’s Les Vepres Siciliennes runs at selected cinemas for a few dates only