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 Post subject: Royal Ballet Triple Bill - Scenes de Ballet/Winter Dream
PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2003 4:23 am 
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Royal Ballet Triple Bill
By Judith Mackrell for The Guardian


Officially, the main attraction of the Royal Ballet's triple bill is Jiri Kylian's Sinfonietta, which the company are dancing for the first time this season. Unofficially, the big event is Frederick Ashton's Scenes de Ballet, returning to the stage after an inexplicable absence of 10 years.
The effect of Ashton's 1948 ballet is like an exquisitely cunning, but magnificently powerful, jack-in-the-box. It is a tiny piece (22 minutes long) but, within the tight choreography, the dancers find vast poetic spaces to illuminate and occupy.

The two principals, Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg, could not be better cast. Both dance with the kind of technical aplomb that makes airy work of the choreography's geometric puzzles, and both possess a stylistic intelligence that allows them to head for the wit, gravitas and romance at the ballet's heart.

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 Post subject: Re: Royal Ballet Triple Bill - Scenes de Ballet/Winter Dream
PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2003 4:47 am 
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Ashton's scintillating challenge
Ismene Brown in The Daily Telegraph reviews Triple Bill at the Royal Ballet in Covent Garden.


The world's ballet directors, meeting recently in Aldeburgh to discuss common concerns, concluded their conference with the useful statement that, while they had valuably shared common concerns, they also felt new value for their differences.

Then they visited Covent Garden for the new triple bill, which is an object lesson in the value of differences - Ashton, MacMillan, Jiri Kylian - and a night of fine music to boot.

Some of us in the first interval were proposing a new dream triple bill - Ashton's Scenes de Ballet, Ashton's Scenes de Ballet and Ashton's Scenes de Ballet. Eleven years is too long to wait for a home viewing of this scintillating 1948 masterwork, as clean and intoxicating as a vodka martini at a fantastical party.

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 Post subject: Re: Royal Ballet Triple Bill - Scenes de Ballet/Winter Dream
PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2003 6:47 am 
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Review in The FT.

Quote:
The perfect ballet. The unflawed masterpiece, with not a step to be added or lost. Such, I think, is Frederick Ashton's Scènes de ballet of 1948. In the 22 minutes of Stravinsky's score, Ashton, for the first time, reduced experience "to a pill", as he said. Here are the ballerina, the premier danseur, and their attendant throng, moving through those evolutions which are the concern of the grandest moments of the old classic repertoire. Ashton was fascinated by such ballets, and Stravinsky's succinct, resonant music suggested a choreographic structure just as allusive, as rich in implication. Margot Fonteyn was at a peak of artistry and skill, Michael Somes her noble cavalier. Ashton had been looking at Euclidian geometry, and there evolved this prodigious work, the dance sometimes turned so that we might see it from an unfamiliar angle, the steps concerned with the machinery and the soul of Petipa's ballets.


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and The Times.

Quote:
IF THERE’S one thing the Royal Ballet’s latest triple bill tells us it’s that the old ones are still the best. Frederick Ashton’s Scènes de ballet was made 30 years before Jiri Kylián’s Sinfonietta and more than 40 years before Kenneth MacMillan’s Winter Dreams. But Ashton’s 1948 creation knocks them both for six. It’s still one of the most gorgeous abstract ballets ever written.
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<small>[ 16 January 2003, 07:57 AM: Message edited by: Joanne ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Royal Ballet Triple Bill - Scenes de Ballet/Winter Dream
PostPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2003 7:18 am 
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I see that the London newspaper critics continue to dislike Jiri Kylian. This is of course, a perfectly reasonable view, but it gains puzzled and disbelieving looks from dance and ballet lovers from overseas and dancers everywhere when I tell them.


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 Post subject: Re: Royal Ballet Triple Bill - Scenes de Ballet/Winter Dream
PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2003 5:31 am 
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David and Victoria Beckham went to see the Royal Ballet last week and Euan Ferguson followed in their footsteps....and had a good time:

You don't have to be Posh to enjoy ballet
David and Victoria went to Covent Garden last week; so is that enough to make ballet the new football? Not likely, but it's still worth saving up to catch the merest glimpse of perfection. By Euan Ferguson for The Observer


It's the perfection, stupid. This, it strikes me suddenly, is the reason. The reason why people go. And the reason why a great many million others don't. Perfection can be so very hard to take.
This perfect thought, of course, strikes me as I am weaving imperfectly into a cab in Covent Garden at around midnight, in a terribly imperfect world. The cabbie is apologising, imperfectly, for the heating being broken; the pub has just apologised for the Guinness being off and for my having to sink instead a startlingly imperfect three pints of premium 'Wifebeater' lager; my mobile is working less than perfectly and I am trying to focus, in the grudging wash of the cab's sod-you 'comfort light', on seriously woebegone shorthand notes.

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************************************

Royal Ballet triple bill
Jann Parry reports for The Observer

Kenneth MacMillan's Winter Dreams , at the centre of the mixed bill, is a reinterpretation of Chekhov's The Three Sisters. Like Sophie, it examines the choices the characters make, constantly changing viewpoints. Someone is always spying on the most intimate moments: nothing can go unremarked in a claustrophobic society.

The original core of the ballet was the affair between Masha (Darcey Bussell) and her dashing lover (Irek Mukhamedov). With Mukhamedov replaced by Inaki Urlezaga, the fire is never stoked. Other relationships come to the fore: the youngest sister and her two unworthy suitors; Olga, the spinster, trying to comfort Masha's inconsolable husband.

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*************************************

Strings to their bows
The Royal Ballet’s versatility is on show, but this bill is only a qualified success, says David Dougill for The Sunday Times.


The Royal Ballet’s latest triple bill at the Opera House includes two revivals and a company premiere of completely contrasting styles, showing off the dancers’ versatile range. The opening work is the oldest and also the shortest, but a good deal more than a curtain-raiser. This is Frederick Ashton’s brilliant Scènes de Ballet, dating from 1948.
It combines elegant and intricate dance classicism with couture chic and haunting mystery. André Beaurepaire’s original costume designs have the women in jewelled chokers and witty bonnets, the men in geometric-motif tunics. The decor is de Chirico-style — a strange, blind-windowed edifice, arcaded against a black void.

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<small>[ 19 January 2003, 06:41 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Royal Ballet Triple Bill - Scenes de Ballet/Winter Dream
PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2003 6:22 am 
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16/1/03

I am in love with Scenes de Ballet. I've been working my way down in performances, from the balcony, to the stalls circle and then the front of the orchestra stalls and definitely the best view is from above where you can see the shapes the corps form. But the view up close isn't any less complete and it's nice to appreciate the details of the production - the set looks like something out of those surreal paintings that populate math classes. I've had a change of heart about the costumes - the pearl hats and gloves on the girls are charming! I thought Miyako Yoshida was fantastic in the lead role - better than Alina IMHO. I don't know, she just brings a maturity (in the best sense of the word!) to the role, like she knows exactly how it should be danced. Though this being the first time I've seen this ballet, I have no idea if it's actually being danced the 'right' way! Anyway, her smile was simply irrepressible and I hope she has years of dancing left with the RB (she has years of dancing wherever she is). Ivan was just wonderful, but I have to admit I prefer Johan Kobborg in just about everything! I'm a bit mystified by the reviews - some say he was excellent, others say he was kinda off! Bethany Keating in the corps really caught my attention - she has this quality that really draws your eye to her. I preferred the first cast of male dancers to this one - Bennet Gartside, Martin Harvey, Valeri Hristov and Thomas Whitehead. I have to say, it's a tribute to the choreography for me to admit I'd rather be in the amphi where I could barely recognise anyone rather than be up close and be distracted by this or that dancer!

Just some recollections from the pre-performance talk, Monica Mason that there were some minor variations in the notation, exactly where the arms were placed and how they moved from one position to another as Ashton had adapted the choreography slightly to suit different dancers. But with Chistopher Carr staging it, Leslier Collier who had learned it from Antoinette Sibley and Sibley herself who had worked with Ashton rehearsing the ballet, they were very confident and delighted with the end result. Mason also said that the ballet was completely new to the entire cast - unsually no one dancing had ever danced it before so it had to be taught from scratch. The lead ballerina was required to be very small and compact so it was suited do dancers like Miyako and Alina which is why we won't see tall leggy dancers like Darcey Bussell in it. Lolly's right in that most of the men in the company are about the same height but they managed to cast girls of different heights - tall, medium and small.

Winter Dreams on the other hand is much better close up. Darcey Bussell is so incredibly moving in this, her tumult of emotions ranging from fear of her own emotions, to love, to terrible despair. She used her long, langorous body to wonderful effect and I can't imagine anyone else in the role. (Will be curious to see Sylvie Guillem and Nicholas Le Riche's debut this evening). I have some misgivings about Inaki Urlezaga - he has only one expression on his face and that is a rather pained one. I think the only other dancer to really grab my attention was Edward Watson as the sisters' brother - he was so fleet-footed and fun to watch while remaining true to his character - a doting father, an argumentative husband! And Anthony Dowell - I cannot imagine anyone else in this role other than him. His hurt, his realisation that he had lost Masha, that his touch meant nothing to her, his humiliation was so beautifully portrayed. It's nice to see him getting involved in dancing again - secondary casts have been announced for the RB's Manon and he will be dancing Monsieur GM (to Sylvie's Manon) and I can't remember where I read this but also debut as Armand's father when Sylvie does Marguerite and Armand (on tour I think).

Monica Mason spoke a little about Winter Dreams, about how she was present at the first rehearsal and saw how MacMillan about to create this new pdd, Irek Mukhamedov who spoke no english and having to work this first time with this great choreographer, and a very young Darcey Bussell all quaking in their shoes! But she said Irek was very respectful and eager to please MacMillan. When MacMillan asked him to repeat him throwing his jacket and cap, you could see Irek experimenting with how he would throw it, something different everytime, how he would take Darcey's hand, "this way, or maybe this way, no this way" and it was a joy for her to watch this artist at work.

Sinfonietta - well I went into this with utter dread after the rehearsal and first night, and if I hadn't paid so much I probably would have skipped it and gone home. But it was ok. I said before I love the first movement and the finale. It's fun and joyous, lots of jumping and the ending is quite exhilirating. It's everything else in between that I don't like much. I guess I find lots of moments very childish and silly like the head-upper shoulder stands all the guys do at the end of the first movement. I think it had the opposite effect that Scenes had on me. It was better for me to see it up close so if I couldn't enjoy the choreography I could at least enjoy the dancers and their dancing (if that distinction makes any sense!) I hope there's another cast of Sinfonietta (unlikely given the cast size I guess). I guess I found the fast, frenetic bits great fun and the slow parts, the pdd etc very boring. Zenaida Yanowsky stood out in this the most - I don't know why but she makes almost everything a joy to watch. The Janacek music is fantastic though and the brasses were still singing in my head long after I left for home.

Monica Mason's talk on Sinfonietta was very interesting. She said that the company were very happy to add Sinfonietta to the repetoire as Anthony Dowell had tried for a long time to get Jiri Kylian to work with the RB. When Ross Stretton, a close friend of his came in, he snapped his fingers and Jiri said yes. So when Stretton left, one of Mason's first calls was to Kyilan asking if they could still stage the work "because it was me" she said with a smile. And he said yes of course. She said it was a popular piece, with the audience and especially with the dancers because it makes you feel like a child again, the way you feel when you're wearing wellies and splashing in puddles.

Someone asked a question about the balance of heritage and new rep in the company in the RB compared with other companies and Mason gave a very long and detailed answer. She said while it's not an excuse, what the RB can perform is dictated by the Royal Opera. They set out their schedules 5 years in advance and this puts constraints on the "slots" left for the RB to fill. They obviously need more rehearsal time for a new work than an old one and while the Opera can be a little bit flexible 5 years down the line, everything for the next 2 years is pretty much set in stone. So Monica has very sketchily planned out the seasons for the next 5 years.

What also had to be considered was what works hadn't been seen in some time, by the audiences, and what hadn't been danced by the dancers. This is a point that I don't think has been brought up very often in discussions. She said that the dancers may turnover every 5-6 years. They joined the Royal Ballet primarily because of the heritage repertoire and expected to dance these works. There was also the fact that the longer a work has not been performed, the longer it would take to restage it. She gave the example of Ondine which had not been staged for many years and Dowell decided a few years ago that it should be seen again, so for many in the audience this was a new full-length ballet for them. She's mindful of not repeating ballets like Swan Lake year after year and and also said that she does not want the RB to be a museum and that new work was the life-blood of a company, that it is essential for dancers to allow them to develop. While the company would love to have 3 or 4 new works a year all these factors and constraints have to be taken into consideration and make planning extremely difficult.

All this is from memory - I wish I'd taken notes! If I've made any mistakes please say. It was such an interesting talk - Monica seems to do all of them now and she's a lovely, articulate speaker, I wanted to post as much I as I could remember.


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 Post subject: Re: Royal Ballet Triple Bill - Scenes de Ballet/Winter Dream
PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2003 3:21 am 
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Review from The Times.

Quote:
SYLVIE GUILLEM has the luxury of choosing her own roles, and she doesn’t choose many. So far at Covent Garden this season we have seen the French ballerina in just two guises. Back in October as the cigar-smoking Carmen in Mats Ek’s ballet of the same name, and now as the cigarette-smoking Masha, one of Chekhov’s three sisters and star of Kenneth MacMillan’s Winter Dreams.
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And The Independent.

Quote:
Frederick Ashton made Scènes de ballet in 1948 and in some respects it's as period as a fashion plate from Vogue, the corps of 12 women in Grace Kelly hats and long gloves, André Beaurepaire's mysterious set very much a painting. Yet the impersonal nature of the choreography – its mastery of Stravinsky's jagged time signatures and its aura of abstract cool – still looks bracingly modern.

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<small>[ 21 January 2003, 04:27 AM: Message edited by: Joanne ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Royal Ballet Triple Bill - Scenes de Ballet/Winter Dream
PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2003 3:40 am 
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Royal Ballet Triple Bill
By Nadine Meisner for The Independent

The townhouse may have been vacated and the belongings packed, but the traces of a ballet director continue long after his or her departure. Thus the latest Royal Ballet triple bill bears the signature of Ross Stretton, the previous director; the orchestra continues with Charles Barker, who has elicited more condemnation than any other conductor in recent memory; and at least one ballet is going to raise the hackles of critics.

That distinction falls to the Royal Ballet premiere of Jiri Kylian's Sinfonietta. This is a guaranteed target for being not only the so-called Eurotrash that Stretton was actually appointed to introduce, to breathe new life into the repertoire, but also a Kylian sample already so familiar (it was created in 1978) that it runs close to being a cliché.

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 Post subject: Re: Royal Ballet Triple Bill - Scenes de Ballet/Winter Dream
PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2003 5:36 am 
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Nadine Meisner uses the phrase "the so-called Eurotrash", which is rapidly becoming one of my most hated dance terms.

- It's rude to call the work of any artist or group of artists "trash".

- It's ill-judged (1), in instances such as this, to describe the work of Ek and Kylian in such a way.

- It's ill-judged (2), as it refers to choreographers from Continental Europe, whereas "Euro" or "European" covers the UK as well.

Let's stop using it, please.

<small>[ 22 January 2003, 11:09 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Royal Ballet Triple Bill - Scenes de Ballet/Winter Dream
PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2003 7:55 am 
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First a confession: I ADORE Scenes de Ballet, together with Symphonic Variations it is my favourite Ashton work. I finally got to see the latest revival last Friday and am happy to say the ballet looks as good as when I first saw it, nearly forty years ago. Set in a surrealist landscape that recalls de Chirico with the dancers in costumes with geometric designs, this is Ashton’s most abstract creation.

I’m not sure that Alina Cojocaru was ideal in the leading role as she still possesses the dewy freshness of extreme youth in a work where sophistication is everything, she also seemed not to respond as fluently as usual to the Stravinsky score. She still looked awfully good though. Her partner Johan Kobborg seemed a touch off-form with some less than clean double tours but on the whole he also gave a good account of the role.

The great fascination this ballet has for me is very much the fact that you choose your own focal point on the stage, either the principal couple, the four male soloists or the corps de ballet of twelve girls, that way you always seem to notice something that you’ve missed before, just as the seat in which you sit provides a different perspective with each viewing. On this occasion I watched from above and was able to enjoy to the full the floor patterns as the corps de ballet shifted and regrouped in the manner of a kaleidoscope.

To me, Winter Dreams is not vintage MacMillan and from my seat in the amphi the action seemed swallowed up in the gloom. Sylvie Guillem made her debut as Masha and the role suited her well as she was able to express so well the pain of Masha’s unfulfilled yearnings (a woman who would I suspect still be unsatisfied even if she had have made it to Moscow). As her love interest, Vershinin was danced by Nicholas Le Riche, whom I have always suspected of not “travelling” well, I’ve admired him hugely in Paris but his RB performances have always disappointed me. Not this time though for as Vershinin he was quite wonderful, catching every nuance of the role, making every gesture speak volumes and dancing superbly.

However the laurels in this ballet just have to go to Anthony Dowell, he moved me close to tears as Masha’s loving, rejected husband always trying to do the right thing and always failing. His performance is actually painful to watch so exact in its characterization that I can imagine no one else in this role.

The final ballet of the evening Sinfonietta seems to have found few supporters either among the audience or the critics and frankly I found it to be an odd acquisition, its shortcomings cruelly exposed by inclusion on a bill that included a masterpiece. Nevertheless it was well danced by the company with Ivan Putrov looking quite outstanding and dancing with that fire and fluency that is fast becoming his trademark.

A couple of musical observations of the evening: Shouldn’t the music for Winter Dreams be played on Balalaikas rather than guitars? And whose idea was it to put the brass players in Sinfonietta in the side boxes, which had the effect of muting the sound of Janacek’s wonderful score?


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 Post subject: Re: Royal Ballet Triple Bill - Scenes de Ballet/Winter Dream
PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2003 11:53 am 
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Re the brasses in Sinfonietta, they'v. been placed in boxes before - I think the idea is to enhance the sound of the brasses since they are so prominent in this piece of music. Kinda like a surround-sound effect. :)

<small>[ 22 January 2003, 08:43 PM: Message edited by: sylvia ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Royal Ballet Triple Bill - Scenes de Ballet/Winter Dream
PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2003 9:51 am 
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I see what you mean, but only those sitting in the stalls will get the benefit of the stereo effect.


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 Post subject: Re: Royal Ballet Triple Bill - Scenes de Ballet/Winter Dream
PostPosted: Fri Jan 24, 2003 2:46 am 
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Triple Bill
By Gavin Roebuck from The Stage

Scenes de ballet, Frederick Ashton's most modernist work, is geometry in motion to Stravinsky's score. Dating from 1948 and unseen at the Royal Opera House for a decade, this is beautifully performed and well-rehearsed though somehow seems to lack some of the subtle touches brought to it by earlier British dancers with a Cecchetti-trained background. Alina Cojocaru partnered by Johan Kobborg take the roles originally performed by Fonteyn and Somes, both performing with elegance and grace.

Winter Dreams was born as a pas de deux to Tchaikovsky's music to celebrate the Queen Mother's 90th birthday but choreographer Kenneth MacMillan grew it into a study of Chekhovian melancholy.

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 Post subject: Re: Royal Ballet Triple Bill - Scenes de Ballet/Winter Dream
PostPosted: Fri Jan 24, 2003 3:27 am 
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Review from The telegraph.

Quote:
With the second cast, the Royal Ballet's triple bill attains a resonance even richer than with the first. Miyako Yoshida sparkles, happy and serene, in Ashton's Scènes de Ballet, and her young squire, Ivan Putrov, looks suddenly grown-up, trusting in his beautiful technical shape and balance. Evidently, great care has been taken at all levels of the company with reviving this masterpiece.

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 Post subject: Re: Royal Ballet Triple Bill - Scenes de Ballet/Winter Dream
PostPosted: Fri Jan 24, 2003 3:42 am 
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Review from The Guardian.

Quote:
When Kenneth MacMillan choreographed Winter Dreams for Darcey Bussell and Irek Mukhamedov in 1991, their mutual chemistry seemed to be permanently embodied within the ballet's leading roles. Mukhamedov - the older Russian, whose Vershinin wore his soul, smouldering, on his sleeve - appeared the definitive foil to Bussell's very young, English Masha, a girl almost suckered into the whirlpool of her lover's desires.
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