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PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 2:33 am 
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The line of Beauty
by LUKE JENNINGS for the Observer

In the Rose Adagio, the dramatic highlight of Act One, I found my attention torn between Sakuma's dancing and a dozen or so courtiers grouped around a pillar. Most choreographers would just have them standing there exchanging discreet gestures of approval; Wright has them clustering open-mouthed, all protocol forgotten, utterly rapt by the performance. By appearing to subvert the occasion's formality, he intensifies it.

published: January 22, 2006
more in the second part of the linked article


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2006 3:52 am 
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Sleeping Beauty
By Natalie Anglesey for The Stage

Superlatives flow easily from the pen when describing Birmingham Royal Ballet’s breathtaking production of this most romantic of ballets.

In this sparkling revival of Peter Wright’s splendid production, the packaging is sumptuous, with Philip Prowse’s magnificent sets and lavish costumes providing a visual feast.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2006 3:49 am 
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Thursday 23rd Feb:

Thanks again to my wonderful job I was able to watch the BRB perform The Seasons and Carmina Burana, the latter of which all my colleagues had told me was excellent.
I'm not very experienced when it comes to ballet so I can't really find much to write about the performance, especially for The Seasons, which didn't stimulate me at all and washed right over me.
The dark, bizarre, humerous Carmina Burana, however, lived up to my expectations and more. The costumes were colourful and the sets, which ranged from fairy lights to giant crucifixes hanging from the ceiling were excellent. The story is of three priets who, due to varying factors like betrayal or deceit, lose their faith, shown by each of them tearing off their collars.

The choreography, for a ballet, was very modern, which gave good contrast to the more classical Seasons.

I can't say that I really enjoyed The Seasons. Like a lot of Bintley's works, the costumes and set gave much colour to the piece, but I couldn't find any kind of ideas or stories in the choreography. I'm sure there were some there, but perhaps it was due to my lack of knowledge of ballet that I missed them.

Carmina Burana is one of the best ballets I've seen, perhaps because it was so modern, but it was an energy-fuelled hour which kept the entire audience's attention for every second.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2006 4:28 am 
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Thanks for your comments, Alex. I saw Bintley's "Carmina Burana" in London several years ago and enjoyed it a lot. As you say, very much at the modern ballet end of the spectrum. What was the music for "The Seasons", please? Bintley has made two works on this theme, with similar titles, but different scores and I'm trying to remember which was which. One was made for BRB and the other for the RB.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2006 9:01 am 
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Off the top of my head I can only remember that it was by Verdi, but I will try and find out the title of the music.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2006 2:39 pm 
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The Seasons / Carmina Burana, Hippodrome, Birmingham
by ZOE ANDERSON for the Independent

In Winter's pas de trois, Kosuke Yamamoto bounds through his role. Laetitia Lo Sardo and Carol-Anne Miller are less well-served, given fiddly steps. Yet most dances avoid that kind of fuss. Duets are elaborate - in Summer, Letizia Giuliani and Iain Mackay keep snuggling down only to get up again - but solos are direct and brightly paced.

published: February 27, 2006
more...


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2006 8:40 am 
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Verdi wrote the Four Seasons ballet into his opera Sicilian Vespers, which was also choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan (one of his rare cheerful pieces) so it’s surprising that Bintley would invite direct comparisons by using the same music. I saw Bintley's other Four Seasons to music by Glazounov at Covent Garden a couple of years ago and thought just that - impossible not to compare with Ashton's Birthday Offering which uses much of the same music.

I'm told that Bintley plans a whole series of these works, so I imagine we can look forward to the Vivaldi and the Haydn versions before long.

I saw a ballet called Caligula in Paris a couple of months ago danced to the Vivaldi Four seasons and came away amazed with what the choreographer did with such a familiar score.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2006 12:59 pm 
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The NYCB also has a "Four Seasons" in active repertory, with choreography by Jerome Robbins. And it's the only ballet I've seen which uses that music.

I wonder if perhaps, outside of London and/or the UK, few people in a ballet audience would have ever seen "Birthday Offering". It's my understanding that it was kind of a 'piece de 'occasion' and hasn't been performed very often. Thus people are unlikely to connect Verdi's music with Ashton.

Kate


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2006 7:11 pm 
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We must be careful not to confuse "Four Seasons" with "The Seasons"


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 Post subject: The Seasons, Carmina Burana
PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2006 3:37 am 
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‘The Seasons’, ‘Carmina Burana’ - Birmingham Royal Ballet
Birmingham Hippodrome, UK; 22nd February 2006


When David Bintley made “The Seasons” he made it clear that while he aimed to evoke the seasonal associations of the music, his prime intention was to show off the talent of the Company’s dancers.

The structure of the ballet certainly helps. Essentially it is four pas de deux, one for each season in turn, starting with Winter, with the corps filling in the linking music. In some ways it bears resemblance to some Balanchine works as Bintley concentrates on designing and constructing shapes and patterns with the dancers, succeeding in making very complicated steps look very simple.

Winter, danced here by Laetitia LoSardo, Carol-Anne Millar and Kosuke Yamomoto is perhaps the sparkiest of the seasons, as if the dancers need to keep warm in the cold. Spring is most lilting, Nao Sakuma’s softness being ideal for the role. The third section seems not just like summer, but like midday in some hot country. Southern Italy came to mind, perhaps helped by Verdi’s music (a sciliano) and by the fact it was being danced by BRB’s new Italian principal Letizia Giuliani accompanied by Iain Mackay. Having said that, Giuliani gives the impression she would be more at home in something a little more upbeat and sparky. It will be interesting to see her in some upcoming Balanchine ballets. Autumn perks things up again before the grand finale.

Apart from the Verdi, the atmosphere is helped enormously by Jean-Marc Pussiant’s glorious costumes, especially the ladies tutus; silver-grey, aqua-blue, cornfield yellow and autumnal brown in turn.

“Carmina Burana”, made in 1996, was David Bintley’s first work as artistic director of BRB. Many consider it to be one of his best, full of power and incredibly strong imagery, helped of course by Carl Orff’s wonderfully stirring music and Philip Prowse’s magnificent designs, which at times are full of huge crosses, lurid lights and costumes, but at others are so simple, maybe a reflection of the innocence the central characters are about to lose.

“Carmina” is essentially three stories linked by the theme of temptation. Silvia Jemenez made in absolutely clear from the first minute that it is she, Fortuna, Empress of the World, who is in charge here. The three seminarians, the central figures in each, were stunningly danced by Kosuke Yamomoto, Robert Parker and Iain Mackay respectively. Yamomoto brought a wonderful innocence to the role of the naïve boy, while Parker brought amazing energy to his opening solo as Boiling Rage.

As ever though, it was The Court of Love that provided the highlight. It is only here that a seminarian gets to meet Fortuna. And Fortuna certainly shows who is in charge as she leads him on, tempting him to strip off his clothes, and in doing so his religion. They dance a beautiful duet as he falls in love with his siren, only to be cast off in a really spine tingling moment like some toy as she reasserts her authority and dominance.

This was a wonderful programme that really did show BRB its best. The classicism of “Seasons” may have been designed to show off the Company’s dancers, but the surging power and theatricality of “Carmina” shows their sheer energy and enthusiasm.

“The Seasons” and “Carmina Burana” continue on tour to Plymouth.


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 Post subject: Sleeping Beauty
PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2006 3:39 am 
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‘The Sleeping Beauty’ - Birmingham Royal Ballet
Birmingham Hippodrome, UK; 28th February 2006


The second week of BRB’s Birmingham season saw the welcome return of Sir Peter Wright’s production of “The Sleeping Beauty”. Philip Prowse’s glorious design certainly makes it a sumptuous affair. There’s not exactly a great deal of story to the ballet, which means that when we do get some dancing in amongst all that laboured miming, it is even more important that it’s top notch. “Sleeping Beauty” is about the dance and unlike in some other works, lapses cannot be covered by the characters’ emotions or the narrative.

Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao as Prince Florimund and Princess Aurora danced their roles competently, although Sakuma seemed a little less assured that usual, and rather soft and lacking attack. Aurora is not an easy role but perhaps this is also a sign of the high standards BRB audiences have come to expect from this talented dancer. You couldn’t help feeling that a certain something was missing though. There seemed to be no chemistry and no spark between them. Anyone would have thought this was some sort of arranged marriage and Aurora really didn’t want to be there. At the wedding celebrations it seemed as if many of the guests felt the same. I know they’ve seen it all before, many times before, but some of them really did look like they would rather be anywhere but there.

“Sleeping Beauty” needs magic and here it was provided by the supporting roles and in the divertissements. Most notable were Ambra Vallo and Kosuke Yamomoto, who really has the most amazingly soft landings, in the Bluebird pas de deux. Here was that attack and precision we were looking for. They really flew! Good marks too for Carol-Anne Millar, Angela Paul, James Grundy and Steven Monteith in the pas de quatre. The scene-stealer however, as ever, was Marion Tait’s wonderfully evil Carabosse. When ever she swept on the stage everything seemed to ratchet up a few notches. Quality indeed.

“The Sleeping Beauty” continues on tour to Plymouth, Sunderland and Oxford.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2006 4:25 am 
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Many thanks for these two reports, David. Hope your overseas project went very well.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2006 3:06 pm 
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The Seasons/Carmina Burana
By Pat Ashworth for The Stage

What a joy - a celebration of pure classical ballet and then a rolling out of the huge and eccentric power of Carmina Burana, the first ballet David Bintley choreographed for BRB as its director.

He describes The Seasons as “no story, no sets, very simple costumes and nice old Verdi”, which is just how it comes across and with a youthfulness and beauty that is quite disarming.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 10:26 am 
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Just a word concerning Birthday Offering: Although it was first performed as an anniversary piece back in the 1950's it often gets an airing in the RB rep. Originally created for the outstanding ballerinas of that decade, it's a series of solos and a pas de deux together with some ensemble work and a mazurka for the ballerinas' cavaliers. There are no male solos, but during a '60's revival, Ashton created a virtuoso solo for Rudolf Nureyev (some pictures exist as proof): Nobody has danced this since though.

Each of the female solos were intended to show off the individual strengths of the dancers and in their individuality they take on the varied characteristics of the prologue fairies in The Sleeping Beauty. They are very Petipa-esque. Not all the music is from Glazounov's Four Seasons, but enough to make comparisons with the later Bintley work inevitable.


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PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2006 4:40 am 
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‘Apollo’, ‘Pulcinella’, ‘The Firebird’ - Birmingham Royal Ballet
Birmingham Hippodrome, UK; May 6, 2006.


Igorfest is the City of Birmingham’s celebration of Stravinsky, during which all his music will be played at a series of concert and ballet performances. BRB’s contribution to the second year of events was a mixed programme featuring three of his earlier works from his time with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes; “Apollo” (1928), “Pulcinella” (1919) and “The Firebird” (1910).

Why some ballets maintain their freshness and appeal decade after decade, while others seem to age so quickly will always be something of a mystery. George Balanchine’s “Apollo” certainly falls into the former category. It’s not a criticism that can usually be made of BRB’s dancing of Balanchine but, while very well-danced technically, the ballet sometimes seemed to lack that extra sparkiness that it calls for. Robert Parker certainly looks the part as the sun god but was, I feel, a little too soft in his movements, maybe a bit too laid back. Of the three muses, Elisha Willis’ Terpsichore seemed a little bland, especially in the face, and it was left to Nao Sakuma (Polyhymnia) and Ambra Vallo (Calliope) to show us how it should be done.

My only reservation about the ballet is the inclusion of the prologue, something seemingly becoming much more common. I know it makes for a more complete narrative but it somehow doesn’t seem fit with the rest of the work, certainly in terms of movement style. Mr B. knew what he was doing when he cut it in search for a more abstract telling and I wish more companies would follow his lead.

Centre-programme was Kim Brandstrup’s new telling and very watchable production of “Pulcinella”. Here we saw Parker at his best as the put upon Pulcinella, who just wants a peaceful nap but who just gets nothing but one disturbance after the next. Brandstrup manages to bring a sort of sit-com approach to the story, managing to bring the humour out the situation rather than forcing it.

Brandstrup’s shows a master storyteller’s touch in his characterisations and the way he shows the relationship between Parker and Ambra Vallo’s superb Pimpinella. Highlight of the piece is undoubtedly a duet between the two, both acrobatic with lots of inventive lifting, and tender and lyrical. Pulcinella’s movement features lots of jumps and turns, often done in a sort of loose, bouncing around kind of way. Think of a puppet that has had most of its strings cut and you have some idea of what it looks like; simple but effective. Brandstrup also uses Stravinsky’s orchestration of the score very well, even managing to match some of Pulcinella’s turning in his sleep with the music.

Steve Scott’s set gives a hint of perspective, as if looking down a street. While effective, perhaps it could do with a little more definition and colour. One or two mutterings could be heard afterwards about it being a little dimly lit, but it seemed fine to me, and after all, this is supposed to be happening at night! For the costumes, Brandstrup and designer Kandis Cook have dispensed with the oft-used colourful designs of previous productions and successfully gone back to some Jacques Callot etchings of commedia del’arte characters from the 17th century, Pulcinella, for example in traditional mask and tattered white suit.

The evening concluded with Fokine’s colourful telling of the fairytale, “The Firebird”. Elisha Willis seemed much happier here and made for a sparky Firebird, while the fast upcoming Kosuke Yamomoto excelled as Ivan Tsarevich. “Firebird” is more spectacle than anything else but it is impressive, and it’s amazing how many people you can get on the Hippodrome stage when you try!

This programme tours to Sunderland, London (Sadler’s Wells) and Plymouth in October and November 2006.

BRB’s next contribution to Igorfest, to be performed in February 2007, is the stunning all-Balanchine programme of “Agon”, “Stravinsky Violin Concerto” and “Symphony in Three Movements”.


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