CriticalDance Forum

Royal Ballet: 2008-09 Season
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Author:  LMCtech [ Fri Mar 27, 2009 12:28 pm ]
Post subject: 

Sounds like an exciting couple of performances. Thanks for sharing.

OUt of curiosity what makes the RB Swan Lake so terrible?

Author:  Cygne [ Fri Mar 27, 2009 1:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ekaterina Osmolkina's debut in Swan Lake

Cassandra wrote:
[Entire post]

Thank you so much Cassandra for the beautiful report! I am so pleased and ecstatic that Katya Osmolkina scored such an important triumph at Covent Garden! She is one of the Maryinsky's high caliber ballerinas who mark time in the soloist ranks. I can attest that her Giselle is quite excellent. Incidentally, you witnessed her second and third full-length O/Os; her Maryinsky debut occurred this past January :arrow: 11 years after her graduation (Class of 1998: Teacher, the late Inna Zubhovskaya). I agree with you: May she be invited to the Royal again!

OUt of curiosity what makes the RB Swan Lake so terrible?

LMCtech, I recall when the ballet first premiered, the concept, scenery and costumes were panned. The 'time' and 'location' were placed in the all too specific Imperial Russia of Tchaikovsky. Siegfried resembled the Czarevich, medals, sash and all, and so on and so forth. The lake scenes were IMO beautifully designed, but some objected to the swan costumes of knee length tulle, (the previous production used tutus). The ball scene was described by one critic as a 'poorly lit scene which could have passed for ""The Tales of Hoffmann," or a palace attic in 1890s Paris,' (I'm paraphrasing from a long memory). The last time I saw this production it was the early 1990s with Bussell and Bull as O/O. It premiered at Covent Garden in the late 80s. This production is the 1895 choreographic text, based on Nikolai Sergeyev's Imperial Ballet notations with all the mime. The music follows Drigo's edits. The Act 1 pas de trois comes before the waltz. Apart from the mime in Act 2 and tragic finale, Osmolkina wasn't in unfamiliar territory :D.

Author:  Cassandra [ Tue Mar 31, 2009 5:41 am ]
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Her dance-intelligence, the force of Odette’s sorrows purely and potently shown from that first moment, tell of artistry that is sustained by an apostolic succession in St Petersburg, understanding passed from teacher to pupil over a century of performance.

Clement Crisp on Osmolkina's Swan Lake: ... abdc0.html

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:01 pm ]
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Alastair Macaulay reviews the Royal Ballet's production of "Swan Lake" (with Alexandra Ansanelli) -- together with the American Ballet Theatre production -- in The New York Times:

NY Times

Author:  Cassandra [ Wed Apr 01, 2009 7:33 am ]
Post subject:  Wayne McGregor debuts as an opera producer

Last night I went to see an opera double bill of Purcell's Dido & Aeneas and Handel's Acis and Galatea in productions by the Royal Ballet's resident choreographer, Wayne McGregor. I was probably the only ballet fan in the audience that hadn't gone for the dancing as the great love of my life is baroque opera and although neither of these works are strictly speaking operas, both are fabulous examples of English baroque singing. Both works contain a lot of orchestral music that is made for dancing, the second work more than the first, and in Acis & Galatea, McGregor has created a ballet that runs in tandem with the singers so that we have two sets of performers for every character.

Dido and Aeneas was very gloomy in concept featuring the minimalist sets so beloved by the Royal Opera that I'm starting to tire of, but of course it's not a happy story with the machinations of evil winning the day. Unfortunately wonderful Sarah Connelly who was singing Dido was suffering a throat infection and wasn't on her best form and I wasn't won over at all by the singer portraying Aeneas.

Acis and Galatea was far better to look at with the exception of the costumes that made the singers look like a bunch of Balkan peasants. The designer actually achieved what I consider the impossible by making the ravishingly beautiful Danielle De Niese look dowdy in ugly costumes and an absolutely vile blonde wig. Her Acis was singularly unattractive in costuming too and I didn't care much for his singing as his voice didn't seem to suit Handel. After Acis's death De Niese is given a heavenly Acis as a replacement and I expect she found this new lover in the shape of the Royal Ballet's Edward Watson a big improvement. They dance an ecstatic pas de deux together to end off the evening.

The dancers were all excellent with Lauren Cuthbertson as the dancing Galatea and Eric Underwood as a sympathetic bad guy taking the lions share of the action; nice to see Steven McRae back on stage again too. I thought McGregor coped well with baroque rhythms and that his choreography was both witty and poignant as the plot progressed.

The Royal Opera audiences are notorious for not being shy at showing their displeasure but Mr McGregor's debut was greeted with applause and a couple of cheers with not a boo to be heard. Too frequently R.O. productions are utterly hideous but last night wasn't in that category. Opera intendents could do worse than offer him more employment in that vein in the future.

Because of the nature of these two works they are being reviewed by both opera and dance critics and I'll post them as they appear.

The Evening Standard' Dance Critic ... d=23669828

The Evening Standard's Opera Critic ... ockStart=0

By the way I absolutely agree with this critic's praise of Paul Agnew as Damon - a gorgeous, gorgeous voice that had me regretting that the role of Damon is such a small one.

Author:  coda [ Wed Apr 01, 2009 4:46 pm ]
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I saw Swan Lake with Osmolkina on the 26th of March, next day after the ABT’s opening night where Michele Wiles, despite all her technical stability, has ruined Swan Lake for me. I found her unmusical, too stiff, even rigid, and lacking the qualities, which are an absolute necessity for the Swan Queen: the right coordination of movements and beautiful posture. I haven’t seen any beautiful poses by her throughout the performance. In addition, she was often bending her wrists and fingers outwards, which looked inappropriately mannered. Clement Crisp’s assessed it: “Another Swan Lake nearer the crematorium.” I agree: there can not be Swan Lake without convincing Odette-Odile.

Next evening Katya Osmolkina ‘restored’ Swan Lake for me after Wiles. From the first moment of her appearance on stage it was clear how RIGHT she was for this ballet and for this role. Never mind that she had a slight slip in fuettes, which she rectified skillfully. Most important was her impeccable training expressed in fine lines: the elegant position and every turn of her head, the gaze direction, classical port de bras, and the excellent proportions of her body. There was fluidity of movements and what one of my friends calls "all those Vaganova-trade-mark sculpted poses" and much more. The performance reminded once again that Swan Lake survived over 130 years not only because of the genius of Tchaikovsky and Lev Ivanov but because from time to time it has beautiful Swan Queens who help this ballet to survive.

Author:  Cassandra [ Fri Apr 03, 2009 6:23 am ]
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More reviews of Wayne McGregor's opera debut.

Over at The Times Debra Craine didn't like gorgeous Danielle De Niese (hiss, boo) ... 016673.ece

Here's what The Time's opera critic thought: ... 016709.ece

At the Guardian opera and Ballet critics share the review and you can see for yourselves how awful De Niese looks in that frumpy dress and awful blonde wig. ... tea-review

The Independent just sent an opera critic ... 59267.html

The Telegraph's Rupert Christiansen gives the most balanced view and shares my admiraton of Sarah Connelly: ... eview.html

Author:  AnaM [ Sat Apr 04, 2009 6:17 am ]
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In response to "what makes this Swan Lake so terrible"...

I fell in love with the old Leslie Hurry production and, to my horror, when I first came to London and bought my tickets for the Royal Ballet's Swan Lake in 1989 I encountered this "horrible production" staged by Dowell...

Well, firstly, the costumes. They were simply hideous. They distorted the lines, obscured the dancing and they made the dancers look dull and uninspired. The original head pieces for the swan women totally broke the neck lines and made the Swan Queen look like a badly attired swimmer.

The sets, very much the same. Blurred, obscure, over the top and leaving very little room for the dance. Lots of silly mistakes in the setting of the scene in Imperial Russia. I remember a critic asking what kind of weather they had in Russia where people could be wearing in the same park thick winter coats and/or short sleeves and summer clothes!!

Then, the choreography... all Ashton choreography was thrown away... as it was Nureyev's wonderful solo for the Prince at the end of Act I (which was totally Ashtonian by the way and that Dowell had made so famous in the old recording of the ballet) and some de Valois bits and pieces for the villagers in the opening scenes.

The new Ivanov choreography for Act IV was so poorly danced and interpreted... and the whole production was dark... very dark!! This was definitely NOT the Kirov interpretation. And why should it be? But the question remained, why did they change it and pretend all of a sudden that the Royal might take on the Mariinsky heritage and style?

Some years ago I went back to see if my memories had been misleading and my judgement rushed. After seeing it, I have not come back. It's still simply ugly. For another company this could be ok, but for a company that used to have one of the most beautiful renditions of this ballet, it is a tragedy.

For me, the loss of all choreographic heritage -from de Valois to Nureyev and, of course, Ashton- makes it almost unforgivable. What prompted Dowell to do this, to this day, remains a mistery.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Apr 07, 2009 1:24 pm ]
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Reviews of Marianela Nunez' debut as Giselle (with Carlos Acosta):

Sarah Frater in The Evening Standard:

The Evening Standard

Mark Monahan in The Telegraph:

The Telegraph

Author:  coda [ Tue Apr 07, 2009 1:51 pm ]
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“Sarah Frater in The Evening Standard”

When will the editors be responsible for dancers' correct names in captions?
Here we see it again - "Diamond technique: Marianela Nuñez" inscribed under the beautiful photograph of Alina Cojocaru.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Apr 08, 2009 1:58 pm ]
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Clement Crisp reviews the debut of Marianela Nunez' "Giselle" in the Financial Times.

Financial Times

Debra Craine in The Times:

The Times

Judith Mackrell in The Guardian:

The Guardian

David Bellan in The Oxford Times:

Oxford Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Apr 30, 2009 1:54 pm ]
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Roslyn Sulcas reviews Alina Cojocaru's comeback performance as "Giselle" (and a subsequent performance by Tamara Rojo) in the New York Times:

NY Times

Author:  Cassandra [ Wed May 06, 2009 9:22 am ]
Post subject:  Review of Giselle by Howard Jacobson

Now here is a real curiosity, a review not by a ballet critic, but by the renowned author Howard Jacobson. He isn't immediately won over by what he sees but Giselle works her magic on him by the end. ... 77678.html

Author:  Cassandra [ Mon May 18, 2009 9:46 am ]
Post subject:  New Works at the Linbury

Clement Crisp went to see an evening of new works at the Linbury last week: ... abdc0.html

Although I had a couple of reservations about Samodurov's ballet, I agree with Crisp that he has a rare talent for choreography.

Author:  Cassandra [ Thu Jul 09, 2009 9:08 am ]
Post subject: 

New Works in the Lincury
The Royal Ballet
Linbury Theatre. ROH
16th May 2009

The Royal Ballet was once a powerhouse of new chorography and innovation, but alas no more, and the need for an in house classical chorographer of merit is becoming ever more desperate. With the company so strangely unwilling to look elsewhere for new ballets with inexplicably no invitations to create going to successful choreographers from abroad, that just leaves the option of digging out talent from within the RB ranks. I’ve been to quite a few of these Royal Ballet choreographic evenings and have come away dissatisfied from nearly all of them with only Vanessa Fenton showing any ability for original dance creation, so last May’s evening of New Works at the Linbury Theatre came as a refreshing surprise with most ballets on show being of high calibre.

Two of the works, the opening Dear Norman by Christopher Hampson and Johan Kobborg’s Les Lutins seemed to be specifically conceived as chamber ballets crafted for the more intimate setting of the Linbury, but they were as different as chalk and cheese with the Hampson piece being a moving and reflective piece inspired by the character of Norman Morrice; while Kobborg’s offering was a display of in-your-face virtuosity by the quicksilver Steven McRae who is joined by Sergei Polunin and then Alina Cojocaru: the two boys compete for the girl but she prefers handsome on-stage fiddler Charlie Siem: highly amusing and, when McRae was dancing, breathtaking to watch.

The evening’s award for novelty must go to Kristen McNally who created a totally off the wall number entitled Yes we did…. danced to Fanfare for the Common Man and speeches by presidents Kennedy and Obama. A satire on the ‘American Dream’, McNally’s work featuring a line up of dancing U.S. stereotypes stood out from everything else by dint of its sheer wackiness. Ms McNally’s ability to ‘think outside the box’ is impressive and I’m looking forward to whatever she thinks of next.

Now, choreographed by Jonathan Watkins, was danced to a strikingly attractive modern score entitled No Time Before Time by Alexander Balanescu and performed live by the Tippett Quartet. In the programme notes Watkins refers to living in the present rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, a sentiment that appears to echo the title of Balanescu’s music. This was a well constructed piece with pretty much equal dance opportunities for the talented cast and I particularly appreciated the strong relationship forged between the music and choreography.

All these ballets were enjoyable and augured well for the future but two in particular were head and shoulders above the rest. They were Recordato by Ludovic Ondiviela and Non-linear Interactions by Vyacheslav Samodurov. What these two works had in common was fundamental originality, a use of movement that appeared unique to themselves, with both choreographer devising lifts and double work that owed nothing to other sources as far as I could tell. Of the two, Ondiviela produced the more compelling piece, a kind of essay on the human condition, the centrepiece of which was a deeply emotional pas de deux danced movingly and with conviction by Mara Galeazzi and Bennet Gartside. Galeazzi also had a prominent role in the Samodurov ballet, Recordato, which despite its odd construction, rather like two different ballets jumbled up together, was remarkable in its innovative freshness.

Only the final ballet of the evening failed to work for me, Liam Scarlett’s Consolations and Liebestraum; despite the cast (including the stellar Tamara Roja) clearly giving it their all emotionally, there were no new ideas or imaginative steps to admire as in the earlier ballets and I felt it did not work well as a finale at all. Part of the problem was the over-familiar music by Liszt, already used by Ashton in his Apparitions, you can’t help feeling Scarlett got the musical inspiration from some sort of ‘Essential Liszt’ CD.

All in all this was an evening that provided a glimmer of hope on the chorographic front, I just hope that the dance makers involved continue to find opportunities to show us their works.

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