On Saturday 4th June, the Royal Danish Ballet presented Napoli as part of their Bournonville Festival.
Napoli was first choreographed in 1842, after a time when Bournonville had been away from Denmark and had actually visited Naples, where he found inspiration for his future ballet. Bournonville was inspired by the local colour and the vibrancy of a city in constant movement.
His love for this brightness and dynamism is obvious in the ballet he produced. It is to the Royal Danish Ballet’s credit that those same characteristics were all present in their performance at the Festival.
Napoli is, in spite of all its colour and stage dynamics, a test for audiences nowadays. You have to wait until the end of the 3rd Act to actually get to the choreographic heart of the piece. I cannot think of any other company that could do this as the RDB manages to do it. The wonderful pantomime that fills the first two acts is performed with such clarity and conviction that it carries you through until the afore mentioned last part. This is no small achievement, as the mime is not unfortunately performed to Tchaykowsky or Glazunov’s melodies!
The cast that we got to see was led by Thomas Lund and Tina Hojlund. Lund was fantastic both in his acting and his dancing. Hojlund was convincing throughout as Teresina, though I do not know if she would be so good in other less earthy roles.
The mime roles were all wonderfully played, but special mention must go to Flemming Ryberg in his interpretation of Peppo, as he had the timing and eloquence so necessary in comic mimed parts.
Mogens Boesen as Pascarillo, the street singer, also managed to have that same quality. I wonder if that part was Cranko’s inspiration for the “singing” moment in his Taming of the Shrew.
The second act in the Grotto is a totally forgettable affair and, maybe due to the poor choreography or to the costumes, it does the female corps no favours.
Fortunately, the 3rd act makes you forget all about it and leave the theatre in a stated of perfect happiness. The joyful pas de six and variations were danced by most of the company’s principals. Pity Mads Blangstrup was not given one of the male variations… These were led by Tim Matiakis, who though he excelled in the technical aspects of his solo, did not manage to smile and thus convey the joy of the choreography. Andrew Bowman in his solo managed to fuse technical ability and joy in the dancing.
Good news to see the female soloists: Caroline Cavallo, Tinal Hojlund and Gitta Lindstrom, giving such good performances of their solos. As the RDB’s jewel has always been its male dancers, it is great to see that their female counterparts are also sharing their glory.
The Tarantella was led by Izabella Sokolowska and Morten Eggert and what a wonderful end to the ballet this is! Watching it for the first time on the Danish stage and with the whole company on stage, it just gave another dimension to the choreography. The whole company seemed to become more and more vibrant, though nobody seemed more possessed by the frenzied rhythm of the dance than Thomas Lund. His dancing reminded us all what a Tarantella is all about; a frenzied dance to get rid of all ill spirits, the Italian version of St Vitus’s Dance.
Lund was simply great and so were the rest of the company. After the end of the ballet they got a long and well deserved ovation.
The RDB in their performance of Napoli were not simply preserving their heritage; they were infusing it with new life for their audiences and their results were more than worth admiring.