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 Post subject: English National Ballet Giselle 9th May 2010
PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 10:19 am 
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As it turned out, Laurretta Summerscales didn’t get to dance Myrtha on the afternoon of the 9th, but it was nevertheless a highly enjoyable performance. The Mary Skeaping production of Giselle departs in several places from what we regard as traditional, but the additional choreography is of great interest even if the musical interpolations (but said to be original) jar somewhat, particularly the second act fugue. It’s a handsome production though, easy on the eye with attractive sets and costumes.

I was particularly interested in seeing former Kirov dancer Anton Lukovkin as Albrecht as I had heard that his recent debut in the role was quite impressive and had been strongly urged to go and see him. The Giselle at this matinee performance was Crystal Costa and neither dancer has principal status within ENB even though both give highly professional readings of their roles. Costa looks very sweet and very young with huge innocent eyes and plays Giselle as trusting and guileless. The role doesn’t embarrass her in the way it seems to with some modern interpreters and she can convince us that it is indeed possible for a young girl to go mad and to die for love. As Albrecht Lukovkin assumes that aristocratic manner that comes so easily to Kirov dancers; his Albrecht has great depth and conflicting emotions because on the one hand you believe his love for Giselle to be totally genuine but on the other hand you’re aware that this guy doesn’t belong in a peasant’s hut and no good can come of his self deception.

These two were a well matched couple physically and the double work went smoothly throughout. Although Costa appears not to have the strongest pointes she still manages the hops on pointe with aplomb and if her inexperience in the role showed a little here and there, her admirable confidence and ability to identify with the character of Giselle made her far more convincing than some starrier names I’ve seen of late. The same can be said of Lukovkin, another comparative newcomer to the role who danced well but more importantly was aware to all the dramatic nuances of the role, drawing the audience in to this timeless tragedy and making us feel sympathy for one of ballets (let’s face it) most duplicitous characters. Two dancers to watch out for in the future in my opinion.


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet 2010
PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 6:46 pm 
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Reviews of ENB at the Royal Albert Hall in Swan Lake.

Ismene Brown in The Arts Desk.

The Arts Desk

David Bellan in the Oxford Times.

Oxford Times

Sarah Frater in the Evening Standard.

Evening Standard

Debra Craine in The Times.

The Times

Gerald Dowler in the Financial Times.

Financial Times


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet 2010
PostPosted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 1:15 am 
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Location: Rugby, UK / Taipei
Swan Lake
English National Ballet
Royal Albert Hall, London; June 9, 2010


Derek Deane’s epic production of Swan Lake in the round caused quite a fuss when it first appeared in 1997. For many the debate continues, but what cannot be denied is its popularity. Once again Royal Albert Hall, best known for the BBC Proms, was pretty much full to the rafters. And why not? After all, who can fail to be wowed by the sight of 60 swans flooding the arena in a carpet of shimmering whiteness?

The only nods towards a set are a couple of thrones, a few chairs, and some drapes hanging from the orchestra platform at one end of the arena. It is very exposing and, for some, very close-up. Those sitting in the front row could quite easily reach out and touch the dancers. It is a huge space to fill but the Deane manages it well, adding an army of jugglers, children and ladies and gentlemen of the court to his massed ranks of swans. One plus of the oval arena is that it really does look like a lake, especially when covered in a sea of mist.

Leading the cast on the opening night was the outstandingly assured Daria Klimentová. She was a commanding presence throughout; perfectly reserved, distant and always just out of reach as Odette, strong and confident as Odile. She never left us in any doubt as to where the force in the ballet was.

But for all the spectacle and Klimentová’s style and artistry, it was Vadim Muntagirov making his debut as Siegfried that most of the audience had come to see. It is quite scary to think that he only left the Royal Ballet School a year ago. He should have partnered Staatsballet Berlin principal Polina Semionova on this occasion, and still will on June 15 and 17, but she was held up with visa problems. Her disappointment was our gain. Muntagirov has already struck up something of a partnership with Klimentová, having danced Albrecht to her Giselle, and been her Prince in The Nutcracker and Cinderella, and it is easy to see why. Her restraint and his enthusiasm make for an impressive and well-matched pairing.

With nigh on 5,000 pairs of eyes looking on the pressure on Muntagirov should have been intense. Maybe it is the confidence of youth, but apart from a shaky first entrance, a case a slightly too much adrenalin perhaps, he never looked overawed or fazed. He delivered time and again. His powerful frame is matched by dancing that is feather-light. He gets some amazing height on his jumps and he simply ate up the space in his series of leaps and turns around the vast stage. He already has a stage presence, although his acting still needs some work. In particular he needs to learn that he doesn’t need to smile for every second of the ballroom scenes. Mind you, who can blame him? And while he has a strong lift, it needs smoothing out from the rather ungainly clean and and jerk technique he uses at the moment. But there is plenty of time to iron all that out. He is definitely one to watch.

The rest of the ensemble looked in fine fettle too, including the delightful youngsters from the Tring Park School. Michael Coleman showed what a wonderful character actor he is. There are few of his ilk left. Hungarian guest Tamás Solymosi was a rather good looking Rothbart, and his three acrobat-accomplices tumbled solidly. The jugglers were another story though. Walk round Covent Garden any day and you will see better than these four.

Of course there are problems, especially for those used to watching the ballet solely from the front. Deane has done lots with the choreography to make it suitable for the circular arena stage such as rearranging dances so that they face different fronts at different times. He has also increased the numbers in the small group sections. The pas de trios is quadrupled and there are two lots of four cygnets, for example. In the solos, pas de deux and small group dances it largely works, but the large-scale set pieces remain a problem, especially with the patterning. I am sure it can be seen from above, and probably from directly opposite the orchestra, but from anywhere else it is difficult to get a sense of the arrangement of the dancers.

No doubt some will be uncomfortable with the happy ending too, but why should all Swan Lakes look the same? It’s good to be different. Deane’s version does work, just sometimes in different ways. Best of all, it is a great evening’s entertainment. And that is what ballet should be.

The English National Ballet Orchestra was conducted by Gavin Sutherland.

This review, with photographs, will appear in a forthcoming issue of the magazine.

Postscript:

Is it me, or are more and more people becoming surgically attached to their cameras, and especially their mobile phones. As enjoyable as Swan Lake was, the evening was spoiled slightly by the inability of many in the audience to keep their devices in their pockets. This is an increasing problem, although it seemed much worse than usual here. With everyone facing the same way maybe it is just that it is not so obvious in a regular theatre, but time and again there was a flash or the tell-tale sign of a red light indicating yet another budding Lois Greenfield or Bill Cooper was at play. Phones are just as bad: texting, using the backlight to read the programme, even taking calls…You name it, they do it. The ushers at the Albert Hall tried their best reminding people to refrain before the start and in both intervals, although I could have done without them running up and down the aisles trying to stop the perpetrators during Acts III and IV.

I was recently at the National Theatre in Taiwan. Cameras and phones are much less a problem in the Far East, but it does happen. But the ushers have a neat solution. They note the individual, then descend on them at the interval and stand over them while each picture is deleted. It is quite embarrassing for the person concerned and they rarely transgress again!

It’s worth noting that theatres in the East are also often as hot on eating and drinking in the auditorium. Try even unwrapping a sweet at the National Theatre in Taipei and you will have an usher at your shoulder in seconds. Wrappers have always been a problem but why have theatres in Britain shifted towards letting people take their interval drinks back to their seats? Last year I saw someone spill red wine over their neighbour. It was only a matter of time. And am I the only person who finds sitting in an alcoholic aroma all evening uncomfortable? Or am I just getting a more and more grumpy as I get older?


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet 2010
PostPosted: Mon Jun 14, 2010 1:23 pm 
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Luke Jennings reviews "Swan Lake" in The Guardian.

Luke Jennings

Judith Mackrell also reviews "Swan Lake" in The Guardian.

Judith Mackrell

Zoe Anderson reviews "Swan Lake" in The Independent.

Zoe Anderson


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet 2010
PostPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2010 12:09 pm 
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Location: Ancient Egypt
Just want to second Cassandra's praise for Anton Lukovkin's Albrecht above.

He is a most FANTASTIC and BEAUTIFUL Albrecht! In fact one of the most beautifully danced performances of the role I have ever seen - a wonderfully soft and expressive technique, gorgeous clean lines, and an inner stillness in Act II that was breathtaking. He held the audience totally "in the moment" - a performance driven by a compelling dramatic and emotional impetus, whilst framed within the most pure and beautiful of classical techniques.

We are lucky to have this great dancer here - and it's the Kirov's loss. Now come on ENB - more Principal roles please - we can't let such a great and rare true classicist go to waste!

Bravo, Bravo Anton!


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet 2010
PostPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2010 2:33 pm 
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Actually something else for ENB management to think about...

Seeing as the company is so keen to invite and show guests in London seasons in Principal roles - please can we see IRINA KOLESNIKOVA with ENB in London! This great Prima Ballerina from St Petersburg is very popular and much loved in London, but so rarely has the chance to dance on the London stage.

With your wonderful record of inviting guests for the London public, please ENB can you help?! Irina Kolesnikova for Juliet at the Coliseum in January 2011 please! Irina is a great Juliet in the waiting, and ENB you could bring this to life!


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet 2010
PostPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:12 am 
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Location: London UK
Kolesnikova guesting with ENB?

Bloody brilliant idea, Tahor!


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet 2010
PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:04 pm 
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Artistic Director Wayne Eagling is interviewed by Keith Watson in Metro.co as ENB's 60th anniversary approaches with performances of "Cinderella" at the Coliseum in London, August 11-15, 2010.

Metro.co


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet 2010
PostPosted: Fri Aug 13, 2010 11:16 am 
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In The Arts Desk, Ismene Brown reviews ENB's performance of Michael Corder's "Cinderella" at the London Coliseum.

The Arts Desk

Neil Norman reviews "Cinderella" in The Daily Express.

Daily Express

Sarah Crompton reviews "Cinderella" in The Telegraph.

The Telegraph


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet 2010
PostPosted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 12:20 pm 
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Nadine Meisner reviews "Cinderella" for The Independent.

The Independent

Clement Crisp reviews "Cinderella" for The Financial Times.

Financial Times


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet 2010
PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 3:17 pm 
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David Bellan reviews "Cinderella" for the Oxford Times.

Oxford Times


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet 2010
PostPosted: Sat Oct 23, 2010 7:09 pm 
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Ismene Brown reviews Rudolf Nureyev's "Romeo and Juliet" in The Arts Desk. (Scroll down past the review of Birmingham Royal Ballet's Kenneth MacMillan version of the same ballet.)

The Arts Desk


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet 2010
PostPosted: Mon Oct 25, 2010 4:50 am 
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Location: London UK
The cast I saw was different to the one Ismene Brown saw, but I would largely agree with her observations and wholeheartedly second the following:

Quote:
Alex Ingram’s conducting of the ENB orchestra swept along with distinction - their strings sounded fine for a change - all much aided by the wonderful acoustic of the Southampton Mayflower. It’s rare now to have the pleasure of hearing a big orchestra playing a big ballet in a big theatre, live, no amplification, just sound reverberated by a decently designed auditorium around you and a stage full of a company completely engaged with the story it’s showing.


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet 2010
PostPosted: Wed Nov 03, 2010 1:01 pm 
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In the Oxford Times, David Bellan reviews Nureyev's "Romeo and Juliet."

Oxford Times


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet 2010
PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2010 1:23 pm 
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Romeo and Juliet
English National Ballet
Milton Keynes Theatre, UK; November 2, 2010


by David Mead


Created on the company (then known as London Festival Ballet) in 1977, Rudolf Nureyev’s “Romeo and Juliet” is a visual delight. Ezio Frigerio’s settings are sumptuous. His lively Renaissance piazza transports you to the heart of fourteenth century Verona, while the feast at the ball has all the colour and life of a Paulo Veronese painting. It is all helped along by Tharon Musser’s fabulous lighting, perfectly adjusted for different times of the day and that really captures the bright, crystal-clear, Italian sunlight.

Contrasting the colour and vitality, Nureyev sees Verona as a crowded, dark and dangerous place. Again and again he looks into the future and sees inescapable fate controlling events. Death and portents of death run through the ballet. The very first thing we see is four black cloaked figures playing dice; the fates deciding their next victim. Later, a cart of plague victims passes by and a beggar dies immediately Romeo gives him a coin.

The ballet sticks closer to Shakespeare than pretty much any other version. Sometimes references to the play are very literal and very powerful. In Act III of the play, after Juliet speaks of how she has bought “the mansion of love, but not possess’d it,” she envisions the future saying, “I’ll to my wedding bed. And death, not Romeo, take my maidenhead!” Sure enough, it is one of the black cloaked figures, a messenger of death, that retires with her, presaging things to come. But accuracy is not everything, and the romance of the central love affair gets rather lost in everything else that’s going on.

Verona is also a city of sex and violence. Juliet’s first entrance is interrupted by her catching sight of her nurse in a sexual embrace with a guard, a device that also serves to highlight her own innocence. There is also more than a hint of an affair between Lady Capulet and Tybalt.

The ballet is vibrant and beautiful to look at, and events unfold with urgency. Nureyev uses some effective devices to help our understanding. When the friar’s explains to Juliet what will happen when she takes the potion, we see his words visualised by another dancer upstage. Later, Juliet’s anguish about what to do is embodied in the spirits of the now dead Mercutio and Tybalt as each tempts here to take a particular path. Unfortunately, on this occasion at least, the ballet is let down by being oddly devoid of much in the way of feeling. It never set the spine tingling and the heartstrings were not tugged once. It did get close to poignancy with the deaths of the lovers but, as if to prove literary accuracy is not all, the moment was spoiled totally by a weak reconciliation scene for the feuding families.

In her flowing white gown with her hair cascading over her shoulders, Daria Klimentová was a pleasant Juliet, occasionally delicate, but more often strong and confident. She seemed very worldly and some distance from a thirteen year-old teenager about to enter her first serious relationship. Innocent, romantic leads may not be her forte, but the choreography does not help. The pas de deux with Romeo are more about athleticism than love. Nureyev’s balcony scene, which actually takes place minus a balcony, must be one of the least romantic by anyone. He also has a tendency to be over fussy, often putting beats into sweeping lifts, thus drawing attention to the feet and away from the relationship between the two dancers.

Strength and confidence were not attributes shown by Vadim Muntagirov’s Romeo. Still only a year out of The Royal Ballet School, he may look youthful, but the role needs more than that. He lacked character, had little presence and was constantly overshadowed by both Yat-Sen Chang’s Mercutio and Max Westwell’s Benvolio. In contrast to Klimentová’s sure dancing that at least emphasised her interpretation of Juliet, Muntagirov looked strangely uncertain, especially in Act I when almost all his pirouettes looked most unsteady.

There were no such doubts about Chang or Fabian Reimair as Tybalt, who both imbued their characters with great depth. Chang was full of joie de vivre. Outwardly, this Mercutio is a preening, swaggering peacock, but his cheeky grin and bum-waggling makes it clear that at heart he is just a fun loving jester. Chang’s lightning fast footwork, especially in his small jumps, was also most impressive. He brought a smile to everyone’s face. Reimair on the other hand left us in no doubt that Tybalt was one seriously dangerous and vindictive individual, as he made full use of the choreography to emphasise his snake-like cunning. The stage overflowed with tension every time he appeared.

Elsewhere, the piazza is always a hive of activity, the market stallholders each seeming to have their own mini stories to tell. Sometimes you really had to tear yourself away to look at the main action. It was all so very real, which made it all the more odd that the brawls between the two families, and especially the sword fights, were anything but.

The English National Ballet Orchestra, in fine fettle, was conducted by Gavin Sutherland.

A version of this review, with images, will follow in the magazine.


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