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  1. Here are my first impressions of this new production which I may change during the course of the run as Scarlett's version of Swan Lake becomes more familiar. The designs for this production work extremely well to create the mood required in each act and they provide a cleverly disguised uncluttered area in which to dance. I am not entirely convinced by the colour palette selected for the first act costumes but the real problem as far as I am concerned is the lighting levels in the white acts where I assume the intention is that Siegfried should be visible. Unfortunately the current lighting levels combined with the colour of his costume means that there are occasions when from the upper reaches of the Amphitheatre he disappears into the surrounding gloom. It does not look as if anyone went up to the Amphi to check on general visibility levels there. The third act is particularly fine with not a single bit of intrusive bling to be seen . The atmosphere created by the designs for this act is further enhanced by an absence of unseemly behaviour from Benno. or the guests. For whoever Von Rothbart is revealed to be in the fourth act in his role as a courtier he runs a tight ship as far as court etiquette and seemly behaviour are concerned. This production is not a two speed version of the ballet in which the principal characters either dance far more slowly than the corps which surround them or dance sections of the choreography as if they are devoid of any theatrical context and the act 3 pas de deux merely a high octane gala piece. Unfortunately the production has been saddled with a totally superfluous Prologue showing how Odette was transformed into a swan by Von Rothbart and because there is no double suicide in act 4 there is no Apotheosis at the end of the ballet in which we see Odette and Siegfried united in death. Instead we are shown Siegfried carrying Odette's lifeless body onto the stage and a vision of Odette on high. This does not have the same feel of choreographic inevitability and organic connection with the music which the traditional Apotheosis has. Act 1 Of the four acts I find the first act of this production the least satisfactory and the most confused. As originally created by Petipa the first act set the narrative in motion and provided him with two opportunities to create set pieces which displayed two aspects of his ability as a choreographer. The waltz which displayed his much admired skill in handling large forces in a confined space and a pas de trois which gave him the opportunity to display the technical skills of the company's in-house classical dancers before the audience had set eyes on the Italian guest artist for whom the ballet had been created and whose artistic and technical skills it was intended to display. If I recall correctly at some point Scarlett said that he wanted to update the choreography of the ballet to give the dancers an opportunity to display their modern technique. As he has not done much to alter act 2 and much of his choreography in act 4 refers back to the choreography for the swans in the iconic second act it would seem that most of Scarlett's modernising tendencies have been applied to the choreography of the first act. Here Scarlett has created a problem as the "quiet" and less challenging sections of the choreography of this act such as the processions and the group dances for the lower orders are not necessarily evidence of a lack of skill on the part of the dancers who have appeared in them over the generations since the ballet was first staged in St.Petersburg which would benefit from improvement but carefully calculated "quiet" passages created for theatrical effect to provide a suitable contrasting setting for the performance of Petipa's choreographic set pieces. Now while little remains of Petipa's waltz apart from the floor plan the need to make that section special in some way remains whether it be in the number of dancers appearing in it or the style of choreography applied to it and it helps if the section of choreography which precedes it is comparative calm. Ashton created two versions of the waltz, a pas de six and later a pas de douze. The latter stood out from its choreographic surroundings because it used a very classical dance vocabulary which was very different in quality and style from the "quieter" passages of movement which preceded and followed it. In this production the waltz. The pas de trois did not have the impact it should because it did not stand out sufficiently from its choreographic surroundings. I think that Scarlett has miscalculated with his improvements in this act. It will be interesting to see how the first act, and these sections of the ballet in particular, settled own as the run progresses. At the moment rather than enhancing them the new choreography seems to have absorbed them. The Queen presents her son with the crossbow saving him the embarrassment of wrenching a weapon from the hands of an underling. Her mimed admonition to her son that he must marry is not delivered with the same urgency that we have seen in the past but then in this production Scarlett seems anxious to show mime as an integrated form of dance movement. Act 2 Although Siegfried has no entourage of huntsmen and is only accompanied by Benno who seems far too ready to leave the scene this is without doubt the most familiar section of choreography in this production. If it looks different from when it was last seen in the Dowell production this is because both Odette and her swans seem to be dancing in the same ballet as far as tempi are concerned. This is not a two speed version of act 2,fast for the corps and ultra slow for Odette and her prince. with the music tortured into submission to accommodate a speed of paint drying slowness. Odette retains her mime about the lake of her mother's tears but has no need to beg the prince not to shoot her flock of swans. In fact Siegfried seemed so disinclined to use his crossbow that I began to wonder whether we were witnessing the first vegetarian prince. We lose the young swans danced by students from the RBS and we revert to an all white flock of swans dressed in tutus Act 3 I am not convinced that dressing the prospective brides in tutus adds much, if anything, to the mix as they are given no more to dance than Ashton gave them. The divertissements begin with a pas de trois danced by Benno and Siegfried's sisters to the music used by Ashton in his pas de quatre.Unfortunately I think that Ashton made far more inventive use of it than Scarlett has managed to do. This is followed by the usual sequence of national dances. The Spanish dance seems to owe a great deal choreographically to Don Q, but Ashton's version also hinted at connections with other choreographer's theatrical stagings of Spanish dancing. Perhaps it's me but I think that I see hints in both the Czardas and the Mazurka of the pre-Dowell production of the ballet. I recognise that there are only a limited number of options available to anyone staging these divertissements but it is more than the steps feeling familiar. The Neapolitan dance looked quite good but was not danced with the sort of gusto that it really needs. It was just a bit too careful. The Black Swan pas de deux was danced with musicality as if it had real theatrical context as a pas d'action rather than as a high octane gala piece. At the end of the pas when Odile's true identity is revealed Von Rothbart seizes the Queen's crown and that did not really work for me. Act 4 This is Scarlett's own choreograph which picks up on themes and groupings from the second act including the wedge of massed swans. It is very tasteful but over all it seems to be dominated by straight lines. The occasional square tacked onto them does not add to their interest. Perhaps it all looks better from the stalls. I admire Scarlett's bravery in trying to create something comparable to Ivanov's original choreography for this act and Ashton's mesmerising version which used music which was cut from the score used in the Petipa/ Ivanov version of the ballet. I believe that Ashton was criticised for tampering with the fourth act and that when he explained it was intended as a homage to ivanov the general consensus was that the greatest respect he could have shown to the original choreographer was to have left that section of the work untouched. Now I think that Ashton's version which does not use the standard musical text of act four is as much a work of genius as the Ivanov original. Unfortunately on first sighting Scarlett's version does not seem as effective or inventive as either Ashton's or Ivanov's choreography. I may grow to like it better but for me the main problem with Scarlett's fourth act is one he has created for himself in giving the ballet a bleak ending in which only Odette kills herself and Siegfried is left alive mourning over her dead body. It is not so much the ending to which I object but the fact that it makes little emotional sense when set to the transcendental music used for the Apotheosis in all previous versions of the ballet staged by the company. The problem is that I associate it with a scene in which the lovers are reunited in death and the music and the image are so inextricably linked that I cannot separate the music from the image in much the same way as Scarlett has said that he cannot separate the music for the Neapolitan dance from the choreography Ashton set to it.
  2. Something that Kevin said at the last Ballet Association meeting suggested that the first night cast, which I assume is going to be the one seen in the streamed performance, was going to be a rather star studded one, or rather one including a lot of dancers drawn from the senior ranks of the company not already accounted for.My guess would be that we are likely to see Hayward in the pas de trois and the Neapolitan dance. I have been struck by a number of people saying that they like the fact that in this production the princesses from among whom Siegfried is expected to select his bride are to be clearly identifiable as coming from the countries associated with the third act divertissements and that this makes sense. My understanding is that the six dancers who originally appeared at this point in the ballet, and have done so in every production which the company has staged since it first acquired Swan Lake, have always been undifferentiated. I have to admit that this has never worried me or seemed illogical. Folk tales, myths and plots derived from such sources never answer to the strict rules of logic. All that ever matters it seems to me is that they should make sense emotionally. if I have thought about the undifferentiated nature of the princesses at this point of the ballet then I have tended to think that the point is that to Siegfried they are of no interest and seem little more than a group of young women who his mother has insisted that he should consider as prospective brides. As he has already met Odette he has no eyes for any of them hence the undifferentiated costumes. As for the dancers in the divertissement the last RB production made it clear that they were conjured up by Von Rothbart while the production it replaced only hinted at such a connection.
  3. I don't think that the powers that be need worry that much as the entire run of performances has at various times been described as sold out on the web site. The bulk returns are for seats in the orchestra stalls and they look as if they are block bookings. I am not sure that I would automatically assume that in the case of what is now the Takada, Bracewell cast that the tickets are being returned by the disappointed members of the Steven MacRae fan club, although of course I could be wrong. Whether or not this rum of Swan Lake performances is a success will have far more to do with the textual choices made by Liam Scarlett than anything else. I for one am looking forward to seeing all the casts I have booked to see perform.
  4. A timely reminder about who actually owns the bank. I doubt that its shareholders would be that happy about the news but I suspect that this announcement about it providing financial support for ENB will have little or no impact as it is unlikely to be front page news and is almost certainly going to be buried on the arts pages or have a paragraph or so in the business section. Although I am not sure that the same will be true of the government's rumoured plans to return the bank to private ownership as soon as possible. If what we have been hearing proves to be correct then it would seem that the bank's beleaguered shareholders, the taxpayers who bailed the bank out in the first place, are unlikely to get their money back let alone get a decent return on their "investment". But as you may have noticed Swiss BalletFan Her Majesty's Government has some very strange ideas about public property and even odder ones about other areas of policy.
  5. Bluebird you are of course quite right and I stand corrected. For anyone reading my above post please substitute the name Benjamin Ella for Luca Acri but bear in mind that the tenor of the argument is simply that who we actually get to see in performance depends on circumstances over which those who post on this site have only limited control. Who we are able to see governs who we are able to write about. Those who chose not to book for MacRae's Albrecht' and we are all constrained by our finances. did not see Ella's debut. Only those who booked for the Takada MacRae Giselle saw Ella and of those five thousand or so people who saw his performances only a small number will have chosen to post their comments about it. Opportunities for advancement in a company the size of the RB where the director is able to select his new recruits from a wide range of exceptionally talented dancers come to those who have technique, talent,artistry and are "lucky" or perhaps in this context "luck" is essentially being the right person, in the right place at the right time and being equipped temperamentally to take advantage of the opportunities which are presented to the performer sometimes at exceptionally short notice. I imagine that Ball's promotion chances have been boosted by taking over the role of Albrecht mid performance in the way that Hirano's ability to learn complex choreography quickly and give good performances of it boosted his claims to being promoted to Principal. Hirano's ability to learn a role quickly has saved the day on a number of occasions with the lead role in the Prince of the Pagodas some years and more recently with the role of the Man in The Song of the Earth and Leontes in The Winter's Tale. Whether or not those of us who were not present at what proves to be a break through performances get to hear or read about it depends on those who were present feeling moved to write about it . Those who get the chances often create their own "luck" simply because they have the skills and are interested in and watch roles which are not within their obvious immediate range of repertory. if you are ready for the challenge when the opportunity arises and are able to deliver the chances are you will be asked again and the effect is often cumulative as far as career progression is concerned. I have to say that I am more than a little perplexed by the suggestion that there are posters who go out of their way to denigrate individual dancers in order to build up another dancer. If they have done this I have not noticed it. If one of us were to write about the current run of Marguerite and Armand to say that they found three of the pairings beautiful but totally lacking in emotional impact giving reasons would that count as denigration? Surely this is a forum for discussion rather than simply one on which fans have space in which to gush over their favourite dancers? I am interested to know whether if one of us were to say dancer X makes beautiful shapes but is a wooden inexpressive dancer in comparison to Mr Y who seems to be using the self same choreographed movement expressively to create the character he is portraying, reveal his emotional state and show his relationship with the other characters on the stage would that count as an acceptable comment or denigration? This is a genuine enquiry.
  6. Stella, I think it highly unlikely that the number of times an individual dancer is mentioned on this site is influenced by anything much more complicated than the dancing opportunities which management's choices of repertory and casting give them as performers which can be completely overturned by the effects of injury and illness on rehearsal time which while it obviously reduces the performance opportunities of those who are injured or ill can sometimes give a dancer who has a comparatively low profile as far as the audience is concerned the opportunity to give a break out performance which reveals a real talent for the first time or which shows that a relatively established dancer has an unexpected gift for comedy or for drama. Unscheduled debuts may reveal that a dancer is of real utility as they are quick learners or it may produce an unlikely pairing which has a real alchemy and is far greater than the sum of its parts. All of which discoveries may .completely transform a career. You then need to remember that a break through performance may only be seen by between two and a half to five thousand people. As posting on this site is a purely voluntary activity the performance and the dancer may only be mentioned once or twice and only in passing unless of course the dancer has the good fortune to make the break through performance in the context of a performance given by a dancer or dancers with a solid following of people inclined to post about the performances they have seen. Obviously, as in all company's, opportunities to dance depend on a dancer's ranking in the hierarchy and increase with seniority. At the moment the company has a large number of really talented dancers in its ranks but you are not going to read about all of them, when and if, they get given a featured role. O'Hare seems to be less concerned with company ranking when it comes to making casting decisions than some directors are but as people are not always inclined to rush out and see debuts by junior dancers you probably will not read about them. I don't think that a dancers' country of origin influences whether or not people post about their performances here. I doubt that there are many people who have taken time to trawl through the dancer's biographies on the Royal Ballet's website to identify their countries of origin. I suspect that whether or not a dancer has spent any time at the Royal Ballet School is a more significant factor in whether or not a performance is mentioned here. A dancer who has been seen in the RBS's performances or has caught the eye of those who have attended the Yorkshire Ballet School may have already generated an embryonic following or fan base. I don't know what time period your researches cover but here is what I think about whether or not performances by Australian dancers are mentioned on this site. Not so long ago the company had an Australian principal called Leanne Benjamin who had a very wide repertory so that whatever was programmed she was likely to be mentioned on this site sometimes multiple times. Even when she began to wind down her career she kept Giselle in her repertory as well as lead roles in a number of major MacMillan ballets which are performed with great regularity as well as appearing in new works and as a result she continued to be mentioned on this site until the very end of her career. At present the company has two male principal dancers from Australia McRae and Campbell and a number of very promising dancers in its lower ranks who have yet to really establish themselves by making their mark. How far these junior dancers progress will depend on the opportunities they are given by management and by the outside stagers who have the right to select casts for the ballets for which they are responsible and the opportunities that come a dancer's way as the result of the injury and illness of others. Here are a few examples of recent unexpected debuts Luca Acri making his debut as Albrecht in Giselle replacing an injured MacRae; Campbell also making his debut as Albrecht replacing the injured Sambe and now Campbell, again replacing McRae, unexpectedly making his debut as De Grieux after recently making a very successful debut as Lescaut. I think that I should also mention Claudia Dean a dancer of real promise who began to make her mark a few seasons ago but who decided to leave the company and return to her family in Australia. I think that, had she stayed, by now she would have been a dancer whose performances would have been mentioned regularly on this site as she was on the cusp of being a dancer of real interest. She was good in the Fairy Variations she had danced and had made an exceptional debut as the Chosen One in MacMillan's Rite of Spring. I think that the trajectory of her future career would have been most interesting as by now she would almost certainly have added Myrthe, Lilac Fairy and Mistress to her repertory.
  7. Here we have the distinction between dancers who we admire but do not move the heart and those we love. The problem about the dancers we love is that we are sometimes blinded to their defects and believe that they can do anything. If they appear in a ballet which does not work for us we are more likely to attribute the failure to the choreographer than we are to ask ourselves whether the problem is that the dancer or dancers were miscast. Now of course none of us can afford to go and see every performance and few of us will go out of our way to see dancers who we find acceptable but slightly dull. But just occasionally an accidental pairing occurs due to injury or illness when two dancers who we would almost certainly not put ourselves out to see are suddenly thrown together and by some strange alchemy it works and goes on working. I had such an experience with a La Sylphide which Rojo and Pennefather were due to dance. When I got to the theatre Rojo was off injured and replaced by Sarah Lamb. Now I thought that Rojo was not suited to the role of the Sylph but I had few expectations of the substitute pairing. It turned out to be extraordinary. Lamb was pitch perfect as the Sylph not too fussy and fluttery, which I thought was the problem with Cojocaru's portrayal, nor too earthbound and terrestrial which was my problem with Rojo's portrayal, and Lamb's Sylph was not too sweet either. There was an element of guile and amorality in Lamb's portrayal of the Sylph. Pennefather did the role of James complete justice and they are for me the best non Danish cast I have ever seen in the ballet. The alchemy also worked when they danced Manon and De Grieux together. But try telling anyone who never saw those performances how good they were and you get total disbelief. By the way anyone who finds Stix-Brunell dull should try to see her in TheTwo Pigeons. Ball and she gave by far the best account of the ballet when it was revived a couple of years ago. If they are cast together and are half as good as they were at that single initial performance you will be in for a treat. As far as the "missing" are concerned I suspect that one of the reasons why Harrod is not mentioned very much is quite simply that she has spent quite extensiveperiods off on maternity leave and as a result is still dancing small supporting roles which you either see or you don't as they are not advertised in advance. As far as Zucchetti is concerned he has had quite a bit of time off injured. His Lescaut is a nasty little thug and very effective but he cuts some of the finer detail in his first solo. How often a dancer is "mentioned in dispatches" is the result of a subtle combination of the director's choice of repertory, the individual dancer's availability and suitability and the development needs of the dancers at different ranks in the company.
  8. Fancy that a Black Swan pas de deux danced at the correct speed and performed with the intention, even in this excerpt, of telling the story rather than as "an exhibition of dance" to quote Danilova's views on the post Soviet Russian style of performance. This looks as if it is the text which N. Sergeyev set on the company in the 1930's. The text danced in Zurich in the Ratmansky reconstruction of the ballet looked very similar. The culture shock comes with Siegfried's choreography rather than Odile's. With Odile it is the performance style rather than the text which has changed but with the prince's choreography it is the text itself which has been radically altered. In the ROH's programmes for Swan Lake of the dim and distant past you would read that Petipa had little interest in choreographing for the men in his company and that the male variations in many of Petipa's ballets were the creation of the teacher Christian Johansson to whom the men cast in lead roles would turn in search of a text to dance. This pearl of information did not worry me that much until I realised that Johansson who died in 1903 was trained and performed in a very different style from the one which is now generally encountered in class and on stage. It is so easy to assume that performance style and text have not altered since Swan Lake was first staged in St. Petersburg at the end of the nineteenth century. Here you get an idea of what the text looked like before the Soviet need for a more powerful heroic and obviously virile style of dance eliminated the old text and aesthetic of princely characters dancing elegantly with effortless ease rather than in the modern more forceful style of Chabukiani and other Soviet choreographers. Fascinating to see this recording as the adoption of a Soviet influenced text and performance style by the RB and other Western companies was only a few years away.
  9. At the last Ballet Association meeting Kevin mentioned that some of the early Ashton works might be more suited to the Linbury stage than the ROH's main stage but I am not entirely convinced that all these early works would be more at home there or that people would buy tickets for them if the new prices for the main auditorium are any indication of what Linbury prices might be. As far as these early MacMillan pieces are concerned I seem to recall that Danses Concertantes was performed on the main stage as part of a RBS performance during the late 1970's or early 1980's and it looked perfectly at home there. I can't help thinking it might look a little cramped on the Linbury stage. While I can understand that ballets produced before 1955 when the company began notating its repertory might need to be reconstructed using film as source material . It seems a trifle odd that Danses which was certainly revived for the RBS at a time when notation was the norm should need reconstruction in the way that Laiderette or House of Birds clearly did.
  10. I have to say I think that the fact that Hayward has not been cast to dance the lead in Swan Lake in the initial run of the new production has nothing to do with her suitability for the role and everything to do with the logistics of staging an entirely new production of Swan Lake . Preparing casts for a new production is not the same as preparing casts for a revival particularly when there appears to be new choreography and an entirely new fourth act to be staged .There is a limit to the number of casts who can be prepared for a revival but the time pressures involved in staging an entirely new production are considerably greater which is why we are not being treated to the number of debuts in role which we saw when Sleeping Beauty was last revived. The company has programmed twenty four performances of the ballet and announced six casts. If you want to fixate on the "missing" who you think should be making their debuts as Odette/Odile then perhaps you should add Stix-Brunell, Magri and Kaneko to the list. I know that Hayward is a principal dancer and the others are not but they must be in the running to make their debuts when the ballet is next revived. Perhaps management is being careful with its new principals to avoid burn out by overburdening them with new roles by focussing all their effort into developing one dancer as they may have done in the past. If you are of a cynical frame of mind then management is simply ensuring that they can entice us to buy tickets when the work is revived by offering a swathe of debuts in major roles. From a purely practical point of view as far as the initial run of performances is concerned management may have it in mind to cast the pas de trois and the Neapolitan dance from strength rather than for potential and intend to display a significant number of the "missing" in those sections of the ballet I don't think that anyone need have any fears for the future of a young principal who four years ago made everyone sit up and notice when she made her debut in the ballerina role in Rhapsody, followed that up by dancing her first Manon and Juliet with success and has since gone on to make successful debuts as SPF, Aurora, Lise. Titania and Giselle . We have no ides what management has in mind for her for the future except what has been revealed about the casting for the Autumn season which shows that both she and Naghdi are taking the lead in the new Marriott ballet. Perhaps we need to remember that Kevin is not only responsible for providing development opportunities for Hayward but for every other member of the company. This means that some of the roles in which she has shone will be handed to other eager young dancers so they have the opportunity to develop their careers. We may know more when we find out about the new McGregor work which will first be seen in Los Angeles this summer. By then we should have an idea of what is in store for her in the scheduled revival of Two Pigeons. I shall be very disappointed if she is not cast as the Young Girl in Pigeons and the white pas de deux in Les Patineurs. I suspect that Naghdi may dance one of the Blue Girls . I am not sure why some people have come to see any comparison of Hayward and Naghdi as an implied criticism of one or other of them. Every dancer is unique. Some are more gifted than others and repertory choices made by management have the capacity to make or mar a dancer's career. Please note I am not for one moment suggesting that Hayward and Naghdi are anything other than equally gifted young dancers who have already shown true artistry. As far as I am concerned each has her own unique combination of technique, musicality, sense of theatre. ability to engage with the audience and artistry. I look forward to seeing both of them in a wide range of repertory in the future. Both dancers have for me evoked memories of Sibley in contrasting roles created on her. Hayward did this when she danced Titania last summer. She was the first Titania for ages to capture the sensuality of the Queen of the Fairies through the pliancy of her upper body and luxurious epaulement. Naghdi was the first dancer for years to capture the essence of the ballerina's role in the choreography which Mac Millan's devised for the Kchessinskaya pas de deux . Dancing at short notice with minimal rehearsal time with James Hay they alone managed to recapture the grandeur of the piece as it was originally danced. For once a section of Anastasia which today generally looks so ugly and awkward that you start to wonder whether anyone ever managed to make it look anything other than a mess was transformed into what Andrew Porter once described as choreography which looked as if it been part of a long forgotten Petipa orientalist ballet. I shall be extremely happy if when Scenes de Ballet is revived we see both of then in the ballerina role. At the moment it may seem that one of them generally looks like the bright diamond of one half of the ballet and the other like the lustrous pearl of the other section but it will probably prove to be little more than a trick of the light or rather a result of management's casting decisions.
  11. There still seems to be an unwritten rule that in order to be considered worthy of promotion to the rank of company principal dancers have to have passed the technical test of successfully dancing leading roles in more than one of the five ballets which De Valois designated the "classics", Coppelia , Giselle, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty , Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince in Nutcracker. As the acquisition and performance of these works was intended to guarantee and maintain the high artistic and technical standards of company members it seems not unreasonable to treat them as test pieces even today. The intention of the company's original management team was to establish a creative company rather than a museum one. The requirement that dancers can master the great works of the past seems to be a guarantee that no one would be promoted to principal who was only exceptionally good at dancing the roles created on them. Using the great works of the past as a means of assessing whether or not a dancer has the sort of technique, artistry and musicality which will withstand close scrutiny in exposed roles seems pretty certain to guarantee that no one who dances untidily and can only emote and sprawl will become a company principal. As the requirement seems to call for a dancer to maintain consistently high standards it seems a trifle more civilised than the POB's promotion concourse. The leading roles in these ballet are either being danced well or they are not . They are all roles which can not be fudged by acting, The same can be said of roles like Lise and Colas which while they are demi-character in nature are exceptionally exposed and technically demanding. Just because the choreography seems so simple and easy it does not mean it is easy to perform.It needs to be remembered that when Fille was premiered there were serious doubts expressed about its viability as a repertory piece in the absence of the original cast. Don Q has never been in the repertory long enough to be one of the test ballets. After a short while management tends to recognise that the ballet does not really suit the company and it prevents other more worthy ballets being performed. This is the third production the company has had. The previous two were very short lived. The Covent Garden Company has never had Paquita as part of its repertory. Its music like that of Don Q is not of sufficiently good quality to have satisfied thecompany's first artistic director or its first music director while its choreography is very much "after Petipa". Perhaps so far after him that Petipa would be hard pressed to recognise what is generally described as Paquita as his work at all.
  12. I have to say that I sincerely hope that the company is not contemplating reviving Marguerite and Armand as a means of marking the centenary of Fonteyn's birth as it seems to have become the default Ashton ballet of choice which can be staged when the company feels the need to acknowledge his existence without having to put too much effort into it. Reviving it proves that the company has not entirely forgotten him and it has the added advantage of not being an obscure work as too many of his ballets have become. Indeed it is said to be the most popular of Ashton's works if popularity is gauged by the number of revivals it receives. Now while it may work with a dancer of the stature of Nina Anainshivilli in the cast it often seems like a pale faded thing in performance when it is shown at Covent Garden. I suspect largely because too many of those cast in the work are such well conducted persons so in control of their emotions, so careful with the choreography and so intent on not making mistakes that while they reproduce every movement recorded in the notated text as accurately as they can they fail to breathe life into it because the ardour, passion urgency and desperation which are in the' choreography for both named characters remains trapped there. The dancers are nice, neat, reproduce the movements recorded in the text carefully but the care with which they move belies the emotions they are supposed to be experiencing and are far too small scale to be theatrically or emotionally convincing in the roles allocated to them. ENB claimed to have staged a revival of Les Apparitions In the 1980's but the fact that according to Julie Kavanagh both Ashton and Jean Bedells tried to disassociate themselves from the revival by getting their names removed from the credits speaks volumes as far as I am concerned. The critics came up with all sorts of reasons for the revival's lack of success from the type of fabric used for the costumes; wrong shades used for the costumes; the lighting failing to create the right atmosphere; to the fact that it was a pre-war work and so not in tune with the times.No one seems to have asked themselves the fundamental question which in the case of a piece long out of the repertory is one of great significance which is were the dancers cast in it really suited to their roles ? In this case it seemed to be taken for granted that Markarova who was dancing the Fonteyn role was not miscast and embodied everything that Ashton wanted of the dancer assuming the role. I don't think that anyone asked themselves whether the right dancer had been allocated to the Helpmann role. It seems to me that at a time when even the most demi-character dancer yearns to play the prince casting roles which Ashton created for Helpmann in the in the 1930's is a real problem. A role like the Bridegroom in A Wedding Bouquet is a case in point. It has not been revived in years but Kobborg did not get anywhere near capturing the shifty, seedy, ever vigilant character of a man surrounded by his past in the form of the female guests at his wedding. Roles created on Helpmann relied on his acting abilities, his personality and his sense of theatre rather than his skills as a dancer. I think that if anyone is going to capture the essence of Les Apparitions Ian Webb assisted by his wife will do it. The advantage they have as far as the Ashton repertory is concerned is that for them these revivals are a labour of love rather than obligations imposed on them by inconvenient anniversaries. They obviously liked the man and revere his works and that shows in performance. Birthday Offering seems like an ideal choice to stage as part of the Fonteyn celebration until you remember how badly and unidiomatically it was performed by the senior dancers in 2012. So my selection for a mixed bill would almost certainly come down to Daphnis and Chloe, Symphonic Variations and Nureyev's Kingdom of the Shades with a corps of thirty two Shades descending the ramp. At the Ballet Association meeting yesterday after burbling on about how new works need to be given a second chance Kevin said that they were thinking about how they were going to mark the Fonteyn centenary. He also said that they are "thinking" about Cinderella and the way that was said suggested that the " thinking" might be closely connected with the designs. He was asked why major Ashton works like Daphnis and Chloe are neglected and so much of the Diaghilev repertory is neglected. He muttered something to the effect that Noces could be brought back from time to time.The answer he gave about Daphnis was the cost of staging it. He seemed to think that Ashton was given as much time in the repertory as MacMillan is given. This suggests to me that he seems to equate programming nine performances of Sylvia plus a few of Marguerite and Armand with the marathon which is the current run of Manon.He did mention that he was thinking about staging some of the pre-war Ashton in the refurbished Linbury. But I hate to think what the ticket prices would be like. I hope that no one thinks that I have divulged too much. My comment would be that if you think that some of the major works in the company's historical repertory are in danger of fading into nothingness through neglect perhaps Kevin needs to be told of your concerns. A friend of mine told me that she spoke to him after the meeting and said that in the past works like Song of the Earth and Les Noces had been revived with sufficient frequency to ensure that they were part of the company's collective DNA and the result was that they always came back to the stage looking vibrant and theatrically effective. But neither ballet had looked in robust health when last revived. The corps in Les Noces had lacked the extraordinary collective precision it needs in order to have real impact in performance while the two dancers who emerge from the throng of villagers to dance solos lacked the pin point precision they require. As far as Song is concerned she thought that it had taken until the end of the second run of performances for the ballet to get anywhere near looking as it should. Daphnis like Les Noces costs a lot because of the cost of the musicians required. Daphnis requires the services of a full chorus which is why it is usually heard in the form of a Suite in the concert hall while Les Noces requires four exceptional pianists and some excellent soloists to sing the text.
  13. I am afraid that there are no revelations and no evidence of wrong doing by the powers that be in the company in the video which Claudia Dean posted. If it seems rambling and repetitive I think that her video was a very difficult one for her to make as she is still clearly very upset by the unexpected death of her mother last November She says that the six years she spent at the RBS and the company were the best years of her life and that she owes everything to those organisations and her other teachers for where she is today. She says that she had a smooth ride throughout her time at the school and the RB until her final annual review with the AD. She says that at the time she decide to leave the company she thought that it was for professional reasons but now she knows that she left for vey different reasons. She gives an account of how she would prepare for her annual meeting with the AD by reviewing what she had danced during the season, the repertory announced for the forthcoming season and the roles in those ballets which would be suitable for her. She had been the "go to girl" when she had been at the RBS and that had continued when she joined the company where she had taken on roles sometimes with a couple of hours notice, She had gone to her annual review thinking that she had earned promotion to First Artist because of her hard work, her reliability and her readiness and ability to step in at short notice to take on roles at more senior levels including those usually danced by principals. She says that she is a very optimistic individual but she had been hit hard by not being offered promotion or the prospect of promotion. She says that her gut reaction was to resign but that when she told her parents that she wanted to leave the company and return home, while they were very supportive. as they had been throughout her training, they told her to take a few days to think about it before she made her decision. When she told the AD she wanted to leave he had told her that the door was always open if she changed her mind. She felt that she was ready to come home. She was excited at the prospect and was ready to move on to the next thing . She had been away for six years and had missed seeing her little brother and sister growing up. She found when she gave her first class that teaching was what she needed to do. In 2014 she had thought that she had left the company for professional reasons now she knows that it was to be with her mother. She would never have forgiven herself if, when her mother had died in November 2017, she had been abroad. Now I am not going to say much by way of comment except that it must have taken some considerable strength on Claudia Dean's part to make the video as she is still obviously very much affected by her mother's recent death. Unless you are a professional communicator and video maker or are working to a script personal videos tend to be more than a little repetitive and rambling. It is what happens when ordinary people rather than professional communicators speak extempore or are speaking to a group of viewers who they think of as their friends and supporters. My impression was that given the roles she had danced she seemed to be set fair for promotion in the not too distant future at the point at which she resigned .Whether that decision was prompted by what appears to have been a single setback in an otherwise smooth running professional career which she is now able to rationalise because she knows that had she had stayed with the company she would have missed the four years she was able to spend with her mother or whether she is speaking with insight about the reasons for her decision to leave seems pretty irrelevant to me . I think that it underlines how very young some of the dancers who come from abroad to work with the RB are and how much some of them give up to do so. It must be difficult enough for the youngest company members when their parents live at the other end of the country but for those whose parents are on the other side of the world it does mean that they have to acquire a level of independence and maturity which we require of few other young workers of a comparable age. As to not telling us why she was not promoted perhaps she was simply told that she was not quite ready but maybe in another year. A year can seem like a . lifetime if you are in your early twenties and know you are ready for the next level of responsibility now .Of course it is just possible that going to the annual review is like going to the doctor where studies suggest that the patient only ever takes in a few words and that they are not always the significant ones.
  14. It will be interesting to see what further action the ROH takes in this matter. I imagine that the company has garnered quite a bit of adverse publicity from this case. Appealing the decision could well bring them more. The judge has found that the company has breached the noise levels permitted by the regulations and it has failed to persuade the judge that it has done all that was reasonably practical to mitigate the noise levels on the pit. Pappano's statement that opera house orchestras have got louder over the last twenty years and now play as loudly as orchestras in the concert hall does not seem to have impressed the judge who visited the locus in quo and found that the pit was pretty crowded when it was required to accommodate the seventy players needed to perform Giselle rather than the ninety needed for Die Walkure. It may well be true that opera house orchestras have the capacity to play far more loudly than they did when Wagner composed the Ring because the string section uses steel strings and the brass section play instruments with wider bores than were available in the nineteenth century but these are not recent innovations.Orchestras have been using modern instruments for years. At the end of the day it is the conductor who has the final say about where the various sections of the orchestra sit ;determines the balance between them and the volume at which they play the score in front of them. I suspect that if someone tried to argue that the ROH was not at fault because the use of modern Instruments was the cause of the claimant's loss of hearing and it was something the company could not mitigate the claimant could counter this by saying that the company could provide a safe system of work by adopting the use of period style instruments in the opera house pit. I begin to wonder whether Pappano is himself suffering from hearing loss it might explain why the orchestra plays as it does under his baton. I am afraid that when I read the comment that the viola player should "suck it up" I took her to mean that she thought that the viola player should live with his hearing loss rather than complaining about it because it was only to be expected if you were an orchestral player.
  15. In the course of the judgement Pappano is reported as saying that over the last twenty years the playing of opera house orchestras has increased in volume and now they play as loudly as orchestras in the concert hall. I find this more than a little disingenuous. It is as if he is blaming the increase in volume on circumstances beyond his control and that of his fellow conductors. As far as the argument put forward on behalf of the Royal Opera that it is unable to make reasonable adjustments and is forced to sacrifice the well being of the musicians in pursuit of achieving the highest artistic standards in performance. I don't recall that Haitink, Pappano's immediate predecessor, Kleiber or Mackerras found themselves conducting relentlessly loud volume performances. Perhaps they recognised that as conductors they were in charge of the musical performance. But then in my opinion they seemed to be aiming for subtle musical effects and achieving a natural balance between stage and pit whereas I often think that Pappano is trying to reproduce what you can hear with a Hifi system on full blast. Just my opinion of course and you free to proclaim his greatness. I recall some inept orchestral performances of major ballet scores during the 1970's but the ballet company had some pretty iffy conductors working for it at that time. I always assumed that those appalling musical performances had far more to do with the contempt in which the orchestra held some of the conductors they had to work with than anything else. I distinctly remember that I was as interested in who was conducting as who was dancing. There were conductors whom I tried to avoid at all costs. Musicians who are not required to be present in the pit throughout a performance have always left the pit when they are not needed. I imagine that members of the brass section welcome the opportunity to wet their whistles. Lilian Baylis is said to have had a backstage bar set up at Sadler's Wells to prevent the musicians spending their money at the pub across the road.
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