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JohnS

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  1. We're very fortunate in North Cumbria as regards the cinema relays (and much else). Tickets at Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith are £15 or £16 and concessions £10 or £11. One cinema offers supporters paying the £5 annual membership a £1 reduction off every ticket and a free drink. There's a fair bit of choice for encore timings (I could have chosen an afternoon or evening encore yesterday or both), excellent venues and very appreciative audiences.
  2. The Royal Ballet is so good in encouraging the whole ensemble to depict characters, be it Swan Lake or Manon, which was commented upon in a number of posts recently. And apologies for misspelling Meaghan's name - Hinkis not Hingis.
  3. I couldn't resist seeing the encore screening and a hugely enjoyable afternoon. Having seen the live screening and knowing that a couple of slips were not going to end in catastrophe, that edge of the seat 'will everything go to plan'' was replaced with a sense of real satisfaction and contentment in Liam Scarlett's and the Royal Ballet's achievement. I do hope we hear soon that a DVD will be released. It was also lovely to see some of the close ups: Alex Campbell's smile when presenting the goblet to Vadim Muntagirov; Elizabeth McGorian's manoeuvring of her dress to allow room for one of the footmen to present the crossbow; and I'd love to know what Melissa Hamilton and Meaghan Grace Hingis were saying during the Act 3 pdd when eyeing Odile.
  4. Von Rothbart a la Clark Kent but without the Phone Booth and a rather different motivation?
  5. Double Swan Lake yesterday and the final opportunity for me to see performances in the theatre. It has been a hugely enjoyable run and many congratulations to the Royal Ballet for creating such a fabulous production. Yesterday’s Matinee was the Natalia Osipova/Matthew Ball cast and the third time I have seen this cast. I find Natalia superlative: her Odette captures all the pain and anguish of her predicament and I think she has made the most of Act 4 where she plumbs the depths of sorrow, but has the strength of resolve to forgive Siegfried in that parting embrace before her self-sacrifice. It was sad that she slipped on her entrance for the Act 3 pdd so not surprisingly the pdd was a little tentative at the outset but she quickly recovered and her panache was simply irresistible in seducing Siegfried - and I do like those fabulous pique turns rather than fouettés. I do think Natalia presents the most contrasting Odette/Odile, although I wish I’d been able to see Yasmine again as I could only make her debut and will be very keen to see posts on Monday's performance. The evening cast was Akane Takada/William Bracewell and I hadn't seen them before. I loved Akane and so much of her dancing was a delight, with fabulous balances, but I don't think she had Natalia’s extraordinary contrasts and risk taking. Matthew Ball was very impressive and I’ve really enjoyed seeing how he has become more assured with each performance. I also was very much taken with William Bracewell’s Siegfried. But when thinking of the performances I’ve seen, Vadim brings that extra special dimension to Siegfried. It’s not just because of the dazzling jumps but he seems to know much more what to do when not dancing the pyrotechnics. It may be that the choreography was created for Marianela and Vadim, so they've had more involvement in the narrative but I just get a much more convincing sense of dynamic from his Siegfried. In contrast some Siegfrieds have looked a little lost when not dancing. Some of this may be a consequence of the production. Siegfried’s isolation is established in Act 1 when he is often not on stage. And in Act 4 he can come across as weak: far too readily giving up his search for Odette having not found her in the first swan groups and not bothering to look in the larger swan group and of course he is unconscious for a fair bit of the closing moments so hasn't greatly contributed to Von Rothbart’s demise. It’s very much Odette and Swan power that brings that about. But despite the obvious weaknesses in Siegfried’s character, Vadim seemed to me much more purposeful than other Siegfrieds. I’m very tempted to go to a cinema encore tomorrow to see if there’s any corroboration for my recollections. There is such strength in depth in the Royal Ballet. I’ve liked all the Bennos and whilst some sisters might have been better matched, I’ve been delighted to see the Benno/sisters pdds. Last night Marcelino Sambe, Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Mayara Magri were delectable. I do like what Liam Scarlett has done with the National dances although I still have a bit of a bugbear about the Neapolitan dance which hasn't convinced me. It's not just the tambourine being either half hearted or behind the beat or both: if the choreography includes clapping, as it does in other dances, again it has to be strong and on the beat. I was very pleased to see Olivia Cowley back on stage in the Spanish dance yesterday evening as she’d missed some performances. She brings a real frisson of excitement to the stage in these roles. A dancer who tends not to get much mention on the Forum but who I admire greatly is Elizabeth Harrod - such an accomplished, finely honed dancer, and good to see her in a number of roles during the run. We’ve had fabulous big swans and cygnets and the Corps de Ballet has become such a polished ensemble, so consistently dependable, providing the perfect foil for the drama and of course more than making its collective mark on the action. As I said at the outset many congratulations to the Royal Ballet and thank you all for such a stimulating series of posts, both anticipating the new production and reflecting on the performances.
  6. It is good to see so many contrasting opinions. I've found this entry tremendous, from the Open Rehearsal and the performances I've seen since then. A real coup de theatre - and certainly justifies that fabulous drape.
  7. Whilst comments about yesterday's matinee have focused quite rightly on the peerless Alina Cojocaru, I must say how impressed I was with the whole cast and production. Joseph Caley was a great Desire, strong and wonderfully attentive. I very much enjoyed Shiori Kase's Lilac Fairy, commanding at the end of Act 2. James Streeter's Carabosse was also a highlight. But how good to see such consistency and high standards throughout the company. I think there could be a bit more flair/exuberance from some of the solos but this performance has very much restored my admiration for the English National Ballet and I rather think an earlier matinee I saw was a bit of an aberration. [Being more on the sides I also found the other exits - last time being more central I and I guess a lot of the audience found ourselves being rather funnelled down the main exit.] With Storm Hector causing such problems for getting home and recognising I'd probably have to have an unscheduled stay in London, it would no doubt have been easy to get a little distracted - Swan Lake tickets and background insulin to the fore. But this fabulous Sleeping Beauty was so captivating and I could only luxuriate in the immediacy of performance. Indeed 'nothing matters very much and not a lot matters much at all' when transported by Alina and her ENB colleagues.
  8. I can only echo Capybara and Bruce - this afternoon Alina gave us the Sleeping Beauty of our dreams, utterly exquisite and such a joy to behold. It is astonishing Alina still brings such freshness and vitality to her performances and is so compelling as a 16 year old Aurora. Alina was my wife's favourite ballerina, with Francesca and Yasmine (alphabetical order) fast approaching, and this afternoon's matinee brought back so many memories of Alina's performances from years back. I'm so pleased to have heeded Sim's and Alison's advice and made the trip. I'd made late arrangements for a day trip and then back tomorrow for double Swan Lake. Fortunately I beat Storm Hector with an early train this morning but no trains home so an unscheduled extra night in London. Swan Lake tickets at home but the Box Office are very understanding. It's disappointing there were so many empty seats - it had been 1,000+ a day or so ago. But despite being able to buy best seats on the day for £20.00 for concessions there must have been hundreds of spare tickets. A great shame as so many will have missed out on experiencing what for me was much more than a glimpse of perfection.
  9. A hugely enjoyable cinema relay and enthusiastic audience in Keswick capturing much of that first night performance, including the curtain calls. Some really good interval material - Darcey Bussell at her best in the film focusing on the corps and a great interview with John Macfarlane. The lighting was ok in the cinema but darker than I find it at the Royal Opera House. I thought much of the camera work fine and better than some relays but was worried that we were going to miss Odette's spirit at the end, where I'd much have preferred the wider shot so we can see Odette emerge rather than find she's suddenly there, and I really couldn't understand the excessive close ups of the upper bodies during the Spanish dance when there's so much incredible footwork going on. It would also have been lovely to see some of the corps dancing from higher up to get a flavour of the choreography with its fabulously shifting patterns. I really do hope there is a DVD and opportunity is taken to tidy one or two slips for posterity.
  10. Looking forward very much to reading your post LinMM when you've chance.
  11. Many thanks Geoff - I've seen this many times and it certainly sets a very high bar which I'd had in mind when seeing Swan Lake this run, not that I'm suggesting this is how it should be danced or the tambourines played (particularly before they're thrown to the catchers). This run I've found David Yudes the most impressive (at the Open Rehearsal) but have not yet been completely convinced by the pairs I've seen.
  12. I enjoyed yesterday’s matinee with Jurgita Dronina and Isaac Hernandez in the leads dancing strongly. But I’m afraid I found it hard to see Aurora as a 16 year old and thought Desire a little detached. Loved the exquisite dancing from the knitters and Aurora’s friends and Sarah Kundi was a very strong Carabosse. I’m very pleased to have seen the Macmillan production again after many years and do like the designs and costumes. I think I’ve probably been spoiled by so many Royal Ballet Sleeping Beauties and other productions where the Royal Ballet exudes such strength. But yesterday I’m afraid I found some of the solo work pretty thin, for example Lilac Fairy. I don't greatly like the Coliseum as a venue although sight lines are good. It’s a nightmare to enter, queuing on the pavement for ticket checks, and then to leave, with one exit. And I do get distinctly irritated by drink, ice cream, olives etc in the auditorium, particularly when not consumed during the interval and which are then slurped or tucked into during the performance. I find there’s a great deal more general disturbance with people constantly shuffling about, leaning forward, ‘conducting’, humming along to the familiar tunes, giving commentaries to neighbours, rummaging in bags for tissues, unrestrained nose blowing - all I’m afraid from my neighbour and her daughter who to be fair were most apologetic for disturbing those already seated when first taking their seats and after each interval. In light of Sim’s evocative post and Alison’s suggestion, I’m still mulling over whether to see if I make some rearrangements and have a day trip for Thursday's matinee with Alina. The box office said they’re likely to do day seats for concessions (£20.00 for the best seats I think) and apparently my railcard is accepted. And I imagine the chances of finding myself sitting next to the same mother/daughter are pretty remote.
  13. What a fabulous occasion last night with Natalia Osipova & Matthew Ball giving scintillating performances. I’d seen their first performance and Matthew is fast becoming a compelling Siegfried, complementing Natalia’s extraordinary Odette/Odile. I can imagine he will be sensational in the Matthew Borne Swan Lake. I loved Natalia‘s pique turns and spins and don't miss the fouettés at all. There seemed a slight lack of security at one point in the Act 3 pdd when it would have been good to have held the closing positions. The whole cast were so strong but I was particular impressed by Alex Campbell, Gary Avis and Elizabeth McGorian. I’d managed to get a Balcony return seat, central - perfect for appreciating the corps. It was fabulous to see all the detail that has been lavished on their choreography, the beautiful flow from one arrangement to another, and the precision with which the corps danced. Congratulations Liam Scarlett and the Royal Ballet. There have been some comments about the extent of Von Rothbart’s control. I think the production makes clear that he is far from all powerful, knowing too well his spell can be broken. His control of the swans is not absolute. The swans do have agency (to some extent) between dusk and dawn. We never see swans (not even in flight when Siegfried is hunting), just women in their dusk to dawn metamorphosis where they retain swan characteristics and where Von Rothbart can exercise more control as dawn approaches. And while he craves power at the Court, he clearly does not have full control as Siegfried when pushed refuses to comply. Much has been said about the ending and I have been reflecting on recent posts, particularly Drew’s. Given we do not have a double death/transfiguration, I keep thinking why not take what Scarlett presents as a more human ending? The Act 4 pdd to me captures wonderfully the depths of the shared sorrow, regret, Siegfried’s plea for forgiveness, and Odette’s granting of forgiveness. Odette sets out very clearly that it is for her to break the spell with her suicide and I find her final embrace of Siegfried and flight to the rock compelling and not rushed as some have suggested. I think the production works well with Odette's swan companions finishing off Von Rothbart as all swans are increasingly able to exert their own agency with the spell breaking. I find very touching the big swans reviving Siegfried - and last night I thought are they suggesting to Siegfried that he should look for Odette’s body? I am very taken with Siegfried’s recovery of the human Odette’s body from the lake with Odette’s spirit on high. But I agree the ending can seem rushed and as said before, I’d welcome some acknowledgement from Siegfried of Odette’s spirit. Some have questioned why the swans at the end and Odette's spirit still appear as swans rather than in human form and Drew suggests a more human rather than traditional swan stance would help. I do very much appreciate the reasoning and there’s certainly something very attractive about the idea (others have referred to productions where the swans are indeed progressively replaced by women). But I wonder if that resolution alongside Siegfried's regaining his consciousness, his recovery of Odette's body and the appearance of Odette’s spirit would be adding yet another layer of subtlety to what already may seem unduly abbreviated. And I think it’s worth asking if after breaking the spell, the women now freed will always retain an element of having been swans. Haven't we all at some point experienced ‘swan’ like trickery/manipulation/obsession and hopefully found resolution and asserted our moral agency whilst retaining that knowledge of being a ‘swan’? But perhaps all these comments and the many posts about the ending suggest a wish for a little more time for allowing the final moments to resonate fully. I’m still waiting for a fabulous Neopolitan dance. I can't help thinking that if the tambourines were absolutely on the beat played emphatically the dance too would generate that precision that I would like. The more I see Swan Lake the more taken I am with the whole production and performances - next week the cinema relay and a double performance on Friday bring this hugely impressive run to an end for me. Looking forward already to its revival.
  14. JohnS

    Royal Opera: Ring Cycle

    It's many years since I last saw a Ring Cycle at the Royal Opera House and have booked for the Autumn. I was surprised how long the intervals are and saw that in the early 1990s the intervals were 35 or 40 minutes. I hadn't quite appreciated the length of the longer intervals but it certainly gives me plenty of time to enjoy supper in one sitting - La Ballerina rather than in house I think.
  15. Thanks Alison - very tempting but sadly I've already got commitments and I'm in London for a double Swann Lake the next day. I'll settle for recalling fabulous memories of Alina's Aurora at the Royal Opera House and enjoy reading the posts here.
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