A few scribbles on a couple nutcrackers seen on 7 December where I took a friend who had never seen it before (but has been getting into ballet over the last 5 years) and last night with my mother who has been going to Covent Garden since the 1970s and enjoys the odd Nutcracker every now and again, with the following casts:
Clara: Emma maguire
Nutcracker / Hans Peter: Luca Acri
SGP fairy: Yasmine Naghdi
SGP prince: Riochi Hirano
Clara: Meghan Grace Hinkis
Nutcracker/ Hans Peter: Luca Acri
SGP fairy: Fumi Kaneko
SGP prince: William Bracewell
On both evenings, Christopher Saunders was Drosselmeyer, Leo Dixon Clara's friend, and Yuhui Choe the Rose Fairy.
Barry wordsworth conducted on the 7th, and Kassels on the 21st.
I was a bit worried I'd be a bit jaded by the time I saw the second show, but the waterworks came on like clockwork in the tree and toy transformation scene and continued until the climax of the snowflake waltz. I always ponder what is it about the first act that is so moving time and time again aside from the glorious music, and my friend summed it up really well by saying the story made him believe that "there is good in the world" and feel a sense of wonder and possibility.
Luca Acri had lovely elevation and told his story with boyish charm. Maguire and Hinkis were both lovely as Clara, I'd say I preferred Maguire's characterisation, and Hinkis' technique which meant that the pas de deux with acri / Hinkis flowed more. As much as I like Saunders, I wish I'd been able to see Avis as Drosselmeyer once this season. I find Saunders plays Drosselmeyer as fun loving and mischievous, and doesn't seem too sad that his nephew has been turned into a wooden nutcracker. It could be that he knows that the spell will be broken, and as the puppet master that he is, he knows that all will be well since he is controlling the story! Last night he moonwalked out during his red run and puffed out lots of glitter from his mouth which brought a great cheer and he seems like a fun loving and unflappable sort of person in real life! On the 7th, his levitation trick didn't work and you would never have noticed as he just walked down the steps as if it was the most normal thing in the world. What I adore about Avis is the inner world that he brings to Drosselmeyer, his complexity and occasional darkness, and how he pines for his nephew, the last scene when he is slumped over his table and his nephew returns and how you feel his heart explode with joy and relief is so moving. It never fails to make me burst into tears! Saunders is all jollity, but to me less moving in comparison.
In the Spanish on both nights, Calvin Richardson stood out, all smiles and haughty snaps of the wrists and heels.
In the Arabian on both nights, Izmendiar Mendizabal gave a great side eye and displayed a fierceness that to me just about succeeds in countering the naffness of the pink pantaloons and the stylised territorialness of the men which I find a bit cringe. One side eye from her and you realise who is really running the show. Yes girl!
In the Chinese, on 7.12 I was lucky to see Joseph Sissens and Marcelino Sambe together. What a pair they made, you could just tell they were having so much fun together and it was contagious! The audience lapped it up and roared and when they did their red run during the applause they came out with grands jetés to more cheers. What unaffected showmen they are! They have such stage presence and for me have the chops to be principals just on pure technique. I really wish I'd be been able to see Sambe as nutcracker this run but dates wise it wasn't to be.
In the Russian on 7.12, Leo Dixon and David Yudes (?) were technically brilliant and just brought the house down.
Yuhui choe was a very musical Rose fairy on both evenings, never rushed and serene, taking the tricky and fast choreography in her stride. You never worry that she will hit those counts, and can let yourself breathe and relax in the safety of that knowledge!
Yasmine naghdi and Riochi Hirano, and Fumi Kaneko and William Bracewell as the SGPF and P... I had seen Hirano last year with Akane Takada and they had really wowed my socks off with their energy and brio, they made the GPDD feel thrilling, and I was always on the edge of my seat as they were both really going for it! I didn't have that same feeling with Naghdi / Hirano, or Kaneko / Bracewell. I liked both GPDDs and they both felt very stately but didn't have that same feeling of breathlessness, and maybe controlled danger? Both men were good partners, but I feel that Hirano was more assured and in control and you knew that Naghdi was in safe hands.
Naghdi was a musical SGPF, and is so technically assured, her SGPF was very crisp and precise, and she played the SGPF as serene and queen like. In comparison, Kaneko, also very musical, was more lyrical and soft, and her SGPF seemed very gentle and benevolent. Both to me were different takes on the SGPF, and I liked both.
Bracewell nearly came a cropper in his solo doing a saut de basque but just about saved himself which was quite thrilling, but it did mean I couldn't watch the rest of his solo too closely as i was too nervous for the rest of it! He was brilliant in Winter Dreams earlier this week, and to me is possibly one of the best actors amongst the RB men. I feel that his partnering and strength will continue to grow as he continues to get plum roles.
Even though both my casts were very similar, seeing both shoes did make me think quite how rich and diverse the RB is, and sent me off full of Christmas cheer. Happy holidays to all!