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About Jamesrhblack

  • Birthday October 18

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  1. Royal Ballet Autumn 2017 Casting

    Had a hunch this might be the case when I saw the Alice poster on the underground too with Zenaida Yanowsky's image on it ...
  2. I absolutely agree and am astonished. After his Florimund last season, this would have seemed a natural progression, ideally suited to his talents as a true dance actor. I can only think that it was the lack of a suitable partner. After initial success with Hayward in Nutcracker and Beauty, it now seems that she is to dance only with Sambé, and in the absence of Salenko, McRae is dancing with Takada. Very sad about this.
  3. Delighted re Naghdi, Ball and Clarke, of course (and congratulations to all), but particularly pleased for Arestis, McNally, Gartside and Whitehead; given reports of KOH's concerns over appointing Principal Character Artists it's very good to see talent and loyalty rewarded (earlier in this topic there has been some discussion as how a long serving artist who was not obviously classical material could achieve promotion). Sad but not entirely surprising re Matthew Golding. He never quite seemed a fit, although I was taken aback at some of the almost vitriolic responses to his work posted on here, and a shame that his "last" season was lost entirely to injury. Neverthelss, I'm sure that these promotions will be a great boost to company morale at the end of a long season: it is so good to see internal development acknowledged and rewarded.
  4. After a slow start to the 16/17 season, Bonelli came magnificently in to form for Mayerling. However, don't under estimate Reece Clarke who has been mightily impressive all season, including opposite senior ballerinas such as Cuthbertson (Beauty, Symphonic Variations) and, most memorable, Yanowsky (After the Rain)...
  5. I like Mendizabal very much but that's a pity for Arestis who was so beautiful as Polina last time (and at relatively short notice too)...
  6. Valeri Hristov

    He's still scheduled to dance The Nutcrackr with Melissa Hamilton on 4 and 10 January 2018... http://www.roh.org.uk/productions/the-nutcracker-by-peter-wright
  7. Late to the party on this as I'd hoped to catch the third cast on Saturday. A back injury put paid to that (and thanks to the ROH Box Office staff who quickly and efficiently took details of my tickets and managed to resell them too), so this will be, essentially, a concotion of memories and responses to other posts. I'd like to start with a tribute to the orchestra playing so beautifully in a musically rich, whatever one's reservations about the orchestration of the Liszt, programme under Emmanuel Plasson. The Dream is a brilliant adaptation of Shakespeare's original minus the Theseus / Hippolyta frame. The only essential thing that seems to be missing (have I been looking the wrong way?) is Titania being restored to seeing clearly. As Oberon in Britten's opera, I vividly remember singing "Be as thou wast wont to be, See as thou was wont to see" (or the German equivalent, the performances were in Magdeburg) and in neither performance did I see a reference to this. I'd concur with those who feel the Rustics have become more like village idiots but thought that the lovers (same team at both performances I saw, 2 June and 3 June mat. plus the cinema broadcast) were beautifully balanced between comedy and feeling, with Mendizabal (captivatingly beaky, bossy charm) and Ball (who knew he could be such a natural comedian?) particularly fine. If you've not done so, I'd strongly recommend watching the Sibley, Dowell, Ashton Masterclass on the pas de deux still to be found on YouTube. https://youtu.be/ZvZAtu6BmL0 To watch the Master coaching yet further expression from two already beautifully expressive dancers is a masterclass indeed and to watch the mirror at "Now you and I are in accord again" with identical extension through the music of the high arabesque is to see the celebrated partnership's famed musicality at its most magical. Not just before of their age in this film, there's a maturity in their approach to Oberon and Titania that I thought slightly missing from the two couples I saw. (Incidentally, why does Titania get the final call? I appreciate Sibley was considerably more established than Dowell in 1964 but Oberon is surely both the central role as he influences everything and also the most physically demanding dancing role.) McRae is a technical wizard as we know and Oberon seems a role well suited to his strengths as dancer and stage personality. It's becoming a "tic" and I continue to find his stage personality unappealing but both as Rudolf and now here that seemed less a problem than I have found it in other works and his dancing in the Scherzo dazzling. I did need to do further research on alterations made by right turning Oberons (I understand that Ashton agreed this for Wall) and will try to find time properly to watch the 1983 ROH video now on YouTube and read further in David Vaughan's book. Is it simply his more junior status that makes one regard Sambé as a less authoritative stage presence. He has had a great season and his technically fleet dancing seems to be becoming neater. Experience will I think bring more sense of character. Both Titanias make a pretty stage presence but I think the characterisation is wrong. Bussell (who had a bad time with the autocue) cooed at Takane's "innocence" but Titania is not "innocent." Ashton wanted a wild, farouche character in thrall to her sensuality and I didn't feel that either Takada or Hayward really conveyed this. The former's fleetness, her dizzying assurance in spins, her remarkable elevation all delighted. Is it just because we know of Ashton's obsession that we want her to bend more? Perhaps my distant seat at the back of the Balcony can be held responsible for Hayward seeming delicate but a little small scale. She's a dancer I like very much indeed though and both these new principal ladies have shown their worth, their achievement and, even more important, their potential during this taxing first season of full responsibility for them both. Goodness, the corps de ballet ladies worth hard in this piece, their feet matching the shimmering delicacy of Mendelssohn's delicious score. Zucchetti I found slightly annoyingly arch as Puck but shared the general enthusiasm for Yudes; Gartside was bluffly charming as Bottom; I'm not sure that Howells' more fey stage presence quite suits the character but he was deliciously fluent en pointe. Symphonic Variations is a work that seems to me richer each time I see it, a wonderful response to Franck's beautiful score that is non specific in its emotions yet never cold (was it Balanchine who said words to the effect that dance can never be entirely abstract as it is being performed by living people?). The first cast seemed wonderfully matched with Muntagirov a shining first amongst equals. In many ways, this seems to me the role that has suited him most absolutely of those in which I have seen him, technically Apollonian yet warmly human too. Kudos to Dyer and Hay who matched him so well (and, in contrast to when I saw them in 2014 were fully in command to the end) with the luminous Nunez (who can sometimes suggest that she is on a hotline to something from another sphere), the freshly fluent Choe and Naghdi, whose musicality seems to drive every moment that she takes. She was also notable at the matinée (replacing, I think, Magri although there was no comment on the cast sheet) this time with a sweetly efficient Stock. Again, I'll ascribe the reduced impact to my seat although I note that another poster had also flagged up that Cuthbertson both here and in Diamonds seemed reticent and lacking in projection. Clarke (surely he must be due promotion) was a superb presence and moves with panther like grace (and at one point nipped off stage to remedy an awkward costume malfunction) and matched his dancing superbly to his more compact colleagues, here Ella and in a debut of dazzling speed and impact Sissens. Are responses to Marguerite and Armand informed by the fact that Ashton wished it it to die with Fonteyn and Nureyev? Certainly, the emotional impact of those early shows must have been based not just on Margot - Rudi mania but the casting with Somes as the Father figure emphasising the unsuitability of the liaison with the younger man. I've not seen it very often and I have to say that it has tended not to do much for me, the orchestration of the Liszt Piano Sonata seeming often bombastic and the general feeling almost as over wrought as silent cinema. Of course, the emotions attendant on the retirement of a much loved principal informed the performance on 3 June and Yanowsky's beauty and elegance touched us all, although the accidents of timing mentioned by an earlier poster, were there and had been corrected by the broadcast. I had a certain agreement with what was nevertheless a rather grudging review on The Arts Desk that her height did mean that Bolle was having to make compromises in the partnering angles, especially at the end, just to get her high enough off the ground. They obviously enjoy dancing together and happy memories were rekindled of their astonishing Manon together. Saturday's matinee didn't do so much for me I'm afraid. Of course, the idea of the more mature Marguerite is built in to the original Fonteyn casting but one is also constrained by the knowledge that the original Lady of the Camellias, Marie DuPlessiss, was only 23 when she died. Of course, Ferri's is a remarkable achievement in dancing a full role at a mature age but I thought (again I would add the caveat that my viewing point was distant) her dancing seemed rather brittle. Bonelli, after a slow start to the season (Anastasia was not good and he looked laboured in The Nutcracker broadcast) has seemed rejuvenated with wonderful performances in Woolf Works and Mayerling and now as Armand. He is a dancer whose elegance and clean line gives much pleasure and there now seems greater projection of emotional intensity too. I was sorry to miss Campbell as Oberon: I'm not sure he would have been naturally suited but his intelligence and technical aplomb are always worth watching and perhaps Osipova and Shklyarov might have brought Marguerite and Armand to fuller life for me. All in all, a fine end to the Royal Ballet 16/17 season which has provided much enjoyment, stimulus and enhancement. I'm not sure I'm looking ahead so optimistically to 17/18 but let us see what developments time brings.
  8. Lynn RIP

    Beautiful and moving words JohnS. I'm sorry for your loss but it's also salutary to read how art and happy memories or associations can provide consolation in our darkest moments.
  9. RB Summer Season Casting

    Hadn't interpreted it like that, although way back I had actually suggested this as a possible casting. Always interesting to speculate and cou;d be exciting in result....
  10. Thanks for flagging up that: found the article while waiting to board at airport. I note that Kobayashi is 40 and isn't on next season's Nutcracker castings ....
  11. RB Summer Season Casting

    Injury is cited for Lamb but not for Cuthbertson or Clarke so perhaps, conscious of its demands, they are being prioritised for Symphonic Variations ...
  12. Soares may be younger but, with respect, his classical technique looks decidedly rustier to my eyes ....
  13. The evening show was enhanced by splendid seats in the Grand Tier, courtesy of my artist singing Katharina Schratt. I could quite see (!) why the ballet staff choose to sit at that level, although my preference has invariably been for the Balcony Stalls. There has been a lot of anticipation regarding Steven McRae's debut as Rudolph, especially as he was cast as Sarah Lamb, who seemed an unlikely choice for Vetsera. In the event, her injury brought Akane Takada in for an unexpected debut and it proved a thrilling and moving evening. McRae is such an astonishing technical dancer that none of Rudolph's choreography, even the most extreme partnering, seems to cause him any difficulty at all, itself a remarkable achievement, especially given his relatively modest high and slight stature. It was a real pleasure to see solos which have caused other distinguished dancers executed with such ease, and an ease that doesn't bring superficiality but enables him to explore character unhindered by the need to concentrate on execution. I don't think all his choices convince me: the strutting walk in Act One seems petulant, the drunkenness in the Tavern scene surely overdone (as an experienced drinker, wouldn't he be able to hold his liquor better than that) and I missed those elements of tenderness and charm that Bonelli had so memorably given the role. I don't know that I was moved by his plight but I was hugely impressed by his achievement and, as I have written above, am confident that further performances will enable him to find greater variety and pathos. We mustn't forget that this is a colossal role and that no artist will ever have all the details down for their debut (which makes the achievement of Bonelli and Morera even more remarkable). Takada was unbelievably good. As with McRae, her technical precision enabled her to articulate very movement with dazzling clarity (that delicious falling over her feet with excitement moment in the Card Scene, those whirling downstage turns as she approaches the gun at the end of Act Three Scene 2) but it was her total immersion in the drama that, if it's not too strong a word, stunned me. A convincing child, almost shy under Rudolph's appraising gaze outside the Tavern, girlishly infatuated, intrigued by the skull and the gun (Larisch had taught her well as those "grooming" moments of choreography show us) and then finding it almost all too easy as her recklessness in the Act Two Bedroom scene turns to boredom. She caught that praying mantis moment at the end of the Act with ferocious glee and then grew almost into compassion and womanhood before the frenzy of the end willing both herself and Rudolph to the climax. There were good things elsewhere too, and a word of praise for the orchestra which played so well under Martin Yates at all four performances I attended. Kobayashi was a slightly pale Larisch (up against vivid memories of Lamb and Cowley, to say nothing of Collier, Park and Rosato, as well as Mendizabal in the afternoon) and Paul Kay a more Music Hall - rumbustious (if that's the way to describe it) Bratfisch. McNally was a cooler, perhaps less varied Elisabeth than Arestis (who had actually knocked Mendizabal in to the desk in her fury in the afternoon) but I'm always impressed to see these more senior, usually characer cast ladies still elegant and fluid en pointe. Crawford lacked presence as Mitzi but seemed much surer technically than on the last couple of occasions I had seen her (Lilac Fairy, Mistress) even if the Officers (led by Zuchetti) rather over powered her. A special word for Johannes Stephanek, formerly a lovely Lensky who never seemed quite to get the opportunities he deserved, waving farewell as Bay, having partnered Elisabeth most elegantly in their pas de deux. I don't think this was the most moving performance of Mayerling I have seen but the achievement of McRae and Takada was surely exceptional in its way. So, looking back, is it invidious to make comparisons between the various casts, allowing for the individual nature of perception and the unique nature of each performance? For me, the most satisfying cast was Bonelli with Morera and Cowley, Two superb dance actresses (with Morera seizing a late chance so strongly that it made it all the more surprising the opportunity had not previously presented itself) and a natural Prince showing an unanticipated flair for dramatic presentation and created what was for me the most rounded portrayal of Rudolph (all the more remarkable in a debut). The first night, perhaps over anticipated, didn't quite make the expected effect. Am I alone in finding Watson's actual dancing less satisfying and his portrayal almost too one dimensionally haunted and angst-ridden? My reservations over the last matinée are detailed above and the final show made an impact that was completely unexpected. Favourites? Campbell as Bratfisch brought the most humanity and maturity to the role and seems incapable of making a movement that doesn't convey character but the other three were all terrific too. Mendizabal just edged it for me as Larisch (even over Cowley and Lamb) with the greatest variety of expression, the most vivid involvement and a sense of scheming brought out of desperation to maintain control. Yanowsky rises effortlessly over the others by sheer strength of dancing and personality, as well as having a pained, haunted quality all her own (which can be seen in her son too) although Arestis also brought something very particular to the role, whilst Avis has the most natural authority as the Emperor (as well as the most charm as Bay). Hayward and (possibly surprisingly) Choe brought something more to Stephanie than just timidity and fear (why did Maguire not dance this? There was no announcement on the cast sheet and she isn't injured as she danced a lovely Louise). Nunez would be the pick of the Mitzis for glamour and technique, although I also very much liked Stix-Brunell. Some superb work from assorted Officers (Ball, Campbell, Edmonds and Zuchetti in particular stood out for me) and a sense that here was a company at this top of its form for this particular repertoire. Idle speculation: I'm not always bothered with literal chronology but as it was flagged up earlier it seems to be there is something odd going on in Act 2. Rudolph is interested to Vetsera after the Tavern scene which is followed by the Card Scene and Vetsera's letter, which is delivered by Larisch in the following Birthday scene by which time Stephanie is heavily pregnant, which she wasn't in Scene One (so, despite how it reads on stage, there has to be some time lapse between outside the Tavern and the Cards). Idle speculation 2: there have been several comments as to these performances marking Watson's last Rudolphs. Even if the ballet is back in 18/19, will Bonelli and Soares still be dancing the role and, if not, who might be (or who might be in addition)?. McRae has shown that if the dancer is strong enough as a partner height and stature needn't be a hindrance, which would open the way to Campbell's superb dance technique and intelligence (and he partnered Mendizabal extremely well in Two Pigeons) and I'd also be very interested to see Nicol Edmonds, who has impressed me very much on the last few occasions I have seen him both as dancer and presence.
  14. Well, after seeing Mayerling twice in one day (through slightly unexpected circumstances), my most over riding reaction is what a strong and moving piece of dance theatre it is. Yes, there are grumbles about the construction and the perceived padding, and yet over two consecutive shows (as well as a Friday/ Saturday matinee at the start of the run), I wasn't conscious of any longeurs at all and continued to see new details in the characters and presentation. I wrote at (too much?) length of my impressions of the first two casts so will keep this briefer and concentrate more on my reaction to performance as opposed to content. At the matinée, I seem to be in a minority for not having been as taken with Soares and Cuthbertson as many others. Although he is a strong partner, his dancing seems to be in technical decline and were some real struggles. That first solo is hard for everybody (but see below) and I'm usually not overly judgemental at that point) but other exposed moments also seemed to cause strain and I found his characterisation (again in contrast to many others) seemed one dimensional which disappointed me as I'd expected more (and I was on the front row of the Stalls so close enough to see and register). Cuthbertson (an artist that I really like) also disappointed me. She seemed too mature and sophisticated for Vetsera, and much more of a natural Larisch. I never felt that she was being swept away on emotions she couldn't perhaps really understand The rest of the cast impressed me: Mendizabal was a splendidly scheming and detailed Larisch (it really is a good role) who really did move the drama along at crucial moments. I'd never before noticed Larisch picking Vetsera out at the Wedding celebrations.... Gary Avis is surely one Emperor to rule them all (a pity he can't be cloned to dance Bay as well) and Arestis was an interesting Elisabeth, in that she really melted with Bay and seemed mildly amused at presenting the portrait, so the contrast with her coldness towards Rudolph was strongly etched. She's such a fine artist and I wish I knew how the system could reward her years of service promotion wise. Choe was an unexpectedly feisty Stephanie and I rather liked her fighting back, only to find that Rudolph was, of course, stronger than she was, and her disdain in the Tavern scene was palpable. It was lovely to see Tristan Dyer back on stage and he was a delight as Bratfisch, fluent, engaging and concerned and there was good work from the officers (led by Hirano). Calvert was a pleasing rather than memorable Mitzi - I didn't sense Nunez's technical exuberance or Stix-Brunell's more infatuated affection (she was great as Louise in the afternoon and a dancer who I always like to see). I should stress that my criticism of Soares is entirely my own view and I have nothing but admiration for any artist able to master this ferocious role in the first place.
  15. RB Summer Season Casting

    The Mayerling programme is certainly newly printed as it contains Polunin but omits Hayley Forskitt who seems recently to have left ...