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li tai po

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  1. Alex Beard fronts an article in the new edition of the Friends Magazine, entitled "Our greatest challenge". The article headlines four key statistics: 40% of tickets were £45 or less 174 Opera performances 208 Ballet performances 8,000 children attended a Schools Matinee The total number of Opera and Ballet performances is 382, so it must include performances taking place outside the main house. By implication this calls into question the statistic that 40% of tickets were £45 or less, since this will almost certainly also include performances taking place outside the main house. I wonder what percentage of tickets in the main house were £45 or less.
  2. Floss, Your suggestion that the 1987 ENB revival of Apparitions failed because of the lack of dancers with theatrical gifts similar to those of the original cast is a little harsh. The Woman in Ball Dress was played in the 1987 revival by Natalia Makarova!
  3. JohnS - there were three series of performances of Gawain; the premiere was not a one-off. The ROH database was only partially completed. So productions more than twenty years ago are only listed by the first night (unless they featured Placido Domingo or Monica Mason - because the archives once had a special exercise to post all performances by those two artists). It all seems very haphazard, but the performance database has been completely abandoned for the last six or seven years.
  4. John Ross was a Conservative councillor in the London Borough of Ealing for East Acton ward; elected in 2006, he lost his seat in 2010. He contested Northolt Mandeville ward unsuccessfully in the most recent London Borough elections in May 2018. He had served as Deputy Mayor of Ealing in 1990-91, see weblink below with photo. He was also a Deputy Lieutenant in the Greater London Lieutenancy and presided over UK citizenship ceremonies, once he had retired from active politics. He conducted the ceremonies of more than one overseas ballet dancer achieving UK citizenship and was always ready to pull out his camera, once the ceremony was concluded. http://www.ealingtoday.co.uk/default.asp?section=community&spage=common/eacouncil115.htm
  5. I was interested to read that Kevin O'Hare was taken to task at The Ballet Association about the paucity of Diaghilev repertoire in the current Royal Ballet programming. 2019 is the centenary of the only two Diaghilev ballets given their world premieres in London, at a time when Paris was devastated by the First World War - Massine's La Boutique Fantasque (5 June 2019) and The Three-Cornered Hat (27 July 2019), both premiered at the Alhambra Theatre. The scenery for The Three-Cornered Hat was painted by Picasso himself in a warehouse in Floral Street, the site of the current Masala Zone restaurant opposite the side entrance of the Royal Opera House. There is a plaque on the wall to commemorate the event of Picasso painting in the workshop. Have a look at it; it is adjacent to the entrance to Masala Zone. These two ballets were mounted at the Royal Opera in 1947 by Massine himself at the invitation of Dame Ninette de Valois and Massine danced the Miller with Margot Fonteyn as his wife. It was a notable success for both dancers. La Boutique Fantasque survived in the Royal repertoire until 1955 and The Three-Cornered Hat until 1956. The Touring Company performed La Boutique Fantasque nearly 200 times in the late 1960s and 1970s with Doreen Wells, Lucette Aldous, Brenda Last, Marion Tait and even Lynn Seymour dancing the Can-Can. BRB under Peter Wright revived The Three-Cornered Hat in the 1990s and I saw it at the Royal Opera House in a triple bill followed by Antony Tudor's Pillar of Fire and Balanchine's Theme and Variations with Miyako Yoshida and Kevin O'Hare, no less. I suppose today's management will regard these ballets as history belonging to the past. When great works are revived well, they prove that the historic audience did not make incorrect judgments about what they were watching - the revivals of Dante Sonata, Sylvia and Miracle in the Gorbals evidence this (and so does the current explosion of Handel opera performances). It seems like a missed opportunity to celebrate two centenaries in one - Fonteyn and the Diaghilev premieres in London.
  6. A brief financial comment. The only new production falling into the 2018-19 financial year (1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019) is Stina Quagebeur's A Doll's House. Christopher Wheeldon's Cinderella falls into 2019-2020 financial year. Does this reflect a pressure on financial resources? The current financial year 2017-18 ends on 31 March, but the financial results will not be published until the end of 2018.
  7. Lisbie1, my fulsome apologies. I should have referred to Erica.
  8. Aileen asks what outcome the ‘whistleblowers’ are seeking. The primary desire of victims of abuse is to be listened to and to be believed. I doubt they have any aims beyond this. I was very saddened when I read the account on the Ballet Position website. I found the description of public humiliation in the studio particularly distressing. This is not acceptable in the 21st century. The daily unpredictability of screaming or silent treatment also speaks volumes. The website makes it clear that they have spoken to twelve dancers past and present, as well as support staff, and had sight of relevant documents. These are not just opinions sent from the cowardice of anonymity, as Lizbie1 would have us believe. I am sure that present dancers would step forward and speak openly to an independent investigation. There is clearly a problem within ENB, which needs to be resolved. If the Trustees sweep it under the carpet, it will break out again. They need to allow a proper independent investigation to take place, in which employees past and present are able to speak freely of their concerns. The Trustees must then take action to set up proper controls within the organisation to protect their staff and decide whether the existing management is capable of working within such controls or whether the organisation should move a new solution. Human resources are intended to bring out the best work ethic of the employees and therefore make a move to a better working environment. The Trustees should ensure that human resources provide a safe environment for employees to express their concerns, without fear of retribution. Staff of any organisation have the right to be safe at work. Today the Government and the Charity Commission called Oxfam to account, because they were apparently failing to deal with abuse within the organisation. It is time to call the Trustees of ENB to account in the same way.
  9. English National Ballet is subject to a funding agreement with the Arts Council of Great Britain and is also a registered charity. Its primary sources of income are from the taxpayer, charitable donations and box office income.
  10. I previously reported to this Forum here about Directors of Ballet Companies – Pay Differential. http://www.balletcoforum.com/topic/15932-directors-of-uk-ballet-companies-pay-differential/ Four of the UK’s major ballet companies have just reported their results for the year to 31 March 2017. The Royal Opera House works to a year-end of 28 August, so their results for 2017 are not due to be published until June 2018. We can now see the latest remuneration of four of the five major ballet directors and assess their pay increases between 2015-16 and 2016-17. The financial statements show that Tamara Rojo at English National Ballet had the biggest increase, jumping two bands (a pay rise of approx. £20,000), possibly representing between 8% and 9%. In 2016-17, her remuneration was between £250,000 and £259,999. It is understood that the ENB dancers received a pay rise of 2% last year. Rojo’s total emoluments would appear to be close to those of Alex Beard, the Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, responsible for opera and ballet. The most recent accounts for the English National Ballet School (31 July 2016) show that the three directors (Cordelia Barker, Samira Saida and Tamara Rojo) drew £125,775 between them. As no employees had emoluments in excess of £60,000, Rojo must have drawn at least £5,000 from ENB School. David Bintley at Birmingham Royal Ballet continues to be remunerated between £130,000 and £140,000, as last year. David Nixon at Northern Ballet continues to be remunerated between £90,000 and £100,000, as last year. Christopher Hampson at Scottish Ballet has moved up one band from last year and is now remunerated between £100,000 and £110,000. Kevin O’Hare at the Royal Ballet had emoluments of £183,423 for the year ended 28 August 2016 (as previously reported). It is also instructive to look at the salaries of the Chief Executive Officers and the differential from the Artistic Director. English National Ballet Director – Tamara Rojo - £250,000 to £259,000 Chief Executive – Patrick Harrison - £80,000 to £89,000 This is pro-rata for nine months, which suggests that Patrick Harrison’s remuneration falls within the £100,000 to £110,000 band. Birmingham Royal Ballet Director - David Bintley - £130,000 to £140,000 Chief Executive - Jan Teo - £110,000 to £120,000 Northern Ballet Artistic Director – David Nixon - £90,001 to £100,000 Chief Executive – Mark Skipper – £90,001 to £100,000 Scottish Ballet Artistic Director – Christopher Hampson - £100,000 to £110,000 Executive Director – Steven Roth - £70,000 to £80,000 Royal Ballet Artistic Director – Kevin O’Hare - £183,423 Alex Beard – Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House - £260,139 Sally O’Neill – Chief Operating Officer of the Royal Opera House - £187,262. The financial year 2017-18 is almost ended, but we must wait until January 2019, to find out what they earned in the current year.
  11. Is it appropriate to seek further charitable donations, when the charity is paying such a large remuneration to its artistic director? The trustees should reflect.
  12. Thanks, Gavin - the mandolin was at the back of the pit tonight and sounded clearly into the auditorium. You and the musicians deserved the ovation you received tonight at ROH. Thrilling!
  13. Alison - thanks for your kind reply. I am a technical disaster; if you are able to remove the double image from my post, I will be very grateful.
  14. I saw and heard the two Saturday performances of Song of the Earth in Milton Keynes and I am sure you would expect Li Tai Po to comment. For me the strength of these performances was on the musical side. Two superb singers and an orchestra which had clearly rehearsed very thoroughly for this work, that involves so many solo instrumental passages. The matinee performance was conducted by guest conductor, Misato Tomita, and the evening by Gavin Sutherland. Time and again I was ravished by the beauty of an individual instrument – a phrase from the clarinet, the oboe or the bassoon. The runs on the harp and the shimmering clusters from the celeste at the end of the ballet were exquisite., but I could barely hear the mandolin, because it was positioned immediately below the stalls, where the sound did not reach the audience directly. The mandolin repeatedly strums two notes, echoing the final word “ewig - everlasting”. It is essential that it is heard clearly. Maybe Gavin can position the mandolin at the back of the pit, so it sounds out clearly into the auditorium. The singers were tenor, Samuel Sakker and contralto, Rhonda Browne. They took great care with their vocal colours. The tenor tells us that a full glass of wine is worth more than all the empires of the world. Three times Sakker sang “worth more”, softly and reflectively the first time, thoughtfully and insidiously the second time, insistent and stentorian the third time. He sang about the ape howling shrill into the sweet scent of life. The word “life” disintegrated into a descending melisma of notes; the effect was terrifying. Rhonda Browne sang the second song about solitude with rich and deep autumnal colours. She brightened her voice noticeably for the opening of the fourth song, with the young girls picking flowers. Her eyes twinkled as she described the fairest of the maidens looking after the horseman with longing. I would recommend any Mahlerian to go and hear this electrifying performance at the Coliseum. Great credit to Gavin Sutherland and the orchestra for caring so much about this masterpiece and delivering such quality. The dancing was not on the same level. As other correspondents above have commented, the men do not seem to understand what this ballet is about. Three times the tenor sings the refrain, “Dark is Life, Dark is Death” - the men onstage were apparently unaware. The Messenger of Death must create an immediate and startling presence with every appearance, something achieved by the likes of Dowell, Nureyev and Watson. Likewise the Man must have a strength, empathy and melancholy – he must be a reliable anchor for the Woman, causing her insecurity, as she realises she is losing him – MacLeary, Wall and Cope come to mind. An honourable exception is James Forbat, who appeared in five songs in the afternoon, taking the role most recently associated with Ricardo Cervera. He had an angularity of line and a focus of concentration, which suggested that he was at ease with the MacMillan style and the content of the songs. Serious, thoughtful and energetic in the first song (always precise with this timing), full of humour in the drunken capering of the fifth song, he brought testosterone to his entry as the rumbustious horseman in the fourth song, which quickly melted into a loving exchange with Tiffany Hedman. As the two traded longing glances, the soprano physically turned to watch them fulfil her words, “In the flashing of her eyes, in the darkness of her warm glances, her anxious heart cries after him”. Both Fernanda Oliveira and Erina Takahashi made an impact as the Woman – both had elements of power and melancholy in the final song. Erina was particularly haunting. Her eyes were wide with terror, as she looked over her shoulder at the pursuing men, after a shudder in the orchestra. To the words “I am seeking rest for my lonely heart”, she threw herself into the arms of her men, but they held her awkwardly without comfort and her arm slumped down dejectedly. She filled the stage with her misery and despair. My colleague stated that the highlight of the performance was Erina’s solo passages. The 1984 revival with guest artists Marcia Haydée and Richard Cragun and Wayne Eagling as the Messenger of Death is etched in my memory, with two established Wagnerians, Linda Finnie and John Mitchinson singing. John Mitchinson, a notable Tristan and Peter Grimes, sang Song of the Earth throughout the 1970s. MacMillan always insisted that the words were available to the audience in German and English. During the 1960s and 1970s they were published in a separate booklet, handed out with the programme. Surtitles came along towards the end of MacMillan’s life, but he rejected them, stating that he did not want to distract the viewer from the movement onstage. The MacMillan celebration programme booklet devotes four pages to the text of Song of the Earth with a further three full page illustrations of the etchings by Paunzen. I asked at Milton Keynes for a copy of the text and was very pleased to discover a pile of texts, lying next to the cast sheets. Well done ENB! Both Birmingham Royal Ballet and Scottish Ballet have achieved considerable success and approbation with their performances last week, so the bar(re) is high for ENB. Tamara Rojo has set herself a challenging target, seeking to perform one of the iconic ballets of the Royal Ballet repertoire on their home turf. Timmie says above that the men were “more synchronised”, but they are still a long way off. Based on yesterday’s performances, there is much work needed to perfect the timing and spacing; the ballet staff will be busy for the next couple of days. Tamara is to be applauded for her courage, but let us wait for the results.
  15. The blog above has reflected on the disquiet caused by the churn of permanent dancers and the apparent reluctance of ENB to acknowledge and accept the full extent of the churn. The churn also applies to guest principals. To the best of my knowledge, ENB has welcomed 18 men as guest principals over the last 5 years, in alphabetical order as follows: Constantine Allen, Carlos Acosta, Esteban Berlanga (previously an ENB principal), Oscar Chacon, Matthias Dingman, Matthew Golding, Osiel Gouneo, Casey Herd, Isaac Hernandez (now a Lead Principal), Josua Hoffalt, Alban Lendorf, Nicholas le Riche. Brooklyn Mack, Vadim Muntagirov (previously an ENB principal), Xander Parish, Ivan Putrov, Ivan Vasiliev and Friedemann Vogel In the same period, ENB has welcomed only 3 women as guest principals: Elisa Badenes, Jurgita Dronina (now a Lead Principal) and Maria Kochetkova (Japan Tour 2017). A key element of the roster of guest principals is that few of them return for a second visit. Some are world stars with busy schedules, some may not find their visits very rewarding and others may not be welcome back. We have also seen three different chief executives at ENB in the past five years. The facts again point to a considerable churn, which is potentially unsettling for the permanent dancers in the company. There seems to be little opportunity for men in the lower ranks to progress upwards – a direct contrast with the career progression and opportunity, which Kevin O’Hare is providing in the Royal Ballet. Kevin is adopting a clear policy of growing and nurturing the talent within his company. He pays close attention to his dancers and values and respects them. This may account for the current high retention rate at the Royal Ballet. I have read the comments above from our correspondents in Boston Massachusetts, but I am not sure that comparisons with the USA are very helpful. By and large, American Ballet Companies are operated on a commercial and donor basis and are not supported by public money - so issues of public value for money and accountability and transparency under funding agreements with the Arts Council do not arise. American Ballet Companies generally do not offer full-time contracts to their dancers. Many of them pay their dancers only for the time when they are actively performing. There are apocryphal stories of dancers working in restaurants during the season breaks. On the other hand, dancers in the USA are generally paid better than their UK counterparts, when they are performing. I doubt whether ENB could learn many lessons from the USA. It seems that they could learn a lot from other companies in the UK.
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