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The Royal Ballet's much-awaited, much-postponed The Prince of the Pagodas finally returns to the Royal Opera House tomorrow, so please use this thread to discuss it. Am I right in thinking that the general rehearsal isn't until tomorrow afternoon?

 

There was some discussion of the Insight Evening for this here: http://www.balletcof...nsight-evening/, and some casting changes are discussed in later postings here: http://www.balletcoforum.com/index.php?/topic/89-royal-ballet-period-4-casting/

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With the expectation that it was not going to be one of MacMillan's absolute masterpieces, I was grateful for the opportunity to finally see 'The Prince of the Pagodas' in the flesh yesterday evening, and very much enjoyed a lot of the performance.

 

A big part of that was due to Marianela Nuñez's Princess Rose. I thought she was on top form, and particularly loved her solos and her contributions to the PDDs. Her technique was breathtaking as always. She really moved me too, such as in the way she interacted with the Salamander at the end of Act 2. A very complete performance. I was very glad I had my binoculars with me last night to see all of the nuances and catch every detail.

 

Princess Epine is given less to do, but Tamara Rojo was utterly captivating last night. She has such stage presence and really commanded my attention. I thought she got the characterisation spot on, and like Nuñez, was more than a match for the technical challenges.

 

Nehemiah Kish's Prince didn't elicit such an emotional response, but registered most as the Salamander in Act 2.

 

I thought the leads were ably supported by much of the key supporting cast, particularly Alexander Campbell and Steven McRae. I was also impressed by the participants in the Grand Pas D'Action, which I felt really contributed to a very rousing ending.

 

Overall, I really enjoyed much of the choreography, especially the PDDs between Rose and the Prince, the solos for Rose and Epine, the interactions between them and the kings, and the Grand Pas D'Action. However, there were other elements that didn't do anything for me, particularly the baboons, and I also couldn't help wondering what MacMillan would have done differently if he had more leeway with making changes to the score.

 

I also had mixed feelings regarding the score itself, the design and the costumes.

 

Nonetheless, I am looking forward to watching this cast again to see how their interpretations develop, and also seeing the Stix-Brunell / Mendizabal / Hirano cast later in the month.

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Prince of the Pagodas - Opening Night Curtain Call Pictures

 

Great thanks to the Royal Ballet for allowing Dave Morgan to take Curtain Call pictures of the first cast of this important revival. Lots of happy faces!

 

 

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Finale tableau (Marianela Nunez and Nehemiah Kish split by Alexander Campbell

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

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Tamara Rojo

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

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Marianela Nunez & Nehemiah Kish

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

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Dave Morgan gallery of Prince of the Pagodas - Curtain Calls

Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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My view of MacMillan's "Pagodas" continues to be coloured by memories of the original Cranko version where the music and scenario were very closely linked, and so, for example, it always jars to see in the last act the Prince's fight with the suitors performed to music which was written for the adage in the grand pas de deux - and there are several other examples I could mention. That being said, the MacMillan version contains much interesting, and challenging, choreography and I thought it was very well danced by all concerned on the opening night. Nevertheless, despite the cuts - some of them welcome as in act 2, and others less so in act 3 - I find that the ballet does not "hang together" dramatically and it could be said that its parts are greater than the sum of the whole.

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Prince of the Pagodas - Sarah Lamb & Federico Bonelli cast pictures

 

Here are 3 from a set of 36 pictures by Dave Morgan. Different cast to the Curtain call of course..

 

 

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Sarah Lamb & Federico Bonelli

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

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Bennet Gartside, Johannes Stepanek, Brian Maloney and Laura Morera

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

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Salamder Prince (Federico Bonelli) watched by Rose and the Fool (Sarah Lamb, Valentino Zucchetti)

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

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Dave Morgan gallery of Prince of the Pagodas - 36 pictures

Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

Edit: Corrected King of South to Brian Maloney. BM

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Fantastic pictures! (Although I think it was Brian Maloney as the King of the South in the rehearsal, not Ricardo Cervera?)

 

I personally thoroughly enjoyed both the rehearsal and evening performances of The Prince of the Pagodas. Whilst not a perfect piece there are some truly fantastic bits of choreography, in particular the pas de deux sections in each act. Fantastic performances by the principals in both casts and great supporting dancers too. The Belle Rose's were both beautiful, the Belle Épine's deliciously wicked (and Rojo rather sultry too!) and the Prince's were heartbreaking (both Bonelli and Kish giving superb protrayals as the Salamander in Act II). The Fool was a much larger role than I expected and Zucchetti (a late replacement for Paul Kay in the rehearsal cast) and Campbell gave great character to it.

 

The highlight of the day, however, was undoubtedly Marianela Nuñez. Giving a truly world class performance she floated through the role of Belle Rose with weightless posé arabesques and truly impressive jumping (a particular grand jeté in Act I got an audible gasp from my section of the Amphi thanks to its astonishing height). Her Act I solo (the one seen in #RBLive) was stunning, bringing me close to tears with her perfect developpé arabesques. In particular I also noted her arms had a fascinating fluidity to them throughout. If the old adage of a ballerina coming into their prime after thirty is true then we are in for some very special performances in the next few years.

 

All that being said, I wasn't overly keen on the baboons nor the courtiers sections and felt the Kings' costumes in particular looked dated. Overall a great production though and one I wish I could see again, in particular Beatriz Stix-Brunell's début next weekend. Here's hoping they revive it in a couple of seasons time (and hopefully Lauren Cuthbertson won't be injured - I'm sure she could bring a lot of depth to Belle Rose).

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Fantastic pictures! (Although I think it was Brian Maloney as the King of the South in the rehearsal, not Ricardo Cervera?)

 

Now corrected - it is Brian Maloney rather than Ricardo Cervera. Duh says DaveM!

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From seeing just one performance on Saturday I think this streamlined production really works, when I saw the running times of 37, 26 and 29 minutes I was worried it might have been cut too drastically but all my favourites dances remain intact, there are still baffling moments, and as it's shorter the Prince does keep changing from Salamander and back a lot, but hopefully it will now get more performances, am certainly looking forward to seeing different casts although I thought the first one was outstanding.

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Lovely photos - thanks Dave! Nice to see that the original costumes from 89 have been used: I thought the ones for the 96 revival, though similar, didn't have quite the same quality.

 

Re the blindfold: I think it's the lighting that makes it LOOK transparent but Darcey said (at the fund-raiser event last summer) that it was still very hard to see through and she really felt she was dancing 'blind' some of the time.

 

Looking forward to seeing it soon even without Lauren and Rupert (the next best to the original cast IMHO).

 

Linda

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I'm somewhat on the fence, I thought Marianela was superb but wasn't so impressed by some of the male dancing and as a whole piece it really didn't excite me. I don't like the music much so that doesn't help. It's the first time I have ever seen it live, although watched the original cast DVD. I'm not rushing to buy another ticket though it would be interesting to see other casts. Did enjoy Steven McRae's very camp King (and his dancing).

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Prince of the Pagodas is definitely growing on me. Having watched a VHS video a good few years back (not long after getting into ballet), I don't think I ever made it into Act 2 (those darn 'baboons'!!) - but watched it again before the run started, at first to get a feel for it for the dress rehearsal photo call - but found myself actually quite enjoying the pdds and solos. I suppose for me, its my typical response to a MacMillan 3-acter; love the big pdds, struggle with the full stage sections.

 

Both the dress rehearsal, and the opening night were marvelous - Sarah Lamb/Federico Bonelli and Marianela Nunez/Nehemiah Kish were all on tip-top form. However, last night seeing Beatriz Stix-Brunell and Ryoichi Hirano dancing the lead roles, brought the extra dazzle of freshness and youth to the roles. Beatriz was simply Darcey reincarnated - it really looked as if the role made on her, a seemingly nerveless command of the stage, which for a debut in such a demanding role, was nothing short of astonishing. We thought a star is born after 'Alice' - this confirms it. Her myriad of bouquets at the end were well warranted. Not only was her dancing exceptional, but also her acting nuances - concern for her doddery father or the Salamander Prince, the expressions of joy when things worked out for a happy ending, were spot on. Itziar Mendizibal (another Spanish villainess!) was lusciously wicked as Epine, seeming to relish the chewing up of the 'Kings' trying to court her, also added a fizzle to the evening. Almost goes without saying with Barry Wordsworth in the pit, the orchestra have been playing wonderfully, the Balinese style percussive music (especially for the Salamander Prince's appearances) has been intoxicating - I was one of the doubters for the score at first, but its now getting under my skin.

Will look forward to seeing it again, with any of the casts - but will be looking forward to seeing more of Ms Stix-Brunell in particular (in whatever role).

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Wish I could agree with you, Dave. Last night's viewing simply confirmed for me that 'Pagodas' is a ballet that is never going to spark - let alone blaze - into lasting life, whoever dances it or however much combined creative effort goes into its design. I think the fault must lie with Britten's music; dazzling as it is, there's no discernable musical 'thread' to stitch either the choreography or the story together (I didn't like it at its first RB outing in the early 90s and now I understand why). It was no help that, as gorgeously fluid as Beatrix Stix Brunell's performance was, she and her partner Ryoichi Hirano seemed to me to have little or no chemistry last night (though it would be unfair to judge either dancer on this performance - it was a first for both).

 

I found the restless fuss and bustle of the court scenes annoying, but I did love the solos for the four kings - Ricardo Cervera pulled out a surprisingly hulking bully-boy performance as the King of the South - who'd have thought it? I thought Itziar Mendizabal's malevolent Princess Epine was lip-smackingly promising (and not just for the bad girl roles either). James Hay as the fool richly deserved his curtain-call cheers – on stage almost continuously throughout the ballet, his energy and technique never once flagged.

 

Yes, there were some compensations last night.

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Well, I have to say that I enjoyed last night's performance far more than the first one I saw, Ann, so perhaps it does grow on you! I don't know what it was: higher viewpoint (it certainly looked far less cramped when you could see the space between the dancers)? greater clarity of hearing the score? greater familiarity? different cast?

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This revised Pagodas is a curate's egg, notable for some performances but questionable theatrically.

 

Sarah Lamb was a lovely Rose, dancing with a dreamy creaminess - her manner and personality less brittle than we normally see from her. Her rippling arms and buoyant jump were a delight. Federico Bonelli was a conventional princely blank. His (new) first entrance, wandering in from behind a castle, does nothing to anticipate the title character. But as the salamander, Bonelli conveyed pain and frustration in his lizard skin. His tears flowing under the reptilian skull-cap were palpable. Laura Morera was a vivid Epine, lusciously wicked.

 

Pleasures too in supporting roles - Brian Maloney as an insinuatingly physical king of the south, Johannes Stepanek as a camply narcissistic king of the east. Cleanly danced without being an all-out virtuoso Valentino Zuchetti injected pathos into the fool, very much in the manner of how the jester in Cinderella used to be danced.

 

There is precious little for the rest of the company to do in how the ballet has been pruned and rearranged. Casting first soloists as the counsellor, a doctor and in the pas d'action is a waste of their talents. But the ballet has been deliberately reshaped to be dramatically more coherent - rather than as a vehicle to provide opportunities at all levels of the company.

 

Overlong as I previously found them, I do miss the clouds and winds from the second act. They were inessential to MacMillan's treatment of the story (though not in other choreogarphers' depiction of Rose's rite of passage in Pagodaland). MacMillan's divertissements did have some fiendishly difficult but exhilarating choreography - perfectly suited to a fairytale ballet and a classically based company.

 

But what we have in this revival is a linear depiction of a girl's experiences and fantasies. We have lost the amibiguites that gave The Prince of the Pagodas such romantic suggestibility. The ballet has lost much of its resonance.

 

Some elements of the staging do not make the effects they should. The reordering of action in the first act does not make the characters' behaviour any more rational. Epine's curse and the transformation of the prince does not register, it is over in an instant (this though is largely a musical problem but crisper timing with the lighting would help). The slow-motion assault by the king of the south on Rose in act two is undermined by relentessly flashing lighting that upstages the dancing. In the last act, Epine's final exit is no longer one final leap to freedom but what now appears to be her crushed between two castles - but there is so little lighting on her that the moment is invisible and has no dramatic impact.

 

Listen to Oliver Knussen's recording of the complete score and the music emerges vibrantly full of instrumental colour. The slow tempi and emphatic weight with which the ROH orchestra play reveals the score as less interesting, in step with the neutered production of the ballet.

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The slow-motion assault by the king of the south on Rose in act two is undermined by relentessly flashing lighting that upstages the dancing.

 

I'm assuming they went for a strobing quality to try and aid the slo-mo impression. It fails.

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Even by ballet standards much of the costuming and staging here is laughably ridiculous. Surely putting the King of the North in an 1980s style shaggy blonde wig and headband and having him doing high kicks is a deliberate attempt to recreate the welding scene from Flashdance? Much giggling from the stalls last night.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm slightly puzzled why Prince of the P isn't a staple in the Royal (or other companies) repetoire.

 

Saw it for the first time last night and I thought it was an absolutey fantastic ballet, with two stand out female lead roles, vivid characters, a simple direct narrative, driving, moody music and non stop dance action. what's not to like ??

 

So...I for one am hoping it becomes a bit more of a regular..any thoughts on why it hasn't had many outings...?

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Only to add the reaction of an opera-going (ie not a regular dance-goer) freind with whom we saw the full-length Pagodas in 1996 - and who has now seen the streamlined production.

 

Then, not appreciating the structure and conventions of full-length classical ballet, he found Pagodas long and lacking momentum. Now, Pagodas appeared more dramatically convincing.

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