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The Royal Ballet: The Nutcracker, 2015-16


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Just thought I would start the new feed as this season's Nutcracker is about to begin! 
Just from rehearsal videos and photos, there is something that seems so different & special about this years run. Whether it is because there seems to be such a large amount of promising young talent throughout the ranks, as I personally would be happy to see any cast. 

 

Or maybe it is because there was no Royal Ballet Nutcracker last year? 

 

Also I saw a small clip of McRae and Salenko's rehearsals yesterday, and her Sugar Plum looks divine! Their partnership does seem to be quite special! 

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There was a time when the Nutcracker did not dominate the Christmas programme at the Royal Opera House four years out of five.I often wish that it was not such a regular Christmas fixture. Nureyev's was not seen every year and inevitably at Christmas.I sometimes wonder whether showing a wider range of child friendly ballets at Christmas might not encourage a greater interest in ballet? Please note I am not suggesting that The Tales of Beatrix Potter should be programmed. It was never intended for the stage and I am sure that the decision to stage it did real damage to Ashton's reputation as a great choreographer. i am talking about ballets. like Coppelia, Cinderella and La Fille Mal Gardee which many would enjoy and would provide a bit more variety for all of us..

Edited by FLOSS
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There was a time when the Nutcracker did not dominate the Christmas programme at the Royal Opera House four years out of five.I often wish that it was not such a regular Christmas fixture. Nureyev's was not seen every year and inevitably at Christmas.I sometimes wonder whether showing a wider range of child friendly ballets at Christmas might not encourage a greater interest in ballet? Please note I am not suggesting that The Tales of Beatrix Potter should be programmed. It was never intended for the stage and I am sure that the decision to stage it did real damage to Ashton's reputation as a great choreographer. i am talking about ballets. like Coppelia, Cinderella and La Fille Mal Gardee which many would enjoy and would provide a bit more variety for all of us..

 

I do think having a break from it has helped! 

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I love Nutcracker - especially Peter Wright's production at ROH. I love the music, and the various variations and the waltz (and the ladies just look so gorgeous in those 'flower' tutus) and the grande pdd - especially the gpdd. Not so keen on the gold wigs, but can live with that! :-)

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Not so keen on the gold wigs, but can live with that! :-)

 It's the silver wigs for the SPF and her Prince that I dislike - I don't know if it's the lighting or their age but in many performances I have seen they just look grey and old.  And those daft epaulettes on the Prince's costume are hideously unflattering, even on dancers over 6 foot.  They always remind me of the 'major-domos' of 50's cinemas (younger readers: ask your parents!)

 

Linda

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Yes, I think that the wigs in the RB's costume department need an overhaul. I don't like the wigs for the SPF and her cavalier either. However, there was another ballet which I saw fairly recently in which the wig worn by the female lead was really unflattering; I think that it may have been Manon (I'm not talking about the short wig worn in the last scene). I feel that these odd and sometimes rather ugly wigs create a rather fusty and old-fashioned effect which doesn't help the image of ballet.

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 Please note I am not suggesting that The Tales of Beatrix Potter should be programmed. It was never intended for the stage and I am sure that the decision to stage it did real damage to Ashton's reputation as a great choreographer. .

 

I feel the same way about Marguerite and Armand, never intended by the choreographer to be danced by anyone other than Fonteyn & Nureyev.

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However, there was another ballet which I saw fairly recently in which the wig worn by the female lead was really unflattering; I think that it may have been Manon (I'm not talking about the short wig worn in the last scene). I feel that these odd and sometimes rather ugly wigs create a rather fusty and old-fashioned effect which doesn't help the image of ballet.

 

Yes, the wig for Manon in the 2nd act does no favours for most dancers and can appear very aging.  I saw Leanne Benjamin wearing it and it gave her a rather frumpy appearance and so much older than Lescaut's mistress (Laura Morera).  It made a nonsense of the story since at that point every man on stage was supposed to be fascinated by her.

 

Now Guillem always looked good in Manon but she was notoriously picky about all aspects of her costume (and most of the time she was right).

 

I note that the same wig rules do not seem to apply to the male principals - for example the blond curls that Dowell sported in Month in the Country have not made an appearance recently on the heads of other dancers in that role.

 

Linda

 

Edited for clarity

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I was at the dress rehearsal earlier this week - here are some photos. Absolute joy!
 
23594457106_5ae1f28635_z.jpg
Francesca Hayward, Alexander Campbell
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

23620539305_20b9041e7f_z.jpg
Snowflakes
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

23324834760_c57d0953da_z.jpg
Steven McRae, Iana Salenko
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr
 
See more...
Set from DanceTabs: RB - Nutcracker 2015
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr
By kind permission of the Royal Opera House

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I really enjoyed last night's performance on opening night. It was my first Nutcracker ever and I feel like a walking cliche saying this but it really was magical. A non ballet friend went with me and was also enthralled. Iana and Steven were so technically perfect together, it was probably my favourite production I've seen them in together out of Swan Lake/Romeo/Tchai PDD. Alexander Campbell was such a star as well. Just a perfect lovely evening. 

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I feel the same way about Marguerite and Armand, never intended by the choreographer to be danced by anyone other than Fonteyn & Nureyev.

 

I feel the same way about Marguerite and Armand, never intended by the choreographer to be danced by anyone other than Fonteyn & Nureyev.

May I humbly say that I believe Rojo and Polunin pulled it off.  I certainly loved it.

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May I humbly say that I believe Rojo and Polunin pulled it off.  I certainly loved it.

 

I agree and I have to say that I also liked Guillem, especially with Cope.

 

However, topping them for me were Elena Glurdjidze and Ivan Putrov (in Georgia). She, in particular, was amazing - heartbreaking. But she was/is a very special artiste indeed.

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May I humbly say that I believe Rojo and Polunin pulled it off.  I certainly loved it.

 

When I attended that performance of it which Diana Vishneva did on the Bolshoi/ROH tour last year, I got talking to my very elderly seat-neighbour who was a lifelong balletomane. Having seen Fonteyn and Nureyev do it, she said that Rojo and Polunin were her all-time favourite pairing!

 

(I first saw it with Guillem/Cope and confess it didn't work for me at all, though that was in the days when I wasn't much into ballet and went less then once a year, so I'm not that surprised I didn't get it for whatever reason. It was, however, Rojo and Polunin's performance in 2011 on the Limen/M&A/Requiem mixed bill that sparked my now several-times-a-month ballet habit.)

Edited by RuthE
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 I thoroughly enjoyed the show last night. I think that this was partly because (often being away over Christmas) I had given this particular Nutcracker a 'rest' for several years.

 

Sometimes, I have found the party scene a little tedious but there was all sorts of enjoyable detail in guests' characterisations to draw one's eye. Teo Dubreil, for example, plays an older person to perfection with none of the overdone stooping that often afflicts young artistes' attempts to look ancient. The children were well-drilled and delightful but I thought the battle lost something because the mice (even the Mouse King himself) were more endearing than in any way threatening. The scenery and effects are excellent in this act.

 

Despite all the gold in Act 2, I almost found the set and costumes dull and insufficiently distinguishable from one another. Some nice performances, though, from the 'character' players, Hikaru Kobayashi (Rose Fairy) and her supporters, and the lead couple (Sarah Lamb and Vadim Muntagirov). I particularly like the fact that Clara and Hans Peter join in the variations. Ricardo Cervera was superb in the Russian Dance and I was very happy to be there for his penultimate appearance on the ROH stage.

 

However, there is, for me, a fatal flaw in the structure of this Nutcracker insofar as it relies heavily on a more junior member of the Company to carry the role of Clara and, therefore, the audience on her dream journey. This doesn't always work for me and means we have to wait too long to see the headline 'principals'. The Grigorovitch version for the Bolshoi has the ballerina as Clara from the outset and Eagling's (slightly flawed) take on the story for ENB fairly rapidly dispenses with the child and gives us a ballerina as Clara from when the clock chimes in Act 1. This, in my view, adds to the magic and enables the dancing to do full justice to the marvellous score - especially when essayed by the wonderful but now departed Daria Klimentova and Elena Glurdjidze.

 

I am glad that I have more performances booked for the RB after Christmas and I'm planning to go to the cinema as well - so I must really like it.

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Thank you capybara for bringing this thread back to 'The Nutcracker'. Many contributors cannot wait to go off on diversions and take others with them. I too went to the Nutcracker. I have not seen this production for a few years and found that there was much to enjoy in both acts. I am planning to go again in the New Year.

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Sometimes, I have found the party scene a little tedious but there was all sorts of enjoyable detail in guests' characterisations to draw one's eye. Teo Dubreil, for example, plays an older person to perfection with none of the overdone stooping that often afflicts young artistes' attempts to look ancient. The children were well-drilled and delightful but I thought the battle lost something because the mice (even the Mouse King himself) were more endearing than in any way threatening. The scenery and effects are excellent in this act.

 

Despite all the gold in Act 2, I almost found the set and costumes dull and insufficiently distinguishable from one another.

I always love the details in the party scene - and couldn't agree more about Act 2.

 

However, there is, for me, a fatal flaw in the structure of this Nutcracker insofar as it relies heavily on a more junior member of the Company to carry the role of Clara and, therefore, the audience on her dream journey. This doesn't always work for me and means we have to wait too long to see the headline 'principals'. The Grigorovitch version for the Bolshoi has the ballerina as Clara from the outset and Eagling's (slightly flawed) take on the story for ENB fairly rapidly dispenses with the child and gives us a ballerina as Clara from when the clock chimes in Act 1. This, in my view, adds to the magic and enables the dancing to do full justice to the marvellous score - especially when essayed by the wonderful but now departed Daria Klimentova and Elena Glurdjidze.

 

I don't see this as a flaw in itself.  These days I always book for performances in which I like the Clara. Certainly the Sugar Plum Fairy is almost incidental in this production, and even when there's a cast with a favourite principal it's unlikely I'll bother booking if the Clara isn't somebody I particularly like.  I'll save my favourite principals for ballets that gives them more interesting things to do... So this run I booked performances in which the Claras are Francesca Hayward, Emma Maguire (whose performance I sadly can't go to any more), Anna Rose O'Sullivan and (purely out of curiosity) Leticia Stock.  I aimed for performances by those dancers in which I also like the Sugar Plum, Prince, Nephew and Drosselmeyer, but the Clara is my priority and I do think it's great to see this regular opportunity for often some of the youngest and lowest-ranking corps dancers to prove themselves in a major role.

 

For all its faults I find Act 2 makes more sense in the ENB production, when Clara is cast at Principal level from (almost) the start, and "becomes" the Sugar Plum Fairy.  However I do prefer the RB variations for "including" Clara and Hans Peter, as you also said.

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The current production replaced the Nureyev version in which Clara was danced by a principal  who danced in both acts including  the grand pas de deux in the second act. I hesitate to describe her second act role as the Sugar Plum Fairy as the traditional choreography was not used.The production was based on the version which Nureyev had danced at the Kirov. Peter Wright's was originally an attempt to recapture more of the original ballet and used the Ivanov choreography. He has tinkered with the production over the years and now Clara is danced by a member of the company rather than by a young student as was the case when the production was new.

 

I  think that the intention was to stage a production that was as far removed from the Nureyev/Kirov production as it was possible to get. This version at least has the virtue of allowing younger members of the company an opportunity to dance and Wright has expanded those opportunities over the years. If you are going to use the traditional Ivanov choreography in the second act then it is a trifle difficult to give it to a Clara/SPF as according to Markova, at least, all the expansive arm movements given to the SPF are intended to welcome Clara to the SPF's Kingdom. They say all this is mine.There would be grounds for complaint if the role of Clara was not well cast, but it, like the role of the Rose Fairy, can give some younger company members a chance to dance other than as members of the corps.That sort of practical consideration has ,no doubt, played its part in the changes made to the production over the years. If you don't create opportunities for dancing by younger company members you are condemning the company to be be the balletic equivalent of spear carriers.For those who like spotting young dancers with potential it is probably seen as a virtue rather than a defect .

Edited by FLOSS
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I was going to give Nutcracker a miss this year ....as last few years have been to ENB's version.

 

However forgot the Royal were doing so may go for my usual "fix" and catch up with this production instead

 

The above photos helped! And I'm doing a workshop on this ballet on the 29th. The two feasible times I could go though are both sold out already so will have to take chances on the day now!

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I go to see the Nutcracker as a Christmassy outing. The music is wonderful and there are some great set pieces (eg Snowflakes, GPDD) but there are some major flaws (for me) based on the two productions currently staged by the RB and ENB.

 

The 'party business' drags if you have seen the ballet before and there is little actual dancing during the party scene. The dancing for the children is quite dull. Some of the 'themed' dances in Act 2 are unsatisfactory, particularly the Chinese one in the RB version and the Arabian one in ENB's. Personally, I feel that the RB's version is a more clear cut telling of the story, particularly for children: Clara rescues the Nephew and then goes on a journey to the Kingdom of the Sweets where she meets the SPF. The ENB version with Clara and the Nephew morphing into the SPF and cavalier is confusing, although it does provide a much meatier role for a senior ballerina. However, it does mean that Clara and the Nephew are not on stage to see the Act 2 dances (as they are getting changed) which feels a bit odd (who are these dances being performed for?).

 

For the RB's version, I book for Clara.

Edited by aileen
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The 'party business' drags if you have seen the ballet before and there is little actual dancing during the party scene. The dancing for the children is quite dull. Some of the 'themed' dances in Act 2 are unsatisfactory, particularly the Chinese one in the RB version and the Arabian one in ENB's. Personally, I feel that the RB's version is a more clear cut telling of the story, particularly for children: Clara rescues the Nephew and then goes on a journey to the Kingdom of the Sweets where she meets the SPF.

 

I disagree that the "party business" drags, but then I always feel a bit of a fraud considering myself a ballet lover because I'd much rather watch narrative than pure dance, even when it happens to be in a ballet.  Any ballet with whole acts full of pure dance/divertissements - *yawn* as far as I'm concerned.  I love Act 1 and tend to get bored in Act 2, from the Spanish Dance right up to the grand finale before Clara gets returned to the real world.

 

One aspect of the RB version that I personally find unsatisfactory is that there's little suggestion that it *is* a Kingdom of Sweets, other than the fact that it's set on the "cake" of Act 1, and that most of its inhabitants seem to be covered in pink and white frosting.  I don't get any reference to sweets at all, and think it's a shame that the various National Dances etc don't evoke more of this theme, as much as I always enjoy watching the Arabian and Russian dances particularly.  The Chinese one is fun, but... hmmm.

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Well, I never realised that the set in the Kingdom of the Sweets was supposed to be the top of the cake in Act 1. But, then, I didn't realise until I read it in a review that the set in Act 2 of ENB's version was supposed to be the puppet theatre in Act 1. The national dances don't seem to make any sense in either version (IMO).

 

I saw ENB's Hampson version a couple of times but I can't remember the details of how it was done. The set in Act 2, with ice cream mountains, was cute. There was a traditional SPF in tutu (plus cavalier) who was different to Clara, who had a modern costume.

Edited by aileen
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