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The Royal Ballet: The Nutcracker, 2015-16


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Saw it in the Stratford Vue last night.  I'm always a bit disengaged for the first 15 mins or so of Nutcracker, but then it gets going.. I thought there were plenty of great performances - for me Frankie Hayward was an excellent Clara; she is naturally fresh faced and beautiful and can play 'young' convincingly.  Lauren, Yasmine, Gary, all really great.  I do find the make up of the Chinese dancers a dubious element - it's odd that racist 'yellowface' stereotypes have persisted long after 'blackface' became unacceptable.  Imagine swapping them out for black and white minstrels and you'll see what I mean. Keep the dance but tone down the makeup and costumes..

 

Only other niggle about the cinema streaming was the presenters. I still find Darcey wooden and amateurish (though at least this time I didn't see 'say thank you' written on her cue card).  The other guy is a sports presenter on BBC's ultra dumbed-down Morning show.  He fluffed people's names and added zero value. Surely there must be plenty of male ex dancers who have a bit of charisma and credibility...

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I liked the other presenter Ore, but I think Gary Avis added the most to the presentation side of the cinema broadcast. I wasn't crazy about Darcey's interview with the students - focusing on what they were worrying about and what might go wrong onstage seemed a bit negative!

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Yes I agree the presentation seemed worse than ever. A bit depressing. Gary Avis was super, maybe someone will notice that and give him a job! But there are many many people wo could do better -in fact most members of the RB or staff I suspect!

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I'll take the job! I know more about ballet than the guy they keep using! Probably more interested in it too :) I have to agree I think Gary Avis or almost any of the male dancers would make a better presenter, it doesn't make sense to use someone with no knowledge of ballet?!

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I saw it in the cinema last night - not the one I'd intended to go to, because I didn't have time to get there, but one I haven't been to in a couple of decades or more, I should think.  The screen had a slight curve to it, and I was sitting "outside" the screen area, so the equivalent of being outside the pillar of the proscenium arch at the ROH, so I hope one of those facts was responsible for the stage tilting towards the left :)  We also weren't watching on a proper widescreen, so the dancers were all rather elongated, which is disconcerting, especially facially, when you're used to seeing them with normal proportions.  As usual, I felt there were a number of cases where the camera could have pulled back more so that we had a clearer view overall of what was happening, and that this could also have replaced some of the sudden jumping cuts from one person to another.  The stage also looked surprisingly dark: I've seen broadcasts of this production before, and I don't remember it being quite so dark, so I wonder whether it may have been a problem linked to that particular cinema.

 

I was surprised that there was no attempt to tell the story: presumably the ROH were assuming that everyone would have read their programmes, which I think is always a bad assumption to make.  And sorry, I just found the interval "begging-bowl" attitude tacky: there must be subtler ways of publicising the pointe-shoe appeal.  Interesting to see the RBS students with Darcey: I think I may have been sitting next to one of them+mum a few weeks ago :)

 

Anyway, on to the positive points: I'd gone to this mainly, I think, to see how Francesca Hayward's acting/reactions came over in close-up, and to see Yasmine Naghdi's Rose Fairy, and neither disappointed.  Naghdi in particular was just gorgeous: she's not cast as Clara, is she?  Gary Avis was great as ever, of course, but I think I'll try a different cinema next time: this one had a *very* big screen, and I was near enough that it was uncomfortable - and probably robbed me of vital milliseconds - trying to take in the whole figures because you almost have to look them up and down to take them in, especially when they are already "stretched". 

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No....sadly Naghdi is not cast as Clara, and I am very disappointed about that.

 

 I'm not actually disappointed. They usually cast the 'wee' ones in that role, Yasmine more of a medium, as far as physical stature concerned. And besides, as I said before, Claras don't as a rule, go on to Principal - and Yasmine will (in my own opinion). You seem to get more Rose's in the top echelons (e.g. Zenaida Yanowsky, Laura Morera). Just my musings, I hasten to add.

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.. And besides, as I said before, Claras don't as a rule, go on to Principal ...

 

Although if you're artistic director you can make your own rules up...tomorrow I'm seeing the ENB with Tamara Rojo as Clara. Now without wanting to be ungallant, and as a huge fan of TR, that is by now also quite an intriguing age stretch! 

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Only other niggle about the cinema streaming was the presenters. I still find Darcey wooden and amateurish (though at least this time I didn't see 'say thank you' written on her cue card).  The other guy is a sports presenter on BBC's ultra dumbed-down Morning show.  He fluffed people's names and added zero value. Surely there must be plenty of male ex dancers who have a bit of charisma and credibility...

 

I didn't see it live last night, but I think that is the same guy who presented with Darcey with they did the live R & J broadcast?  If so, I thought he was very good then, and had a nice rapport with her.  Strange he should be less good this time.  Maybe he was a last minute substitute as well? 

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 I'm not actually disappointed. They usually cast the 'wee' ones in that role, Yasmine more of a medium, as far as physical stature concerned. And besides, as I said before, Claras don't as a rule, go on to Principal - and Yasmine will (in my own opinion). You seem to get more Rose's in the top echelons (e.g. Zenaida Yanowsky, Laura Morera). Just my musings, I hasten to add.

 

Naghdi's classical physique and line lends itself so much more to the ultimate tutu roles. She was of course equally well suited to dance Juliet (in a long dress), Monotones and Symphonic V. but she often reminds me of those exquisite ballerina creatures I used to watch in Russia when I was young. She would look just perfect amongst The Mariinsky Ballet dancers :)

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No....sadly Naghdi is not cast as Clara, and I am very disappointed about that.

 

But she could do SPF, surely? [Actually, I think that has been said previously.]

 

So pleased to see all the positive comments about her on here. I hope that the fact that she was cast as Rose Fairy for the cinema broadcast over more senior dancers is a sign of great opportunities to come.

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Naghdi's classical physique and line lends itself so much more to the ultimate tutu roles. She was of course equally well suited to dance Juliet (in a long dress), Monotones and Symphonic V. but she often reminds me of those exquisite ballerina creatures I used to watch in Russia when I was young. She would look just perfect amongst The Mariinsky Ballet dancers :)

She was of course an exchange student with the Mariinsky whilst still at the school

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I think the male presenter - what is his name?? - was chosen precisely because he was an outsider that didn't know about ballet, but they don't use that. It'd be a bit silly having Bussell asking someone to explain the plot or whatever, but he could do it believably. 

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Yes that was his name. He wasn't catastrophic, just rather pointless; he brought nothing to it other than an ability to read an autocue. He also referred to 'Laura Cuthbertson' at one point, which suggested all of 5 minutes preparation.

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I was another one who saw the live cinema broadcast on the 16th. Fascinating to hear all these different points of view of this production and the performances, particularly those who have seen many Nutcrackers going back decades. I decided I wouldn't travel to see a Nutcracker this year and so I thought I'd give the cinema a go since I'd never tried it before.

 

I think judgements are harder to make seeing it on screen, and I spent a lot of the performance frustrated and disappointed in the cinema experience, which did not help appreciation of the dancing or the production. For me, it killed much of the magic of a live ballet. Continual cutting from camera to camera and lots of closeups I feel gave the whole thing a synthetic feel which I couldn't get over.

 

I was most interested in Janet's comments comparing RB and BRB's current productions of the Nutcracker, I too was surprised at how different they were. No stunning red dress for Mrs Stahlbaum, no swan ride at the end of the first act. One thing I do really love about the RB version is the soldier doll and vivandiere section. However this experience overall in no way came close to seeing BRB perform their Nutcracker at the Birmingham Hippodrome, although it's hard to say whether that's due to the cinema effect or the production differences (I've never seen the RB Nutcracker in the theatre).

 

I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds the party scenes drag on, and the mice and soldiers battle similarly uninteresting. Not that that is unique to this production of course. Can't quite return to childhood and appreciate these aspects as I might once have, I'm afraid.  

 

I'd heap more praise on the already much-praised Hayward as Clara. All I've read about her bringing natural vital expression to her acting I fully agree with. The sense of Clara growing up as she goes on her journey, becoming more daring and adventurous, for the first time I really understood through Haywards expressive dancing, which was a bit of a revelation for me. It was worth going for that alone. Cuthbertson made an expectedly regal and exquisite Sugar Plum Fairy. But I agree with the posts above about the emptiness of the palace, the lack of a court, it made the atmosphere a bit sterile, heartless, somehow.

 

I'd probably go back to the BRB Nutcracker next time, unless I got the urge to see a specific dancer in a particular role only available at RB.

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When you consider that she was not cast the last time Nutcracker was done, only to be asked to learn the role at short notice,it does say something about her status in the Company now

 

Actually, Yasmine was cast as the Rose Fairy last time around - and I know because I vividly remember seeing her and thinking that she was one of the best, if not THE best, Rose Fairy I'd seen - executing the steps with both clarity and lyricism as if she had all the time in the world.  Having seen her again twice in this run, I still feel the same. She is a really beautiful dancer and, like others, I'm hoping she will soon be given more lading roles in some of the full length ballets (preferably, of course, with Matthew Ball).

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Tabitha, I've only seen the BRB version once, last year, and I thought the swan ride was a charming and memorable touch but perhaps novelty played a part in the effect.

 

munchkin16, I thought the closeups on the cinema did not do any favours in maintaining the dramatic illusion that is part of ballet (precisely like the example of the fighting you mention). Even in theatres, I prefer to sit in the upper, more distant seats where I feel these effects are much stronger.

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Now you mention that it makes sense. Also I sort of feel like maybe Hayward was careful not to overdo the facial expressions on Wednesday, knowing they would look silly on the close ups for the cinema? She did it beautifully but thinking about it surely they must be too subtle for the general performance trying to reach the amphi?

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Actually, Yasmine was cast as the Rose Fairy last time around - and I know because I vividly remember seeing her and thinking that she was one of the best, if not THE best, Rose Fairy I'd seen - executing the steps with both clarity and lyricism as if she had all the time in the world.  Having seen her again twice in this run, I still feel the same. She is a really beautiful dancer and, like others, I'm hoping she will soon be given more lading roles in some of the full length ballets (preferably, of course, with Matthew Ball).

She wasn't cast originally, but came in late in the run

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A lovely, assured debut from Anna Rose O'Sullivan as Clara tonight. I was very impressed: lovely, expressive dancing, delightful characterisation, charm by the bucketload. She was a revelation. Another name to add to the current crop of wonderful young dancers with a potentially great future at the RB.

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Although if you're artistic director you can make your own rules up...tomorrow I'm seeing the ENB with Tamara Rojo as Clara. Now without wanting to be ungallant, and as a huge fan of TR, that is by now also quite an intriguing age stretch! 

 

 well, not really, as the young Clara 'transforms' into adult Clara for everything after the party scene. Best talk about that though, on the ENB Nutcracker thread

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munchkin16, I thought the closeups on the cinema did not do any favours in maintaining the dramatic illusion that is part of ballet (precisely like the example of the fighting you mention). Even in theatres, I prefer to sit in the upper, more distant seats where I feel these effects are much stronger.

 

I actually have the opposite view in this respect - I normally watch from far away, and the cinema relays are a rare opportunity to see close-ups. And I'm constantly delighted by how the drama is maintained and realistic even in close-up - no mugging or 'acting' and dramatic business beautifully handled. I think the dancers are tremendous. (And even after an incredibly arduous solo or pas de deux, they smile and bow as if they've just done nothing at all. Only their diaphragms occasionally betray the massive effort they've just put in!). Though I do agree that the Act I 'fight' is not very convincing - but I think that's true from a distance too. I think it's a 'theatrical' fight rather than a real one - whether that's intentional (because it's for children) or not I don't know.

Edited by bridiem
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I was at the Irish National Youth Ballet's Nutcracker last Subday and enjoyed the party scene much more than I did the broadcast one: it was utterly charming, and there was always something amusing going on in the background - the camera close ups hid those elements if they're in the RB production.

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Agree entirely. It is great to have the chance to see close-up occasionally.

The camera angles were not that good this time so some of the effects were lost it is true-but in my view they have been much better before so I wouldn't give up on going to the live screenings northstar- they vary.

 

The mice fight  isn't meant to be a real fight is it..the whole scene is a little girl's dream at Xmas, a fantasy.They are deliberately not really aiming at each other.

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