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Just realised we haven't got a thread started for the Royal Ballet's new triple bill (Birthday Offering/A Month in the Country/Les Noces), which had its first night tonight, so thoughts here, please.

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Yes a good night sadly I forgot the early start so missed Birthday but it was good by all accounts I caught a little on a monitor but it's not the same - Month in the Country was delightful, not sure about Les Noces an unusual piece with lots of dancers on the stage making some impressive formations. Month in the Country was wonderfully danced by Zenaida just a lovely lovely piece!

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A wonderful evening with some superb dancing. Lovely to see Tamara in Birthday and a very good supporting cast of dancers, very enjoyable to watch. Month in the Country is a favourite of mine and Zenaida was glorious in it - of the rest of the cast I particularly liked Ondiviela as Kolia. Nice to see Kate Shipway with a bouquet.

 

Les Noces is a strange but compelling ballet - the music on it's own is difficult to listen to, but somehow the whole piece works. The rhythms are very complex particularly for the ensemble dancers and there was one of the early scenes where it didn't look quite right. The last scene was danced really well and ably led by Deirdre Chapman and Ricardo Cervera.

 

Margaret

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And those of us enjoying Les Noces should, perhaps, extend heartfelt thanks to the Royal Opera chorus. This weekend alone they had the Les Noces general rehearsal and first night on Saturday, then Sunday matinee of Les Troyens, all 5 1/2 hours of it. And every day this coming week, except Monday, they have either Les Noces or Les Troyens.

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I'm delighted to hear confirmation that Zenaida is back - so the prospect of seeing her on Wednesday, together with 'Les Noces,' a ballet of special distinction for me, is compelling.

 

back, and in tip-top form!

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Here are some photos from the dress rehearsal - the 'other' cast.

 

 

 

7482738960_5592fa0583_c.jpg

Birthday Offering - Thiago Soares & Marianela Nuñez

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

7482692068_cb905c2f77_c.jpg

A Month in the Country - Alina Cojocaru & Federico Bonelli

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

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Les Noces - bride's friends at the wedding feast

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

See more...

Set on Flickr RB's mixed bill for early July, 2012

Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Dave: Thanks for the further confirmation re Zen - and, on the photos, I'm finding it very strange to see another face atop the pyramid of girls in 'Les Noces' after having the one with her from about 2002 on my desk for ages!

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Know what you mean about light - have to say that my new camera has a much stronger zoom and takes great pics without flash so I don't feel so obvious taking any at the curtain call! Although I have a long way to go to match your fab pics!

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Well worth reading this very good piece about Les Noces from 2003 by Brendan McCarthy on the old ballet.co website.

 

An absolutely thorough and considered article. I endorse and reinforce John's recommendation - and am reminded how much I miss Brendan's writing from yesteryear. (As "Tablet" Arts Editor, he rarely includes anything in his own name.) And whilst at it, I miss Ian Palmer too. We used to be so spoiled!

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So it's the same supporting cast for both leading couples?

 

Any views on Cojocaru in Month in the Country?

 

Nope. In the other cast, the variations are:

 

1. Choe

2. Morera

3. Mendizabal

4. Marquez

5. Kobayashi

6. Lamb

7. Nunez

 

Supporting men are the same (save for the principal man).

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So it's the same supporting cast for both leading couples?

 

No, Mendizabal replaced Crawford in the second cast. Plus I'm not altogether sure that everyone danced the same solos last night as on SAturday night (edit: which bangorballetboy has now confirmed -- thanks!)

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Any views on Cojocaru in Month in the Country?

 

Natalya Petrovna is a complicated flighty character. Her husband, presumably rather older, is affectionate and absent-minded but rather a fuddy-duddy. She feels trapped in a marriage without passion. She dallies with her admirer Rakitin, encourages him, teases him, but won't let him get too close: in fact she gets panicked when he declares his feelings. One can infer that she feels that any excitement in her life is behind her and that boredom is her lot for the future. The weather is hot and everyone is on edge.

 

I found Cojocaru's portrayal quite puzzling and very different from any I'd seen before. She is a great dramatic ballerina and no-one is going to better her portrayal of, for instance, Giselle. Here she dances beautifully but the drama is small scale. I've always thought Natalya Petrovna to be a somewhat wildly histrionic personality, making big emotional and physical gestures and given to flouncing out of the room and banging doors, but Cojocaru does not portray her like that. Her wild moments are much less vivid than usual so I felt that one dimension of her character was almost missing. I was disconcerted in her first solo to see someone who appeared younger than her ward Vera, but then maybe youthfulness, even childishness is an aspect of her character that isn't usually brought out. (It did make me think what a wonderful Vera she would have been.) Cojocaru is not tall and this too helps to make her look less grown up - I assume she's meant to be in her late twenties.

 

One should trust Cojocaru's judgement on how she should portray Natalya Petrovna but I was left somewhat unconvinced. Yanowsky, whose style is much more flamboyant, also had the advantage of two very strong supporting characters in Gary Avis as Rakitin and Christopher Saunders as Yslaev, her husband.

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I was disconcerted in her first solo to see someone who appeared younger than her ward Vera

 

I loved it a lot but at the same time more of less agree with your points: watching the show I was thinking how youth can a matter of perspective, but my idea is much more than Vera was looking much older than Natalya. Being Cojocaru not tall casting can be a problem, but I think than a taller but young and fresh looking Vera could work better.

Even if Kay danced well, I would have also expected a Kolya with the physical proportions of James Hay and this with a Natalya Petrovna of any size.

 

the advantage of two very strong supporting characters in Gary Avis as Rakitin and Christopher Saunders as Yslaev, her husband.

 

I will see Yanowsky cast on Friday, but I suspect I will agree with you, having thought that this was something definitely lacking in Tuesday performance.

 

Anyway I enjoyed it and think Cojocaru, Bonelli and Bhavani made a great show.

Edited by annamicro
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I assume [Petrovna's] meant to be in her late twenties.

 

 

In the play, she is 29.

  • Arkadi Sergeyevich Islayev, a rich landowner, 36
  • Natalya Petrovna, his wife, 29
  • Kolya, their son, 10
  • Vera Aleksandrovna (Verochka), Natalya's ward, 17
  • Mikhail Aleksandrovich Rakitin, a family friend, 30
  • Aleksei Nikolayevich Belyaev, a student, Kolya's tutor, 21
  • Matvei, a servant, 40
  • Katya, a servant, 20

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Yanowsky, whose style is much more flamboyant, also had the advantage of two very strong supporting characters in Gary Avis as Rakitin and Christopher Saunders as Yslaev, her husband.

Absolutely! I saw Gary dance Rakitin a while ago and his dramatic qualities really enhanced the whole show. Personally, I like the lack of melodrama in Alina's performance (the dramatic "departure from the room, arms thrown back" approach always seemed to evoke more laughter than anything else, in my recollection). But I agree the performance as a whole didn't seem cohesive - perhaps tomorrow's show will develop in the right direction.

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… and Judith Flanders (@JudithFlanders) of The Arts Desk joins in:

 

Interesting. I too thought of LS, perhaps because now Natalya usually a tall dancer, but originally not the case. Until now...

 

...Guillem moved me most (odd, never a huge fan): the despair of a clever woman in a house of duffers: AC may be on the way tho

 

1st person since Guillem who didn't make her shallow but shrewd: she was much smarter therefore tragedy greater.

 

and Jennings (@LukeJennings1) replies:

 

Agree. Shrewd enough to see Beliaev for opportunist he is, & to realise desperate nature of own behaviour. Heart-wrenching

 

 

Opportunist? Maybe, if by that one means that when three women throw themselves at him he goes along with it without thought of consequences. The word tends to imply cynicism but I've always thought of him as rather naive and unaware (at least initially) of his effect on others.

 

These Twitter conversations can be interesting to follow. Unfortunately there's no ready way to add them into the discussions here.

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Perhaps they are basing their opinions as much on the play as the ballet because in the play Beliaev is a catalyst, not really a romantic figure at all and if I remember correctly the central figure of the drama is not Natalia Petrovna but Rakitin. The play is about the ennui of the Russian countryside with Beliaev the newcomer piquing everyone’s interest. Ashton took the play only as a basis and gave it a far more romantic spin than it had ever had before, but the play - and the ballet in its initial performances, were full of nuance and subtlety and the more melodramatic interpretations of successive casts has taken the work far away from what appeared to be the choreographer’s intentions when the work was first shown.

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Perhaps they are basing their opinions as much on the play as the ballet because in the play Beliaev is a catalyst, not really a romantic figure at all and if I remember correctly the central figure of the drama is not Natalia Petrovna but Rakitin. The play is about the ennui of the Russian countryside with Beliaev the newcomer piquing everyone’s interest. Ashton took the play only as a basis and gave it a far more romantic spin than it had ever had before, but the play - and the ballet in its initial performances, were full of nuance and subtlety and the more melodramatic interpretations of successive casts has taken the work far away from what appeared to be the choreographer’s intentions when the work was first shown.

 

Wisely said MAB.

 

Jennings and Flanders are both way off the mark.

 

I don't believe Ashton understood Turgenev's sardonic humour - but equally revivals of the ballet this past decade have been far removed from Ashton's intentions.

 

Guillem I thought brought us closer to Turgenev's Natalia - and Ashton's vision of her as created by Seymour.

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These Twitter conversations can be interesting to follow. Unfortunately there's no ready way to add them into the discussions here.

I am incapable of twittering, or whatever it is I would have to do, so all the more grateful for your update. Thank you.

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I found Cojocaru's portrayal quite puzzling and very different from any I'd seen before. She is a great dramatic ballerina and no-one is going to better her portrayal of, for instance, Giselle. Here she dances beautifully but the drama is small scale. I've always thought Natalya Petrovna to be a somewhat wildly histrionic personality, making big emotional and physical gestures and given to flouncing out of the room and banging doors, but Cojocaru does not portray her like that. Her wild moments are much less vivid than usual so I felt that one dimension of her character was almost missing. I was disconcerted in her first solo to see someone who appeared younger than her ward Vera, but then maybe youthfulness, even childishness is an aspect of her character that isn't usually brought out. (It did make me think what a wonderful Vera she would have been.)

 

John, you pretty much capture my feelings about the performance: lovely dancing, but from halfway up the amphitheatre (and admittedly hampered by the lack of opera glasses, too) I didn't get a lot of feeling of her Natalya Petrovna (who, I notice, often tends to be portrayed, or so it has seemed in recent years, as a cousin to Judith Bliss in Hay Fever). The discussion here sent me back to look at footage of the original cast, and I noticed how much more subtlety and depth there was then to both Petrovna and Beliaev (although it could of course be that it's still there but I'm missing it by not being close enough. I'll have a closer look tomorrow).

 

And Cojocaru did dance Vera: it was in the summer immediately following her promotion to Principal.

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I caught this bill on Wednesday evening. "Birthday Offering" rather washed over me - I suspect I've become somewhat impervious to ballets in which the chaps mainly hang about, doing not a lot, and of course I've no idea how Mme Rojo et al did compared to Fonteyn and Co of the original cast. It's an issue that has been dwelt upon in a number of the press reviews this week but, not having that hinterland, I simply don't find it of much moment.

 

No - I was there for what followed, starting with Zenaida Yanowsky in "A Month in the Country" as I have been pining somewhat during her absence. I was not disappointed - and I have been in the past when I have felt her to be badly misused, as in "Seven Deadly Sins" and the last Carlos Acosta show. And as ever, from the start, I was drawn by her face, eyes and arms through which she speaks volumes in a remarkable performance. Again, I was not around when Ashton created the piece, nor have I seen Lynn Seymour dance, and I note the observations from those who have. But having seen this work some three or four times now in my ten years of dance going, I saw more in the characterisation of Natalia Petrovna this time than ever before and this is the performance I'm likely to remember. Wonderful.

 

Finally to "Les Noces," a work I saw on one of my early visits to the ROH. It knocked me sideways then, and it still does. I saw somewhere that Dame Monica described it recently as her 'Desert Island' ballet and, if asked, I would say the same - even although I cannot give myself a satisfactory explanation as to why that should be so. There is simply something about the combination of ritual, voice, music and mass movement that I find immensely satisfying. Although the Yanowsky eyes were not there this time, Christina Arestis played her part well and I went home well satisfied.

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