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Royal Ballet 2017 Spring Casting

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I don’t disagree for a moment with your selections of works you would like to see but they are mainly Ashton with a couple of Nijinska works thrown in. I’ve salted it away to look out for but, since next year is the 25th anniversary of MacMillan’s death, it seems likely that his works will pre-dominate in 2017/18. With a legacy of 90 plus ballets, could you please offer a similar personal look-out-for MacMillan list, focusing perhaps on those that are not irretrievably lost and could (and should) still be saved?     

 

And the 2018/19 season will be the anniversary of Fonteyn's birth, surely we will see Birthday Offering and Sylvia then?

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I am afraid that I don't think that the revival of ballets should depend on significant anniversaries. There are certain ballets which should be part of the RB's living repertory just as the MacMillan cash cows are. it is only by making them part of the regular "churn" of repertory. I think that ballets like Les Noces, Les Biches  and the bulk of the Ashton repertory such as Fille and Scenes de Ballet can be made to live.

 

I was asked to make some recommendations of MacMillan works. I feel that I need to explain that while I believe Ashton and his exact contemporary Mr B, to be choreographers of genius I do not believe that MacMillan is in the same league as them. Although Lady M. seems to want us to believe in her late husband's genius MacMillan is, for me. a choreographer occasionally touched by genius. It may be clear from my selection that I prefer MacMillan the classical choreographer to MacMillan the creator of ballets on "challenging" themes because while his "deep" and "challenging" works may have pushed the boundaries they often demonstrate what ballet can not do. and they don't seem to age very well. 

 

His Song of the Earth is a truly great ballet but few of the other ninety odd ballets which he created are. I expect that Song will be revived in the anniversary year and that we may possibly get Gloria or Requiem as well.We are unlikely to see all three because of the cost. Here are a couple of very early works which should still be of interest Danses Concertantes (1955) and Solitaire (1956). Concerto(1966) which he made for his Berlin company, it is said to identify dancers whose technique required remedial action. I will add Triad (1972) to the list although it is years since I last saw it and I am not sure how well it has aged and finally the Four Seasons (1975).

 

Now Four Seasons was a rarity among MacMillan's output as it was acclaimed after its first performance as a work which filled a gap in the company's repertory by giving it ballet which displayed the company's Principal dancers. I have to say that as with many of MacMillan's ballets he was more concerned with the Principal dancers than the corps and as a result the choreography for the corps was not that inspired and was a bit like choreography by numbers. On the other hand I recall that the choreography for the ten Principal dancers allocated across the seasons was inventive and entertaining. I believe that it fell out of favour with the choreographer because of the trouble which he had with it when it was staged in Paris for the POB.

 

Finally a few words of warning. Do not be tempted by MacMillan's Isadora in whatever form it is offered to you. Ashton is supposed to have said that MacMillan made the greatest mistake of his career when he created the ballet  on Park rather than Seymour. I think that while it would  have been a totally different ballet if it had been made  on Seymour the real problem was the subject matter. Isadora's life may have included  tragedy but unlike Mayerling the tragedies were events which Isadora experienced rather than events caused by her or flaws in her character. I don't think that Prince of the Pagodas is an overlooked masterpiece either.

 

 Finally here are six ballets which I think are best avoided but you may know people who love them or you may love them yourself but I find them less and less convincing as theatre or as ballets as for me they emphasise the art form's limitations rather than its strengths.Rituals (may put you off Bartok for life): My Brother My Sisters (boringly interminable) Judas Tree ( a strange mixture of sex and religiosity),Different Drummer( Berg's Wozzeck is so much stronger as a piece of theatre);Valley of Shadows (his Holocaust ballet) and finally Playground ( bullying and death). These works no doubt worked as a form of therapy but I am not sure that they deserve a lasting place in the history of ballet or in the company's  long term repertory.

Edited by FLOSS
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I like Nuñez enormously (who doesn't) but I can't envisage her height and maturity working well for Vetsera (ideal, surely for Larisch, except that that was choreographed for a small dancer) and although Campbell is one of my absolute favourite dancers I'd think his lack of inches would complicate the partnering, albeit he coped extraordinarily well with Mendizabal in Pigeons.

 

I thought smaller dancers tended to be cast as Vetsera too, but Hamilton is relatively tall isn't she? Whatever the height differential, the casts somehow make it work. In terms of 'maturity' both Rojo and Galeazzi didn't play it that girlishly but they were both fabulous Vetseras. I still remember some minor criticism on these boards the first time Cojocaru was cast, and how she surprised everyone with what an exciting MacMillan dancer she was. So I can't imagine what kind of Vetsera Nunez could be but I'd be very curious to see what she might do with the role.

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Re: FLOSS. Agree. Apart from one on your reject list. My Brother, My Sisters. I really believe it should be done.

Edited by Vanartus
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I was asked to make some recommendations of MacMillan works.

 

 

Thank you FLOSS for providing so thoughtful a response. I have not seen/do not know many of the earlier works you refer to but I am pleased to have my respect for Song of the Earth, Gloria and Requiem confirmed; also my distaste for The Judas Tree. I have affection for Britten’s only ballet and still occasionally enjoy the recording of the original despite its flaws – I guess as much for Cope and Bussell - but I thought the tweakings (with Lady MacMillan’s approval!) in the revival in June 2012 were a disaster, not helped I have to say by various cast replacements. I booked for three performances but left halfway through the third and I certainly would not want to see that production again.

 

I always enjoy the main three narratives if only to see different dancers’ approaches and am seldom disappointed  – eg. Lamb’s Manon. Naghi’s Juliet and am eagerly looking forward to next year’s run of Mayerling. But I am so, so torn regarding the casting choices I must make if I am not to end up sleeping on the streets!

 

I shall salt away this additional advice and look forward to the announcement of next season’s programme with even greater interest! Thank you again.  

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And the 2018/19 season will be the anniversary of Fonteyn's birth, surely we will see Birthday Offering and Sylvia then?

 

And Ondine?

 

I am afraid that I don't think that the revival of ballets should depend on significant anniversaries. There are certain ballets which should be part of the RB's living repertory just as the MacMillan cash cows are.

 

No, although a significant anniversary is always a good excuse for giving them another showing.  As is having an exceptional artist who would really suit a given role.  Then of course you have to pray like mad that he/she doesn't get injured ...

 

Different Drummer( Berg's Wozzeck is so much stronger as a piece of theatre);

 

But then there are a lot of ballets based on operas (or stage plays) where the opera is the stronger piece (that includes Onegin).  That's not necessarily a reason for dumping a work.  Would you drop The Dream because the Shakespeare play is a bit better? :)  Although perhaps you might drop Marguerite and Armand in favour of La Traviata (although how much more often the RO can put *that* on I don't know).

 

I am not brave enough or foolish enough to share my disbelief fully. Suffice it to say that I find it puzzling that Lamb has both of the main female roles, astonishing that Nunez has gone back to dancing Mitzi Caspar and disappointing that Campbell, now a Principal, remains as Bratfisch. Some of that may have something to do with filming, of course.

 

McRae continued to dance Bratfisch after he was made principal, although I'd guess that was only because of the filming.  But as for disbelief, one of my immediate reactions to the Jewels casting was "What on earth are they casting xxx in yyy for???!!!"

 

Gartside was also very affecting in The Winter's Tale but I suppose it is difficult to give a First Soloist such a coveted role ahead of many Principals. No doubt he will 'cover' Rudolf as before and who knows............................

 

Indeed.  As long as he doesn't have to replace someone I really want to see ...  And as long as we have enough notice to buy tickets, now day seats are a thing of the past.

 

Rudolph can wait.As far as the casting of Mayerling is concerned I am not sure that I am ready to assume that the entire Watson, Osipova will be wonderful or that they will be better than the Soares, Cuthbertson cast or the Bonelli, Morera one.

 

There are so many debuts in role with key characters in Mayerling that forecasting the likely impact of any of them seems more than a little premature.

 

True.  I have no idea how well Watson and Osipova will work in something like this.  Of course, Mara Galeazzi will be around for rehearsals for Woolf Works.  I don't suppose she could be persuaded to hang around a bit longer ...?

 

 Jewels  may be less than stellar in some of its casting but then I have never been one who believes that the Principals are going to be the best suited to the main roles in every ballet merely because they are principal dancers. [...]

 

 The casting for Diamonds contains pleasures and disappointments. I would have liked to see Clarke given some performances rather than Golding but then Clarke is only a First Artist whereas Golding (M.) is a Principal but while Golding may have a lovely technique he lacks stage personality and is far too self absorbed  to be the totally attentive cavalier that is required for the ballerina in this ballet. 

 

Me neither for the first part.  And who knows, Golding might surprise you one of these days.

 

In all the photographs I've seen of them in close proximity, there doesn't seem to be any appreciable height difference that isn't down to Campbell's springier hair ;)    

 

I'm not sure McRae doesn't have the springier hair, too ;)  Guess it depends on how it's styled.

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My goodness, I'd never before realised that there was a limit to the number of posts you could quote in a single post!  Continuing, then:

 

As far as casting is concerned I hate to have to remind everyone but Watson was born in 1976 and Yanowsky in 1975. I can't help thinking that their respective ages may explain why they are not appearing in  the ballets which have been listed for the Spring booking period.

 

Well, whatever it is, I'm disappointed not to see Watson in Emeralds.  I liked him in that, albeit not with Marquez, because I didn't find them a good stylistic or emotional match. It seems that he's now not doing a lot of the roles he used to dance with Leanne Benjamin since she retired, although to what extent that's by choice I don't know.

 

I tend to agree with those who think that you only  develop as an artist and only develop the interpretation of a particular role by repeated performances.

 

Me too.  Although to what extent one-night-stand-type guesting where you're shoehorned into a different production helps in that respect I'm not so sure.

 

However, I do feel that the development of dancers at all levels should be prominent in the thinking of ADs and some recent casting makes me wonder if that consideration is sufficiently 'up there' as far as the RB is concerned. 

 

And that includes under-used principals.

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At the risk of getting scythed down (again  :unsure: !!), I have already talked about Muntagirov in this context. However, and given that Hirano, Ball, Clarke etc are likely to be Hungarian Officers, I do feel that opportunities have been missed to cast (and thus stretch) other dancers. Maybe there should have been more performances but, in places, there has been a tendency to go for people who have essayed the roles before.  In addition to Muntagirov as Rudolf and Nunez as Mary, i would have wanted to cast (for example) Calvert as Larisch; O'Sullivan as Stephanie; and Acri, Sambe and Yudes as Bratfisch.

 

I am not brave enough or foolish enough to share my disbelief fully. Suffice it to say that I find it puzzling that Lamb has both of the main female roles, astonishing that Nunez has gone back to dancing Mitzi Caspar and disappointing that Campbell, now a Principal, remains as Bratfisch. Some of that may have something to do with filming, of course.

 

[Edited to add that this is in response to David's question (immediately above but now on the previous page) which I omitted to quote.]

Of course, Bratfisch and Mitzi were both created by Principal Dancers, Graham Fletcher and Laura Connor...

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Well, I've now finally had the opportunity to have a less-hurried look at the casting than I originally did.

 

Firstly, I'm surprised to see various soloists doubling up in Jewels: this hasn't happened previously, and I always understood that it was largely down to logistical problems with rehearsals.  I've always thought of Diamonds as something for relatively tall, or at least leggy, dancers: have shorter dancers such as Salenko and McRae danced it in the past?

 

On to Mayerling:

When I said how gutted I was that Gartside wasn't reprising Rudolf, I am sure he must be far more so than I am :(  That really is a huge disappointment.

I'm surprised and rather disappointed to see Hayward rather stagnating as Stephanie: I'd assumed/hoped she would get Mary Vetsera this time around - and preferably with Watson, since they seemed to work so well both in the previous run and in Manon.  Not sure how well he and Osipova will work in this, but as FLOSS says I expect Anastasia will give us a better idea of that.

I think the Bonelli cast is completely new?

Like others, disappointed to see Nunez not having more to do in this run.  Good to see some new dancers getting chances, though.

Again, though, this run is very compact.  I can see I shall have to pick and choose what performances to go and see, because there's a limit to the number of Mayerlings I can watch in a short space of time, too.

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Personally I don't think there is anything wrong or premature in speculating on how dancers will perform together in certain ballets. It is part of the whole ballet experience...wondering, and sometimes even dreaming, about these things (I mean dreaming that things will work out like I hope they will when I envision the dancers in the roles...when it is a good vision that is!). It is then very interesting for me to find out whether what I have thought actually comes to pass. Many a time I have been disappointed, and many a time pleasantly surprised. For me, that is all part of the joy and magic of ballet.

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A few words regarding Bennet Gartside.  I went to the first performance of Mayerling and have been going to watch it regularly ever since.  I won't claim to have seen every single cast and I have purposely avoided certain Rudolfs but I've probably seen most and in my opinion Gartside is among the very best.  The role requires a strong actor first and foremost because of the complex character, initially he repels but as you watch a human being destroying himself and realize the world he lived in with it's corruption and cynicism, helped to bring about his downfall you should feel pity.  At the end of Gartside's performance my eyes were moist and my companion, who had initially moaned about the cast change, was screaming himself hoarse with bravos for the hero of the evening.  

 

It takes a very special artist to go on stage, presumably at short notice, and give a performance of that calibre.  Rudolf is a tough role and I can think of one luminary at least who turned it down on the grounds of the partnering being too difficult.  In dance, partnering and particularly acting terms Mr Gartside was superb and gave those of us lucky enough to see it one of the most vivid Rudolfs we're ever likely to see.  I am more than sorry others will not have the opportunity to seem him in this role. 

 

corrected typo

Edited by MAB
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l am pleased to discover that I am not the only person on this forum who likes Pierrot Lunaire. 

Edited by FLOSS
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Many thanks MAB for such a description of Ben's Crown Prince which I'm afraid I've only read about and would love to have seen.

 

Whilst Ben is not scheduled to dance Rudolf this time, hopefully Mayerling will be back for an extended run, sooner rather than later, and he might have a further opportunity at the role, together with others. Like Alison, I'd love to see Francesca dance Mary. Meantime I'm encouraged by many of the comments about the various casts and I'll look forward to seeing all of them if possible.

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Hi JohnS, and welcome to the forum.  Please keep posting, and do let us know what you think of the Mayerlings that you do end up seeing!

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Welcome, JohnS.  I think the trouble is that Benn is virtually contemporary with Ed Watson, and if we're thinking that these are likely to be Ed's last Mayerlings time may be running out.

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Welcome, JohnS.  I think the trouble is that Benn is virtually contemporary with Ed Watson, and if we're thinking that these are likely to be Ed's last Mayerlings time may be running out.

 

Oh no! I didn't realise he was so 'old'! (Comparatively speaking, of course.) :(

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Somebody's pointed out, I think on the Fille thread, that he's just had a Significant Birthday.

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I was also disappointed that Ben Gartside hasn't been given a Mayerling.  I had a ticket for his performance when he stood in but in the end couldn't go and was mighty disappointed after hearing his reviews.  I don't wish to have a go at Macrae whom I adore in certain things (Woolf Works, Winter's Tale) but I am surprised he has been cast as Rudolf.  I just wouldn't have thought it was his thing and wonder why he has the role.

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Penelope, you are by no means the only one wondering.

 

OTOH, I remember back in (?)1994 going to Jonathan Cope's unscheduled (it was supposed to be Adam Cooper, or Michael Nunn, can't remember which, as there had been so many cast changes) debut as Rudolf with very low expectations, and being extremely surprised about how good he turned out to be.  You never know, the same thing might happen with McRae.

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I did not see Jonathan Cope's unscheduled performance, but was lucky to see his Rudolf later on. How fortunate that he was able to revisit the role. It seems very unfair to both artist and audience that Bennet Gartside cannot revisit Rudolf, after giving an exceptionally powerful performance when covering. Thank you MAB for such an eloquent and moving account in post 71 above.

Edited by Josephine
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Many thanks MAB for such a description of Ben's Crown Prince which I'm afraid I've only read about and would love to have seen.

 

Whilst Ben is not scheduled to dance Rudolf this time, hopefully Mayerling will be back for an extended run, sooner rather than later, and he might have a further opportunity at the role, together with others. Like Alison, I'd love to see Francesca dance Mary. Meantime I'm encouraged by many of the comments about the various casts and I'll look forward to seeing all of them if possible.

 

 

Somebody's pointed out, I think on the Fille thread, that he's just had a Significant Birthday.

 

Well, his Twitter handle is @Bennet76, which would rather support that theory.

 

He also posted on Twitter on the final night of his cast of the recent run of Winter's Tale that he expected that to be his last shot at a lead role.  Several people, myself included, responded at the time to say that we had all been really hoping he would be cast in Mayerling.

Edited by RuthE
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I find it rather insulting when a dancer stands in for another dancer (sometimes at short notice) and gives a great performance but is then not / never cast in the role again.

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Aileen. Standing in for a dancer at short notice and never dancing that role again is a risk that every dancer runs particularly if they are only a First Soloist. If I recall Gartside's assumption of the role of Rudolf prompted all sorts of rumours  that he was about to retire. Gartside replaced an injured Soares as Leontes in the initial run of Winter's Tale and when it was revived this year he was given the opportunity to dance the role with the same cast who he had danced with in 2014.If you wish to say that Gartside has been under used over the years. I would agree with you, as I would if you were to describe Cervera as possibly the best Oberon we never had.

 

However we have to live in the real world in which most people, as evidenced by this site,are anxious to see their favourite dancers appear in everything, almost regardless of their suitability for particular roles, foreign fans want to see the big names on tour regardless of their suitability for the ballets being toured and management has to keep the entire company, the right's holders and organisations like the Balanchine Foundation happy while simultaneously developing its younger dancers. In the past the company could be criticised for spending too much time on looking after its star principal dancers and spending too little time developing the junior dancers whom it had  recruited from school.The last couple of seasons have seen the emergence of a number of very promising young dancers and now management is going to have get the balance right between satisfying dancers who are coming to the end of their careers and meeting the development needs of those members of the company who are likely to replace them. 

 

 

Ballet is a young persons' art form. Dancers tend to retire at the very point at which those engaged in the other theatre arts are just beginning to get into their stride. A singer in their early to mid thirties is still young and promising a dancer of the same age is facing a few more years before retirement. Now  dancers vary a great deal in how long they can continue dancing but few continue long into their forties. As far as male dancers are concerned they tend to retire from leading roles at an earlier age than female dancers do.I wonder how many male dancers you can think of who have continued dancing into their forties in the same roles that they were dancing in their twenties without any diminution in their technical performance. I am afraid that in Gartside's case it is a case of "Time's wing'd chariot drawing near" . I wonder which you think is a better fate for a dancer of either sex to retire while they still appear to the audience to be in top form so their passing is regretted or hanging on until they are no longer capable of performing at anything approaching their best and the audience, if it is kindly disposed, begins to pity them? It is, it seems to me, far better for a performer to give up the stage before the stage gives them up. As the audience we have to accept that retirement, while still comparatively young, is the ultimate fate of all dancers

Edited by FLOSS
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As the old showbiz adage goes:  leave 'em wanting more!  :)

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Older dancers also tend to recuperate far slower from injury, even a minor injury,  and they often dance in great pain, as I recall Carlos Acosta saying just before he retired.

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Thanks RuthE. I recall Ben's suggestion that Winter's Tale may have been his last leading role but am still optimistic that this might have been a little premature. But time is limited, hence my hope that Mayerling might be back next season for a longer run (as happened with Fille?) and that there may still be opportunity to see his Rudolf. I'd also just draw attention to ROH's web page on Mayerling and the reviews highlighted - two for Ed but starting with the Independent's review of Ben which is well worth a read.

 

I do appreciate Floss's comments about when to bring the curtain down and I guess this is one of the hardest decisions for Directors and dancers. Ben has given so many memorable performances of roles large and small and we are fortunate to look forward to more - I'm sure he'll be a compelling Husband in Anastasia in a few days.

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If it's anything like his husband in Onegin it will be a wonderful performance.

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"I've always thought of Diamonds as something for relatively tall, or at least leggy, dancers:"

 

Well, I haven't seen Jewels for a long time, but I saw Cojocaru in Diamonds, and she was wonderful in it.  But she was wonderful in everything, I thought.

 

Can someone just explain the way in which the casts are listed?  How many dancers are in Emeralds, I can't remember.  Are they the first 4 names in the list?  Sorry if it is a rather dumb question, but as I said, it has been a long time.....

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Can someone just explain the way in which the casts are listed?  How many dancers are in Emeralds, I can't remember.  Are they the first 4 names in the list?  Sorry if it is a rather dumb question, but as I said, it has been a long time.....

 

Yes, the announced casting is that Emeralds has two lead couples; Rubies has one lead couple plus a lead female soloist; Diamonds just has the lead couple.

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Well, I haven't seen Jewels for a long time, but I saw Cojocaru in Diamonds, and she was wonderful in it. 

 

Yes, but even she is relatively leggy for her height, isn't she?  (It's so long since I've seen her that I'm struggling to remember)

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