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English National Ballet: The Nutcracker 2016/17 Season


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I was at the opening night of ENB's lovely Nutcracker by Wayne Eagling.  I really rather like this production.  The opening wintry scene with skaters in great coats is delightful and then the festivities inside the house with all the dance students is just lovely.  The children were really good and a credit to Tring Park School.  The "adult" role of Clara was played by Laurretta Summerscales partnered by Emilio Pavan as the Nephew and Junor Souza as the Nutcracker although they double up in parts. Best not to put too much store by that or it gets confusing!  James Streeter was Herr Drosselmeyer and a fine job he made of the role too - James can do no wrong in my eyes - his magic tricks were great too!  

I absolutely loved the Snowflake scene at the end of Act 1 - the ballerinas kept really straight lines and the intricate patterns of them weaving in and out was just beautiful to watch, I wish they could have done an encore!  The Snowflake scene alone was worth the ticket price. Of all the divertissements in Act 2 I really enjoyed the male cossack in the Russian dance - his leaps were fantastic and he barely made a sound on landing - the cast sheet is confusing as it names 2 men in that section but there was only one and I feel it was Fernando Bufala rather than Francisco Bosch who was also named?  The Spanish dance was great as well and danced with great latino joie de vivre by Crystal Costa, Adela Ramirez and Vitor Menezes. The dance of the Mirlitons and the Flower Waltz were all beautiful as well, I could go on....

Laurretta was very fast in the SPF section particularly in her solo which was great.  In the pdd with Emilio Pavan there was a quick succession of lifts and unfortunately the biggest of all didn't quite come off as it should - I felt that the lift in question came after too many others so it's quite understandable that it didn't quite work, overall though this was the only glitsch throughout an otherwise super show.  I have not seen Emilio Pavan before and I thought he was a lovely partner to Laurretta.

The orchestra played beautifully under the baton of Gavin Sutherland (although I could have done without the accompaniment of at times some loud talking and lots of rustling sweet papers etc...grrr) I noticed they had 2 harps - I almost thought the music was being amplified as it was loud but I think it was having the second harp that made it sound louder!  I was delighted that ENB had a children's choir (Tring Park I think as no other credit on the cast sheet) to sing the "Ah Ahs"  - that was the icing on the musical cake for me! The set and costumes are lovely and it all made for a lovely Christmassy feel.  

I think the Liverpool shows are pretty much a sell out which is great - I am really pleased that ENB brought Nutcracker here again as it saves a trip to London.  I would definitely recommend seeing this show.

 

A curtain call photo from last night showing Laurretta summerscales and Emilio Pavan.

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Great review and photo, DQF. It always amazes me how fresh dancers look at their curtain calls (at least after classical works, when they seek to maintain the mystique) - as if they've just been having afternoon tea or a stroll in the countryside. How do they do it??!!

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I'm ashamed to admit that I had forgotten ENB's Nutcracker was on in Liverpool this week!  As Chipdog and I are going to socialisation classes I couldn't work out how I could fit a performance in and, in any event, the week is heavily booked.

 

I managed to get a sear for this afternoon's matinee a couple of hours before the show.

 

I really am not keen on this production - there are parts I love, parts I find tedious and I absolutely loather the Arabian dance.  However I was very glad I went because the quality of the performances was terrific.

 

I find most of act 1 tiresome.  It starts off so very well with the 2 children peeping out of the window and I love the skating scene.  Then the tedium sets in and is not relieved until the delightful snowflakes.

 

Act 2 is more to my taste, apart from the Arabian.

 

This afternoon Rina Kanehara made her debut as Clara and was a total delight from start to finish.  She was so very believable as Clara and her dancing in the GPDD was really scintillating.  Her Prince/nephew was Yonah Acosta and he was impeccable throughout - a terrific performance.  Guilherme Menezes made a spirited debut as the Nutcracker.  I must mention the wonderfully elegant James Forbat as one of the lead flowers.

 

I'm very glad I went to see this performance but it's not my favourite production by a long way.

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I'm pleased to hear that Rina Kanehara's performance went well. It's a big debut for an 18 year old.

 

I agree with you about the production, Janet. The first act does drag after the bedroom and skating scenes and you long for the snowflakes (lovely choreography and a highlight of the ballet) to arrive. The Arabian dance is awful even with the worst excesses removed). The absence of Clara and the Nephew from most of the second act makes it seem rather disconnected from the first act; you don't know what these national dancers are doing there. Whilst I personally don't mind the swapping between between the Nutcracker and the Nephew it does cause unnecessary confusion for no particular purpose (plus it places a heavy casting burden on the company in a very long run as there are two male leads in every performance).

 

Is Chipdog a new dog, Janet?

Edited by aileen
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Saw this at Milton Keynes last Saturday. Wonderful dancing, and yes, Tring Park School excelled themselves. I saw the production a few years ago and didn't warm to it so I was interested to see if I felt any better about it and no, I didn't. I liked the skating scene but found the bedroom scenes fiddly somehow and I also have an aversion to moments of darkness as scenes are changed- there was one section, I think towards the end, where there was a distinctive slowing of tempo in the music that isn't usually there while we waited for a scene change that wasn't, in the end, really worth it. I feel that Eagling couldn't quite decide between a Freudian 'dark' Nutcracker and a magical one and ended up with something that was neither one nor the other in which the ideas got in the way of the actual result.  I agree about the Arabian dance- this is usually my least favourite anyway but in this one I liked the dancing better than some versions but hated the concept. Loved the pink waltz of the flowers, but the snowflakes scene (my favourite normally) seemed a bit rat-infested. The balloon (there was a hilarious altercation in the documentary on ENB around this which I can't get out of my head) doesn't, for me, link with Christmas, or winter. I thought first time round that it seemed strange to have the Act 2 dances performed with the dancers alone on stage- it only occured to me this time that we, as the audience, were part of the action as we replaced the onlookers that are usually onstage- again, it felt like an interesting idea that didn't quite work.Hoping to see the RB screening Sunday week-will be interesting to compare but I'd love ENB to have a production that really does them justice.

 

PS Don Q fan I agree about the rustling of sweet papers- and there was a party of people talking during the overture. The firm no-nonsense no mobile phone anouncement beforehand got the thumbs up from us!

Edited by pianolady
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I'm pleased to hear that Rina Kanehara's performance went well. It's a big debut for an 18 year old.

 

Is Chipdog a new dog, Janet?

Gosh, I hadn't realised Rina is only 18. It makes her debut even more remarkable.

 

Yes, Chipdog came to live with me 4 weeks ago from the Merseyside Dogs Home. My lovely Chunkydog went unexpectedly to the Rainbow Bridge in August. I was totally devastated.

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I so agree with you, pianolady, about Eagling seeming to be torn between something dark and psychological and something magical and traditional. Actually, when I saw the RB's Nutcracker again last season after some years I wasn't as keen on it as I thought I was. In both productions (and perhaps in most productions) there is the basic problem of there being lots of plot and little dancing in Act 1 and lots of dancing and little plot in Act 2. I don't know how you can get over this fundamental problem as the (beautiful and iconic) music restricts your options. Would any company really want to abandon the Tchaikovsky music?

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I went to the Saturday eve performance with Alina Cojocaru and Cesar Corrales as the leads. (Clara and Nephew in Act I and Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince in Act II)

 

I very much agree with Janet's ambivalence about this production. Though to be honest, I feel I am starting to fall out of love with any Nutcracker ballet. Perhaps I am getting jaded in my old age. Last year I saw the Royal Ballet cinema live stream and my disinterest in Act I was not much different to the ENB Eagling Act I. In both I found the opening Act drags on in a twee, tiresome manner.

 

I have seen the ENB Eagling version a handful of times and do not feel it is a triumph. To be honest the sole reason I booked a ticket in Liverpool was to see Cojocaru dance the Sugar Plum Fairy. She did not disappoint; the Act II central pas de deux with Corrales glittered with regal and passionate intensity, both dancers raising the level of the ballet into the magical and magisterial, and the packed audience responded appropriately. It was worth the ticket price alone.

 

As for Act I, I think that the best thing about it is Tchaikovsky's score played wonderfully by a live orchestra. I think Eagling himself once said that the Nutcracker is a strange ballet and it's Tchaikovsky's music that has provided it with it's longevity.

 

I am again in complete agreement with Janet about the Arabian dance but I noted that it has changed somewhat compared to the previous ENB performances I have seen (perhaps is what Aileen refers to in saying the 'worst excesses' have been removed?). Originally Clara's brother Freddie appeared in the Arabian, wearing pyjamas and manacled, if I remember rightly. It looks like this idea has been excised. 

 

Pretty much sold out tonight (I had also looked at the Sat Matinee with Tamara Rojo but it was completely sold out). I don't remember the Nutcracker being this popular the last time it was at the Liv Empire (2013 I think).

 

Well that's 'one more Nutcracker nearer death', as Richard Buckle said. I'd still put the BRB version as my favourite.

Edited by northstar
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I went to this production once, when it opened a few years back. I have never been able to bring myself to buy another ticket as I disliked it so much. It sounds like some improvements have been made, but once bitten...

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At this time of year, I find myself wondering whether any company will think about bringing back a Nutcracker with a child of the correct age as Clara.  I know it is a long time ago since anyone did that, and possibly it was only ENB that did so(?).  But I often think it jars to have an adult Clara cavorting  around in the first act like a child, especially when surrounded by real children. 

 

I know that having the adult Clara allows for some of the gorgeous music to be used for some "proper" dancing, but the last time I saw any Nutcracker (some years ago, I admit), even the proper dancing was rather limited in Act 1.

Edited by Fonty
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I agree all too much with opinions on Nutcracker having lost its appeal... Seeing ENB with my daughters this year as I have completely exhausted the Royal Ballet version. I am looking forward to watching them enjoy it, especially my little one who is just getting into ballet. They will also be enjoying a workshop on the Coliseum stage- love that ENB are doing this - which will have them completely in awe and will add a new dimension for me. I thought I was just a bit of a Scrooge so glad to hear it's not just me!!

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For a start it had what appeared to be some homoerotic bondage....not really appropriate for this ballet! But I haven't been since it opened and I understand that it has been toned down. It was also just very dull choreography!

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It has an 'Arab slave trader' theme with a long whip which is brandished several times. The female dancers are a sort of harem and are dragged along the floor at one point. Clara rescues her brother Freddie who is tied up (I think that this bit has been removed or altered now).

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I just got back from the open dress rehearsal at the Coliseum: such a fun evening. A real pleasure to see Alina as Clara/Sugarplum, and I always love to watch Cesar in any role. He was especially endearing tonight - lots of waves and smiles to the audience! We also got a chance to see Lauretta/Emilio, but they were off their game tonight. Lots of claps regardless, it was a really warm and friendly atmosphere and I think the dancers were clearly having fun with it.

 

I hadn't seen any Nutcrackers but RB's before this, and it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but I really enjoyed it. They definitely try to inject more plot into the piece - those pesky mice just won't quit, will they? However this cramming in of different scenes leads to more plot confusion than anything else, I think. (What happens to the mice, anyway? No-one actually defeats them, the heroes just fly away in a balloon... will there be a battle every Christmas until someone finally steps in?) Rina made an especially adorable Snowflake and while I was still uncomfortable with the whip etc in the Arabian dance, I loved Precious' gorgeous arm work.

 

Excited to see this again on Friday with Tamara as Clara/Sugarplum. I'm bringing a friend who's a ballet novice so hopefully it'll be a real treat for her!

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Just to quickly add Tatiana, that Lauretta and Emilio were half marking their run through and there were still some beautiful jumps from him and I was very very impressed with what I saw of her sugar plum solo. I don't think it's really fair to comment negatively on a rehearsal, particularly one that is not danced full out.

 

I agree with you about the production though - interesting moments but confusing at times (I still don't get the nutcracker/nephew dual casting thing) and the Arabian is inexcusable.

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