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I know it's a bit early yet, as performances don't begin until the middle of next week, but I thought I'd start a thread in case anyone wants to comment on tonight's insight evening or anything else relevant. (Don't forget that we already have a thread for Period 2 casting, if anyone needs to post about cast changes: http://www.balletcoforum.com/index.php?/topic/35-rb-period-2-casting/).

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An enjoyable insight evening last Friday, with the emphasis very much on the dancing.

 

We started with Christopher Carr coaching Vale Zuchetti and (wee) James Hay on the various entrances for Puck (Ashton's The Dream). Both gents are covers but it transpires that Vale will be dancing on the first night; they both seem to be getting stuck into the role and could be very good in performance.

 

Clare Thurman then compered a Q&A session with Carr and Dame Monica Mason. A lot was made of the "Britishness" of Ashton and MacMillan and there were some nice anecdotes relating to the two choreographers, their way of working and their relationship with the company. Personally, I found a number of Thurman's questions quite confusing and not overly "open"; I think she needs a bit more guidance on this role from others in the education department.

 

The evening finished with Mason coaching Marianela Nuñez, Ed Watson and Nehemiah Kish in extracts from MacMillan's Song of the Earth. Watson isn't scheduled to dance with Nuñez and Kish (Acosta is scheduled to dance Death (as the part was originally known) in that cast) but will be dancing with them in the FGR on Wednesday. Watson is not new to the role and rehearsed with aplomb. Nuñez and Kish look impressive; this is the sort of role that may show why Mason wanted Kish in the company.

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It was an enjoyable insight. Christopher Carr is a hard taskmaster but always with an eye to engaging the audience and making it interesting for us. Seeing Valentino and James rehearsing the same role gave us an opportunity to appreciate the difference between them. They're both small dancers but stylistically distinct: I find James very elegant and classical and Valentino quick and exciting with a high jump. I'm looking forward to seeing his debut. I agree with Lee, someone in the Education Dept needs to give Claire Thurman some guidance on how to introduce these insights and on interviewing content and technique.

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While I enjoy watching the dancers, given the content of this bill, I had hoped to find out something more about the music for both pieces. Had it not been for the interview with the two coaches, it would have been little more than a (slightly) extended "Royal Ballet in rehearsal". If this reduction in length of the insight evenings is going to become permanent, and I hope it won't, they risk ending up not becoming very, er, insightful.

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Brief thoughts on the opening night.

Alina Cojocaru showed us why it really is CRIMINAL that she has been on the RoH stage so little this season, she is a world class dancer and the RB is not exactly stuffed with them. She's pitch perfect as Titania, never overstated, never mannered with exquisite dancing. Personally I MUCH prefer her as a partner to Steven McRae, her classical ease and elegance are a better foil for his natural exuberance and showy tendancies although neither were in evidence last night. I like Steven's distinctive colouring but darkening his hair and lightening his eye make up were masterstrokes. I've had the benefit of reading Ismene Brown's review this morning and as far as his solos were concerned last night I am puzzling as to whether there is something in what she says about his stamina. Side by side with Valentino's virtuoso Puck Steven looked understated which is not normally a word I'd associate with him but then he isn't he supposed to be more majesterial and not "competing" with Puck for dancing ? The final pdd was faultless so at least for last night I didn't mourn the absence of Polunin. Valentino's Puck debut was very exciting, he's a beautiful dancer with a HUGE jump, especially for a short guy. I didn't feel he overdid anything in the way Ismene Brown described but perhaps that point of view depends partly on where you are in the auditorium.

Tamara Rojo was the star of Song and I can't express it better than Ismene Brown so here she is

http://www.theartsdesk.com/dance/dream-song-earth-royal-ballet

The company dancing was all of a very high standard and I it was especially nice to see Brian Maloney back on stage after almost a year !

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Wow, according to BalletCo's twitter, Marcelo Gomes will be guesting in The Dream on the 9th! So excited about this! :)

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MacMillan’s Song of the Earth is what Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering is to other people. I’d like it more at half the length.

 

I struggle with Mahler. My ear slides off the music, I don’t absorb it. But I can see how the choreography grows organically out of it, I can appreciate the kaleidoscope of syncopated geometry in MacMillan’s choreography – but I don’t get any emotional connection between the two.

 

The sense of loss and grief, particularly from the women, looked cosmetic. As the messenger of death, Edward Watson was insidious. His menace was elegant and sleek.

 

Only one performance took the choreography to a more profound dimension. Valeri Hristov broke through his princely primness and revealed an ecstatic life force as the messenger of life. He and Watson shadowed each other powerfully. Given the loss of two principal men this season Hristov looks ready to step into the shoes vacated by David Makhateli.

 

The Dream is a masterly concision of Shakespeare’s play – but for all its robust structure it needs carefully balanced performances for it to work. Here, as in the last revival in 2008, it’s not only Bottom &Co who were mechanical. The humour fell flat, the magic refused to ignite.

 

Steven McRae is the cleanest Oberon since Bruce Sansom, but apart from some prissy hands there was no sense of character. Robert Marquez has grown in regal stature but has no glint of capriciousness.

 

The murky lighting made this a dirty Dream.

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Not sure how to incorporate quotes, so in response to the above posting I'm afraid half of Song of the Earth is still too long for me :)

 

On the other hand The Dream is too short, Wednesday evening was memorable for the chance to see Alina Cojocaru again at last, dancing as beautifully as ever, plus Steven McRae's debut as Oberon, on paper I thought he would be the best anyway but didn't realise he would be the only one! Also I'm really glad I had the chance to see Valentino Zuchetti as Puck, not just dancing brilliantly but looking really happy to be there and not overawed by Cojocaru and McRae.

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Not sure how to incorporate quotes, so in response to the above posting I'm afraid half of Song of the Earth is still too long for me :)

 

 

At the bottom right hand corner of the post from which you wish to quote there is a grey box marked "quote". Click on that and the quote will appear in the reply box at the end of the thread.

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Not sure how to incorporate quotes, so in response to the above posting I'm afraid half of Song of the Earth is still too long for me smile.png

 

As it appears to be for quite a lot of people: I've been to three performances so far, and have been disappointed/disturbed to see people leaving partway through in each of them - not always at an appropriate break, either, or very discreetly.

 

Anyway, that reminds me - vaguely - of something I've been meaning to ask about Song of the Earth for years: the costume colours. Sometimes I think it's just a trick of the light - and I confirmed last night that it is, partly - and at other times it definitely looks as though some dancers are wearing khaki while some are wearing grey. Has anyone ever worked this out?

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Wonder what anyone else on this forum thought of Gomes as Oberon last night ? Vary different from Steven McRae which made it interesting to observe. His characterisation was excellent and his mime crystal clear. His partnering of Alina was generally excellent although there were a couple of points where he rather tossed her around - I guess he's used to heavier girls ! But these things had to be good because his solo dancing was really so-so, he just didn't have the footwork and it looked as though he didn't even bother to try some of the difficult solo work in the scherzo section. Interesting to have the opportunity to see him in London although I didn't see anything to warrant bringing him back as a guest in other roles rather than using RB dancers.

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Anna I agree. I enjoyed seeing him. He had a convincing presence, acting and mime were excellent (and rather different from usual) but not really cut out to be a nimble and aetherial fairy king.

 

But oh the sorrow, only one more performance of Song of the Earth to go.

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I'd give him a pass considering the lack of rehearsal and preparation he must have had,but I think Ricardo Cervera,had he been given the opportunity to fulfill his long-held ambition,would have been as good and probably,because of his experience in dancing Ashton,a greal deal better.

 

And why,since he's the cover,couldn't have been given the pleasure of seeing James Hay dance Puck in the absence of Zuchetti?

 

However,all this is quibbling when one remembers the other half of the evening and the transcendent debut of the sublime Marianela Nunez in MacMillan's masterpiece Song of the Earth.If further proof were needed, she demonstrated once and for all with her totally commited, heartrending and quite incandescent performance what a truly great ballerina she is.

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I liked Marcelo Gomes last night, he was not as brilliant or fast as Steven McRae but has a softer style, very likeable but not really the Oberon type though, loved the pas de deux which I saw from a different viewpoint (amphi extreme left) appreciate it more every time I see it.

 

I stayed for Song of the Earth (must say I would never leave mid-way through a performance) and although I found the first sections hard (the music puts me off)

the final pas de deux through to the ending was deeply moving, Marienela Nunez, Nehemiah Kish and Carlos Acosta entered a different realm of beauty and intensity.

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can anyone explain what makes someone walk out of Song of the Earth? Especially with about 5mins left, and in the most sublime bit! Madness.

 

I can understand it may not be to everyone's taste (I do struggle with some of the singing bits myself - but the dancing is just mesmerising), but at least have the courtesy not to disturb those that are enjoying, and then just not go see it again. Interesting that those that did leave, were nearly always more senior, than perhaps you'd expect. Well done youngsters in the audience!

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I attended the performance on 6th - a wonderful evening. I really enjoyed Song of the Earth, but the performance was a little spoiled by a mobile going off just at the start of the last movement. I particularly love this movement and our cast of Rojo, Acosta and Pennefather - wonderful.

 

I agree with the idea of Ricardo Cervera as Oberon and am looking forward to seeing him in Fille.

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I *do* miss the old forum's ability to branch off within individual threads (although this one has quite a few advantages too) - it would have made it far easier to add some thoughts about the first week's performances without making them follow on chronologically from the most recent ones. Nevertheless:

 

I love The Dream: it's one of my very favourite ballets. I also think it's one of Ashton's greatest masterpieces. Yet at the first-night performance I was struggling to believe either of those statements. The whole ballet seemed to me to be unfocussed, and lacking in clarity - almost in as much of a fog as the one which Oberon called up to confuse the pairs of lovers. Recent upheavals may of course have played a part, but the problem seemed to me to go beyond that, as if not all the cast had totally grasped the part they had to play in the ballet and how they interrelated. By the next afternoon (although barely, given the incredibly early starting time - did the ROH manage to make any decent use of the stage between this performance and the evening one to justify it, I wonder?) things seemed to have settled somewhat: McRae's dancing seemed more even than it had the previous night, and, unsurprisingly, his Oberon had better rapport with Roberta Marquez' Titania - I found myself liking her more in this role than when I had seen her previously. The whole thing seemed a lot sharper and with better dramatic logic and interactions than the night before, although still not as good as performances I'd seen in previous runs. I must also mention that I liked the Bottom of Bennet Gartside very much: he seems to have had a good year this season, despite what may have seemed a not particularly auspicious start.

 

To contrast with my experience with The Dream, I stood almost mesmerised through the 65 minutes of Song of the Earth on the first night: a good cast, although I was particularly struck by Lauren Cuthbertson as the fourth-song girl - she looked almost radiant through much of the proceedings. It will be interesting to see if she ultimately graduates to the Woman and, if so, what she will bring to that part. Two performances within 24 hours did however prove a little difficult to digest as far as I was concerned - or possibly I just need to be standing where my view forces me to focus on the dancing more.

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I love The Dream: it's one of my very favourite ballets. I also think it's one of Ashton's greatest masterpieces. Yet at the first-night performance I was struggling to believe either of those statements. The whole ballet seemed to me to be unfocussed, and lacking in clarity - almost in as much of a fog as the one which Oberon called up to confuse the pairs of lovers. Recent upheavals may of course have played a part, but the problem seemed to me to go beyond that, as if not all the cast had totally grasped the part they had to play in the ballet and how they interrelated.

 

Absolutely agree, Alison - more than once I found myself thinking that if I didn't know what company I was watching I'd think they'd learnt it from a video and badly needed someone to help bring it all together. (Enigma looked much the same.)

 

Fascinating to see Gomes as Oberon - about as different from McRae as it's possible to imagine. I really admired his authority and presence but thought he was a touch too human and nice.

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...and I meant to say, for me neither McRae nor Gomes consoled me for the loss of what Polunin might have made of it. Of all the ridiculous number of debuts he was scheduled for over the rest of the season, Oberon was the one I most looked forward to seeing.

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...and I meant to say, for me neither McRae nor Gomes consoled me for the loss of what Polunin might have made of it. Of all the ridiculous number of debuts he was scheduled for over the rest of the season, Oberon was the one I most looked forward to seeing.

 

I agree, sucha loss, even though I loved Gomes, a great artist, and I hope he will dance again with Cojocaru in a narrative ballet. But as for Sergei's debut, I would give the fist position to La Sylphide: Polunin is exactly the man and the dancer I'd love to see dancing James.

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Fascinating to see Gomes as Oberon - about as different from McRae as it's possible to imagine. I really admired his authority and presence but thought he was a touch too human and nice.

 

The authority and presence I noticed the minute he stepped on stage: you'd certainly never have thought he was guesting at short notice in an unfamiliar theatre - he seemed to own the stage (am I right in thinking that ABT's production is identical to the Royal's? In that case, that would be less surprising). The story's narrative, including the pas de deux, and the mime and characterisation, felt a lot clearer to me although perhaps he was a little lacking in otherworldliness and a sense of cruelty. I'd agree with annamk that his dancing certainly wasn't the best I've seen in the role - although I wonder how viable a proposition it is for anyone to get into that role "from cold" in only a couple of days - but there was plenty there that I did like.

 

Incidentally, when reading the programme notes, I was very struck by David Vaughan's comment "But when Oberon and Titania come together in the final Nocturne pas de deux the choreography suddenly attains a depth of feeling that is scarcely hinted at in the play". I haven't experienced *that* much "depth of feeling" since the last time I saw the roles danced by Leanne Benjamin and Edward Watson in the previous run - you saw the reconciliation beginning and growing as they moved through the pas de deux, and by the end it became clear that it would be taken to its natural conclusion later in the privacy of Titania's bower - but in the case of Gomes and Cojocaru the development was at least clear.

 

I must admit, though, that on the Polunin front I am still undecided - and we may never know.

Edited by alison

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I was rather underwhelmed by Gomes. Whilst his acting was excellent and his partnering of Cojocaru first rate (I particularly loved the end of the pd2 when he held her like a feather and looked like he could very easily break her in half), his fast footwork looked clumsy and there was nothing of Ashton in the performance. Having paid full price for my ticket I expect a full performance and so the fact that a number of steps were missed (and not even attempted) is not really acceptable. The suggestion that he may not have rehearsed much is not an excuse; surely he was brought in as a guest because he already knew the piece and, accordingly, required minimal rehearsal.

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For those who enjoyed these performances as much as I did (I was at the February 8 & 9 evenings) could I recommend the following video. It's the ABT version of "The Dream" with Ethan Stiefel, Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo. I think that it compares very favorably with what I saw last week and makes a delightful souvenir and compliment to the wonderful London performances. Alessandra Ferri as Titania is a gem and a beautiful compliment to Alina Cojocaru's outstanding Titania. Ethan Stiefel as Oberon is charming and Herman Cornejo at his prime as Puck is not to be believed !

 

In regard to Marcelo Gomes, those who may have been fortunate enough to see him dance ABT's "Swan Lake" in London several years ago with Veronika Part will have seen him at his finest. I've seen him many times and he is usually Electric ! He was when he danced "La Bayadere" twice with ! Veronika ! two weeks ago in Washington DC. He had to cover a lot of ground last week to be in London in a completely different setting. If you see this man when he is in top form, which is almost always, and in a 'magical' partnership, such as his many with Veronika Part, you will be in for a super treat.

 

I loved Alina ! I always do ! Her "Giselle" at the Mariinsky Festival last year was a performance never to be forgotten !

 

Thought that Roberta Marquez was absolutely charming as Titania.

 

LIked all the featured women in "Song of the Earth" very much.

 

Carlos Acosta and Steven McRae were very good. I'm particularly interested in following Carlos Acosta as he moves more into different dance forms. I think that he will be remarkable !

 

Thought that the women of the Corps de Ballet were Wonderful in both "The Dream" and "Song of the Earth" .

 

All in all a Wonderful two evenings !

Edited by Buddy

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For those who enjoyed these performances as much as I did (I was at the February 8 & 9 evenings) could I recommend the following video. It's the ABT version of "The Dream" with Ethan Stiefel, Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo. I think that it compares very favorably with what I saw last week and makes a delightful souvenir and compliment to the wonderful London performances. Alessandra Ferri as Titania is a gem and a beautiful compliment to Alina Cojocaru's outstanding Titania. Ethan Stiefel as Oberon is charming and Herman Cornejo at his prime as Puck is not to be believed !

 

Interesting that you should mention that, Buddy. I was thinking about it only the other day: I watched it immediately after a run of Royal Ballet performances (I think 2 runs back), and decided that the RB won about 2-1 (that's not a reflection on individual dancers, more how much of the performance I spent thinking "that bit's better than RB" and "I prefer the RB in this bit"). On this showing, I think it would have been more like a 1-1 draw :). I agree that Cornejo was stunning (is he still injured? I've lost track). I'm not sure I'd appreciate either Oberon or Titania being "charming" in this ballet, though ...

 

That reminds me: I was still disappointed - although rather less surprised by now - not to see Song of the Earth being filmed. I would have thought this year was an ideal opportunity to film all three of the MacMillan "choral/vocal" ballets for DVD, yet it hasn't happened. Of course, there is already a recording of SotE with Bussell et al, yet it's never been released commercially.

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I didn't know that Herman Cornejo was injured, Alison. If so I wish him the speediest of recoveries.

 

A few more words about Marcelo Gomes, because I think that he is great ! He is a rock solid partner, which is very important for the taller ballerinas like Veronika Part. They are totally secure with him and can let go in total confidence. While doing this he is completely unobtrusive, like any great male partner. He is very supportive psychologically as well. The ballerina has all the space that she needs, mentally and physically, to express herself to the maximum.

 

By himself, he is very entertaining. He indeed can command the stage. He can accomplish feats with a flourish. I would call him a personality dancer in the finest sense. He has a heart of gold. No matter whom he is portraying, he will probably make you smile, and this I think is great !

Edited by Buddy

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I have never seen the RB's performance of The Dream, and really wish they would bring out a DVD. I have the ABT one and Puck is indeed amazing. But having watched the footage of Ashton coaching Dowell and Sibley in the final pdd, it was clear that Ferri and Stiefel's version was very different. As for Titania being charming, Ashton says in that video that he didn't want her to be sweet but to have a farouche quality , which Sibley definitely has but Ferri doesn't.

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afds and Alison thanks for your insights. This is totally personal, but I go to the ballet to enter a dreamworld, to be Uplifted and made to feel Good. Everyone has their own ideas about these sort of things, (authenticity, purity of technique, the value of critical analysis, message, etc.), and for that person this is what really matters.

 

If Alessandra Ferri, Roberta Marquez or Marcelo Gomes can make me feel Uplifted and Good, than more power and thanks to them, from my personal appreciation of what they are doing anyway.

Edited by Buddy

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I have never seen the RB's performance of The Dream, and really wish they would bring out a DVD. I have the ABT one and Puck is indeed amazing. But having watched the footage of Ashton coaching Dowell and Sibley in the final pdd, it was clear that Ferri and Stiefel's version was very different. As for Titania being charming, Ashton says in that video that he didn't want her to be sweet but to have a farouche quality , which Sibley definitely has but Ferri doesn't.

 

I agree with you. I watched the clips of Ashton coaching Sibley and Dowell and then the clips of Stiefel and Ferri both on youtube. I didn't think they got what Ashton was looking for. The pdd has too much of the quality of a romantic pdd between two people, they don't capture the otherworldliness of the characters at all.

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