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Northern Ballet - Casanova - Spring Tour 2017


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Northern Ballet's Casanova has its world premiere in Leeds on Saturday.

 

Please use this thread to give us your thoughts on the production.

 

Northern Ballet has got a comprehensive mini-site with photogallery, scenario, trailer and more:  

 

https://northernballet.com/casanova/mini#firstFrame

 

The BBC has also published a photogallery:

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-39179575

 

 

I will be reporting back after the premiere!

 

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WOW, WOW and more WOW!!!

 

Casanova is a visual and aural experience - it really hits your senses.  Giuliano Contadini in the eponymous role was a tour de force.

 

There was a well deserved standing ovation at the end.

 

I can't wait to see it again!

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I'm going next Saturday and I can't wait. I watched Casanova Unmasked on the Northern Ballet website and had to book tickets straight away! If you can't get to the Ballet I'd recommend watching that. It is fascinating to see how it has all been put together.

Edited by Yorkshire Pud
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The photos look great.  Thanks, Janet.  So looking forward to seeing this.

 

This country is bless to have truly fantastic artistic directors the like of David Nixon, Kevin O'Hare and Tamara Rojo running key companies.  The boundaries they are pushing - and dancers they are developing - all bode well for the health of ballet in our country.  No thanks is too much.  

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The photos look great.  Thanks, Janet.  So looking forward to seeing this.

 

This country is bless to have truly fantastic artistic directors the like of David Nixon, Kevin O'Hare and Tamara Rojo running key companies.  The boundaries they are pushing - and dancers they are developing - all bode well for the health of ballet in our country.  No thanks is too much.  

 

 

And David Bintley...

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I was at last night's show though I nearly missed it because of gridlocked traffic. 

 

I have been following Northern Ballet for many years and have seen many of the company's performances in my time.

It has been many years since I enjoyed one of their performances as much as I enjoyed Casanova last night.

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I'm still buzzing over Saturday night's premiere.

 

The audience excitement before the start was palpable (I can't remember such a level of excitement since the premiere of Cleopatra 6 years ago).  The front cloth of enormous, slightly abstract red roses was attracting a lot of approving comments (Including mine).

 

When the curtain rose it was to see a set of simplicity but absolute grandeur.  Three giant, mirrored columns and an incense censer dispensing haze.  The set was so very clever, simple but grand and very versatile - it even made the stage at the Grand look enormous.  The three columns seemed to be lit from within and were moved around to give the idea of different locations.  The opening scene was in a cathedral.  The removal of censer and its replacement with a chandelier moves the action from the cathedral to Bragadin's palazzo.

 

In Act 2 the ballet is set in Paris and Versailles and the columns were opened out more to give the impression of the mirrored hallways of the Palace.

 

On reading the synopsis, one may think the story is over-complicated but it proved very easy to follow the action.  In fact it is not so much story-telling as a series of vignettes of Casanova's long life.

 

At the opening we see the newly installed Cardinal de Bernis arriving for a mass in his honour, accompanied by nuns and priests.  Trainee priest Casanova arrives late with his pupils.  From his first entrance Giuliano Contadini's command of the stage is absolute and I just could not take my eyes off him.

 

Jeremy Curnier plays the priest Balbi who has a proscribed book which he gives to Casanova and is then forced to name him through torture by the inquisition.  Jeremy was totally subsumed into the role of the tortured priest but then in act 2 and in complete contrast played a castrato.

 

The music is filmic in its construction and very well matches the action on stage.  The costumes are just gorgeous, period appropriate but deconstructed would be my best way of describing them.  The wigs are just awesome!  Apart from when they are performing one of the named roles, because of the wigs and masks the dancers are almost impossible to identify.  I very quickly gave that up and just enjoyed the performance.

 

Javier Torres gave us a nuanced, very effective, performance as the mincing Bragadin (he will also be performing the titular role) who attempts to seduce Casanova.

 

There are, as we might expect, a number of seduction scenes - all with different ladies.  There's a very clever duet with the lady cellist Balleti (danced with great lyricism and fluidity by Ayami Myata) where she becomes the instrument that Casanova is playing.

 

The duet with the nun MM is athletic and erotic.  MM was danced by guest artist Ailen Ramos Betancourt who has lovely lines and a very expressive face.

 

In Act 2 Madame de Pompadour was danced with power and expression by that wonderful dance actress Victoria Sibson.  Her command of the stage was total.

 

Casanova meets two more great loves during this period.  Bellino is a woman pretending to be a castrato pretending to be a woman (Shakespeare couldn't have written this!).  Dreda Blow was just glorious in this role and her duet with Casanova is both tender and moving.  He is intrigued by her ... is convinced this Castrato is a woman and eventually wins her trust enough that she lets him find out she is a woman.

 

The love of Casanova's life was Henriette, an abused wife.  His duet with her is very moving.  He shows that he is also an intellectual and rushes away from Henriette to meet Voltaire.  When he returns Henriette has gone back to her husband and he is devastated.  He turns to a life of debauchery which Henriette witnesses as she comes back with her baby.  Hannah Bateman was incandescent in this role.

 

We are left with Casanova's memories as he starts to write his memoirs.

 

Kenneth Tindall choreographs in the classical idiom but makes beautiful and modern looking movements.  To me his style looks quite European as though he has been influenced by the like of Jiri Kylian.  His works have all been very watchable and have borne repeated viewings.  Casanova is no exception and, in fact, Kenny has given us a magnificent work that, to me, shows his versatility as a choreographer and a translator of stories.

 

Casanova is a huge visual and aural experience.  It is a melding of artistic disciplines with the best of outcomes.  Of course this would not have been possible without the wonderful dancers of Northern Ballet who gave 110% and were showing their obvious pleasure at being involved in this landmark performance.  It was obvious as the curtain fell at the end of Act 1 that the majority of the audience was enjoying the experience.  There was a well-deserved standing ovation and much cheering at the end.

 

This is a complex and deep work that will, in my opinion, bear repeated viewings.  I can't wait to see it again this coming weekend and at a couple of other venues. 

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Thanks for that lovely review, Janet.  I so wish I could see this.  I don't suppose they are filming it at all?  This is the kind of ballet that should get national air time from the sounds of it;  I am sure many people would be interested in the subject matter and in how it is portrayed through ballet. 

 

However, your reviews are the next best thing.  Thank you!

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.........................  I don't suppose they are filming it at all?  ....................

 

Funny you should say that, Sim. I interviewed Tindall for 45 minutes about his work 2 weeks ago and much of our discussion was on the interface and overlap between the cinema and dance. He has already made a film of his one act ballet "The Architect".  

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I can't wait to see the matinee this coming Saturday.  Fingers crossed that the performance won't be cancelled due to the danger of the Grand Theatre's roof being blown off by gale-force winds, which is what happened the last time I went to see Northern Ballet!

I guess that's one way of being blown away by a performance!

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Standing ovation tonight too, with Javier Torres as Casanova, and well deserved. It was simply breathtaking at times, and there were audible gasps both arising from the audience's emotional connection to the story and also at various points from the sheer sensuous and sensational artistry on display. See it if you possibly can!

Edited by YorkshirePudding
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I saw the final three performances of Casanova in Leeds last weekend.

 

Because it was a naughty little extra I found myself sitting in the circle on Friday evening.  I was particularly interested to see how the lighting worked from upstairs, given how dark much of the set is.  All I can say is that Alastair West is a lighting genius!!!  Dark yes ... but you can see the dancers perfectly.  The set, by Christopher Oram, is even more impressive from upstairs - the gorgeous pillars lit from within, the book that Casanova is given lighting up when opened, the tops of the gaming tables in act 2 highlighted, the floor patterning ... I could go on ad infinitum but suggest you go and see this amazing production for yourselves!  I just love the "deconstructed" costumes.

 

Over the weekend we saw all three casts.  On Friday Javier Torres danced the role with great power and finely etched detail.  His duet with Hannah Bateman as the Nun MM was sizzling in a lovely contrast with his tender duets with Bellino (Abigail Prudames) and Henriette (Antoinette Brooks-Daw).

 

Joseph Taylor made his debut as Casanova on Saturday afternoon.  I felt he got a huge degree of pathos in the role and perhaps aged more visibly during the performance than either Giuliano or Javier.  He really was a YOUNG trainee priest, led astray...  His duet with Balletti (Dominique LaRose) was gorgeously fluid.  Minju Kang was a real siren as MM.  Lucia Solari was divine as Bellino and again their duet flowed and I found it very moving.  He and Dreda Blow (Henriette) moved me to tears in their duet.

 

Giuliano's cast, as described further up the thread, gave us an awesome performance to end the run in Leeds.

 

So four performances later and I have come to the conclusion that Kenny Tindall has produced a masterpiece!  It is a work that, for me, bears repeated viewings as I noticed more with every performance.  Fortunately I have got more performances booked!

 

It really is Casanova's ballet and the fact that Northern Ballet has given us three different but equally magnificent Casanovas is testament to the current strength and depth of the company.  I would say that it doesn't really matter which cast you see - they are all terrific.  The whole company is looking fabulous.  I particularly loved the trio of violinists as danced by Kevin Poeung, Matthew Koon and Riku Ito who all danced gusto and panache.

 

The Company has issued a new trailer today:

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I saw the matinee in Sheffield yesterday and couldn't fail to be impressed. Janet has already given a comprehensive description of the plot, which is also well covered in the programme. It is very helpful to have some foretaste of what is happening on stage although I agree, once characters are established the story telling here is such that it is easy to follow. 

The staging is stunning in its immediate and continuing visual impact. You really feel you are there in Venice and later at Versailles, with all the colours, fashion and etiquette. I loved the costumes and the dancing is second to none. It is a very physical piece with constant action and I was thinking how fit these dancers must be but nevertheless, what a demand on their stamina with all the touring. 

The choreography is interesting and instantly grabs your attention, a clever mix of old and new.  It all seemed of its time and yet modern. The performance moved along at a cracking pace, there were no longeurs or fillers. Kenneth Tindall certainly knows how to tell a story coherently. There was a lot of action but each scene segued seamlessly into the next and it all fit together as a whole. There was an easy blend of intrigue, romance, tastefully done inter personal relations and even humour. The latter can be hard to achieve sometimes and often feels shoehorned in to get an easy laugh. In this case, I liked the scene where Casanova was having his portrait painted by an Andy Warhol lookalike and they were having some artistic differences.

 I felt enough  aspects of Casanova's life were included to flesh him out as a real person. Mr Tindall has the skill to know what to put in or leave out as a choreographer, so you feel the story is told but in good time, not rushed or tediously long winded and repetitive. Less is more as it were. There are some current choreographers I can think of who could watch and learn from this production.

There is a good range of other characters and I felt yesterday's Casanova - Joseph Taylor - along with in particular Minju Kang, Lucia Solari and Dreda Blow gave exceptionally nuanced performances.

Finally, the score and this is my only criticism. I liked the music and I agree it is filmic in scope. It had some nice recurring themes and was absolutely right for the occasion. It was just, for my taste anyway, too loud. I don't know if it has anything to do with the accoustics or size of the theatre - the Lyceum is not a large venue - but by the time we reached the interval my ears felt battered. There were some scenes where a softer volume would have been more in keeping with the action and others where the volume was indeed more controlled. But even then, it wasn't long before the orchestra was back up to max and it did have the effect of smothering some of the action that should have been allowed to speak for itself  as it were. This is no criticism of the orchestra - they played  the score beautifully and it was an attractive score.  It was just almost relentlessly too loud. I heard some other people comment on this after the performance so it wasn't just me and my sensitive ears.

All in all, a very enjoyable afternoon. I'd recommend this ballet and would certainly go and see it again.

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Have just read Judith Mackrell's review in the Guardian courtesy of our links. We are all entitled to an opinion and we all see things in different ways. However, in this instance I have to say, for what it's worth, I categorically disagree with her opinion of this production. 

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Pleasure to meet you too Janet!

 

I have to say, I was blown away by the performance yesterday afternoon in Norwich. Janet and Jacqueline have already left far more eloquent reviews than I could ever hope to write, but just to add that you won't be disappointed Fonty, and I would encourage anyone who hasn't yet got tickets to go and see it. I love the fact that NB take risks, and show different styles.

 

The set and lighting are so clever - simple, but you literally feel as if you're in a cathedral with the huge columns, and the beautiful glass mirrored doors of Casanova's apartment give a real sense of how lavish it is.

 

The costumes and wigs were amazing and I thought every dancer gave it their all. Dreda Blow was particularly moving.

 

I sat in the front row, and it was great to see the orchestra, and it wasn't too loud at all - maybe different acoustics in different theatres....

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