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Yes, I was there last night and not long home from the matinee.

 

So when this double bill of two ballets I love was announced I was a bit surprised that they were paired up.  However last night and this afternoon I thought they melded together very well.

 

Last night I thought Song got off to a tentative start but by the end shivers were running up and down my spine continuously.  Yes, this wonderful piece  worked its magic on me yet again!  The cast last night was led by Tamara Rojo, Joe Caley and guest Jeffrey Cirio with Senri Kou as the lady in the third song.  This afternoon the cast was led by Fernanda Oliveira, AitorArrieta and Ken Saruhashi with the divine Adela Ramirez as the lady in the third song.  I must mention Ken Saruhashi's very powerful performance as The Messenger.

 

La Sylphide is basically the production we saw at the Bournonville Festival in Copenhagen in 2005.  The Scottish costumes are a bit bright!  The lighting in Act 2, for my taste, is too bright.  It is, however, a gorgeously produced piece.  It has obviously been rigorously rehearsed and the dancers were totally (IMHO) the style.  On the first night Jurgita Dronina brought out the capricious nature of the Sylph and danced the role beautifully.  For me, Isaac Hernandez was a revelation - he was just FABULOUS as James both in terms of his acting and his divine dancing.  Anjuli Hudson struck just the right note as Effy and Giorgio Garrett was superb as Gurn.  It was a truly magical performance.  This afternoon Alison McWhinney was sublime as the Sylph.

 

ENB are most definitely on top form and have shown us the best of these 2 works.  I've got Saturday afternoon to look forward to now.

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Just back from this evening's performance and still buzzing.  I love the way that Macmillan in Song of the Earth captures the light and dark inherent in most of what Mahler wrote, possibly because it reflected the light and dark within himself.  I felt that ENB captured it every bit as well as RB did the two times I saw them do it the other season and the end, as usual, had me in bits.   In response to the query above, the singers were two new names to me - Flora McIntosh, who was good but a bit underpowered in the lower registers and Simon Gfeller, who was stronger, and nicely dramatic where required, though with occasional pitch problems.

 

I've wanted to see La Sylphide ever since seeing some Royal Danish Ballet dancers do a truncated version of Act II at the Peacock Theatre a few years ago, and it didn't disappoint - in fact it positively dazzled.  To my admittedly untutored eyes they seemed to have got the Bournonville style pretty well - the ensemble dance at the end of Act I being a particular treat.  Rina Kanehara and Joseph Caley were outstanding as the Sylphide and James.  The way Rina's expression changed from the purest love to the deepest despair on being given the scarf was especially affecting.  One oddity though - the orchestra sailed through the difficulties of the Mahler and yet there were a number of distinctly dodgy passages in La Sylphide, especially in the strings - I guess they don't get to play Løvenskiold all that often!

 

In the corps for La Sylphide was Rhys Yeomans, who won the ballet category at the recent Young Dancer of the Year competition, and sitting behind me was his dad.  I got into conversation with him - a really nice guy and as Manchester as they come.  You've also never seen a father more proud of his son!  

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I also attended the season premiere of this programme at Manchester Palace on Wed 11th like Janet. I found it a quite a profound and revealing evening of exceptional quality, which was a privilege to have a chance to see. I've not seen either ballet - does any balletco member know when the last time Song of the Earth or La Sylphide was performed in Manchester (or in the northwest England full stop for that matter) ?

 

I was quite entranced by Song for the first moment. For me, the dramatic impact of the simple aesthetic, the wonderful music (I'm quite unfamiliar with Mahler) and the singers on stage (MAB, my cast sheet has the Contralto as Rhonda Browne and the Tenor as Samuel Sakker) had great impact and the first song (all male) somehow immediately spoke to me, instantly, I thought it very beautiful. I'm usually quite narrow in my ballet taste and limited to the classical canon, but if any ballet has encouraged me to explore 20th century choreographic movements, I think it would be this one (I've only seen one other MacMillan ballet - Romeo and Juliet, which didn't have the same effect, nor did - for example - the new Khan Giselle which many are raving about). For me a large part of the revelation was the mesmerising performance of Rojo as The Woman; perhaps it is the cult of personality, but her presence as a dancer and ability to express herself in motion is so absolutely convincing. The final tableau of the the trio slowly stepping forward on the stage as the curtain went down was just so perfect - shivers as Janet says. As ChrisG says, the representation of Mahler's music in dance in this ballet really seems a work of genius. If I'd heard the music alone I would have thought it nearly impossible to use in a ballet. 

 

La Sylphide I would normally expect to more be my cup of tea, a priori.  And it was, except I found the Scottish party scenes rather dragged in the same way I find the party stuff in Nutcracker drags, but the denouement of Act I where James disappears from the wedding is a wonderful bit of theatre. The music is fabulous - stirring, dramatic and thrilling. Isaac Hernandez is a dancer of such presence and ability  - a real danseur noble. I have seen him dance several times with ENB and am glad Janet praises his acting, this is the only area where I have the slightest doubts - perhaps it is just me. Speaking of acting - I found Jane Haworth absolutely superb as Madge, probably the best acting of the evening for me. 

 

However my overall highlight was the privilege of seeing Jurgita Dronina dance live. A while ago I 'discovered' her on YouTube and quickly devoured her recorded performances in the classics. I never dreamt I would see her dance in my local theatre and enjoyed every moment she was on stage.

 

Rojo and Dronina in Manchester in one evening and nearly 3 hours of exquisite ballet make me feel the price of my ticket in the circle almost laughably cheap (ATG card and first night offer). I'd be going to see this double bill again if circumstances allowed. 

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9 hours ago, northstar said:

As ChrisG says, the representation of Mahler's music in dance in this ballet really seems a work of genius. If I'd heard the music alone I would have thought it nearly impossible to use in a ballet. 

 

Welcome to the Mahler fan club, northstar!  I wasn't too familiar with his music until I started singing the choral lines in his 2nd and 8th symphonies a few years back, but now he's a composer I return to again and again.  His life was troubled, with his ever present health problems, the death of his children, the troubled relationship with his wife and not least the difficulty of being Jewish in pre-WW1 Austrian and German society.  And yet out of it came, music that to me is the most life-affirming music I know.  I dare anyone to listen to the great choral climaxes at the end of the 2nd and 8th symphonies and not go away feeling better about the world, about life and about yourself! I'm singing Mahler 2 in Nottingham at the end of the season and am already smiling at the prospect!  I agree that his music doesn't seem an obvious fit for a ballet, but I guess it is Macmillan's genius that he saw something in Das Lied von der Erde and was able to bring it out so wonderfully.  And I would think there are Mahler works that would more obviously fit the ballet bill, especially given his love of folk song and of dance rhythms, such as the Austrian ländlers that crop up again and again in his music.  I was thinking Das Knaben Wunderhorn would fit the bill and a quick google search shows that John Neumeier has already choreographed it - that's a ballet I would go and see!

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6 hours ago, ChrisG said:

I agree that his music doesn't seem an obvious fit for a ballet, but I guess it is Macmillan's genius that he saw something in Das Lied von der Erde and was able to bring it out so wonderfully.  And I would think there are Mahler works that would more obviously fit the ballet bill, especially given his love of folk song and of dance rhythms, such as the Austrian ländlers that crop up again and again in his music.  I was thinking Das Knaben Wunderhorn would fit the bill and a quick google search shows that John Neumeier has already choreographed it - that's a ballet I would go and see!

 

And even more credit is due to Antony Tudor for setting Kindertotenlieder (not exactly jaunty stuff) back in 1937, perhaps: MacMillan would unquestionably have been aware of, if not familiar with, Dark Elegies.

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8 hours ago, ChrisG said:

 

Welcome to the Mahler fan club, northstar!  I wasn't too familiar with his music until I started singing the choral lines in his 2nd and 8th symphonies a few years back, but now he's a composer I return to again and again.  His life was troubled, with his ever present health problems, the death of his children, the troubled relationship with his wife and not least the difficulty of being Jewish in pre-WW1 Austrian and German society.  And yet out of it came, music that to me is the most life-affirming music I know.  I dare anyone to listen to the great choral climaxes at the end of the 2nd and 8th symphonies and not go away feeling better about the world, about life and about yourself! I'm singing Mahler 2 in Nottingham at the end of the season and am already smiling at the prospect!  I agree that his music doesn't seem an obvious fit for a ballet, but I guess it is Macmillan's genius that he saw something in Das Lied von der Erde and was able to bring it out so wonderfully.  And I would think there are Mahler works that would more obviously fit the ballet bill, especially given his love of folk song and of dance rhythms, such as the Austrian ländlers that crop up again and again in his music.  I was thinking Das Knaben Wunderhorn would fit the bill and a quick google search shows that John Neumeier has already choreographed it - that's a ballet I would go and see!

 

John Neumeier has choreographed HUGE amounts of Mahler. His "3rd Symphony of Gustav Mahler" is fabulous.  (sorry, wandering off the ENB topic).

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Yesterday's matinee performance of La Sylphide was, IMHO, very special indeed.  Rina Kanehara was featherlight and gorgeously romantic in style as The Sylph and she acted it so well too - she brought out all the capriciousness of the character.  Her James was guest Ciro Tamayo who displayed, for me, a glorious Bournonville technique.  I think the whole company sparked off these performances and the whole thing was just breath-taking.

 

As my third performance of the week I have also seen the Company delving more and more into Song of the Earth and we were treated to a very moving performance yesterday afternoon.  Again, Adela Ramirez excelled in the Third Song and throughout.  Ken Saruhashi is just immense as the Messenger.

 

Well done ENB - you have nailed this wonderful programme!

 

It was lovely meeting other forum members too.  Thanks Living the Dream, Now Voyager and Don Q Fan.  I hope you all enjoyed the performance as much as I did.

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Totally agree with Janet - the matinee was great.  The evening Song was really good too with Tamara Rojo dancing as wonderful as ever.  I was surprised that I found Song to be OK - and I loved the music and the third section was really good - the choreography was great in that piece! 

DMR9HhzXUAE3nOW.jpg

Fernanda Oliveira/Aitor Arrieta

 

DMR9UokWAAE7FKj.jpg

Aaron Robison/Tamara Rojo/Samuel Sakker/Rhonda Brown/Joseph Caley

 

Sadly the evening La Sylphide was pretty much ruined for me by the most awful neighbours either side who only turned up for La Sylphide and used their phones and talked ALL the way through Sylphide - why did they bother coming?  That aside it was lovely to see Jurgita Dronina but not even Isaac Hernandez could improve upon the matinee's Ciro Tamayo as James!  Ciro's ballon was amazing and he was just wonderful. Reading up about him it transpires he's from Malaga Spain so I wonder if that is how Ms Rojo knows of him and he trained in Madrid and London, graduating from the Royal Ballet School.  He is now principal at the National Ballet in Uruguay - hope he gets poached!   I must also mention Connie Vowles who I thought was a delightful Effy and James Streeter and Fabian Reimar had a ball as Bimse and Bumse!! Anyway I got some nice curtain call photos if anyone is interested.

DMNX2-2XUAE3aZT.jpg

Rina Kanehara, Ciro Tamayo, Connie Vowles

 

DMNDxXbWsAkAzcY.jpgStina Quagebeur, Gavin Sutherland, Jurgita Dronina, Isaac Hernandez, Anjuli Hudson

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I agree that the Saturday matinee was outstanding with strong performances in Song of the earth and La Sylphide. Notably from Fernanda, Adela and Connie Vowles in Song of the earth. Also, Connie Vowles's debut as Effy in the evening performance was lovely. 

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^^ Think you mean Connie debuted as Effy in the matinee - Anjuli Hudson played the role in the evening.  And yes she was lovely as Effy,  I preferred the matinee performance of La Sylphide to the evening overall.

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What size were the audiences in Manchester through the week? On opening night the grand tier was closed, which I must admit I expected, and to be honest I thought it could be much worse. Most other seats were well occupied, and the audience gave a great reaction which I hope the dancers enjoyed.

 

I'm so grateful for the existence of ENB and it's bringing of Song and the Earth and Sylphide (with globally top rank dancers) to a theatre on my door stop. Who knows when these ballet will next be danced again in the northwest?

 

I remember an interview with Wayne Eagling saying when ENB took Manon to Manchester the audience was something like 'two men and a dog' , and I was worried something similar might happen with this double bill. 

 

Great photos DQF, brings back memories of the romantic beauty with which Sylphide was presented and performed - I wish I could have gone to more than one performance last week. 

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13 hours ago, northstar said:

I'm so grateful for the existence of ENB and it's bringing of Song and the Earth and Sylphide (with globally top rank dancers) to a theatre on my door stop. Who knows when these ballet will next be danced again in the northwest?

 

1 hour ago, RHowarth said:

Grand tier was closed on the Thursday matinee. I was moved to the dress circle which sadly wasn’t full either. 

 

Exactly, northstar.  Unfortunately, if the response continues to be as RHowarth indicates, I fear that will only undermine the argument for taking them out there in the first place instead of just keeping them in London.

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30 minutes ago, alison said:

 

 

Exactly, northstar.  Unfortunately, if the response continues to be as RHowarth indicates, I fear that will only undermine the argument for taking them out there in the first place instead of just keeping them in London.

 

Would London be able to support 2 "full-time" ballet companies?

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On 10/15/2017 at 15:58, Jan McNulty said:

Yesterday's matinee performance of La Sylphide was, IMHO, very special indeed.  Rina Kanehara was featherlight and gorgeously romantic in style as The Sylph and she acted it so well too - she brought out all the capriciousness of the character.  

 

I totally agree, Janet. I saw Rina Kanehara in Milton Keynes yesterday afternoon. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better performance of the Sylph, and that includes those who danced the role in the Royal Ballet performances of the Johan Kobborg production ( Alina Cojocaru, Sarah Lamb, Roberta Marquez and Tamara Rojo).  Not only was Rina’s dancing absolutely gorgeous but her characterisation was spot on, initially playful and teasing  yet unbearably moving towards the end when the poisoned scarf causes her to lose her wings and die.  A very, very special performance. 

 I also enjoyed Francesca Velicu and William Beagley as Effy and Gurn and Connie Vowles impressed as the First Sylph and also as Nancy (Effy's friend)  Laura Hussey's Madge was excellent and equalled the performance I saw by Jane Haworth earlier in the week.

 

Edited for incorrect spelling of dancer's name

Edited by Bluebird
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I was at Milton Keynes for the matinee yesterday. I’ll not say much about Song of the Earth as whilst I enjoyed it I do find Song quite hard work to fully appreciate what it’s trying to tell me. My wife was with me and she is not a ballet fan but she also enjoyed it but thought it was a bit long. I’m very pleased she liked it though as somehow I have convinced her to go again on Saturday!

According to the cast list the singers were Rhonda Browne and Samuel Sakker. The cast list also says the conductor was Gavin Sutherland but I think it was Misato Tomita…

La Sylphide was totally fantastic. I’ve only seen the Royal Danish Ballet DVD recording before and had high hopes that I would love La Sylphide. We both did, it was exactly as I had hoped it would be. Rina Kanehara as the Sylph was like a butterfly flitting around the stage and so graceful and so facially expressive. The whole cast completely nailed the storytelling and mime and made it so easy to follow the ballet. All the leads were good but I especially enjoyed William Beagley’s characterisation as Gurn. Assuming the First Sylph is the one that does the Myrtha-like entrance near the start of Act 2 and assuming the cast list is correct then I also very much liked Connie Vowles.

There was some unwanted excitement near the end of Act 1 when one of the young children got a bit carried away with his dancing and fell off the stage into the orchestra pit! He was caught by the safety net :). The orchestra played on and I’m not sure a lot of the dancers knew what had happened as he was now out of sight in the net. He clambered back on stage and was carried off. He appeared in Act 2 and was at the curtain calls at the end where he got his own round of applause. Phew – it was a bit worrying at the time!

The Milton Keynes audience were very appreciative of both ballets.

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1 hour ago, Jan McNulty said:

 

Would London be able to support 2 "full-time" ballet companies?

 

I wasn't suggesting that, Jan, just that if bills like this don't sell well outside London, and given finances being as they are, there might be a financial argument for sticking with the blockbusters on tour, which I don't think is in anyone's interest, and certainly not that of ballet audiences outside the South-East.

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8 hours ago, Bluebird said:

Not only was Rina’s dancing absolutely gorgeous but her characterisation was spot on, initially playful and teasing  yet unbearably moving towards the end when the poisoned scarf causes her to lose her wings and die.  A very, very special performance. 

 

I saw Rina in Manchester and absolutely agree with you, Bluebird. I see from the ENB website that she's had an extra show as the Sylph tonight, replacing Jurgita Dronina.

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