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Richard LH

The Royal Ballet: The Nutcracker, December 2018 - January 2019

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I totally disagree.  I think it's a lovely production.  I have been watching Nutcrackers in various parts of the world for more than 50 years, and I have never yet seen a perfect one.  I always find the first 3/4 of the first act quite boring, no matter whose version I am seeing.  Yes,  that includes BRB's and ENB's (all of them).  The music dictates what is happening onstage, and there isn't too much more you can do with it than watch a family Christmas Eve party.  There is a bit of entertainment for the children, some dancing and drinking for the adults...this happens in many homes at Christmas so this conveying of Christmas Eve is not so unusual. And yes Ivy Lin, there were and are very rich people with very big houses. This house looks very big because it's on a very big stage, and needs room for a very big Christmas tree and very big props during the dream sequence.  And don't forget, this isn't realism ballet, it's simply a magical story.  

 

I can't see how the RB version 'is a waste of talented dancers.'  What more would you have them do?  Where there is music to dance, there are dancers dancing.  I first saw Clara participating in the divertissements in SPW's BRB version.  I really disliked it, and I am not a big fan now, but as Lizbie says it gives a young ballerina the chance to dance a lot on stage and gain some valuable classical experience.  I do agree that the wigs have to go, but I love the costumes.  And I welcome the tweaks.  If there weren't any tweaks to production and choreography, I am sure some people would be moaning about the production saying it's stale because it never changes.  

 

Anyway, interesting to read all the different viewpoints (and this is one of the few instances where all the critics gave it 4-5 stars when it opened earlier this month).

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I'm not a huge Nutcracker fan but there is no obligation on anyone to watch it and the RB's production, along with others, gives generations of children (and others) a lot of seasonal pleasure. It feels somewhat Scrooge-like to knock that.

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And it also gives all the White Lodge children a wonderful opportunity to join the company and put into practice all the hard work they do in attempting to become ballet dancers. 

I’m pretty certain that all the former White Lodgers, whether or not still with the RB, have fond memories of debuting as a soldier or mouse. 

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1 hour ago, Sim said:

I totally disagree.  I think it's a lovely production.  I have been watching Nutcrackers in various parts of the world for more than 50 years, and I have never yet seen a perfect one.  I always find the first 3/4 of the first act quite boring, no matter whose version I am seeing.  Yes,  that includes BRB's and ENB's (all of them).  The music dictates what is happening onstage, and there isn't too much more you can do with it than watch a family Christmas Eve party.  There is a bit of entertainment for the children, some dancing and drinking for the adults...this happens in many homes at Christmas so this conveying of Christmas Eve is not so unusual. And yes Ivy Lin, there were and are very rich people with very big houses. This house looks very big because it's on a very big stage, and needs room for a very big Christmas tree and very big props during the dream sequence.  And don't forget, this isn't realism ballet, it's simply a magical story.  

 

I can't see how the RB version 'is a waste of talented dancers.'  What more would you have them do?  Where there is music to dance, there are dancers dancing.  I first saw Clara participating in the divertissements in SPW's BRB version.  I really disliked it, and I am not a big fan now, but as Lizbie says it gives a young ballerina the chance to dance a lot on stage and gain some valuable classical experience.  I do agree that the wigs have to go, but I love the costumes.  And I welcome the tweaks.  If there weren't any tweaks to production and choreography, I am sure some people would be moaning about the production saying it's stale because it never changes.  

 

Anyway, interesting to read all the different viewpoints (and this is one of the few instances where all the critics gave it 4-5 stars when it opened earlier this month).

 

My favorite Nutcrackers are George Balanchine's version which really gives very young ballet students a chance to shine, and has a much more intimate Christmas party. I also enjoyed Alexei Ratmansky's version, and Mark Morris's The Hard Nut. Also enjoyed on video the Kent Stowell production.

 

I just find that every year Peter Wright's version gets stuffier. I adored the Collier/Dowell video as well as the version he made for BRB so many years ago. But that video now seems quaint in its simplicity and charm and I think the RB production is overstuffed. Sometimes you get subtraction from addition.

Edited by Ivy Lin
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Compliments of the Season to one and all from Singapore. Thank you for sharing your views and reviews here, I am lapping it all up as this is the closest I'll get to "watching" the RB's Nutcracker. What little of it I've watched on YouTube looks lovely (Ms Nunez and Mr Muntagirov do make it all look so effortless) and since I am a huge fan of the RB, I'll take what I can get, be it excessive children on stage, Clara and HP dancing with the Snowflakes etc! Best wishes to everyone for the new year. 

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Thank you Seok, and welcome to the forum!  I'm glad you are enjoying the posts and the YouTube clips.  If you can watch the whole production (there are DVDs available),  we would be very glad to know what you think.  Best seasonal wishes to you too!

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1 hour ago, capybara said:

 gives generations of children (and others) a lot of seasonal pleasure.

And in many cases, a lifelong love and passion for ballet.  My first Nut was the Balanchine version at NYCB, and that is what I saw throughout my childhood.  It hooked me onto an artform that has given me so much pleasure for more than 50 years.  I know that the magic of this RB version has done the same for two generations of children, including my own daughter.  

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I think that all of Ivy Lin's criticisms are valid and legitimate; though as Sim says there's no such thing as a perfect Nutcracker, and I don't think think it's fruitful to be overly critical about any one version of a ballet which is on several layers an exercise in nostalgia, it's important to be reminded sometimes of different views.

 

As an illustration: though many North Americans naturally see the Balanchine version as the ne plus ultra of Nutcrackers, not having been brought up on it I don't find his SPF pdd an improvement on the "mostly Petipa" RB version, and though it's been a while since I saw it as a whole, I mostly remember wondering what all the fuss was about - but then I've never seen it live in the theatre. Now, I don't expect a New Yorker to care a fig for my opinion on the matter; however I think it's useful for a group to hear a different perspective, particularly when it's so well articulated as Ivy Lin's, or they start accepting it as settled fact that the Balanchine/RB/BRB version is the best one going.

 

Having said that, I do agree that the Bolshoi one is rubbish (and I like Grigorovich better than most here!).

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Sim,

 

I have considerable respect for you and your views on ballet performances, but if you have been watching Nutcracker productions for 50 years, then you will have seen one or more of the Nureyev productions, for the Swedes, the Royal or Paris. This surely disproves the statement "the music dictates what is happening onstage and there isn't too much more you can do with it than watch a family Christmas Eve party". In all of the Nureyev productions you encounter Clara as a child on the threshold of adolescence becoming infatuated with the idea of falling in love with a fantasy figure and escaping the confines of familiar family life and the restrictions of its (luxurious) confines and restraints. This is contrasted with the dances presented in a social context which are the epitome of conservative norms of the time  as represented by the minuets and gavottes so typical of the pre-romantic era. Remembering  the Royal Ballet's production , Alexander Grant presented a master class in his performance  as the grandfather in his dancing almost as a Vestris figure. Both he and Gerd Larsen, together with other senior members of the Royal Ballet at that time in Act I presented a series of images which called to mind several of the lithographs in the Rambert-Dukes collection  (now in the V&A) and other dances as can be seen in the writings of Marian Hannah Winter and in the Beaumont/Sitwell book on the Romantic Ballet Lithographs. It was a brilliant example of how ballet can inform, educate and elevate the sensibilities of the audience whilst at the same time provide wonderful entertainment. It was not just "a magical story".

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8 minutes ago, Douglas Allen said:

Sim,

 

I have considerable respect for you and your views on ballet performances, but if you have been watching Nutcracker productions for 50 years, then you will have seen one or more of the Nureyev productions, for the Swedes, the Royal or Paris. This surely disproves the statement "the music dictates what is happening onstage and there isn't too much more you can do with it than watch a family Christmas Eve party". In all of the Nureyev productions you encounter Clara as a child on the threshold of adolescence becoming infatuated with the idea of falling in love with a fantasy figure and escaping the confines of familiar family life and the restrictions of its (luxurious) confines and restraints. This is contrasted with the dances presented in a social context which are the epitome of conservative norms of the time  as represented by the minuets and gavottes so typical of the pre-romantic era. Remembering  the Royal Ballet's production , Alexander Grant presented a master class in his performance  as the grandfather in his dancing almost as a Vestris figure. Both he and Gerd Larsen, together with other senior members of the Royal Ballet at that time in Act I presented a series of images which called to mind several of the lithographs in the Rambert-Dukes collection  (now in the V&A) and other dances as can be seen in the writings of Marian Hannah Winter and in the Beaumont/Sitwell book on the Romantic Ballet Lithographs. It was a brilliant example of how ballet can inform, educate and elevate the sensibilities of the audience whilst at the same time provide wonderful entertainment. It was not just "a magical story".

 

Without wanting to be facetious, from this description I wonder whether how much there was in this version for ordinary children to respond to and enjoy. I don't think a Nutcracker can be counted as successful if it only really appeals to adults.

 

I should clarify that I've only ever seen the Grand pdd (which to be honest I find incoherent and at times very ugly), so am open to correction.

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21 minutes ago, Douglas Allen said:

Sim,

 

I have considerable respect for you and your views on ballet performances, but if you have been watching Nutcracker productions for 50 years, then you will have seen one or more of the Nureyev productions, for the Swedes, the Royal or Paris.

 

 

From what I know of Sim's background, I'm not sure that necessarily follows, but I guess she can confirm or deny that herself.

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I've started a thread for favourite Nutcracker productions so that we can try and not detract from discussion of performance in the current RB run:

 

 

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2 hours ago, Douglas Allen said:

Sim,

 

I have considerable respect for you and your views on ballet performances, but if you have been watching Nutcracker productions for 50 years, then you will have seen one or more of the Nureyev productions, for the Swedes, the Royal or Paris. This surely disproves the statement "the music dictates what is happening onstage and there isn't too much more you can do with it than watch a family Christmas Eve party". In all of the Nureyev productions you encounter Clara as a child on the threshold of adolescence becoming infatuated with the idea of falling in love with a fantasy figure and escaping the confines of familiar family life and the restrictions of its (luxurious) confines and restraints. This is contrasted with the dances presented in a social context which are the epitome of conservative norms of the time  as represented by the minuets and gavottes so typical of the pre-romantic era. Remembering  the Royal Ballet's production , Alexander Grant presented a master class in his performance  as the grandfather in his dancing almost as a Vestris figure. Both he and Gerd Larsen, together with other senior members of the Royal Ballet at that time in Act I presented a series of images which called to mind several of the lithographs in the Rambert-Dukes collection  (now in the V&A) and other dances as can be seen in the writings of Marian Hannah Winter and in the Beaumont/Sitwell book on the Romantic Ballet Lithographs. It was a brilliant example of how ballet can inform, educate and elevate the sensibilities of the audience whilst at the same time provide wonderful entertainment. It was not just "a magical story".

 

I would prefer Clara not to be 'infatuated' with anything; she's a young girl who goes through experiences that will transform her. That's where the magic is, and in the music.

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It was yesterday, not today, and yes I did. I thought she was lovely. She clearly had lots of family and friends in the house and got an excellent reception.

 

As for Ella... well, I can’t say the Sugar Plum Prince is really a role I *notice*, sadly. Not his fault that that’s the case!

 

Was it Yudes’s debut too as Hans-Peter? I thought he was terrific, though really a bit short for Dean.

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Yes, relative heights were a bit of a problem: Yuhui Choe, on pointe, was also somewhat taller than Ella, which I don't find ideal in Classical works.  She was lovely, though, as was Dean, whose youth and freshness I really appreciated..

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Ashley Dean has been catching my eye in the corps for a while because of that “freshness” and the soft serenity of her facial expression which reminds me a lot of Claire Calvert.

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nut2.jpg.59d102979793fb550525001b6f0ee312.jpgnut1.jpg.4a8ee6052661d28ba741efdcb9ae10b5.jpg

 

I chose this performance primarily to see Yuhui but was very pleased to see Ashley Dean as Clara as she's been catching my eye in the corps too. Strictly speaking her Clara debut was the earlier Paul Hamlyn performance but I thought she was great 😊

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3 hours ago, Rob S said:

nut1.jpg.4a8ee6052661d28ba741efdcb9ae10b5.jpg

 

I chose this performance primarily to see Yuhui but was very pleased to see Ashley Dean as Clara as she's been catching my eye in the corps too. Strictly speaking her Clara debut was the earlier Paul Hamlyn performance but I thought she was great 😊

 

I was at the Paul Hamlyn performance and this was not the Clara that day, unfortunately I didn't get a cast changes list (nor did I get a program which were free that day), it being my first time at the ROH. I think Clara was Isabella Gasperini, but I was sat quite far away and am guessing based on the blonde hair and the fact there was a rehearsal broadcast with her and David Yudes, due to injury.

 

I thought Benjamin Ella partnered very well, but his solo on the day I saw him was not quite up to standard, perhaps it was good his debut was to a more forgiving audience.

 

The highlight for me was Beatriz Stix-Brunell as The Rose Fairy, though this did raise an interesting question, in the section where she demonstrates to Clara and Clara then copies her I felt Clara danced a lot worse than her - well it wasn't bad, it was neat and small when some of the steps can travel a lot more. I didn't remember noticing this in the 2017 cinema relay and I was able to find this section online from that relay and Francesca Hayward matched the Rose Fairy. Unfortunately the whole of the Waltz of the Flowers looked under rehearsed, the eight "corps" flowers were fine, but both the 4 men and the 4 leading flowers had moments lacking synchronicity. Marcelino Sambe also outshone the other men, I'd never want to take away stage presence, but I'd prefer it if they all jumped to roughly the same height.

Edited by annekh510
to comment on Ella
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3 hours ago, annekh510 said:

 

I was at the Paul Hamlyn performance and this was not the Clara that day, unfortunately I didn't get a cast changes list (nor did I get a program which were free that day), it being my first time at the ROH. I think Clara was Isabella Gasperini, but I was sat quite far away and am guessing based on the blonde hair and the fact there was a rehearsal broadcast with her and David Yudes, due to injury.

 

 

Oh ok, that situation sounds familiar now

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If Clara was blonde, wouldn't it have been Meaghan Grace Hinkis?

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1 hour ago, alison said:

If Clara was blonde, wouldn't it have been Meaghan Grace Hinkis?

 

I've looked at both their pictures and the rehearsal video on youtube and I'm pretty sure that despite my faulty memory that it was Isabella, her hair looks quite a light shade of brown, the stage lights could have lightened that a bit. I wish they put accurate cast lists online, or train the ushers better, especially with a house full of newbies. They announced a cast change at the beginning, which was how I knew I'd missed some others on paper.

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10 hours ago, annekh510 said:

I wish they put accurate cast lists online

 

Quite right annekh510 - the Paul Hamlyn performance was 15 December and the website still shows Ashley Dean as Clara:

 

https://www.roh.org.uk/events/gr2l9

 

It would help enormously if the ROH would ensure that casting is properly updated after each performance and ideally with a full cast list not just the principals - apologies for sounding like an an old LP stuck in the groove but some of the basics do require attention.

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Ashley Dean seems to be under the impression that she danced the 15th December Matinee. #15december2018 #matinee

 

 

Edited by Saodan
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3 hours ago, JohnS said:

Many thanks Saodan and apologies to the Royal Opera House website.

 

Even if the cast sheet and website are correct this time, the fact that we are automatically suspicious is not a good sign!

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6 hours ago, Saodan said:

Ashley Dean seems to be under the impression that she danced the 15th December Matinee. #15december2018 #matinee

 

huh, well I'm confused, I looked at the photo above and my first thought was that's not the Clara I saw, I don't know the Royal Ballet corps well enough to identify Ashley Dean, so I simply didn't know on the day, merely wondered knowing she was injured less than 3 weeks earlier. I could have sworn the hair was shorter with some natural wave/curl and fairer.

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A poster on balletalert reports that in Hamburg on New Year's Eve john Neumeier decided that to celebrate the day and the 300th performance of his Nutcracker, everyone should get to see their favourite dancers - so all the main roles were cast with 3 or 4 dancers. And they appeared all at the same time - somewhat chaotic but a lot of fun, by the sound of it. How about that for the last night of the current RB run?

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