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So, the Royal Ballet season starts tonight.  I hope people who are going will report back.

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Best wishes to all the brilliant dancers and staff at the RB for a fantastic season !!

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Muntagirov has deepened his acting skills: a profoundly moving as well as beautiful performance with the lovely Sarah Lamb. Bravo and brava. 

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An impressive start to the season, especially from Muntagirov. His best Des Grieux to date by far. 

Lamb somehow seemed more ‘alive’ tonight.

Hirano and Mendizabal genuinely funny in the Act 2 pas de deux.

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Home now- and a few more quick musings before i crash out...

-still re living that wonderful first solo by Muntagirov when he declares his love- it was utterly exquisite, heart-rending. He seems to keep going up a notch when you think he cannot possibly do so: he now marries technical perfection to utmost grace to passionate expressiveness. Very impressive indeed.

 

-I was very struck- again- by Joseph Sissens as one of the 'gentlemen' - he outclassed everyone in that scene.

 

-I could gladly live without ever seeing again some sections of this ballet, ( and some rather dodgy throwing and catching of poor Sarah Lamb in the tavern scene tonight-I hope she did not feel too insecure, at some awkward moments) but, 'the good bits' are so very good.

 

bed!

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I totally agree with Mary and Capybara’s comments on tonight’s performance. Heart rending was exactly the description that I gave to my daughter, who would have been there if she hadn’t been travelling.

 

And, yes, Muntagirov’s acting skills were very impressive tonight -  nuanced, natural and deeply moving. The dancing we can take as read but that, too, just gets better and better. I may have said this before but he really is the gift that goes on giving.

 

Sarah Lamb was, as always, a very appealing Manon. This role really does suit her. There was no doubt at any stage that Des Grieux meant more to her than fine clothes and jewels. From first to last they were catnip to each other: the suppressed longing in those snatched glances, the burgeoning recognition in the mirrored steps and, my goodness, the daring, impassioned recklessness of those pas de deux!

 

I was also impressed by the energy, humour and multi-faceted appeal that Hirano brought to Lescaut. He doesn’t always hit the mark for me but when he is good he is very, very good and tonight he was very good indeed. It’s the braggadocio roles, isn’t it, Lescaut Escamillo ... And the audience lapped up every minute of it.

 

As an aside, it was nice to see Sarah pluck a second rose from her bouquet for Koen Kessels as well as Vadim. And the perhaps unexpected bouquet given to - was it Yuhui Choe?

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2 minutes ago, Scheherezade said:

 

As an aside, it was nice to see Sarah pluck a second rose from her bouquet for Koen Kessels as well as Vadim. And the perhaps unexpected bouquet given to - was it Yuhui Choe?

 

It was Olivia Cowley...Yuhui didn't get any 🙁

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Lovely photos Rob S. And thanks for the correction on the flowers. I had a feeling it wasn’t Yuhui but - without taking anything away from the fabulous Olivia Cowley  -probably wished it had been as Yuhui seems to have been overlooked so often. 

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Manon is one of my all-time favourite ballets, so I was surprised to find it took a while to adjust (following the recent run of Akram Khan's Giselle) to seeing what was effectively a traditional ballet accompanied by a traditional score played at a traditional volume. There were a few other surprises as well...

 

Sarah Lamb is one of my favourite dancers, and I was looking forward to seeing those most wonderfully expressive legs of hers in action. Instead, I became completely distracted by those of Muntagirov! 
Has he spent the summer in the gym? 
His legs have become a living anatomy lesson - not an ounce of fat, not a gentle curve to be seen, but rather a roll-call of pumped-up muscles primed for propulsion. If he'd stuck labels on his tights (Vastus Lateralis, Rectus Femoris, etc) we'd all have been educated as well as entertained! 🙂


And, boy, did those legs deliver! That first solo of his, expressing his feelings for the seated Manon, was absolutely sublime. It was pin-drop quiet in the audience, and it was pin-drop quiet on the stage (no 'thumps' on landing - just the odd squeak of the shoe on turning. Remarkable!). Those slow-motion turns, jumps and extensions were also distinguished by a complete absence of the merest wobble; those magnificent muscles were in complete control!


Perhaps it was the confidence that comes with the mastery of movement, but Muntagirov seemed able to pay much more attention - to great effect - to his acting. He has a natural, 'princely' air, but his Des Grieux last night was unambiguously that of a more ordinary young man pitched into a passionate and ultimately deadly adventure. 

 

And if Muntagirov has been developing his physical strength, has Hirano been exercising his acting muscles? His Lescaut was impressive - an amoral chancer with love and loyalty measured only in monetary terms. When he did let his guard down in the 'drunk' scene, he did so superbly; it was controlled chaos, teetering right on the edge of catastrophic collapse, with great comic timing and effect throughout. He was ably abetted in this Mendizabal as his mistress - her expressions and behaviour during that scene were priceless.

 

I was also really impressed by the sheer physicality of the argument/fight between Muntagirov's Des Grieux and Hirano's Lescaut at the end of Act 1. The way they channeled those angry emotions into expressive movement bodes well for the rest of the season.

 

One thing I can say for certain - Christopher Saunders has not been polishing his shooting skills over the summer! 🙂

Poor Lescaut didn't drop dead when shot - he writhed around a bit on the floor in agony, blood pouring from his mouth and chest - before expiring. Very effective and quite gruesome.

 

I thought Gary Avis' portrayal of The Gaoler had reached its peak (or should that be nadir?) a long time ago - but last night he seemed more loathsome than ever. The way he inspected the 'fresh meat' disembarking from the ship was disturbingly modern in its implication - trying to grab them in ways that men in positions of power still feel they are entitled to (and then to brag about).

 

Maybe it's because the men were so expressive but, in contrast to other posters, I found Lamb's Manon surprisingly underwhelming. I'd previously commented on how I thought her acting had improved (notably in Mayerling), but last night she seemed a bit like a blank canvas over which watercolour shades briefly flitted.

Her passivity (where was the revelling in, and projection of, her burgeoning sensuality in her Act 2 solo?) coupled with Muntagirov's superbly-emoting Des Grieux put my focus more on him rather than her.

I want my heroes and heroines to go on heroic journeys; last night I felt Des Grieux put his soul into his journey, whereas Manon might well have sent her body but she didn't seem to send her soul. 

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Rather flippant of me, but I always feel rather sorry for whoever plays Manon and who has to take her curtain call, usually holding,gorgeous flowers, and looking dreadful! 

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2 hours ago, ninamargaret said:

Rather flippant of me, but I always feel rather sorry for whoever plays Manon and who has to take her curtain call, usually holding,gorgeous flowers, and looking dreadful! 

Yes, especially after wearing the most fabulous dress in the repertoire during Act II!

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I had a really enjoyable time watching Manon tonight - first time seeing it in the flesh and really impressed with the huge amount of entertaining side action that doesn't come across on dvd or cinema filmings. The emotion hit a lot harder too. Really wonderful performance by Lauren Cuthbertson especially, but Matthew Ball was also great, particularly in the final scene. Thought the whole cast were excellent in fact and Beatriz Stix-Brunell particularly entertaining as Lescaut's mistress.

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A début from Matty Ball to be proud of in my humble opinion. His Des Grieux is fresh and naive as a day old daisy in the opening act and by the end of act three tortured by his hopeless love for Manon and both are broken by everything life has thrown at them. I was moved. Val Zucchetti shone as Lescaut being conniving, debauched and humorous as required. A great start to my season. 🙏🏻 

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Echo the comments above - Ball had a splendid debut. His Des Grieux started off a little bit tentative in Act 1, but by Act 2 he was pure emotion, on great form. I feel his characterisation/interpretation of the role will only grow with future performances. He is one of those dancers that can really project emotion - both face and body, no opera glasses necessary, a wonderful actor as well as dancer. 

 

In comparison I’m sorry to say that Cuthbertson didn’t really click for me. I can’t fault her at all, she ticked all the boxes but I guess she’s just one of those dancers that I don’t get completely engrossed in, like I would with some others. Just my personal opinion and I can certainly see why she has a lot of fans, she’s very elegant and played the role of Manon well, and technically good of course. There were points in her pas de deux with Ball which did move me however, and I’m looking forward to seeing her in more classical/tutu roles. 

 

I enjoyed Stix-Brunell as the mistress, she has great character and is also someone that can ‘project’ her movements/facial expressions at a distance. I was delighted to see Kaneko and Magri as the two courtesans trying to out do each other, which got some well deserved laughs as they danced and acted it well. I have to admit I haven’t really ‘got’ Magri before but I really enjoyed her dancing tonight and think she suited this funny/over the top character well. I imagine she’ll be excellent as Lescaut’s mistress too. 

 

Overall a very strong debut for Ball but I’m waiting for a Manon who will devastate me! 

 

(As an aside the cast sheets tonight were printed on two sheets of non glossy A4 stapled together as opposed to the usual glossy fold out. Not sure if this is the new way forward, perhaps budget cuts but this just looks cheap and homemade and I wouldn’t have chosen this option if they are desperate to cut printing budget. Hoping it was a one off for whatever reason, as they also didn’t stick the sheet in the programme as they would usually.) 

 

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7 hours ago, JNC said:

I’m waiting for a Manon who will devastate me! 

 

Have you booked for Hayward or Takada?

 

7 hours ago, JNC said:

As an aside the cast sheets tonight were printed on two sheets of non glossy A4 stapled together as opposed to the usual glossy fold out. Not sure if this is the new way forward

 

Two sheets of A4 stapled together seems quite wasteful!  The General Rehearsal had the usual format (one smaller glossy sheet, folded, and printed on both sides).

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32 minutes ago, Richard LH said:

 

Have you booked for Hayward or Takada?

 

 

Two sheets of A4 stapled together seems quite wasteful!  The General Rehearsal had the usual format (one smaller glossy sheet, folded, and printed on both sides).

 

Hayward would have been my first choice but unfortunately I can’t make any of her performances! I will definitely book for her next time. And no to Takada, I had limited funds so decided to go for Morera instead as I’ve not seen her before so I was curious. 

 

Good to hear - hope last night was a temporary thing then, not sure why they hadn’t printed them for this performance though if they could manage to print them for a rehearsal!

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, JNC said:

(As an aside the cast sheets tonight were printed on two sheets of non glossy A4 stapled together as opposed to the usual glossy fold out. Not sure if this is the new way forward, perhaps budget cuts but this just looks cheap and homemade and I wouldn’t have chosen this option if they are desperate to cut printing budget. Hoping it was a one off for whatever reason, as they also didn’t stick the sheet in the programme as they would usually.) 

 

I asked an usher about this and he told me that the correct cast sheets didn't arrive and that they'd (sensibly, in my opinion)  made the decision to print their own.  It seems the problem lies with the company they use to print the normal cast sheets rather than with the ROH itself.  I understand that a similar problem occurred at a recent opera performance and that, on that occasion, there were no cast sheets until the interval.

Edited by Bluebird
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25 minutes ago, Bluebird said:

 

I asked an usher about this and he told me that the correct cast sheets didn't arrive and that they'd (sensibly, in my opinion)  made the decision to print their own.  It seems the problem lies with the company they use to print the normal cast sheets rather than with the ROH itself.  I understand that a similar problem occurred at a recent opera performance and that, on that occasion, there were no cast sheets until the interval.

 

And I can confirm that, having been at that opera performance.

 

I was thinking I was surprised to see some people jump to certain conclusions about the self-printed cast sheets but, actually, I'm not surprised at all (but rather saddened).

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24 minutes ago, bangorballetboy said:

I was thinking I was surprised to see some people jump to certain conclusions about the self-printed cast sheets but, actually, I'm not surprised at all (but rather saddened).

 

Absolutely, all one had to do was ask..........

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And I also enjoyed a strong debut by Buvoli as a courtesan. 

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As long as I get a free cast sheet I’m happy, a lot of theatres etc don’t provide this and only provide an (expensive) programme.

 

It makes sense that they looked homemade primarily because they were, and appreciate ROH providing the alternative and taking the initiative. 

 

In fairness I think if I had never been to ROH before and was given this I wouldn’t have minded at all, it’s only because I know the regular glossy ones are much nicer that I noticed. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, bangorballetboy said:

I was thinking I was surprised to see some people jump to certain conclusions about the self-printed cast sheets but, actually, I'm not surprised at all (but rather saddened).

 

Well, it did cross my mind, I must admit, but I thought possibly they'd just miscalculated the number to get printed, given the ticket sales, and done some spare.  It has happened before.  I got mine from an usher, and it was only when I went down to the main foyer and saw they hadn't got any of the proper ones either that I realised.  An unwanted expense, no doubt.

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36 minutes ago, RobR said:

And I also enjoyed a strong debut by Buvoli as a courtesan. 

 

😁

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, RobR said:

And I also enjoyed a strong debut by Buvoli as a courtesan. 

 

There was also a superb debut by Sophie Allnatt as the "boy whore" in the brothel scene. She really made the most of the role.

 

I've never understood why this role isn't credited on the cast sheet. I wasn't even sure exactly what it was called and had to google to find any reference to it. I found the following description in an Australian newspaper: "a whore who dresses up as a boy for men's fantasies"

 

https://www.couriermail.com.au/questnews/oh-boy-ex-brisbane-dancer-takes-on-risqu-role-in-the-australian-ballets-season-of-manon/news-story/210a600a3adb92f571204501a3d6d1ae

Edited by Bluebird
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4 minutes ago, Bluebird said:

There was also a superb debut by Sophie Allnatt as the "boy whore" in the brothel scene. She really made the most of the role.

 

I've never understood why this role is never credited on the cast sheet.

 

Oh good - she's a dancer I haven't yet learned to recognize, so this should give me a chance to put a face to the name!

 

(Who did it last time? I can't remember. I know it used to be Elsa Godard, and maybe Leanne Cope before that?  I'm thinking it might have been Leticia Stock last time...)

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7 minutes ago, RuthE said:

 

Oh good - she's a dancer I haven't yet learned to recognize, so this should give me a chance to put a face to the name!

 

(Who did it last time? I can't remember. I know it used to be Elsa Godard, and maybe Leanne Cope before that?  I'm thinking it might have been Leticia Stock last time...)

 

Leticia Stock reprised this role on the opening night. I have also seen Gemma Pitchley-Gale dance it (and maybe Ashley Dean?).

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5 minutes ago, RuthE said:

 

Oh good - she's a dancer I haven't yet learned to recognize, so this should give me a chance to put a face to the name!

 

(Who did it last time? I can't remember. I know it used to be Elsa Godard, and maybe Leanne Cope before that?  I'm thinking it might have been Leticia Stock last time...)

 

Leticia Stock did it on Wednesday and also did most of the last run.  If I remember correctly, Ashley Dean also did a few performances last time it was on.

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