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3 hours ago, Irmgard said:

 

Mayara Magri was a breath of fresh air as Lescaut’s Mistress, bringing a vivacity and intelligence to the role which was evident in the moment after he brutally forces her to look at the tumbril of prostitutes about to be deported and she realises this could be her fate – a wonderful moment of soul-searching stillness.  Her use of épaulement in her solos was lovely and indeed my only wish would be for slightly better definition of some of the intricate footwork in them.  A very accomplished debut performance!

 

 

I agree and am feeling guilty that being overwhelmed by the performance of Hayward and Corrales in particular caused me to omit to mention earlier the very fine rendering that Mayara Magri gave in her debut as Mistress.

 

I also agree with Irmgard that Teo Dubreuil was a real standout in the matinee performance, as he has been so many times during the run. One of the joys of Manon for me is that lower-ranked dancers such as him have the chance to shine. Moreover, when things risk getting a bit dull or the conductor's tempi seem all over the place, I can focus with delight on the young talent at the margins of the stage.

Edited by capybara
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Like a well-cut diamond, truly great performances rely on different facets being skilfully cut and working in harmony. I've now seen all (as in 'both'!! :unsure:) of the Osipova/Hallberg/Hirano performances, and neither of them would I class as 'great' (though I'd have been very miffed to have missed either) as each was lacking in one area or another. As a reference point, the last truly great performance I saw was the final Osipova/Nunez/Muntagirov Bayadere a year ago.

 

However, there were features of the two Manon performances that, if combined, would have gone quite a way to making a single 'great' performance, though I realise cherry-picking aspects in hindsight is ultimately a bit of a mug's game as performances happen in the take-it-or-leave-it here-and-now rather than the selective past.

 

Compared to Tuesday, I thought last night's on-stage interaction between Ospiova and Hallberg was a lot more relaxed, natural and self-assured, though part of that impression might reflect that I was a lot more relaxed (on Tuesday I did fret about her welfare and, like others, breathed a huge sigh of relief when she got through unscathed). As a result, the chemistry of the characters' relationship was also more natural - something that came to the fore (rather perversely, given that it's an 'argument') in the 'bracelet' scene at the end of Act 2. 

 

For me, the highlight of Tuesday was Osipova's Act 2 solo, but last night it was their very first duet after she gets up from her chair once he has expressed his feelings for her; the blossoming of those mutual feelings and the exposition of that through their dance, when coupled with that beautiful music, conspired to make me well up and reach for my hanky.

 

I'm still in two minds about just how fully-recovered Hallberg is. While the problematic lift of Osipova from him being on one knee was better last night than on Tuesday, it still looked a bit of a struggle. In addition, the two arching lifts (of her above his head, from behind, hands around the waist) that were so well done on Tuesday, barely seemed to register 45 degrees last night. Having said that, his line was as wonderful and elegant as ever - I can't wait to see the pair of them in Sleeping Beauty.

 

It's a bit of a puzzle that despite their more confident on-stage partnership, the prevailing impression I got from last night's performance was that it was a little subdued compared to Tuesday. This even extended to Gary Avis; his Gaoler was not quite so repugnant in his behaviour towards the female deportees (though his abuse of Manon remained as utterly distressing as ever). It is possible, of course, that the problem lay with me - perhaps I had unrealistic expectations in terms of improvement over Tuesday's excellent performance?

 

A few other 'random' points...

 

I reckon (from observation, not experience, I hasten to add!) that the most difficult part of cheating at cards is hiding those extra aces. Having previously struggled to get them into (and out of) that small jacket pocket, Des Grieux decided last night just to shove them under his seated thigh. It didn't help, of course - thankfully (for the story) he still got found out! 🙂 

 

The spot-on synchronisation/musicality I saw and heard time and time again on Tuesday was less evident last night. That was a real shame as I expected the second performance to be as good if not better on that score (sorry!).

 

Act 3 deals with some of the most unedifying aspects of human behaviour - of man's inhumanity to (wo)man. As such, I can never bring myself to applaud any part of it until the final curtain; applause (even when restrained/hesitant) at the end of those first two scenes strikes me as inappropriate - and detracts from the intended effect.

 

But overall, despite starting musically, and ending plotwise, on rather depressing notes, Manon remains my most thoroughly 'enjoyable' tragic ballet! 

 

manon3a.thumb.jpg.94dbc8a5ca1f486db6336fd3e17e6999.jpg

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Capybara says “ One of the joys of Manon for me is that lower-ranked dancers ......... have the chance to shine”, and I fully agree with her.

 

I have been a regular at the ROH for about fifteen years and have always enjoyed watching the 'junior' RB dancers, spotting my favourites and trying to predict those who may rise through the ranks.

 

Most of the ballets, not just Manon, have roles that allow a junior dancer to take the next step (no pun) on the developmental ladder. In some instances, dancers who are 'covers', have had the chance to make a mark, if not an impact.

 

I understand why 'bigger names' are sometimes imported; Osipova & Hallberg for example, but I get greater pleasure watching dancers who have developed with and within the RB and whose careers I have enjoyed over the years.

 

I think that both the current Director, and his predecessor, should take both satisfaction and pleasure from having adopted and applied such an approach, rather than merely buying in talent.

 

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10 hours ago, maryrosesatonapin said:

It was good, also, to be reminded of how very interesting a choreographer McMillan is.  He stamps his complex personality on every work.  As a woman myself, I feel he really understands women and empathises with the plight of a victim.  He is one of the most humane and emotive of choreographers, especially considering he was working quite some time ago in a somewhat different place from today’s world. 

 

That makes a pleasant change from the "MacMillan as misogynist" viewpoint.

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As there's now a couple of days "off" before the next Manon performance, I'm going to try a few random queries I have from watching several performances & see if anyone here might know the answers (though I'm not sure if some of them are actually answerable).

 

Why does the piece open with Lescaut sitting in the middle of the stage staring out at the audience? I can see this would make sense if the piece was either presented from his viewpoint or supposed to be him having a flashback, but it's not.

 

Is there a name for the movement Des Grieux does a couple of times where he jumps and turns while also beating his legs together?

 

Assuming the conductor keeps the same tempo across performances, are their certain movements that dancers are able to do faster/slower while still keeping within what they would be allowed to do choregraphically? Both Hayward & Corrales yesterday seemed to be doing some movements - bourees in her case, turns in his - faster than other dancers but I don't know if they actually were or not.

 

Some of the reviews have mentioned changes in the lighting for this run and fairly recent changes in the orchestrations. Is anyone who's seen the previous lighting & heard the previous orchestrations able to say how great the changes are? I'm especially interested in the orchestrations as I'd like to get a CD recording of the ballet music but the only recording that seems to be available on CD is from the 70s so I don't want to buy it then find it sounds nothing like the music I'm currently loving hearing live.

 

Why are there only 4 courtesans credited on the cast sheet when there are 5 of them on stage? While 2 have larger roles, the other 3 seem to do about the same amount yet the one costumed in red velvet (mostly Gina Storm-Jensen at the performances I've seen) doesn't get credited.

 

Is one of the whores being costumed as a boy supposed to indicate that she caters for clients who are homosexual or paedophilic? The latter would be very disturbing but her costume is clearly what would have been worn by a fairly young boy rather than a grown man during that period so I'm not sure what to think.

 

 

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2 hours ago, capybara said:

I also agree with Irmgard that Teo Dubreuil was a real standout in the matinee performance, as he has been so many times during the run. One of the joys of Manon for me is that lower-ranked dancers such as him have the chance to shine. Moreover, when things risk getting a bit dull or the conductor's tempi seem all over the place, I can focus with delight on the young talent at the margins of the stage.

 

I too was at yesterday's matinee and while being totally absorbed in the terrific dancing of the soloists and principals it is interesting to pick out some of the more unsung but still technically excellent dance actors in the RB. I too noticed Teo Dubreuil who is one of my favourites and I hope is soon promoted. It was great to see Joseph Sissons too as a beggar (always a favourite and can't wait for his Lensky) though I was slightly disappointed not to see him as one of the 'three gents' in the second act. Francisco Serrano was a beggar again following on from his excellent beggar in Don Q. Another great character I'd like to see promoted. Enrico Montes was a great gent and always manages to bring a great sense of character to whatever role he inhabits. Everywhere you look in whatever ballet you watch the RB have such a great breadth and depth of talent in every department at the moment. As for the principals.... words almost fail me. Francesca Hayward (I nearly wrote Francesca Manon!) was absolutely terrific. Is there nothing she can't do? For me she is definately one of the great dance/actresses of her generation and I'm so pleased I saw her Manon again. Her dancing expressed every emotion and did those beautifully expressive eyes.  Possibly even better than last time. Alexander Campbell is a great partner and a beautifully romantic De Grieux. Coralles and Magri made hugely impressive and charismatic debuts. Indeed Magri reminded me a bit of Laura Morera when she made her entrance. Another Manon I've never seen but going to rectify that this Wednesday. Had a great day out with a friend who'd never seen Manon and never been to the ROH before. She immediately became a huge convert to both and it was so refreshing and heartwarming to see both the beautiful building and outstanding performance through the eyes of someone who'd never seen either before.

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48 minutes ago, Dawnstar said:

 

Why does the piece open with Lescaut sitting in the middle of the stage staring out at the audience? I can see this would make sense if the piece was either presented from his viewpoint or supposed to be him having a flashback, but it's not.

 

 

 

 David Wall, the original Lescaut (who also danced Des Grieux) was probably the most handsome man in the history of the Royal Ballet.

 

More seriously, its Lescaut’s ambitions for his sister that set up the drama....

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1 hour ago, Dawnstar said:

Why are there only 4 courtesans credited on the cast sheet when there are 5 of them on stage? While 2 have larger roles, the other 3 seem to do about the same amount yet the one costumed in red velvet (mostly Gina Storm-Jensen at the performances I've seen) doesn't get credited.

 

 

Beats me.  I wonder that nearly every time.  I mean, her name should probably be put on a different line from the other courtesans, but I think she should be credited.  But then, I miss seeing the skivvies and so on credited these days, too.

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1 hour ago, Dawnstar said:

Some of the reviews have mentioned changes in the lighting for this run and fairly recent changes in the orchestrations. Is anyone who's seen the previous lighting & heard the previous orchestrations able to say how great the changes are? I'm especially interested in the orchestrations as I'd like to get a CD recording of the ballet music but the only recording that seems to be available on CD is from the 70s so I don't want to buy it then find it sounds nothing like the music I'm currently loving hearing live.

 

 

 

Have you tried looking at the Decca recording from 1987? You can listen to extracts on youtube if you search for 'orchestra of the royal opera house manon'

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1 hour ago, Dawnstar said:

As there's now a couple of days "off" before the next Manon performance, I'm going to try a few random queries I have from watching several performances & see if anyone here might know the answers (though I'm not sure if some of them are actually answerable).

 

Why does the piece open with Lescaut sitting in the middle of the stage staring out at the audience? I can see this would make sense if the piece was either presented from his viewpoint or supposed to be him having a flashback, but it's not.

 

Is there a name for the movement Des Grieux does a couple of times where he jumps and turns while also beating his legs together?

 

Assuming the conductor keeps the same tempo across performances, are their certain movements that dancers are able to do faster/slower while still keeping within what they would be allowed to do choregraphically? Both Hayward & Corrales yesterday seemed to be doing some movements - bourees in her case, turns in his - faster than other dancers but I don't know if they actually were or not.

 

Some of the reviews have mentioned changes in the lighting for this run and fairly recent changes in the orchestrations. Is anyone who's seen the previous lighting & heard the previous orchestrations able to say how great the changes are? I'm especially interested in the orchestrations as I'd like to get a CD recording of the ballet music but the only recording that seems to be available on CD is from the 70s so I don't want to buy it then find it sounds nothing like the music I'm currently loving hearing live.

 

Why are there only 4 courtesans credited on the cast sheet when there are 5 of them on stage? While 2 have larger roles, the other 3 seem to do about the same amount yet the one costumed in red velvet (mostly Gina Storm-Jensen at the performances I've seen) doesn't get credited.

 

Is one of the whores being costumed as a boy supposed to indicate that she caters for clients who are homosexual or paedophilic? The latter would be very disturbing but her costume is clearly what would have been worn by a fairly young boy rather than a grown man during that period so I'm not sure what to think.

 

 

Not sure I can answer all your questions but I'll have a go!  I think the opening is a great piece of theatre, especially with a charismatic Lescaut, but I am not sure about MacMillan's reason for starting the ballet like this.  Jann Parry's biography, which I have not read in full, may answer this.  I am not sure which movement you are describing for Des Grieux but if you mean that the lower legs intertwine while he turns in the air, this is a beaten tour en l'air.  With regard to bourrees, each dancer has an individual speed for these (some shimmer, others undulate!) but all should start and finish within the same musical phrase.   I can't really comment on the lighting as I have only seen a few performances of this ballet by the Royal Ballet in recent years but I did think the costumes looked rather washed out at yesterday's matinee so maybe this is a change in the lighting.  I also remember years ago a more evocative lighting in the Gaoler's office, making it feel as if it was pervaded by an oppressive heat.  When I first heard the new orchestration a few years ago, I thought it was far too overblown, especially as the Leighton Lucas orchestration seemed nigh on perfect to me!  However, to my ears, the new orchestration has been toned down a bit and is now closer to the original.  I love the recording that is available of the original orchestration and I do not think you will be disappointed if you buy it.  In fact, you may hear even more orchestral colours in the recording.  I have just checked ENB's cast sheet for "Manon" and it lists four courtesans in Act I but five in Act II.  Perhaps RB should do the same?  Yes, there could be some rather disturbing reason (and probably is as MacMillan liked to explore sexual practices onstage!) why there is a harlot dressed as a boy (usually one of the shorter dancers) but in that period it was common to have girls playing boys in operas (where the term 'trouser role' comes from), i.e. Cherubino in "The Marriage of Figaro", and a lot of this was so that men could appreciate the female form, i.e. their legs, which they wouldn't normally see outside the bedroom because of the length of skirts at this time, even for ballet dancers, so this may be just a nod to that practice.   Hope this helps to answer your questions.

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Impassioned differences in opinions about these dancers reminds me of something Nikolay Tsiskaridze (Bolshoi Theater) said in a mini-documentary for Dance Channel TV: Meet Nikolay Tsiskaridze

 

2:10   "Everything I've done on stage has had supporters and opponents. The main distinctive feature about great artists is that no one is left indifferent when disagreement arises.  It is horrifying when everyone likes or dislikes something, because it is immediately forgotten. I bring out this kind of disagreement wherever I dance.  In Tokyo, New York, Paris and Rome there were always people who were for or against me. They write enthusiastic reviews and terrible ones.  It creates a certain wave."

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0no3EwDHkWQ

 

Edited by DD Driver
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Dawnstar posted, “Why are there only 4 courtesans credited on the cast sheet when there are 5 of them on stage? While 2 have larger roles, the other 3 seem to do about the same amount yet the one costumed in red velvet (mostly Gina Storm-Jensen at the performances I've seen) doesn't get credited.”

 

 I think I may originally have made a similar assumption. In fact the four courtesans are listed in the cast sheet, and the fifth is Lescaut's mistress, who dances with them.

 

 

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No, it's Mistress plus 5 courtesans in Act II.  I've frequently thought what you said, and then counted and realised I was wrong.

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11 minutes ago, alison said:

No, it's Mistress plus 5 courtesans in Act II.  I've frequently thought what you said, and then counted and realised I was wrong.

 

I can say with some confidence that in Act 2, apart from the four named courtesans and Lescaut's mistress, who dance, there are two female Corps members dressed in similar fashion but not credited in the cast sheet because these are non-dancing roles, and the two of them merely glide gracefully around the back of the set. One of these is in a red velvet costume.

 

 

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No, there's also the one in predominantly bottle green velvet (with red, I think), who's the one I was talking about.  One of the ones who gets handed over to one of the clients.

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8 hours ago, RobR said:

 

I can say with some confidence that in Act 2, apart from the four named courtesans and Lescaut's mistress, who dance, there are two female Corps members dressed in similar fashion but not credited in the cast sheet because these are non-dancing roles, and the two of them merely glide gracefully around the back of the set. One of these is in a red velvet costume.

 

 

See my post above.  ENB lists the cast for each act and lists four courtesans in Act 1 and five in Act 2. There are definitely five in Act 2 in the Royal Ballet production - they just don't bother to list the addition on their cast sheet.

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The fifth Courtesan (played by Tara-Brigitte Bhavnani or Gina Storm-Jensen in the performances I have seen) does dance in a circular formation with the other four as well. However, her main 'claim to fame' is as the Courtesan who 'lures' one of the elderly gentlemen across the front of the stage, snatching her hand away each time he goes to grab it.

 

Irmgard is right  - and I think that ENB was right to list this dancer as well as the Courtesans who have featured duets.

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15 hours ago, Irmgard said:

When the score was re-orchestrated, a piece was inserted before the gaoler's pas de deux to cover the scene change.  I am not convinced by it or by its necessity!  The interlude before the bedroom pas de deux in Act I has always been there , or at least as long as I have been watching the ballet which is since the late 1970s!


thank you. Very helpful.  
 

Both could be cut in my opinion!

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15 hours ago, annamk said:

 

Very interested to read your detailed thoughts Irmgard, thank you for taking the time to post them.

 

It had slipped my mind when I posted that even I, someone with a tin ear, found the tempi yesterday insufferably slow. I agree with your thoughts about the ENB orchestra and Gavin Sutherland. I had a similar revelation in Stuttgart recently where the Staatsorchestra made the Mayerling score sound immeasurably better than it ever does in London. 


It’s disappointing to hear that the RB orchestra/conducting is sub-standard.   Our brilliant dancers deserve better.

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9 hours ago, alison said:

No, there's also the one in predominantly bottle green velvet (with red, I think), who's the one I was talking about.  One of the ones who gets handed over to one of the clients.

 

Now, I’m afraid I’m getting a little confused. Dawnstar refers to a dancer in red velvet (and about whom I posted) and you subsequently assured me that the dancer I’ve missed is in bottle green.

 

Unless you or Dawnstar is red/green colour blind, and are referring to the same dancer, are we now up to five or six courtesans? 😀

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Someone needs to fire up their DVD player and count the courtesans they can see in their Manon dvd 💡

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6 minutes ago, Rob S said:

Someone needs to fire up their DVD player and count the courtesans they can see in their Manon dvd 💡

 

No need (unless you want to, of course!).  Not counting the "non-dancing" courtesans who giddy about in the background, there are 5 courtesans in act 2 (plus Lescaut's mistress).  The one who does not appear in act 1 wears (in the current RB production) a red dress and is not credited as she does not take part in any of the duets for the courtesans.

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Dawnstar, I had the utter privilege of interviewing the great and lovely David Wall back in 2005 for the forum's predecessor, ballet.co.uk.  I think it's best to read what the creator of Lescaut has to say about the beginning of the ballet:

 

MacMillan created the complex character of Lescaut on Wall in 1974 in the ballet Manon. How easy was it for him to portray a character who begins as a pimping libertine, becomes a comic drunk, and ends up the caring brother who decides the right thing to do is help his sister follow her heart and loses his life as a result? "Well, he was depraved, to say the least. We diverted a bit from the book, but not much. The drunk scene was created straight in the first instance. Then it was Dame Ninette who suggested doing something comic since there wasn't much comedy in the ballet" he laughs. "Do you know, it took a lot longer to re-choreograph it inebriated than it did as a straight piece!" He loved dancing Lescaut: "he is very manipulative." I mention the discussion that has been taking place on Ballet.co regarding the very beginning of the ballet, and asked him to clarify it for readers, who had been wondering why the ballet begins with Lescaut sitting on his own, centre stage, with his cape wrapped around him. "We tried many openings to this ballet. One of Kenneth's ideas was to have a parachute silk with slits in it flutter down, then have a character appear, then the silk would move, then another character would appear… but we just couldn't make it work. We tried several other things, but then Kenneth finally had the idea of Lescaut just sitting there in an almost drugged state; it could have all been a dream of his.  But it was really just to emphasise that he is central to the piece. It is a very difficult opening for a dancer because you can't even move your eyeballs, which is very hard when beggars are moving all around you, and the lights come up!"

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And regarding the lighting, I think the new lighting in Act 1 is appalling.  It makes them look like they are in a circus ring.  The spotlight is cold and metallic blue, and completely negates the romance happening in DG's yearning solo.  The lighting should be warm, to enhance what is happening in their two young hearts.  This makes DG's job in the first solo even more difficult:  he is fighting the lighting, as well as trying not to wobble, and to convey his inner feelings to Manon and an audience of 2000...please, please revert to how it was before.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  It wasn't broke before, but it sure is now.  So please fix it!

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6 hours ago, Sim said:

And regarding the lighting, I think the new lighting in Act 1 is appalling.  It makes them look like they are in a circus ring.  The spotlight is cold and metallic blue, and completely negates the romance happening in DG's yearning solo.  The lighting should be warm, to enhance what is happening in their two young hearts.  This makes DG's job in the first solo even more difficult:  he is fighting the lighting, as well as trying not to wobble, and to convey his inner feelings to Manon and an audience of 2000...please, please revert to how it was before.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  It wasn't broke before, but it sure is now.  So please fix it!

 

Another thumbs down from me on the new lighting.  Too many shadows, sometimes falling on significant dancers or action.

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12 hours ago, Irmgard said:

When I first heard the new orchestration a few years ago, I thought it was far too overblown, especially as the Leighton Lucas orchestration seemed nigh on perfect to me!  However, to my ears, the new orchestration has been toned down a bit and is now closer to the original. 

 

I thought the same myself, but wonder whether it’s because the re-orchestrator (Martin Yates) isn’t conducting this time. I think others have observed that he sometimes draws too much attention to his own contributions.

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I thought the tempo was  too slow quite often and the music did not always seem to flow as it should do.

 

Currently listening to Radio 3 Composer of the Week (such an excellent programme)- it's Puccini this week, and today focusing on his Manon Lescaut with commentary from Antonio Pappano- which I am finding a very interesting comparison to the ballet music.

 

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1 hour ago, Sim said:

If [it] ain't broke, don't fix it.

 

Sadly a much ignored plea.  ROH website comes to mind (along with matters best not mentioned here).

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I'd be very happy if they reverted back to the Leighton Lucas orchestrations.  I don't know why the cello solo in the final act is there, as for me, it kills the mood, and breaks the tension of the piece at that point (however well played it is). If I like the music,  it goes a long way with me.

 

 I'm not a fan of the new lighting either.

 

That said I think the dancers have given fantastic performances 🙂 Seen 3, with 1 to go.

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