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Hi

 

Birmingham Royal Ballet - The nutcracker is here.

I went to see and photograph  thier rehersal , and it was brilliant.

I m a newbie and hopefully I can give you all more comments when

I have more experience in Ballet performance.

 

https://www.brb.org.uk/whats-on/event/nutcracker-2019

 

Choreography - Peter Wright, Lev Lvanov, Vincent Redmon

Music - Pyotr Llyich Tchaikovsky

Design - John F Macfarlane

Lighting - David Finn

 

I only posted a photo here b'cos I dont want to leak all the surprises and spoil the show.

 

https://testing80.pixieset.com/birminghamroyalballet-thenutcracker2019/

 

 

_DSC5086ed.jpg.a754590003c41b2b0c83eb872cdc1718.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Andrew Ho
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Hello Andrew and welcome to the Forum!

 

Thanks for posting the photograph.  Sir Peter Wright's production for BRB is my absolute favourite Nutcracker.  I'm looking forward to seeing it again in a couple of weeks!

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I was at the opening last night. An in front of curtain announcement informed us that Momoko Hirata was ill and 

would be replaced by Miki Mizutani as The Sugar Plum Fairy. Some replacement. She is dancing superbly at the moment. Anyone lucky enough to see her Giselle recently will know what I mean. 

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Lovely photographs, cracking cast.  Many thanks for posting.

 

Is that Jonathan Payn as Clara's Dad?  So pleased he's still with the Company.

Edited by Two Pigeons

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I saw the matinée today with Céline Gittens and Brandon Lawrence, and a wonderful Beatrice Parma as Clara. Such a joyful production with lovely performances throughout.

 

Always interesting to contrast different versions of Nutcracker. Amazing scenery and effects in this one. The Arabian dance is my favourite version and as a whole I think the story works better than most. Really glad I made the trip up to Birmingham 🙂

 

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I went to Birmingham today to see the matinee, having previously seen the production 25 years ago on a school trip age 10 (I recently found out that back then a certain Kevin O'Hare was the Prince!). Having booked this time to see Lachlan Monaghan as the Prince, after really liking him in Hobson's Choice at Sadler's Wells in June, I was disappointed that 2 days beforehand the casting for both the Prince & the Sugar Plum Fairy was changed on BRB's website. There were then what were evidently last minute cast changes for both Drosselmeyer & the Snow Fairy. Having looked at the full cast list when it was added to BRB's website this morning, with Tom Rogers still listed as Drosselmeyer, I didn't read the paper copy thoroughly at the theatre. I then realised not long after Drosselmeyer entered that he was actually Rory Mackay, who I'd also liked in Hobson's Choice, so at least that was one cast change I was pleased by. I really liked his Drosselmeyer. My mother thought he was rather sinister compared to the RB's version but I didn't find him so. That may be partly because I can still see him in my mind's eye with a bunch of flowers stuck under his bowler hat in Hobson's Choice! The one leading cast member who survived from when I booked to the performance was Rachele Pizzillo as Clara. I thought her acting was good but her dancing was a little shaky on occasion. I've not seen her before so don't know if she was having an off-day. The replacement Prince, Brandon Lawrence, I thought was very good - though I'm not sure pale pink is his colour! The replacement SPF, Yijing Zhang, looked very good technically (in as far as I can judge) but I felt was slightly underpowered in stage presence. However this may be because I saw Nunez (cinecast) & Morera (live) last season & it's probably unfair to expect a younger dancer at Soloist rank to compare to 2 extremely experienced RB Principals. I also fear that Macmillan may have spoiled me for the classics choreographically: when the music really got going in the Grand Pas I found myself wanting more from the choreography, as compared to the pdds in R&J and Manon it seemed a bit polite & correct. When Lawrence did his second solo, his circle of jumps went round in the opposite direction to what I have seen other dancers do both in The Nutcracker & others of the classics. Does anyone know if that is because this production always does it that way round or because he turns better that way so is allowed to do it? The SPF & Prince substitutions were presumably not due to any injury to the original SPF, Maureya Lebowitz, as she was both a leading Snowflake & Flower, so I suppose at least I got to see her to something, though I would have liked to have seen her in a main role after she caught my eye in the Salvation Army variations in Hobson's Choice. I would likewise have liked to see Samara Downs in a larger role than that of Clara's mother, as I see she's doing various Sugar Plum, Snow & Rose fairies at other performances, but as usual it's impossible to line up everyone you'd like to see in the one performance, especially as I was limited to a matinee in order to get home afterwards.

 

Some aspects of the production I remembered from 25 years ago but I'd also forgotten some things, such as the Rat King appearing in Act 2. With the RB's production fresh in my mind, from having seen it last year both live & at the cinema, I was surprised to find quite how different BRB's is, given they have the same director. With apologies to BRB, by in large I prefer the RB's version. The things I did prefer about BRB's were having Clara & her partner dancing with other adult dancers, rather than sticking out a foot taller than the children; likewise having adults as the soldiers & rats; and not having the SPF & Prince spray-painted blonde! The biggest downsides of BRB's production I thought were the lack of the framing with Drosselmeyer & his Nephew, which therefore deprives the ending of the emotion the RB's has, and Clara turning into the SPF, something I've never liked in Nutcrackers. When the Spanish dancers came on I thought "Those costumes are rather like the RB Swan Lake Spanish dancers" then remembered that it's the same designer so Macfarlane must have repeated himself a bit! The most interesting thing I found in the designs was that any use of large amounts of red also included splotches of black, not just on the set but also costumes such as Clara's mother's dress & the Russian dancers' trousers. I don't know if this has some symbolic meaning or Macfarlane just thought it looked good? Also, for a so-called tutu ballet, there was a surprising lack of tutus! I'd forgotten that not only the Snowflakes but also the Flowers don't wear them.

 

There were a couple of school parties in, including Elmhurst. I noticed that most of the girls were wearing pretty high heels, which surprised me as I wouldn't have thought they would be allowed with school uniform. Then I wondered if it was to do with them going en pointe, as I remember reading an interview with I think it was Rojo where she said heels were more comfortable than flats because of pointe. Does anyone know if that is the reason for the Elmhurst students?

 

 

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19 hours ago, Dawnstar said:

 When Lawrence did his second solo, his circle of jumps went round in the opposite direction to what I have seen other dancers do both in The Nutcracker & others of the classics. 

 

Some aspects of the production I remembered from 25 years ago but I'd also forgotten some things, such as the Rat King appearing in Act 2. With the RB's production fresh in my mind, from having seen it last year both live & at the cinema, I was surprised to find quite how different BRB's is, given they have the same director. With apologies to BRB, by in large I prefer the RB's version.

 

 

 

 

I've seen dancers do the manège in both directions so presumably it is left up to them as to which direction they feel most comfortable.

 

I don't like the pink cavalier outfit - I don't think it does any of the dancers any favours.

 

In the early years of this production King Rat did not appear in Act 2 so it could well be that you saw a performance before this section was introduced.  I didn't like it at first but I've got used to it over the years and I suppose it does tie the two halves of the ballet together a bit better.

 

I saw the RB production, as a ballet-watching newbie, in 1986.  All I can say is that if that was the first ballet I had ever seen I never would have gone again!!  I went to the cinema a couple of years ago to see it again and I really didn't see anything in it that made me want to go again.  I love BRB's production, which I think stands head and shoulders above any other production I have seen.  Kevin O'Hare was my first Cavalier in January 1991 (I didn't see the production before Christmas 1990 when it premiered).

 

 

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I share your enthusiasm for this production Janet. I was able to see it in its first season and remember the gasps and enthusiastic clapping for the  transformation scene. I also have happy memories of Yoshida and Mukhamedov performing for the filmed performance a few years later with Sandra Madgwick as Clara, Ravenna Tucker as the rose fairy and  Jo Cipolla  as Drosselmeyer. I remember the shot fired by the nutcracker prince failed to make a sound and had to be dubbed in afterwards. 

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23 hours ago, Jan McNulty said:

I've seen dancers do the manège in both directions so presumably it is left up to them as to which direction they feel most comfortable.

 

I don't like the pink cavalier outfit - I don't think it does any of the dancers any favours.

 

In the early years of this production King Rat did not appear in Act 2 so it could well be that you saw a performance before this section was introduced.  I didn't like it at first but I've got used to it over the years and I suppose it does tie the two halves of the ballet together a bit better.

 

I saw the RB production, as a ballet-watching newbie, in 1986.  All I can say is that if that was the first ballet I had ever seen I never would have gone again!!  I went to the cinema a couple of years ago to see it again and I really didn't see anything in it that made me want to go again.  I love BRB's production, which I think stands head and shoulders above any other production I have seen.  Kevin O'Hare was my first Cavalier in January 1991 (I didn't see the production before Christmas 1990 when it premiered).

 

Thanks, and I should have known there would be a proper name for jumps in a circle!

 

I think it's more likely that I had forgotten it, as when it happened it did ring a faint bell. I previously saw the production live in December 1995 & before that had seen the telecast in 1994 which, as I videod it & re-watched it a number of times, is probably more where my memories of the production come from than the live viewing.

In terms of off-putting Nutcrackers, I'd nominate a production, I belive by Peter Schaufuss, I saw in the early 1990s where the Stahlbaum family were turned into the Tchaikovsky family. I can't remember the details but I remember finding it absolutely baffling, as an under 10 year old.

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11 hours ago, Dawnstar said:


In terms of off-putting Nutcrackers, I'd nominate a production, I belive by Peter Schaufuss, I saw in the early 1990s where the Stahlbaum family were turned into the Tchaikovsky family. I can't remember the details but I remember finding it absolutely baffling, as an under 10 year old.

 

I liked that production.  For me, the Schaufuss snowflakes are still unsurpassed.

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I saw both performances of this Nutcracker at the Hippodrome yesterday and I fell in love with it all over again!

 

Having seen at least 2 performances of every run since this production opened in Birmingham in 1990 I always think I am going to be overcome by Nutcracker ennui and every year I am proved wrong and wish I had booked for more performances.  For me, this production by SPW is the bench mark against which all other Nutcrackers are measured and it is still head and shoulders above all of them!

 

Yesterday afternoon we saw a delightful performance led by Laura Day as Clara with Tzu Chao Chou as the Prince and Karla Doorbar as Sugar Plum.  Laura is always a charming and believable Clara and yesterday afternoon was no exception - her reaction when the tree was lit was full of wonder.  Her big duet with Tzu Chao when he came alive as her Cavalier was beautiful.  In the gpdd Karla and Tzu Chao (whom I had seen together before in this) were very well-matched and absolutely on the music to the point that, on a couple of occasions, shivers were running down my spine.

 

Yasuo Atsuji was sinister as Drosselmeyer and I really enjoyed his characterisation.

 

In the evening we were treated to a dazzling performance from Beatrice Parma, Max Maslen and Miki Mizutani - just WOW.  Rory Mackay was a more benevolent Drosselmeyer.

 

Of course the performance is more than just the dancers in the leading roles and I love how, in act 1, all the dancers and the children are so committed to their roles.  I always feel as though I am at the party!  What a privilege too to see Brandon Lawrence on stage as a flower cavalier in the afternoon and in the Arabian in the evening.  Lachlan Monaghan stood out as the Magician's Assistant.  In the afternoon Alys Sheered was a gorgeous Snow Fairy and Samara Downs was just sublime as the Flower Fairy.  In the evening Yijing Zhang was a regal Snow Fairy and Reina Fuchigami was a terrific Flower Fairy.

 

So it was an extremely enjoyable day in Birmingham.  Roll on the 2020 performances!

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Can’t wait to get my fix for this year. I never tire of the beauty and opulence of this production. A wonderful gift to the city of Birmingham.

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Quote

The most interesting thing I found in the designs was that any use of large amounts of red also included splotches of black, not just on the set but also costumes such as Clara's mother's dress & the Russian dancers' trousers. I don't know if this has some symbolic meaning or Macfarlane just thought it looked good? 

 

Thanks all for contributions and thoughts on this year's BRB Nutcracker. The production is very close to my heart, although I will not see it this year. 

 

I am particularly grateful for Dawnstar's thoughts, very interesting to hear the perspective from someone who has not seen the production for many years. I was also particularly struck by the comment about the black splotches on the red elements of the set and the costumes. I saw the BRB Nutcracker in 2014 and again in 2017 and in the latter I also noticed these black splotches and I thought - were they always there ? I've looked through phothographs in my programmes and the images are too dark and shadowy to be really conclusive. 

 

If anyone knows more details about this I'd be very interested to hear about it, as well as any other thoughts an impressions on this year's run of performances.   

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Sir Peter Wright in his autobiography,Wright & Wrongs, touches briefly on John Macfarlane’s thinking for the design. According to Wright, he was not keen to do Nutcracker and made certain stipulations. “ He would set the first act, party scene, in the early 1800’s, with strong, dark colours, reds and blacks, for the sets and costumes.” Wright goes on to discuss Macfarlane’s ideas for the transformation which makes interesting reading. 

I will try to find my early programmes to see if there is an interview with Macfarlane in which he explains more about his intentions.
 

” 

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17 minutes ago, Odyssey said:

Sir Peter Wright in his autobiography,Wright & Wrongs, touches briefly on John Macfarlane’s thinking for the design. According to Wright, he was not keen to do Nutcracker and made certain stipulations. “ He would set the first act, party scene, in the early 1800’s, with strong, dark colours, reds and blacks, for the sets and costumes.” Wright goes on to discuss Macfarlane’s ideas for the transformation which makes interesting reading. 

I will try to find my early programmes to see if there is an interview with Macfarlane in which he explains more about his intentions.
 

” 

 

There’s an interview with John Macfarlane in the programme for the Australian Ballet’s production of Peter Wright’s BRB Nutcracker. It contains the following:

 

'Macfarlane’s inspiration for the colour palette of his Act 1 set was an ancient potpourri box, containing flowers and nuts in rose reds and inky blues.  He kept it in his studio for inspiration, but never dared open it – “I didn’t want to smell it!”

 

For the Christmas party in Act 1,Macfarlane chose plum red, dark holly green and dark blue, evoking the rich warmth of a wealthy home in the late Victorian and early Edwardian eras.'

 

Edited to add that the interviewer was Valerie Lawson.

Edited by Bluebird
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Thanks all for the info and insight into the Macfarlane's design/colour choices. My own programmes from the 2014 and 2017 contain similar quotes about the general concepts behind the choice of colours 'Black white and red, wonderful hot red rooms'. I very much trust Janet's info that the black splotches were always there (Actually when I check my 2014 programme there is a photo of Yijing Zhang as Mrs Stahlbaum in her red dress, where the black splotches aren't very clear, but a much clearer version of that photo exists on the BRB website where the black splotches are unmistakable). As to symbolism - perhaps the black is actually representing scorching - the heat of those 'hot red rooms'. 

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Look at the caption below carefully ..... The BRB are doing '76 performances only' of The Nutcracker in four days it seems at the Royal Albert Hall.  That's a mere 19 performances per day.  (Is this a truncated version of Sir Peter's Wright's choreography? ..... For the life of me I just don't see how they will manage to fit it all in otherwise.)  Surely this must be seen as a historic effort to combat Britain's reportedly long standing sluggish productivity.  

 

And I've heard tell some think the ENB Company in their Nutcracker schedule are overworked.  A proverbial walk in the park it might seem in comparison :)  A northern powerhouse in deed!! :)   It is clear that Equity has, of recent late, adjusted some of its performance guideline strictures.  

 

Image may contain: one or more people

Edited by Bruce Wall
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On 14/12/2019 at 19:23, northstar said:

Thanks all for the info and insight into the Macfarlane's design/colour choices. My own programmes from the 2014 and 2017 contain similar quotes about the general concepts behind the choice of colours 'Black white and red, wonderful hot red rooms'. I very much trust Janet's info that the black splotches were always there (Actually when I check my 2014 programme there is a photo of Yijing Zhang as Mrs Stahlbaum in her red dress, where the black splotches aren't very clear, but a much clearer version of that photo exists on the BRB website where the black splotches are unmistakable). As to symbolism - perhaps the black is actually representing scorching - the heat of those 'hot red rooms'. 

I have just spent an enjoyable couple of hours viewing the DVD of the BRB Nutcracker from back in the 90s and can assure you that the black ‘splotches’ are very much in evidence in Mrs Stahlbaum’s sumptuous gown. In fact your comments got me noticing just how frequently the inky darkness is used throughout the whole design to great effect. I had a gander through several programmes from across the years and didn’t come across any interview with John Macfarlane ( in fact I noticed how the same couple of articles have been regurgitated each year!) In terms of symbolism, the only thing I would add is that Macfarlane's comments, reported both in the Wright autobiography and in direct conversation with Sir Peter in the tribute documentary aired on the BBC to celebrate Sir PeterWright’s 90th birthday, reveal an interest in bringing out the darker aspects to the tale, rather than a story of mere confectionary. As noted in my previous post, he was initially reluctant to take on the designs for this ballet and his stipulations included the depiction of the rats as genuinely threatening creatures.

You might be interested in the following two interview with John MacFarlane. The first is mainly about his designs for David Bintley’s Cinderella.I think you can see a very similar thinking behind his interpretation of a classic children’s story. At the end of the interview he also talks about attempts to tour the production and the staging at the Coliseum.  Incidentally in the same article is an interview with Peter Farmer about his designs for the ENB Nutcracker. The second is specifically about designing the Nutcracker.

https://theartsdesk.com/dance/design-secrets-cinderella-and-nutcracker

https://theartsdesk.com/dance/how-design-nutcracker

 

 

Edited by Odyssey
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Oops - I've only just remembered that this was on at the Albert Hall.  I'd been considering going ...

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