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BRB Nutcracker streamed from Birmingham Rep 18 Dec 2020


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Many thanks Jan and others for reflections on the BRB and Royal Ballet Nutcrackers. It’s always interesting to read alternative views.

 

A couple of points about BRB.
 

It seemed very odd to me that in Clara’s dream she has the fabulous pdd with her Prince but then spends Act 2 seeing him dancing with the SPF? I was going to say wouldn’t it make for a more satisfactory dream if Clara were to become the SPF? But then I’ve just looked again at the posts above and Jan said: “In the "normal" production it is much clearer that Clara becomes Sugarplum and it then makes perfect sense that what has happened has been Clara's dream.” I’m afraid I completely missed that from the relay and would be very keen to see how this is made clear in the theatre, although if we have two separate dancers, isn’t it a bit of an ask?

 

With no back story for Drosselmeyer, I’m afraid I struggle to understand hIs motivation. Is he simply providing magic tricks? Why the bizarre shaking and extraordinary expressions in Act 1? And what’s his role in Act 2? ‘Creepy’ may not be the best description but he certainly didn’t come across to me as genial.

 

In support of the Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker, I’m very taken with the stronger narrative, Drosselmeyer desperate for Hans Peter to be released from his Nutcracker imprisonment. The Clara/Hans Peter story I think works really well throughout the ballet, albeit Clara’s partner at the party rather loses out. Clara’s recognition that she has her necklace is a fabulous touch, as is the Drosselmeyer/Hans Peter close, and we’re left thinking/hoping that Clara and Hans Peter may well have a future together and that they will aspire to the ideal they saw in the SPF/Prince pdd.

 

I don’t go along with the criticisms of Act 1, either that too much is going on or that it’s boring. I can quite understand that (pre COVID) the Royal Ballet is choosing to draw on a very large number of dancers, including many from the Royal Ballet School who may be getting their first experience of performing on the main stage. That decision may mean that some of the party dancing is not as elaborate as other productions (and I certainly enjoyed the BRB dancing for Clara and her friends). But I rather like to think that some of the young dancers may well find they join the Royal Ballet and one or two of the youngest girls, who jump on grandpa’s lap, may well dance Clara and SPF (Francesca Hayward?) and I guess a number of Fritzes may also become Hans Peters and Princes. So given that the Royal Ballet’s production is deliberately drawing on students of all ages, I think it’s a bit unfair to complain about too many children (if that’s one of the criticisms): after all it’s very much a family Christmas party for all ages, including the grandparents. 

 

I appreciate there are criticisms of Clara and Hans Peter joining in many of the Act 2 dances. I recall (dimly) when Clara was danced by a young student and she and Hans Peter were very much observers in Act 2, enthralled by what was presented for them. But I’ve always liked their involvement in Act 2 and see the Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker as very much Clara’s so having them participate and observe seems good to me. I know people see Drosselmeyer as pulling the strings. But he doesn’t have full control: Clara dispatches the Rat King without any help/encouragement from Drosselmeyer; and Hans Peter has to make his own way to Drosselmeyer, with a bit of help from Clara.

 

As I’ve said earlier, I’m very keen to see the full BRB production in the theatre to have a proper chance to appreciate it, even more so now Jan has pointed out that Clara becomes SPF. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks JohnS, your views on the Royal Ballet Nutcracker are very similar to my own and much more eloquently described than I could've done! Just to add, in Act 1 for me there is the perfect balance between the charm of including the younger dancers whilst still including some great dancing - due partly to Clara being played by an adult from the company. This is in contrast to the Balanchine version for example, where Act 1 is full of much younger children. It's very warm and charming, but there's much less scope for interesting dancing and no pas de deux after the fight with the Mouse King. So I really appreciate that the Royal Ballet gets the best of both worlds in that respect.

 

I would strongly recommend going to see the BRB Nutcracker in the Hippodrome when it's possible (hopefully next year!). It's a wonderful experience 🙂

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I don’t think you can really compare a cut-down version of BRB’s production performed on a much smaller stage with the full RB production.

 

You mention numbers of children - apart from Fritz there are usually 12 children.  Clara usually has 6 friends and there are an equivalent number of cadets.

 

In act 1 we see dances for the children, friends & cadets and adults including   much tomfoolery with the boys and their toys culminating in the breaking and repair of the Nutcracker doll.

 

Drosselmeyer’s movements when he reappears are the efforts he puts in to making the room grow to giant size.

 

In BRB’s production Drosselmeyer is a hired magician.  I suppose it is all part of Clara’s dream that he comes back to transport her to exotic lands.  
 

If the BRB production deviates from the story on which it is loosely based does it matter?  I enjoy it for the quality of the dancing, its magic and its production values.  I love this production, I don’t like the RB production.  I’ve seen at least 5 different ENB/LFB productions - all different.  I’ve loved 2, been bored by 1 and disliked 2.  It doesn’t matter.  For me, what matters is that BRB were able to stream a cut-down version of their production which I was able to watch and enjoy..

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For me, what matters is that BRB were able to stream a cut-down version of their production which I was able to watch and enjoy..

 

That pretty much captures what I feel. And that glorious first moment when the curtain goes up and Mrs Stahlbaum in her xmas red dress putting final decorations on the tree is really iconic for me and was preserved in this this BRB 'covid' version. 

 

I actually didn't miss the waltz of the flowers too much, except that meant also that the wonderful Rose Fairy didn't appear. I remember seeing Celine Gittens for the first time in this role and being instantly astonished by her. 

In the RB version I do like the soldier and vivandiere doll section. 

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14 hours ago, JohnS said:

It seemed very odd to me that in Clara’s dream she has the fabulous pdd with her Prince but then spends Act 2 seeing him dancing with the SPF? I was going to say wouldn’t it make for a more satisfactory dream if Clara were to become the SPF? But then I’ve just looked again at the posts above and Jan said: “In the "normal" production it is much clearer that Clara becomes Sugarplum and it then makes perfect sense that what has happened has been Clara's dream.” I’m afraid I completely missed that from the relay and would be very keen to see how this is made clear in the theatre, although if we have two separate dancers, isn’t it a bit of an ask?

 

Drosselmeyer transforms Clara into the Sugar Plum Fairy part-way through Act II (Clara first does the joining in with the divertissements as in the recent streaming). The mechanics of it are that Clara ducks under Drosselmeyer's cape on one side & the SPF emerges on the other side. Most of the company are on stage at that point so the SPF gets on stage by minging as unobtrusively as possible with them & Clara exits ditto. The swap back at the end was pretty much shown on the stream except that Clara usually enters unobtrusively during the last group dance before she is revealed being held by the Prince whereas on the stream she could be visible beccause he wasn't supposed not to be there, if that makes sense. As for the plausibility, I suppose that depends on how good you are at suspending disbelief! Personally I'm not very good at it. I can remember age 9, when I first saw the production on TV, being completely unable to belive that blonde, English Sandra Madgwick could turn into black-haired, Japanese Miyako Yoshida.  I didn't find it any more plausible last year seeing Rachele Pizzillo turn into Yijing Zhang live. I was pleased that the livestream didn't include the transformation, as Karla Doorbar into Momoka Hirata would hardly be plausible for me either.

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Many thanks Dawnstar - that’s really good to know. I’m very impressed you were dubious aged 9 when I’m afraid I’d not picked up at all on the transformation during the broadcast. I take it Clara and SPF are always two dancers for BRB? 

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In the light of this discussion of the two productions,  it is worth reading Wright’s own account, including the revival of the RB version and the BRB adaptation for the 02 centre. In Wright and Wrongs, he talks at length about various sources, and notes, “A producer has to decide who motivates the story, Clara or Drosselmeyer. Is Clara a ten year old interested in toys -or a 16-year-old adolescent interested in boys? To what degree does the producer reconcile the two acts?  How far does he he indulge every small girl’s identification with Clara and her desire to become the Sugar Plum Fairy?” Later on in his discussion, he also comments that with the BRB production he “ adopted a freer, more youthful and romantic telling” which he considers was more fitting for the company.

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On 28/12/2020 at 13:50, Dawnstar said:

 

Drosselmeyer transforms Clara into the Sugar Plum Fairy part-way through Act II (Clara first does the joining in with the divertissements as in the recent streaming). The mechanics of it are that Clara ducks under Drosselmeyer's cape on one side & the SPF emerges on the other side. Most of the company are on stage at that point so the SPF gets on stage by minging as unobtrusively as possible with them & Clara exits ditto. The swap back at the end was pretty much shown on the stream except that Clara usually enters unobtrusively during the last group dance before she is revealed being held by the Prince whereas on the stream she could be visible beccause he wasn't supposed not to be there, if that makes sense. As for the plausibility, I suppose that depends on how good you are at suspending disbelief! Personally I'm not very good at it. I can remember age 9, when I first saw the production on TV, being completely unable to belive that blonde, English Sandra Madgwick could turn into black-haired, Japanese Miyako Yoshida.  I didn't find it any more plausible last year seeing Rachele Pizzillo turn into Yijing Zhang live. I was pleased that the livestream didn't include the transformation, as Karla Doorbar into Momoka Hirata would hardly be plausible for me either.

When the production was first premiered in 1990 it was in the halcyon days when the publicity material included advance casting.  Oh, did I come to miss that over the last 25 years!  The booking leaflet listed a Japanese soloist with the company, I cannot remember her name, as Clara who it was planned would evolve into the peerless Miyako Yoshida.  The published second cast was Sandra Madgwick as Clara and Marion Tait as the SPF.

 

I never heard why officially but by the premiere Sandra Madgwick was Clara.  The opening night was such a resounding triumph that I don't think the incongruity of a Europen, blonde Clara turning into a Japanese ballerina bothered too many people.

 

When the transition does work it can be pretty staggering.  About 5 or 6 years ago we took our nephew and his wife to see the delightful Laura Day evolve into Karla Doorbar.  A near perfect match.  So perfect the wife couldn't believe it wasn't the same dancer and kept saying all the way home that she couldn't work out how it was done.

 

One of the slightly sad things is that you can only see a production for the first time once.  My abiding memory of that first night was the wonder of the transformation scene and right at the top of that glorious music the arrival of King Rat.  It was played by Kevin O'Hare.  Whatever happened to him?

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2 hours ago, Two Pigeons said:

One of the slightly sad things is that you can only see a production for the first time once.  My abiding memory of that first night was the wonder of the transformation scene and right at the top of that glorious music the arrival of King Rat.  It was played by Kevin O'Hare.  Whatever happened to him?

 

By 1995 he'd made it to the heights of dancing the Prince! I saw him at a Schools Matinee. Last year I found the cast sheet, was thrilled to find I'd seen him, & managed to get him to sign it after an ROH performance, only 24 years late!

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  • 1 month later...

I went to the matinee yesterday afternoon!

 

I loved watching this cast too.  Rory Mackay is a master of eyebrow choreography and I love his portrayal of Drosselmeyer.  I particularly liked his almost flirtatious look with Clara's Mum when he was introduced to her.  I think he has a more sinister interpretation than Jonathan Payn.

 

Laura Day was just sublime as Clara and Tyrone Singleton was her perfect Prince.  Samara Downs was just gorgeous as Sugar Plum.

 

Students from Elmhurst performed the Kingdom of the Snow.  They really were magical and it was hard to believe that they did not have several years of company membership under their belts.  The young lady who was the Snow Fairy (Amelia Thompson) was, IMHO, outstanding.

 

This streaming didn't have the introduction and interval events but it did have a film of the wonderful Marion Tait talking about her career at the end of the streaming.  I was ridiculously over emotional watching this section and it is worth the ticket money just for this short 7 minute section.

 

Anyway, BRAVO BRB!!!  I will be watching this again!!

 

Here's the programme:  https://issuu.com/birminghamrb/docs/nutcracker__the_rep_january__revised_

 

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5 hours ago, Jan McNulty said:

I went to the matinee yesterday afternoon!

 

I loved watching this cast too.  Rory Mackay is a master of eyebrow choreography and I love his portrayal of Drosselmeyer.  I particularly liked his almost flirtatious look with Clara's Mum when he was introduced to her.  I think he has a more sinister interpretation than Jonathan Payn.

 

Laura Day was just sublime as Clara and Tyrone Singleton was her perfect Prince.  Samara Downs was just gorgeous as Sugar Plum.

 

Students from Elmhurst performed the Kingdom of the Snow.  They really were magical and it was hard to believe that they did not have several years of company membership under their belts.  The young lady who was the Snow Fairy (Amelia Thompson) was, IMHO, outstanding.

 

This streaming didn't have the introduction and interval events but it did have a film of the wonderful Marion Tait talking about her career at the end of the streaming.  I was ridiculously over emotional watching this section and it is worth the ticket money just for this short 7 minute section.

 

Anyway, BRAVO BRB!!!  I will be watching this again!!

 

Here's the programme:  https://issuu.com/birminghamrb/docs/nutcracker__the_rep_january__revised_

 

 

 

I bought the original streaming but had huge issues trying to watch it.  Unfortunately, by the time I had secured the services of someone considerably more techno savvy than me, not difficult I do admit, my ticket had expired.  I wasn't that bothered as I am not a huge fan of Momoko Hirata but I was sorry to have missed the contributions of Samara Downs and, especially, Marion Tait.  Marion represents so much of my ballet going history.  To my mind she is equal only to my other ballet goddess, Lesley Collier.  I may have seen better ballerinas but these two have an unrivalled place in my affections.

 

Learning that the second performance starred my favourite current Clara in Laura Day and two of my very favourite principals ( with the added bonus of Brandon Lawrence in the Arabian dance) I was determined not to miss this one.

 

It was very interesting to see how the production had been tailored for a smaller theatre and I endorse the opinion stated previously that this could prove a useful basis for a touring version.  

 

For the performance, much as I admire Cesare Morales - and I do, for me it's Tyrone every time.  Not as classical but he just gets to me in just about anything.  I was very impressed with Samara, but then I always am.  I was disappointed with the transformation scene but appreciate fully that the recording was the best that could be expected in the prevailing conditions.  For viewers who wish to experience the full effect it is axiomatic to say that you need to see it at the Hippodrome.

 

I was very taken with the commitment and sheer joy in performing shown by the students from Elmhurst and the RBS.

 

All in all I was very pleased with my purchase and will endeavour to watch it again.

 

To finish, I heartily concur with Janet about the film on Marion Tait.  So many memories, although I was slightly sorry that there wasn't an extract from her recording of Les Rendezvous, in the proper frocks!  

 

All in all, well worth £10.  I mucked up my attempt to get it for £5.  Sometimes I am just too blonde, but i don't grudge the Company a bit of extra cash.

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I watched last night - and will try to re-watch while I still can. What a sweet February treat! I very much liked Karla Doorbar’s Clara before Christmas but Laura Day was even more lovely, radiating joy and wonder, especially when dancing with her Prince. What beautiful, natural chemistry she and Tyrone Singleton had - it made me both smile and well up at the same time. I concur absolutely withTwo Pigeons above; Tyrone’s dancing moves me, always. He and Samara Downs danced a radiant grand pdd together- Samara was a dazzling Sugar Plum fairy. Magical, and bringing some much-needed cheer. Poignant too, of course; with all my heart I hope dancers will be able to perform again before too long. 

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P.s.  I forgot to mention with appreciation seeing the ever gorgeous Wolfgang Stollwitzer as Clara's father.  Brought back some very happy memories of seeing him with the Company since 1996.  Gosh, 25 years and he has matured with utter distinction.

 

Any comment Janet?

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I've just watched it. I enjoyed the performances but found the picture problematic. Whenever there was movement - which was most of the time! - there were horizontal lines visible. I believe this is to do with deinterlacing. Has anyone else had this issue? I didn't have any issues with the first video back in December & I'm using the same laptop to watch on.

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1 hour ago, Two Pigeons said:

P.s.  I forgot to mention with appreciation seeing the ever gorgeous Wolfgang Stollwitzer as Clara's father.  Brought back some very happy memories of seeing him with the Company since 1996.  Gosh, 25 years and he has matured with utter distinction.

 

Any comment Janet?

 

Did I mention what a jolly fine Onegin he was???

 

(I can't believe that was 1990!!)

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Carlos Acosta was on BBC Breakfast this morning (starting at about five past 9 - 3 hours in).  (It's available on the iplayer until 09:15 tomorrow morning.)

 

The item was about Empty Stage but covered also how the dancers are coping with lockdown.  He certainly brings joy and hope to us.  He also showed that he is a talented pianist.

 

What a wonderful ambassador for ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet he is.

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Couldn’t agree more Janet. He has such a relaxed persona in this type of interview. When you look at what he has managed to achieve with BRB in this most difficult of years, you realise how fortunate we are to have him at the helm. If anyone can bring BRB through this awful period, Carlos can.

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Thanks Janet for notifying us of this interview. In this dreadful time for ballet, it is fantastic to have Acosta in this country providing inspiration and leadership. (And so grateful to all other directors of ballet companies for their service to the cultural life of this country). 

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16 hours ago, Odyssey said:

Couldn’t agree more Janet. He has such a relaxed persona in this type of interview. When you look at what he has managed to achieve with BRB in this most difficult of years, you realise how fortunate we are to have him at the helm. If anyone can bring BRB through this awful period, Carlos can.

 

Hear, hear!

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Thank you for mentioning this, Janet. I watched this morning and it gave me such a lift at the start of the day - a lovely interview- and the bonus piano playing!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Rather belatedly wanted to put some words here about the pleasure and sustenance the 2nd BRB Nutrcacker online perfomance gave me (with Samara Downs and Tyrone Singleton as the sugar plum fairy and the prince).

 

It's hard for many of us I expect, we would be going to see BRB's late winter/early spring tour at this time normally. This time last year, I was watching Downs for the first time as Odette/Odile at the Lowry, Salford, a remarkable performance which I remember with great pleasure.

 

I am so grateful to be able to see Downs for the first time as the Sugar Plum Fairy, gratitude mixed with sadness that it cannot be in a theatre. I am so intrigued by this remarkable dancer's progress to Principal and seeing what she makes of the classic roles. 

 

And to see the other dancers I love and have watched many times before; Tyrone Singleton, Lachlan Monaghan, Yijing Zhang to name a few, and new performances I had not seen before like Laura Day as Clara. The company and it's heavily restricted performance setting does indeed still provide something of the old magic. I pray, with reasonable hope, that their work can return to live theatre settings within this year. And my heart goes out to all in the company suffering such dreadful restrictions and uncertainty. 

 

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I too enjoyed the second cast of Nutcracker ... especially as I’m not yet that familiar with many of the BRB dancers.  
 

The student leading the snowflakes particularly impressed me ... Amelia Thompson I believe.  
 

I do hope she will be joining one of our domestic companies.

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