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THE ROYAL BALLET 2021/22 SEASON ANNOUNCEMENT


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I’ve been wondering if there is a reason behind Cinderella not being performed in so many years by the company. And if they were to do it again I imagine it would be very much like Coppelia was, a brand new ballet for the majority of the dancers.

 

 

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20 minutes ago, bangorballetboy said:

The director has said a number of times that he will only do Cinderella if it is redesigned and the owner of the ballet will not permit that.


Did the director say what was wrong with the current design?  I am always very wary of redesigns.  I still have spots in front of my eyes after looking at the recent photos of the updated dresses in Les Rendezvous. 

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15 minutes ago, Fonty said:


Did the director say what was wrong with the current design?  I am always very wary of redesigns.  I still have spots in front of my eyes after looking at the recent photos of the updated dresses in Les Rendezvous. 

 

FWIW I agree with the director.  The current designs are not the originals and look very dated. 

 

Can you imagine in this day and age that the fairy godmother throws the pumpkin into the wings when it turns into a coach?  And don't get me started on the dreadful, cringe-worthy Napoleon-style character who has got worse and worse over the years.

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2 minutes ago, bangorballetboy said:

 

FWIW I agree with the director.  The current designs are not the originals and look very dated. 

 

Can you imagine in this day and age that the fairy godmother throws the pumpkin into the wings when it turns into a coach?  And don't get me started on the dreadful, cringe-worthy Napoleon-style character who has got worse and worse over the years.

 

I can't remember the last time I saw Cinderella, so I have no idea which designs I saw.   I believe Yoshida was dancing the title role, which probably dates it a bit.  I remember reading somewhere that Ashton's ballet was a tribute to late 19th Century ballet.  Who was the Napoleon character supposed to be?  

 

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I don't think it is a huge secret to say that Cinderella has been on ice for some years due to difficulties with the producer and current owner of the rights to the ballet. 

 

I have seen David Bintley's version of Cinderella.  For me it cannot compete with the Ashton one in terms of choreography.  However, in design terms, it leaves the last ROH version cold.

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Whatever disagreements there were in the past between director and rights holder (Wendy Ellis Somes,) if indeed they ever existed, surely,  they are resolved by now?

If only so much of a season is given over to Ashton rep (and it still mystifies why the allocation is so paltry,)  you could argue that at least Cinderella's omission made way for The Two Pigeons, and I was really happy that ballet restored.

I wish some of MacMillan's blockbusters were given a little less frequently so that there was room to see both some of his earlier and choral works.

 

Regarding the pumpkin thrown into the wings and turning into a coach, yes I can believe it - just as I don't need to see Giselle changing into her costume and make-up for the second act of Giselle to understand that she is transformed into a spirit. Whatever the redesign for Cinderella, let's hope for something charming, in keeping with the style of the ballet. Nothing Disneyesque or high-tech, just something that complements choreography that speaks so eloquently for itself.

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The current production was staged in 2004 during the Ashton centenary celebrations and last seen in 2011. Its designs are undistinguished. The costume designs give Cinderella very pretty becoming rags while the Stepsisters have costumes with such loud and coarse designs that anyone staging a pantomime in the 

would baulk at them. Sadly  Wayne Sleep and Anthony Dowell who appeared as the Stepsisters in 2004 lived up to their costumes and gave the broadest and coarsest accounts of their roles that I have ever seen. Whether they were encouraged in this by Wendy Ellis-Somes is unclear but she did not discourage such broad playing at subsequent revivals. She seems obsessed with the idea that the sisters are essentially characters derived from the pantomime tradition. Perhaps she does not know that using men to play older women is a much older theatrical tradition than that of the nineteenth century pantomime. The  performances in 2004 suggested that the stager was more interested in broad pantomime slapstick than the characters depicted in the distinctive choreography Ashton gave each of them.

 

I know that it is usually said that Ashton rather skimped on the choreography for the Stepsisters and relied over much on the ability of Helpmann and himself to improvise their roles. I think that there is enough in the style of choreography each is given to establish their characters and that as with many other ballets he created it contains both in-jokes and references to  characters which the 1948 audience would have recognised immediately. At the time he wrote the score Prokofiev was required to stick very closely to the classical tradition. He  does that but he also manages to allude to his more avant garde  past to spice the whole thing up. I think that Ashton was doing much the same thing with his choreography which is an extraordinary eclectic mixture of pure Petipa style classicism; character portraits based on a basic knowledge of ballet history; material derived from the popular musical theatre and in-joke allusions to people working in the theatre in the late forties.

 

The quiet, down trodden, forgetful sister originally played by Ashton reveals her timidity by her quiet understated dance vocabulary which looks as if it is based on steps used in ballet in the eighteenth century. The forgetfulness suggests that he is alluding to Andre Howard who was, as I understand it, quite well known for forgetting the choreography she had just created but it might equally be a reference to a problem which is said to befall many dance makers in the heat of creation. The dominant sister is big and bossy and aspires to be a great Petipa ballerina. Her trick with the necklace, which rarely comes off these days, is based on what  Bea Lillie did on stage. I think we are expected to see it as further evidence of the type of person she is.

 

The short and tall partners had been part of the ballet from the beginning but they only achieved their current identities as Napoleon and Wellington in the production staged in 1965 where it their identities were intended as a  reference to the theft of the Goya portrait of the Duke which had occurred in 1961. As far as I am concerned I would restore them to the anonymity they originally enjoyed as that would enable us to lose the unfunny toupee joke which must have originated at some point in a stage accident and has no place in an Ashton ballet.

 

I think that the problem with the Bintley version is one that besets pretty much every choreographer who encountered the Ashton version in their impressionable youth. They spend so much time avoiding Ashton that they fail to do justice to the score. I have some sympathy with them as there are so much of the choreography seems inevitable.

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24 minutes ago, Darlex said:

Regarding the pumpkin thrown into the wings and turning into a coach, yes I can believe it - just as I don't need to see Giselle changing into her costume and make-up for the second act of Giselle to understand that she is transformed into a spirit.

 

Not sure I understand the point being made here.  

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Posted (edited)

Strange that Wendy Ellis Somes should allow such overblown performances of the Ugly Sisters.  She has impeccable credentials; Royal Ballet through and through.  She inherited the rights to Cinderella from her Principal Royal Ballet dancer husband,  who worked with Ashton for many years, danced with Margot Fonteyn, and was in the first cast for many of his ballets.  If anyone should know what the original intention of the choreographer was, she should!

 

 

Edited by Fonty
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4 hours ago, bangorballetboy said:

 

 

Can you imagine in this day and age that the fairy godmother throws the pumpkin into the wings when it turns into a coach?

 

How about this, then? (Just came across it in one of my old scrapbooks - it's talking about a TV performance in 1960)

 

"But it is in the transformation scenes that televison really comes into its own.

 

In the stage version the Fairy Godmother throws a pumpkin into the wings and out rolls the coach.

...

 

But this time the pumpkin appears to grow in size, becoming bigger and bigger until it bursts into a 10-ft-high tinsel-encrusted coach, lined with nylon fur and sprinkled with stardust, ready to take Cinderella to the ball."

 

That's more like it. Especially the nylon fur.

 

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2 hours ago, FLOSS said:

I think that the problem with the Bintley version is one that besets pretty much every choreographer who encountered the Ashton version in their impressionable youth. They spend so much time avoiding Ashton that they fail to do justice to the score. I have some sympathy with them as there are so much of the choreography seems inevitable.

 

Going off at a tangent slightly (sorry), this is precisely how I feel about any version of Romeo and Juliet I have seen that was not choreographed by MacMillan.  His choreography matches Prokofiev’s score so perfectly and seamlessly that the two could have been thinking with one mind.  Anyone else’s choreo just doesn’t flow for me. 

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3 hours ago, Darlex said:

Whatever the redesign for Cinderella, let's hope for something charming, in keeping with the style of the ballet. Nothing Disneyesque or high-tech, just something that complements choreography that speaks so eloquently for itself.

 

I think the problem with the current designs is that they were regarded as being rather too Disneyesque, isn't it?  The history of the redesign is a bit of a mess: the original designer chosen (possibly several years in advance?) was the one also chosen for Makarova's Sleeping Beauty under Ross Stretton.  It was then decided, I understand, (after Stretton had left) that the RB didn't want its two big "fairy" ballets looking that alike, so a new designer had to be sought.  IIRC, the sets and costumes are by different designers, so there's a lack of consistency. 

 

Personally, I was quite happy with the previous set of designs, which I think were by David Walker?

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Posted (edited)

I liked the Walker designs too.  They represent my purple years of seeing the Royal Ballet during the 80s and early 90s.  I was lucky enough to see Sibley and Dowell twice.  Both shows were totally magical.

Edited by Two Pigeons
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2 hours ago, Two Pigeons said:

I liked the Walker designs too.  They represent my purple years of seeing the Royal Ballet during the 80s and early 90s.  I was lucky enough to see Sibley and Dowell twice.  Both shows were totally magical.

Sibley with Wall was also magical 

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Those nostalgic for Sibley and Dowell in Cinderella (with the Walker designs; not to mention Ashton as the timid stepsister, with the far from timid Helpmann) may consider buying the newly released DVD recorded in December 1969. For anyone reluctant to use Amazon I got it for £12.59, post-free, from Hive Books.

The standard of dancing is very high; although it's commonplace to comment on how much higher technical standards are nowadays, the quality of the dancing and the truly Ashtonian style would be hard to equal.

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I’ve not seen Cinderella on stage and have only watched the very poor quality (recording not dancing!) Fonteyn filmed for TV version. 
 

Was the Fonteyn version the ‘full’/proper ballet? I’d be tempted to check out the Sibley/Dowell DVD but I didn’t enjoy the Fonteyn version so I’d be intrigued to know how different the Fonteyn filmed for TV version was with regards to deviating from the one performed in the ROH?

 

re the 2021/22 season I’m absolutely delighted. Some big classics, hopefully lots of exciting casting for R&J, two new full premieres and a dreamy Ashton triple! It would have been nice to see a few more triple bills and as others have lamented Fille would have been lovely to see for the happy tone but overall I’m just happy to get back into seeing live ballet with such a blockbuster set of hits coming! Ultimately the season will be a success and I do think there’s something for everyone. Hopefully the 22/23 season will give more opportunity for increased variety and revivals of lesser-known/shown programming. (I’m sure many will disagree but I’d be happy to not see a big MacMillan ballet like Manon/R&J/Mayerling for a few years in favour of more Balanchine, Ashton and shorter MacMillan works.) 

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4 hours ago, SheilaC said:

Those nostalgic for Sibley and Dowell in Cinderella (with the Walker designs; not to mention Ashton as the timid stepsister, with the far from timid Helpmann) may consider buying the newly released DVD recorded in December 1969. For anyone reluctant to use Amazon I got it for £12.59, post-free, from Hive Books.

The standard of dancing is very high; although it's commonplace to comment on how much higher technical standards are nowadays, the quality of the dancing and the truly Ashtonian style would be hard to equal.

I love Sibley in this !.....not so keen on the overblown performances of the ugly sisters.

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23 hours ago, bangorballetboy said:

 

Not sure I understand the point being made here.  

The point is that some things are better left to the audience's imagination. Nowadays, many over-complicated scenic and lighting effects are used all too often, possibly to hide weak choreography. I feel it's fine 'in this day and age' to have the pumpkin thrown into the wings and seconds later to see the coach emerge. I understand from your post that you would disagree. 

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1 minute ago, Darlex said:

The point is that some things are better left to the audience's imagination. Nowadays, many over-complicated scenic and lighting effects are used all too often, possibly to hide weak choreography. I feel it's fine 'in this day and age' to have the pumpkin thrown into the wings and seconds later to see the coach emerge. I understand from your post that you would disagree. 

 

The point I make, though, is that it's not left to your imagination.  The coach appears from one set of wings and a moment later the fairy godmother throws the pumpkin into the other set of wings.  There is no suggestion whatsoever, in my mind, that the pumpkin has transformed into a coach.

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18 hours ago, bangorballetboy said:

 

The point I make, though, is that it's not left to your imagination.  The coach appears from one set of wings and a moment later the fairy godmother throws the pumpkin into the other set of wings.  There is no suggestion whatsoever, in my mind, that the pumpkin has transformed into a coach.

I can't remember the 2004 production precisely, so I'd like to have a look at this older one instead, which more than satisfies me. Circa 2.00 minutes, Fairy Godmother blesses pumpkin with MAGIC wand and instructs Cinderella to place pumpkin in SPECIAL place. Then, after about two minutes of wonderful dancing, the backdrop lifts up, disappearing to reveal the pumpkin transformed into a coach, transporting a transformed Cinderella off to the ball.

 

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I can't see it mentioned in this thread so sorry if it's already been covered.

 

Tucked away in the Ashton Triple page in the Friends' Season Guide is the following:

 

Insight: Ashton Rediscovered

The 10th anniversary of the Ashton Foundation is marked with an unmissable Insight into the genius of Ashton. Find out more about the master choreographer's work and legacy in an evening of live performance and specially commissioned film.

Monday 25th October at 7.15pm

Linbury Theatre 

 

I very much hope this is streamed.

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You just beat me to it Lizbie 1. I was just thinking the Friends season guide had nothing that wasn't on the website (less really, as there were no performance dates in the programme) when I noticed the Ashton Insight evening mentioned on the triple bill page. Slightly odd it is in October when the performance isn't until April but I assume the date is to coincide with the  Ashton Foundation celebrations and I'm still hoping for another Insight for the actual triple bill. With just a quick look I couldnt initially see any other mentions of Insights so I'm hoping they just haven't been programmed yet rather than there won't be any and, like Lizbie1, I hope this Insight will be streamed. However, when I got to Like Water for Chocolate I noticed there were 4 insight nights devoted to this! In my opinion someone has got their priorities wrong!

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16 hours ago, Darlex said:

I can't remember the 2004 production precisely, so I'd like to have a look at this older one instead, which more than satisfies me. Circa 2.00 minutes, Fairy Godmother blesses pumpkin with MAGIC wand and instructs Cinderella to place pumpkin in SPECIAL place. Then, after about two minutes of wonderful dancing, the backdrop lifts up, disappearing to reveal the pumpkin transformed into a coach, transporting a transformed Cinderella off to the ball.

 

 

Hi Darlex, unfortunately the Mods have had to delete the video link as it doesn't comply with AUP for copyright reasons.  That said, the transformation scene as you describe it is significantly more satisfying artistically than what happens in the 'current' RB production.

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37 minutes ago, bangorballetboy said:

 

Hi Darlex, unfortunately the Mods have had to delete the video link as it doesn't comply with AUP for copyright reasons.  That said, the transformation scene as you describe it is significantly more satisfying artistically than what happens in the 'current' RB production.

Oh apologies for posting the YouTube link. I was getting carried away making a point! Thank you Mods for deleting the video and not the whole post. Glad to hear that you, BangorBalletBoy, find the old production transformation scene more satisfying than the most recent incarnation.

I do hope the stars regain their beautiful blue tutus. I would be happy if the RB danced Cinderella in David Walker's designs again. 

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17 hours ago, Lizbie1 said:

I can't see it mentioned in this thread so sorry if it's already been covered.

 

Tucked away in the Ashton Triple page in the Friends' Season Guide is the following:

 

Insight: Ashton Rediscovered

The 10th anniversary of the Ashton Foundation is marked with an unmissable Insight into the genius of Ashton. Find out more about the master choreographer's work and legacy in an evening of live performance and specially commissioned film.

Monday 25th October at 7.15pm

Linbury Theatre 

 

I very much hope this is streamed.


Maybe worth starting an early campaign. 

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On 03/06/2021 at 11:52, SheilaC said:

Those nostalgic for Sibley and Dowell in Cinderella (with the Walker designs; not to mention Ashton as the timid stepsister, with the far from timid Helpmann) may consider buying the newly released DVD recorded in December 1969. For anyone reluctant to use Amazon I got it for £12.59, post-free, from Hive Books.

The standard of dancing is very high; although it's commonplace to comment on how much higher technical standards are nowadays, the quality of the dancing and the truly Ashtonian style would be hard to equal.

I was fortunate enough to attend an event when Antoinette Sibley gave a talk to the friends of BRB.  Had I not been a huge fan of hers before that talk I sured would have been, in spades, after it.

 

She elected to stand for the full event to make sure everyone could see her properly.  Added to that she talked so adoringly about Ashton, how she loved working with him and dancing his works.

 

She spoke particularly warmly about Cinderella (along with The Dream and Scenes de Ballet) and her real feeling for the works were was absolutely shining out of her.

 

I fully endorse Sheila's comment about the reissued DVD.  As she says, such a wonderful example of the Ashton style danced by absolute masters of it.

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