Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Royal Ballet's Nutcracker in the Merrie City

Wakefield from Sandal Castle
Author Tim Green
Creative Commons Licence
Source Wikipedia

The Royal Ballet, The Nutcracker, streamed to cinemas 8 Dec 2016

Immediately after watching the preview of Calyx and mingling with the artists and guests on 8 Dec 2016 I galloped down to Leeds central station, jeté on to a train to Wakefield Kirkgate where I had left my car the previous day for a dash down to London to give a talk on IP Planning for Brexit and chasséd  on over to Cineworld which was streaming the Royal Ballet's The Nutcracker live from Covent Garden. I arrived at the cinema at 17:29 and presented my driving licence as proof of my antiquity to claim an old age pensioner's concessionary ticket for the show.
"You're too late, love" said the man at the ice cream concession dourly. "Picture started about 'half an 'hour ago. You'll have to come back tomorrow."
Would you believe that Wakefield, originally called Waca's Field, was once known as the "Merrie City"? No neither would I. Never believe everything in Wikipedia. On the other hand, having observed the young folks of Wakefield on the Saturday night pub crawl that the proprietor of the Springfield Beauty Salon once told me was known locally as the "Westgate Run", I would not be at all surprised to learn that its name derives from "Whackers' Field."
"It's not on, tomorrow", I protested. "It's not a picture but a ballet screening. And the only thing that I am likely to have missed is Darcy Bussell's patter, twitter hashtags and trailers for forthcoming shows."
"Oh well suit tha'sane, love", said the jolly ice cream vendor as he took my money
I entered the auditorium just as the orchestra was striking up the first notes.

According to the trailer on the Royal Ballet's website,
"The Royal Ballet celebrates Peter Wright’s 90th birthday with his much-loved production of this beautiful classical ballet, danced to Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score."
Sir Peter Wright is amazing. I met him briefly at the cast party after the Hungarian Ballet had premiered his version of The Sleeping Beauty at Budapest Opera House (see My Trip to Hungary 21 April 2016). He moved about the stage like a 20-year old as the cast took curtain call after curtain call and then gave an excellent impromptu speech to the cast, guests and production crew. In our brief conversation, he asked me where I came from and what I did for a living. To my great surprise, he had remembered that information for he introduced me at our next meeting which was the London Ballet Circle's 70th-anniversary celebration to a lady whom I shan't identify with a son who is reading law in Manchester (see 70 Years of the London Ballet Circle 10 May 2016).

As I said in The Good Nutcracker Guide 31 Oct 2016 we are spoilt for choice for versions of The Nutcracker this year but my first choice is the Royal Ballet's. If you can't make it to Amsterdam to see Ted Brandsen's Coppelia then Sir Peter Wright's Nutcracker really is the next best thing. Having said that, Birmingham's is pretty good, Wayne Eagling's is not bad if you don't mind the transposition of the Stahlbaums to the banks of the Thames and the rodent king's reappearance in Act II (see Cracking 14 Dec 2013). As for the other Christmas shows, Christopher Hampson and Scottish Ballet can do no wrong in my book (see Scottish Ballet's Hansel and Gretel 23 Dec 2013 and the last Act of Northern Ballet's Beauty and the Beast impressed me when I saw it in 2011 (see Jane Lambert Ballet and Intellectual Property - my Excuse for reviewing "Beauty and the Beast" 31 Dec 2011 IP Yorkshire).

There seem to have been a few changes to the Royal Ballet's Nutcracker since the last time I saw it.  There is a new Chinese dance in the divertissements in Act II and the sets and costumes seem a bit fresher. Francesca Hayward was a beautiful Clara. I like versions where Clara (or, if you prefer, Marie) has something to do but I never want her to morph into the Sugar Plum. It's quite a demanding role because (a bit like Juliet) she has to persuade her audience that she is still a young girl but the dancing requires the skills and expertise of a principal. She was partnered admirably by Alexander Campbell as the Nutcracker. Two of my all time favourite dancers, Lauren Cuthbertson and Federico Bonelli dazzled us in the final pas de deux. I should mention in passing that there is a young man from Novara who reminds me very much of Bonelli with the Dutch National Ballet as well as a young woman from Bologna with more than a little of Ferri's flair. And my favourite of the show? Well, how could it be anyone other than Gary Avis as Drosselmeyer? He was also at the London Ballet Circle's 70th where I was able to tell him how much I had enjoyed his work when I shook his hand.

I have learned from experience that the best is the enemy of the good. Having seen Brandsen's Coppelia it is probably not a good idea for me to see any of the other Christmas shows just yet. In any case, the Royal Ballet's The Nutcracker was sold out weeks ago. But I will be well over that when Scottish Ballet bring Hansel and Gretel to Newcastle in February.

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