Wednesday, 6 November 2019

All Credit to the Royal Ballet's Dancers last night. If only the Presenters and Techies were as good.

Standard YouTube Licence

Royal Ballet Triple Bill: Concerto, Enigma Variations and Raymonda  streamed from the Royal Opera House to cinemas worldwide including Leeds-Bradford Odeon, 5 Nov 2019, 19:15

If the Royal Opera House had subcontracted the streaming of its live performances to Pathé Live or at least recruited Ekaterina Novikova, yesterday's screening of the Concerto, Enigma Variations and Act III of Raymonda would have been perfect.  The double act between Anita Rani and Darcey Bussell just did not work. Alexander Campbell and Kristen McNally who recently hosted World Ballet Day were so much better.

Also, I probably saw the screening at the wrong cinema.  I was at Leeds Bradford Odeon which has been promoted as a super luxury auditorium. Each seat has an airline-style tray enabling patrons to chomp away as you watch the feature.  Fine for Disney perhaps but not for ballet.  Also, the transmission started late.  No more than 5 minutes before the curtain was raised.  Nobody in the cinema had bothered to print the programmes even after I had given a member of their staff the URL from which they could be downloaded. The ladies' loos on the first floor were a disgrace because they could not be flushed properly.

Happily, my mood changed the moment Maestro Sorokin entered the orchestra pit. Soon I was enchanted by the music of Shostakovich and MacMillan's choreography.  Concerto is a very short piece but it must require considerable strength, stamina and concentration to do well.  The dancers were Anna Rose O'SullivanJames HayYasmine Naghdi Ryoichi Hirano and Mayara Magri.  The set was very simple.  Just a red disc like a setting sun for the second movement.  So, too, were Rose's costumes. They filled the stage and uplifted even the cinema audience.

In the interval, Rani and Bussell interviewed Wayne Sleep and Alfreda Thoroughgood.  They were the leading dancers of my youth and it was so good to see them again. They had, of course, aged but they were still beautiful.  I am not sure that I ever saw Thoroughgood in Enigma Variations but I certainly remember Sleep, Anthony Dowell and the wonderful Antoinette Sibley as Dorabella.  When one associates a role with a dancer it is always difficult to watch another artist a generation later fill her shoes but I was more than happy with Francesca Hayward in Sibley's role.  I was also delighted with Laura Morera as Lady Elgar and Christopher Saunders as Elgar.  I think is my favourite Ashton work. It is certainly my favourite of his short works.  I can't remember when I last saw it but it was good to see it again.

The last work was a treat with Natalia Osipova in the title role and Vadim Muntagirov as de Brienne. Having seen the Bolshoi's performance of Raymonda on 27 Oct 2019, I would dispute that it is a silly story or not much of a story as Bussell or someone else last night.  I think there is a love triangle between de Brienne, Raymonda and Abderakhman and anyone restaging the ballet might want to develop that.  Abderakhman/s treatment could be explained by Islamophobia or racism. To my mind, the last Act, which is one big divertissement, is the least interesting of the ballet.  But it provides plenty of scope for virtuosity,  Being Guy Fawkes day, Osipova and Muntagirov excited us as well as any pyrotechnics outside.

So my thoughts of the evening are as follows: All credit to the Royal Ballet's dancers and creatives last night, If only the presenters and techies were as good.

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