AN EVENING WITH THE ROYAL BALLET
Kenneth MacMillan, Barry Wordsworth, Valeriy Ovsyanikov, John Carewe, Anthony Twiner, Boris Gruzin, Nicolae Moldoveanu, conductors; Tamara Rojo, Carlos Acosta, Christopher Saunders, Elizabeth McGorian, Leanne Benjamin, Marianela Nuñez, William Tuckett, Alina Cojocaru, Johan Kobborg, Miyako Yoshida, Steven McRae, Thiago Soares, Darcey Bussell, Roberto Bolle, dancers
OPUS ARTE 1087 (DVD: 90:00)
As with the DVD review of
An Evening With the Royal Opera,
this disc is not one or even two evenings’ worth of ballet highlights by the company but, rather, a “sampler” disc probably meant to entice one into buying some of the complete performances sampled therein. However, ballet is a different art form from opera; one can excerpt a
pas de deux
or a showcase for the corps from several different ballets and make an attractive package for both the neophyte looking for a taster, and the connoisseur who wishes only to view the “best parts.” This disc is for those two groups of consumers.
Happily, the disc gets off to a great start with the Capulets’ “Dance of the Knights” from Prokofiev’s
Romeo and Juliet.
Both Kenneth MacMillan’s choreography and the splendid dancing of the corps create a remarkable visual in which the corps fills space exceptionally well and is perfectly synchronized in the way they cross each other to create a lively moving pattern. We also catch a glimpse of an absolutely splendid Romeo and Juliet in the persons of Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo. I have seldom seen any male dancer whose motions flow as well as Acosta’s; we will explore this more in depth later, but suffice it to say that he and Rojo are perfect together. We then luckily get to see more of Acosta, partnering Leanne Benjamin, in Frederick Ashton’s virtuoso staging of Johann Strauss’s
Voices of Spring.
This ballet is part of the
Ashton Triple Bill
on Opus Arte 1064 which I recommend most highly.
Next up is the “rose adagio” from
an excerpt that I particularly like from a ballet I otherwise dislike. Alina Cojocaru’s Princess Aurora is splendid, her ability to hold friezes and the absolute delicacy of her work on pointe are captivating to watch. Yet even better as an overall staging is the “Danse infernale” from Stravinsky’s
where the original Fokine choreography is wedded to eye-popping costumes by Natalia Gontcharova to create dazzling effects for the viewer. Once again, Leanne Benjamin is the focus of attention, and one can tell from this excerpt that her Firebird is exceptionally well danced and well controlled.
As chance would have it, I was able to compare the next two items—the
pas de deux
and the “clog dance” from
La fille mal gardée
—with the complete 1962 BBC telecast reviewed elsewhere in this issue. Without spoiling the surprise of the older production, I can say that Acosta, as Colas, is his usual superb self, more fluid and continuous in his motion than David Blair in the older version, and he joins Marianela Nuñez (Lise) in the dance with the ribbons. Yet Nuñez herself, though technically an excellent dancer, tends towards a mechanical presentation of her character and, in turn, her dancing. She has all the right technique, but there is little of the exuberance and flow that I saw in Nadia Nerina. Conversely, from a strictly technical point of view, William Tuckett is a technically superb dancer (I can well imagine him in a lead role; his grace and smoothness of execution are outstanding), yet he just misses the “comical clumsiness” that Stanley Holden achieved in 1962.
Alina Cojocaru again appears as Giselle in the
pas de deux
and conclusion, and once again she is really superb. Part II of this video opens with the balcony scene and
pas de deux
and once again Rojo and Acosta create exceptional dancing visualization. The flow of both dancers is like the seamless legato of an opera singer, but especially Acosta whose movements are as fine as the tenor who can sing the middle of “Il mio tesoro” in one breath. The scene from
features Darcey Bussell, whose technique interests you even through the standard choreography of the work, and the splendid Roberto Bolle whose dancing graces so many outstanding videos from the Royal Ballet. The ensuing scene, “Coppelia comes to life” from Delibes’s
features Benjamin once again as Swanilda and an excellent Luke Heydon as Dr. Coppelius. (Acosta also appears as Franz, but remains inert throughout this scene.) I really enjoyed Benjamin’s ability to inject humor into the role while accomplishing so many difficult technicalities with ease.
scene of the sugar plum fairy comes from the splendid Royal Ballet version which I praised so highly in a previous issue. The dancing of Miyako Yoshida and Steven McRae is so perfectly synchronized, not only to the music but to each other, that they create the illusion of one body moving in two different directions. Sadly, the two excerpts from this particular performance of
the dance of the cygnets and the final scene and apotheosis, suffer badly from the logy conducting of Valeriy Ovsyanikov, whose slow tempos and soggy rhythms deflated both scenes. In the latter, the stage was much too dark at first, though when the swans arrive things get brighter, and the final image of Odette and the Prince riding across the lake in a golden boat is simply stunning. A shame, then, that the musical aspect of this performance lets the visual aspect down.
Overall, then, a mixed bag, although really only the
Fille mal gardée
excerpts are not of the best. I will be on the lookout, myself, for the complete performances of
excerpted here, as they are stunning. Your decision to acquire this will undoubtedly depend on whether or not you’d like a generally fine collection of ballet excerpts on hand.
Lynn René Bayley