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Subject: "Closing night of the Royal Ballet season 31/5/01" Archived thread - Read only
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Ann Williams

01-06-01, 05:24 PM (GMT)
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"Closing night of the Royal Ballet season 31/5/01"
   Last night's performance of Ashton/McMillan double bill of 'The Dream' and 'Song of the Earth' proved an inspired ending for the RB season at Covent Garden,

It was my first full viewing of 'Dream' - I'd seen bits and pieces here and there but never the whole ballet, and I was both enchanted and moved. Ashton seems to have found a way to marry the broad comedy of Shakespeare's text and the bombast of the Mendelssohn score with the wit, delicacy and speed of his choreography. David Walker's sugar-spun fairy costumes for the corps - knee-length silvery-frosted pale green and lilac for the girls, with tiny wings sprouting from their backs were lovely and absolutely appropriate, like those 'fairies at the bottom of the garden' figures familiar from the notorious Victorian fake photographs. Alina Cojocaru's Titania was a dreamy breeze-tossed blossom, her feet seeming to hover like humming-birds over the floor and her lovely arms and upper body doing what Ashton surely wanted in his choreography (he would have loved her, I think). She still, though, at 19, lacks the outright sensuality needed for the role, and wasn't helped by Hubert Essakow's decent but lacklustre account of Oberon. He'll do better next time around.

Tom Sapsford's airily elevated Puck was a relveation . Even his cheeky muggings couldn't disguise the power and control of his dancing. Expect to see more of him

Luke Heydon danced Bottom mostly on point and if I hadn't known it was a man under the donkey mask I would have been puzzled at the tall and broadshouldered figure doing such competent fouettes and bourees. That, and the fact that Heydon made the unmasked Bottom such a touching and vulnerable character marks him out as a very special dancer.
Vanessa Palmer was outstanding (when is she not?) as Helena and Chloe Davies was a delicously bewildered Hermia.

Ashton's use of mime gets full use in 'Dream' most notably in the lovers' misunderstandings; I love the way Demetrius and Lysander daintily pummel the air in mock boxer fashion to indicate a quarrel. (Ashton also employs this useful shorthand in 'A Month in the Country', where it is even funnier since the quarrel there is between two women).

MacMillan's 'Song of the Earth' could scarcely be a stronger contrast to 'Dream' . Set ambitiously to the singing of Mahler's magesterial 'Das Liede von der Erde' it
avoids pretention by virtue of MacMillan's astounding choreographic invention. (I couldn't spot any obvious choreographic 'homages' here, though more experienced ballet-goers might have). The six songs of Mahler's score, sung on stage by the excellent Natascha Petrinsky and David Randle (replacing Thomas Randle) represent ancient Chinese poems reflecting stages of human life, fun, work, love, drunkeness, death etc; MacMillan matches each song with a dance. In one song, the image of a woman being gently cartwheeled over the knees of kneeling men will remain with me for a long time and in another, the women are memorably hoisted aloft and carried off the stage prone in the hands of two men followed by a third, linked man. One song ends with the men doing headstands with their legs bowed and feet splayed outwards giving the comic impression of a Grecian freize. But for me, the all-male first song, ending with Johan Kobborg held aloft and then rolled downwards in the arms of the other men was the most moving.

I thought almost all the dancing was outstanding. Jonathan Cope seems to be dancing better than ever, and his height (he seems to be almost a head taller than any of the other men) lends him a uniquely powerful aura. Johann Kobborg showed yet again what a valuable asset he is to the RB's ranks with his clean, clear and unfussed dancing. Tamara Rojo was lovely in the second song, but then so was Mara Galeazzi in the third song and Jaimie Tapper in the fourth song, and so on. There wasn't a dud on the stage that I could spot.

The ROH orchestra, under Barry Wordsworth's familiar baton, played as well as I've heard them in a long time; all in all, it was a wonderful end of season performance, and it would be hard to think of a more fitting finale to Anthony Dowell's leadership.

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Closing night of the Royal Ballet season 31/5/01 sylvia 01-06-01 1
     RE: Closing night of the Royal Ballet season 31/5/01 alison 04-06-01 3
  RE: Closing night of the Royal Ballet season 31/5/01 Jonny 01-06-01 2
     RE: Closing night of the Royal Ballet season 31/5/01 Bruceadmin 06-06-01 4

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01-06-01, 06:12 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Closing night of the Royal Ballet season 31/5/01"
In response to message #0
   LAST EDITED ON 01-06-01 AT 06:20 PM (GMT)

It was my first "Dream" as well, and I was absolutely captivated! I literally had chills down my spine when the singing started, which I hadn't expected at all. Cojocaru was gorgeous, sparkling and a feisty Titania. I can't think of a better way to end the season than with ROH's brightest hope for the future. I can't wait to see her in more principal roles next season.

I went into Song of the Earth with less than low expectations given some of the reviews I'd read but I was pleasantly surprised. I didn't find the singing a turn off at all. It was so beautiful that if anything, I think it added to the performance. For me, it would have been more of a distraction if it was sung in English.

At first I thought the audience was less than enthusiastic, given the muted applause between some of the dances. In the last and admittedly veeery long song, this woman next to me kept shifting and looking around, probably wondering why it wasn't over yet. But the applause afterwards was raptuous. Cope stood out among all the dancers. I preferred Galeazzi to Rojo. The lift where Cope was balancing Rojo on the back of his head and neck got my heart that got my heart thumping! It's not something I'd run out and see again, and then only if Cope was cast again. But it was definitely worth watching at least once.

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04-06-01, 01:17 PM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Closing night of the Royal Ballet season 31/5/01"
In response to message #1
   I think the muted applause in between sections may have been due to the fact that if it was a concert you wouldn't applaud at those points, and some people felt uncomfortable about doing otherwise. (Thank heavens for the note on the Gloria cast sheets which specifically asked the audience not to applaud between sections).

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01-06-01, 07:13 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Closing night of the Royal Ballet season 31/5/01"
In response to message #0
   Thanks Ann for a pretty detailed review, I was also there and think your review is accurate! I've seen all three casts now and I thought last nights performance had the most buzz. Probably cause it was the last night and the dancers always give it more kick. I was there mainly to see Alina debut in this role. I was pretty anxious seeing as most critisize her for no diversity artistically. I thought that she proved wrong this point last night. Her charm was autoritive at the beginning of the Dream and her characer developed along the ballet. I found her beautiful to watch technically. Her upper body remaineed calm and elagant while her feet certainly boureed so fast that she seemed to glide about the stage as if it were a special effect. Her arabesques were dreamy and at one point in the Pdd she acheived a 180 degree arabesque makng most around me swallow. Alina loves to hold things (balance) on pointe which adds light snd shade to her work andmost of the footwork (important in this role) was meticulously excecuted. She is only 19 (amazing!) and I only hope she doesn't burn out. I think most of the audience there were to see Alina (from the ballet world) and she was greatly recived, including her fan and their pocket cameras to add that paparazzi touch to the evening. Rojo dug deeper into her role in Song of the earth last night and found her performance most touching. I wanted to see more of Kobborg in his role and think if it were created for him that there probably would be more. The last Pdd for Rojo and Cope was the highlight of this performance and I was blessed to see it.

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06-06-01, 08:31 AM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Closing night of the Royal Ballet season 31/5/01"
In response to message #2
   I'm a bit bewildered (period some would say) but I thought this Dream was probably one of the poorest I've seen.

Cojocaru is rightly now a Principal but I thought she struggled a lot at times and does not yet understand the role very well at all - it all looked disjointed. Essakow looked incredibly uncomfortable both thechnialy and dramtically. I was actually embarassed to the point of covering my eyes at times. (though somebody said he was much improved!).

I actually thought the standard was about the same as RBS final year show - some of the technicals were better, but generally the RBS shows are far better rehearsed. The lesser roles showed some promise on the night but timing, comic and otherwise, is all and it looked rushed, snatched and ill-prepeared. Sorry be so down but I really do have probs reconciling what I saw with general high praise from many quarters. I draw some comfort that some other (leading!) ballet goers thought it a bit of a struggle too. Apologies folks, but felt I had to say! Each to their own etc

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