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Subject: "Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment." Archived thread - Read only
 
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Gerald Dowler

03-11-01, 12:45 PM (GMT)
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"Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment."
 
   "There must be a good reason why the RB held out in not acquiring Nureyev's version of Don Q" I have said to myself recently as pre-opening publicity for Ross Stretton's first new production as Director was duly trotted out by compliant dance hacks. Why did de Valois (who loved and admired Nureyev and considered his Nutcracker as the best version around), Ashton, MacMillan, Morrice and Dowell (who opted for the Baryshnikov version) all decline to mount it? Should we be thankful to Stretton for showing us why?

Well, the answer is painfully obvious when attending a performance of what must be interpreted as Stretton's 'statement of intent'. What else could it be? - It IS his first production with his new company. Or does it betray a worrying lack of taste and judgment? There are many, I am sure, who revel in the business, the frou-frou and the story-line, implusible and so full of non-sequiturs as to make even a balletomane gasp, but count me out.

This, if you will all remember, is the version all our great London critics clamoured for when panning the old RB Don Q. Well, they've got it and they're not so keen now, are they?
Whether such a piece of old jamon serrano should be in the repertoire of the RB is another question (I would contend that it really is only the Russians who have the brass neck and dedication to true schlock to make it work, but what appalled me when sitting through the performance last night was the overwhelming feeling of a Director having seriously misjudged.

It is all very well stating on one hand that Madam's precepts encourage the new and the avant-garde but not if you are serving up to one of the most discerning ballet audiences in the world the dance equivalent of warmed-up seconds. A re-design may have helped, but surely the sense of insult can only be heightened by the bold statement in the cast list that scenery, props and costumes are all from Australian Ballet - does London not even deserve its 'own' production; are we at such a low ebb as to have to 'borrow' from another company?
The storyline in this version is muddled and, frankly, untheatrical - a fifteen minute mime sequence at the beginning is hardly going to get us all revved up for hispanic revelry (is one of the mosters which assail Don Q in his dream sequence really a koala bear?). Constant chorus jigging about only serves to distract from the dancing (when it actually happens). Who are the King and Queen of the Gypsies and do we care? There are so many stops and starts as to suck the life out of the proceedings.
Nureyev's choreography can be trite and I pitied the poor corps both in Gypsy encampment and the last scene for having to drag themselves through their series of sub-Massine Spaneesh mummery. The comedy just isn't funny.
The costumes are very disappointing, looking just plain old-fashioned and indeed, just plain.
Oh and the orchestration - I normally admire John Lanchberry but this one is dull and heavy.
Lighting, as often at the RB, was restricted to the 'lights on, lights off' school of éclairage.

So, dear ballet.co readers, I didn't enjoy it. But my gripes run deeper as we can all take a dislike to something and really so what? No, I just hope that this ISN'T the shape of things to come, that it is an aberration. I can't judge and the season holds (on paper) some things of interest, so I'm not going to toll the bell of doom and preach disaster. What I am worried about though is the fact that this Don Q doesn't add anything to the company; it doesn't make virtues out of the strengths of the RB, it doesn't require artistry or sensitivity or delicacy of touch. It is brash, it is plodding, it is obvious.
Mr Stretton would do well to look to de Valois again: one of her ballets contains the fears and opinion so far of one troubled ballet lover: 'The Prospect Before Us? (or) Pity the Poor Dancers'.


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment. Tony Newcombe 03-11-01 1
     RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment. Claire S 03-11-01 2
         RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment. Alymer 04-11-01 3
             RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment. sylvia 04-11-01 4
                 RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment. Justin 05-11-01 5
                     RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment. Gerald Dowler 05-11-01 6
                         RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment. alison 05-11-01 7
                             RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment. Justin 06-11-01 8
                             RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment. Anneliese 07-11-01 9
  RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment. Terry 08-11-01 10
  RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment. Bruce Madmin 08-11-01 11

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Tony Newcombe

03-11-01, 05:13 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment."
In response to message #0
 
   In his program notes the director hopes that we will enjoy the sheer physicality of it all. As you have rightly stated, we are used to sensitivity, artistry and lightness of touch. We have already lost one dancer who has these very qualities. Like you I am very concerned about the future.


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Claire S

03-11-01, 10:39 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment."
In response to message #1
 
   A very interesting posting, Gerald. As someone who has only seen DQ once before (the Kirov's version last year), I enjoyed it but I have to say I share almost all your concerns.

I thought it a curious choice as Ross Stretton's first production -especially when I discovered that the set and costumes were recycled. You are right - surely the Royal Ballet, one of the premier danced companies in the world, deserves its own proper production.

Your point about DQ not adding anything to the company struck a chord with me, too. When I think of my most memorable occasions watching the Royal Ballet over the past few years it has been in productions or ballets that owe their existence to the Royal Ballet - La Fille Mal Gardee, Rhapsody, The Judas Tree. Yes, I've enjoyed Swan Lake, Coppelia, Remanso, SYmphony in C, but I could see these ballets in many countries and enjoy them equally. I want the uniqueness of the Royal Ballet to be preserved and celebrated, alongside the best the rest of the world has to offer.

One statement in one of the recent Ross Stretton interviews interested me - that because of the lack of male dancers (a problem created by Dowell - or certainly not fixed by Dowell) guest artists were being flown in - but only when necessary. Really? Much as I love Adam Cooper, I fail to see why he should dance the opening night of Onegin when a company principal (Kobborg) dances the second night. Is this "necessary"? Isn't Kobborg good enough? And do we really need two guest artists to dance Albrecht? They're both great, great dancers but will their interpretations be very different from if they were dancing Giselle with ABT? Will this be Sir Peter Wright's Giselle we're seeing or an international melange? And his quote about Sylvie Guillem being welcome to dance in everything was odd - as she's not dancing in ANYTHING except Marguerite and Armand so far!

But back to Don Quixote. It will be interesting to see how it looks on TV - the first scene may prove a bit of a turn-off to non-ballet fans (I was wondering what was going on myself!) I can't see DQ enhancing many reputations (though Acosta was incredible the other night and I read that many other dancers are performing admirably). If this is a statement of intent by Stretton, it's a bland one.


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Alymer

04-11-01, 12:42 PM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment."
In response to message #2
 
   If Gerald were to look again at Clement Crisp's review of Don Q I think he would find a remark regretting that Ross Stretton had used the early version set for the Australian's rather than the later version danced by the Paris Opera - and at one time by the Zurich company. This is a much better production - the mimed prologue is clearer and more concise, there is an extended pas de deux in Act II for Basil and Kitri and a number of other improvements. It also has incomparably better designs by Nicholas Georgiadis after Goya. The french dance it wonderfully, it can fill the Palais Garnier night after night, and if you were to see it I think it's easy to understand why. What we have at Covent Garden is an early version, very shabbily presented.


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sylvia

04-11-01, 03:56 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment."
In response to message #3
 
   Just a point I found interesting - in the Don Q pre-performance talk, Stretton said that he had hoped Onegin would open the season rather than Don Q but the timing wasn't right.

How far in advance did Stretton decide on the repertory? Is Onegin going to be another borrowed production or has it been in the works for the last couple years? If it's the latter, I assume priority was given to Onegin over Don Q in terms of resources, time and money to build the sets and costumes.


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Justin

05-11-01, 11:33 AM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment."
In response to message #4
 
   One other point from the pre-performance talk: Ross Stretton stated that the reason the sets and costumes were hired was that he was not sure that 'Don Q' would remain in the RB repertoire, and therefore preferred to borrow the AB ones on this occasion.


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Gerald Dowler

05-11-01, 11:46 AM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment."
In response to message #5
 
   If this isn't to remain in the repertoire, then the next question is 'why are they doing it anyway?' If this is a one-off, what is the point of it? For Stretton to have something he could teach and he alone, thereby stamping HIS mark on the company? If so, the point still remains that this Don Q is shoddy and second-rate in its conception, structure, design et al. and is a poor vehicle for the Royal's undeniable talents.
What a pity we didn't have some heritage repertoire work...


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alison

05-11-01, 11:32 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment."
In response to message #6
 
   Perhaps, given the fact that he seems to be a very "hands-on" director, he wanted to start off with something he was comfortable with coaching, rather than leaping in at the deep end with Ashton or something before he'd got settled? Just a thought.


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Justin

06-11-01, 11:01 AM (GMT)
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8. "RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment."
In response to message #7
 
   LAST EDITED ON 06-11-01 AT 11:11 AM (GMT)

Though of course he wanted to start with "Onegin" and couldn't. The impression I got from the talk was that his main focus (at least at present) was technical, and he wanted a work in which he could make a fuller technical assessessment of the dancers. I thought his comment that he was using dancers from one rank below to understudy the roles where that was possible without injury to the dancers was significant.
I think he doesn't have a very high opinion of the general technical standard of the RB, though he praised the technique of some dancers particularly.


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Anneliese

07-11-01, 08:29 PM (GMT)
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9. "RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment."
In response to message #8
 
   From the 3 (?) interviews I have read, my understanding is that Don Q has lots of solo roles and gives Ross Stretton, by putting on about 6 casts, the ability to judge the whole company's skills - which I reckon is fair enough! It's widely acknowledged that the RBS isn't turning out technically red-hot dancers and it seems to be becoming the case that the RB doesn't have that many either. This very technical work is enabling Mr. Stretton to sort out the men from the boys, as it were.


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Terry

08-11-01, 11:38 AM (GMT)
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10. "RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment."
In response to message #0
 
   All I can say, in my point of view, is that I was really disappointed with the current standard of RB during the 2 DQ performances that I saw last weekend. The men were especially disorganized and the dancers in soloist roles were not at all at the standard of "premieur danseur/danseuse" level, in comparison to other "major" companies.

Perhaps RB is in a transitional stage and is trying to promote young dancers, but these supposedly "talented" dancers do not have the charisma or the star quality to carry out a 2 + 1/2 hour performance of a major classical repertory.

It's especially disappointing after all the "hype" that some of these first soloists and principals have been getting. Maybe we are just in an age where we're lacking some young dancers with REAL talent.


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Bruce Madmin

08-11-01, 07:06 PM (GMT)
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11. "RE: Director's Dulcinea? - Don Q Disappointment."
In response to message #0
 
   First thanks to Gerald for starting an absorbing thread... I've been meaning to add something to the for a few days. Of course I've yet to see the 'new' DonQ (because of holidays) but I don't see that's the central issue perhaps...

Everybody at the moment is looking at what Stretton is doing like hawks. And that includes me - listened to his every word at a DonQ Masterclass in the Linbury and interesting I found it too. But we do also need to stand back a bit at times and take wider views. I don't think we can really start to see the impact of what the new AD is about until we go into year three. That's not to say we should abstain from formulating and articulating views but we do need give people a chance to perform. No AD can ever be judged on a few productions and its not like life under Dowell was a bunch of roses either.

I liked the old DonQ - I liked it a lot actually and never really understood the critics complaints. But its no bad thing to try a different version in the same way that we do with the major Tchaikovsky classics. And some productions are better then what they replace and some less good. Its the way it is surely?

Concerning the use of old sets etc I have more than a little sympathy with Stretton. His programing in the first year introduces 2 new full length evening pieces to the company. When was the last time that happened to RB? Effectively a man who we all see is interested in the new has concentrated in the first year on more dramatic and full length works. I see it as a real nod in the direction of what the RB is about. But suddenly RB hasn't come into lots of money and costuming 2 full length evening works would cost £100,000's each. Perhaps you might argue that he should have just gone for one and invested more, but I'm not going to be hidebound about it - 2 new full length evenings to see and all we seem to do is feel hard done by! I'm looking forward to seeing the season unfold. It might not be perfect but its I applaud the sentiment behind this years programming.


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