(Sorry to have missed you Stephanie! Here are my thoughts on a much watched Gala Bill....)
What bliss it was to be back in the People's Opera House...
Yes indeed the Opera House is now officially open and paying customers entered its portals for the first time on Saturday the 4th. It was the same Gala that was shown live on television on the 1st December and which resulted in many comments on our postings page.
The consensus view is that the Royal Ballet did incredibly well in the galas and the Opera looked much more ordinary - excellent singing and playing, if all rather dull and unlikely to win converts from the viewing millions. Ballet on the other hand looked progressive, diverse and above all entertaining...
The only concern was why the ballet was given the second part of the gala rather than the first as originally planned - rightly or wrongly the ballet side automatically suspect Opera plots in all such changes! Sadly years of seeing the ballet treated as second class have taken their toll and it will be a while before the promised parity of treatment is seen to be delivered and the message sinks in. As it happens I think the ballet were well-served going second on this occasion if only for the sake of the house overall, since ending with the opera part of the gala would have been rather a let down.
Despite the publicised problems with the stage, it's nice to report that the ROH to all intents and purposes looks finished and while there are still builders working on non-public spaces, it's not at all like it was at the Sadler's Wells opening. Given the massive spends involved I think they've done incredibly well.
All we need to do now is get on and enjoy it.... which brings me neatly, or not, to what the ballet performed. Given nearly everybody, in the UK at least, saw the programme performed on TV you will all have your own take. As ever though it made a palpable difference to be there and see it all live. Or it did to me anyway - I've never been so into videos or other mechanical aids to enjoyment!
1946 Sleeping Beauty. The lovely period designs by Oliver Messel were used. Bussell did some long balances, but I think she had to, given some hesitent princes. But she is more technically secure these days and can ride through anything with a smile.
But before we got to Darcey, Nicola Tranah did her Lilac Fairy and the thing I could not see on television, but was all too apparent in the flesh was that at first there was no scenery at all on stage and you could see the whole space to the side of the stage and behind. Even the word cavernous does not seem to do it justice.
Ballet Imperial. Nice for the corps to get some chances to impress and of course more great designs and in Ballet.co colours I note!
Birthday Offering - Mens dance. Inaki Urlezaga led this out and I'm increasingly warming to him. But... Yohei Sasaki was there and he moves with such ease and command I find myself constantly trying to figure out how he does it.
Napoli Mans's Solo. Kobborg. Repeat what I just said about Sasaki, but even more. He also partnered Miyako in the Raymonda Grand Pas as well. As a prince he follows the Cope mould rather than the Mukhamedov, and thats fine in my book.
Le Corsair solo - Carlos Acosta doing his impression of Rudolf Nureyev and a long way away from Kobborg in style and temperament. Acosta decided to go balls out for speed, perhaps at the expense of some elevation, but everybody was transfixed and his fleeting exit from the stage merely made everybody even more hungry for more.
Romeo and Juliet Balcony pdd. Viviana Durante and Angel Corella pleased many and of course it's MacMillan, it's Viv so its kind of duty bound to smoulder. Corella danced with much verve and speed - certainly faster than I've seen Romeo danced before and for many that seemed to signal a stronger urgency and passion than normal. But on a first sighting I thought it a bit unconvincing and the acting was not so strong. I enjoyed Yoshida and Cope more in this the week before (not that I wish to crow of course!).
Manon pdd. Guillem and Cope got the strongest applause of the evening for the swamp pdd. We all keep saying it, but it's so nice to see Cope well and dancing strongly. Guillem must be pleased as well. And because she dances with so few dancers everything locks together a treat in what is fiendishly difficult partnering. And Guillem takes big risks in her abandoned dancing, so secure is she in the knowledge that Cope will be there for her. It was the right piece for the night, but for Gala's I do like to see Guillem do a technical party piece, she is just beyond compare.
Gloria pdd. The find of the night in a way. I vaguely remember the Royal's last revival but somehow I never really warmed much to it. But on Saturday Leanne Benjamin and Christopher Saunders danced so well together. And the words about Guillem and Cope locking together equally apply here and there seemed to be no hesitation as they moved from one difficult embrace to the next.
Steptext. Deborah Bull in red swimsuit assisted by Adam Cooper. It's tough but thrilling stuff and they both let go of all classical inhibitions. Will Cooper ever come back?
La Bayadere, Bronze Idol. Corella again and very credible. But you can't get away from the fact that Teddy Kumakawa used to bring the house down in this and until somebody comes along so purpose designed for the role, it's perhaps best to leave it out of Galas.
Mr Wordly Wise. Last piece and Irek... and I do like much of Twyla Tharp's choreography. But regrettably Wordly Wise just does not compute for me, or indeed many others. If there had to be a least liked piece of the evening this was probably it.
There were many other memories including Bruce Sansom and Miyako Yoshida in Ashton's sublime Symphonic Variations, Christina McDermott in Massine's The Good Humoured Ladies and Zenaida Yanowsky as the edgy hostess in Les Biches. And Still Life was there too, a piece (along with Christopher Bruce's Swansong), that was a revelation to me about the subjects ballet and dance could cover.
The final tableau, of the entire company and school, I thought rather twee on TV, but somehow in the flesh and having seen 50 years of RB achievements and the passing on of batons from older dancers to younger, it all looked so right.
It also really emphasised to me how different are the traditions of ballet and opera. Hopefully in 25 year's time work will start on the new Dance House for the nation. Until then we have a damn fine place to make ballet and dance at all levels and I for one intend to get fully stuck in and consume a totally unfair proportion of the subsidy!