Review – Metamorphosis Titian 2012 – Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House

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There will be lots of critical words spilled over Monica Mason’s final event at the Royal Opera House, so I’ll save repeating what everyone else will say (oh, a robot! etc.) and stick with my own views. Consider this an editorial, if you will, rather than a proper review. I’m going to build this as a sort of pre-retrospective, judging the show based, not on how innovative it was, but how likely I think it is to stand the test of time.

Act 1, Machina, a.k.a. “the one with the robot.” Unsurprisingly, this was by Wayne McGregor, who for some reason was sharing the reins with Kim Brandstrup and making him try to do choreography around a giant (15 foot tall?) robot with six planes of motion. Coolness: the early scenes with the scrim behind them and a baleful light poking through, with the ambiance of people dying on a dry plain – the kind of place I imagine mythology happening. Bit I hope to see again: pure hunter Carlos Acosta’s duet with lean-like-a-stag Edward Watson. It was totally McGregor and, while that style of angles does not suit Acosta, his muscular style made this moment electric. Also good: Tamara Rojo sliding across Ed’s body in another duet sequence. I vote this is revived in a special place of too hot to handle stage moments that I can treasure in private.

Act 2, Trespass, a.k.a. “the one with the mirror.” The opening scene of the male dancers posing and dancing in a circle was the most homoerotic thing I’d seen since “Canto Vital” at the Carlos and Friends show back in 2009 – a veritable Kirk/Spock slashfest on the stage of the Royal Opera House. Wahoo! I loved the costumes – the men’s had circuit board patterns on the chests and a stripe of color across the upper thighs, making them look rather like naked robots, while the women’s seemed to be patterns of eyes – except for the woman playing Diana (Melissa Hamilton?), who got to look like she was naked. While there was some interesting stuff going on here in terms of people being able to glimpse each other through the mirror (when it was lit a certain way) and the anger of the violated goddess, it didn’t feel like something we were really ever going to see again. Pity, though, as the costuming was great.

Finally we have “the one with the singing,” Diana and Actaeon, also known as “the one with the really busy set.” After so much post modern grey and silver, it was wonderful to have something that was riotously colorful in a Marc Chagall kind of way, with bonus “people in dog costumes” (who carried their heads instead of wearing them, which allowed them to dance much better). While I generally loved what people were wearing in this section, I have to bitch about Chris Ofili’s bizarre choice to put Diana (Marianela Nunez) in orange. HELLO GODDESS OF THE MOON not the sun ORANGE IS NOT RIGHT.

A lot of this ballet was Nunez trying to push Actaeon (Bonelli) away, which I found quite mystifying – how did a hunter EVER get his hands on a goddess? How could there even be a hint of her responding erotically to him? I also found the “hands over boobs and crotch” gestures over used. Fun: the dogs, the other hunting group, Actaeon’s costume turning bloody via costume magic when he’s attacked by the dogs.

So when I re-do this ballet as a one act, it’s going to have the good solos from Machina, the costumes from Trespass, and a mixture of the men’s scenes from Trespass, with the Diana of Actaeon … dressed in blue. Plus the dogs and the male/female hunters, because they rocked. But seriously: while I loved the scope and inventiveness of this evening, I don’t feel that any of this will ever be revived (other than out of pig-headedness) and will certainly never make it into the repertoire of any other company. Except, maybe, for Wayne’s bit, because, while he is a bit of a nerd for the technology, he can sure get dancers to look beautiful on stage, and not just because they’re wearing revealing costumes.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Monday, July 16th, 2012. Its final night is tonight.)

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