Posts Tagged ‘London Coliseum’

Preview/Review – River of Fundament – Matthew Barney at Haus der Kunst/London Coliseum

June 19, 2014

A few years a go, in a reality far far away…

MATTHEW BARNEY, in his Brooklyn studio. He has been struggling to get his new project up and running and is pacing around a table covered with scraps of paper.

MB: Norman Mailer, Norman Mailer! You gave me that “I’m connected with gen-u-wine real art” cachet that I love, then you died! I loved Ancient Evenings‘s delicious blend of cheesy porn and esoteric Egyptian shit, both of us can ride the Book of the Dead to the top of the pile, baby! But I needed more, I needed you to be in my performances … I need something more! I gotta capture the Zeitgeist, man, and your geist is gone! Aw fuck, I need some coffee.

BARNEY goes to the coffee machine and pours himself a cup, then sits down at the paper and grabs the morning newspaper and puts his feet on the table.

MB: Aw, Jesus, the US economy is going to shit. Not good for the art scene, that’s for sure. Fuck, and now Chrysler! It’s pathetic! I remember the good old days, growing up in Idaho, man, the Trans Am was the car to have. The cops loved Ford, but that was about body, not speed. But the Trans Am, it was so cool, with that big old bird on the hood …

(pause)

Holy shit, I’ve got it! This whole thing can be about the death and transformation of the American muscle car! With all sorts of Egyptian shit on top of it! It’s, like, a parallel for the death of America as an industrial power! And fuck rebirth, it’s just dead, that phoenix isn’t rising. But, oh man, I can do some great stuff with this … I can use cars for each of three segments … fuck, I can do it in Detroit, the fucking beating heart of the American industrial machine, the dead industrial machine, like Osiris, but no golden phallus … I bet I can even get some of those smelters up and running and actually melt down shit! Fuck, this is going to be amazing! I can probably give it some other local ties, to some Motor City artist … and, shit, the Chrysler logo even looks like a religious icon! I’ll stick with the Norman Mailer thing … but I’ll big it up even more and make it an OPERA! Survival Research Laboratories, eat your heart out! I’m riding this baby ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK!

(starts scribbling furiously and picks up his cell phone)

Jenna? You got some opera composers on the short list? I’ve got an idea ….

END SCENE

So two weekends ago I went to Munich, where Matthew Barney has the relics of his latest work, River of Fundament, on display at the Haus der Kunst. In essence, it’s leftovers from the performances that made up River of Fundament, as well as some scraps from the creative process. The various bits didn’t really ring my bell as art, more as items you might find on display at an artistic version of the Hard Rock Cafe. You get his obsession with base metals, with vaseline, with the grottier elements of human anatomy (he just had to love the Osiris/Isis story), but at the same time you could see the underlying thought process tying it together. I’d just seen the excellent Egyptian museum in Munich – all shiny fresh and new – and the elements of the culture and the mythos were all right there in my head, and I couldn’t help but think that both Barney and Mailer were flailing when they tried to incorporate it into their respective works. I suspect both of them were just fascinated like many people are when they learn more about ancient Egypt – but Barney’s nods are very clever and really quite fun (I got a real laugh out of the Boat of Ra).

I can’t imagine, really, why he wanted to do this as an opera, other than to just “jump the shark,” but, you know, if he is able to convince all of these people that he’s doing cool shit and they want to get involved, well, more power to him. It’s a refreshing change from the apologetic patheticness of Tracey Emin and the shallow “I’m really just making shinies for money” of Damien Hirst. Let’s make it big, let’s make it awesome, let’s melt down some cars, roast a pig, and call it an opera. And film it. Because, you know, Matthew Barney, why not. It’s going to be showing at ENO at the end of June and, well, I’ve gone ahead and bought tickets because, you know, even if it isn’t good art, it’s still going to be something worth talking about and, truly, his other movies have created image memories that have stuck with me for years. So I’m giving this a go, and, well, even if its six wasted hours, I’ll be able to say I went.

(This review is for an exhibition at the Haus der Kunst, Munich, and for a film presentation taking place on Sunday, June 29th, and Monday, June 30th. The Sunday show is pretty much sold out but there have been some returns.)

Mini-review – Aladdin – Birmingham Royal Ballet at London Coliseum

March 22, 2013

A new, full-length ballet is always a cause for celebration in this age of fiscal cutbacks, so I was excited that Birmingham Royal Ballet was bringing its production of Aladdin to London for all of us Big Smoke dwellers to see. Whee! What would David Bintley have on offer?

Well, one thing we did get was some awesome costumes and some really awesome sets. For me, the best part of the whole evening was when my favorite set (the magic cave, complete with color changing, glowing stalactites) met the greatest variety of costumes, producing the best set of dances … a new set of “Jewels,” as dancers representing the treasures of the Djinn swirled and capered around the open-jawed Aladdin (and then dropped a few gifts into his turban). My favorite was gold and silver, the men (William Bracewell and Tom Rogers) looking like incarnations of Louis XIV, the women (Yvette Knight and Yijing Zhang) with silver half-moons on their heads reminding me of Renaissance paintings of Artemis. I also enjoyed the exoticism of the Rubies duet (Momoko Hirata and Joseph Caley) – it had a nice feel of many of the Arabian/Coffee sequences from The Nutcracker.

Also a pleasure to watch was Tzu-Chao Chou as The Djinn of the Lamp, a role which gave him, not just the opportunity to fly around with smoke in the air, but lots of opportunity for spins and leaps and general displays of virtuousity. I don’t mean to sound too shallow, but I am in serious admiration of the very flattering costume he was wearing – the cut of the legs fluttered nicely, adding to the sense of motion.

While the plotting of the ballet was good and did not descend into Panto silliness (Aladdin meets evil magician; Aladdin is taken to cave and locked in; Aladdin escapes with help of lamp, marries local princess; princess inadvertently trades old lamp for new and is kidnapped by magician; Aladdin uses his wits to set everything right, unless you are the evil magician; triumphal scene in palace), I found the thing felt a bit like a pastiche of dance as well as music, and lacked a unifying driving force to it. I do enjoy spectacle, and we got both a lion dance and a dragon dance, as well as great animated puppets (showing the princess, Djinn and evil magician in the sky), but I wanted something more. Would a strong score have made a difference? Is Bintley’s strength in choreographing shorter ballets? I couldn’t make up my mind at the end of the night where the fault lie. I enjoyed myself enough, but I wanted greatness, and this was not achieved.

(This review is for a performance that took place on the night of Thursday, March 21st, 2013. It continues at the London Coliseum through March 24th; bargain seats might be found on the day at the TKTS booth; I got stalls seats for £25!)

Half priced deal for Birmingham Royal Ballet’s new Cinderella at London Coliseum – 2011

March 24, 2011

Today the Metro published a half priced deal for tickets to the Birmingham Royal Ballet‘s new production of Cinderella while it’s at the London Coliseum this spring (March 29- Saturday April 2nd, 2011). There isn’t a lot of availability on key dates (i.e. no stalls seats on Friday April 1st), but it is good for every evening show on every level of seats except for the £10 ones. This is really an outstanding value – an excellent company and no being forced to buy top priced seats!

Details are: either call the ENO box office (0871 472 0800) and quote the Metro offer or go to this page for details (basically use the code “buttons” on the page showing the seats you selected), pick your seats and off you go!

Preview – 2011 Diaghilev Festival – Kremlin Ballet Theater at English National Opera

January 1, 2011

UPDATE: for a really nice preview, please see Natasha Dissanayake’s interview with Nikolai Tsiskaridze on the Ballet.co.uk website.

On my way into English National Ballet’s Nutcracker, I was handed a flyer for … a Diaghilev Festival? With a picture of the original costuming for “L’Apres Midi d’un Faune” on the cover? Well, color me interested! I kept it close at hand until I returned home and had chance for a closer perusal of the contents.

The impression is – well, mixed. While the ballets on offer (to be presented in April, 2011, at the Coliseum) had me salivating at a chance to see live what I have only read of before (The Blue God! Thamar! Nijinska’s Bolero!), the names associated with it are wholly unknown to me. “Russian Ballet Stars” and the “Kremlin Ballet Theater?” The St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony Orchestra? What is this, a bunch of school kids working off their tuition fees by doing a performance abroad? And none of the ballet “stars” are named? That does not seem right to me.

And the ballets, well, it’s all good that “The Blue God” is a UK premiere, but do I really want to see Wayne Eagling’s choreography from the “new production that premiered at the State Kremlin Palace on 25th October 2005?” Meanwhile “Thamar” is by “Jurjius Smoriginas?” I thought it was by Michel Fokine! What is going on here? I am very curious as to how authentic this “Diaghilev” festival is really going to be.

For those who are unable to resist the call, however, I’m please to report that there are discounts available; most usefully, a multibuy giving 15% off tickets for two shows and 20% off of three shows. I’m not sure if you’re supposed to get these discounts automatically or not as there is no associated code and I’m not buying my tickets any time soon. And yes, I’m going to go; I have got to see “L’Apres Midi d’un Faune” and witness that gorgeous poster of Nijinski come to life at last.

Here’s the order of shows; see the ENO website for details (each show is linked to their site).

Program One (Tuesday and Wednesday April 12 and 13th, matinee and evening performance on the 13th): The Blue God and The Firebird
Program Two (Thursday and Friday April 14th and 15th): Thamar and Scheherazade
Program Three (Saturday and Sunday April 16th and 17th): Le Pavillon D’Armide, L’Apres-Midi D’un Faune, and Bolero.

Hmm … the ENO website shows that the stars in question are Nikolai Tsiskaridze, Ilze Liepa, Maria Alexandrova, Mikhail Lobukhin, Irma Nioradze, Ilya Kuznetsov … so should we go or not? I’m afraid this article by Arlene Croce reviewing two books about Diaghilev makes me just want to say yes to all three.

Review – Carlos Acosta Premieres – Sadler’s Wells at the London Coliseum

July 28, 2010

Tonight I watched the death of Carlos Acosta as a brand name for a night of brash, exuberant dance as his “Premieres” show at the London Coliseum took me from excitement to horror and then to comedy as I gave in to the ridiculous waves of bad coming off of the stage. We started with a work that must have been choreographed by Carlos himself, because the language of movement he was using seemed incoherent, not just foreign but meaningless. His body moved from position to position, but it never “said” anything, although it seemed desperately trying to find its way into the various spotlights on stage, comically arriving just a few seconds after they came up. The black ottoman on stage that he looked at so passionately, did it represent anything other than an object for him to stare at? The video projection preceding the entire affair added nothing to it and seemed utterly divorced from what followed on stage. I was embarrassed no one had not stopped to question whether or not this piece deserved to be on a stage in front of two thousand people. If this was Acosta’s, I can only say that he is not ready to be doing choreography, and he must up the quality of his game or he is going to lose audience support in droves.

Next up was a solo piece performed by Zenaida Yanowsky, clad in a short dress and tennis shoes. It seemed a better dance, but I’d lost my mental composure because of the first piece and wound up wondering why the choreographer had her flashing her underwear at the audience so much. Normally this kind of thing doesn’t bother me, but I wasn’t able to take it seriously. Yanowsky was much more at ease in this idiom but I remained unconvinced this work was weighty enough to merit a solo performance in such a large house.

The last piece of the first act was another Carlos solo, one which I titled “For the Ladeez” (actually Russell Maliphant’s “Two”) as it was performed shirtless and seemed to be nothing more than an endless series of movements that enabled Acosta to show off his physique. This has become quite the theme in the Acosta shows, making me wonder if he really does have a tremendous ego or if he just feels obliged to give the (heavily female) audience what they paid for. Is it self parody or is it sincere? Because of this element of showing off, I was unable to really enjoy the movement, fearing I was just letting myself have a Chippendale’s moment. (I should have recognized it as Maliphant because of the box of square light Acosta stayed inside, stretching and turning and gliding through its edge – my companion liked this the best and in a better mood I would have enjoyed it more, also.)

Suddenly the first half of the show was over and I dashed to the bar to get started on discussing what we’d just seen (with my friend Ibi). Was it really that bad, or was it just me? And I must point this out to you, potential audience member: how is it that a show billed as being a mere hour and a half even needed an interval? Just what were we paying for? At the price I’d shelled out for stall seats – the only time I’ve ever treated myself at ENO, as I’ve enjoyed my previous Carlos outings so much – I felt like it was thin return on my pound. In fact, I hadn’t seen so little stage time since I saw The Dumbwaiter at Trafalgar Studios (£30 for 55 minutes).

This feeling was solidified in the second half, as we were forced to endure a long “artistic” video involving Carlos and Zenaida: walking in place, splashing and being splashed. Yes, we saw her naked and saw her boobs, but the image of Carlos naked somehow managed to preserve his modesty as neither ass nor crotch were displayed. I noticed that we finally started losing audience members during this bit; the naff levels had been exceeded for the evening. However, it all came together wonderfully as a Python-esque giant foot came down upon the stage, adding a brilliant air of surreality to the event. Ah, well, it was only going to be a half hour at the most, how bad could it be?

The second half did entirely feature all of the best bits of the evening. The highlight was the duet that I’m sure must have been the Maliphant choreography “Two” by Edward Liang (I was too discouraged to buy a program), with Middle-Eastern singing: Acosta was able to show his formidable skills at last. It seemed to me that this was the piece that had been rehearsed the most as well; it just reeked skill and care that Acosta’s solos had not. He had to work with Yanowsky and he was going to do it well, and together they created a few moments that made me wonder what the hell went wrong with this show.

There was also a solo Yanowsky performed with candles on stage that looked nice but didn’t do anything for me, and a last, bad solo in which the ottoman returned as a place for Acosta to sit and sulk, presumably unhappy about the end of his career as a ballet star. In a last moment that did not redeem the evening but which provided a pleasure I clung to desperately, the Pegasus Choir came onstage until they surrounded both Acosta and Yanowsky, filling the stage with lovely music (“O Magnum Mysterium” by Morten Lauridsen) while a bit of smoke wafted toward the ceiling. I imagined it as Acosta’s career dissipating into the sky. He’s been brilliant with the Royal Ballet but after tonight, I can’t help but thing he’s really going to have to rethink his plans if he’s wanting to keep in the game and succeed at making the switch to modern, because after tonight he’s going to have a hard time ever getting an audience to see him simply based on his name.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, July 28th. The show continues through Saturday, August 7th and I would be happy to include the names of the pieces from someone who got a program. You can also see the Bolshoi at this time which I highly advise you to consider if you’re debating which of the two you spend your hard earned money on. Or you can see Eonnagata at Sadler’s Wells, it’s going through the 31st and is a very pleasant way to enjoy more of Maliphant’s choreography. For alternate views, see The Stage, the Independent and the Guardian.)

Mini-review – Laurencia – Mikhailovsky Ballet at London Coliseum

July 21, 2010

After seeing last night’s London debut of the 1939 ballet Laurencia, I can’t in good conscience recommend it. I can accept that with my devotion to flamenco, this ballet’s pseudo-Spanish dance scenes were doomed to displease me (in fact, the castanet playing was so flaccid it made me giggle); but the choreography (Vakhtang Chabukiani as revived by Mikhail Messerer) was so broadly uninspiring and the mime so heavy-handed – and the overall feeling so very Snidely Whiplash – that I found it too low quality to be worth a watch, much less a revival.

The best dancing, to me, was the groomsmen’s duet (possibly Andrei Yakhnuyk and Nikolay Korypaev) in the wedding dance; their unison was good, their leaps strong, the energy high. Laurencia (Irina Perren), however, seemed painfully two dimensional; too cutesy early on, too obvious with her pointing fingers and waving fists in act two, and just generally not exciting dancing. Her friend Pascuala (Sabina Yaparova) actually had better choreography, and we switched to watching her dance during the wedding scene as, well, it was more interesting. I think she was a better dancer than Perren, but perhaps she was just focused more on dancing than acting. Male Lead Denis Matvienko showed unchallenged talent during his time onstage; he seemed to be capable of so much but the unimaginative choreography didn’t push him. His two wedding solos were just … flat. I’ll keep him in mind for another show. It was sad, really, to see so much talent so poorly used. At least it was short and I was able to get home in time to do some dishes. Overall, it also left me with a bit of a bad feeling about the Mikhailovsky – they don’t really seem to be in the “world class” level of companies, rather just in the “merely good” zone. Ah well, it was a nice week anyway.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesdya, July 20th, 2010. The show will be repeated on Wednesday, July 21st. For an alternate review, please see Ismene Brown.)

The plot is as such: in a cute Spanish town in “the distant past” (I’d guess 1600ish as the bad guy was dressed like a cross between Cortez and Caesar), Laurencia flirts with her admirer, Frondoso (Denis Matvienko). The happy villagers dance (as they always do). Eventually the army arrives with baddy Don Fernan “The Commander” Gomez (Mikhail Venshchikov, who looked ready to tie the heroine to the railroad tracks at any minute). He decides he’s going to have not just the proffered glass of wine, but Laurencia. She and Frondoso escape to the woods (scene 2). The other town girls appear and wash their laundry. They all leave, then a girl (Jacincta, Oksana Bondareva) appears chased by Fernan’s guards; he appears and allows them to ravage her (offstage thankfully). The villagers return and are suitably shocked by Bondareva’s dance of dismay. (Total time for these scenes: 45 minutes.)

Act 2 starts in the village, where Laurencia and Frondoso are celebrating their marriage. (This is the best scene in the ballet, with lots of fun dancing despite the horrid, posey, fake flamenco.) The Commander interrupts the fun, however, and takes both Laurencia and Frondoso away. The villagers follow them to (scene four) Don Fernan’s castle exterior, where, after some time, the newly ravaged bride emerges, crushed and disoriented, but then, in a scene straight from Les Miserables, incites the men to take their knives (and the women, their pitchforks) and rush the castle. Then a brief movie plays on the curtains (while the set is changed) shows the crowd rushing around inside, attacking guards and setting things on fire. It all ends (scene 5) in Don Fernan’s castle’s main hall, where the peasants appear, catch Fernan (after Laurencia refuses his offer of treasure) and kill him. Then they do a dance of triumph which seems to be a bit of a Russian exhortation to hold strong against the forces of oppression – very telling with the German invasion just around the corner. (Total time for this act approximately one hour.) Note that this ballet is based on Lope de Vega’s story “Fuente Ovejuna.”

Review – Cipollino – Mikhailovsky Ballet at London Coliseum

July 18, 2010

While the Bolshoi’s pulling the big prices with a summer of reruns, the Mikhailovsky’s actually making an attempt to give something back to London audiences by giving us two different, unique ballets: Cipollino, a children’s ballet, is a UK premiere of a ballet originally choreographed in 1973 (and based on an Italian children’s book); Laurencia is billed as a “world premiere” but is actually a revival of the 1939 original (meaning I can’t call it a world premiere by any stretch). (Details of both on the Mikhailovsky site).

Today was the opening day of Cipollino, which, per Wikipedia, is “a children’s tale about political oppression” but as done by fruits and vegetables. I was prepared to be highly amused despite further rather gloomy promises that “the main theme is the struggle of the underclass against the powerful;” it all seemed to promise a play that would hinge on the tomato, which could be either depending on your point of view, and with all of the trouble caused by a little green onion-boy (the “Cipollino” of the title). Glorious revolution ho!

Sadly our day got off to a dreary start with an extremely long plea for donations for a children’s cancer care charity, which, no matter how worthy, couldn’t help but bring the mood down with its evocation of a room full of people many of whom would be unpleasantly and too soon dead. (Sorry, Ms. Narrator, but 1/4 of the room WAS children, you must not tarry in the maudlin lest you lose the momentum.) However, when the curtain opened and the cheery painted drop of 70s psychedelic Russian folk kitsch appeared, all was forgotten. We were introduced to the lead characters: Cipollino, the little green onion boy (Alexey Kuznetsov, laboring under the most unattractive wig this side of Little Lord Fauntleroy and making it even worse with his terrifying grin) and his family; his girlfriend Radish (Sabina Yapparova) and her family; the various proletariat members of vegetable town (Mr. Pear, a violinist, Master Grape, the cobbler, and “old Mr. Pumpkin,” who is apparently 1) old and 2) homeless). Then it was the key members of the oppressive fruit caste: Signor Tomato (big handlebar mustache and quite a bumbling policeman look to him – will credit when I get the cast sheet) and Prince Lemon (hysterically over the top foppish, again can’t credit at present).

Then the ballet itself starts. We have our happy little vegetables in their baskets and dancing in their village. They are, thank God, dressed in charming balletic peasant clothes rather than in eyeball-burning, painfully obvious actual vegetable costumes (no Tales of Beatrix Potter here). Cipollino’s status is designated merely by a green sprout coming from the top of his head; everyone else just goes for the right colors for their role (or maybe a tasteful print of grapes or flowers on their clothes), generally speaking. It’s all set against a backdrop that seems to be vaguely Italian town, which, you know, is fine.

Our villains appear. Signor Tomato is a blustery, angry fellow with a black admiral’s hat on and a large mustache; he comes off like a vicious Major General. He’s accompanied by a group of four men whom I could only think of as elves escaped from Santa Land. This caused me considerable mental distress as I quickly saw the elves “kettling” the happy villagers for the crime of stepping on Prince Lemon’s toe; later I saw the same elves engaging in a “little bit of the old ultra-violence” with the same Prince Lemon. I kept expecting them to hand out presents or make toys; the red and green suits simply couldn’t read any other way. Elf prison guards, what has the world come to?

Prince Lemon has a much bigger contingent of accompanying toadies, all solidly dressed per “children’s ballet” standards of brights, striped, and polka dots. My favorite were the yellow guards, four young women in Tour De France winner’s gear of bright yellow with black trim, nicely accented by bicorn hats and glossy black toe shoes. They got some good choreography (footwork-wise) which made them even more fun to watch. My companion and I both got a kick out of the ballet’s heavy-handed depiction of the flattery exacted by Prince Lemon.

As for the rest of the actual so-called plot, I’ve dropped the synopsis below. In short, Cipollino must both rescue his father from his prison at Prince Lemon’s castle and successfully rebel against the fruit aristocracy so that poor Mr. Pumpkin can have a place to live and the vegetables can live in peace. This requires a long visit to the castle, giving us an opportunity to introduce two secondary characters Count Cherry (Nikolay Korypaev) and Magnolia (Irina Kosheleva) who perform the cruelest trick of all: they steal all of the good dancing away from the lead vegetables.

So really: how about that dancing? Cipollino himself gets almost no exciting choreography, save for his acts 1 and 2 fights with Signor Tomato. Instead, as in all good Panto, the villains totally steal the show. With their incredible high kicks and leaps, Tomato and Lemon really made me want to see them set loose to show off their stuff, as they appeared to be great athletes with very good timing, as well as good actors. Really, the way their legs snapped up in the air about to their noses was quite remarkable. Perhaps they were supposed to be showy, but I couldn’t help but wonder: couldn’t Cipollino just get a little better stuff to dance, and maybe a different wig?

His girlfriend Radish was sprightly and fun, but her charms were washed away when Magnolia came onto the stage, seemingly from an entirely different ballet. She was light, she was airy, she pirouetted like a dream, she flirted and seduced and totally stole the second act. Her duet with Count Cherry was the best dancing of the ballet; second best was the immediately following trio in which Cipollino joins the mix and the two men kind of show off to her and take turns partnering her. If it hadn’t been for this bit, I think I would have just not believed Alexey Kuznetsov could really dance at all.

In short, although the choreography of this ballet (by Genrikh Mayorov) isn’t of the sort that’s going to be making its way into the gala repetoire any time soon, it was still enjoyable on a variety of levels and I consider it worth seeing, especially if the half-priced day of seat tickets are available from the TKTS booth (as they were today). I had a great time from my stalls seats and was pleased by the two hour start-to-finish (with interval) running time. If you are considering bringing children, I’d suggest seven to eleven as the right age range; don’t bring younger unless you’ve already got a ballet fan on your hands as I saw a few four or five year olds just looking too worn out to manage through the show. But do go; you may never have a chance to see this fun work again.

(This review is for a performance that took place at 2 PM on Saturday July 17th 2010. This show will be repeated on July 24th.)

Synopsis of Cipollino from Mikhailovsky site (for those who don’t have Flash):
Act I

A square in a fairytale town. It seems there are only vegetable baskets and fruit cases. But in fact those are big and small houses where fruits and vegetables live. And all the fruits and vegetables resemble people so much.
The family of the Radishes meet the family of the Onions. Mother Cipolla and father Cipollone are trying to cope with naughty Cipollino who is tired of nursing his little sister Cipolletta. Master Grape is mending shoes. Mister Pumpkin is looking for some bricks to build a house for himself. Professor Pear is playing the violin and all the citizens of the town are dancing. Suddenly Signor Tomato appears on the square and announces the visit of Prince Lemon who’d like to talk to his citizens. Prince Lemon has just issued a new law: the sunshine, the wind blow, and the rain must be paid for. Vegetables and fruits are indignant.
In the stampede Cipollino has inadvertently stepped on Lemon’s foot. The guards are outraged: Prince Lemon has been insulted. The ‘rebel’ must be punished. But Cipollino has vanished and the guards arrest his father, the old Cipollone.
The Onions are grieving. But other families have problems too. Mister Pumpkin on his own cannot build a house. All the citizens united by Cipollino are helping him. No sooner than the house has been built, Signor Tomato appears. He’s nearly bursting with anger: the Pumpkin’s house has been built on the land of Countesses Cherries. It’s private property and nobody can use it. The Guard of Prince Lemon destroy the house. The poor old Pumpkin is desperate. Cipollino sets for revenge.

Act II

Cipollino and his friend little Radish are going to the palace to find the place where old Cipollone is kept. On the way they meet young Count Cherry who is very lonely in the palace. Cipollino, Radish, and Cherry make friends. Trying to find the imprisoned Cipollone they are nearly caught by Signor Tomato but manage to escape. The Countesses Cherries are throwing a feast in honour of Prince Lemon. While everybody is busy dancing the friends manage to set Cipollone free.
Lemon’s Guard and the police are looking for the runaways. Cipollino hides his father and Radish but gets arrested.
In the gardens of the palace Count Cherry meet Magnolia. Together they find Cipollino incarcerated. Magnolia with her fragrance sends the guards to sleep; Count Cherry ties them up and sets Cipollino free.
Prince Lemon comes to the prison to punish the ‘rebel’ but finds only the guards tied up.
The enraged Prince orders to fire the cannon into the townsfolk but Cipollino and his friends manage to push the Prince into the cannon. When the smoke rolls away there is no Prince Lemon, no cannon, and no guards. From now on everybody will happily live in the fairytale town. There will be a new town under the clear blue sky — a town of friends!

Casting for 2010 Mikhailovsky London Coliseum visit

July 13, 2010

Tonight’s the start of the Mikhailovsky’s summer visit to London, with five different ballets on offer and a wide variety of performers scheduled to perform. This cast list is copied from the Ballet forum for wider dissemination as I’ve also struggled with the English National Opera’s website (flash doesn’t work on my work computer or on my phone, so useless!) and have been wondering if I would be getting a chance to see any of the ballerinas I’d enjoyed seeing before. I was already feeling peeved about Zakharova’s disappearance from the Bolshoi’s summer tour (making me glad I actually still haven’t bought any Bolshoi tickets as I would have been outraged to have spent so much money and not have got what I was promised), so I wanted to cross-check and see just what it is I’m going to be experiencing at the Coliseum the next two weeks. I’ve starred the ones I am going to see. With luck I’ll end with new dancers to fangrrl over.

Swan Lake
July 13*, 14, 23, 25 – Borchenko, Shemiunov
July 17 (eve), 22 – Rojo, Phkhachov
July 24 – Perren, Semionov

Giselle
July 15 – Perren, Matvienko
July 16 – Perren, Pykhachov

Cipolino
July 17*, 24 – Kuznetsov, Yapparova, Korypaev, Kosheleva

Triple bill
July 18* – Perren, Shmiounov, Ploom, Arbuzova, Lomachenkova, Yapparova, Kochetkova, Korypaev, Yakhnyuk

Laurencia
July 20* – Perren, Matvienko
July 21 – Borchenko, Shemiunov

Review – Swan Lake – Ballet Nacional de Cuba w/Carlos Acosta, London Coliseum

March 31, 2010

Last night was the long-anticipated start of Ballet Nacional de Cuba’s run at the Coliseum, an event I’d been waiting for breathlessly since I first saw it mentioned last fall in a Sadler’s Wells program. I’d especially booked to see Carlos Acosta, who was fortunately performing on opening night. The combination was magic (of the box office sort, at least), as the giant barn of a theater was filled to the rafters with wittering ballet fans. How exciting, to see so many people all together to enjoy ballet! The atmosphere was positively electric.

I’d actually not bought the program beforehand (in part because I showed up about two minutes before curtain up), so I didn’t know if we had a 3 or 4 act (answer: 3) or which ending we were going to get (tragic, sad, or inappropriately happy), though I was told in the cast sheet that the curtain would drop at 10 PM (actual: 10:15). The lack of program left me with a few moments of confusion during act one (what was up with the people in the animal masks coming out from behind the screen – and were those ravens or swans with very thin beaks?) and an utter shock at the very end (I was not expecting the ending they chose). However, in most ways, it’s not as if there was going to be a different story up there than Swan Lake: the difference was going to be in the dancing.

And the dancing: so, so very good! One of the things I’ve come to believe about BNC (based on having seen them twice before) is that theirs is a very pure dance tradition, one I think hews closely to the earliest interpretations of these dances. Thus, in these performances for which composers especially made music to be danced to, in BNC we see dancing that hews tightly to the music, where so many of the movements enhanced the music played with them, so that it seemed the dance served the music. I noticed this first during the first act, when the leaps of Yanela Pinera, Amaya Rodriguez and Alejandro Virelles, in their pas de trois, appeared to have organically developed from the efforts of the brass section. Then, in the third act, the fouettes of Odile (Viengsay Valdes, rather adorably credited with this role as if we did not know she was also Odette) seemed, for once, not a prima ballerina foot-twirling death march, but rather a musical illustration of the martial music underneath it. Each dip of her toe matched up with a blare of horns, and, for the first time I ever, I saw this bit of choreography as something to do with Tchaikovsky and not just with showing off technique. So many times I have felt like dances are being done by people counting beats in their head; but with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, it really seems the dancers are listening to the music, and the difference is truly remarkable. It just all feels so very right, this marriage of music and movement, and I found myself getting goosebumps over and over again, seeing this best of ballet scores come to life. It was great.

I also enjoyed the differences in this version from many of the ones I have seen. All of the first act takes place in the court, and the dances seem to be done spontaneously by the staff to cheer up Prince Siegfried (Carlos Acosta). There were additions I’d never expected – a maypole, a jester (who is a big player), a strange bit in which the jester becomes a crossbow, the animal masquerade (mentioned above), and this whole “mystical experience” thing where Siegfried seems to suddenly be struck by the idea of looking for a swan. As it turns out, when he finally meets Odette, he just kind of steps onto the stage from the wings and grabs her from the waist, which is utterly anticlimactic. However, prior to this we have the most glorious dance of the swan corps ever, whom, despite their smallish numbers (twenty, when I think some company brags of having forty or so), utterly mesmerized me with their movements across the stage, forming and reforming shapes just like real birds do in the sky, only instead of just Vs and teardrop shapes we got circles and a gorgeous set of lines with offset dancers in the middle. I … I mean, I’m sure it was just standard stagecraft, but it was just … goosebumps again. Lovely.

Then we were barelling on to Act Three and Siegfried’s betrayal, and of this act I have to say RED AND BLACK ODILE! This isn’t what most people would have noticed, but it was a novel costuming decision, and I’m a bit obsessed with the color combination. And Valdes’ transformation – it made it impossible to see how Siegfried could have possibly mistaken the one for the other, she had so utterly changed her self presentation on stage. Her seduction of Siegfried seemed ever so much more cold and calculating than in other versions of this show, though, truth be told, the vision of Odette that appeared behind the scrim was so poorly lit that it almost seemed a metaphor for Siegfried’s poor memory. The ending, well, just in case you like surprises, I’ll say a bit of it was clunky and horrid and some of it was magical. Odette’s inability to resist Von Rothbart seemed like it was physically manifested, though, and Valdes did some powerful dancing in this act – but what can I say, being evil always makes a performer more interesting, and it was her Odile I loved best.

Costumes have been a bit of a problem with BNC for me before, because, though the dance preserves well over time, the costumes go stale. I enjoyed them, though – the court was very medieval a la Disney’s Cinderella meets traditional Russian clothing, and the costumes for the dancers in act three were great. Best was the third act’s black and white theme for the jester and the prince, which showed clearly the tug between Odette and Odile that was to come. Foreshadowing via costuming: nice! And the sets were simple but servicable, Gothic and eerie and easy to pack into a shipping container.

At the end of the night, we were treated to the Grande Dame herself, Alicia Alonso, coming on stage to take a bow besides the dance company that she has made, and a dancer that she helped create – Carlos Acosta. She really is a treasure and I feel lucky to have actually seen her, especially since I felt she was wholly responsible for the wonderful evening I’d just had. Who’d think in a world in which there is so much bad dance that one night could be so magical? Even though last night was sold out, there are seats available for £35 for the non-Carlos nights – and, dammit, it’s impossible for me to go back. But I really and truly wish I could. At least I’ve got their Magia de la Danza program to look forward to after Easter, and may I suggest you book for that, too, using the same £35 deal to get lovely stalls seats.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, March 20th, 2010. Ballet Nacional de Cuba continues with Swan Lake through Sunday April 4th; their residency at the London Coliseum continues through Sunday April 11th. Don’t miss it. Really. No matter what Ismene Brown says.)

Screaming deal – Ballet Nacional de Cuba London 2010 visit best seats for £35

March 26, 2010

The Metro has got a screaming deal for Ballet Nacional de Cuba’s 2010 visit to the London Coliseum. For the Friday-Sunday April 2-4 shows of Swan Lake and for the Magica de la Danza program on Fri-Sunday April 9-11, best in the house tickets are £35. Call 0871 911 0200 and ask for the “Celebrate” offer by 29th March to book. If you bought tickets before this, you can’t return them. Boo hoo.