Posts Tagged ‘sylvia’

Discounts on 2009 “Spring Dance at the London Coliseum”

February 28, 2009

Due to Eonnagata being sold out for its entire run at Sadler’s Wells (best hope: buy tickets for June) and my being too poor to get tickets to pretty much any plays for all of March, I’m going to fill my blog with posts on saving money on show tickets in lieu of other content. Well, actually, I think that for March you’ll also be seeing posts on Flamenco and maybe even silent movies (there is a series at the BFI called “Screen Seductresses: Vamps, Vixens and Femmes Fatales” that I’ll be hitting rather frequently), but not much for plays. That said …

American Ballet Theater is coming to the London Coliseum at the end of March (through April 4th) to present two programs: Swan Lake and Le Corsaire. Tickets are available at prices ranging from 10 to 95 quid, but for select showings of Swan Lake (Wed 25 PM, Th 26 both shows, Sunday 29 March PM show) you can get two for one tickets on the 95, 80, and 60 tickets. Similarly, Birmingham Royal Ballet is coming in April to present two programs: Pomp and Circumstances and Sylvia. Half price tickets are available for the THursday April 16th show on the 65 and 55 tickets. To get these deals, go to http://www.eno. org and use the promo code SD441A when prompted or call the box office on 0871 472 0800 and quote “postcard offer.”

Anyway, enjoy! I don’t have a spare 60 for March (two blow on one evening versus three), but it’s my hope that by April I’ll have enough pennies scraped together to go see the Pomp and Circumstances show, as I like Birmingham Royal Ballet a lot.

Review – Birmingham Ballet’s “Stravinsky: A Celebration” (Petrushka, Firebird, Le Baiser de la Fée) – Sadler’s Wells

November 1, 2008

I had a really good evening tonight at the Birmingham Ballet’s Stravinsky program, about which I’d like to say lots and lots with references to all the dancers but since it got out at eleven PM (the program said 10:40), I’m finding myself home just shortly after midnight and not at my most eloquent. (That said since there are two more shows tomorrow, I’m going to give this a brief rundown in case one or two folks out there might be considering going.)

I had seen The Firebird two years back and was very excited about seeing it again by the same company, even more so because the rest of the ballets to be performed were also done to the music of Stravinsky, whom I consider one of the very best ballet composers out there. (Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Tchiakovsky – what is it with the Russians and the ballet composing? Maybe it’s something magical about growing up in a society where ballet is worshiped and classical music is also revered, but the Russians really own the whole “consistently great scores for ballet” category.) I was unfamiliar with the other two (though I’d heard of Petrushka), so I was looking forward to an evening of surprises – though I had no idea I’d have almost three full hours of dance on the table!

Petrushka is a surreal, if fun, ballet. A Chagall-like Russian village is visited by a sort of evil wizard, who plays the flute to make his puppets – a Moor (not PC in any way), a dancer girl, and a clown (Petrushka) – dance. Backstage at his house, we see that his puppets are actually psychologically tortured and kept by demons! At the village the next day, the clown makes a break for it and dies – the end. (Or this is what I thought the story was – I was too cheap to buy a program.) Meanwhile we get lots of great dancing from the various characters in the village, as well as pathos from the clown. My favorite: the two stable boys who blazed their way across stage in leaps of such height I wasn’t even registering them as real. (There was also lots of the squatting and kicking Russian dancing going on, which I have to imagine is not really the best thing for a dancer’s knees.) Petrushka is based on the original choreography (I’m betting) by Mikhail Fokine, and I found it a treat, if bizarre.

A very long break later and we were back for Le Baiser de la Fée, a new ballet choreographed by Michael Corder for Birmingham Ballet based on a story by Hans Christian Anderson (and reading rather a whole lot like the first third of the Snow Queen to me). Let me tell you about this performance: SEXY MALE FAIRIES. Er, well, in the program they are called “sprites” (and backstage they’re known as Aaron Robison and Tom Rogers), but when they were on stage I was about embarassing myself gawking at them. They’re tall, they’re muscular, and rather than just wearing tights, they were dressed in these spangled black and grey flame outfits that crawled up from their hips to their shoulders, with sort of twiggy headdresses on top of it all. My jaw dropped when the came on stage and pretty well stayed there while they were on.

This was probably a good thing and representative of much of what wasn’t great about this part of the show. Costumes: awesome (props to John F. Macfarlane), but the dancing was just not all that when it wasn’t the fairies. “The Bride” (Natasha Oughtred), well, she was cute and lithe, but she seemed … disposable. There was none of the brilliance of a Coppelia, none of the tragedy of an Odette – she was just more or less a space filler, because her dancing said nothing about her. And the male corps, well, I’m afraid this piece really brought out some of their problems with ensemble work during the “village” scenes. Unison? I think it’s more of a concept for them than a goal. I am reminded that it’s invariably the men that define the skill level of a company. Good ballerinas are not that hard to find, but assembling that level of skill in a male corps is a real stretch, presumably because there are so many fewer to go around. A few good companies get to pick and choose, but for a lot of them, they take good enough. It made me miss Pacific Northwest Ballet, I tell you. At any rate, I still enjoyed the ballet, but I don’t think it’s going to become a classic. (I checked and the music was originally written for a ballet of this same name and with the same story. Perhaps some day I can see Balanchine’s version.)

Finally, the Firebird, a ballet with a completely brilliant score, amazing (original Ballet Russes?) costumes (that you can totally see from the balcony – nothing subtle about them!), and nearly perfectly matched choreography. I could feel goosebumps forming as the low rumble of the drums started up in the orchestra pit (though the old people behind me kept talking: people, please SHUT UP during the overture. This is not the commercial break, it is the start of the show. It’s live music! There are people performing down there and you just had twenty five minutes to have that conversation!). Finally the curtain came up and we had our lovely Firebird, Nao Sakuma, darting across stage.

As a character I love the Firebird. She is not a love interest – she remains a wild creature throughout the ballet and only dances with the prince to win her freedom again. It’s great to see movement which fights against the partnering instead of getting all smooth and mushy – and really, even the princess doesn’t do that, just bows formally. It’s a great ballet, one of my top five favorites.

Overall, I very much enjoyed my evening and thought my thirty quid well repaid. And good news: Birmingham Ballet is coming back in the spring (April 14 – 18, 2009) to do a mixed bill (Pomp and Circumstance, they’re calling it, including the amusingly titled “Still Life at the Penguin Cafe”) and “Sylvia” (though not the Ashton choreography so I might go see it) at the London Coliseum. Score!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, October 31st, 2008.)

Royal Ballet’s “Sylvia” – Royal Opera House

April 2, 2008

As I saw this show on closing night (and I’ve got about a show a night this week and little time for writing), I’m going to make this review fairly brief. “Sylvia” sells itself as a pretty, full-length Ashton ballet. We were drawn by the lovely posters, featuring a tunic-clad Greek goddess type blowing a hunting horn, and the music, which is by Delibes, composer of the brilliant Coppelia. I was also interested in seeing a full-length Ashton ballet, as his short works had been of somewhat mixed quality (Les Patineurs brilliantly excepted) and, as a recent arrival to these shores, I have been wanting to become better aquainted with the local idea of good choreography rather than staying hide-bound in my little Balanchine-centered ballet world. (I’d previously seen The Tales of Beatrix Potter.)

Even though this ballet has been recut and rearranged by Christopher Newton, it can’t get past its age and … God only knows what else is holding it back, but this is a musty old basket from the ballet basement and while it isn’t horrid, it’s just not interesting, not enough to see twice and not enough to recommend to anyone other than people who want to fill in their ballet history. I say this despite the fact that with Marianela Nunez dancing I really could not have asked for a more elegant lead. She was fantastic in the second act’s seduction scene, my favorite part of the ballet. But the rest of the characters and the story were just so stale and painful I could barely stand it. The villain (Orion) was out of a Disney cartoon; the entire plot seemed to be a missed episode for Fantasia, a sexless Greece with pretty gods dancing prettily and villagers pushing charming carts and holding lambsies and hoes. The costumes looked like they were pulled from a girl’s bedroom circa 1952, and the sets were hobbled by the past in a way I’ve only ever imagined American opera is, clinging desperately to the recognizable incarnations of “high art” by being pathetically realistic and overdesigned. Seeing this ballet made me understand why people think this is a dying art, especially considering what was happening contemporaneously with on the American stage.

Thanks to a gorgeous violin solo in the third act, I didn’t consider the night so terrible as to be unredeemable, but I was just not sold, even though there were dancing goats. With luck, a week of modern dance will wash this whole thing right out of my mind and the next time I go to the ROH it will be something where the choreography takes advantages of the fantastic talent made available to it instead of smothering them in tripe.

(This review is for a show that took place on Monday, March 31st, 2008.)