Wednesday, 22 April 2009
It’s that time of year again.
The bluebells and first peonies are out, and the Royal Opera House reveals what is in store for the coming season. The Royal Ballet season runs from October – June; in July they go on tour (this summer – in a huge coup for the company – to Cuba). For the last couple of years, the need for good box office receipts and a lack of rehearsal time have constrained the company, producing underwhelming seasons. Some have commented that this programming is the result of the credit crunch, but the reality is that the 3-5yr rolling plan containing 09/10 was drawn up before the crunch slammed into everything. The Royal Ballet constantly competes with the Royal Opera for rehearsal/stage time, limiting the number of new productions that can be mounted in any season.
Mayerling (10 performances)
The Sleeping Beauty (5 matinees* and 17 evening performances)
Agon | Sphinx | New McGregor (6 performances)
The Nutcracker (6 matinees and 13 late afternoon/evening performances)
Les Patineurs | Beatrix Potter (6 matinees and 7 late afternoon/evening performances)
Romeo and Juliet (2 matinees and 14 evening performances)
New Watkins | Rushes | Infra (5 performances)
La Fille Mal Gardee (3 matinees and 9 evening performances)
Concerto | Judas Tree | Elite Syncopations (6 performances)
Cinderella (5 matinees and 8 evening performances)
Electric Counterpoint | New Scarlett | Carmen (1 matinee and 5 evening performances)
Chroma | Tryst | Symphony in C (2 matinees and 4 evening performances)
I am thrilled that Jonathan Watkins and Liam Scarlett will both get their chances to choreograph on the main stage this season. Both are talented beyond their years and I can’t wait to see what they make of the opportunity to put a one act ballet onto the main stage. Watkins is working with Graham Fitkin, who has written a newly commissioned score. Scarlett’s work is to music by Francis Poulenc & is programmed with Carmen which has just been on (to a mixed reception).
ROH2 have announced a collaboration between Kim Brandstrup and the Royal Ballet’s Principal dancer Tamara Rojo, in a new dance work to Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Rojo will be joined by Steven McRae and Thomas Whitehead.
Ballets are like diamonds – multi-faceted. There is a ballet for everyone. If you want to waltz into the Piazza after a show then what could be better than The Nutcracker with its Snowflakes and Sugar Plum Fairy ? For chiffony twirliness, try Cinderella. For drama & passion you have Manon and Romeo & Juliet. For glittery wands & Fairies galore, The Sleeping Beauty is your ballet. For sheer & dazzling dance how about Symphony in C ?
And then there is the Dark Side of ballet. The season opens on October 7th with the brooding & troubled Mayerling, which, for my taste, has too much theatre & standing around and not enough dancing. That said, the pas de deux, when they come, are daring & difficult. Will we ever be shot of this truly dire, sepia-tinted, giant puffy-sleeved, over-blown production of The Sleeping Beauty ? Looking at the triple bills, one’s mind tends to boggle at whatever thought process put them together. Resident choreographer Wayne McGregor has to have a slot for at least one of his new works each year, it’s in his contract, and we’ll have to wait to see how it programmes with Agon and Sphinx. This new work is set to Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s Notes on Light for cello and orchestra and the designs are by Japanese sculptor and installation artist Tatsuo Miyajima. As I say, the mind boggles. I’ve never been a fan of McGregor’s style and I’ve always had concerns that an essentially classical ballet company would take on a resident choreographer (think Ashton, MacMillan) who prefers the polar opposite. I’m all for versatility but such extremes in style don’t sit well together for me.
And then to the rays of sunshine in Winter : who would complain about the delightful Nutcracker for Christmas ? Ok, so it’s been on for several years in a row, but it is perfectly suited to the Christmas holidays, the best production there is, and of course guaranteed box office gold. Nutcracker’s companion staging this year is a double bill comprising the very popular Les Patineurs & The Tales of Beatrix Potter, which the audiences love and the dancers less so.
Romeo & Juliet hasn’t been out of the rep for long, and here we see it back in January for a run of 16 performances – and quite odd that 2 of them are matinees – this is hardly a family ballet.
Almost everyone loves the rural idyll that is La Fille Mal Gardee (The Wayward Daughter) & this year it celebrates its 50th anniversary. Where else could you find a real pony, life-size hens and troublesome ribbons ?
And hurrah – Elite Syncopations at long last – but only for 6 performances in late March/early April. I’m not sure about putting such a “jazz hands” ballet with The Judas Tree which is all doom & gloom.
Cinderella, with 4 matinee performances, is a great family ballet – everyone knows the story and this staging is magical. You’ve got the contrast between the pantomime Ugly Sisters and the sublimely lyrical pas de deux between Cinderella and her Prince. And shoes !!! It’s sometimes hard to imagine that this music was written by the same composer as Romeo & Juliet – Prokofiev.
The season ends in a triumph with Symphony in C – a ballet so dazzling it is sure to send you out on a high. All 48 dancers are on stage for the coda. Again I have doubts about the rest of this triple bill but to be honest, anything programmed with Symphony is going to get second billing.
You can read the full press releases here.
*A note on matinees – the press releases have sometimes included one 2pm performance as a matinee and not another. For the purposes of this blog, I have included all performances that start before 5pm as matinees, since the dictionary definition of a matinee is : “a theatrical performance held during the daytime (especially in the afternoon)”.
There is also at least one instance where two productions are supposed to be performed on the same date and time & in the same place so the eventual numbers may change !