've seen Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac as a TV drama, three films (four if you count Roxanne), an opera - and now a ballet. As it's a very verbal work, with much clever wordplay and an emphasis on the importance to the heroine of romantic language, it's not an obvious choice for a ballet.
Yesterday evening I saw the Birmingham Royal Ballet's production of Cyrano at Sadler's Wells; premiered in 2007 it has choreography by David Bintley and music by Carl Davis. Though I wouldn't describe either as outstanding, they are effective enough. The plot, though moderately complicated, isn't involved enough to sink the ballet (complicated plots and ballet don't really go together well), and the amosphere of the play is well evoked. Bintley sticks very closely to the plot, with all the famous sequences represented.
The duel-while-composing-a-sonnet in Act 1 is, reasonably enough, converted to a duel to a waltz in several sections, with good comic invention, though inevitably the string of nose-orientated insults that Cyrano uses as a demonstration of what is insulter might have said doesn't come over well. The sequence in Act 2 where Cyrano delays his enemy by dropping on him from a tree in disguise and claiming to have come from the Moon is rendered as a genuinely funny comic dance, with Cyrano wearing a glass globe, stolen from a nearby lamp, over his head - anachronistic but effective.
Wisely, Bintley doesn't attempt to convert the play's key scene purely to dance: Cyrano takes the place of his young and inarticulate rival to woo Roxanne - who is on her balcony and cannot see who it is in the dark - for him. The choreography mimes flowery speech, with suitable hand gestures, breaking only into actual dance at the end.
On the whole the ballet hangs together well and is enoyable; it catches both the comedy and the tragedy effectively. It's quite long, and I did wonder occasionally whether one or two of the ensemble pieces which don't actually carry the plot forward might have been better cut - though there is a hilarious dance in which a baker and his assistants parody the 'Rose' adagio from Sleeping Beauty with loaves and tarts.
Davis's music is lyrical and carries the plot and atmosphere well, though it's not particularly memorable. Robert Parker danced a lively and sympathetic Cyrano, Elisha Willis made a young and attractive Roxanne, and Iain Mackay danced Christian, Cyrano's slow-witted rival.
Posted: Fri - November 13, 2009 at 09:42 AM by Roger Wilmut
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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM