Royal Ballet - Mixed Bill

Yesterday evening I went to the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden: a mixed bill to celebrate both their 75th Anniversary and the Queen’s 80th birthday. Two short ballets, The Rake’s Progress and Homage to the Queen, were separated by a collection of excerpts from various ballets over the last 75 years.

The Rake’s Progress, first performed in 1935, is based on the famous series of paintings by Hogarth, showing the excesses and decline into madness of a young noveau riche. The music, by Gavin Gordon, uses 18th century musical techniques fused with modernism in a manner similar to Stravinsky’s Pulcinella: the choreography is by the Royal Ballet’s founder, Ninette de Valois. It is formalistic, using repeated movements in rhythmic patterns which echo the musical forms of the period, while being expressive and witty, though without the fluidity which Ashton would later bring to British choreography. Great fun, and well danced, particularly by Viacheslav Samodurov as the Rake.

The final item, Homage to the Queen, is a bit of an oddity: it was first performed on Coronation Day in 1953, but has not been performed since 1958 and much of the choreography has been lost. In the ballet, teams representing the four Classical elements - Earth, Water, Fire and Air, dance to honour the Queen: only Ashton’s original choreography for Air has survived, and David Bintley, Michael Corder, Christopher Newton and Christopher Wheeldon have supplied new choreography. The music is by Malcolm Arnold. I have to say that the ballet is, quite frankly, kitsch - well mounted and danced, very pretty, but, kitsch. The pretty movements and costumes don’t add up to anything very much, and the music is not up to Arnold’s usual standard. Worth seeing as a curiosity, though.

The high point of the evening came in the central collection of Divertissements: the Balcony pas de deux from Macmillan’s Romeo and Juliet, danced by Johan Kobborg and Alina Cojocaru. He was good, as always, but she was heart-stopping - beautifully acted as well as beautifully danced, and every nuance of Juliet’s complex emotions expressed with a vividness which held the audience rapt. This was the best Juliet I have seen since Fonteyn: I’ve never seen Cojocaru in the entire ballet. I must.

Click here to see a large version of the panoramic picture

Download a Google Earth placemark for the Royal Opera House

Posted: Wed - June 7, 2006 at 09:16 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM