A Serenade, a Voyage, and some Variations

A triple bill of romantic ballets at the Royal Opera House yesterday evening, performed by the Royal Ballet: two of them choreographed by George Balanchine. I saw Serenade (to Tchaikovsky's 'Serenade for Strings) last May and wrote about it then; once again it was elegantly performed. The evening finished with Balanchine's Theme and Variations, set to Tchaikovsky's work of the same name. It's minor Tchaikovsky, and the choreography is very much in classical style: but though it's easy and undemanding on the eye it does place considerable technical demands on the two lead dancers - in this case Tamara Rojo and Federico Bonelli, who handled the difficulties with elegance and ease.

But the real highlight of the evening was the middle ballet: L'Invitation au Voyage, choreographed by Michael Corder to settings by Henri Duparc of poems by French poets including Gautier and Beaudelaire. It was first performed in 1982 and has only now been revived. The music is for orchestra and mezzo-soprano: unusually, the singer is not only onstage, but required to interact with the dancers with fairly simple but effective moves.

The setting is a faintly Dali-esque gazebo with a roof of cloud-like fabric and an oval reflective floor area, lit initially in a sunset pink but changing with the mood of the five songs: the ballet represents the stages of a love life through youthful romance, eroticism, bitterness and loss. The choreography is subtle and affecting, and a remarkable achievement for a young choreographer as Corder was then. The singer was Harriet Williams, and the dancers included Emma Maguire, Sergei Polunin, Leanne Benjamin and Federico Bonelli.

Four dancers from the originally published casting had had to be replaced because of injury: ballet is a risky occupation.

Posted: Thu - November 6, 2008 at 10:10 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM