Review — Cyrano, Birmingham Royal Ballet, at Sadler’s Wells, November 2009.Posted on 13 November 2009
This is the second of two ballet programmes by the BRB at Sadler’s Wells, the other one being a triple bill called Quantum Leaps.
Cyrano was originally created by David Bintley for the Royal Ballet in 1991, but this new version for the Birmingham Royal Ballet has a completely new score by Carl Davis. The music is atmospheric, well suiting Bintley’s ballet, which is based on the 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. It’s about a noble seventeenth century fellow named Cyrano with a horribly long nose, who is in love with his cousin Roxane. She in turn is interested in the callow young cadet Christian, and the plot is complicated by the fact that her guardian, the Comte de Guiche intends to marry her himself. Roxane asks Cyrano to deliver a love letter to Christian, and since the young fellow can’t read or write he asks Cyrano to write to Roxane on his behalf. The scene is then set for Roxane to fall helplessly in love with the letter writer whom she believes to be Christian. De Guiche manipulates events so that Christian is killed in battle, and Roxane then enters a convent in despair. She sees her cousin, Cyrano regularly, not knowing he is seriously wounded, nor that he loves her and has written all those beautiful letters. When she finds out, it’s too late and he dies in her arms.
Robert Parker was superb as Cyrano, with strong stage presence, precision in dancing, ability to express emotions, and playing well with the humorous parts. Elisha Willis was an utterly charming Roxane and her pas-de-deux with Cyrano in Act I was beautifully performed. This is a lovely piece of choreography, where she teasingly holds on to the letter she’s written. The supporting dancers all did well, with Iain Mackay as Christian, Chi Cao as Cyrano’s aide Le Bret, Christopher Larsen as Ragueneau the baker, Dominic Antonucci as the horrid De Guiche, and Marion Tait as the Duenna, who looks after Roxane. It’s always a pleasure to see her on stage, with her fine musicality. This is a ballet with plenty of ensemble dance for the men, and they performed it extremely well.
The designs by Hayden Griffin are wonderful, and I loved Roxane’s costumes. The fights, directed by Malcolm Ranson, were entertaining, but suffered from the usual weakness of people dropping dead without any apparent blow being struck. It was all very effectively lit by Mark Jonathan, and very well conducted by Wolfgang Heinz. Altogether this is a ballet to appeal to those who like a good story, and after a slow beginning it picked up later and the use of mime was very cleverly done. In fact it’s rather remarkable to turn into dance a story about a man who is good with words, but I think Bintley has succeeded.