Royal Ballet Triple: Birthday Offering/ A Month in the Country/ Les Noces, Covent Garden, July 2012

A second view, with a different cast — see my opening night review for more details.

Deirdre Chapman in Les Noces, image ROH/ Dee Conway

As before, Tom Seligman conducted Birthday Offering with Barry Wordsworth taking the other two ballets, and things got off to a fine start as Seligman produced swelling sounds from the orchestra to Glazunov’s Concert Waltz No. 1. Later the music interleaves excerpts from Glazunov’s Seasons, and this Ashton ballet is a delightful collection of interchanging couples, variations for the ballerinas and a major pas-de-deux beautifully performed by Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares. The variations all came over well, and I particularly liked Yuhui Choe in the first one, and Hikaru Kobayashi in the elegantly slow fifth one. Last time, Sarah Lamb danced the third one but this time the sixth, showing lovely arm movements, and the very difficult seventh variation was performed by Nuñez herself. The supporting men were as before, except of course Soares as the principal this time. One odd feature of the floral bouquets at the end was that Nuñez received three or four — I lost count — whereas on opening night the Company could not produce a single bouquet for Rojo. Extraordinary.

A Month in the Country was well enough danced but not as compelling as opening night, with the cast seeming less comfortable with one another. However, Alina Cojocaru stood out as the mother, the superb lightness of her dancing giving an ethereal feel to this woman who suddenly finds yearnings for which she has hitherto found no outlet. And the pas-de-quatre, with Iohna Loots as Vera, Cojocaru as the mother, Paul Kay as Kolya, and Federico Bonelli as the tutor was performed with a lovely air of spontaneity.

Valeri Hristov as the bridegroom in Les Noces, image ROH/ Johan Persson

Although I found Month less gripping than opening night, Les Noces was just as superb as before. The strange rhythmic intensity of this ballet sweeps us into a distant world of carefully planned transformation from spinsterhood to marriage. Bronislava Nijinska’s choreography was ten years after that of Nijinsky for the Rite of Spring, but is reminiscent of it, and although the chosen maiden is now merely moving into the married state, the community ritual is everything. The music is Stravinsky, as it is for Rite, and the chosen maiden was well portrayed by Kristin McNally, with Valeri Hristov a strong presence as the bridegroom. This great ballet is a perfect reason for coming to this mixed bill, and tickets can still be had for as little as four pounds — don’t miss it.

Performances continue only until July 7 — for details click here.

2 Responses to “Royal Ballet Triple: Birthday Offering/ A Month in the Country/ Les Noces, Covent Garden, July 2012”

  1. Chris says:

    I generally agree, although I saw this cast first and Rojo et al last night. Unlike the first night, Tamara Rojo did get a single bouquet, although Yanowsky received two for a Month in the Country! Rojo technically outclassed Nuñez but the ballet as a whole did not grab me as well as the night before.

    There was a hitch of some sort and A Month in the Country started late with Rupert Pennefather rather stiff and awkward at first, especially when compared to Bonelli: cramp maybe? He soon loosened up and it began to flow and the emotional tension between Zenaida Yanowsky and Emma Maguire as mother and ward fighting for his attention was brilliant. As a piece of story-telling it was definitely the better performance.

    Les Noces was overwhelmingly wonderful. The ballet was less well performed (at least twice dancers forgot their movements) but the musicianship was more assured with exceptional singing, and the sheer emotional impact was almost too much to take. I could happily have listened to the music alone but its fusion with the dance left me in tears of joy. At £2 per ballet I think it must be the best value night out I’ve ever had!

  2. Chris says:

    A final word on Tamara Rojo: “Rojo is not just joining the competition, she’s saying: the Royal Ballet isn’t my ultimate ambition. And they don’t give bouquets for that.”

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