Royal Ballet Triple: Concerto/ Las Hermanas/ Requiem, Covent Garden, November 2012

The central feature of this triple bill is Kenneth Macmillan’s wonderfully intense ballet Las Hermanas (The Sisters) based on The House of Bernarda Alba by Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca.

Fiancé and eldest, ROH/ Bill Cooper

Las Hermanas tells of a tragedy about a domineering mother and five unmarried daughters. The fiancé of the eldest is seduced by the youngest, and one of the other sisters, being furiously jealous, betrays her. The mother banishes the fiancé, effectively condemning her eldest daughter to spinsterhood, and the youngest hangs herself. The oppressive atmosphere of the house is well captured by Frank Martin’s orchestral music with its solo harpsichord, and the repressed emotions of the eldest sister and her jealous sibling shine through in MacMillan’s choreography, which portrays the claustrophobia and angst of the household better than any words could do.

Mother and jealous daughter

It all starts in complete silence except for the tap of the mother’s stick as she descends the stairs. Elizabeth McGorian performed well in this role, and the entire casting was superb. Melissa Hamilton as the youngest sister was gracefully coquettish right from the beginning, and her pas-de-deux with Thiago Soares was full of sexual energy. As the sister who betrays her, Laura Morera gave a brilliant performance of defiant jealousy and furious tension, while Zenaida Yanowsky as the eldest sister was a whirl of emotion, so repressed in her actions, and so terribly drained by the loss of her fiancé, her only means of escape from the cloistered prison she inhabits with her mother and younger sisters.

After the youngest one retreats upstairs and the jealous one feels her eldest sister’s pain, the mother and four sisters sit down. A telephone rang — was it intentional? The mother suddenly thinks to go to her youngest daughter upstairs … but it’s too late. This intense drama is classic MacMillan — not to be missed on any account.

Choe and McRae in Concerto

Concerto, which opens the evening, is a bright work to Shostakovich’s second Piano Concerto, written for his son Maxim as a piece to exercise his skills. The poster strokes of the percussive music are matched in the colours of the costumes, with the fast music of the first movement demanding great technical ability from the dancers. In the second movement Kate Shipway on the piano created wonderful colours matching the purple and orange lighting representing sunrise as Sarah Lamb and Ryoichi Hirano performed a lovely pas-de-deux, and in the third movement Yuhui Choe and Steven McRae sparkled brilliantly together, utterly in time and on the music.

Acosta in Requiem

After the brightness of Concerto, followed by the dark emotions of Las HermanasRequiem made a fine ending to an all-MacMillan evening. This tribute to John Cranko was beautifully performed, with Laura Wright singing a pure voiced soprano, and the orchestra under Barry Wordsworth giving a lovely rendering of Fauré’s music. The dancers gave their best, and I felt particularly moved by the Agnus Dei performed by Marianela Nuñez and eight others. Towards the end, as Rupert Pennefather carried an upright Leanne Benjamin, with Carlos Acosta walking by their side, someone tried to clap. They were immediately shushed. This was a serious audience deeply appreciative of a triple bill for which good seats could have been bought for as little as £6. There is no better value in London.

Performances continue until December 5 — for details click here.

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