Winter’s Tale, Gartside and Nuñez, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, 16 April 2014Posted on 17 April 2014
This was the first performance by the second cast, originally scheduled for last Saturday but postponed due to lack of rehearsal time. Second cast it may have been, but prima ballerina Marianela Nuñez gave a beautifully nuanced performance of Hermione filled with emotional expression. Her solo in Act I, with her husband Leontes (Bennet Gartside) standing on a plinth watching, fully showed the anguish of her predicament and led to a superb pas-de-deux between them, perfectly expressing this high point of the drama. Gartside gave an excellent portrayal of Leontes’ descent into impotent jealousy caused by the delusions that Wheeldon has crafted from his choreography and the clever use of lighting, exhibiting a mental turmoil not easy to display in a normal theatre production.
Laura Morera was a terrific Paulina. Towards the end of Act I her musicality and David Briskin’s sensitive conducting fully expressed the vital part she plays, and her recognition of Perdita in Act III was beautifully done. Valeri Hristov was a fine Polixenes, with Vadim Muntagirov as his son Florizel delightfully boyish in his enthusiasm for the joys of life and for the pretty Perdita of Beatriz Stix-Brunell, who danced with winsome charm. Lovely performances too from Luca Acri and Yasmine Naghdi in Act II, and once again we had the wonderful Shepherd of Gary Avis.
This new ballet grows on me the more I see it. The designs and colours of the costumes, the video projections of ships at sea, and Joby Talbot’s music all work together to give an intriguing illustration of Shakespeare’s late play, and the sublime ending is reminiscent of the final moments in Balanchine’s Apollo. But the audience cannot restrain their applause until the music is over, so perhaps Wheeldon can find some method of bringing things to a firmer conclusion. Yet his wonderful realisation of this difficult play is a deeper success than the lighter weight Alice, and in this performance Marianela Nuñez lent a gloriously ethereal grace to the Act III incarnation of Hermione.
Performances with both casts continue until May 8, including a live cinema relay on April 28 — for details click here.