Royal Ballet Triple: Afternoon of a Faun/ In the Night/ Song of the Earth, ROH, Covent Garden, May 2015

The Royal Ballet’s season finale at Covent Garden appears as the Company prepares for its American tour, which starts with Acosta’s Don Quixote in Washington and Chicago before moving to New York with two mixed bills, one including Song of the Earth.

Song with Hirano, Cuthberston, Watson, ROH image/ Bill Cooper

Song of the Earth with Hirano, Cuthberston, Watson, ROH image/ Bill Cooper

The casts for Song in London were similar to those planned for New York, one with Carlos Acosta, the other with Edward Watson, as the Messenger of Death. Both exhibited huge authority as companion and guide to the other two principals, and I particularly liked the trio of Acosta, Nuñez and Soares in the finale tableau, their bodies breathing with the music as they move together towards the final curtain.

Nuñez also fully portrays the emotion in this remarkable MacMillan ballet, first produced for Stuttgart in 1965 after Covent Garden had rejected the idea earlier that year, considering Mahler’s composition to be a “masterpiece that should not be touched” though its later huge success caused them to relent. Among various soloists, the performances of Yuhui Choe in the Third Song and Alexander Campbell in the Fourth were particularly notable, with fine singing from Tom Randle in the tenor role.

Bonelli and Lamb in Faun, ROH image/ Bill Cooper

Bonelli and Lamb in Faun, ROH image/ Bill Cooper

The other two ballets in this Triple, Jerome Robbins’ take on Debussy’s Prélude à l’après midi d’un faune, and his In The Night to four of Chopin’s Nocturnes set against a starlit cyclorama, are remarkable creations. Having seen Faun in both the original Nijinsky choreography, and Robbins’ 1958 version set with just two dancers in a studio, the latter is the one I prefer, and on the first night Sarah Lamb and Federico Bonelli exuded dreamy languor and effortless sensuality.

In the Night, Campbell and Maguire, ROH image/ Tristram Kenton

In the Night, Campbell and Maguire, ROH image/ Tristram Kenton

Lamb and Bonelli were also superb in the second cast for In the Night, their roles in the first cast having been danced with great panache by Emma Maguire and Alexander Campbell, beautifully complemented by Yanowsky and Kish, and Nuñez and Soares, as the other two couples. As the third couple in the second cast, Pennefather, dancing with Roberta Marquez, showed great style and presence, and Melissa Hamilton and Vadim Muntagirov in Faun gave a lovely performance of suppressed youthful desire.

Sadly the Company is including neither Faun nor Night in their mixed bills for America. Or are they? The opening Gala Performance in New York on June 23 lists only Ashton’s classic The Dream, but that cannot be the whole programme. Since the two Jerome Robbins’ ballets are all set to go it would be amazing if they were not included in an expensive gala performed in the late choreographer’s own hometown. Lucky those who have tickets.

The final performance of this triple bill at the ROH takes place on Thursday, June 4 — for details click here — after which the Royal Ballet leaves for America.

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