Royal Ballet Double Bill: Monotones I and II, The Two Pigeons, ROH, Covent Garden, November 2015Posted on 19 November 2015
Why were there inexpensive empty seats? This is a wonderful mixed bill of Ashton ballets, including his delightful Two Pigeons featuring Jacques Dupont’s glorious set with its window to the city and sky of Paris beautifully lit by Peter Teigen.
Yet before this colourful drama of two lovers reunited after one flies the nest, we see the limpid simplicity of Monotones I and II to music by Satie, later orchestrated by Debussy and others. The first part uses his Gnossiennes, and the second part his three Gymnopédies. These titles are based on the Greek words gnosis and gymnos referring to knowledge and nakedness, and in Ashton’s conception the man and two women of the first part are terrestrials, while the woman and two men of the second are heavenly bodies.
In their olive-green costumes for the first section, Emma Maguire, Yasmine Naghdi and Tristan Dyer gave a sense of worldly perfection, and in their white costumes for the second section Marianela Nuñez, Valeri Hristov and Edward Watson shone with heavenly splendour, Ms Nuñez’s gentle movements exhibiting pure geometry in motion.
The Two Pigeons is Ashton’s reworking of the original Les Deux Pigeons to music by Messager, adapted by Lanchbery and first performed at Covent Garden by the Touring Company on Valentine’s Day 1961. The setting is early twentieth century Paris where a young painter and his model are in conflict, before a band of gypsies suddenly appears. When they depart the young man flies off to visit the seductive gypsy girl, who has been delighted by his attention. When that ends badly the lovers are reunited, their relationship reflected in the charming actions of two pigeons.
The pigeons behaved immaculately, the ensemble dancing was hugely vivacious and the principals expressed their roles with wit and passion. As the young artist, Vadim Muntagirov showed fine precision and youthful ardour, with Lauren Cuthbertson wonderfully expressive in her exasperating insecurity and later happiness as the model, and Laura Morera exhibiting enormous style, seductiveness and control as the gypsy girl. Fine masculine assertiveness by Ryoichi Hirano as her lover, terrific panache from Marcelino Sambé in his solos as the gypsy boy, and beautifully musical movement by Elizabeth McGorian as the neighbour.
The Royal Ballet have not put this on since 1985, so well done to Christopher Carr for staging it with such care, and to Kevin O’Hare for bringing it back into the repertory and dedicating this performance to the people of Paris after the recent terrorist attacks there.
Performances of this double bill with various casts continue until December 5 — for details click here.