Royal Ballet: Rhapsody/ Two Pigeons, ROH, Covent Garden, January 2016Posted on 21 January 2016
Under Artistic Director Kevin O’Hare the Royal Ballet is thankfully giving more time to the choreography of Frederick Ashton, a genius at creating movement attuned to the music.
He originally created Rhapsody for the Queen Mother’s eightieth birthday in 1980, to be danced by Baryshnikov, and in this performance its quick darting steps and rapid turns were executed with great finesse and wonderful musicality by Steven McRae. His solo performance with its stunning aerial turns was extraordinary, and with Natalia Osipova, back again after a long absence, the two of them were sheer delight. Despite a slightly plodding start the orchestra under the baton of Barry Wordsworth warmed beautifully to Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, allowing the ensemble to demonstrate the airiness and light touch of Ashton’s choreography.
Ashton’s Two Pigeons to Messager’s lovely score was an equal joy, with Alexander Campbell and Yuhui Choe as the young artist and his girlfriend showing superb youthful energy and style. Her playfulness and his annoyance came over entirely naturally, as did their reconciliation in the final tableau. Itziar Mendizabal made a wonderfully red-blooded gypsy girl, assertively demeaning the young man’s girlfriend, while her dark energy matched the precision and power of Campbell’s dancing. Tomas Mock as the gypsy girl’s lover made a forceful presence, and David Yudes a sassily energetic gypsy boy.
Jacques Dupont’s glorious design, with its window and balcony opening to the panorama of city and sky in the distance, beautifully lit by Peter Teigen, evinces a feel for the freedom of the rooftops. It forms a wonderful setting for the emotions of the lovers and their reflection in the actions of the two pigeons — both of which behaved immaculately.
This is a magical ballet of wit and subtlety, whose coupling with Rhapsody provides a marvellous evening’s dancing. So it is strange indeed that there were inexpensive empty seats in the Amphitheatre — in such a short run of this double bill they should be fully taken.
Performances continue with various casts until January 30 — for details click here.