Tag Archives: Gary Avis

Nutcracker, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2017

In this beautiful and perennially popular Peter Wright production, Drosselmeyer appears in his workshop at the start, gazing at a portrait of his nephew Hans-Peter, now maliciously trapped inside the Nutcracker Doll. To escape he must slay the Mouse King, which becomes a turning point when Clara clobbers the monster with her shoe, and in …

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Mayerling, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2017

In January 1889, fifty years into the reign of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, his son and heir Crown Prince Rudolf died in an apparent suicide pact at the Mayerling hunting lodge with his new mistress Mary Vetsera. In late 1916 Franz Joseph’s death after a reign of 68 years ended an era wonderfully brought to …

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Sleeping Beauty, Royal Ballet, ROH, February 2017

The second run of Sleeping Beauty this season started in grand style with Marianela Nuñez as Princess Aurora and Vadim Muntagirov as her prince, and a cast close to that for the live cinema relay at the end of the month. In Act I Nuñez showed the thrill of a teenager at her own coming …

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La Fille mal gardée, with Morera and Muntagirov, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, September 2016

The setting of this ‘late-summer’ ballet with its wealthy farmer, hay bales and young peasants makes a great season opener, with Morera and Muntagirov repeating their excellent Lisa and Colas from April last year. As dawn breaks, Tristan Dyer’s cockerel and his hens opened the performance in fine style, before Morera and Muntagirov’s beautifully gentle …

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Royal Ballet Triple: Obsidian Tear/ The Invitation/ Within the Golden Hour, ROH, Covent Garden, May 2016

Royal Ballet triple bills rarely begin with a new ballet, but this one started with the world premiere of Wayne McGregor’s Obsidian Tear to a half-hour orchestral piece by Finnish composer Esa-Pekka Salonen. Salonen, better known as a conductor, takes up the baton to direct his own music, named Nyx after the Greek goddess of the …

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Winter’s Tale, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2016

Christopher Wheeldon’s representation of this Shakespeare play, where King Leontes of Sicilia goes insane with jealousy, only recovering after the damage is done and then many years later seeing the younger generation sort out the mess their elders have made, is a marvellous evocation of the story presented in fine Shakespearean style. A painting is …

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The Nutcracker, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, December 2015

This Christmas sees the Royal Ballet reviving Nutcracker — absent last year in favour of Don Q and Alice — in the Peter Wright production that has been with the Company for over thirty years. Yet it still looks entirely fresh, as did the dancers on opening night with Francesca Hayward and Alexander Campbell making …

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Romeo and Juliet, with McRae and Lamb, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, September 2015

Things are looking up at the Royal Ballet with new music director Koen Kessels. From the first bars it was clear that a new hand was at work, and his conducting on the opening night of the Company’s new season put recent musical performances deservedly into the shadows. At the end of the first Act …

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La fille mal gardée, with McRae and Osipova, Royal Ballet, ROH, April 2015

Inspired by a mid-eighteenth century painting, Jean Dauberval first created this ballet in 1789, and it was premiered in Bordeaux two weeks before the storming of the Bastille. Two years later it was presented in London where the musicians wrote ribald comments on the pastiche score, though that all changed in 1828 when a student …

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La fille mal gardée, with Muntagirov and Morera, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2015

Wonderful freshness and vitality from the whole company in this revival of Ashton’s delightful ballet, and Vadim Muntagirov as Colas was perfection. His deft technique and control — and those glorious split jumps in second — combined with a boyish charm made him an irresistible foil to Laura Morera’s quietly understated Lisa. The idyllic happiness …

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Swan Lake, with Osipova and Golding, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, February 2015

The performance on 21 February was the best I’ve seen so far in the present run, not least because Boris Gruzin in the orchestra pit gave a superb rendering of Tchaikovsky’s score. It was far better than the brash energy of the first night — given no doubt after insufficient rehearsal time, since Gruzin has …

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Don Quixote, with Nuñez and Acosta, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, November 2014

What joy to see Carlos Acosta and Marianela Nuñez in a beautifully rehearsed first cast for this year’s revival of Acosta’s new Don Q. Gone was the tension of the Gala opening last year, and from their first appearance in Act I he made a superb young Basilio, with Nuñez on fire as his beloved …

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Royal Ballet Mixed Bill: Scènes de ballet, Five Brahms Waltzes, Symphonic Variations, Month in the Country, Covent Garden, October 2014

Four Ashton ballets in one evening — what a spoil. The first and third created just after the Second World War, the other two in 1976. Scénes de ballet is a perfect opener. Stravinsky’s music, originally commissioned for a Broadway revue, was conducted with suitable astringency by Emmanuel Plasson, making a striking contrast to one …

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Manon, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, September 2014

First seen in March 1974 this ballet has aged beautifully, and opening night of the current run fully recaptured the vivacity and despair of the story. Marianela Nuñez’s subtle development of Manon’s character, from the gentle grace of her first entrance in Act I to the femme dangereuse of Act II and eventually the victim …

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Winter’s Tale, Gartside and Nuñez, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, 16 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) …

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Winter’s Tale, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2014

For Christopher Wheeldon to take on Shakespeare is a bold move. The words are of huge importance, but so they are in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, which Wheeldon successfully produced as a ballet three years ago, and when he expressed an interest in tackling the Bard at that time, Nicholas Hytner suggested Winter’s Tale. …

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Sleeping Beauty, with Choe and Hirano, and Lamb and McRae, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, 13 March 2014

What a huge pleasure to see Yuhui Choe and Ryoichi Hirano in the main roles at the matinee. Her dancing, so full of joy, was absolutely on the music, and a better Rose Adagio one could hardly hope for. With Hirano’s noble and dashing Prince their partnership gave a beautiful expression of the story, helped …

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Nutcracker, with Osipova and Bonelli, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, 27 December 2013

Christmas feasting may have affected the orchestra, but certainly not the dancers in this 27th December performance. The party scene in Act I was full of joie de vivre, with Gary Avis as a magical Drosselmeyer. The élan of his conjuring tricks was matched by the liveliness of Valentino Zucchetti as his assistant, and the …

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Romeo and Juliet, with Acosta and Osipova, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, November 2013

Having now joined the Royal Ballet as a Company member rather than a guest artist, Natalia Osipova’s performance of Juliet was much anticipated. Her technique and dramatic flair served her well, particularly in the final scene of Act III when her body crumpled like a rag doll in Carlos Acosta’s arms. It was a fine …

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Romeo and Juliet, with McRae and Obraztsova, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, October 2013

For dancing and characterisation of the roles this second performance in the current run was close to perfection. Steven McRae and Evgenia Obraztsova, guest principal from the Bolshoi Ballet, took us to an ethereal world beyond technique. When we first encounter her with her nurse she charmed us with her airy grace, and her sweetness …

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Don Quixote, with McRae and Salenko, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, October 2013

When Carlos Acosta’s new Don Quixote opened at the end of September, most critics were cautiously optimistic but only gave it three stars. Making the opening performance a Gala may have been a good idea for ticket receipts but not for the dancers, and nothing really gelled until the final scene. By contrast, last night’s …

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Don Quixote, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, 30 September 2013

The Royal Opera House knows how to put on a celebration, and on this Gala opening for Carlos Acosta’s new version of Don Quixote the House was decked with hundreds of red carnations. As the ballet ended scores of flowers were thrown down onto the stage, a fitting end to the final scene, in which …

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Mayerling, with Acosta and Benjamin, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, May 2013

Retiring from the Royal Ballet this season is Leanne Benjamin, who made her debut with the Company as Mary Vetsera in Mayerling in 1992. She rounds off an immensely varied career by including the same role, and what a performance she gave last night. With Carlos Acosta in the dark role of Crown Prince Rudolf, …

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La Bayadère, with Acosta, Nuñez, Kobayashi, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, May 2013

This marvellous classical ballet by Petipa, in a three-act version by Makarova, provides scope for alternative portrayals of the main roles, and the ones given on May 14 by Acosta, Nuñez and Kobayashi gelled beautifully. Carlos Acosta as Solor came over as a decent fellow placed in an impossible position by Christopher Saunders as the …

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with Sarah Lamb, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, March 2013

This cleverly whimsical ballet, reflecting the essence of Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece, provides stage magic for the whole family. You don’t need any experience of ballet to appreciate the various vignettes, including the Adagio for the Queen of Hearts and four playing cards in Act III, a wicked take on the Rose Adagio from Sleeping Beauty. …

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Onegin, with Bonelli and Morera, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, January 2013

After John Cranko worked on the choreography for Tchaikovsky’s opera he wanted to turn the story into a ballet, which he later did in Stuttgart. Apparently he intended to use music from the opera, but the Stuttgart Ballet commissioned a score by Kurt-Heinz Stolze, using alternative music by Tchaikovsky. The resulting creation is rather different from the opera, …

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Royal Ballet Triple: Firebird, In The Night, Raymonda Act III, Covent Garden, December 2012

A triple bill ending with the third act of Raymonda is a fine complement to Nutcracker for the Christmas/ New Year period. Raymonda has a wonderful finale with stunning costumes, and the sets drew audience applause when the curtain opened. With fifteen soloists including the principals, Zenaida Yanowsky and Nehemiah Kish on this occasion, it is …

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The Nutcracker with Nuñez and Soares, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, December 2012.

At the start of this Peter Wright production, we see Drosselmeyer in his workshop comparing his toy Nutcracker with a portrait on the wall of his lost nephew. Then at the very end, where some productions show Clara being put to bed by her mother, the Nutcracker prince finds his Uncle Drosselmeyer and they embrace. …

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Swan Lake with Osipova and Acosta, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, October 2012

For those lucky enough to have tickets for last night’s Swan Lake, Odette/Odile was danced by Russian ballerina Natalia Osipova partnered by the Royal Ballet’s Carlos Acosta as Prince Siegfried. They were terrific together. Osipova was in the news recently when she and Ivan Vasiliev quit the Moscow’s Bolshoi and joined the Mikhailovsky Ballet in St. Petersburg, one reason being frustration …

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Royal Ballet Triple: Birthday Offering/ A Month in the Country/ Les Noces, Covent Garden, June/July 2012

This triple bill offers an evening of glorious choreography, opening with the exuberance of Ashton’s Birthday Offering. Birthday Offering, first shown in 1956 for the 25th anniversary of the Company (then known as the Sadler’s Wells Ballet), starts with the melodious phrases of Glazunov’s Concert Waltz No. 1, and Tom Seligman in the orchestra pit made it swell …

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La Fille mal gardée, with McRae and Marquez, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, May 2012

La Fille mal gardée is one of Frederick Ashton’s most delightful ballets, and this review covers the same cast as for the live cinema relay on May 16. The story is simple. Widow Simone wants to marry off her very pretty daughter Lise to the son of a wealthy landowner, thereby assuring her and her daughter’s financial future. There are …

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Romeo and Juliet, with Cuthbertson and Bonelli, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, March 2012

This was the evening of a live cinema relay, though I was seated in the Royal Opera House itself. Kenneth MacMillan’s version of Romeo and Juliet with its wonderful choreography is what the Royal Ballet performs, and this jewel has been taken up by some other ballet companies such as American Ballet Theatre. There is no comparison with …

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Romeo and Juliet with Rojo and Acosta, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, January 2012

This was stunning. MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet is full of wonderful choreography, and on the opening night of the present run it was superbly danced by the whole company, with the lead roles gloriously performed by Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo. She was among the finest Juliets I have ever seen, so shy and playfully girlish when she first …

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Royal Ballet Triple: Limen, Marguerite and Armand, Requiem, Covent Garden, October 2011

Having seen Limen two years ago, my main memory was of blue number lights at the rear of the stage in a confusing on-again-off-again pattern, along with dancers barely visible in a half-light, but that is only in the second part. The first half is better, and I like Kaija Saariaho’s music, I love the use of bright …

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Ballo della Regina/ Live Fire Exercise/ DGV:Danse à Grande Vitesse, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, May 2011

This triple bill made for a rather fragmented evening, because the first two pieces took only 36 minutes between them, while the two intervals lasted half an hour each. But it was all worth it because the final item, Christopher Wheeldon’s Danse à Grande Vitesse, was wonderfully invigorating and performed with great energy. A clear stage …

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Manon, with Benjamin and McRae, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, April 2011

The performances had a wonderful freshness, and Leanne Benjamin brought Manon beautifully to life, showing her complexity: frivolity and teasing, anguish, fecklessness and the desire for pretty clothes, jewellery and a good time.

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Swan Lake, with Rojo and Acosta, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, March 2011

Tamara Rojo is the quintessential Odette/Odile … Carlos Acosta as the prince was wonderful … his deft partnering allowed her to shine

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Rhapsody, Sensorium, and Still Life at the Penguin Café, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, March 2011

Why were there empty seats? This is a wonderful Triple Bill, and the Royal Ballet gave a glorious performance, yet on the Grand Tier four boxes in a row were empty. All paid for no doubt, but unused for some of the finest dancing the Company can produce. The evening started with Rhapsody to Rachmaninov’s well-known Rhapsody …

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Giselle, Royal Ballet, live relay from Covent Garden, January 2011

This two-act ballet creates a wonderful dichotomy between daylight and night-time. Act I is set in the everyday world, but the second act takes place in world of the wilis, spirits of dead maidens who rise up and destroy any young man they encounter.

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Cinderella, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, November 2010

One of the lovely things about Ashton’s Cinderella is the intermingling of the real world with the magical world.

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Onegin, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, October 2010

This was a second view of John Cranko’s wonderful ballet during the present run, this time with an entirely different cast of principals: Federico Bonelli and Laura Morera as Onegin and Tatiana, Sergei Polunin and Melissa Hamilton as Lensky and Olga, and Gary Avis as Prince Gremin. For my previous review of the first night …

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Romeo and Juliet, Royal Ballet, January 2010

The cast for this first night of the present run was a strong one headed by Tamara Rojo, whose portrayal of a convincingly distraught Juliet at the end could hardly be bettered.

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Les Patineurs and Tales of Beatrix Potter, Royal Ballet, December 2009

These two delightful ballets by Frederick Ashton are a joy to watch.

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Review — The Tsarina’s Slippers, Royal Opera, November 2009

This sparkling production by Francesca Zambello has lovely set designs … includes serious ballet work, some electrifying Cossack dances and acrobatics …

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Les Sylphides, Sensorium, The Firebird, Royal Ballet, 21 May 2009, return visit

The cast seemed very much in tune with [Sensorium], and Melissa Hamilton was simply wonderful. It’s astonishing that she’s a mere 21 years old.

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Les Sylphides, Sensorium, The Firebird, Royal Ballet, May 2009

… a lovely triple bill, with a new ballet by Alastair Marriott sandwiched between two well-known works

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Giselle, Royal Ballet, April 2009

…altogether a fine performance of Giselle, and Boris Gruzin did an excellent job with the music, conducting with vibrancy and sensitivity.

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