Tag Archives: Kenneth MacMillan

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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Anastasia, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, October 2016

In 1971 when Kenneth MacMillan produced this three-act ballet — following an earlier creation in Berlin of what became the final act — there was still uncertainty about whether the main character had once been Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia, youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. Now there is none, but the ballet retains its grip …

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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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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. The casts for Song in London were similar to those planned for New …

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Royal Ballet Triple: Rhapsody/ Tetractys—The Art of Fugue/ Gloria, Covent Garden, February 2014

When Frederick Ashton choreographed Rhapsody to Rachmaninov’s Variations on a theme by Paganini he created the principal male role on Mikhail Baryshnikov, and the quick darting steps were sublimely performed here by Steven McRae. He has the power, he has the leaps, and his fast chainés towards the end were stunning. It was an extraordinary …

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Royal Ballet Triple: Chroma/ The Human Seasons/ Rite of Spring, Covent Garden, November 2013

The world premiere in this triple bill was the second ballet by David Dawson, making his Royal Ballet debut as a choreographer. I know someone who skipped the first item, and another who skipped the third, but both were in full anticipation of the second and neither was disappointed. The evening started with Wayne McGregor’s …

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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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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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Sleeping Beauty with Rojo and Muntagirov, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, January 2013

Kenneth MacMillan’s production of Sleeping Beauty, with its glorious costumes by Nicholas Geogiardis, is a joy to watch, the sets by Peter Farmer reflecting a mistiness in the world beyond the action like some famous Renaissance paintings. The expression of the action is crystal clear in its use of mime, and for anyone unfamiliar with the conventions a helpful …

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Royal Ballet Triple: Concerto/ Las Hermanas/ Requiem, Covent Garden, November 2012

The central feature of this triple bill is Kenneth Macmillan’s wonderfully intense ballet Las Hermanas (The Sisters) based on The House of Bernarda Alba by Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca. Las Hermanas tells of a tragedy about a domineering mother and five unmarried daughters. The fiancé of the eldest is seduced by the youngest, and one of the other sisters, being furiously jealous, betrays …

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The Prince of the Pagodas, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, June 2012

King Lear meets Sleeping Beauty in this mid-1950s fairy tale creation by John Cranko, to music commissioned from Benjamin Britten. After the Cranko ballet fell out of the repertoire, Kenneth MacMillan made his own version in 1989. This revival now contains some cuts to the music that he originally intended, but was not permitted to make. …

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Firebird/ Faune/ Rite of Spring, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, March 2012

Beyond Ballets Russes celebrates the legacy of Diaghilev’s famous dance company, and is the title of two programmes the ENB are putting on. This first one was very cleverly put together, placing The Afternoon of a Faune, with its gentle music by Debussy, between two longer works to intensely dramatic music by Stravinsky. In fact there are four ballets here, …

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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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The Dream with Marquez and McRae, Song of the Earth with Watson, Benjamin and Hristov, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, February 2012

When Frederick Ashton choreographed Dream in 1964 to celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, he created a magical evocation of the play with Oberon and Titania danced by a very young Anthony Dowell and Antoinette Sibley, and every time I see this ballet I recall Dowell’s performances. But Steven McRae rose to the challenge of this fiendishly …

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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: Asphodel Meadows, Enigma Variations, Gloria, Covent Garden, November 2011

The first and last items on this excellent programme are to music by Poulenc, and both these two ballets — though not the music — deal with death. In an announcement at the start of the evening, a request was made for no applause during Gloria. As a result the audience seemed hesitant about applauding the …

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Manon, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, November 2011

Manon is one of MacMillan’s most beloved full-length ballets, and the first night of the present run was performed with huge conviction. Rupert Pennefather — always an extremely talented dancer with a lovely line — seems transformed, his body language and facial expressions eloquently exhibiting the emotions and frustrations felt by Des Grieux. He showed a sense of attack …

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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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Royal Ballet Triple: Scènes de Ballet/ Voluntaries/ The Rite of Spring, Covent Garden, May 2011

The three works in this mixed bill fit beautifully together. Scènes de Ballet is a wonderful work by Frederick Ashton to a piece Stravinsky composed in 1944 for a Ziegfeld review. The stylised brilliance of Ashton’s choreography, with its unexpected poses and épaulement, suits the sharp elegance of music, evoking an era wiped out by the …

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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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La Valse/ Invitus Invitam/ Winter Dreams/ Theme and Variations, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, October 2010

The high point of this lovely mixed bill was Theme and Variations, created by Balanchine in 1947 for Alicia Alonso and Igor Youskevitch. The following year Ms. Alonso founded the Cuban National Ballet, and now at almost 90 years old did us the honour of attending, and appearing on stage at the end flanked by Monica …

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Triple Bill: Concerto, The Judas Tree, Elite Syncopations, Royal Ballet, March 2010

If you need a reason to go to the ballet, the final item alone is worth the price of the ticket, but there are only six performances of this triple bill, with the last one on 15th April.

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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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Mayerling, Royal Ballet, 29th October 2009

As the programme noted, it was on this same day 17 years ago that he died back stage at the Royal Opera House — his creative talent is sadly missed.

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Mayerling, Royal Ballet, October 2009

his was the second night of the present run, with Johan Kobborg in the main role as the 30-year-old Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary.

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Sleeping Beauty, English National Ballet, London Coliseum, Dec 2008

Carping aside, Andre Portasio stood out as a magnificent Carabosse, but even he couldn’t overcome the plodding work of the conductor, and that is what killed this performance. The dancers tried their best, but there was no sustained applause, and it was a sadly dull evening.

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