Ballo della Regina, with Nuñez and Kish/ La Sylphide, with Cojocaru and McRae, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, May 2012Posted on 22 May 2012
Ballo Della Regina (The Queen’s Ball) is a short Balanchine work set to music that was cut from Verdi’s opera Don Carlo.
This ballet involves a sequence of variations, first with twelve girls in blue, joined by two principals in white. After a pas-de-deux for the principals, four soloists in violet come on one at a time, and more variations follow. It demands huge precision, and the principal roles, Marianela Nuñez was beautifully partnered by Nehemiah Kish. The soloists, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Yuhui Choe, Emma Maguire and Samantha Raine also danced exquisitely, as did the twelve girls from the corps. Daniel Capps conducted with a suitably regal tone while maintaining a fine rhythm for dance, and this was a delight to watch.
La Sylphide is quite different, a narrative ballet in two acts by Danish choreographer August Bournonville, and this excellent staging is by the Royal Ballet’s Danish principal Johan Kobborg, who has added some choreography of his own. The fine set designs by Sören Frandsen are beautifully lit by Mark Jonathan, and I love the costumes by Henrik Bloch. In the principal role of James, Steven McRae danced the difficult choreography sublimely. He is about to be married to Effie, beautifully portrayed by Emma Maguire whose fine deportment and épaulement created a glorious stage presence. So confident at first, until upset by James’s mysterious lack of desire after his encounter with the sylph who woke him from sleep.
Alina Cojocaru was a lovely sylph, always apart and never actually dancing with James. This is a story about a young man’s self-destruction, aided by the appearance of the sorceress Madge whom he suddenly notices sitting by the fire in a place where the sylph had been. Who is Madge? Possibly a fallen sylph, jealous of the one who seems able to win James, and Kristen McNally was superb in this role, reading palms and defiantly predicting that Effie would not marry James but the farmer Gurn, who adores her. Her mime sequences were clearly and beautifully done, and Valentino Zucchetti danced Gurn with huge presence and power, performing effortless leaps in the air.
This Bournonville ballet in its recent staging by Johan Kobborg was once a new departure for the Royal Ballet, and dancing this style along with the many other styles they perform is a remarkable feat. The music by Løvenskiold, composed when he was just twenty-one, was brilliantly conducted by Daniel Capps who gave it all the necessary momentum to sustain the narrative. A wonderful evening, but such a pity to see empty seats in the Amphi.
Performances continue until June 15 — for details click here.