Jewels, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2017Posted on 2 April 2017
On the back of the cast list is an ad for jewellers Van Cleef and Arpels, who though failing to bankroll Balanchine’s original production, are delighted to have their name associated with the eventual result: Emeralds to Fauré’s incidental music for Pelleas and Melisande; Rubies to Stravinsky’s Capriccio for piano and orchestra; and Diamonds to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 3. This international mix exhibits Balanchine’s ability to draw on different traditions: the French romantic with long tutus for Emeralds, a central section exhibiting a hard, jazzy Americanism for Rubies, and the Russian Petipa/ Ivanov style of Swan Lake for Diamonds.
The green of Emeralds represents Melisande, discovered by Pelleas near a stream in a forest, the colour representing both foliage and the underwater world of a naiad. Lovely ensemble work in four-by-three patterns, and fine dancing by Beatriz Stix-Brunell and Valeri Hristov, followed by a beautifully graceful and musical solo by Laura Morera emphasising the natural magic of the woodland, later captured in her gentle pas-de-deux with Ryoichi Hirano. Superb footwork and jumps from James Hay, elegantly partnering Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Helen Crawford in the pas-de-trois, gave this first part of the evening a marvellous start, and the three men performed the final scene with perfect timing and symmetry.
The red of Rubies represents a racier, sexy milieu, and Steven McRae and Sarah Lamb delivered their usual elegance and sparkling technique if missing the Las Vegas showiness that informed Balanchine’s conception. That found its embodiment in Melissa Hamilton’s striking performance as the other woman, along with the rest of the ensemble, accompanied by the solo piano of Robert Clark under the baton of Pavel Sorokin.
The sparkle of Diamonds is to Tchaikovsky’s last composition before starting work on Swan Lake. Its choreography with arms behind the body, complemented by white tutus, imbue this ballet with an air of mysterious beauty befitting a world of swans, swan queen and prince. The beautifully geometric patterns for the ensemble creates a mysterious splendour that allows the principal ballerina to emerge gradually before glowing with vitality, and Marianela Nuñez moved from an ethereal sense of wonderment and otherworldliness to huge style and panache in her pas-de-deux with Thiago Soares.
Excellent ensemble dancing in all three parts provided a wonderful evening of Balanchine choreography, framed by Jean-Marc Puissant’s set designs and the original costumes, admirably demanded by the Balanchine Trust.
Performances continue with various casts until April 21, and live cinema screening on April 11 — for details click here.