This ballet is a collection of three short works by Balanchine, Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds. I expect jewels to sparkle, but Emeralds, danced to music by Fauré, didn’t – more like jade than emeralds. Rubies really did sparkle, the costumes and choreography echoing an American parade – all it needed was a few batons to twirl. The music it was set to by Stravinsky was also much more to my taste. The final ballet, Diamonds, fell between the two, more exciting than the first, lacking the pizzazz of Rubies but replacing it with glorious sumptuosity with music by Tchaikovsky. I left having enjoyed it all but not quite sure what was lacking until I remembered Boston Ballet’s interpretations of Balanchine’s choreography earlier in the year (which included another Stravinsky piece). Boston Ballet understand how to swing; Royal Ballet do not. Indeed, I wonder if there is any British ballet company that could have really done justice to this work. All the same, a very enjoyable afternoon, particularly for Rubies.
I loved Balanchine’s Apollo with Rupert Pennefather in the title role: far better than the disappointing production by ENB last year. It still had the silly air guitar (or was it air lute?) for Apollo but the others abandoned their props quite quickly, although the choreography was unaltered so that Itziar Mendizabal as Polyhymnia held her hand rigidly under her face as if still holding her mask.
My ticket said the other works were “new Wheeldon” and “new Ratmansky.” Sadly the “new Ratmansky” turned out to be “24 Preludes” with music by Chopin. 24 separate pieces of music in 44 minutes! Only three (by my count around the 17th 18th and 24th) were long enough to give the music and dance the chance to develop anywhere, so that’s 21 saccharine pills and a bit of sugar. The Chopin had its usual effect on me, leaving me yawning and having to force my eyes open. I knew I’d never stay awake through the subsequent 30 minute interval so had to go home to bed and missed the Wheeldon; a great shame as it was set to music by Britten. Still well worth the ticket for Apollo alone.