Tag Archives: Vienna Festival Ballet

Review: Snow White, Vienna Festival Ballet (Beck Theatre)

Tonight was the first full performance of this new ballet which will be touring for the rest of the year. There were some slight glitches with, for example, the backdrops but I am sure these will be ironed out very soon. The ballet itself is great fun, with some terrifically energetic dancing in the first act, good humour from the dwarves and a marvellously sumptuous final act with some excellent dancing. I would certainly recommend it, particularly as a first ballet for a young child. Sorry it’s a hurried review – it’s late and I’m out tomorrow.

My one slight criticism is that each half starts with a traditional overture with curtains drawn. This is great with a live orchestra but with pre-recorded music there is nothing but a red curtain to watch. It would be better to provide some visual interest such as the tableaux which are common now with the larger ballet companies. Do take a look at their Facebook page to see some great pictures.


Big theatre, little theatre

Some people may think it is odd that I can rate a travelling company such as Vienna Festival Ballet more highly than the obviously much more skilled Royal Ballet. As I can’t go out much at the moment, I decided to look at the very different experience of big and small theatres and venues.

Skill levels. Obviously the big companies can draw on more highly skilled actors and dancers than the little ones but sometimes the very best actors love working in small theatres (e.g. Michael Gambon and Eileen Atkins in “All That Fall” last year) and some small theatres can draw the very best actors, such as the Orange Tree in Richmond. It also takes a different sort of skill to work on a big stage in a big theatre – OperaUpClose can get extremely good singers who may not have the power to fill the Coliseum or ROH.

Musical scale. Most of the best concerts I have been to have been in small venues such as the JACK Quartet playing Xenakis’s astonishing Tetras Quartet at the Wigmore Hall or the amazing Japanese band Nissennenmondai at Upset the Rhythm. You can never see that level of virtuosity in a symphony orchestra or in a stadium, unless it is on the video screens.

Practice makes perfect. Travelling companies will recruit for a specific production and then play it night after night, raising their performances to levels they would not initially be able to achieve. Oddly, the use of pre-recorded music can help too as it is absolutely the same every night. I love the use of a full orchestra by the Royal Ballet or English National Ballet but the tightest performance by the ENB I have seen was their collaboration with Flawless in “Against Time,” a touring production danced to a recorded backing.

Friendliness. Small theatres and venues offer a far more intimate experience than the bigger venues and sharing the experience with a few dozen people can make you feel a part of something very special whereas larger places can become very impersonal.


Review: Sleeping Beauty, Vienna Festival Ballet

This was remarkably good for such a small company and very enjoyable. I have seen Vienna Festival Ballet many times over the years and have never been disappointed. Their standard of dancing is high, probably because they keep to a small repertoire of classic ballets. I don’t know how many times they have already performed Sleeping Beauty but their schedule shows 49 more performances in this tour alone!

Photograph courtesy Gill Mallek, Vienna Festival Ballet

As can be seen above, the sets consist of little more than painted backdrops which work well to show off the dancers. It is difficult to single out particular performances as they all work so hard, but Michaela Griffin as Princess Aurora, Miguel Piquer as Prince Desire and Emily-Joy Smith as the Lilac Fairy were excellent (not necessarily the dancers featured in these publicity shots).

lilac fairy IMG_4522
Photographs courtesy Gill Malleck, Vienna Festival Ballet

As the photographs above show, the simple sets are made up for by superb costumes which change frequently, as most dancers take on multiple parts. As with all aspects, they are strictly traditional “tights, tutus and tiaras” but the size of the theatres they perform in ensures the opportunity to enjoy them in detail. Marius Pepita’s original 1890 choreography is enhanced with small touches by Emily Hutton (I don’t remember Carabosse pulling off Catalabutte’s wig before but it added a nice touch). The only, minor problem was that the playing of the recorded score was occasionally a little clumsy – DJing is an art too!

Overall, this was much less ambitious that the Moscow City Ballet last week but I must admit I enjoyed it far more.