Yuhui Choe was just wonderful in the lead role. It is not an easy role to dance but she made it seem easy, as if that was just how she felt like moving. She was so good it made me feel a bit sorry for all the other dancers in yesterday afternoon’s performance. The production overall was a little lacking, without the punch of the ENB production I saw last year but the moment Yuhui Choe came on stage it was transformed. The choreography by Petipa was essentially the same but the set and costumes were all a bit fussy and the bad fairy, Carabosse, was played by a ballerina who was not a patch on James Streeter for the ENB.
This was absolutely magical. The music, scenery, choreography and special effects all blended to create my most enjoyable visit to the ballet this year. There were five cast changes, including the key roles of Alice and the Knave of Hearts. It says a lot about the overall quality of the Royal Ballet at the moment that I could’t have cared less; Yuhui Choe and Nehemiah Kish were both excellent! The choreography by Christopher Wheeldon is particularly fascinating, blending classical ballet with a Busby Berkeley style routine for the Waltz of the Flowers and even a tap-dancing Mad Hatter (danced superbly by Donald Thom). A real classic and ten times better than the RB’s recent Swan Lake.
Ravel’s “la Valse” which opened the programme is a rich, intoxicating piece of music, matched by equally intoxicating ensemble dancing:
After this cocktail, Massenet’s “Meditation” from Thais was a teaspoon (just six minutes) of sweet, soothing cough medicine, a beautiful pas de deux from Sarah Lamb and Rupert Pennefather. We then had the equally short, fizzing Alka Seltzer of Voices of Spring with Alexander Campbell and a very mischievous Yuhui Choe who seems to have become my favourite principal dancer. I had not expected to enjoy a dance to the music of Johann Strauss this much; his music may be slight but it’s perfect for dancing to. After the interval came the first of the longer works, Monotones I & II set to the wonderful music of Erik Satie. The orchestration did elaborate unnecessarily on Satie’s very simple music but, particularly in Monotone II based on the well-known Gymnopédie 1, the abstract simplicity of the dancing almost had me in tears. Then came Marguerite and Armand by Liszt:
I don’t think I am a true balletomane (ugly word for the love of something so beautiful) as I cannot enjoy a ballet if I do not like the music and, as I said on my blog yesterday, I cannot appreciate Liszt. Ideally, I want music that I could enjoy in concert. This very much applied to the Ravel and I would have been quite happy to listen to the Massenet and Strauss as short pieces in a mixed programme. The Satie would also be worth listening to in concert, although I think I prefer the original solo piano version. I admit I am in a small minority on this; thinking back to concerts I have loved, this one by Nissennenmondai leapt to my mind as one of my all time favourites. Imagine a ballet to that!