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Robert Abrams
Adventures Abroad
Performance Reviews
Royal Opera House
London, OT (England)

Royal Ballet - Requiem, A Wedding Bouquet, Les Noces

by Robert Abrams
November 8, 2004
Royal Opera House
Bow Street
Covent Garden
London, OT (England) WC2E 9DD
020 7304 4000

Royal Ballet - Requiem, A Wedding Bouquet, Les Noces

presented at
The Royal Opera House
Covent Garden
London, England


Robert Abrams
November 8, 2004


The Royal Ballet's performance of Requiem was absolutely stunning. This ballet was a visual feast prepared with superb dancing. Here are a few highlights.

The curtain rises on columns of glass filled with white light. A mass of dancers, wearing pale green unitards with blue and purple sashes, enter, pounding the sky, and then scatter.

Soloists spin, offset against the mass of dancers. A woman rolls on a tufted cushion formed from dancers' outstretched arms. The formation looked very much like a large sea anemone.

The choreography breathes throughout the work, sometimes filling the stage with dancers and sometimes presenting a few alone, never resting on one note.

While Requiem is not literally a presentation of a funeral, it does have a somber emotional tone. This tone is evoked by the use of downward head positions.

In the second section, three ballerinas are upstage left and one man dances in front. A woman enters carried upright by three men. The woman hangs on the man's arms. Four couples express private grief that nonetheless brims with possibility. The postures are both beautiful and often angular.

The man now stands on stage alone, dancing with sweeping and strong motions. He is stripped of the crowd, stripped of companions. His grief is very basic, as expressed with the use of the fetal position and other groundwork.

The crowd returns in pairs. Many are carried. The partnerships were all solid.

In the third section, a woman and a man dance to soaring music with flowing, sweeping movements. The columns of light are off and the stage is backlit. They execute a fantastic carried spin. The woman ends this section in a position of full prostration, undulating like she is on waves, assisted by the man who acts as a mechanism beneath her.

In the fourth section, there is a woman alone, reaching upwards. It is like she is trying to sleep but she can not.

In the fifth section, there are four couples. The women move. The men are on the ground on all fours. The lighting brightens. A woman in white enters and dances offset against the four couples. Her movements are both different and faster than those of the four couples, further emphasizing the difference. The couples express the difficulty of their emotions through their posture and the use of heel drags. The woman in white is carried upside down.

In the sixth section, a man on a small mound of dancers pulses up and down. They move energetically, with quick contained movements. They leap across the stage. The man recaps the prostrations of the woman, but held higher. He is carried off. A woman is carried on and off.

In the seventh section some of the crowd of dancers are now dressed in yellow unitards. The lighting is bright. There is a procession of dancers out the back of the stage. Carried women undulate. A woman is held aloft, facing the audience, is carried out backwards.

The choreography was tight and compelling throughout. The dancing by all of the dancers was solid and the emotions expressed were gripping. The voices of the singers were beautiful. I couldn't have asked for a more perfectly done abstract ballet.

Conductor - Barry Wordsworth
The orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Concert Master - Vasko Vassilev
The Royal Opera Chorus
Chorus Director - Renato Balsadonna
Music - Gabriel Faure
Choreography - Kenneth MacMillan
Staging - Monica Parker
Designs - Yolanda Sonnabend in association with Peter Farley
Lighting - John B. Read
Ballet Master - Christopher Saunders
Principal coaching - Lesley Collier, Monica Parker, Christopher Saunders
Introite and Kyrie - Leanne Benjamin, Jonathan Cope, Carlos Acosta, Darcey Bussell, Ivan Putrov and Artists of the Royal Ballet
Offertoire - Carlos Acosta, Leanne Benjamin, Lauren Cuthbertson, Laura Morera, Sarah Lamb, Yohei Sasaki, Edward Watson, Thomas Whitehead and Artists of the Royal Ballet
Sanctus - Leanne Benjamin, Jonathan Cope
Pie Jesu - Leanne Benjamin
Agnus Dei - Darcey Bussell, Deirdre Chapman, Victoria Hewitt, Sian Murphy, Isabel McMeekan, Valeri Hristov, Yohei Sasaki, Edward Watson, Thomas Whitehead
Libera Me - Ivan Putrov, Valeri Hristov, Jonathan Cope, Edward Watson and Artists of the Royal Ballet
In Paradisum - Leanne Benjamin, Jonathan Cope, Carlos Acosta, Darcey Bussell, Ivan Putrov, Valeri Hristov and Artists of the Royal Ballet
Solo soprano - Ha Young Lee
Solo baritone - John Bernays
Costumes - Phil Reynolds, Amanda Barrow

A Wedding Bouquet

This was a ballet as melodrama. Melodrama can be entertaining, but this melodrama had too many characters and as a result was confusing. The narrative was supported by spoken patter delivered by a man in white tie. Unfortunately, this didn't help much. I thought the dancing was interesting in a frothy sort of way, especially if one tuned out the narrator, but overall I was not thrilled by this work.

I did pick out a commonality of Frederick Ashton's movement vocabulary, though. The Dog in A Wedding Bouquet used the same paw attitude as the Goats in Sylvia.

A Wedding Bouquet
Music - Lord Berners
Libretto - Gertrude Stein
Choreography - Frederick Ashton
Staging - Christopher Newtow
Designs - Lord Berners
Lighting - John B. Read
Principal Coaching - Lesley Collier, Christopher Newton
Narrator - Anthony Dowell
Webster - Deirdre Chapman
Peasant Girls - Romany Pajdak, Samantha Raine
Peasant Boys - Michael Stojko, James Wilkie
Josephine - Zenaida Yanowsky
Paul - Johannes Stepanek
John - Martin Harvey
Violet - Helen Crawford
Ernest - Giacomo Ciriaci
Therese - Isabel McMeekan
Julia - Tamara Rojo
Bridegroom - Johan Kobborg
Pepe, Julia's Dog - Iohna Loots
Arthur - Alastair Marriott
Guy - Federico Bonelli
Guests - Vanessa Fenton, Francesca Filpi, Cindy Jourdain, Laura McCulloch
Gendarmes - Ernst Meisner, Richard Ramsey
Bride - Alina Cojocaru
Bridesmaids - Bethany Keating, Natasha Oughtred

Les Noces

Les Noces presents dancers in stark brown and white outfits against a grey background. The choreography is very forceful, and is quite unlike anything I have seen before. The narrative, a simple presentation of a wedding, comes across very clearly, especially letting the audience absorb the tone of the wedding. The characters are presented as peasants, but the tone of the wedding is deadly serious, as if the future of the imperium depends upon the outcome.

This tone begins from the opening with staccato movements en pointe. A line of women are connected by holding a long rope. They jump with high knees. The woman form a pile with their heads aligned in the center.

Scene two has men stamping their feet. One man is framed in the center by a line of men forming a three sided box around him. There are lots of fists at the end of rounded arms. The men form a pile. The parents give their blessing. The men jump and run bent over in a circle.

In scene three the pace of the steps and fists make it seem deadly serious. The mother is alone.

In scene four, the full stage is filled with the ensemble. Women are on one side and men on the other. Both groups dance with the same staccato tone. Sometimes the groups are out of sync with each other and sometimes they are in sync. They rotate in lines. They make a marital occasion martial. The wedding party are at the back of the stage on a raised platform. A unique wedding to say the least.

Many individual solos were impressive, especially the multiple spin turns. This is where the divertissments would be in a traditional ballet. Here, by contrast, all of the dancing served the purpose of the narrative in a seamless manner.

The ensemble returns to its group, out of sync staccato movements.

The couple does a wedding dance on the back platform while the guests (the ensemble) dance a maelstrom. The guests look like machine parts with repeated jumping curved motions.

The couple leaves out the back. The women form their lined up pile again. The men form rows on either side. The curtain falls.

This ballet worked extremely well because it had a simple idea that progressed with very evocative movement.

Les Noces (The Wedding)
Words and Music - Igor Stravinsky
Choreography - Bronislava Nijinska
Staging - Christopher Newton
Designs - Natalia Goncharova
Lighting - John B. Read
Ballet Master - Christopher Saunders
Scenes of Village Wedding Rites: Consecration of the Bride, Consecration of the Bridegroom, Departure of the Bride, The Wedding Feast
The Bride - Christina Arestis
The Bridegroom - Valeri Hristov
The Parents - Genesia Rosato, Alastair Marriott, Elizabeth McGorian, Gary Avis
Friends and Villagers - Deirdre Chapman, Yohei Sasaki, Isabel McMeekan, Vanessa Palmer, Zachary Faruque, Jonathan Howells and Artists of the Royal Ballet
Solo singers - Catrin Wyn-Davies, Amanda Floyd, Kevin Ferguson, David Thomas
Solo Pianists - Philip Gammon, Henry Roche, Philip Cornfield, Paul Stobart
Timpani - Russell Jordan
Percussion - Nigel Bates, Nigel Charman, Grethe Nielsen, Nicholas Ormrod, Julian Poole, Michael Skinner

Royal Opera House
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams

Young Dancer Statue with PinkTop (Danskin racer back tank top with inner molded contour cup bra and black piping, style 5277, $38.00)
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams

Bridge of Aspirations leading from Royal Ballet School to Royal Opera House
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams

Bridge of Aspirations leading from Royal Ballet School to Royal Opera House
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams

Royal Opera House
Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams

Photo courtesy of Robert Abrams

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