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Kenneth MacMillan (choreography), Dmitri Shostakovich (music)
Jürgen Rose (set designer), John B. Read (lighting designer), Christopher Carr (staging), First Anna Rose O’Sullivan, James Hay, Hannah Grennell, Melissa Hamilton, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Luca Acri, Nicol Edmonds, Valentino Zucchetti (first movement), Yasmine Naghdi/Ryoichi Hirano (second movement), Mayara Magri (third movement), corps de ballet, Kate Shipway (piano)
Enigma Variations
Frederick Ashton (choreography), Sir Edward Elgar (music)
Julia Trevelyan Oman (set designer), John B. Read (lighting designer), Kevin O’Hare and Christopher Carr (staging), Christopher Saunders (Edward Elgar), Laura Morera (the lady), Paul Kay (Hew David Steward-Powell), Philip Mosley (Richard Baxter Townshend), Calvin Richardson (William Heath Baker), Reece Clarke (Richard P. Arnold), Beatriz Stix-Brunell (Isabel Fitton), Matthew Ball (Arthur Troyte Griffith), Romany Pajdak (Winifred Norbury), Bennet Gartside (A.J. Jaeger), Francesca Hayward (Dora Penny), Luca Acri (George Robertson Sinclair), Erico Montes (Basil G. Nevinson), Itziar Mendizabal (Lady Mary Lygon), Grace Blundell (school girl), Ashley Dean and Joshua Junker (country girl and boy), Isabella Gasparini and Joseph Sissens (sailor girl and boy), Charlotte Tonkinson (housekeeper), Giacomo Rovera (gardener), Harris Bell (the carrier), Katharina Nikelski (country woman), Harry Churches (telegraph boy)
Raymonda (Act III)
Rudolf Nureyev (choreography) (after Marius Petipa), Aleksandr Glazunov (music)
Barry Kay (set designer), John B. Reid (lighting designer), Christopher Carr (staging), Natalia Osipova (Raymonda), Vadim Muntagirov (Jean de Brienne), Itziar Mendizabal/Reece Clarke (Palotás), Claire Calvert, Ashley Dean, Lara Turk, Isabella Gasparini, Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Fumi Kaneko, Romany Pajdak Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Luca Acri, Harry Churches, Cesar Corrales, Lukas Bjørneboe Brændsrød, David Donnelly, James Hay, Francisco Serrano, Valentino Zucchetti (pas classique hongrois), Fumi Kaneko (Variation I), Meaghan Grace Hinkis (Variation II), Claire Calvert (Variation III), Ashley Dean, Isabella Gasparini, Romany Pajdak (pas de trois), Luca Acri, Cesar Corrales, James Hay, Valentino Zucchetti (pas de quatre), Beatriz Stix-Brunell (Variation IV), Vadim Muntagirov (Variation V), Natalia Osipova (Variation VI), corps de ballet
The Royal Ballet, Kevin O’Hare (director), Orchestra of The Royal Opera House, Vasko Vassilev (concertmaster), Pavel Sorokin (conductor), Ross MacGibbon (video director)
Live recording: The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (October 28 and November 5, 2019) – 156’ (including bonus)
Opus Arte OA 1312D (or Blu-ray OA BD7272D) – DTS Digital Surround or LPCM 2.0 – Picture format: 16:9 – Region 0 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in English, French and German – Subtitles in English, French, German, Japanese and Korean

Royal Ballet’s (RB) pliability is highlighted in this “Triple Bill” including stints of modernistic ambivalences, poetic underscoring and opulent romanticism. The depth and breadth of this DVD turns to many a prestigious choreographer, both past and present, and while choreography provides that inestimable foundation, it can’t be over-emphasized about how light, backdrop and costume become well-integrated into each of these three pieces.

Set upon Jürgen Rose’s toom scrim gives more energy to Kenneth MacMillan’s quirky balletic maneuvers. When John B. Read’s lumens infuse the back drop, dance is seized by dramatic content. Even though Shostakovich’s music is quirky, it’s one of the more mildly genteel of his works, allowing M. MacMillan the opportunity for executing some of the most complicated of steps, one of them being the corps’ marching onstage en pointe in the final movement. Yasmine Naghdi’s and Ryoichi Hirano’s pas de deux is woven together in Zen-like magnetism. Footwork re-emphasizes the music with Kenneth MacMillan achieving his own core of “raw beauty”. But this sense couldn’t be intelligently articulated without whittling down the external elements including a simplification of color in the dress and style. Concerto is often referred to as “plotless”...a picture-perfect summary as to why the composition is worth its weight in gold.

Opposite to Concerto, Enigma Variations brings nostalgia back to the stage with a light feather dusting of the original production staged back on October 24, 1968. Edward Elgar’s fourteen variations are given full attention when placed within Julia Trevelyan Oman’s Victorian bucolic cloth, a genteel autobiography to her beloved Laskett Gardens in Herefordshire. This tapestry, further tapping into Kevin O’Hare’s and Christopher Carr’s staging, provides dancers the ultimate experience into the life of Edward Elgar. Nothing harsh jumps out, rather polite snippets surface into Edward Elgar’s life with definable uncertainly. Frederick Ashton’s actions are never too forward: demure and effortless in preparation. Christopher Saunders and Laura Morera, the star performers, are, themselves, never over exercised. Frederick Ashton always acts with restraint, devoid of trivial detail. Itziar Mendizabal’s Lady Mary Lygon mysteriously floats while trailing her diaphanous gown. Puzzlement prevails, but, then, isn’t Elgar’s music (and story) always under scrutiny? Despite more questions generated about the Worcester native, Enigma Variations “layers” the theater in a series of fleeting vignettes. A sincerely beautiful reflection.

Aleksandr Glazunov’s ravishing medieval fairytale gave lushness to designs by Marius Petipa. One of the last romantic ballets by the Frenchman in the late 19th century, it was originally presented by the RB in 1966, though Raymonda didn’t regain its position in the repertory until 2019.

Raymonda Act III isn’t a literal rehash of Glazunov’s authenticated score, as seen from the eyes of Sergej Vikharev’s 2011 La Scala production, one filled with folksy authenticity and wider warmth (a Petipa restoration). Rather, this [Raymonda] is defined as a divertissement in one act, created by Rudolf Nureyev back in 1966. Christopher Carr gives the ballet more formality and more composure. The result presents less risk in terms of flailing garments and loss of geometry, thanks to Barry Kay’s straight-laced and opulent tailoring along with filigreed Byzantine arches and rustic ring chandeliers in the set design.

Raymonda Act III has classical formations, center-cored by Marius Petipa even though RB casts a cooler sheen of aloofness amongst its performers, especially indicative by Natalia Osipova who gives the eponymous role a significantly majestic aura. Her partner, in the title of Jean de Brienne, Vadim Muntagirov is one of the biggest highlights as he dances like a man on a razor blade...ever so sharp, ever so strong. Nureyev diverted from Petipa by inserting a pas de trois, here performed by Ashley Dean, Isabella Gasparini and Romany Pajdak. Generally, the overall production is cohesive, although the corps’ opening “Palotás” doesn’t ignite with enough spicy Hungarian verve.

The Royal Ballet pays great service to these three widely-varied ballet passages, and what captivates the viewer is Kevin O’Hare’s thoughtful guidance in the dance through his sage choice of variety and innovation.

Christie Grimstad




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