|View from Amphi E-81, seated|
The first offering of 'Scenes de Ballet' presents a ballet visualised from almost purely geometric perspectives. Described as Ashton's answer to the Rose Adagio, it needs to be cool, calculated and dramatically sharp. In this regard, the delivery was not perfect. Sloppiness marred impact of the corps, forsaking collective regimentation for unevenness. Even so, the four men in Matthew Ball, David Donnelly, Tomas Mock and Donald Thom performed excellently, with good understanding of Ashton's vision. The two principles. Choe and Zucchetti, danced valiantly, with Zucchetti perhaps stretched to his technical limit. Yet, they still lacked the air of authority that gives this ballet personality. No doubt their partnership is an effective one - they have recently shone as Lescaut and his mistress and in leading the Giselle pas de six. But this ballet suits neither - where Zucchetti lacked the dynamism (most notably in the spins), Choe needed to curtail her natural softness for a harder geometrical edge.
|Scenes de Ballet|
|Five Waltzes - Pajdak, Shipway & rose petals|
A Month in the Country, the final ballet billed, is a stark contrast to the minimalism of Symphonic Variations, with bonnets, armchairs and miscellaneous props aplenty. The only plot-driven ballet on the programme, it also starred the superlative Natalia Osipova in her role debut as the voracious and lonely mistress, with Federico Bonelli's Beliaev, Francesca Hayward's Vera and James Hay's Kolia completely an impressively strong cast. But among them, one star shone brightest - Osipova, whose acting prowess is once again confirmed. Very few play the imperfect woman better than Osipova; she caries with her a complexed pool of emotions from coquettishness to vengeance to, ultimately, vulnerability.
Here, it is interesting to consider the trajectory of Osipova's career, which has altered significantly since her move to Covent Garden, seen by many as the ultimate coup given her lack of experience with the English style. An undisputed heavyweight in the ballet world, she is one of those rare dancers who could perform nothing but her signature role of Don Quixote every night for the rest of her career, and still be met with a standing ovation night after night. Yet, such is her appetite for a challenge, her time with the Royal Ballet has transfigured her dancing with much more finesse. Her dazzling technique remains thankfully intact, but now it is augmented by real depth of character. In A Month in the Country, which aims to highlight the nuances of drawing-room politics, her character conveys a myriad of conflicting emotions through an arabesque alone. The pas de deux with Bonelli was delightful in its illicitness, and drew the audience wholly into their small world within a world.
Alongside Osipova, there were several performances of the highest calibre. Hayward as her young ward was girlish and unaffected, truly a potent contrast to Osipova's womanly conflict. James Hay as her son spun faster and faster around the stage in a blaze of gold. The entire cast seemed to move in perfect tandem, conveying the minutia of the tale perfectly. It is a story of stolen caresses and missed moments, told through blazing glances of secret longing. In this regard, the cast delivered in its entirety, painting a realistic and tender picture.
|A Month in the Country|