Sunday, June 12, 2016


Another visit to the Opera House, Covent Garden?  Well don't blame me... they are the ones who keep putting shows on! *points*

The latest triple bill puts three one-act ballets together by three of the Royal Ballet's most popular choreographers - Wayne McGregor's new production OBSIDIAN TEAR, Kenneth MacMillan's haunting THE INVITATION and Christopher Wheeldon's hypnotic WITHIN THE GOLDEN HOUR.  All together they made for an involving evening of dance styles and storytelling.

It was Wayne McGregor's WOOLF WORKS that started the current love-in with the Royal Ballet so we were interested in seeing his latest creation OBSIDIAN TOUR.  It was certainly a haunting experience if a little too austere to launch the evening totally successfully.

Set on a darkened bare stage apart from a broad orange strip along the apron of the stage, nine male dancers in different designer trousers or shirt-dresses perform MacGregor's exacting choreography: tender and physically lyrical to violent and confrontational.  Slowly the dancers circle the one dancer wearing red and he is eventually thrown into the glowing red pit at the back of the stage.  Two dancers - Edward Watson and Matthew Ball - are left onstage before one of them too vanishes into the pit on the very last note of Esa-Pekka Salonen's eerie score.

The nine dancers were all remarkable in their concentrated energy and power with Watson, Ball and Calvin Richardson outstanding as the three main dancers.  It was great to have Salonen there to conduct the score and the moody, bare set was designed by Wayne McGregor too.

At 30 minutes it certainly didn't outstay it's welcome and I would like another opportunity to see it again but must say I found it's stark remoteness hard to concentrate on at the start of the evening.

We were on more traditional ground with the next piece, Kenneth MacMillan's controversial THE INVITATION which debuted in 1960, restaged here by Gary Harris. THE INVITATION was MacMillan's first Royal Ballet production to a commissioned score and he was urged to do it by the company's founder Ninette De Valois.  He chose the Hungarian-born composer Mátyás Seiber to collaborate with but Seiber was tragically killed in a car crash just before the premiere.

A young, impressionable girl leaves boarding school and returns to her mother's austere home.  There she meets her cousin and they both express their tender love for each other.  However their lives change when they are invited to a house party given by a married couple who know the girl's mother.  From their first meeting the husband is drawn to the girl's innocence.

The husband is bored with his clinging wife and after the night's entertainment lead to the guests indulging in sexual dalliances, the wife seduces the confused but willing cousin.  The girl, left alone with the brooding husband, playfully teases him but, misreading the situation, the husband attacks and brutally rapes her.  The cousin reappears but the girl withdraws fearfully from him, her illusions shattered forever. 

Ninette De Valois was upset that MacMillan had choreographed the rape onstage and suggested he put it offstage but he was adamant that this brutality was essential to the action and needed be seen by the audience and she eventually backed him in his decision. 

THE INVITATION still packs a hefty emotional punch largely due to MacMillan starting the piece almost dreamlike thanks to the late Nicholas Georgiadis gauzy set design allied with little moments of characterful humour.  But his choreography is brutally ugly and the last section of the ballet feels shattered and muted after it.

Yasmine Naghdi was perfect as the girl, starting so bright and full of life and ending up a shadow of a shattered being.  David Donnelly as the gauche cousin, Olivia Cowley as the neglected wife and particularly Thomas Whitehead as the husband were all excellent too.

The final ballet was Christopher Wheeldon's shimmering, abstract WITHIN THE GOLDEN HOUR which we first saw earlier this year in another triple bill.  Again I found Wheeldon's choreography remarably fluid and hypnotic with any number of bends, slides and pivots across the stage.  The climax where all 14 dancers are bobbing and weaving seamlessly together like a well-oiled machine was a giddy delight.

There are quite a few visits to Covent Garden coming up due to Owen going a bit mad for the upcoming season by the Bolshoi but towards the end of the year we have a triple bill of Wayne McGregor works including a brand new ballet.  Exciting times ahead!

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