Saturday, December 17, 2016

THE PEONY PAVILION at Sadler's Wells - For Your Eyes Only....

Another week, another ballet... only this one was a bit more out of the ordinary...

The National Ballet of China appeared at Sadler's Wells for a few nights presenting one of their big hits THE PEONY PAVILION and while it had moments of great beauty, for most of the evening I sat there in baffled incomprehension.

In essence the story is a young woman dies after meeting a young scholar, overwhelmed by the beauty in the world.  The scholar tracks her to the underworld and manages to bring her back to the living world - or is it all a dream?  Um.. you tell me.

It was certainly well danced in the Western tradition but also with the addition of a Chinese opera singer as the vocal spirit of the young girl.  Although her idiosyncratic singing was sometimes hard to take, visually she was a hoot, gliding around the stage in a fixed attitude, moving like she was standing on a hoverboard under her long frock... maybe she was!

It all built up to a spectacular finale with a seemingly endless slow procession of red-clad dancers diagonally across the stage who eventually formed a circle that raced around the centre of the stage to reveal the chair the girl was first seen in... they left the stage just in time for an avalanche of red petals to rain down on the stage.  Always send 'em out with a great final image - and this had it by the bucket-load!

First performed as an opera in 1598 which lasted about 20 hours (!), this thankfully shorter ballet version was adapted and directed by Li Liuyi with choreography by Fei Bo, the arresting design was by Michael Simon with costumes by Emi Wada and the score which incorporated Debussy, Ravel and Holst was by Guo Wenjing.

I am glad I saw it for the spectacle but I think I might just leave it at the one time... you can only take so many prancing demons in one lifetime.  It was all very striking though...

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