The Sleeping Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty

Covent Garden Royal Opera House – October 31, 2011

The Arts Desk

Mark Ronan’s Theatre Reviews

Covent Garden Royal Opera House – November 22, 2009

The Observer by Luke Jenning

…..however, a ballerina decides to risk making the sequence even harder – as Tamara Rojo did on Monday. Holding her arms above her head en couronne, she ignored her final suitor, and just balanced, statue-still. The moment stretched and stretched, and when the final chord sounded and Rojo’s leg coolly unfurled from attitude into high arabesque, the audience went wild. It was an expression not just of supreme technical mastery, but of theatrical calculation. This Aurora, Rojo was telling us, breathes the heady air of independence.”

October 30, 2009: theartsdesk by Ismene Brown

And then Friday – the skies blazed and the sun rose on a blessed Aurora, Tamara Rojo, whose dancing poured light upon us all, first softly and dewily, and then with increasing brightness and grandeur. This is a true ballerina of exquisite mastery in all departments, who understands every demand not only for herself in meeting the role’s phenomenal limits, but the magical warmth that she must generate for the whole production.

You could rhapsodise on about her time-stopping balances and spun gold of her pirouettes, but better to notice the wafting silk of her ports de bras, the generosity of the garlands she weaves with her arms around everyone on stage, from her parents to the wooing princes to the guests at her wedding. In a piece of luxury casting her partner was Johan Kobborg. He is rarely seen with Rojo, since he is firmly established with Alina Cojocaru, but the two did first dance in the UK together at Scottish Ballet, and as the company’s two supreme classicists I was intrigued whether we would see the ne plus ultra of Sleeping Beauties.

Well, they were, most of the way through, a sublime and masterly match, a pairing intent on casting the greatest of balletic enchantments over us – until strangely the coda of the wedding pas de deux felt suddenly colder than required, a technical triumph rather than a mutual offering of their happiness…

The New York Times

“… Covent Garden on Monday night, Tamara Rojo offered a technically sensational execution of the Rose Adagio. So long did she balance — perfectly still, without upper-body rocking to maintain equilibrium — that after her third suitor had walked away, the fourth didn’t bother to come forward. She simply held the position, and time stood still until the triumphant extension into arabesque that is the end of the dance…..”

From Evening Standard

March 19, 2008
The Sleeping Beauty
Crowning glory: Tamara Rojo as Princess Aurora with Federico Bonelli as her prince

“RE: Royal Ballet, Sleeping Beauty, Spring 2008”

Bruce 27-03-08, 03:16 PM

A near perfect princess

By Sarah Frater, Evening Standard 18.03.08

The Sleeping Beauty is the standard by which we judge classical ballet companies. The reasons are many, but in a nutshell Beauty is one of the biggest and most difficult ballets to stage, and if you can get it right, no one doubts your artistic credentials.

By getting it right I don’t just mean tip-top designs and proper dancing, although these do matter as anyone who has seen a second-rate production will know.

Getting it right also means dancers who reveal not only the ballet’s prettiness but also its paradox. Beauty is a thing of fairytale splendour, the story of a princess who sleeps for 100 years and is awoken by the kiss of a prince.

It has cracking tunes and fab dancing, yet it’s also a reminder that the romantic harmony we want is the thing we don’t have.

You hear it in the music, and see it in the best dancers who phrase the steps with both innocence and longing. Tamara Rojo is undoubtedly one of the best. She was almost perfect as Princess Aurora, both a young girl and an unattainable ideal.

Federico Bonelli’s Prince Florimund was not far behind, although his is a less complex role. Much of the time he only has to walk around looking aristocratic, with a little romantic yearning on the side. Bonelli does this a treat, plus his leaps and spins are pretty faultless.

However, Beauty is the ballerina’s ballet and you can’t peel from Rojo.

Even the excellent Marianela Nunez as the Lilac Fairy and the precise Sarah Lamb in the Bluebird pas de deux couldn’t dim her appeal.

This Sleeping Beauty dates from 2006 when company director Monica Mason commissioned a new production to mark the Royal’s 75th anniversary.

It is based on the 1946 production that Royal Ballet founder Ninette de Valois, Russian big-wig Nicholas Sergeyev, and designer Oliver Messel created.

Together they made a new British tradition from an old Russian one, and this incarnation looks wonderful. Which is just as well, as the economics don’t bear thinking about.

The Sleeping Beauty at Covent Garden

Debra Craine

The Royal Ballet’s triumphant 2006 restaging of The Sleeping Beauty – based on its landmark postwar production – is going to be a welcome sight at Covent Garden for years to come. As staged so immaculately by Monica Mason and Christopher Newton (after Ninette de Valois and Nicholas Sergeyev), it’s a gorgeous, rapturously classical spectacle, brimming with the opulence of the French court and sparkling with the magic of fairydust. Who can resist its grand 19th-century Russian traditions filtered so lovingly through the refinements of 20th-century English sensibilities? The designs (Oliver Messel’s 1946 originals with additions from Peter Farmer) are ravishing, albeit the sets more than the costumes.

There are seven casts in total for this revival, although it’s hard to imagine the Royal Ballet dancing it better than on Monday night. Throughout every layer of this ballet – from character artists to Aurora and her Prince – the company danced with a radiant sense of presentation and respect for the choreography (mostly Petipa, but with additions from Ashton, Dowell and Wheeldon).

Aurora’s friends were utterly delightful; the Fairies were models of poise and grace; from the principals it was a lesson in impeccable classical dancing. And the ROH Orchestra supported the whole wondrous affair with fine playing under the baton of guest conductor Valeriy Ovsyanikov, a man who has Tchaikovsky’s greatest ballet score in his blood.

Credit must go to Alexander Agadzhanov, who coached the superb star pairing of Tamara Rojo and Federico Bonelli at the head of Monday’s cast. As Princess Aurora, Rojo’s composure and command of the stage are complete, her dancing exceptionally creamy and precise, all of it beautifully unhurried and decorated with pleasing musical flourishes. In the Rose Adagio she lingered tantalisingly over the balances (as if enjoying the prospect of each potential suitor) and somehow Ovsyanikov kept the orchestra from coming to a complete halt as Rojo stretched the music to breaking point.

Bonelli, who is noble to the core, is the perfect fairytale Prince. His dancing is as effortlessly strong as it is winningly handsome. And with a heart bursting with love for his Princess, Bonelli’s Florimund gave the Vision scene and Aurora’s awakening a rare human relevance.

As the Lilac Fairy, Marianela Nuñez is the ballet’s good luck charm, and lucky is any Sleeping Beauty that has her in its cast. She shimmered with luminous beneficence, wielding her magic wand with tremendous joy, while showing that with every gracious step she takes she is a princess in her own right.

The moral of a tale of two companies

Luke Jennings

Sunday March 23, 2008

Royal Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty

Royal Opera House, London WC2

Several New York City Ballet members came to Monday night’s performance of The Sleeping Beauty by the Royal Ballet. The casting was luxurious, with Tamara Rojo and Federico Bonelli as the leads, Marianela Nuñez as the Lilac Fairy, and Sarah Lamb as the Bluebird.

Rojo’s reading of the role of Aurora is at once restrained and spectacular. She is so precisely centred that she seems supported on a current of air, and this gives her pirouettes and her ‘Rose Adagio’ balances an air of pensive rapture. It’s possible to read this as coolness, particularly when contrasted with Nuñez’s radiance, but I think it’s closer to the near-expressionlessness of the dream-state. For Rojo, this is not a role to be ‘acted’, like Giselle or Juliet. Aurora’s realm is an insubstantial one, a collision of sunbeams that can exist only as long as it can be imagined. In place of her character, we are offered a flicker-book of idealised feminine traits. So what Rojo gives us in Beauty is simply herself, transported by dance.

Romeo & Juliet

Romeo & Juliet – Royal Opera House

Choreographer: Kenneth MacMillan

“Tamara Rojo is one of the finest Juliets to be seen anywhere, sailing with effortless grace through MacMillan’s demanding inventions, and developing from …”

  • The Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juilet at Covent Garden, review –

“But Tamara Rojo’s is better. Dancing two days earlier, she shows that her … it is an undeniably potent portrayal of lack of interest – with Rojo, …”

“Rojo is a superb Juliet, her dancing flawless throughout, and dramatically completely convincing..”

“At the heart of the evening, Tamara Rojo is MacMillan’s Juliet in all her impulsive sensuality and stubborn defiance, and – no less significant – in the ravishing outlines of the dance, curling and flowering within the musical phrase”…

  • Romeo and Juliet – Guardian by Judith Mackrell

“Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet gives its ballerina an extreme dramatic journey – provided she is willing to take it. And Tamara Rojo is … It is an exceptional performance, and what makes its conclusion ¬harrowing is that Rojo takes us there in ¬convincing stages.”

  • Romeo and Juliet – The Times by Debra Craine

He looks the part – tall, elegantly handsome, blond and dashing – but MacMillan demands a powerful naturalism in the drama and Pennefather was tremendously up for it.”

Rojo is an extremely accomplished dancer — strong, controlled and very beautiful. She is also at her best when she takes centrestage and lets a hot tide of emotion overwhelm her.”

  • Romeo and Juliet – musicOMH by Maria Iu

Rojo … seems able to express her love and yearning through every pore of her skin, beside being gifted with technical mastery.”

  • Romeo and Juliet Pink Paper

“… but the two dancers in the title roles on the opening night were Rupert Pennefather and Tamara Rojo, who danced every step with complete sincerity and …”

Tamara Rojo’s ardent Juliet was partnered by Rupert Pennefather. They don’t quite make a pair. Juliet is one of Rojo’s best roles, but on this evidence, Romeo isn’t Pennefather’s.”

Romeo and Juliet
UK, London, Covent Garden
Dancers: Avis, Marriott, Martin, McGorian, Morera, Pennefather, Polunin, Rojo
by Ismene Brown

Rojo’s genius is that she plays the part with no hindsight whatever – events gradually imprint their terrible consequences on her virginal character, they rip the protection of childhood off her, reveal this volcanically passionate and single-minded girl in love.”

“… Mercutio and Benvolio failed to convert, while Tamara Rojo’s Juliet and Rupert … Even by an improved Act III it was only Rojo, pictured right, …”


Isadora, Dances at a Gathering

The Stage Reviewer: Gavin Roebuck 13/03/09


The Guardian Reviewer: Judith Mackrell 13/03/09


The Times Reviewer: Debra Craine 13/03/09

Isadora, Dances at a Gathering

Financial Times Reviewer: Gerald Dowler 13/03/09

Isadora, Dances at a Gathering

Independent by Zoe Anderson

REVIEW: Royal Ballet

The problem with Isadora Sunday links, 22nd March 2009

Isadora, Dances at a Gathering

UK, London, Covent Garden

Dancers: Avis, McMeekan, Rojo, Saunders

by David Dougill

‘Tamara Rojo poured heart and soul into it (‘Isadora’); and Isabel McMeekan, the second Isadora, was every bit her equal. They wrenched at your heart in the episode of the appalling drowning of her two children..’

The Sunday Times


La Bayadere

Royal Ballet, January. 13, 2009

La Bayadere: Royal Ballet, Oct. 6, 2007

From Russia with lust

Luke Jennings
Sunday October 14, 2007
Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House, London WC2
  • The Observer

Since Marius Petipa created La Bayadere for the Imperial Russian Ballet in 1877, its most compelling feature has been the emotional triangle at its centre. Solor, an Indian warrior, is loved by two women, the unworldy temple-dancer Nikiya, and the grasping, calculating Princess Gamzatti, and the ensuing rivalry leads to murder. Over the years, the piece has allowed companies to stage spectacular ballerina duels – star against star – and the present Covent Garden production, by Natalia Makarova, is no exception. On last week’s opening night of the season, Tamara Rojo danced Nikiya against Marianela Nunez’s Gamzatti, with Carlos Acosta’s Solor as their handsome but morally tainted prize.

It’s hard to imagine more luxurious casting. In Act 1, Rojo expresses her longing through almost organic unfurlings, her back bends as pliant as a lotus stem. Petipa’s steps here convey a state of almost-realised potential, of a spirit poised for sexual awakening. No dancer alive expresses that quivering readiness quite like Rojo. She can stand motionless and still pulse with desire.

Nunez, by contrast, has a potent bad-girl allure and to begin with, Petipa gives her the best of the music. Her big Act 1 adagio subtly references Nikiya’s earlier dance, but this time the steps are more flamboyantly developed and executed with an imperious snap: what Nikiya wants, Gamzatti will get. And she does, drawing Solor to her by a dizzying blend of lust, power, fabulously jewelled outfits and blondness.

Against this feminine flood-tide, Acosta struggles for visibility. He starts sincerely enough but loses the piece’s tragic focus, and his dancing in Act 2 has a cheery machismo that strikes the wrong note. But the Royal Ballet corps is in fine form, and in the Kingdom of the Shades scene, striking arabesque after ghostly arabesque behind Yuhui Choe, was sublime.

La Nueva España

Asturias,Spain Sociedad y Cultura Jueves 01 de noviembre de 2007
«La bayadera» en el Covent Garden

Cuando Marius Petipa, allá por la segunda mitad del siglo XIX, creaba sus ballets en San Petersburgo, lo primero que tenía en mente era que sus producciones se convirtieran en arte, en arte escénico. Pero él también conseguía que sus obras fueran entretenidas, que emocionaran y que se transformaran en espectáculos grandiosos. Casi todos los trabajos del genial coreógrafo que llegaron hasta nuestros días poseen estos elementos. Lo que no quiere decir que todos los que interpretan a Petipa consigan que esto suceda. Sí ocurrió esta semana en el Covent Garden de Londres, donde el Royal Ballet representó «La bayadera» (1877) de Petipa en la versión de Natalia Makarova, con música de Minkus. Tenía gran curiosidad por ver esta producción. La primera vez que vi «La bayadera» fue en Nueva York, 1982, por el American Ballet Theater. Era también la primera ocasión que se representaba en Occidente. Y precisamente es aquella misma producción de Makarova la que ahora se puede ver en la capital inglesa (existen algunos cambios en esta versión renovada de los británicos, los más notables están relacionados con el vestuario). Aquel estreno en la ciudad de los rascacielos fue un gran acontecimiento e hito histórico. Sus intérpretes ese año fueron, entre otros, Gregory, Makarova, Bujones y Baryshnikov. Son varias las funciones de esta obra que el Royal tiene programadas este mes con diferentes elencos para abrir esta temporada. Yo vi dos representaciones con distintos bailarines. Una fue excelentemente protagonizada por Tamara Rojo, Carlos Acosta y Marianela Núñez. Como se sabe, el relato de este ballet se desarrolla en una India antigua, legendaria y exótica; de fastuosos templos en la jungla presididos por rajás; de cacerías de tigres e intrigas románticas. Este ballet solamente se puede gozar en todo su esplendor, con todo su colorismo, lujo, fuerza mística y magnetismo escénico, cuando se ve en escenarios del rango del Covent Garden, con orquestas como la de este emblemático teatro londinense y con compañías como el Royal Ballet, en la que no se escatiman recursos para una puesta en escena opulenta y espectacular. Toda esa suntuosidad y exuberancia se necesitan para sentir y vivir la historia que se nos cuenta. Si bien, para que una producción de esta índole brinde un encantamiento y hechizo total, es imprescindible que sea coronada con una magistral interpretación de artistas que conviertan este cuento de las mil y una noches en realidad.

Y así sucedió en esta ocasión. Tamara, en el papel de Nikiya, la hermosa bailarina del templo, hace verosímil los fatídicos acontecimientos que se van sucediendo hasta que es mordida por la serpiente. Durante toda esa parte su baile se expresa con profusión de elementos exóticos y sensuales. En el segundo acto, ya convertida en criatura sobrenatural, Tamara dio intensidad lírica a su personaje y exhibió una línea clásica impecable asombrando con sus interminables equilibrios y múltiples piruetas, y así se lo ha reconocido la crítica londinense estos días. Actualmente dudo que alguna bailarina de esta compañía pueda interpretar este papel mejor que ella. Acosta, que representó al guerrero Solor, evidenció su técnica. Se mostró preciso, seguro, con concepto serio. Núñez fue la perversa Gamzatti. El resto de la compañía respondió a la calidad que siempre esperamos de sus componentes. En la simbólica secuencia de «el reino de las sombras», una de las joyas del ballet clásico, la precisión de las bailarinas del cuerpo de baile logró transmitir el efecto hipnótico y la sensación armónica que contiene este monumento coreográfico. Da gusto ver las cosas a lo grande, bien hechas y con amor. En Oviedo el año pasado nos había visitado el Ballet de Brno con su producción de «La bayadera». Y para que se me entienda: comparar «La bayadera» del Royal con la de Brno es equivalente a asistir a un partido del Real Madrid en sus mejores tiempos o a uno del Oviedo actualmente. Hay que felicitar a los representantes de la cultura en la administración inglesa. Da envidia comprobar cómo se mima, se venera y se valora allí todo lo concerniente al arte del ballet. Es admirable observar las facilidades e infraestructuras que tienen a su disposición los miembros del Royal Ballet en el mismo edificio del Covent Garden, con sus gigantescos estudios, salones para los ensayos y clases, recintos con equipos fisioterapéuticos, comedores, etcétera. Pedir cosas como ésas en España todavía pertenece a los sueños imposibles. Esto duele más cuando se puede comprobar cómo bailan los bailarines españoles por el mundo. En estas funciones de «La bayadera» que tienen lugar estos días en el Covent Garden hay varios españoles, todos en papeles importantes o protagonistas. Además de Tamara, están Laura Morera, José Martín y Zenaida Yanowsky. Un detalle, en los programas de mano del Royal hay dos líneas que ponen: «El silencio está patrocinado por Sela-Cough. Los acomodadores en la entrada le pueden proveer gratuitamente de caramelos para la tos» (por supuesto, la envoltura de estos caramelos no hace ruido). Si van a Londres les recomiendo el musical «The sound of music».

 The Sunday Times

October 14, 2007
Nadine Meisner

Last week also saw the opening of the Royal Ballet’s season. You can’t get more uncool than La Bayadère,19th-century ballet’s monument to melodramatic faux-orientalism. Fakirs and servants scurry about half-bent, signalling their low caste. The High Brahmin completely loses his head, prepared to reject his sacred calling for illicit love. The bayadère (temple dancer) Nikiya dies, bitten by a snake placed in a basket of flowers by her rival Gamzatti and the Rajah. Yet the ballet is justly famous for Petipa’s fabulous choreography, which reaches the pinnacle of classicism in the Kingdom of the Shades, where Nikiya’s ghost is replicated by a long procession of bayadères, like refractions in a play of mirrors, stretching endlessly into eternity. The three principals gave cracking performances. Tamara Rojo as Nikiya transformed her tiny body into an eloquent, precise instrument, with beautiful arabesques that stretched and yearned. Marianela Nuñez’s Gamzatti glittered in her show-pieces through elegant nuance rather than vulgar flash, but in her confrontation with Nikiya forgot her dignity with glorious self-abasing abandon. And Carlos Acosta has to be the world’s best Solor, combining jaw-dropping virtuosity with finesse and drama. A pity about Natalia Makarova’s Reader’s Digest production, which cuts the processions and excludes several magnificent Indian-inspired dances.

Financial Times

La Bayadère
By Clement Crisp
Published: October 9 2007 03:00 | Last updated: October 9 2007 03:00

The new Royal Ballet season got off to a spiffing start on Saturday night with La Bayadère . The staging is Natalya Makarova’s very intelligent pruning and editing of the old Petipa spectacular, with dance and drama heightened in effect. Samaritani’s design is an exemplary show of Italian scene-painting’s magic and mystery; Yolanda Sonnabend’s costumes offer glamour and the proper gleam of bijoux; and the company was on its very best form.

The luminous army of Shades deserved the prolonged applause after their entrance, a grand cascade of arabesques and white tulle pouring out of the night, borne on the repetitions of Minkus’s insidious little musical phrase. There were commandingly good portrayals of the High Brahmin (Gary Avis, torn by passion as Nikiya rejects him, hand raised to his head in a wonderfully expressive arc) and of the Fakir Magdaveya from Kenta Kura, shaping the role in frenzied leaps. And all this to frame three magnificent readings: Tamara Rojo as Nikiya, Marianela Nuñez as Gamzatti, Carlos Acosta as Solor.

Rojo finds a mysterious purity for the heroine, both in temperament and in dance. You sense the inner dignity of the character, the temple-dancer’s trusting belief in Solor, and you see the dance offered with no less nobility of spirit. Of course, Rojo’s technique is commanding, and in turning steps there is a kind of secretive bravura – few ballerine in my experience have produced such ravishing (and ravishingly generous) pirouettes in the Shades scene’s variation. (I still gasp at their unobtrusive ease.) And how sweetly a phrase seems to finish with the perfect arch of her instep, the eye following a line that is completed, fulfilled, by this exquisite curve.

Nuñez plays Gamzatti with a mask of brilliant hauteur and dances with no less brilliancy. In the betrothal Grand Pas she draws the choreography in vivid, unerring lines of happiest assurance, her jump free, almost defiant of the stage.

And Acosta soars, turns, beats, offers effortless wonders, and gives the faithless hero as much of a haunted air as the drama will allow. The entire ensemble I thought was on best form, and the final moments when the temple collapses are better managed, more convincing, than I have seen before. In sum, a tremendous start to the season: laurels and bouquets to all concerned. ***** Tel 020 7304 4000

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

The Times

From The Times
October 9, 2007
La Bayadere
Debra Craine at Covent Garden

For those who think that the Kingdom of the Shades is the only reason to see La Bayadère, the Royal Ballet’s production is essential viewing. As staged by Natalia Makarova, Petipa’s grand and exotic tale of love and murder in legendary India is an entertaining spectacle that wraps a colourful melodrama around the luminous vision of the Shades.

This ballet has everything: a driven narrative, passionate characters, a lavish staging (although not as lavish as its 1877 St Petersburg premiere), an archetypal 19th-century score and classical choreography that takes the breath away. What a perfect opening it makes to the Royal Ballet’s new season.

It’s a feast on every front. Pier Luigi Samaritani’s sets are splendidly lush, the vegetation as sumptuous as the architecture. Yolanda Sonnabend’s costumes are gorgeous, with their jewelled trim, bare midriffs and fabulous head gear. Valeriy Ovsyanikov conducts the Minkus score with a go-for-broke enthusiasm and devotion to its place in dance history. And the corps de ballet shine as the Shades, a perfect hallucination embodying Solor’s love for the murdered Nikiya, the temple dancer he betrayed.

This is a story raging with the heated emotions of an old-fashioned love triangle – Nikiya’s love for Solor, Gamzatti’s jealousy of that fact, Solor’s guilty conscience because he wants both women – and the opening-night cast took to it with fervour. Tamara Rojo, as Nikiya (the bayadère of the title), initially presents a serious young lady bound by her duty as a temple dancer and profoundly shocked by the High Brahmin’s inappropriate declaration of love. And then Rojo hits us with a flood of happiness as Solor appears to her; then a well of melancholy at his betrayal; and a vision of sublime otherwordly spirit when, now dead, she reappears in his fevered imagination to rekindle their passion. Throughout Rojo gives us dancing of exquisite shape, touching dramatic nuance and exceptional technical flair. As Solor (“the noblest warrior in the land”) Carlos Acosta has to be sexy and brave, which is second nature to his dancing, but he also has to be true to Nikiya yet unable to resist the lure of Gamzatti, the glamorous princess to whom he is betrothed, always a tricky conundrum for a hero. Acosta manages it all with tremendous panache, and, when he and Nikiya are reunited in heaven at the end, you feel as if Acosta has earned the right.

In every way, Marianela Nuñez glitters as Gamzatti, the rich-bitch princess determined to get her claws into Solor, even if it means dispatching her rival with a poisonous snake. And Gary Avis brings a remarkable dignity to the High Brahmin, a character role that he imbues with a magnetic power.

Box office: 020-7304 4000. To Oct 27 2007

Royal Ballet ‘La Bayadere’

November 2007
London, Covent Garden
by Simonetta Dixon

Yes, a lovely start to the new RB season; having seen this Bayadere last night I realized again why we miss the RB so much when they’re not around!

Tamara and Marianela (both in superb physical and dramatic form) are just perfectly matched and balanced as the rivals for Solor’s love; you can really see in this instance why it is so hard for him to choose between them! Likewise, it is perfectly understandable why they fight over Solor, too. Acosta is imperious yet vulnerable as Solor, and although his elevations didn’t seem quite up to his usual standard last night, as Michael said above those eight double turns were almost perfection.

Jose Martin’s Bronze Idol was the best rendition I have seen for many a year. In this very difficult solo he soared high and landed perfectly, not even the slightest wobble on any of those knee landings. I wonder how long it takes to get all that body paint on, just for him to be onstage for five minutes?!

The Corps performed a beautiful Shades scene (I only wish there were more than half a ramp onstage), confidently led out by Yuhui Choe…what a responsibility for such a young dancer. I was very glad that they got the prolonged applause they deserved. The three solos were very well conveyed by Deirdre Chapman, Isabel McMeekan and Laura Morera, who also got an enthusiastic round of applause after an exemplary variation. I was just delighted to see that even though she is now a Principal, she will still dance this kind of role. If she didn’t we wouldn’t be seeing nearly enough of her this season.

The lighting was the most disappointing aspect of the performance. I was saying this to some people in the interval. The spotlight and Carlos seemed to be playing cat and mouse: it was like that Bugs Bunny cartoon where the spot moves each time he tries to step into it and he ends up having a fight with it. Wherever Carlos was, the spotlight wasn’t. Perhaps the lighting person hadn’t been present at rehearsals? At other points, things were happening in the half darkness and bows to the audience after Carlos and Marianela’s variation were also taken in semi darkness. At a certain point in Act 3 Marianela runs over to Carlos to try to get his attention and there was no light on them then, either. I really hope they sort this out by the next performance; it looks unprofessional and isn’t fair on the dancers. I remember being much more impressed with the temple’s destruction last time around; was it different from this? As Wulff said, it was covered up by over the top strobe lighting for which there were indeed no warnings that I could see.

Royal Ballet ‘La Bayadere’

November 2007
London, Covent Garden
by Wulff

The season opened auspiciously with an excellent performance of Bayadere. Tamara Rojo’s Nikiya was both emotionally touching and technically near-faultless. Those tricky pirouettes with the scarf in act 2 were admirably executed. She was well matched by Marianela Nunez’s Gamzatti in the big mime scene, and in the Grand Pas d’Action I thought that Marianela danced her variation with great control, phrasing and musicality.

Carlos Acosta partnered his two ballerinas with complete confidence, and although his variation in act 1 did not perhaps come quite up to his highest standards, he more than made up for it with his dancing in act 2.

The corps de ballet acquitted themselves admirably in the Shades scene with precise ensemble and hardly a wobble anywhere, and of the three solo Shades I was particularly impressed by Isabel McMeekan’s control in the tricky third variation.

Act 3, started off well with an excellent account of the Bronze Idol variation from Jose Martin. However, I felt that most of this act was underlit, the following spots did not always immediately find the dancers that they were supposed to follow, and the strobe lighting that accompanied the collapse of the temple was, I felt, overdone, nor as far as I could see was any warning posted that this effect was going to be used.

But all things considered this was a first rate performance, and it is a long time since I have enjoyed a performance of Bayadere so much.


La Bayadère: Moonlight and bittersweet magic
Last Updated: 2:30pm BST 08/10/2007
Mark Monahan reviews La Bayadère at the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden

One can barely imagine how keen Royal Ballet director Monica Mason must have been for her troupe to deliver the goods after the Bolshoi’s summer residency in Covent Garden – after all, no one likes to be outdone in their home town.

And yet, while the Muscovites’ dazzling physical rigour was always going to be hard to follow, the Royal rose serenely to the challenge on Saturday, offering an opening evening rich with unflashy dramatic punch, and reminding one, too, that ballerinas don’t have to be the height of giraffes to make the hairs prick.

Natalia Makarova’s 1989 version of La Bayadère, Petipa’s characteristically semi-fantastical 1877 work, reconstructs the climax, abandoned by the Kirov since 1919. It’s by no means essential, but it does solidify the structure, as well as providing an excuse for some nifty stage effects that round off a gloriously lavish production.

(The execrable closing gauze is a hideous exception: it looks like anti-pigeon netting and should be binned immediately.)

The two acts that come before tell of the forbidden love in legendary India between Nikiya, the titular temple dancer, and the warrior Solor. He is soon betrothed to the princess Gamzatti and is so impressed by her that he caddishly forgets his low-born love. But, all manner of beastliness later, he – like Onegin, like Albrecht, like Siegfried – belatedly realises what a fool he’s been.

Bayadère is typically Petipan in being narrative hokum but packed with emotional truths, which the Royal allowed to shine. There’s an emotional graveness and otherworldly delicacy in Tamara Rojo that makes her at her best when cast as someone who is either doomed (Juliet) or unreal (the Sylphide). And, in Bayadère, in which she dies but returns as a spirit, she’s both.

Her brilliance lay in the spiritual grace with which she caressed the air in the very first scene; her abilty to radiate undying love from a single arabesque; the folorn precision with which she lowered herself from pointe to the flat. Every movement spoke of Nikiya’s plight.

Casting Marianela Nuñez opposite her was shrewd, too. They’re two of the company’s sexiest dancers, but otherwise so very different. Nuñez’s unflappable strength and elevation contrasted perfectly with Rojo’s hummingbird vulnerability.

Few can stride across a stage more imperiously than Nuñez, and there was a blast of regal bitchiness in her “He’s out of your league, darling” mime.

As the object of both their affections, Carlos Acosta was an unsurprisingly noble and convincing Solor – lovestruck, then caddish, then contrite. At 34, he doesn’t soar quite as high as he did a few years ago, but we’re talking millimetres here. He remains a dancer of rare majesty, and unsurpassed as a partner to Rojo.

Just in case anyone somehow still doubted the Hispanic contingent of the company, Laura Morera and José Martín both unleashed extraordinary solo work, too. But, above all, it’s on the slender shoulders of the girls’ corps that any Bayadère rests, and they didn’t disappoint either.

Act 2’s often stand-alone “Kingdom of the Shades”, in which they arabesque their way down on to the stage as multiplied, hallucinatory images of Solor’s now-dead Nikiya, is fiendishly exposed, particularly for those who come on first. But the 24 dancers were both lyrical and sure-footed, and their procession glowed with moonlight and bittersweet magic.

· In rep until Oct 27. Tickets: 020 7304 4000

Bruce “Royal Ballet – La Bayadere – Review”

Royal Ballet
La Bayadere
London, Royal Opera House
6 October 2007
Opening of the 2007/08 Season

WARNING: I’m not sure why but I feel I ought to prepare you for an extended gush…

What an absolutely cracking opening night the Royal had to its new season. La Bayadere is not usually one of those ballets that sets the pulse racing with eager anticipation but the company pulled out all the stops in Makarova’s 1980’s production and it shone as brightly as any major blockbuster.

The senior casting was exemplary with Tamara Rojo as the done-down and lowly Bayadere, in love with a noble warrior, Carlos Acosta as the warrior – Solor – torn between loves and duty, and Marianela Nunez as Gamzatti, the Rajah’s daughter who truly loves Solor but ultimately is happy, along with Daddy, to see the Bayadere killed and gone.

Acosta may himself have sprung from humble beginnings but he is a natural and honest princely figure and plays Solor as such – no spoiled cad. Although I thought he was working at 109% rather than the 110% we always expect, there was much well earned applause for all he did. So too for Rojo, totally in her dramatic element. The only chink in her armament is a jump that doesn’t quite keep up with all her other wizardry. It matters not a jot because Rojo is the rarest of ballerinas – one that exists on another and altogether ethereal level. To see her move in character is to be whisked to another world. But she doesn’t forget this world either and her wonderful flourishes embroider otherwise standard moves – she seems to have so much time for magnificent balances and unsupported turns. Nunez is younger and, as a star, still growing. Hers is a finely drawn Gamzatti, like Acosta and Rojo’s, a portrayal rooted in emotion and coupled with a faultless technique (including a rather good jump, if not one that yet gets her to another world).

But the Royal is more than about a top trio. Gary Avis as the High Brahmin brings vivid life to a role that is normally about standing and staring, as does Genesia Rosato as the servant Aya (if it’s mostly about bowing and scraping for her). Jose Martin also delivers an exciting Bronze Idol. But my biggest bouquet goes to the corps in the Kingdom of the Shades – I’ve never seen them looking better in the production and all the drilling makes a huge difference. Everybody knows a good thing when they see it and there was much more applause for the corps than normal.

The only thing I didn’t like was the new laser ‘display’ as the Temple is ripped asunder at the end. In what is essentially an old 19th Century set and staging it looked awfully daft and out of keeping. But this is a brilliant night of ballet and I must remember to set my pulse racing when RB next say it is coming back.