If you follow me on Twitter you’ve probably seen my rather excessive number of tweets on the subject of this triple bill last night. It consisted of three newly commissioned pieces in collaboration with The National Gallery’s Titian exhibition and was rather a last hurrah for Monica Mason who retires as Director of The Royal Ballet this year.
Edward Watson and Tamara Rojo in Machina, Metamorphosis: Titian 2012. © ROH/Johan Persson, 2012.
First up, Machina, with choreographers Kim Brandstrup and Wayne McGregor. I have to say I wasn’t blown away by this, the robotic arm with light began well (designs by Conrad Shawcross), creating atmospheric effects behind a screen and it had some interesting moments of interaction with the dancers, but proved to be a slightly annoying distraction at other times. The dancing was pretty much what I expected from the choreographers, and for me just didn’t seem to say anything in particular. The music by Nico Muhly was good generally, at times lovely, but the plinky-plonky piano parts clashed with more elegant strings occasionally. The excellent cast danced well, but Carlos Acosta didn’t really seem suited to piece, and was oddly muted, Edward Watson was his usual extraordinarily sinuous self, but I wish both men had been given something more to get their teeth into. Leanne Benjamin and Tamaro Rojo faired a bit better, but I think this excellent cast could have been used more interestingly.
Melissa Hamilton and The Royal Ballet in Trespass. Metamorphosis- Titian 2012. © ROH/Johan Persson, 2012
Trespass came next and the first thing I have to rave about is the excellent job Mark Wallinger did with the staging, the set was beautiful and the lighting extremely clever (Lucy Carter did a great job on all three shows). The alternating clear and mirror like surface was an excellent, fittingly voyeuristic at times. Alastair Marriott and Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography was considered and charming, and full of small moments which made reference to the Titian paintings without creating an explicit narrative. Beatriz Stix-Brunell (dancing with Nehemiah Kish) was lovely to watch, she has such expressive arms and hands, and I like her more every time I see her. Steven McRae and Sarah Lamb were on top form too, and Melissa Hamilton made a wonderfully superior Diana-like figure. There were some impressive slightly acrobatic balances, and a cleverly used move (pictured above) which echoed the antlers of a stag. I especially liked the moments when the entire cast danced together, working with the clever staging and good music by Mark-Anthony Turnage, and in doing so creating a cumaliative effect which was rather beautiful.
Marianela Nunez and The Royal Ballet in Diana and Actaeon. Metamorphosis- Titian 2012. © ROH/Johan Persson, 2012
Diana and Actaeon was the only narrative ballet, and I had high expectations as it was choreographed by Liam Scarlet who has been exciting to watch so far, Will Tuckett who I always enjoy (and I’m seeing his Wind In The Willows in The Linbury in December again) and Jonathan Watkins. Marianela Nunez made a fierce Diana, with her flaming red hair and costume, and wonderful make up. When with her Nymphs, she slid in and out of their formations, looking haughty and powerful, and totally in control. The Nymphs were well choreographed, and Leanne Cope as one of Diana’s friends stood out in particular. The hounds were also well executed, with clever use of puppet heads, and abstract costumes, and a pack like movement and mentality to them. Federico Bonelli as Actaeon was a disappointment however, he seemed so characterless and just kept popping on and off stage in a slightly random way, though his transformation into stag and then his injuries was cleverly realised by designer Chris Ofili. The costumes for this were generally good, but I wasn’t sure about the set, maybe not being able to properly see the backcloth as I was sat in the amphitheatre was to blame though. The music, by Jonathan Dove, was generally OK, but I could have done without the singing, which just didn’t seem to add anything. Overall, I wanted to like this a lot more than I did but there were certainly parts which I enjoyed, and enough to make it an interesting piece of new ballet.
As a triple bill, it was a bit of a mixed bag, though judging by the reviews, one on which everyone disagrees about their favourite, but I am glad I saw it as another example of The Royal Opera House taking chances on new work and working with other arts organisations in interesting ways. (Something that does niggle though is that of the 13 creatives involved in these works: choreographers, composers and designers, all are men. Not necessarily intentional, but questionable I think that in an industry so heavily dominated by female performers, not one of the lead creatives for three new commissioned pieces for the main stage was a woman. I hope this isn’t a trend that continues at ROH.)
If you saw this triple bill, either at the Opera House or on one of the big screens around the country, what did you think?