Bolshoi in London

bolshoi

For the summer season the Bolshoi were resident at the Royal Opera House.  The Bolshoi performed 5 ballets: Swan Lake, La Bayadere, The Sleeping Beauty, Jewels and The Flames of Paris.  It has drawn the crowds in.  For every performance there has been substantial queues for returns as all performances sold out.

Sadly the Bolshoi has been making the news and not just for its wonderful dancing.  The acid attack on artistic director Sergei Filin back in January was shocking.  As he recovers from his hideous he did make it out to London and attended a performance of Jewels.  As he was brought onto stage he received a rapturous applause from the audience.

The arts are often seen as a sophisticated arena but this attack shines the light that no matter what your industry the same disputes will exist.  The motivation of the attack on Filin is thought to be due to “a cesspool of intolerable cruelty” along with rivalry between dancers and the people who manage them.

The Bolshoi is impressive to watch.  They do put on a performance that draws you in.  But the main downfall is the obsessive bowing.  During Swan Lake it really took away from the flow of the performance with the constant pause for appraisal.  Sleeping Beauty was probably the strongest out of the four ballets I saw.  It had excessive bowing but not to the point of rolling my eyes.  And it had the story which flowed and really drew you in.  I am looking forward to seeing the interpretation of Sleeping Beauty by the Royal Ballet in the coming year.

Along with the Bolshoi there have been many great visiting companies to London this summer.  The Coliseum has played host to the Boston Ballet, the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet, Fredrick Rydman and the Shanghai Ballet.  To have so much high quality ballet on offer has been a real treat for lovers of dance.  It is also a real treat to those of us who are new to their love of ballet.  I have been able to see so much to extend my knowledge of ballet and to experience the differing styles of various companies.

Now looking forward to a some great performance from the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet in the coming months.

Sarah Southern

The Flames of Paris

The Flames of Paris

Saturday afternoon and a little rainy so it seemed an ideal time to see the final Bolshoi ballet at the Royal Opera House: The Flames of Paris. A ballet first performed in 1932, but then revised in 2008.

The Flames of Paris is set in revolutionary France following the tale of Jeanne and her brother Jerome. Jerome is keen to join the revolution and head to Paris. Another revolutionary, Phillipe, is in love with Jeanne. Sadly though the Marquis is too keen for Jeanne. He makes an advance on Jeanne and she fights him off with the aid of her brother Jerome. He is beaten and thrown into jail. Luckily the Marquis’s daughter, Adeline, has watched this and frees Jerome from his cell. Obviously love then blossoms.

The Marquis learning of his daughters new found fondness of Jerome sends her off to Paris. Hotly in pursuit is Jerome and Jeanne along with the other revolutionaries. The scene moves to the court of Versailles where we see the opulent life of the King and Queen. As the revolutionaries get to Paris a bit of bloodshed was soon to follow. Although Adeline’s father may have lost his head at least she was able to secure the man she loved.

At times the story was a little difficult to follow but the sets, costumes and overall performance was very enjoyable. Compared to the other Bolshoi ballets this certainly had the most interesting sets as the story moved between locations frequently. It had more props including a huge cannon and a stagecoach (minus horses, obvs).

The Bolshoi brought 5 different ballets to London this summer. I have been lucky enough to catch 4 of them. Now looking forward to the new Royal Ballet and English National Ballet season kicking off very soon.

Read reviews of The Flames of Paris: Telegraph, Evening Standard

Sarah Southern

Jewels

jewels

The penultimate ballet in the Bolshoi’s summer tour to London is Jewels.  A ballet first performed in the 60s by the New York City Ballet the Bolshoi added it to their repertoire last year.  Jewels is three very separate ballets: emeralds, rubies and diamonds.

There isn’t really a story to this ballet.  It is more beautiful dancing and stunning costumes.  Emeralds had a very romantic feeling to it.  The costumes were mid length skirts with a stunning emerald green hue to them.  Rubies had a much more contemporary, almost jazzy feel to it.  It had much more of a punch.  But it was, of course, diamonds that stole the show.  The tutus were dripping in sparkles that glistened as the dancers performed a much more classical routine.

There was almost some drama off stage too.  The very polished chap sitting next to us had a beautiful vintage pear of binoculars with him.  He had tucked them under his seat and I guess used them at times during the performance.  Towards the end of the second interval when the standing patrons behind us returned to their perch he accused them of stealing his binoculars.  He tried to look in their bags.  They contested their innocence.  He demanded their return as they had been his grandfathers.  The ladies opened their handbags and proved they had not swiped them.  He them stormed off before the final and best act of the night began.  It was all very strange and thankfully didn’t turn into a Legoland style brawl.

I took my mum to this ballet as she was in town.  It was her first time to the Royal Opera House so it was lovely to take in how beautiful the Opera House is.  She is not a regular to the ballet but really enjoyed Jewels.  If you would like to see it the Royal Ballet will be performing it this coming season.

Reviews of the Bolshoi’s Jewels: Telegraph, Guardian

Sarah Southern

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty

The Bolshoi’s third ballet at the Royal Opera House this summer season is Sleeping Beauty. After not being 100 percent sure of the story of Swan Lake last week I thought it best to Google it in advance to remind myself of the tale. It is basically the story of Shrek (yes, I am aware of how terrible it is to now view these traditional stories through the prism of Dreamworks/Disney/Pixar and the the like but that is just how the world is sometimes).

For Swan Lake I had been treated to seats in the stalls. Last night I was in the penultimate row of the highest level. And I loved the elevated view. A perfect view of the stage and a good glimpse of the orchestra pit too (in fact I think I’ll opt for V60 again). Don’t be put off buying tickets in high seats at the back. If you have good eyes you’ll be fine.

The ballet flowed and certainly the first half kept me captivated. The Evil Fairy and her sinister minions reminded me of something from the Labyrinth or the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz. And when Sleeping Beauty came onto the stage you couldn’t help but applaud. The second half seemed to drag a little. When the Prince gave Sleeping Beauty the kiss to wake from her slumber it seemed like a good time to end. But instead we returned to the Royal Court to be entertained by fairytale characters. The Puss in Boots was very charming and gained much applause from the audience.

It didn’t surprise me to see people queuing for hours in the return queue for this ballet. It really was superb and despite the constant bowing I am enjoying the traditional style of the Bolshoi. Looking forward to Jewels and the Flames of Paris next week.

Read the reviews of the Bolshoi’s Sleeping Beauty: Telegraph, Guardian, Independent

Sarah Southern

Battle of Swan Lake

 

Londoners have two versions of Swan Lake to take their fancy this summer.  The Bolshoi at the Royal Opera House and Swedish Fredrick Rydman’s version at the Coliseum.  They could not be more different.

The Bolshoi of course draw the crowds.  Every performance is sold out.  And the queues for returns has been starting at 10am when the box office opens.  Such a famous ballet company doing Swan Lake is going to be a draw.  But I wouldn’t say I loved it.  The dancing was phenomenal.  But it just didn’t flow.  At times I was confused as to how the scenes connected.  This was my first time seeing Swan Lake and although I had an idea of the story I just couldn’t get why the Prince was one moment at the Royal Court and the next at a lake.  Even my pal who has seen Swan Lake many times said it didn’t quite make sense, especially for a novice like myself.  But the magic of the Opera House (is it wrong to be so mesmerised by that curtain??) and the aura of the Russians certainly keeps you enthralled.  The constant bowing might irritate a little but it’s all par for the course.

Now cut to Swan Lake: Reloaded.  A more modern take in story and in dance of Swan Lake.  The starkness of the orchestra pit gave the first indication that this would be a very different performance.  That and the polite warning from the box office staff this was contemporary.  It was electric from the get go.  The swans were in fact prostitutes with a bit of a drug problem.  The prince was a party boy with a lust for coke.  It mixed the traditional ballet and music of Swan Lake with contemporary dance and house music.  And it worked.  The story was gripping at times.  I had my hands to my faced and gasped in the final scenes.  I, along with many others, were on our feet at the end.  It was just brilliant.

I look forward to seeing Matthew Bourne’s version at Sadler’s Wells this coming winter.

If you want to see Swan Lake I would definitely opt for the Swedish version: a performance with more clout.  Buy tickets online or call at the box office.

Read the reviews of the Bolshoi’s Swan Lake: Telegraph, Guardian

Read the reviews of Fredrik Rydman’s Swan Lake: Evening Standard, Time Out

Sarah Southern

Afternoon at the ballet

Although unbelievably hot and sunny in London today I took myself off to the Coliseum to see Coppelia.  The Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet have been visiting London for the past week so I was pleased to be able to catch today’s matinee (especially as I snagged a ticket for a fiver). There has been quite a buzz about them being in town mainly due to Sergei Polunin being back in town since he left the Royal Ballet.  The Telegraph and the Standard focused their reviews around the “party animal” of the ballet world.  He was pretty special.  The lady next to me described him as a feather.  She was pretty spot on.  It all looked so effortless.  Totally mesmerising.

Coppelia as a ballet is a little strange.  It is a comedy of sorts.  It is based on a young chap, Franz, who is mesmerised with a woman.  The woman is actually a doll made by a rather sinister inventor.   This fascination distracts him from his true love, Swanhilde.  As you’d expect after a journey of sorts and a bit of a fracas with the inventor Franz and Swanhilde finally wed and all is well with the world.  The story was a little confusing at times but the dancing was worth the confusion!

The English National Ballet will be performing Coppelia in July 2014.

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The ENO have some great visiting companies this summer.  And the ROH has the Bolshoi arriving soon.  Looking forward to seeing as many performances as I can.  Keep an eye online for cheaper tickets or indeed the returns queue on the day.

Sarah Southern