Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Theatre reviews by Terry Wills

Birmingham Royal Ballet-'Coppelia' & 'Passion &Ecstacy'-reviews

"They're home-the Birmingham Royal Ballet (fresh from a sell out, rapturously received three-week visit to Japan) where they raised in excess of £10,000 to help the country following the devastating Tsunami and Earthquakes.

First another scintillating production of 'Coppelia' -incorporating all the required elements that enchant audiences of all ages..

'Coppelia' - a much loved story that cannot fail to enchant already confirmed Ballet lovers and those that may have been seeing the production for the first time.

(And for those i would imagine they couldn't have failed to have been impressed at this current offering)

A simple story surrounding three principal characters.

Dr Coppelius, an eccentric inventor who frequently leaves fellow villagers wondering what goes on behind closed doors when strange sounds are heard.

He's created a doll, 'Coppelia, that's so life-like he's convinced the villagers will believe it really is a living person.

As a test he leaves Coppelia sitting on his balcony in full view of the villagers to gauge reactions.

Directly opposite lives Swanilda, a girl that waves to Coppelia and is disappointed when her frequent attempts to make friends appear to be totally ignored.

Swanilda's sweetheart, the dashing Franz, is so intrigued and captivated by the sight of the mysterious girl, that when Dr Coppelius leaves the house, he gains admittance hoping to meet the mysterious Coppelia.

Unaware that the love of his life, Swanilda, and her friends have the same intentions.

She is astonished to discover Coppelia is simply a doll before Dr Coppelius returns home and drives the intruders out.

Going into hiding and alone, she's discovery's many of his 'creations' are intricate and fascinating.

Enter Franz, determined to meet the beautiful Coppelia to be confronted by Dr Coppelius who threatens to punish him.

He administers Franz a sleeping drought before attempting, via his book of magic, to bring Coppelia to life, in the process proving he does possess magical powers.

In due course there's a traditional happy ending in the town square where amid great celebrations Franz and Swanilda are married- leaving Dr Coppelius wondering just why his inventions never work.

Sadly he turns slowly away before looking behind, where to his astonishment he discovers Coppelia has made the miraculous magical transformation from a doll to a beautiful living person as she performs an inspirational dance.

Confirmation that his belief and years of dedication had not been in vain.

'Coppelia' is a true delight-beautifully choreographed with wonderful dancing from Ambra Vallo as Swanilda, and Tyrone Singleton as Franz-accompanied by artists of the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Add the innovative scenery,colourful costumes and lighting (plus instantly recognisable music) it's little wonder that 'Coppelia' will always be worth seeing whenever and wherever it's been produced..

The second production -'Passion and Ecstasy-is totally different.

Set in two acts as different as can possibly be imagined .

'Opening with 'Allergri diversi -A plain set, eight dancers,demonstrating to perfection the full range of skills in perfect unison accompanied by the wonderful Solo clarinet playing of Ian Scott.

The second innovative ballet, 'Carmina burana', is as far removed from a traditional piece as can be imagined.

(For me certainly unlike any ballet i can recall)

It's set between the middle ages and the 1930's pop culture era.

Incorporating the 'adventures' of three frustrated seminarians who stray from the fold.In the process falling from grace to consequently receive an appropriate comeuppance.

A stark opening -the stirring dramatic music of 'O fortuna'' sang by Grace Davidson dressed in a skimpy red dress, high heels, set against a black background as three huge golden crosses are slowly lowered.

David, the first seminarian, visits what would be regarded as a youth club, falls for a girl only to be rejected. In truth it's nothing more than that but he feels totally devastated at a failed romance.

The dancing during these happenings are spectacular.Dozens of dancers move around at speed displaying jaunty, frenetic folk-like steps.

The second seminarian has an unidentified fear that something is chasing, haunting him.He initially aligns himself to a handful of fat, balding, air boxing young brutes who delve into the seediness of nightclubs, bars and drinking places.

Proof that a combination of these and other feelings can only be described as hideous.

The third seminarian, as the programme notes say,surrenders to 'desires' of the flesh' with disastrous results.His advances are repulsed and he finds himself dressed only in a pair of skimpy white underpants while she looks on with disdain.lly .

(A sight going down extremely well with a goodly number of the female audience!)

Suitably chastised, a powerful reprise of 'Oh Fortuna' accompanied by the appearance of the BRB' wonderful dancers, ended a night that is so very different from what would be termed a traditional ballet.

As in all their productions this wonderful company leave no doubt why they are rated among the worlds leading ballet companies.

Certainly those fortunate to have seen either, or both, of these outstanding productions, would have left feeling they'd been privileged to enjoy artistic skills of the highest nature.

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