Going to the world premiere of a ballet is almost like Christmas morning, you don’t know what you will get or if you will like it. Luckily, I had the opportunity to see the first and third casts, 26th and 31st of October respectively, of Viscera – Mixed Bill, which included the premiere of Carlos Acosta’s Carmen ballet.
Here are my thoughts and ramblings about the mixed bill. Most of my comments will be about the overall production but I’ll drop some name of dancers that – for me – stood out.
The big question is, did I love Carmen? I have no idea! So before answering that, why don’t we start with…
Piano, speed, and Balanchine – three words that popped into my head to find a way to describe this ballet.
I have never seen anything done by Liam Scarlet. Actually the only thing I knew about Scarlet was that he was a former RB member. In the end I actually enjoyed it, more than I thought if I am quite honest. I loved the simple costumes, Lowell Lieberman’s score is an exquisite combination of a dynamic and dramatic tune, and there is a certain flair of Balanchine’s 4 Temps but slightly faster and more athletic than classical.
On opening night, Laura Morera was on fire and showcased why she was made a principal in the first place. Another star that evening was Leticia Stock, who simply shined on her pas de deux with Kish, which was a nice calm break on this fast paced ballet.
The boys in the corps also stood out. Special mentions are Alexander Campbell, who kept his cool as always; Luca Acri, a dancing force to be reckoned with; and Nicol Edmonds is slowly becoming a leading man in every performance I have seen him in. Talking about Edmonds, how amazing was that short pdd he had with Cowley?!
Once over, it was time to cool things off with an…
Afternoon of a Faun
I saw this a couple of months ago and hated it. This time I appreciated it more and actually got the story Robbins was trying to tell. Also Debussy’s score is so haunting and romantic which brings this whole ballet into a full circle.
Apparently it is all about being narcissistic and this is portrayed perfectly by both Vadim Muntagirov and Matthew Ball, each in their own performance. Both of them nailed the portrayal of the young dancer in front of the mirror who couldn’t keep his eyes away from his reflection. His attention is only on himself and on his movements until his muse walks in.
Both Sarah Lamb and Olivia Cowley portrayed the same role but in a way they were able to bring their own spin into it. The first was this innocent celestial image who Muntagirov wanted to become equals with, while the latter was this beautiful vixen who Ball flirted with until she left. In the end the boy’s beauty was not enough to get the girl and ends up alone in the same position he started.
So from one pas de deux we move to another one in…
Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux
Not many words will be said here. It was a good 10 minutes to relax and enjoy some classical ballet. To be fair, this felt like something they would use in a gala, and thankfully that seems the general consensus on the web.
The pdd is a great way to demonstrate what you know and get those well deserved applauds and cheers from the audience. There, short and sweet.
According to Steven McRae it was tough, but I just joked back that he was great and he loved showing his sharp moves. He laughed.
Now for the big premiere of the night…
Oh Carmen, you could’ve been something big but… apparently you aren’t?
Starting with Carmen, she is character known to be disorderly, seductive, and finally a victim. Marianela Nuñez was able to capture the seductress aspect of the character, but that was it. I agree with Morgan’s comment in her post, the character needed a solo for some sort of character development in order to feel sorry for her. Props for the Royal Ballet to give Tierney Heap the chance of a principal character, who kept herself well on her first principal character.
No matter who portrays Don Jose, in the end I didn’t feel anything from the character. He went from a correct character to someone whose life went upside down. Doing some research it seems that in the Opera he went insane, while here he just lost it when he got jealous and killed his beloved. On the other hand, Federico Bonelli and Matthew Ball portrayed a suave matador who everyone idolises and kept his cool throughout the whole performance – more Escamillo please! Honestly, I would have loved to see Carlos take on Escamillo. Carmen has a pas-de-deux with both male characters but sadly they were too long, too repetitive, and nothing stood out in order to differentiate them from each other or make them memorable.
Not having seen the opera you can say I am not familiar with most of the songs. However, there were some danced by the corps de ballet that sounded like the soundtrack of a Disney animated short – comedic and childish.
Now about the corps de ballet… great job you guys! Now these is a group of truly professional dancers going to the stage and having them time of their lives. If you’ve got a chance to see it (or seen it) you could tell from their faces that they were on it 110%! Some of the choreography might raise some eyebrows – striptease and twerking – but it sort of fits in.
As you can see, I am still confused what to feel towards Carmen – maybe a third viewing will be needed to finally find that answer. Thank God for cinema screenings, right?
Until next time for the He says, She says review of Monotones I and II / The Two Pigeons Bill.
If you want to know what she says, go check Morgan’s She Says: The Royal Ballet – Viscera Mixed Bill 31/10/2015.
Feature Image Credit: Marianela Nuñez and Carlos Acosta in Carmen © 2015 ROH. Photo by Tristram Kenton