Nuts About Ballet in Lucca

On December 18th 1892 at Saint Petersburg’s Mariinsky theatre there took place the première of a double bill, one of whose items will go down in musical history as perhaps the most magical, beautiful, enticing and enchanting ballet score ever written.

Tchaikovsky received a commission from choreographer Petipa with precise instructions as to how long each dance piece should be right down to the numbers of bars they should contain. The composer at first wasn’t too convinced by the Hoffman scenario although he later started to enjoy writing the commission. Imagine his disappointment then when the ballet turned out to be a flop.

(Petipa and Tchaikovsky)

The opera fared rather better but who today remembers ‘Iolanta’ and who today can say they know nothing about the ‘Nutcracker’? They must at least remember this take from the immortal ballet, as sung by the much lamented Frank Muir:

Today the ‘Nutcracker’ is almost a definition of classical ballet and we are truly showered with Nutcrackers in Lucca this year. Not only did I attend the marvellous Moscow Ballet production at Lucca’s Giglio theatre last Tuesday but I’ll be able to return to the city to hear a live relay from Covent Garden with the Royal Ballet at Lucca’s Cinema Centrale near Puccini’s statue in Piazza della Cittadella. It’s on today. Thursday 8th December at 8.15 PM and it’s the impeccable Peter Wright production too!

Of course, there are umpteen versions and variations of the ‘Nutcracker’ and each ballet company does their own take. It wasn’t surprising that for their one night at Lucca the Moscow ballet relied on a recording of the music. There just wouldn’t have been time to arrange a live orchestra to interpret the timings and sequences of the company. There is no resident ballet company, unfortunately, in Lucca as there is, for example, in London and no orchestra to practise with them.

As mentioned, one doesn’t have to travel to Covent Garden any more (although it does help). The following live ROH performances have been (or are being) relayed to Lucca’s Cinema Centrale. Just look at the list at

http://www.nexodigital.it/royal-opera-house-al-cinema-2016-2017/ !

For the ‘Nutcracker’ and all these other superlative performances you don’t even have to be in Lucca. Look at this list for other Italian cities with ROH relays:

http://www.nexodigital.it/the-royal-ballet-lo-schiaccianoci/

The Moscow ballet production was delicate, humorous and very athletic. There were some spectacular poissons and fouettes, especially in the second act where the pas de deux was most passionately done.

Who could not fall in love with a ballet that includes romance, dreams and fantastic visions such as described in Hoffman’s original story. What a wonderful start to the Christmas season with a ballet that includes everything from gingerbread soldiers, a battle with evil mice, sweets in profusion, snowfalls, dancing flowers, a prince charming and a bewitching fairy. It truly puts one in the mood for the festive season like no other piece ever possibly could. And here is ravishing music written by a composer who just less than one year later died mysteriously, (some say by suicide over his ‘shame’ at his sexuality but the matter has never been properly cleared up).

My tickets were a little Italian reward from the work I put in the English editorship part and my articles in the monthly on-line review of music in and around Lucca which you can find at:

http://www.luccamusica.it/language/it/.

I just can’t believe that I felt bored as an eight -year old when I saw my first performance of the Nutcracker at the Royal Festival Hall in London. (I don’t know if they still put it on there). I was even more scathing about Tchaikovsky for years. I now consider him the most ‘Russian’ of all Russian composers and the writer of some of the greatest melodies ever to seduce the human ear. Furthermore, I regard Tchaikovsky as a brilliant orchestrator (an art never seen to better effect in the ‘Nutcracker’ when the introduction of the celesta must have truly been a startling novelty) and a supreme operatic composer (if only they could put on ‘Eugene Onegin’ in Italy – I’d travel miles to hear it again.)

One thing is certain: we departed from the Giglio Theatre and entered Lucca’s Piazza Grande at midnight, our hearts filled with happiness and joy. The Christmas season had truly begun for us!

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Ps more on the nutcracker at

https://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/a-cracker-of-an-evening/

 

 

Poorly Patrolled Daughters

Who can come to London for a few days and miss out on a visit to Covent Garden? Combined with an evening at the Royal Opera House it is one of the city’s must-do’s.

Last Tuesday we attended the 368th performance of ‘La fille mal gardee’ , the oldest ballet still in repertoire, with Frederick Ashton’s charming choreography. We’d seen the ballet many years before and it was quite wonderful to come back to it especially as supernally gifted  Natalia Osipova was in the role of Lise, widow Simone’s furtive daughter who successfully avoids the clumsy advances of rich vineyard owner Thomas’ clodpoll son Alain to be finally united with her lover Colas.

What I hadn’t realised was that the ballet dates back to 1789 when choreographer Jean Dauberville was inspired by Baudouin’s engraving of a mother reprimanding her daughter over her flirtatious nature. At that time ballets would be accompanied by a pastiche of popular airs. There have been,  indeed, many different versions of both music and choreography through the ages. Musically, Lanchberry’s arrangement and orchestration of Ferdinand Herold and Ashton’s choreography have swept most of the other versions away although there has been a recent ‘period’ performance reconstructing the 1789 originally staged just days before the prise de la bastille (just as it was the last ballet to be performed before the Russian revolution.)

Who cannot forget the widow, danced as a characteristic ‘dame’ by Thomas Whitehead, joining in the famous clog sequence ‘en pointes’ or the maypole and ribbon dances  or the dance of the cockerel and his harem of hens (originally real poultry was used, sometimes with disastrous results when they fell into the orchestra pit) or the exquisite ‘Elssler’ pas de deux in the second act.

The audience threw away any trace of British reserve and the cheering and applause at the end of this gorgeous display of home-grown ballet was quite italianate. And with our well-sighted amphitheatre seats at just 24 UK Pounds each it was certainly a best-value night out in anti-brexit london.

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Ps to pick up your pre-booked tickets a credit card is now not enough. One should print out one’s e-ticket or display it on a smartphone. Also the only entrance is from Bow street as a new building phase is in operation.

Heralding Christmas with ‘The Nutcracker’

THE NUTCRACKER BALLET WITH THE MOSCOW BALLET

 

On Tuesday, December 6, at 9 pm, the Moscow Ballet will be at Lucca’s Teatro Del Giglio with a performance of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”

Presales at Giglio Theatre Box Office and Circuito Box Office Toscana

Tel. 0583. 465320
Online tickets: http://www.boxol.it
Infoline: 334.1891173

‘The Nutcracker’ is surely one of the most charming of all ballets. Love is mixed with dreams. The enchanting scenery of the Moscow Ballet makes the viewer a participant of Hoffmann’s fairy tale. With its fabulous features and happy ending the tale is pervaded by a captivating celebratory atmosphere made up of sweets, toy soldiers, the Christmas tree, snowflakes, dancing flowers, mice, wonders, princes and fairies. It’s a ballet that captivates children and adults alike.

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‘The Nutcracker’ is indeed the epitome of the magic of Christmas itself!

 

 

A Winter’s Tale

No respectable visit to London can be complete without attendance at that hallowed hall of increasingly superlative excellence to the arts of opera and the ballet, the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. One should get there early so as to enjoy the street artist shows and the shops in the ex fruit and veg market (I can still remember the traders and porters in the days when going to hear the Pink Floyd at Middle Earth and Gandalf’s garden. 

Covent Garden is perhaps London’s only authentic Italian-style piazza.  The colonnade is not complete (although further tracts of it were built as a result of the opera redevelopment a few years ago) but it does give a very clear picture of what the original architect Inigo Jones envisaged when he designed it in the seventeenth century.

We really enjoy opera at the Garden but principally we go there for the ballet which is entering into yet another golden phase. As part of Shakespeare’s four hundredth death anniversary there was a production of The Winter’s Tales with choreography by Christopher Wheeldon and music by Joby Talbot. 

To say I was gripped through the long three acter would be an understatement. The performance was a triumph and leading dancers Sarah Lamb as Perdita and Joe Parker Mamillius received an Italianate-style scream of approval from the audience at the end.

Wheeldon, who is barely forty years old, is the true successor of Kenneth MacMillan. His spectacular success with ‘Alice in wonderland’ was the first new full length ballet produced there for over twenty years, and the Winter’s Tale, immaculately true to Shakespeare’s supreme example of his late romance writing style, worked equally well.

For me the music fitted the action to a T. Talbot is a highly versatile composer for the concert hall, the cinema, the television (League of Gentlemen) and now, more than ever, the ballet. His music is complex but easily listenable, highly atmospheric and, although talking its cue from the more creative aspects of minimalism, weaves obsessive themes into a well integrated whole with inspiring melodies and some ravishing orchestral effects. The on-stage band where prince Florizel meets and fall in love with Perdita, the rustically brought up but aristocratic daughter of the jealously punished Leontes, was a true coup de musique. This band consisting of bansuri (Indian flute) dulcimer, accordion and percussion accompanied some truly Balkan-inspired choreography to exciting effect.

The ROH happens in many respects to be one of the best value of top-class theatres in London. With mediocerly placed tickets at £50 pounds for routine shows it’s a bargain to pay £25 for a full-view amphitheatre seat for a spectacle which few world theatres would be able to equal. Ballet at Covent Garden is truly on a high and that golden partnership between Wheeldon and Talbot is a miracle.

 

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Heavenly Sensuality at Royal Ballet Triple Bill

Rarely have I been so transfixed, transported even, by the Royal Ballet’s triple bill at Covent Garden last night, all choreographed by the supreme Christopher Wheeldon who has built on the great tradition of Ashton and Macmillan and transformed it into something completely his own.

The first, piece “After the Rain” with music by Baltic minimalist Arvo Part ended with a pas de deux danced by Thiago Soares and David Donnelly which was utterly hypnotising, so sensuous and yet so spiritual it was. I’ve never heard the audience so quiet!

Here is another interpretation of this piece:

After the abstract, the narrative. In ‘Strapless’ the society beauty, Amelie Gautreau, danced by Natalia Osipova,  looks back at the scandal her then risque-considered portrait in a strapless dress by John Singer Sargent caused at its original unveiling in 1884 (Madame X). Recognised, Amelie, became an outcast only to retain her perennial beauty in the now much admired portrait.

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(The strapless lady at Tate Britain)

Shades of a Parisian-set Oscar Wildeian tale, thought I. Coming so soon after our Toulouse-Lautrec viewing at Pisa I found the settings and the costumes brilliant. Much of the choreography was too, with a can-can sequence that lifted the flouncy skirts up both front and rear. The pas de deux, so often the real heart of a ballet, was interpreted by Osipova and the painter, interpreted by Edward Watson, with luscious sensuality. Wheeldon loves playing bodies not merely with each but through each and langourous horizontal movements and graceful arm threading abound..

Yet the ‘main filling’ for all its panache was, for me, not as affecting as the concluding abstract ballet ‘Within the Golden Hour’ set again to minimalist music, this time to pieces, with such titles as ‘the sky seen from the moon’ and ‘dance of the trees’, by Italian Ezio Bosso, plus a Vivaldi violin concerto slow movement. These were weaved by Wheeldon’s virtuoso touch into tableaux, every one of which for the first time in the evening was concluded by unusually enthusiastic applause. I’m sure I also discerned some allusions to apsara dancing such as we had encountered it in Cambodia last December…

If only this, the true side of Ezio Bosso had been shown at the Sanremo festival! After all, a full symphony orchestra was there at the Ariston and ballet did start in Italy. Some things I shall never understand. (See my post a couple of days ago on that incident.) All I know is that Bosso writes divine ballet music and must have truly been over the moon with such dancers as Brunell, and Muntagirov giving their all last night.

We left our Royal box exhilarated. (True! Behind us was the chair Queen Victoria used while enjoying the theatre with her dear Albert and an attendant explained to Sandra that the big mirror on one wall was asked to be placed there by the Queen’s attendants, squashed at the back of the box so that they too might see something of the spectacle reflected in it.

So, for us it was a majestic evening of British ballet in more ways than one!

(all photos of the actual performance by courtesy of ROH web site as, obviously,  absolutely no personal photography is allowed during a performance)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sanremo, Bosso and London

The post mortem discussions on Italian tv of that quintessence of Italian glitz, kitch and sometimes real genius, the Sanremo song contest, are still dragging on a week after the last limelight has cooled down. Begun in 1951 by the ligurian seaside resort as a publicity venture and a way to drag the town out of the postwar depression the festival started out with just three singers including the great Nilla Pizza whose song ‘grazie dei fiori’ won and remains still etched in the heart of many Italians. (My own favourite Pizzi favourite is ‘vola colomba bianca vola ‘ which won the 1952 competition.)

The biggest hit of the seventy year old festival and its one truly international success was Domenico Modugno’s ‘nel blu dipinto di blu’ aka ‘volare’ of 1958.

Originally, the competition winner was the song writer and each song was sung by two separate singers. Now, however, it’s firmly based on the singer or group. This year I Stadio won with ‘un giorno mi dirai’, a song which is an indirect homage to the great song writer Lucio Dalla who died in 2012, and for whom I Stadio were the backing group.

Italians either love or loath Sanremo and foreign viewers will hold the same polarised views. Divided into separate categories for established and for new artists Sanremo also has a celebrity spot, this year crowned by Elton John and Laura Pausini. The real coup d’eclat this year, however, was the appearance of the highly listenable and acclaimed classical musician, Ezio Bosso. Regrettably suffering from SLA, an extreme form of multiple sclerosis, since 2011, Bosso is making a presence in London this week since his music forms part of a triple ballet bill with the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden which we’ll be attending this evening. The ballet is called The golden hour’, originally written for the San Francisco ballet, with choreography by Christopher Wheeldon.

Ezio Bosso made a heart-melting impression both at Sanremo’s Ariston theatre where the contest has been held since 1977 and in the homes of the eleven million guests glued to their sets during the five days of the festival.

Unfortunately, the emphasis was on Bosso’s semi-physical-incoherence as a speaker because of SLA contrasted with his dexterity on the keyboard when playing his enchanted piece ‘following a bird’. What wasn’t mentioned because of the festival’s characteristic dumbing down to the audience is that Bosso is also a classical composer of four operas, four symphonies and is a conductor with such soloists as Brunello and Krylov and orchestras like the London symphony. Indeed, Bosso’s mentor was none other than the great Abbado himself.

‘The greatest thing about music is that it brings us all together.’

Ezio Bosso certainly did that at Sanremo, bringing as one the festival’s lovers and loathers as never before – we will be truly privileged to hear him tonight at one of the world’s greatest theatres, London’s Royal Opera House.

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More Music In Lucca

PIANO RECITAL BY CATERINA BARONTINI

“Vivere e contemplare il ritmo nel pianoforte dell’Otto-Novecento” (Living and contemplating rhythm in the nineteenth-twentieth century piano) is the title of the recital on Friday, November 27th at 9 pm in the L. Boccherini Auditorium in Piazza Del Suffragio. Pianist Caterina Barontini, just in her twenties, plays Schumann’s Humoreske op. 20, Ravel’s Jeux d’eau, Debussy’s Jardins sous la pluie (from Estampes) and Bartok’s six dances in Bulgarian rhythm (from Mikrokosmos).  Each piece will be introduced by Albarosa Lenzi Barontini.

The concert, with free admission, is part of Boccherini OPEN 2015’s Musical Routes of Autumn season. Full details at:  www.boccherini.it

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TIMELESS SAXOPHONE QUARTET IN CONCERT

“From Bach to Monk, through Sax …” is the title of the concert on Thursday, December 3rd at 9 pm in the “L. Boccherini” Auditorium in Piazza Del Suffragio. The Timeless Saxophone Quartet consists of Sandro Tani (soprano sax), Yuri Nocerino (alto sax), Giovanni Baglioni (tenor sax) and Marco Vanni (baritone sax). The group will present a varied program, with works by J. S. Bach, Michael Nyman, Thelonious Monk, Karman Khacheh and Ahmed Khalil.

The Timeless Sax Quartet was formed by established musicians who can all boast a long experience as soloists, in various groups and with prestigious Italian orchestras. The ensemble is a blend of tradition and innovation, interpretation and improvisation. It’s an alchemy of sounds made up of prime ingredients: Bach fugues, blue notes, swing and a touch of the exotic, all expertly mixed by the four saxophone artistes.

The concert, with free admission, is part of Boccherini OPEN 2015’s Musical Routes of Autumn season. Full details at:  www.boccherini.it

“LOVE’S BLASPHEMY” AT THE TEATRO DEL GIGLIO

On Monday, December 21st, at 9 pm, at the Teatro del Giglio there’s a show organized by “D’Alessandro & Galli” titled “Bestemmia d’amore”,  (love’s blasphemy) with Pippo Delbono / voice acting and singing, Enzo Avitabile / voice, small harp, drum and sopranino sax, Gianluigi Di Fenza / Neapolitan guitar and Carlo Avitabile / drums. Set design by M. Piero Pizzi Cannella.

“Blasphemy of Love” is a piece where words become music and discuss today’s uncouth, sacral, black, bright, hard and soft times. It’s to speak again of love: love blasphemed, wounded, drowned, killed, revived, killed again, yet still alive.

This concert is a stage in the artistic journey that Pippo Delbono is conducting with Enzo Avitabile, an artist unique in his ability to combine the traditions of blues, jazz, funk, rock with classical and baroque, to embrace ancient folk and Neapolitan traditions creating an original and unique sound.

Seats € 15:00 + presale

Gallery (reduced visibility) € 10.00 plus presale

Information and reservations: +39 0584 30335

SWAN LAKE AT TEATRO DEL GIGLIO

On Thursday, December 3rd, at 8.30 pm in the Teatro del Giglio, the Moscow Ballet will stage Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” with Petipa’s choreography. Soloists are Svetlitsa Evgenii and Olga Kifiak.

Tickets range from 20 euro (gallery) to 40 euro (stalls).

For further information: Office of the Teatro del Giglio Tel: 0583 465330

Swan Lake, perhaps the most famous ballet in the world, continues to keep all its charm from the lunar atmosphere that accompanies Odette’s appearance, to the dual role of Odette-Odile, white swan and black swan, in the eternal struggle between Good and Evil. The romantic plot tells the story of Princess Odette. The sorcerer Rothbart, whose overtures of love the princess has denied, casts an evil spell on her forcing the princess to spend the day under the guise of a white swan. The curse can be defeated only by an oath of love. Prince Sigfrid meets Odette at night, falls in love and promises to save her. At a party in Sigfrid’s palace the magician presents his own daughter, who has taken the form of Odette, to the Prince who, convinced of being in the presence of his beloved, swears eternal love. The magician then reveals the girl’s true identity and Odette, destined for death, disappears into the lake. Sigfrid, desperate, decides to follow: it is this gesture that breaks the spell allowing the two young lovers to live happily ever after.

Swan Lake, with its fabulous and enchanting music by Tchaikovsky, is a flagship for the Ballet of Moscow

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The Fifth Flight of the Butterfly!

Last night’s ‘Volo Della Farfalla’ at Bagni di Lucca’s Teatro Accademico was the best yet. The mix of dance, song and drama completely captured the capacity audience’s attention and the applause at the end of the show was loud and long.

Local lad Stefano Girolami had a promising theatrical career ahead of him when in  2010  his life was tragically cut short by Ewing’s sarcoma. ‘Il volo della farfalla” is an annual theatrical show in Bagni to remember him and to raise funds for research into the disease at Bologna medical school.

What were the show’s highlights? Every act was, in fact, a highlight starting with the incredibly proficient Albachiara rhythmic gymnastics team. This kind of sport is not something I am fully cognisant about and, frankly, is not an activity I would normally drive miles to see. But the young girls of the group, all well under fifteen, performed stunningly. A sequence of tableaux, each one depicting different scenes from the beach to the street was admirably done.

Albachiara had the audience swept off it feet. I could not believe that such young people could memorize so well the complex choreography they had to perform and their acrobatic movements were more than a little balletic.

The second act was a singing trio with a brilliant guitarist. The fact that this part was improvised at the last minute did not detract from its excellence.

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The drama which rounded off the evening called ‘dieci metri quadrati’ (ten square feet) was written and produced by Laura Caressa and Giulia Olivieri and was a sort of Italian version of ‘Huis Clos’ with some quite amusing scenes.

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Local and international tenor Claudio Sassetti rounded off the evening by presenting awards to the various participants. Modestly, he chose not to sing, leaving the limelight firmly on the performers.

Euro 25,000 has now been collected by the show so far for research into the rare disease which Stefano Girolami died from – no mean achievement! We look forward with anticipation to next year’s show which always takes place on the last Friday of September.

Bravissimi tutti – especially Leda and husband, parents of Stefano, who decided to remember him in this wonderful, joyful way!

And don’t forget – the sixth flight of the butterfly is on next year on the last friday (as usual) of September!

A Load of Cobblers?

I feel a friend of ours was slightly unfair when he described Ferragamo as “just another shoe-maker.” That Ferragamo certainly was but he was also rather more than that.

Ferragamo got involved in shoemaking at a very early age when he designed and made some shoes for his sisters. He learnt his trade from a cobbler in Torre del Greco and subsequently opened up a small shop. In 1914 he left for the USA reaching one of his brothers in Boston who was working in a shoe factory. Ferragamo then moved to California where he obtained contracts from the American Film Company to design and make shoes for their studios. Ferragamo also studied anatomy, particularly that of the foot, at the university of southern California.

In 1923, Ferragamo moved to Hollywood, where he opened the Hollywood Boot Shop and soon earned the name of “Shoemaker to the stars.” It is said that the ruby slippers worn by Dorothy, in “The Wizard of Oz” were designed by him. He indeed made them but the original design was by Gilbert Adrian, a Hollywood costume couturier.

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Ferragamo returned to Italy in 1927, settling Florence, and opened his first shop in Via Manelli. In 1928 he formed his first company “Salvatore Ferragamo”. After some hard times, exacerbated by WWII, Ferragamo returned to increasing fame in the 1950’s. His new home was now the lovely mediaeval palace of Spini Ferroni which dates back to the 13th century. This became a destination of film stars, royalty, aristocracy, the rich and the demi-monde. His designs now showed even more originality and style.

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But what makes Ferragamo an artist rather than just another shoemaker? It was his visionary approach which combined his intimate knowledge of foot anatomy with the finest materials and the most desirable designs. If it’s possible for a piece of jewellery to be a work of art then it’s certainly possible for a pair of shoes to be one as well.

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(The evolution of a Ferragamo shoe design)

Ferragamo died in 1960 but the business has flourished and grown into mythical fame as a result of the efforts of his wife Wanda and their six children: Fiamma, Giovanna, Ferruccio, Fulvia, Leonardo and Massimo, who continue the creativeness of Ferragamo original concept.

If all this sounds a little beyond those who just seek to buy a pair of comfortable sneakers then, like so many other Italian (and international) firms, Ferragamo has given a lot back to the society which has enabled it to flourish. There is a foundation which has set up a museum, holding fascinating exhibitions, in the palazzo Spini Ferroni in piazza Santa Trinita, Florence.

The most recent exhibition we visited (lasting until 23rd April) was, not inappropriately, on bipedalism and titled “Equilibrium”. Together with ducks and other avians, we humans indulge, uniquely among mamals, in bipedal locomotion or in, more common terms, we walk on two feet, creating a uniquely studied balance (quite apart from suffering from back-ache more than other animals). The theme of walking was exemplified through the exhibition in various ways – from philosopher-walkers to those who walk from one end of the Great Wall of China to the other.

Salvatore Ferragamo’s shoes have served as a stimulus for this topic. Features from mountaineer Reinhold Messner, tightrope walker Philippe Petit, Will Self, architect, engineer and artist, Cecil Balmond, dancer Eleonora Duncan, developed this focus on equilibrium.

There are also art works by Canova, Degas, Rodin, Bourdelle, Matisse, Picasso, Lipchitz, Severini, Klee and Calder.   Viola and Marina Abramović, Kandinsky, Melotti, Albrecht Dürer, Giulio Paolini, Nijinsky, sketches of Isadora Duncan dancing, Martha Graham and Trisha Brown are also represented.

It’s remarkable how so many of Italy’s great manufacturing names, especially those in the engineering; fashion and culinary fields, have contributed so significantly, both economically and inspirationally, to Italy’s cultural funding and its artistic milieu. I’m thinking just of the Piaggio museum at Pontedera, the Monte dei Paschi di Lucca and the Ferrari and Ducati museums as starters.

England did kick off the trend with the Courtauld Institute and the Tate Gallery but Italy seems to have taken it to admirable heights. It’s largely because Italy is that country in the world which most successfully combines superb design with superb craftsmanship and engineering – so immaculately seen in its cars, motorcycles and, of course, its fashion.

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(Ferragamo’s shop in the palazzo Spini Ferroni)

Sorry if you’ve missed the Ferragamo exhibition. There will be a new fascinating exhibition to follow, no doubt. Just keep your eyes peeled on the Ferragamo web site at http://www.ferragamo.com/shop/it/ita?gclid=CjwKEAjwjd2pBRDB4o_ymcieoAQSJABm4egojVFo5QZMHGk9esWtRygza4XloWbvYnNZr22WXjd8bxoCQWnw_wcB

 

On Tearing Up Letters

London’s Covent Garden Royal Opera House still represents very good value when one compares it with the inflated prices of so many other London theatres. For just over twenty pounds a decent seat we were treated yesterday to a supreme night of ballet in the form of John Cranko’s choreography of Pushkin’s verse-novel Eugene Onegin, originally produced for the Stuttgart ballet in 1965.

I am no expert on ballet – I just love it and yesterday evening’s performance utterly enthused an audience who applauded and cheered with almost Italian fervour.

The story of a typically “superfluous” young Russian (one bored with and cynical about the society he inhabits – cf Oblomov) who infatuates a budding country girl, Tatiana, with tragic consequences for himself, his loves and friendships, is too well-known to repeat here. The wonder is that Cranko manages to create an equally valid balletic version to Tchaikovsky’s searing opera on the same subject and uses Tchaikovsky’s music without quoting a single note from the opera!

I recognized none of the music except for an excerpt from “Francesca da Rimini” in the last act which reminded me of that magnificent walled city of Gradara in the Italian Marche, which we’d visited last year and where that tragic love story was supposedly played out.

Later I found out that most of the ballet’s music had been orchestrated from the composer’s lesser known piano pieces, including, appropriately, “the seasons”.

To come to the dancing: Frederico Bonelli, principal dancer of the Royal Ballet since 2003, comes from Genoa and his expertise in “serieuse” roles fulfilled itself to perfection in the quasi-byronic title role – quite apart from his considerable physique required in the numerous portanti actions of collaborating with his scorned and scorning love, Tatiana, through some of the most complex pas-de-deux figures I have witnessed. The dream sequence concluding act one was particularly sublime.

Spanish-born Laura Morera, who became principal in 2007 has a difficult role, changing from the infatuated teenager of act one, literally throwing herself at the indifferent Onegin’s feet and then metamorphosing into the radiantly beautiful and confident society lady in the last act’s society ball who, in turn has the remorseful Eugene throwing himself uselessly at her feet. This development was achieved with flying colours and the audience was rapturous at Modera’s curtain calls. Who said anything about British reserve there?

The corps de ballet were, as usual, brilliant and I greatly enjoyed the polonaises, mazurkas and Contre-dances they performed at the ball-scenes in intricately original figures.

What more can I say? How sad that Cranko died such an avoidable death on that jet flight in 1973 aged only 45, for his creation of this immortal ballet is surely his masterpiece.

 

Moral of the story? Always think twice about tearing unwanted letters and at least three times before writing them and, quite definitely before sending them! Duels can still take place, especially in today’s Italy, and even Russia as the great Pushkin sadly found out to his own cost when d’Anthes put a sword through his spleen and killed Alexander in 1837 aged only 37.