NY City Ballet in Paris – Balanchine Tribute at the Chatelet
Watch New York City ballet in Paris Online | Marquee TV
Click here for tickets
The NY City Ballet, even 40 years after the death of its founder, George Balanchine, is still Balanchine’s company. If you doubt it, take a look a these four beautiful, plotless ballets, made on his company and still danced by them to perfection.
The NY City Ballet was formed by legendary dancer and choreographer George Balanchine in 1948, alongside Lincoln Kirstein and Jerome Robbins, the New York City Ballet company owes its continued existence to Balanchine and his legacy. With its collection of extraordinary dancers and unique repertoire, it’s still considered one of the top dance companies in the world. During the summer of 2016, the New York City Ballet made a victorious return to the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris to perform a program of four ballets choreographed by Balanchine himself. The result is a spectacular tour de force through Balanchine’s choreography from 1925 to 1980, encapsulating his genius and his very own neoclassical style.
The music of these four ballets, performed as one under the moniker ‘New York City Ballet in Paris’, is all by French composers Balanchine personally admired: Charles Gounod, Maurice Ravel and Georges Bizet. This spectacular tribute goes from one act to another in an astounding sequence.
The first piece, called Walpurgisnacht Ballet, is set to music by Charles Gounod and was originally choreographed for a Paris Opera Ballet production of the opera Faust in 1975. First performed as an independent work by New York City Ballet in 1980, Walpurgisnacht Ballet is an embodiment of classical choreography, ending with a surging finale that sends 24 ballerinas soaring across the stage.
Maurice Ravel’s stunning music for La Valse provides the backdrop for the second ballet, created in 1951. The story is charming and captivating. A young woman arrives at a ball and soon finds herself both horrified and fascinated by her own vanity, being strangely drawn to a figure of Death. Expect beautiful pink costumes and a waltz to remember!
Finally, Symphony in C is set to music by Ravel and Charles Bizet and was created in 1975 for the French-born dancers Violette Verdy and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, premiering at the Paris Opera.
This spectacular tribute to Balanchine is beautifully performed by American dancers, who rank today among the best in the world. The cast includes Sara Mearns, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Lauren Lovette, Sterling Hyltin, Jared Angle, Amar Ramasar, Megan Fairchild, Joaquin de Luz, Tiler Peck, Andrew Veyette, Teresa Reichlen and Tyler Angle.
Pure pleasure for a ballet lover.
Rijksmuseum – Dolls’ Houses
Click here to watch
Jeroen Krabbe is a famous Dutch actor and film director who has appeared in more than 60 films. He is also a well known painter. Now 77, in this lovely video, he takes us on an enchanting tour of two of the dolls’ houses in the Rijksmuseum. He explains that, as a child, he loved to come to the museum to see these amazingly detailed miniature grand dwellings, dating from the 16th century, and that now he brings his grandchildren to see how some people lived at that time.
These dolls’ houses were not childrens’ playthings. They were the treasured hobbies of rich women who went to extraordinary lengths to replicate the furniture and decoration of their own time in miniature. They spent unimaginable sums on their little houses, often enough that what they spent on their contents could have bought them a full-size luxury house on a canal in Amsterdam.
Dmitry Zharikov – Accordion
Click here to watch
Russian musicians are having a hard time these days. Not the big stars, the Netrebkos and the Gergievs, they’ll always come out on top no matter what happens to their country or their neighbours. There are still plenty of opera companies and orchestras willing to engage Russian star artists to perform even while they’re personae non grata in the West. No, the ones I feel for are the artists lower down on the scale, the orchestra musicians, the corps de ballet dancers, the chorus singers who are trapped in Russia unable to perform. Much of their lives would usually be spent on foreign tours and who is going to engage a Russian troupe to dance or sing outside of Russia while this war is going on next door? Indeed, they’re lucky if they’re not enlisted in the military to fight in Ukraine, these performers who don’t know one end of a tank from the other.
So spare a thought for the Russian singers, dancers and actors who can’t sing, dance or act and let’s not throw away the baby with the bathwater.
Here’s one young Russian musician, Dmitry Zharikov. I don’t know what’s happened to him since the war began or even if he's stil alive. For all I know he’s on the front line somewhere or maybe he got out before he was drafted. But before all this started, he was a remarkable talent. What is remarkable about him is that he plays the accordion, remarkably well. I’ve aways hated the sound of the accordion - nasty, squeezy sound, like the bagpipes, suitable ony for raucous weddings and cheap restaurants.
But wait. Wrong again, played like this, by a master, which Zharikov is, this unpleasant and unwieldy instrument can produce wonderful sounds, in this case a Bach Chaconne, meant to be played on a solo violin. How extraordinary.
If anyone knows where he is or what's happened to him, do let me know.
When The Last Ship Sails – Sting
Click here to watch
I have never understood why Sting’s only full-scale musical was destined to play on Broadway, and not in London’s West End or, better still, on tour around the British regions. It was inevitable that this very personal story of Sting’s hometown, the shipbuilding town of Wallsend in Tyne and Wear, an area of the gritty industrial heartland of the NorthEast of England that most Americans had never heard of, was going to be a hard sell to an American audience.
The Northern accents were hard to understand, there was no glitter or showbiz razzamatazz, and the characters, including Sting’s father, played in the first cast by Jimmy Nail, weren’t particularly cuddly or user-friendly. Americans like their musicals big and brash and where they can see on the stage where the eye-watering amount they paid for their tickets has been spent.
The Last Ship was, despite the excitement surrounding its opening and its Tony nominations, a flop on Broadway although some of us who did understand the accents, loved it.
Before it opened, Sting and his band gave a concert at the Public Theatre in New York to promote the show, a sort of public workshop to introduce the cast album.
The Last Ship is inspired by the shipbuilding community of Wallsend where Sting was born and raised. There are some excellent songs here, as you would expect from such an experienced songwriter. Sting and the band are joined onstage by the actor and singer Jimmy Nail who had already been cast in the leading role.
Lots of hopeful playwrights and songwriters do workshops and presentaions of their upcoming work with the idea of introducing it to producers and potential audiences and they usually consist of the writer and one or two friends performing the material but this, because it’s Sting, is more elaborate than most with a stage full of musicians and back-up singers.
In my view, this concert video gives a better rendering of this interesting show than it was given on Broadway.
Definitely worth yur time, especially if you’re a Sting fan.
Love All – Jermyn Street Theatre
I always thought that Lord Peter Wimsey, Dorothy L. Sayers’ amateur sleuth, was a bit wet. But his female counterpart and later wife, Harriet Vane, was my heroine. Here was a woman in detective fiction who was strong, intelligent and independent, rare commodities in the 1920s when she came into being.
Harriet Vane was Dorothy L. Sayers by another name, who had graduated from Oxford University even before women were allowed degrees, supported herself with her pen, and espoused the cause of women in everything she wrote including, it turns out, this overtly feminist play at the Jermyn Street Theatre. In Love All, she has written three, or, depending on how you count them, four female roles all designed to deflate the leading male ego, a self-absorbed successful novelist who is married to one, lover to another, employer to the third. Each of her women is more than capable of putting him in his hopelessly outclassed place by demonstrating to him that he is, in fact, surplus to their requirements.
The poor man's job in Love All is to rant about their success while mouthing every traditional trope about the place of women in society and in his life. His is the weakest role, just there to have his every prejudice knocked down by the women, like a lone skittle.
The 1930s dialogue is sometimes outdated and stilted but the women’s outrage shines through in every moment, and triumphs. This is largely due to the efforts of an exceptionally well-cast company and a director, Tom Littler who understands the dynamic of a playwright, good acting, and a play with an unmissable agenda.
Ruth Leon is a writer and critic specialising in music and theatre.