Yesterday I was somewhat cultured, mes amies. I started out here:
I’m not going to talk about the exhibition because, well let’s face it, I don’t really know what I’m talking about if I try so I just wind up sounding daft. I do like Degas’ paintings though. I remember when I was a wee nipper someone bought my mother a book of postcards of Impressionist paintings and I was always taken with the Degas ballet ones so his work’s always been somewhere at the back of my mind and my artistic knowledge. At uni we were quite often made to talk about paintings in language practicals (seriously, if I’d wanted to have done Art History that’s what I’d have done but never mind, eh SOML ;)) and I recall once attempting to explain Degas in Spanish…
From there I went here, which was vee interesting:
And after that it was on to my Spiritual Home, aka the Royal Opera House for the triple bill: Asphodel Meadows, Engima Variations and Gloria. What could possibly be wrong with that?
I saw Asphodel Meadows at its actual premiere in 2010 which all seems oddly surreal and a very long time ago now. I wrote this about it at the time:
Asphodel Meadows followed that, Liam Scarlett’s debut piece for the main stage. I had high expectations after his stunning Consolations and Liebestraum for the Linbury last year. I wasn’t disappointed. Asphodel Meadows is achingly beautiful. Marianela Nuñez and Rupert Pennefather make me want to cry with the way they move. Normally I find Rupes a bit solid and earthly in his dancing but there’s something about his partnering with Marianela that takes him a few inches off the floor. Maybe it’s because she’s so ethereal. She’s heartbreakingly beautiful and watching the two of them together just makes me want to cry. Tamara Rojo is also achingly beautiful and her second movement pas de deux with Bennet Gartside was amazing: intense, passionate, fiery. Not bad for the slow movement… Finally up was Laura Morera and Ricardo Cevera. I adore Ricardo, I could watch him dance for hours but I’ve never quite connected with Laura, I don’t know why but I just find myself switching off when she appears on stage. Not tonight. Maybe it was a nod to the admirable talent of Scarlett’s choreography, maybe it was her fantastic partner, maybe it was a combination of the two. I don’t know. But for the first time I connected with her.
I’ll tell you what really set off the face leak though. As they were taking their bows, when Laura Morera went over to bring Liam Scarlett on and instead of walking sedately and taking his hand as they normally do to bring on the conductor she threw herself across the stage at him, flining her arms around his neck. And I melted. And he stood there looking so completely overawed by all the clapping and cheering. It was one of those moments it’s a privilege to witness because you just know how much that moment is going to stay with him. Anyway, on account of minor face leakage, I left the amph and promptly walked into a wall…
I stand by all that on repeat viewing except possibly I loved Ricardo and Laura in the third movement even more than last time. In the programme notes interview, Liam Scarlett’s talking about how in tune they are with each other and that that’s really incredible because the third movement is super speedy. I’d never quite noticed that before but it’s true. I love the piece though and the way that the whole thing blends perfectly together: dance and music, the flow of it all is just utterly spot on. I can’t wait to see Scarlett’s new piece later in the season, I tell you that for free…
Second piece of the night was Frederick Ashton’s Enigma Variations. I saw the Birmingham Royal Ballet dance this a few years back and wasn’t wholly sold on it. I’m still not to be quite frank. It’s a bit kitsch, a bit twee, a bit… not quite right. Luckily I really adore Elgar’s Enigma Variations so I can just close my eyes and listen to the music if needs be. I didn’t get that far last night. I like parts of it. Christina Arestis’ Lady Elgar was wonderful – stately and quietly commanding. Bennet Gartside as Nimrod was marvellous – that’s probably my favourite part of the whole thing, the understated and poised pas de trois. I enjoyed Roberta Marquez’s lighthearted Dorabella too but the rest of it kind of blended into one. When I checked the cast list/programme notes afterwards I couldn’t recall half of them, which saddens me – especially as Edward Watson was among the ones I couldn’t recall! I love the set though and the kind of ‘hazy’ effect of it as if you’re looking back at someone’s memories, and the occasional leaf falling to mark the passing of time.
Kenneth MacMillan’s Gloria was the final piece on the bill. Usual wary feeling going into this one in case it was a MacMillan I hated. It wasn’t, we’re okay. It’s inspired by Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth, a lament for a generation lost by war. I’m kind of lacking on the words front for this one, it happens sometimes. I just… I think whatever I’d say about it would sound trite or just plain wrong to be quite honest. So I won’t. I’ll leave you with this quote from Edward Watson in the programme notes though: “the role I perform is not a single person, but a figure who embodies the loss of a huge number of people”. I think that’s it, those are the words I can’t find.
And on that note, and more earthly pursuits, I’m going to bake some scones.