The Royal Ballet – The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker, Op.71 – Ballet in two acts to choreography by Peter Wright after Lev Ivanov, based on an original scenario by Marius Petipa after E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Nussknacker und Mausekönig

Herr Drosselmeyer – Gary Avis
Clara – Meaghan Grace Hinkis
Hans-Peter / The Nutcracker – Ricardo Cervera

Act One

Scene 1
Drosselmeyer’s Assistant – Paul Kay

Scene 2
Maiden Aunts – Caroline Jennings, Susan Nye
Housekeeper – Barbara Rhodes

Scene 3
Dr Stahlbaum – Christopher Saunders
Mrs Stahlbaum – Elizabeth McGorian
Fritz – Johnny Randall
Clara’s Partner – James Hay
Grandmother – Kristen McNally
Grandfather – Alastair Marriott
Dancing Mistress – Genesia Rosato
Captain – David Pickering
Harlequin – Brian Maloney
Columbine – Elizabeth Harrod
Soldier – Alexander Campbell
Vivandière – Emma Maguire
St Nicholas – Tomas Mock

Scene 4
Mouse King – David Pickering

Scene 5
Snowflakes – Artists of the Royal Ballet
Singers – London Oratory Junior Choir

Act Two

Scene 2
The Sugar Plum Fairy – Roberta Marquez
The Prince – Steven McRae

Spanish Dance: Christina Arestis, David Pickering, Claire Calvert, Brian Maloney, Laura Mcculloch, Thomas Whitehead
Arabian Dance: Melissa Hamilton, Ryoichi Hirano, Kenta Kura, Eric Underwood
Chinese Dance: Andrej Uspenski, Fernando Montaño, James Wilkie, Jonathan Watkins
Russian Dance: James Hay, Paul Kay
Dance of the Mirlitons: Elizabeth Harrod, Emma Maguire, Akane Takada, Sabina Westcombe

Waltz of the Flowers
Rose Fairy – Laura Morera
Her Escorts – Alexander Campbell, Bennet Gartside, Valeri Hristov, Johannes Stepanek
Leading Flowers – Yuhui Choe, Helen Crawford, Hikaru Kobayashi, Itziar Mendizabal & Artists Of The Royal Ballet

Grand pas de deux
Roberta Marguez, Steven McRae

Entire Cast

Aunts, Uncles, Parents, Maids, Manservents, Revellers –Artists Of The Royal Ballet
Children, Toy Soldiers, Mice, Gingerbreads, Rabbit Drummer, Pages, Sentry – Students of the Royal Ballet School, White Lodge
Angels – Students of the Royal Ballet Upper School

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Koen Kessels

Peter Wright – Production & scenario
Julia Trevelyan Oman – Designs
Mark Henderson – Lighting design
Roland John Wiley – Production consultant
Christopher Carr – Staging

Reviewed by: G. J. Dowler

Reviewed: 8 December, 2012
Venue: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

The Nutcracker, The Royal Ballet. Photograph: Johan PerssonThis was a fine performance indeed. Thanks to the generosity of Lady Helen Hamlyn, First Night of The Royal Ballet’s peerless Peter Wright production of The Nutcracker was given over to an audience who had never been to Covent Garden before. Brought together in partnership with The Sun newspaper, this was an audience of eager, excited and not a little overawed people who watched this great theatre and this great company weave their magic. It made for a wonderful evening.

Gary Avis as Drosselmeyer (The Nutcracker, The Royal Ballet). Photograph: Johan PerssonThe Royal Ballet did it proud. The quality of acting and dancing was first-rate, from the smallest mousey scamperings to the sublime Ivanov choreography. Peter Wright’s warm, mulled-wine-suffused Stahlbaum soirée in the first act is lovely, brimming with detail and delights: Elizabeth McGorian’s generous Mrs Stahlbaum, resigned to be snubbed yet again by her husband’s tall maiden aunt, Genesia Rosato’s twinkling Dancing Mistress, her romance with David Pickering’s captain burgeoning by the second. The costumes, evoking Biedermeyer Nuremberg, a continuing tribute to the genius of Julia Trevelyan Oman’s scenic genius, continue to shine. To this was added excellent dancing – both the Columbine/Harlequin pairing and that of the Soldier/Vivandière were better performed than for many a season. James Hay, as Clara’s ever-so grown-up partner, and Paul Kay as Drosselmeyer’s assistant made much of characters which can be mere cyphers – they combined, along with Ricardo Cervera’s superlative Hans-Peter in Act Two in a Russian Dance far better than in many a year. These three men represent what is good at The Royal Ballet – all three products of The Royal Ballet School from different generations, they are alive to the theatre of movement, and have innate musicality and understanding of what it is to be a dancer in this company.

Cervera is an experienced Nutcracker/Hans-Peter and his dancing and partnering cannot be faulted. He is always a performer who gives his all, and he provided Grace Meagan Hinkis’s Clara with the safest pair of hands in all their duet work. She is a new import into the company and has been somewhat ubiquitous in casting this season. She has a bright, open technique, as yet not terribly nuanced, but strong and clear in movement. As yet, a focus on technical accomplishment wins, over portrayal of character and subtlety – this Clara coming across as perky to the point of brash. Gary Avis is a benign Drosselmeyer who orchestrates the action well – he is a consummate actor, but the slightly sinister and melancholic sides to the character were missed; perhaps in our child-sensitive age that is no longer acceptable. Dancing as an exemplar to all others, Laura Morera showed what can be done with a part. As the Rose Fairy in the Act Two divertissements, she phrased Peter Wright’s tricky movement with subtlety and warm generosity. She understands the music and moves within it, and is conscious that the smallest of inflections can make a classical pose sing with joy. She is a dancer to be treasured in this company.

Iohna Loots as Clara & Ricardo Cervera as The Nephew (The Nutcracker, The Royal Ballet). Photograph: Johan PerssonThe final Grand Pas was a mixed bag – Roberta Marquez and Steven McRae are physically well-matched, and they were clearly closely rehearsed, but McRae was too demi-caractère for the Prince, focussing too much on the height of his jumps or the effects of his turns rather than affecting to be a danseur noble. Marquez was on poor form, with the beauties of Ivanov’s movements often going for little or nothing – the use of the back, the turns of the head, the subtlety of the arms and hands all smoothed out. Some movements were puzzling: what should be a double gargouillade in her solo became a messy pas de chat; what should be a lightning twist of the head and bend of the torso in supported pirouettes in the Entrée became an unattractive case of whiplash, et cetera.

The gilt, however, was not in the least taken off the gingerbread by the Grand Pas, given the manifold delights of the rest of the evening, not least from the pit. On this occasion (under Koen Kessel’s energising baton), the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House sounded superb, the strings wallowing in Tchaikovsky’s great melodies, the woodwind delicious, and the brass (a few parps apart) tangibly idiomatic. Kessels kept tempos brisk, thereby lifting the whole evening, but knew when to let the music breathe where it had to. He is a fine musician indeed who knows how to inspire his musicians – it would be most welcome if The Royal Ballet secured his services more frequently.

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