Royal Ballet - The Dream - Song of the Earth - Carlos Acosta - Tribute to Anthony Dowell
Royal Opera House - Covent Garden

On 19 May 2001, I went to see a double-bill of ballets performed at ROH by the Royal Ballet; Barry Wordsworth conducted the orchestra. Sir Frederick Ashton choreographed the ballet The Dream with music by Mendelssohn arranged by John Lanchbery. Kenneth MacMillan choreographed Song of the Earth, with music by Mahler.

The Dream is based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Johan Kobborg played Oberon, King of the Fairies and Leonne Benjamin played his wife Titania. Luke Heydon played Bottom and Giacomo Ciriaci - Puck. Zenaida Yanowsky was Hermia; Nicole Tranah was Helena and the roles of Lysander and Demetrius were danced by Christopher Saunders and David Pickering.

Song of the Earth is a series of ballets set to Mahler's song-symphony inspired by Mahler's musical setting of 8th Century Chinese poems about the eternal cycle of life, death and renewal. The choreography draws on the poems' images - men drinking, men on horseback, women gathering lotus blossoms, and a pavilion reflected in a pool. MacMillan tries to capture the joys and sorrows as well as the shapes - classical ballet and the angularity of Eastern dance - allows.

Carlos Acosta is a powerful presence as the role of the Messenger of Death who wanders through all six movements, marked and mysterious, the dark shadow stalking the living. Tamara Rojo is persuasive as the Woman; Jonathan Cope as the Man.

There was also an exhibition at the ROH A Knight at the Ballet: a Tribute to Anthony Dowell, who retired at the end of the season as Director of the Royal Ballet. He was a student at the Hampshire School of Dance and at the Royal Ballet School in the 1950s and traces his career from his first solo in Napoli in 1961 through to his appearances as Drosselmeyer in the current season's revival of The Nutcracker. There were both photographs and costumes on display.

Verinha Ottoni



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