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October 28, 2005

A tale of one city blogged in the rain

I'm sitting on my corner at Iverna Gardens and oh my it is raining. It wasn't when I started. Blogging is a harsh mistress.

Paris and London seem to trade off in my affections. Since my brother's marriage I've gone to London often, at this point four times since October 2003. The city has become inspiring to me in a way Paris has also been. Alas, Paris Opera Ballet's seasons for the past two years haven't caused me to want to travel there, and in London not only have the seasons been exciting because of the Ashton Centennial, there is the added enticement of my brother and sister-in-law nearby in Bristol.

It’s an odd view of a city – hotel rooms, subways and theater interiors, but I think one learns a great deal about the city nonetheless – who goes to the theater, how and to what they go. Londoners have much more of an affection for high culture than New Yorkers; Covent Garden is always better sold than the State Theater. Then again, between the Metropolitan Opera and the New York State Theater, Lincoln Center has about 7,000 seats to fill on any given night compared to around 2500 at Covent Garden.

At each of my trips, the Royal Ballet keeps looking better. They company looked underrehearsed in 2003 in La Bayadère. The Ashton Centennial improved their classical dancing and La Sylphide looks attentively coached. Word seems to be the company dancers are also happy with La Sylphide for the same reason. I’ve only seen two casts of four (Lamb/Bonelli and Marquez/Samodurov – I see Rojo/Pennefather and Putrov/Cojocaru tomorrow – Kobborg is out and Putrov taking his place.) Both Bonelli and Samodurov have looked better coached dramatically than I have ever seen them; they both are clear on what the plot is and how to communicate it. Nobody looks remotely Danish (I’m not sure Lamb or Marquez could if they tried – it’s a totally different way than either of them trained), but they’re doing good work within their own styles.

Birmingham Royal is a more modest company in comparison, but just as necessary an institution; they are doing ballets the Royal isn’t doing and in at least one case (Scènes de Ballet) BRB did it better. They don’t have better dancers; they’ve got some decent ones, but much less at the top and the bench isn’t very deep. But a triple bill of works by MacMillan, de Valois and Cranko filled many gaps in my viewing in one sitting. It was a very pleasant surprise; I didn’t know the ballets were as well formed as they were.

Another La Sylphide doubleheader tomorrow; I will be at Covent Garden from 2 pm until 11 pm. Let’s see if I can get the iron in my hotel room to work so I can press my ties.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at October 28, 2005 6:50 PM

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