Review: Royal Ballet in The Seven Deadly Sins/ Pierrot Lunaire/ La Fin du Jour at Royal Opera House

Performance: 26 Apr-9 May 07
Reviewed by Graham Watts - Monday 30 April 2007

27 April 2007

There is, as they say, many a slip twixt cup and lip and even the very best ideas need careful attention to detail. This advice is particularly apt in the context of Will Tuckett‘s new adaptation of The Seven Deadly Sins which failed in one key aspect of its delivery.

There was much advance publicity for the participation of Martha Wainwright as the singing half of the split role of Anna and there’s no doubting that she has a husky and unusual voice, but it was impossible to hear almost anything that she sang. Inaudibility also affected the barber shop quartet (playing the sung roles of Anna’s family) and since I was reliably informed that the amplification was too loud at the front of the stalls the fact that words didn’t carry to the back suggests a technical problem rather than any criticism of the performers.

The seven stages of Anna’s decline were beautifully designed by Lez Brotherston, in his first work for the Opera House. His set seamlessly transported the action across the USA, brilliantly capturing the high and low life contexts for every sin as Anna is passed or sold from one man to the next. Much of the choreography was dull and dominated by unsubtle characterisations and a heavy reliance on props. Some of the dancers seemed to be poorly used (Gary Avis, Ed Watson and Marianela Nunez to name but three). As the dancing Anna, Zenaida Yanowsky looked great and did the very best that she could with the steps that she had; amongst the men it was Eric Underwood who shone brightest.

These performances of *Pierrot Lunaire* were scheduled before the recent death of its choreographer, Glen Tetley, giving an added poignancy to this extraordinarily moving interpretation of Commedia dell’ Arte. As Pierrot, Alexander Zaitsev was simply stunning, bearing many artistic similarities to Nureyev’s interpretation, particularly in his wide-eyed, dreamy innocence. Zaitsev is on loan from the Stuttgart Ballet, although he could be on loan from the Stuttgart Gallery since his torso seems to have been sculpted from alabaster. He was exquisitely supported by Mara Galeazzi as the bitchy Columbine and the ubiquitous Ed Watson as the nasty dark clown, Brighella – a cross between Zorro and a Manga comic book character – whose worldly experience entices Columbine and destroys Pierrot’s dreams. Following his recent stunning debut performances as Crown Prince Rudolf in_ Mayerling_, Watson is clearly in the form of his life.

MacMillan’s rarely performed *La Fin du Jour* rounded off this mixed bill, each part of which concerned the loss of innocence. This short work (at just 23 minutes) is a requiem for a lost age, using Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G (composed in the early 1930s) as an allegory for elegance lost to the ravages of war. It captures a ‘fashion magazine’ world of simple cameos, the highlight of which is a long, slow duet for the two lead ballerinas: here, Galeazzi again, on a busy night, with Natasha Oughtred, gaining some unusual, but well deserved limelight. All but one of the four leads (including Oughtred) was replacing an injured colleague: a sign of a long season coming to its weary end but also of the resilience of dancers that can still pull out a great performance even as an under-rehearsed cast thrown together at ‘la fin du jour’.

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