“Viscera”, “Infra”, Fool’s Paradise”
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
3 November 2012
by Judith Cruikshank
copyright 2012 by Judith Cruikshank
Three ballets, all created within the past four years and all by choreographers with links to the Royal Ballet. It’s a long time since that has happened on the main stage of the Royal Opera House and congratulations to Kevin O’Hare for his courage in the programming of the first mixed bill of his regime. Whether this is a sign for the future only time will tell and it has to be remembered that the season opened with a long run of Anthony Dowell’s ill-conceived production of “Swan Lake”.
On the other hand all the "Swan Lake" performances were effectively sold out, even at the high prices charged and although this mixed bill appears to be proving popular with audiences, the ticket prices have been reduced significantly; roughly speaking £120 ($192) top price for “Swan Lake” as against £37.50 ($60) for the mixed bill. So, you have to wonder.
The big event of the evening was the UK premiere of Liam Scarlett’s “Viscera”, originally mounted for Miami City Ballet. This is Scarlett’s third piece outside a workshop context and he is already being hailed as a major talent. He certainly does show considerable promise, but I think some of the plaudits heaped on his young shoulders could prove to be a burden. He has just been named as an Artist in Residence – a first for the Royal Ballet – and will stop dancing before the end of this year. Scarlett is scheduled to deliver a three act work for the small Linbury theatre next year and this will clearly take up much of his time, but it would be good to think that he could travel a bit, see other companies and choreographers, and even turn his hand to an opera ballet or two.
“Viscera” is set to Lowell Lieberman’s 1983 piano concerto. The two outer movements are for a cast of 13 dancers led by Laura Morera while the quiet centre of the ballet is a long pas de deux for Marianela Nunez and Ryoichi Hirano. As with his “Asphodel Meadows” Scarlett shows that he knows how to handle groups of dancers, using them effectively and interestingly. Three female soloists are given brief individual entries, Yuhui Choe outstanding among them. Hirano’s role in the pas de deux is confined to partnering, but the duet is inventive if a little unvaried. Scarlett makes excellent use of his ballerinas; Morera’s bright attack and Nunez’s delicate, steely strength.
Signs of an individual voice are beginning to emerge, although some of his doublework is perhaps more inventive than effective. But overall the ballet was enjoyable, showed the dancers to good effect and was another step forward for Scarlett.
Last on the bill came Christopher Wheeldon’s “Fool’s Paradise” which he created for the Morphoses company. It’s already been seen in London and this was my third viewing of the piece. It was cast from strength, with Sarah Lamb, partnered by Federico Bonelli, in the role originally danced by Wendy Wheeldon. There are simple, elegant costumes by Narciso Rodriguez and lighting by Penny Jacobus (on the dark side, as was the entire evening), and showers of gold confetti from the flies. Wheeldon has created stylish pas de deux which develop seamlessly into trios or striking tableaux.
It flows along attractively but it seemed to me to be built on a single note, without much in the way of contrast or structure. This may be in part due to Jody Talbot’s score which I found pleasant, but no more. The ballet is well crafted, was well danced and has some lovely moments, but I was left feeling oddly unsatisfied, as with a dish which looks wonderful on the plate but lacks seasoning and ultimately, savour.
Ricardo Cerera and Sarah Lamb in "Infra." Photo by Bill Cooper.
Marianela Nunez and Ryoichi Hirano in "Viscera." Photo by Andrej Uspenski.
Sarah Lamb and Federico Bonelli in "Fool's Paradise." Photo by Andrej Uspenski.
All photos courtetsy of ROH.