Sunday, February 2, 2014


Music by Pyotr IIyich Tchaikovsky

Choreography by Sir Peter Wright after Lev Ivanof
Palace Cinema Opera and Ballet Season

January 31, Feb 1, 2, & 5

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

In addition to the high definition filmed performances by the Metropolitan Opera and Bolshoi Ballet offered by the Dendy cinemas, the Palace Electric Cinemas have been offering seasons of similarly filmed performances of opera and ballet from the Royal Opera House in London as well as the Paris Opera.

While these filmed performances don’t actually replace the particular thrill of actually sitting in the theatre while a performance is taking place, they do provide the opportunity to see, at a fraction of the cost, great productions from around the world which would otherwise be unavailable to most of us. And to replace the thrill of actuality, there are some other bonuses. You get close-ups you could never see in live theatre, a better view than even the best seats in the house, glimpses back stage of the production in progress, and interviews with principal artists and production personel during the intervals.

The Australian Ballet have just opened bookings for their  2014 Sydney Opera House season which includes their much admired production of the Sir Peter Wright’s version of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”.  Co-incidentally, the Palace Cinemas were showing the Royal Ballet’s production of this very ballet, also choreographed by Sir Peter Wright,  this weekend. So not having seen this production previously, this opportunity was too good to miss, particularly as the performance had only been recorded last month.

First presented in 1984, this is sumptuous production, recently remounted under the watchful eye of Sir Peter Wright himself, proved to be a feast for the eyes, with its lavish sets and costumes designed by Julia Trevelyan Oman and imaginative lighting design by Mark Henderson.

As you would expect from the Royal Ballet, each role was perfectly cast and danced by the dancers as if they had been born to them.

But even more interesting was how cleverly the story had been tweaked to bring it closer to Hoffmann’s original story, so that the ballet now tells an over-arching story of how Herr Drosselmeyer, now a rather more avuncular character than is often the case, and performed with great flair and panache by Gary Avis, manages to recover the soul of his long lost son which has been imbedded in the nutcracker doll he presents to Clara.

Drosselmeyer, Clara (Francesca Hayward) and Hans Peter, the Nutcracker (brilliantly danced by Alexander Campbell) now exuberantly participate in the national dances in Act 2, rather than stand at the side of the stage.

Alexander Campbell as Hans Peter
Laura Morera brought superb technique and authority to her interpretation of the Sugar Plum Fairy, even if a tad more warmth and dazzle would not have been amiss, while tall and handsome Frederico Bonelli was every inch the fairy-tale prince. Their dazzling pas de deux, which  climaxes the second act, was quite stunning.

Laura Morera and Frederico Bonelli
Particular bonuses with this presentation was the hosting of Darcy Bussell, who, having danced this production on many occasions, seemed a little wistful about being on the sidelines, forgetting to name some of the principals as they took their final bows, but proving a charming interviewer in her conversation during interval  with Royal Ballet Artistic Director, Kevin O’Hare, and a short documentary preceding the performance in which we were shown glimpses of the dancers rehearsing under the supervision of Sir Peter Wright, and charming him with an impromptu celebration of his 80th Birthday, and of course the opportunity to hear the beautiful Tchaikovsky score played in glorious stereophonic sound by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Tom Seligman.

The next Royal Ballet production scheduled in the Palace Electric Cinema’s program is the Royal Ballet’s production of “Giselle” featuring Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta and Russian ballerina Natalia Osipova. “Giselle” will screen on February 14, 15, 16 & 19th.